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Title: Le morne au diable. English - A Romance of the West Indies
Author: Sue, Eugène, 1804-1857
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A ROMANCE OF THE WEST INDIES.

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF

EUGENE SUE.

BY

MARIAN LONGFELLOW.

F. TENNYSON NEELY,

PUBLISHER.
LONDON. NEW YORK.

Copyright, 1898,

by

F. TENNYSON NEELY,

in

United States

and

Great Britain.

All Rights Reserved.

TO THE MEMORY OF
WILKIE COLLINS,
AUTHOR AND ARTIST,
WHO FIRST DIRECTED MY ATTENTION TO THIS
WORK AND SUGGESTED ITS TRANSLATION
INTO ENGLISH,
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK IN KINDLY REMEMBRANCE.
THE TRANSLATOR.



CONTENTS.


PART I.

I. The Passenger

II. A Female Blue Beard

III. The Arrival

IV. The Priest's House

V. The Surprise

VI. The Warning

VII. The Cavern

VIII. The Devil's Cliff

IX. Night

X. A Buccaneer

XI. Master Rend-Your-Soul


PART II.

XII. The Marriage

XIII. Supper

XIV. True Love

XV. The Envoy from France

XVI. The Storm

XVII. The Surprise

XVIII. My Lord the Duke

XIX. A Second Surprise

XX. The Departure

XXI. The Betrayal


PART III.

XXII. The Viceroy of Ireland and Scotland

XXIII. The Arrest

XXIV. The Interview

XXV. Revelations

XXVI. Devotion

XXVII. The Martyr

XXVIII. The Duke Relates the Sacrifice to which He Owes his Life

XXIX. The Departure


PART IV.

XXX. Regrets

XXXI. Croustillac Departs

XXXII. The Frigate

XXXIII. The Judgment

XXXIV. The Chase

XXXV. The Return


EPILOGUE.

XXXVI. The Abbey

XXXVII. Reunited



A ROMANCE OF THE WEST INDIES.



PART I.



CHAPTER I.

THE PASSENGER.


Toward the latter part of May, 1690, the three-masted schooner the
Unicorn sailed from Rochelle for the island of Martinique.

A Captain Daniel commanded this vessel, which was armed with a dozen
pieces of medium-sized ordnance, a defensive precaution necessary at
that period. France was at that time at war with England, and the
Spanish pirates would often cross to the windward of the Antilles, in
spite of the frequent pursuit of filibusters.

Among the passengers of the Unicorn, few in number, was the Reverend
Father Griffen, of the Order of the Preaching Brothers. He was returning
to Martinique to resume his parish duties at Macouba, where he had
occupied the curacy for some years to the satisfaction of the
inhabitants and the slaves of that locality.

The exceptional life of the colonies, then almost continually in a state
of open hostility against the English, the Spanish, and the natives of
the Antilles, placed the priests of the latter in a peculiar position.
They were called upon not only to preach, to hear confessions, to
administer the sacraments to their flocks, but also to aid in defending
themselves during the frequent inroads of their enemies of all nations
and all colors.

The priest's house was, as other habitations, alike isolated and
exposed to deadly surprises. More than once had Father Griffen, assisted
by his two slaves, intrenched himself securely behind a large gateway of
mahogany, after having repulsed their assailants by a lively fire.

Formerly a professor of geometry and mathematics, and possessed of
considerable theoretical knowledge of military architecture, Father
Griffen had given most excellent advice to the successive governors of
Martinique on the construction of works of defense.

This priest knew thoroughly the stonecutter's and carpenter's trades;
learned in agriculture, an excellent gardener, of an inventive spirit,
full of resources, of rare energy, a determined courage, he was a
valuable man to the colony, and, above all, to the quarter he inhabited.

The word of the gospel had not, perhaps, in his mouth all the unction to
be desired; his voice was rough, his exhortations were unpolished; but
their moral quality was excellent; they abounded in charity. He said the
mass as rapidly and as forcibly as if he were a buccaneer. One could
pardon him when one knew that this holy office was often interrupted by
a raid of the heretical English or the idolatrous Caribbeans; and that
then Father Griffen, leaping from the pulpit from which he had preached
"peace and concord," was always one of the first to put himself at the
head of his flock in order to defend it.

As to the wounded and prisoners, once the engagement was ended, the
worthy priest ameliorated their situation as far as he could, and with
the greatest care dressed the wounds which he had himself made.

We will not undertake to prove that the conduct of Father Griffen was in
all points canonical, nor to solve the question so often debated, "Under
what circumstances may the clergy go to war?" We do not claim for this
subject either the authority of Saint Gregory nor that of Leo IV. We
simply say that this worthy priest did good and combated evil with all
his might.

Of a loyal and generous character, frank and gay, Father Griffen was
mischievously hostile and mocking where women were concerned. He was
continually making jests upon the daughters of Eve; these temptresses,
these diabolical allies of the Serpent. In justice to Father Griffen, we
must say that he showed in his railleries, otherwise without malice, a
little rancor and contempt; he jested lightly on the subject of a
happiness that he regretted not being able to desire; for, in spite of
the extreme license of Creole customs, the purity of Father Griffen's
life was never questioned.

He might have been accused of loving the pleasures of the table; not
that he abused them (he observed bounds in enjoying the good gifts which
God bestowed), but he was singularly fond of indulging himself with
marvelous recipes for dressing game, seasoning fish, or preserving in
sugar the fragrant fruits of the tropics; at times, even the description
of his epicurean tastes became contagious, when he would enlarge upon
certain repasts after the manner of buccaneers, prepared in the depths
of the forests or on the shore of the island. Between you and me, Father
Griffen possessed, among others, the secret of cooking a turtle,
buccaneer-fashion, of which the mere recital was enough to excite
ravenous hunger on the part of his hearers. In spite of his usually
formidable appetite, Father Griffen scrupulously observed his fasts,
which an edict of the pope's decreed should be much less strict at the
Antilles and in the Indies than in Europe.

It is unnecessary to say here that the worthy priest would abandon the
most delicate repast in order to fulfill his duties as a priest to a
poor slave; no one was more pitiful than he--a more charitable or
prudent manager, regarding the little he possessed as the property of
the unfortunate.

Never was his consolation or succor lacking to those who suffered; but
once his Christian task fulfilled, he worked gayly and vigorously in his
garden, watered his plants, hoed his paths, pruned his trees, and when
night came he loved to rest after his salutary and rustic labor, and
enjoy, with an intelligent keenness of palate, the gastronomic riches of
the country.

His flock never allowed his cellar or his larder to become empty. The
finest fruit, the best portion from the chase or the rod, was always
faithfully sent to him. He was beloved--he was blessed. They came to
him to settle all points of dispute, and his judgment was finally
accepted on all questions.

The physique of Father Griffen accorded perfectly with the impression
perhaps formed of him after what has just been said of his character.

He was a man of not more than fifty years, robust, active, though
perhaps rather too stout; his long robe of white wool and his black cape
set off his broad shoulders; a felt cap covered his bald crown. His red
face, his triple chin, his lips thick and crimson, his nose long and
flat at the end, his small and lively gray eyes, gave him a certain
resemblance to Rabelais; but what specially characterized Father
Griffen's physiognomy was a rare mixture of frankness, goodness,
strength and innocent raillery.

At the commencement of this story, the Preaching Brother stood on the
stern of the vessel, in conversation with Captain Daniel. The ease with
which he maintained his equilibrium, in spite of the violent rolling of
the vessel, proved that Father Griffen had long since found his
sea-legs.

Captain Daniel was an old sea-dog; once at sea, he left the management
of his vessel to his mates and pilot, and became intoxicated regularly
every night. Frequently making the trip from Martinique to Rochelle, he
had already brought Father Griffen from America. The latter, accustomed
to the inebriety of the worthy captain, attentively studied the ship's
management; for without possessing the nautical science of Father
Fournier, and other of his religious colleagues, he had a sufficiently
theoretical and practical knowledge of navigation. Often had the priest
made the passage from Martinique to San Domingo and beyond, on board the
privateer vessels, which always yielded a tithe of their prizes to the
churches of the Antilles.

Night approached. Father Griffen inhaled with pleasure the odor of
supper which was being prepared. The captain's boy came to announce to
the passengers that the repast was ready; two or three among them, who
had successfully resisted seasickness, entered the cabin.

Father Griffen said grace; they had hardly seated themselves when the
door of the cabin opened suddenly, and the following words were
pronounced with a strong Gascon accent:

"There is, I hope, noble captain, a small place for the Chevalier de
Croustillac?"

All the guests made a movement of surprise, then strove to read in the
features of the captain an explanation of this singular apparition. The
captain remained stupefied, regarding his new guest with an air almost
of affright.

"Eh, there, who are you? I do not know you. Where the devil did you come
from, sir?" he finally said.

"If I came from the devil, this good priest," and he kissed the hand of
Father Griffen, "this good priest would send me back there very quickly,
by saying, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.'"

"But where _do_ you come from, sir?" cried the captain, stupefied by the
confident and smiling air of this unexpected guest.

"One does not come thus on board. You are not on my list of passengers.
You have fallen from the sky, perhaps?"

"A few minutes since it was from the infernal regions; now it is from
the heavens that I come. Faith! I do not lay claim to an origin so
divine nor so infernal, worthy captain; I----"

"It matters not as to that," replied the captain. "Tell me, how came you
here?"

The chevalier assumed a majestic air. "I should be unworthy of belonging
to the noble house of de Croustillac, one of the oldest in Guienne, if I
had the slightest hesitation in satisfying the legitimate curiosity of
the illustrious captain."

"So--this is very lucky," cried the latter.

"Do not say it is lucky, rather say it is right. I fall upon your vessel
like a bomb; you are astonished; nothing is more natural; you ask me how
I came on board. This is your right. I explain it to you--that is my
duty. Completely satisfied by my explanation, you extend to me your hand
and say, 'This is well, chevalier, place yourself at table with us.' I
respond to you, 'Captain, I cannot refuse, for I am dying for lack of
sustenance. Blessed be your benevolent offer.' So saying I slip in
between these two estimable gentlemen. I make myself small; very small;
in order not to incommode them; on the contrary, the motion is so
violent that I wedge----"

So saying, the chevalier put his words into execution; profiting by the
general surprise, he insinuated himself between two guests and provided
himself with the glass of one, the plate of another, and the napkin of a
third. Profound amazement made his neighbors oblivious to the things of
this world. All this was accomplished with so much quickness, dexterity,
confidence and boldness that the guests of the illustrious captain of
the Unicorn and the illustrious captain himself did not dream of more
than looking with the greatest curiosity and astonishment at the
Chevalier de Croustillac. The adventurer proudly wore an old waistcoat
of rateen, once green, but now of a yellowish blue; his frayed breeches
were of the same shade; his stockings, at one time scarlet, were now a
faded pink, and seemed in places to be fairly embroidered with white
thread; a badly worn gray felt hat, an old sword-belt trimmed with
imitation gold lace, now tarnished, supported a long sword upon which
the chevalier, on entering, leaned with the air of a grandee.
Croustillac was a very tall and excessively thin man. He appeared to be
from thirty-six to forty years of age. His hair, mustache, and eyebrows
were jet black, his face bony, brown and tanned. He had a long nose,
small hazel eyes, which were extraordinarily lively, and his mouth was
very large; his physiognomy betrayed at the same time an imperturbable
assurance and an excessive vanity.

Croustillac had that overweening belief in himself which one finds only
among the Gascons. He so exaggerated his merits and natural graces to
himself that he believed no woman was able to resist him; the list of
his conquests of every kind had been interminable. In spite of the most
amazing falsehoods, which cost him little, it cannot be denied that he
possessed true courage and a certain nobility of character. This
natural valor, joined to his blind confidence in himself, sometimes
precipitated him into almost inextricable situations, into which he
threw himself headlong, and from which he never emerged without hard
blows--for if he was as adventurous and boastful as a Gascon, he was as
obstinate and opinionated as a Breton.

Heretofore his life had been very similar to that of his Bohemian
companions. The younger son of a poor Gascon family of doubtful
nobility, he had come to seek his fortune at Paris; by turns petty
officer of a forlorn hope; provost of an academy, bath-keeper, horse
jockey, peddler of satirical news and Holland gazettes; he had more than
once pretended to be a Protestant, feigning conversion to the Catholic
faith in order to secure the fifty crowns that M. Pelisson paid each
neophyte as the price of conversion. This cheat discovered, the
chevalier was condemned to the lash and to prison. He suffered the lash,
escaped from prison, disguised himself by means of an immense shade over
his eye, girded himself with a formidable sword with which he ambled
about, then embraced the profession of wheedling country folk for the
benefit of gambling houses, into which he led those innocent lambs, who
did not come forth again until completely shorn. It must be said--to the
chevalier's credit that he took no part himself in these rascalities; as
he said to himself--if he did bait the hook, he at least did not eat the
fish.

The laws regarding duels were at that time very severe. One day the
chevalier encountered a well-known brave named Fontenay-Coup-d'Epée. The
latter roughly elbowed our adventurer, saying, "Take care! I am Fontenay
Sword-Thrust." "And I," said the Gascon, "Croustillac Cannon-Ball,"
whipping out his sword.

Fontenay was killed, and Croustillac obliged to flee in order to escape
capture.

The chevalier had often heard of the wonderful fortunes to be realized
in the colonies. Journeying sometimes on foot, sometimes on horse,
sometimes in a wagon, he went to Rochelle hoping to embark for America.
Once there, Croustillac found that he not only must pay his passage on
board a vessel, but must also obtain from the intendant of marine,
permission to embark for the Antilles.

These two things were equally difficult of accomplishment; the
emigration of Protestants, which Louis XIV. wished to prevent, made the
officers of the ports extremely severe, and the voyage to Martinique
cost no less than eight or nine hundred livres. In all his life the
adventurer had never been possessed of a tithe of this amount. Arriving
at Rochelle with ten crowns in his pocket, dressed in a smock frock and
carrying his clothing on the end of his scabbard, the chevalier went,
like a journeyman, to lodge at a poor tavern, ordinarily frequented by
sailors.

There he inquired as to outgoing vessels, and learned that the Unicorn
would set sail in a few days. Two of the crew of this vessel frequented
the tavern which the chevalier had selected for the center of his
operations. It would take too long to tell by what prodigies of
astuteness and address; by what impudent and fabulous lies; by what mad
promises Croustillac succeeded in interesting in his behalf the master
cooper charged with the stowage of the casks of fresh water in the hold;
it is enough to know that this man consented to hide Croustillac in an
empty cask and to carry him on board the Unicorn.

According to custom, the intendant's assistants and the admiralty clerks
carefully examined the vessel at the moment of its departure, in order
to see that no one had fraudulently embarked. The chevalier kept quiet
at the bottom of his cask and escaped the careful search of the king's
servants. His heart bounded freely when he felt the vessel under way; he
waited some hours before daring to show himself, knowing well that, once
on the high seas, the captain of the Unicorn would not return to port to
bring back a contraband passenger.

It had been arranged between the master cooper and the chevalier that
the latter should never disclose the means whereby he had been smuggled
on board.

A man less impudent than our adventurer would have timidly kept his
place among the sailors, waiting with uneasiness the moment when
Captain Daniel should discover the stowaway. Croustillac, on the
contrary, went boldly to his end; preferring the captain's table to the
mess of the crew, he was not a moment in doubt that he would be seated
at that table--if not rightfully, at least in fact.

We have seen how his audacity served his purpose.

Such was the unexpected visitor at whom the guests of the Unicorn looked
curiously.



CHAPTER II.

BLUE BEARD.


"Now, sir, explain how you came here!" cried the captain of the Unicorn,
too impatient to learn the Gascon's secret to send him from the table.

The Chevalier de Croustillac poured out a large glass of wine, stood up,
and said in a loud tone, "I will first propose to the illustrious
company to drink the health of one who is dear to us all--that of our
glorious king, that of Louis the Great, the most adored of princes!"

In that troublous time, it would have been unwise and even dangerous for
the captain to receive the chevalier's proposition with coolness.
Captain Daniel and the passengers following his example, responding to
the toast, repeated in chorus, "To the king's health! to the health of
Louis the Great!" One person alone remained silent; this was the
chevalier's neighbor. Croustillac looked at him frowningly.

"By the gods, sir, are you not one of us?" said he; "are you, then, an
enemy of our beloved king?"

"Not at all, sir; not at all. I love and venerate this great king, but
how can I drink. You have taken my glass," replied the passenger
timidly.

"What! gods! Is it for such a trifle as this that you expose yourself to
passing for a bad Frenchman?" exclaimed the chevalier, shrugging his
shoulders. "Are there not enough glasses here? Waiter! bring this
gentleman a glass. My dear friend, good luck. Now stand and let us say,
'To the king's health--our great king!'"

After this toast all reseated themselves. The chevalier profited by the
confusion to give a napkin and plate to his neighbor. Then, uncovering a
dish placed before him, he said boldly to Father Griffen, "Father, may I
offer you some of this potted pigeon?"

"Zounds, sir," cried the captain, struck by the liberties taken by the
chevalier, "you put yourself very much at your ease."

The adventurer interrupted the captain and said to him with a solemn
air, "Captain, I know how to render to each what is due. The clergy is
the first order of the state; I conduct myself then as a Christian in
serving at once this reverend father. I shall do more--I shall seize
this occasion to render homage, in his respectable and holy person, to
the evangelical virtues which distinguish and always will distinguish
our church."

So saying, the chevalier served Father Griffen. From this moment it
became very difficult for the captain to oust the adventurer. He had not
refused the chevalier's toast, nor prevented him from doing the honors
of the table. Meanwhile he continued to question him. "Come, sir, you
are a gentleman, so be it! you are a good Christian, you love the king
as we all love him--this is very well, but tell me, how the devil came
you here to eat supper with us?"

"Father," said the chevalier, "I call upon you to bear witness, in the
presence of this honorable company----"

"To bear witness to what, my son?" replied the priest.

"To bear witness to what the captain has said."

"How? What have I said," exclaimed the captain.

"Captain, you have said, you will remember, in the presence of this
company, that I am a gentleman."

"I have said so, no doubt, but----"

"That I am a good Christian."

"Yes, but----"

"That I love the king."

"Yes, because----"

"Very well," replied the chevalier. "I again call this illustrious
company to bear witness that when one is a good Christian, when one is a
gentleman, when one loves his king, what more can be asked? Father,
shall I help you to some of this roast?"

"I will take some, my son, for my seasickness takes the form of a robust
appetite; once on shipboard, my hunger redoubles."

"I am delighted, Father, at this similarity in constitution. I, too,
have a ravenous appetite."

"Very well, my son; as our good captain has given you the means
wherewith to satisfy your appetite, I would say, to make use of your own
words, that it is just because you _are_ a gentleman, a good Christian,
and well-disposed toward our beloved sovereign, that you ought to answer
the questions of Captain Daniel as to your extraordinary appearance on
board his ship."

"Unhappily, that is just what I cannot do, Father."

"How? cannot do?" cried the irritated captain.

The chevalier assumed a solemn air, and replied, as he turned toward the
priest, "This reverend father can alone hear my confession and my vows;
this secret is not mine alone; this secret is grave, very grave," he
added, raising his eyes in contrition to heaven.

"And I--I can force you to speak," cried the captain, "when I cause a
cannon ball to be tied to each of your feet and ride you on a rail until
you disclose the truth."

"Captain," answered the chevalier, with imperturbable calm, "I never
permit any one to threaten me. The motion of an eyelid, a sneer, a
gesture, a nothing, which seems insulting--but you are king on your own
ship, and therefore I am in your kingdom and recognize myself to be your
subject. You have admitted me to your table--I shall continue to be
worthy of this favor always--but there is no reason to arbitrarily
inflict upon me such bad treatment. Nevertheless, I shall know how to
resign myself to it, to support it, unless this good priest, the refuge
of the feeble against the strong, deigns to intercede with you in my
behalf," replied the chevalier humbly.

The captain was very much embarrassed, for Father Griffen did not
hesitate to speak a few words in behalf of the adventurer who had so
suddenly sought his protection, and who had promised to reveal, under
the seal of the confessional, the secret of his presence on the Unicorn.
The anger of the captain was somewhat appeased; the chevalier, at first
flattering, insinuating, became jovial and comical; for the amusement of
the passengers he performed all kinds of tricks; he balanced knives on
his nose; he built up a pyramid of glasses and bottles with wonderful
ingenuity; he sang new songs; he imitated the cries of various animals.
In fact, Croustillac knew so well how to amuse the captain of the
Unicorn, who was not very hard to please, that when supper was concluded
the latter clapped the Gascon on the shoulder, saying:

"After all, chevalier, you are here on board, there is no way to undo
that. You are good company, and there will always be a plate for you at
my table, and we will manage to find some corner in which to swing a
hammock for you."

The chevalier overwhelmed the captain with thanks and protestations of
gratitude, and betook himself quickly to the place assigned to him, and
soon was profoundly sleeping, perfectly satisfied as to his well-being
during the voyage, although a little humiliated from having had to
suffer the captain's threats, and from having had to descend to tricks
to win the good will of one whom he mentally designated a brute and a
seabear.

The chevalier saw in the colonies a veritable Eldorado. He had heard of
the magnificent hospitality of the colonists, who were only too happy,
he had been told, to keep the Europeans who came to see them as guests,
for months, and he drew this very simple deduction: there are about
fifty or sixty rich plantations at Martinique and Guadeloupe; their
proprietors, bored to death, are delighted to keep with them men of wit;
of gay humor, and of resources. I am essentially one of these; I have
only, then, to appear to be petted, fêted, spoiled; admitting that I
spend six months at each plantation, one after another--there are fully
in the neighborhood of sixty--this will give me from twenty-five to
thirty years of enjoyment and perfectly assured comfortable existence,
and I count only on the least favorable chances. I am in the full
maturity of my gifts; I am amiable, witty, I have all kinds of society
talents; how can one believe that the rich owners of these colonies,
will be so blind, so stupid, as not to profit by the occasion and secure
to themselves in this way the most charming husband that a young girl or
a fascinating widow has ever pictured in sleepless nights.

Such were the hopes of the chevalier; we shall see if they were
realized.

The following morning Croustillac kept his promise and made his
confession to Father Griffen.

Although sincere enough, the avowal revealed nothing new as to the
position of the penitent, which he had very nearly divined. This was, in
effect the chevalier's confession: He had dissipated his fortune; killed
a man in a duel; pursued by justice and finding himself without
resources, he had adopted the dangerous part of going to the West Indies
to seek his fortune; not having the means of paying for his passage, he
had had recourse to the compassion of a cooper, who had carried him on
board and hidden him in an empty cask.

This apparent sincerity caused Father Griffen to look upon the
adventurer with leniency; but he did not hide from the Gascon that any
hope of finding a fortune in the colonies was an error; he must bring
quite an amount of capital with him to obtain even the smallest
establishment; the climate was deadly; the inhabitants, as a general
thing, were suspicious of strangers, and all the traditions of generous
hospitality of the first colonists completely forgotten, as much through
the egotism of the inhabitants as because of the discomforts following a
war with England--which had gravely affected their interests. In a word,
Father Griffen counseled the chevalier to accept the offer which the
captain made, of taking him back to Rochelle after having touched at
Martinique. In the priest's opinion, Croustillac could find a thousand
resources in France, which he could not hope to find in a half-civilized
country; the condition of the Europeans being such in the colonies that
never, in consideration of their dignity as whites, could they perform
menial employment. Father Griffen was ignorant of the fact that the
chevalier had exhausted the resources of France, and therefore had
expatriated himself. Under certain circumstances, no one was more easily
hoodwinked than the good priest; his pity for the unhappy blinding his
usual penetration. The past life of the chevalier did not appear to have
been one of immaculate purity; but this man was so careless in his
distress, so indifferent to the future which menaced him, that Father
Griffen ended by taking more interest in the adventurer than he
merited, and he proposed that the latter should stay in his parsonage at
Macouba, while the Unicorn remained at Martinique; an invitation that
Croustillac took care not to refuse.

Time went on. Captain Daniel was never tired of praising the wonderful
talents of the chevalier, in whom he discovered new treasures of
sleight-of-hand each day. Croustillac had finished by putting into his
mouth the ends of burning candles, and by swallowing forks. This last
feat had carried the captain beyond bounds of enthusiasm; he formally
offered the Gascon a situation for life on board ship if the chevalier
would promise to charm thus agreeably the tedium of the voyages of the
Unicorn.

We would say here, in order to explain the success of Croustillac, that
at sea the hours seem very long; the slightest distractions are
precious, and one is very glad to have always at one's beck and call a
species of buffoon endowed with imperturbable good humor. As to the
chevalier, he hid under a laughing and careless mask, a sad
preoccupation; the end of his journey drew near; the words of Father
Griffen had been too sensible, too sincere, too just not to strongly
impress our adventurer, who had counted upon passing a joyous life at
the expense of the colonists. The coldness with which many of the
passengers, returning to Martinique, treated him, completed the ruin of
his hopes. In spite of the talents which he developed and which amused
them, none of these colonists made the slightest advance to the
chevalier, although he repeatedly declared he would be delighted to make
a long exploration into the interior of the island.

The end of the voyage came; the last illusions of Croustillac were
destroyed; he saw himself reduced to the deplorable alternative of
forever traversing the ocean with Captain Daniel, or of returning to
France to encounter the rigors of the law. Chance suddenly offered to
the chevalier the most dazzling mirage, and awakened in him the maddest
hopes.

The Unicorn was not more than two hundred leagues from Martinique when
they met a French trading vessel coming from that island and sailing
for France. This vessel lay to and sent a boat to the Unicorn for news
from Europe. In the colonies all was well for some weeks past; not a
single English man-of-war had been seen. After exchanging other news,
the two vessels separated.

"For a vessel of such value (the passengers had estimated her worth at
about four hundred thousand francs) she is not very well armed," said
the chevalier, "and would be a good prize for the English."

"Bah!" returned a passenger with an envious air, "Blue Beard can afford
to lose such a vessel as that."

"Yes, truly; there would still remain enough money to buy and arm
others."

"Twenty such, if she desired," said the captain.

"Oh, twenty, that is a good many," said another.

"Faith, without counting her magnificent plantation at Anse aux Sables,
and her mysterious house at Devil's Cliff," returned a third, "do they
not say she has five or six millions of gold and precious stones hidden
somewhere?"

"Ah, there it is! hidden no one knows where!" exclaimed Captain Daniel;
"but one thing sure, she _has_ them, for I have it from old father
'Wide-awake,' who had once seen Blue Beard's first husband at Devil's
Cliff (which husband, they say, was young and handsome as an angel). I
have it from Wide-awake that Blue Beard on this day amused herself by
measuring in a bowl, diamonds, pearls and emeralds; now, all these
riches are still in her possession, without counting that her third and
last husband, as they say, was very rich, and that all his fortune was
in gold dust."

"People say she is so avaricious that she expends for herself and
household only ten thousand francs a year," continued a passenger.

"As to that, it is not certain," said Captain Daniel; "no one knows how
she lives, because she is a stranger in the colony, and not four persons
have ever put their feet inside Devil's Cliff."

"Truly; and lucky it is so; I am not the one who would have the
curiosity to go there," said another; "Devil's Cliff does not enjoy a
very good reputation; they do say that strange things take place there."

"It is certain that it has been struck by lightning three times."

"That does not surprise me; and strange cries, they say, are heard round
the house."

"It is said that it is built like a fortress, inaccessible, among the
rocks of the Cabesterre."

"That is natural if Blue Beard has so great a treasure to guard."

Croustillac heard this conversation with great curiosity. These
treasures, these diamonds, were pictured in his imagination.

"Of whom do you speak, gentlemen?" he said.

"We are speaking of Blue Beard."

"Who is this Blue Beard?"

"Blue Beard? Well, it is--Blue Beard."

"But is this a man or a woman?" said the chevalier.

"Blue Beard?"

"Yes, yes," said Croustillac impatiently.

"'Tis a woman."

"How, a woman? and why, then, call her Blue Beard?"

"Because she gets rid of her husbands as easily as Blue Beard of the old
story got rid of his wives."

"And she is a widow? She is a widow! Oh," cried the chevalier, clapping
his hands while his heart beat rapidly, "a widow! rich beyond belief;
rich enough to make one dizzy only to try to estimate her wealth--a
widow!"

"A widow; so much of a widow that she is such for a third time in three
years," said the captain.

"And is she as rich as they say?"

"Yes, that is conceded; all the world knows it," replied the captain.

"Worth millions; rich enough to fit out vessels worth four hundred
thousand livres; rich enough to have sacks of diamonds and emeralds and
fine pearls!" cried the Gascon, whose eyes sparkled and nostrils
dilated, while his hands clinched.

"But I tell you that she is rich enough to buy Martinique and
Guadeloupe if she were so pleased," said the captain.

"And old? very old?" asked the Gascon, uneasily.

His informer looked at the other passengers with a questioning air.
"What age should you say Blue Beard was?"

"Faith, I do not know," said one.

"All I know," said another, "is that when I came to the colony two years
ago she had already had her second husband, and had a third in view, who
only lived a year."

"As to her third husband, it is said that he is not dead, but has
disappeared," said a third.

"He is certainly dead, however, because Blue Beard has been seen wearing
a widow's garb," said a passenger.

"No doubt, no doubt," continued another; "the proof that he is dead is
that the parish priest of Macouba was instructed, in the absence of
Father Griffen, to say the mass for the dead, for him."

"And it would not be surprising if he had been assassinated," said
another.

"Assassinated? by his wife, no doubt?" said still another voice with an
emphasis that spoke little in favor of Blue Beard.

"Not by his wife!"

"Ah, ah, that is something new!"

"Not by his wife? and by whom, then?"

"By his enemies in the Barbadoes."

"By the English colonists?"

"Yes, by the English, because he was himself English."

"Is it so, then, sir; the third husband is dead, really dead?" asked the
chevalier anxiously.

"Oh, as to being dead--he is that," exclaimed several in chorus.

Croustillac drew a long breath; a moment's thought, and his hopes
resumed their audacious flight.

"But the age of Blue Beard?" he persisted.

"Her age--as to that I can satisfy you; she must be anywhere from
twenty, yes, that is about it, from twenty to sixty years," said Captain
Daniel.

"Then you have not seen her?" said the Gascon, impatient under this
raillery.

"Seen her? I? And why the devil should you suppose I had seen Blue
Beard?" asked the captain. "Are you mad?"

"Why?"

"Listen, my friends," said the captain to his passengers; "he asks me if
I have seen Blue Beard."

The passengers shrugged their shoulders.

"But," continued Croustillac, "what is there astonishing in my
question?"

"What is there astonishing?" said the captain.

"Yes."

"Hold; you come from Paris, do you not? and is Paris not much smaller
than Martinique?"

"Without doubt."

"Very well; have you seen the executioner at Paris?"

"The executioner? No, but why such a question?"

"Very well; once for all, understand that no one is any more curious to
see Blue Beard than to see the executioner, sir. Beside, the house in
which she lives is situated in the midst of the wilds of Devil's Cliff,
where one does not care to venture. Then an assassin is not an agreeable
companion, and Blue Beard has too bad associates."

"Bad associates?" said the chevalier.

"Yes, friends; friends of the heart; not to go into the matter any
further, it is a saying that it is not well to encounter them by night
on the plain; by night in the woods; or after sunset under the lee of
the island," said the captain.

"'Whirlwind'--the filibuster first," said one of the passengers with an
affrighted air.

"Or 'Rend the Soul'--the buccaneer of Marie-Galande," said another.

"Or 'Youmäale,' the Caribbean cannibal of the lake of the Caimans,"
continued a third.

"What?" cried the chevalier, "does Blue Beard coquette at the same time
with a filibusterer, a buccaneer, and a cannibal? Bah! what a woman!"

"So they say, sir."



CHAPTER III.

THE ARRIVAL.


These singular revelations concerning the morals of Blue Beard made a
great impression upon the chevalier. After some moments of silence he
asked the captain, "Who is this man, this filibuster whom they term the
Whirlwind?"

"A mulatto from San Domingo, they say," replied Captain Daniel, "one of
the most determined filibusters of the Antilles; he has dwelt in
Martinique for the past two years, in a solitary house, where he lives
now like an alderman."

"And you think that this bully is favored by Blue Beard?"

"They say that all the time that he does not pass at his own house, he
is at Devil's Cliff."

"This proves at least that Blue Beard has never loved sentimental
swains!" said the chevalier. "Well, but the buccaneer?"

"Faith," cried one of the passengers, "I do not know if I would not
rather have the Whirlwind for an enemy than the buccaneer
'Rend-your-soul!'"

"Zounds! there is at least a name which holds possibilities," said
Croustillac.

"And which fulfills them," said the passenger, "for him I have seen."

"And is he so terrible?"

"He is certainly as ferocious as the wild boars or the bulls which he
hunts. I will tell you about him. It is now about a year since I was
going to his ranch in the Great Tari, in the northern part of
Martinique, to purchase of him some skins of wild cattle. He was alone
with his pack of twenty hounds who looked as wicked and savage as
himself. When I arrived he was anointing his face with palm oil, for
there was not a portion of it that was not blue, yellow, violet or
purple."

"I have had these irridescent shades from a blow on the eye, but----"

"Exactly, sir. I asked him what had caused this, and this is what he
told me: 'My hounds, led by my assistant, had flung themselves upon a
two-year-old bull; he had passed me, and I had sent a ball into his
shoulder; he bounded into a thicket; the dogs followed. While I was
reloading, my assistant came up, fired, and missed the bull. My boy,
seeing himself disarmed, sought to cut at the bull's legs, but it gored
him and stamped him underfoot. Placed as I was, I could not fire at the
animal for fear of finishing my man. I took my large buccaneer's knife
and threw myself between them. I received a blow of its horn which
ripped up my thigh, a second broke this arm (showing me his left arm,
which was suspended in a sling); the bull continued to attack me; as
there remained but the right hand that was of any use, I watched my
opportunity, and at the instant when the animal lowered his head to rip
me up, I seized him by the horns and drew him within reach, and seized
his lip with my teeth, and would no more let go than an English bulldog,
while my dogs worried his sides.'"

"But this man is a blockhead," said Croustillac, contemptuously. "If he
has no other means of pleasing--faith, I pity his mistress."

"I have told you that he was a species of savage animal," replied the
narrator, "but to continue my story. 'Once wounded on the lips,' said
the buccaneer, 'a bull falls. At the end of five minutes, blinded by the
loss of blood (for my bullets had done their work), the bull fell on his
knees and rolled over; my dogs sprang upon him, seized him by the
throat, and finished him. The struggle had weakened me; I had lost a
great deal of blood; for the first time in my life I fainted just like a
girl. And what do you suppose my dogs had been at during my swoon? They
had amused themselves by devouring my servant! They were so sharp and
well-trained.' 'How,' said I to Rend-your-soul, terrified, 'because
your dogs have devoured your servant, does that prove that they are
well-trained?' I declare, sir," continued the passenger who had related
this story of the buccaneer to the Gascon, "I looked with considerable
alarm upon these ferocious animals who walked round and round me and
smelt at me in a manner far from reassuring."

"The fact is, such customs as these are brutal," said Croustillac, "and
it would be a mistake to address such a man of the woods in the
beautiful language of gallantry. But what the devil can he indulge in in
the way of conversation with Blue Beard?"

"God forbid I should act as eavesdropper," exclaimed the passenger.

"When Rend-your-Soul has said to Blue Beard, 'I have seized a bull on
the lips, and my dogs have devoured my servants,'" replied the Gascon,
"the conversation would languish; and zounds! one cannot always be
feeding a man to the dogs in order to furnish entertainment."

"In faith, one cannot tell," said a listener; "these men are capable of
anything."

"But," said Croustillac, "such an animal can know nothing about small
courtesies; flowery language always takes the ladies."

"No, certainly," replied the narrator, whom we suspect of a slight
exaggeration of the facts, "for he swears enough to sink the island; and
he has a voice like the bellowing of a bull."

"That is easily accounted for; from frequenting their society he has
acquired their accent," said the chevalier; "but let us hear the end of
your story, I beg."

"Here it is. I demanded then of the buccaneer how he dared assert that
dogs who would devour a man were well trained. 'Doubtless,' replied he,
'my dogs are trained never to insert a tooth in a bull when he is down,
for I sell the skins, and they must be intact. Once the bull is dead
these poor brutes, hungry though they be, have the sense to respect it,
and to await its being skinned. Now this morning their hunger was
infernal; my servant was half dead and covered with blood. He was very
inhuman toward them; they began, no doubt, by licking his wounds; then,
as it is said the appetite increases with what it is fed on, this made
the mouths of the poor brutes water. Finally, they did not leave a bone
of my servant. Had it not been for the bite of a serpent which nipped
sharply but which was not venomous, I might have remained in my swoon. I
recovered consciousness; I wrenched the snake from my right leg, round
which it had coiled itself, I took it by the tail, I whirled it like a
sling and I crushed its head on the trunk of a guava tree. I examined
myself; I had a thigh ripped open and an arm broken; I bound the wound
in my thigh with fresh leaves and secured them by a vine. As to my left
arm, it was broken between the elbow and the wrist. I cut three little
sticks and a long creeper and I tied it up like a roll of tobacco. Once
my wounds dressed, I sought for my servant, for I could not see him. I
called him, there was no answer. My dogs were crouched at my feet; they
appeared so innocent, the cunning creatures! and looked at me as they
wagged their tails as if nothing was wrong. Finally I arose, and what
should I see at twenty paces distance but the remains of my servant. I
recognized his powder-horn and the sheath of his knife. That was all
that remained of him, I tell you this to prove to you that my dogs are
very snappish and well-trained; for they will not injure a hair on the
bull's skin.'"

"There, there! the buccaneer exceeds the filibuster," said Croustillac.
"I can only say that Blue Beard is greatly to be pitied for not having
had, up to this time, but an alternative of two such brutes." And the
Gascon continued compassionately, "It is very easy to understand, this
poor woman has not an idea of what constitutes a gentleman; when one has
all one's life fed on lard and beans, one cannot conceive of anything as
fine, as delicate as a pheasant or an ortolan. Zounds! I see it has been
reserved to me to enlighten Blue Beard on a variety of things, and to
discover to her a new world. As to the Caribbean, is he worthy of
figuring at the side of his ferocious rivals?"

"Oh, as to the Caribbean," said one of the passengers, "I can speak from
knowledge. I made this winter in his canoe the journey from Anse aux
Sable to Marie-Galande. I was pressed to reach this latter place. The
Rivière des Saints had overflowed, and I was compelled to make a great
circuit in order to find a place which could be forded. At the moment
when I embarked, I saw at the prow of the boat of Youmäale a kind of
brown figure. I drew near; what did I see? My God! the head and arms
dried to that of a mummy, forming the figurehead as an ornament for his
canoe! We started on our voyage, the Caribbean silent, like the savage
that he was, paddled without uttering a word. Arriving off the Caribbean
Island, where a Spanish brigantine had stranded some months previous, I
asked him, 'Is it not here that the Spanish vessel was wrecked?' The
Caribbean nodded an assent. It would be as well to say here that on
board this vessel was the reverend Father Simon of Foreign Missions. His
reputation for sanctity was such that it had reached even the
Caribbeans; the brigantine had been wrecked, passengers and cargo--at
least such was believed to be the case. I said then to the Caribbean,
'Is it there that Father Simon perished--you have heard of it?' He made
me another affirmative sign with his head, for these people never speak
an unnecessary word. 'He was an excellent man,' I continued. 'I have
eaten him,' replied this wretched idolater, with a kind of ferocious and
satisfied pride.

"That was one method of enjoying a person," said Croustillac, "and of
sharing his qualities."

"For a moment," replied the passenger, "I did not understand what this
horrible cannibal was saying, but when I had compelled him to explain
himself, I learned that in accordance with I know not what savage
ceremony, the missionary and two sailors who had escaped to a desert
island had been surprised by the cannibals and eaten at once! When I
reproached Youmäale for this barbarous atrocity, saying that it was
frightful to have sacrificed these three unhappy Frenchmen to their
ferocity, he replied, sententiously, and in a tone of approbation, as if
he would prove to me that he understood the force of my arguments in
classing, if not to their value, at least according to the flavor of
three different nationalities. 'You are right: a Spaniard never, a
Frenchman often, an Englishman always!'"

"This would prove that an Englishman is incomparably more delicate than
a Frenchman, and that a Spaniard is as tough as the devil," said
Croustillac; "but this gourmand will finish some day by devouring Blue
Beard when caressing her. If all this be true----"

"It is true, sir."

"It follows then positively that this young or old widow is not
insensible to the ferocious attractions of Rend-your-soul and of the
cannibal?"

"Public opinion accuses her thus."

"Are they often with her?"

"All the time Whirlwind is not engaged in privateering, that
Rend-your-soul is not hunting, and Youmäale is not in the woods, they
pass with Blue Beard."

"Without becoming jealous of each other?"

"It is said that Blue Beard is as despotic as the Sultan of Turkey, and
she forbids their being jealous."

"Faith! what a seraglio she has! But listen, gentlemen: you know that I
am a Gascon; that they accuse us of exaggerating and you would
ridicule----"

But Captain Daniel interposed, with a serious air, which could not be
feigned, "When we arrive at Martinique ask the first creole whom you
meet as to this Blue Beard; and may St. John, my patron saint, curse me
if you will not hear concerning Blue Beard and her three friends the
same thing."

"And as to her immense wealth, will they also speak to me of that?"
asked the chevalier.

"They will tell you that the plantation where Devil's Cliff is situated
is one of the most beautiful in the island, and that Blue Beard
possesses a counting house at Fort St. Pierre, and that this counting
house, managed by a man in her employ, sends out each year five or six
vessels like the one we have just passed."

"I see how it is, then," said the chevalier in raillery. "Blue Beard is
a woman who is weary of riches and the pleasures of this world; in order
to distract her thoughts, she is capable of entertaining a buccaneer, a
filibuster, and even a cannibal, if her heart so dictates."

"That it pleases her is evident in that she is never bored," replied the
captain.

At this moment Father Griffen mounted to the deck. Croustillac said to
him, "Father, I have told these gentlemen that we are accused, we
Gascons, of telling fibs, but is what they say of Blue Beard the truth?"

The face of Father Griffen, ordinarily placid and joyful, took on a
darker hue at once, and he replied gravely to the adventurer, "My son,
never breathe the name of this woman."

"But, Father, is it true? She replaces her deceased husbands by a
filibuster, a buccaneer and a cannibal?"

"Enough, enough, my son," returned the priest, "I pray you do not speak
of Devil's Cliff and what goes on there."

"But, Father, is this woman as rich as they say?" pursued the Gascon,
whose eyes were snapping with covetousness; "has she such immense
treasures? Is she beautiful? Is she young?"

"May heaven defend me from ascertaining!"

"Is it true that her three husbands have been murdered by her, father?
If this be true, how is it that the law has not punished such crimes?"

"There are crimes that may escape the justice of men, my son, but they
never escape the justice of God. I do not know, however, if this woman
is as culpable as they say, but still I say, do not speak of her, my
son, I implore you," said Father Griffen, whom this interview seemed to
affect most painfully.

Suddenly the chevalier assumed a resolute attitude, pulled his hat down
over his forehead, caressed his mustache, balanced himself on his toes
like a barnyard fowl preparing for combat, and cried with an audacity of
which a Gascon alone is capable, "Gentlemen, tell me the day of the
month."

"The 13th of July," replied the captain.

"Well, gentlemen," continued our adventurer, "may I lose the name of De
Croustillac, may my coat of arms be forever smirched with disgrace, if
in one month from this very day, in spite of all the buccaneers,
filibusters or cannibals in Martinique or in the world, Blue Beard is
not the wife of Polyphème de Croustillac!"

That evening when they went down to the saloon the adventurer was taken
aside by Father Griffen; he sought by every possible means to ascertain
if the Gascon knew more than he appeared to, concerning the surroundings
of Blue Beard. The extraordinary persistence with which Croustillac
occupied himself with her and the men about her had aroused the
suspicions of the good priest. After speaking at some length on the
subject with the chevalier, the priest was almost certain that
Croustillac had not spoken other than by presumption and vanity.

"It matters not," said Father Griffen, "I'll not lose sight of this
adventurer; he has the appearance of an empty-headed fool, but traitors
know how to assume all guises. Alas!" continued he sadly, "this last
voyage imposes upon me great obligations toward those who dwell at
Devil's Cliff. Meantime, their secret is, so to speak, mine, but I have
done what I could; my conscience approves. May they long enjoy the
happiness they deserve, of escaping from the snares set for them. Ah!
what dangerous enemies kings are, and one often pays dearly for the
doubtful honor of being born on the steps of a throne. Alas!" went on
the priest with a profound sigh, "poor angelic woman, it rends my heart
to hear her thus spoken of, but it would be impolitic to defend her.
These rumors are the preservation of the noble creatures in whom I am so
deeply interested."

After considering awhile Father Griffen said to himself, "I at first
took this adventurer to be a secret emissary from England, but I am
doubtless deceived. Nevertheless, I will watch this man. In fact, I will
offer him the hospitality of my house; thus his movements will not
escape me. In any case, I will warn my friends at Devil's Cliff to
redouble their prudence, for, I know not why, the presence of this
Gascon disturbs me."

We will here hasten to inform the reader that the suspicions of Father
Griffen, so far as Croustillac was concerned, were without foundation.
The chevalier was nothing more than the poor devil of an adventurer
which we have shown him to be. The excellent opinion he held of himself
was the sole cause of his impertinent wager of espousing Blue Beard
before the end of the month.



CHAPTER IV.

THE PRIEST'S HOUSE.


The Unicorn had anchored at Martinique three days. Father Griffen,
having some matters requiring his attention before his return to his
parish of Macouba, had not as yet quitted Fort St. Pierre.

The Chevalier de Croustillac found himself landed in the colonies with
but very little money in his pocket. The captain and passengers had
considered the adventurer's declaration that before a month had passed
he would be the husband of Blue Beard, as an idle boast. Far from having
given up the idea, the chevalier persisted in it more and more since his
arrival in Martinique; he had carefully informed himself as to the
riches of Blue Beard, and was convinced that, if the life of this
strange woman was surrounded with the profoundest mystery, and she the
subject of the wildest exaggeration, it was at least true that she was
enormously wealthy.

As to her face, age and origin, as no one had on this point as much
knowledge as Father Griffen, nothing could be affirmed. She was a
stranger in the colony. Her man of business had come in advance to the
island in order to purchase a magnificent estate and to build the
mansion at Devil's Cliff, situated in the northern and most inaccessible
and wildest portion of Martinique. At the end of several months it
became known that the new proprietor and his wife had arrived. One or
two of the colonists, impelled by their curiosity, had penetrated into
the solitude of Devil's Cliff; they were received with a royal
hospitality, but they did not see the owners of the place. Six months
after this visit, news was received of the death of the first husband,
which occurred during a short visit taken by the couple to Terre-Ferme.

At the end of one year of absence and widowhood, Blue Beard returned to
Martinique with a second husband. It was said that this latter was
killed, accidentally, while taking a walk with his wife; his foot
slipped and he fell into one of those bottomless abysses which are so
common in the volcanic soil of the Antilles. Such was, at least, the
explanation that his wife gave concerning his mysterious death.

No one knew anything positive concerning the third husband of Blue Beard
and his death.

These three deaths, so close together, so mysterious, caused strange
stories to be circulated regarding this woman, and reached the ears of
the Governor of Martinique, who was then Chevalier de Crussol; he
started with an escort for Devil's Cliff; arriving at the foot of the
thickly-wooded ascent, on the summit of which towered the mansion, he
found a mulatto who gave him a letter. After reading this letter, the
governor showed great surprise, and ordering his escort to await his
return, he followed the slave, alone.

At the expiration of four hours the governor returned with his guide,
and immediately retraced his steps to St. Pierre. Some of those who
formed his escort remarked that he was very pale and very much agitated.
From that moment until the day of his death, which occurred thirteen
months to the very day after his visit to Devil's Cliff, no one ever
heard him pronounce the name of Blue Beard. The governor made a long
confession to Father Griffen, who came to him from Macouba. It was
observed that in leaving the penitent, Father Griffen appeared to have
received a great shock.

From that time the kind of fatal and mysterious reputation which had
attached itself to the name of Blue Beard increased day by day.
Superstition mingled with the terror which she inspired, until her name
was never mentioned without terror; it was firmly believed that she had
assassinated her three husbands, and that she had escaped punishment by
law only through the power of her wealth, thus purchasing the support of
the different governors who succeeded each other in turn. No one, then,
was tempted to trouble Blue Beard with visits to the wild and solitary
place in which she dwelt, above all since the cannibal, the buccaneer
and the privateer had come, as they said, to be companions or consolers
to the widow.

Whether or not these men had ever legally rendered themselves liable for
any crime, it was asserted that they pursued with an implacable hatred
and vengeance all who attempted to come near Blue Beard. By reason of
being repeated and exaggerated, these threats bore their fruit. The
islanders care little to go, perhaps at the peril of their lives, to
penetrate into the mysteries of Devil's Cliff. It required the desperate
audacity of a Gascon in extremity, to attempt to surprise the secret of
Blue Beard and undertake to espouse her. Such was possibly the fixed
design of the Chevalier de Croustillac; he was not a man to renounce so
easily the hope, insane as it was, of marrying a woman worth millions;
beautiful or plain, young or old, it mattered little to him.

As a means to success, he counted upon his good carriage, his spirit,
his amiability, and his manner, at the same time gallant and proud--for
the chevalier had an excellent opinion of himself--but he counted still
more on his wit, his cunning, and his courage. In fine, a man alert and
determined, who had nothing to lose and feared nothing, who believed
implicitly in himself and his star; who could say to himself as did
Croustillac, "In risking death during a moment--for death can be but a
moment's agony--I _may_ live in luxury and opulence"--such a man can
perform miracles above all when he undertakes a project with such a
grand object and as stimulating as that proposed by Croustillac.

According to his resolve, Father Griffen, after he had brought to a
close the affairs which detained him at St. Pierre, invited the
chevalier to accompany him to Macouba, to remain there until the Unicorn
should sail again for France. Macouba being distant not more than four
or five leagues from Devil's Cliff, the chevalier, who had spent his
three crowns and who found himself without resources, accepted the offer
of the worthy priest, without further enlightening him as to his resolve
concerning Blue Beard; this he would not reveal until the moment arrived
to put it into execution.

After taking leave of Captain Daniel, the chevalier and the priest
embarked in a small boat. Favored by a good wind from the south, they
set sail for Macouba. Croustillac appeared indifferent to the
magnificent and novel scenes which were afforded by the coast of
Martinique, seen from the water; the tropical vegetation whose verdure,
of a tone almost metallic, outlined on a glowing sky, affected him very
little.

The adventurer, with his eyes fixed on the scintillating wake which the
boat left behind her, seemed to see flashing the living rays of Blue
Beard's diamonds; the little green herbs, standing in relief from the
submerged meadows which edged the winding shores, pictured to the Gascon
the emeralds of the widow; while some drops of water sparkled in the sun
in the fall of the oars made him dream of the sacks of pearls which the
terrible resident at Devil's Cliff possessed.

Father Griffen was also deeply absorbed; after thinking of his friends
at Devil's Cliff, he turned his thoughts, with a mixture of disquietude
and joy, to his little flock at home, his garden, his poor and
unpretentious church, his house, his favorite horse, his dog, and his
two slaves who had always given him the most devoted service. And
then--shall we say it?--he thought of certain preserves which he had
made some days before his departure, and as to the condition of which he
was ignorant.

In three hours our travelers arrived at Macouba. Father Griffen had not
long to wait; the canoe was moored in a little bay, not far from the
river which watered this section, one of the most fertile of Martinique.

Father Griffen leaned upon the chevalier's arm. After having for a time
followed the shore where the high and powerful waves of the Caribbean
Sea rolled on, they reached the village of Macouba, composed of some
hundred houses built of wood and covered with roses and palms.

The village was built on a semicircular plan which followed the outline
of the Bay of Macouba, a little port where many canoes and fishing boats
were built. The church was a long wooden edifice from the center of
which four beams arose, surmounted by a little belfry in which was hung
a bell; the church overlooked the village, and was in turn overshadowed
by immense cliffs, covered by rich vegetation, which made an
amphitheatre of living green.

The sun was rapidly setting. The priest trod the only street that
crossed Macouba, and which led to the church. Some small negroes,
absolutely nude, were rolling in the dust; uttering loud cries; they
fled at the approach of the priest. A number of creole women, white or
of mixed blood, dressed in long robes of Indian and madras cloth, in
striking colors, ran to the doors; recognizing Father Griffen, they
testified to their surprise and joy; young and old hastened to
respectfully kiss his hand, and to say in creole, "Blessed is your
return, good Father; you have been missed in Macouba." Numbers of men
came out at once and surrounded Father Griffen, with the same tokens of
attachment and respect.

While the priest talked with the villagers of the events which had taken
place at Macouba during his absence, and in turn gave them news of
France, the housewives, fearing that the good father would not find
sufficient provision at the parsonage, had retired to select, one a fine
fish, another a beautiful pullet; this one the quarter of a fine fat
buck, that one some fruits or vegetables, and a number of little negroes
were ordered to carry to the parsonage these voluntary tithes.

The priest reached his house, situated on one side, at some distance
from the village, overlooking the sea. Nothing could be more simple than
this modest wooden house, covered with roses, and of one story. Curtains
of clear linen dressed the windows and took the place of blinds, which
were a great luxury in the colonies.

A large room, comprising at the same time parlor and dining room,
communicated with the kitchen built at the rear; at the left of this
principal room were the bedroom of Father Griffen, and two other small
rooms opening into the garden and set apart for strangers or the other
priests of Martinique who might, at times, ask the hospitality of their
brother priest.

A henhouse, a stable for the horse, lodgings for two negroes, and
several sheds, completed this establishment, furnished with a rustic
simplicity. The garden had been carefully laid out. Four broad paths
were divided by many beds bordered by thyme, lavender, wild thyme,
hyssop and other fragrant plants. The four principal beds were
subdivided into numerous little ones set apart for vegetables or fruits,
but surrounded by wide borders of fragrant flowers. Between two little
walls of verdure, covered with Arabian jasmine and odorous creepers,
could be seen, in the horizon, the sea and the hills of the other
islands.

No fresher or more charming spot than this garden, in which the most
beautiful flowers mingled with fruits and magnificent vegetables, could
be found. Here a bed of melons, of an amber color, was bordered by dwarf
pomegranates, shaped like a small box and covered at the same time with
purple blossoms and fruit so heavy and so abundant that it touched the
earth. A little further on, a branch of Angola wood with its long, green
husks, and its blue flowers, was surrounded by a line of white and pink
almonds, sweet with perfume; the carrot plant, sorrel, gimgambo and
leek, were hidden in a fourfold rank of tuberoses of the richest tints;
finally, came a square of pineapples which perfumed the air, having a
row of magnificent cacti for a border, with yellow calix and long silver
pistils. Behind the house extended an orchard composed of cocoanuts,
bananas, guava, tamarind, and orange trees, whose branches were weighted
down to the earth with flowers and fruit.

Father Griffen followed the paths of his garden with unspeakable
happiness, observing each flower, plant and tree. His two slaves
attended him; one was called Monsieur, the other Jean. These two good
creatures, weeping with joy at the sight of their master, could not
reply to his questions, so much affected were they, and could only say
one to the other, with hands raised to heaven, "God be praised--he is
here! he is here!"

The chevalier, indifferent to the joy of the natives, followed the
priest mechanically; he was consumed with the desire to inquire of his
host if, through the woods which rose in an amphitheatre, one could see
the road to Devil's Cliff.

After examining his garden, the good priest went out to inspect his
horse which he had named Grenadille, and his large English mastiff
called Snog; as soon as he opened the stable door Snog threw himself
upon his master and bounded around him. He not only jumped upon him but
barked with joy, with such evidence of affection that the negro,
Monsieur, was obliged to take the dog by his collar and could with
difficulty restrain him, while the priest caressed Grenadille, whose
glossy coat and well-covered ribs bore testimony to the good care of
Monsieur, who had charge of the stable.

After this thorough visit through his little domain, Father Griffen
conducted the chevalier into the bedroom which he had intended for him.
A bed draped with a mosquito-netting under a linen canopy, a large
bureau of mahogany wood, and a table, was the furnishing of this room,
which opened upon the garden. Its only ornament was a crucifix suspended
from the center of the slightly roughened wainscot.

"You will find here a poor and modest hospitality," said Father Griffen
to the chevalier, "but it is offered you with a good heart."

"And I accept it with gratitude, Father," said Croustillac.

At this moment Monsieur came to announce that supper was ready, and
Father Griffen led the way to the dining room.



CHAPTER V.

THE SURPRISE.


A large glass wherein burned a candle of yellow wax, lighted the table;
the dishes were placed on a table cloth of coarse but very white linen.
There was no silver; the steel knives, and spoons of maple wood, were of
great neatness. A bottle of blue glass contained about a pint of canary;
in a large pewter pot bubbled the _oagou_, a fermented beverage made
from the grain of sugar cane; a sealed earthen vessel held water, as
fresh as if it were iced.

A fine dorado grilled in its scales (a Caribbean dish), a roasted
paroquet of the size of a pheasant, two dishes of sea crabs cooked in
the shell and served with sauce of the citron juice, and a salad of
green peas, had been symmetrically placed on the table by the negro
Jean, around a centerpiece composed of a large basket containing a
pyramid of fruit, which had at its base a European melon, a watermelon,
and at its summit a pineapple; there was a side dish of sliced
palm-cabbage dressed with vinegar, and little whitefish preserved in
spiced pickle, which would tempt the appetite of the guests or excite
their thirst.

"You are treating me with royal magnificence, Father," said the
chevalier to the priest. "This island is the 'promised land,' surely."

"With the exception of the canary wine, which was a gift, my son, all
this is the product of the garden which I cultivate, or the fishing and
hunting of my two slaves, for the offerings of my parish are
superfluous, thanks to the foresight of Monsieur and Jean, who were
advised of my arrival by a sailor at Fort St. Pierre. Help yourself to
this paroquet, my son," said the priest to the chevalier, who appeared
to find the fish very much to his taste.

Croustillac hesitated a moment and looked at the priest in an uncertain
manner. "I do not know why, but it seems strange to eat a paroquet,"
said the chevalier.

"Try it, try it," responded the priest, and he placed a wing on his
plate. "Is a pheasant's flesh more plump or more golden? It is cooked to
a marvel; and then, did you ever smell anything more appetizing?"

"I should say four spices are employed," said the chevalier, inhaling
the odor.

"It is claimed that these birds are very fond of the berry of the Indian
trees which they find in the forest; these trees have at once the taste
of cinnamon, clove and pepper, and the flesh of the game partakes of the
scent of this aromatic tree. How this juice is flavored. Add a little of
the orange sugar, and then tell me if the Lord has not blessed his
creatures in bestowing such gifts upon them?"

"In all my life I have never eaten anything more tender, more delicate
or more savory than this," replied the chevalier, with full mouth, and
half shutting his eyes in sensual enjoyment.

"Is it not good?" said the good priest, who, knife and fork in hand,
looked at his guest with satisfied pride.

The repast ended, Monsieur placed a pot of tobacco and pipes at the side
of the bottle of canary, and Father Griffen and Croustillac were then
left alone.

After filling a glass of wine and passing it to the chevalier, the
priest said to him, "Your health, my son."

"Thanks, father," said the chevalier, lifting his glass. "Drink also to
the health of my future bride; it will be a good omen for me."

"How? your future bride?" replied the priest; "what do you mean?"

"I allude to Blue Beard, father."

"Ah--always jesting! Frankly, I believe the men of your province are
most inventive, my son," said Father Griffen, smiling mischievously, and
emptying his glass in small doses.

"I never spoke more seriously, father. You heard the vow which I made on
board the Unicorn?"

"Impossibility nullifies a vow, my son; because you should swear to
measure the ocean, would you engage to fulfill this oath?"

"How, Father--is the heart of Blue Beard as bottomless as the ocean?"
gayly exclaimed the chevalier.

"An English poet has said of woman, 'Perfidious as the waves,' my son."

"However perfidious women may be, my worthy host," said the chevalier
with a self-sufficient air, "we men know how to disarm them, and I shall
exercise afresh that power in dealing with Blue Beard."

"You will not attempt anything of the kind, my son; I am easy on that
point."

"Allow me to say, father, that you deceive yourself. To-morrow, at
daybreak, I shall ask of you a guide to conduct me to Devil's Cliff, and
I shall confide the course of this adventure to my Star."

The chevalier spoke with so serious an air that Father Griffen hastily
placed upon the table the glass which he was raising to his lips, and
regarded the chevalier with as much astonishment as distrust. Until then
he had really believed the matter to be only a pleasantry or idle boast.
"Are you sincere in this resolve? This is absolute madness, but----"

"Excuse me, Father, for interrupting you," said the chevalier, "but you
see before you the younger son of my family, who has tempted every
fortune, wasted all his resources, and with whom nothing has succeeded.
Blue Beard is rich, very rich. I have everything to gain, nothing to
lose."

"Nothing to lose?"

"Life, perhaps, you will say. I make a good bargain; and then, barbarous
though this country may be, helpless as justice may prove, I do not
think that Blue Beard will dare treat me, on my arrival, as she treated
her three husbands; if so, you will know that I have fallen a victim;
you will demand an account of my death. I risk nothing more than seeing
my homage rejected. Ah! well, if such be the case, if she repulses me, I
shall continue to delight Captain Daniel during his trips by swallowing
lighted candles and balancing bottles on the end of my nose. Certainly
such an occupation is honorable and amusing, but I prefer another life.
So, then, no matter what you say, Father, I am resolved to attempt the
adventure and to go to Devil's Cliff. I cannot tell you what secret
presentiment tells me I shall succeed, that I am upon the eve of seeing
my destiny fulfill itself in a most wonderful manner. The future seems
tinted with rose and gold; I dream only of magnificent palaces, wealth,
and beauty; it seems to me (excuse the pagan comparison) that Love and
Fortune have come and taken me by the hands and are saying to me,
'Polyphème de Croustillac, happiness awaits thee.' You will say,
perhaps, Father," continued the chevalier, throwing a mocking glance at
his faded coat, "that I am poorly dressed to present myself in this
beautiful and brave company of fortune and happiness; but Blue Beard,
who must be intelligent, will comprehend at once that under this
outside, the heart of an Amadis, the spirit of a Gascon, and the courage
of a Cæsar dwells."

After a moment's silence the priest, instead of smiling at the
pleasantries of the chevalier, said to him in a tone that was most
solemn, "Is your resolve finally taken?"

"Unwaveringly and absolutely taken, Father."

"Hear me then; I heard the confessions of the Chevalier de Crussol, the
former governor of this island; he who, when the third husband of this
woman disappeared, went to Devil's Cliff."

"Well, father?"

"While I must respect the secrets of the confessional, I can, I must,
tell you that if you persist in your insane project, you expose yourself
to great and unavoidable peril. Without doubt, if you lose your life,
your death will not remain unpunished; but there will be no means of
preventing the fatal end upon which you would rush. Who obliges you to
go to Devil's Cliff? The resident of that place wishes to live in
solitude; the barriers of that abode are such that you cannot break them
down without violence; for in every country, and above all in this one,
he who trespasses upon the property of another exposes himself to grave
danger--danger the greater that all idea of a union with this widow is
impossible, even if you were of a princely house."

These words hurt immeasurably the self-esteem of the Gascon, who
exclaimed, "Father, this woman is but a woman, and _I_ am Croustillac."

"What do you say, my son?"

"That this woman is free; that she has not seen me; that but one look,
one only, will change entirely her resolve."

"I do not think it."

"Reverend Father, I have the greatest, the blindest confidence in your
word; I know all its authority; but this concerns the fair sex, and you
cannot understand the heart of woman as _I_ understand it, you do not
know what inexplicable caprices they are capable of; you do not know
that what pleases them to-day displeases them to-morrow; and that they
wish for to-day, that which they disdained yesterday. With women, my
reverend sir, one must dare in order to succeed. If it were not for your
cloth, I would tell you some curious adventures and audacious
undertakings by which I have been recompensed amorously!"

"My son!"

"I understand your sensitiveness, Father, and to return to Blue Beard:
once in her presence, I shall treat her not only with effrontery, with
haughtiness, but as a victor--I dare say it, as a lion who comes proudly
to carry off his prey."

These remarks of the chevalier were interrupted by an unforeseen
accident. It was very warm; the door of the dining room which looked on
the garden was half open. The chevalier, with back turned to this door,
was seated in an arm chair with a wooden back which was not very high. A
sharp hissing sound was heard and a quick blow vibrated in the middle of
the chevalier's chair.

At this sound Father Griffen bounded from his chair, rushed and took his
gun down from a rack placed in his bedroom, and precipitated himself out
of doors, crying, "Jean! Monsieur! Take your guns! Follow me, my
children! follow me! The Caribbeans are upon us!"



CHAPTER VI.

THE WARNING.


All this took place so rapidly that the chevalier was dumfounded. "Get
up! get up!" cried the priest. "The Caribbeans! Look at the back of your
chair--get out of the light!"

The chevalier rose quickly, and saw an arrow three feet in length fixed
in the back of his chair. Two inches higher and the chevalier would have
been pierced through the shoulders. Croustillac seized his sword, which
he had left on a chair, and hurried after the priest.

Father Griffen, at the head of his two negroes, armed with their guns,
and preceded by his mastiff, sought for the enemy; unfortunately, the
door of the dining room opened upon a trellised orchard; the night was
dark; doubtless the person who had sped the arrow was already far away,
or well hidden in the top of some thick tree.

Snog bounded hither and thither in the eagerness of his search. Father
Griffen recalled his two slaves who were too venturesome and would have
penetrated into the orchard.

"Well, father, where are they?" said the chevalier, brandishing his
sword: "shall we charge upon them? A lantern--give me a lantern; we will
visit the orchard and the neighborhood of the house."

"No, no, not a lantern, my son, it would serve to point us out to the
assailants if there are a number, and you would be too much exposed; you
would receive an arrow in you. Come, come," said the priest, lowering
his gun after some moments of attentive scrutiny; "it is but an alarm;
let us return and thank the Lord for the clumsiness of this cannibal,
for if he had not blundered, you would not be here, my son. What
astonishes me, and for which I thank God, is that you have escaped; a
native so bold as to make such an attempt should have a true eye and a
sure hand."

"But what harm have you ever done these savages, Father?"

"None! I have often been in their settlement at the Isle des Saintes,
and have always been properly received; thus I cannot understand the
object of this attack. But let us look at this arrow--I shall know from
the feather if it is a native arrow."

"We must keep a good watch, to-night, Father, and to this end confide in
me," said the Gascon. "You see that it is not only in a love affair that
I have firmness."

"I do not doubt you, my son, and I accept your offer. I will fasten the
windows securely against the assassins, and bar the door strongly. Snog
will act as picket. It will not be the first time this house has stood a
siege; a dozen English pirates attacked it two years ago, but with my
slaves and the aid of an official from Cabesterre, who was accidentally
at my house, we punished the heretics severely."

So saying, Father Griffen entered the dining room, withdrawing with some
effort the iron-barbed arrow which stuck in the back of the chair, he
exclaimed with surprise, "There is a paper attached to the feather of
this arrow!" Then, unfolding it, he read these words, written in a large
and bold hand: "Warning number one, to the Chevalier de Croustillac."

"To the Rev. Father Griffen, respect and affection."

The priest looked at the chevalier without saying a word. He, in turn,
took the bit of paper and read it.

"What does this mean?" he exclaimed.

"It means that I have not been deceived in speaking of the sure aim of
the Caribbeans. The person who shot the arrow could have killed you had
he so willed. See! this arrow tip is poisoned, doubtless; it entered an
inch into the back of this chair of hard wood; if it had struck you, you
would be dead. What skill was displayed in thus guiding this arrow!"

"Zounds, Father! I find it rather more marvelous that I am not touched,"
said the Gascon. "But what the devil have I done to this savage?"

Father Griffen struck his forehead with his hand. "When I have read you
this?" he exclaimed.

"Read what, Father?"

"Warning number one, to the Chevalier de Croustillac."

"Well?"

"Well! this warning comes from Devil's Cliff."

"You believe it to be so?"

"I am sure of it. They have learned of your project and they desire to
force you to give it up."

"How can they have learned it?"

"You did not hide it on board the Unicorn. Some of the passengers,
disembarking three days ago at St. Pierre, have spoken of it; this rumor
has reached the counting house of Blue Beard and her business manager
has informed his employer."

"I am forced to confess," replied the chevalier, after a moment's
reflection, "that Blue Beard has singular means of corresponding with
one. This is a queer little mail."

"Ah, well, my son, I hope the lesson will profit you," said the priest.
Then he continued, addressing the two slaves who were carrying in the
blinds and were about to raise them into place, "It is unnecessary, my
children, I see there is nothing to fear."

The slaves, accustomed to a blind obedience, took away the impromptu
defenses.

The chevalier looked at the priest with astonishment.

"Without doubt," said the good father, "the word of the dwellers at
Devil's Cliff is sacred; I have nothing at present to fear from them,
nor you either, my son, because you are warned, and you will necessarily
give up your mad plan."

"I, Father?"

"How----"

"May I become blacker this moment than your two negroes if I renounce
it."

"What do you say--after such a warning?"

"Well, who is to tell me that this warning comes from Blue Beard? It may
come from a rival--from the buccaneer, the filibuster, or the cannibal.
For I have quite a selection among the gallant admirers of the beauty
of Devil's Cliff."

"Ah, well, what does it signify----"

"How? What does it signify, Father? But I intend to show these would-be
wits what the blood of a De Croustillac is! Ah! they think to intimidate
me! They do not know this sword which, look you, would move in its
scabbard! whose steel would blush with indignation if I were to renounce
my undertaking!"

"My son, this is madness, sheer madness----"

"And what a coward, what a sheep, would the Chevalier de Croustillac
appear in the eyes of Blue Beard if he were so pusillanimous as to be
daunted by so little!"

"By so little! but two inches higher and you would have been killed!"

"But as it was two inches lower, and I was _not_ killed, I will
consecrate my life to taming the willful heart of Blue Beard and to
vanquishing my rivals, be they ten, twenty, thirty, one hundred or ten
thousand," replied the Gascon, with growing enthusiasm.

"But if this act was the order of the mistress of Devil's Cliff?"

"If it was done by her order, she shall see, the cruel one, that I will
brave the death to which she would send me, in order to reach her heart.
She is a woman; she will appreciate such valor. I do not know if she is
a Venus but I know that without wronging the god Mars I Polyphème Amador
de Croustillac am terribly martial; and from beauty to courage there is
but a step."

One must imagine the exaggeration and Gascon accent of the chevalier to
have an idea of this scene.

Father Griffen hardly knew whether to laugh or to be appalled at the
opinionated resolve of the chevalier. The secret of the confessional
forbade his speaking, from entering into any details concerning Devil's
Cliff; he knew not how to induce the chevalier to renounce his fatal
intention. He had endeavored to do so, but in vain.

"If nothing can withhold you, my son, it cannot be said that I have
been, even indirectly, an accomplice in your mad enterprise. You are
ignorant of the position of Devil's Cliff; neither myself, nor my
slaves, nor, I assure you, any of my parishioners will be your guide. I
have instructed them to refuse. Beside the reputation of Blue Beard is
such that no one would care to infringe my orders."

This declaration of the priest's seemed to make the chevalier reflect.
He bent his head in silence then he began again resolutely: "I know that
Devil's Cliff is some four leagues from this spot; it is situated in the
northern part of the island. My heart will serve as a compass to guide
me to the lady of my thoughts, with the assistance of the sun and the
moon."

"But, madman," cried the priest, "there is no path through the forests
which you would traverse; the trees are so thick that they would hide
from you the position of the sun--you would be lost."

"I shall go right ahead; I shall arrive somewhere. Your island is not so
large (be it said without disparaging Martinique), Father; then I shall
retrace my steps, and I shall seek until I find Devil's Cliff."

"But the soil of the forest is often impassable; it is infested with
serpents of the most dangerous species; I say to you that in what you
propose, you are courting a thousand deaths."

"Ah, well, Father, 'nothing venture, nothing have.' If there are
serpents I will get upon stilts after the manner of the natives of my
country."

"Going to walk on stilts in the midst of creepers, brambles, rocks,
trees overturned by storms? I tell you, you do not know our forests."

"If one always considered the perils of an undertaking one would never
accomplish any good. Did you think of the deadly fevers when you tended
those of your parishioners who were attacked with it?"

"But my object was a pious one; I risked death in the observance of my
duty; while you rush upon yours out of vanity."

"Vanity, Father! A companion who has sacks filled with diamonds and fine
pearls, and probably five or six millions more in gold! Zounds! what a
'vanity!'"

Having seen the futility of overcoming such unparalleled
opinionativeness, the good priest said no more.

He conducted his guest to the room assigned to him, fully resolved to
put every difficulty possible in the way of the chevalier the next day.

Inflexible in his resolve, Croustillac slept profoundly. A lively
curiosity had come to the aid of a natural obstinacy and an
imperturbable confidence in his destiny; the more this confidence had
been, till then, disappointed, the more our adventurer believed that the
promised hour was about to come to him. The following morning, at break
of day, he arose and went on tiptoe to the door of Father Griffen's
room. The priest still slept, not thinking for a moment that the
chevalier would dream of starting off on a journey through an unknown
country without a guide. He deceived himself.

Croustillac, in order to escape the solicitation and reproaches of his
host, started at once. He girded on his formidable sword, a weapon very
inconvenient to travel with through a forest; he jammed his hat well
down on his head, took a staff in his hand with which to frighten the
serpents, and with firm tread and nose in the air, though with a heart
beating rather rapidly, he quitted the hospitable house of the priest of
Macouba, and directed his steps toward the north, for some time
following the extremely thick vegetation of the forest. He shortly
afterward made a circuit of this dense vegetation, which formed an angle
toward the east, and stretched indefinitely in that direction.

From the moment that the chevalier entered the forest, he did not
hesitate in the slightest degree. He recalled the wise counsels of
Father Griffen; he thought of the dangers which he was going to
encounter; but he also invoked the thought of Blue Beard's treasures; he
was dazzled by the heaps of gold, pearls, rubies and diamonds which he
believed he saw sparkling and quivering before his eyes. He pictured to
himself the owner of Devil's Cliff, a being of perfect beauty. Led on by
this vision, he entered resolutely the forest, and pushed aside the
heavy screen of creepers which were suspended from the limbs of the
trees which they draped.

The chevalier did not forget to beat the bushes with his staff, crying
out in a loud voice, "Out, ye serpents, out!"

With the exception of the voice of the Gascon, there was not a sound.

The sun rose; the air, freshened by the plenteous dew of the night, and
by the sea breeze, was impregnated with the aromatic odors of the
forest, and its tropical flowers. The rest was still plunged in the
shadow when the chevalier entered it.

For some time the profound silence reigning in this imposing solitude
was only broken by the blows of the chevalier's staff on the bushes, and
by his repeated cries, "Out, ye serpents, out!"

Little by little these sounds grew fainter and then ceased all at once.

The gloomy and profound silence which reigned was suddenly broken in
upon by a kind of savage howl which had in it nothing human. This sound,
and the first rays of the sun trembling on the horizon, like a sheaf of
light, appeared to rouse the inhabitants of the great forest. They
responded one after another until the uproar became infernal. The
chattering of monkeys; the cry of wildcats; the hissing of serpents; the
grunts of wild boars; the bellowing of cattle, broke from every
direction with a frightful chorus; the echoes of the forest and the
cliffs repeated these discordant sounds; one would have supposed a band
of demons was responding to a superior demon's call.



CHAPTER VII.

THE CAVERN.


While the chevalier sought a road to Devil's Cliff by which to traverse
the forest, we will conduct our readers toward the most southern portion
of the coast of Martinique.

The sea rolled with slow majesty at the foot of large rocks near a peak
which formed a natural defense to this part of the island, and which
rose in a perpendicular wall some two hundred feet in height. The
continued beating of the waves rendered this coast so dangerous that a
vessel could not touch at this place without being, inevitably, broken
to pieces.

The site of which we speak had a wild and grand simplicity; a wall of
barren rocks, of a dull red, was outlined on a sky of sapphire blue;
their base was swallowed up in a whirl of snowy foam, hidden by the
incessant shock of enormous mountains of water which broke upon these
reefs in tones of thunder. The sun with all its strength threw a
brilliant, torrid light on this mass of granite; there was not a cloud
in the brazen heavens. On the horizon there appeared through a burning
vapor the high land of the other Antilles.

At some distance from the coast, where the waves broke, the sea was of a
somber blue, and as calm as a mirror. An object scarcely perceptible,
because it offered little surface above the water, approached rapidly
the portion of this island called Cabesterre.

Little by little, a long, light canoe was to be distinguished, whose
stern and bow cut the sea evenly; this vessel, without sails, was
impelled forward by the strength of the waves. On each seat was clearly
seen a man vigorously rowing. Whether or not the coast was as
unapproachable at three leagues as at this place, it was evident that
the canoe was directed toward these rocks.

The object of those who were approaching seemed to be hard to
understand. Presently the canoe was caught in the midst of the surf
beating upon these reefs. Had it not been for the marvelous ability of
its pilot, who avoided these masses of water following the frail bark
and incessantly menacing it, she would very soon have been swallowed up.

At two gunshots from the rocks, the canoe reversed and rested, and took
advantage of an interval in the succession of waves, at a moment of
calm, which occurred periodically after seven or eight waves had broken
into foam.

The two men, who by their clothing were easily seen to be European
sailors, pressing their caps more securely on their heads, sprang
overboard and boldly struck out for the shore while their companions
turned at the edge of this calm, regained the open, and disappeared
after having braved anew the fury of the mountainous waves with
wonderful skill.

During this time the two intrepid swimmers, by turn submerged or cast up
from the midst of the enormous waves which they adroitly traversed,
arrived at the foot of the rocks in the center of a sea of foam. They
appeared to be rushing upon certain death, and it looked as if they
would be dashed to pieces upon the reefs. Nothing of the sort occurred,
however. These two men seemed to perfectly understand the coast; they
directed their course toward a place where the violence of the waves had
hollowed out a natural grotto.

The waves, engulphing themselves under this roof with a horrible din
fell back from it in a cataract into a smaller basin, hollow and deep.
After some heavy undulations, the waves grew feebler; in the center of a
gigantic cavern formed a little subterranean lake which, when full,
returned to the sea by some hidden channel.

It required great temerity to so abandon themselves to the impulse of
these furious waves which precipitated them into the abyss; but this
momentary submersion was more frightful than dangerous; the mouth of
the cave was so large that there was no danger of being bruised by the
rocks, and the cloud of foam threw them into the midst of a peaceful
pond, surrounded by a fine, sandy beach.

Sifting through the fall of water which bubbled at the entrance of this
enormous roof, the light was feeble, soft, and bluish like that of the
moon.

The two swimmers, breathless, deafened and wounded by the shook of the
waves, emerged from the little lake and stretched themselves on the
sand, where they rested for some time.

The larger of these two men, though he was dressed like a common sailor,
was Colonel Rutler, a stanch partisan of the new King of England,
William of Orange, under whose orders he had served when the son-in-law
of the unfortunate James II. was only a stadtholder of Holland. Colonel
Rutler was robust and tall; his face wore an expression of audacity,
bordering on cruelty; his hair, lying in close, damp meshes, was of a
deep red; his mustache of the same color hid a large mouth overshadowed
by a hooked nose, resembling the beak of a bird of prey.

Rutler, a faithful and resolute man, served his master with blind
devotion. William of Orange had testified his confidence in him by
intrusting to him a mission as difficult as it was dangerous, the nature
of which we shall know later on. The sailor who accompanied the colonel
was slight but vigorous, active and determined.

The colonel said to him in English, after a moment's silence, "Are you
sure, John, that there is a passage leading from here?"

"The passage exists, colonel, be easy on that score."

"But I do not perceive any----"

"By and by, colonel, when your view shall have become accustomed to this
half light, like that of the moon, you will lay yourself down flat on
your stomach, and there, at the right, at the end of a long natural
passage in which one cannot advance except by crawling, you will
perceive the light of day which penetrates through a crevasse in the
rock."

"If the road is sure, it certainly is not easy."

"So far from easy, colonel, that I defy the captain of the brigantine
who brought you to the Barbadoes, with his great stomach, to enter the
passage which remains for us to travel. It is as much as I could do
heretofore to glide through; it is the size of the tunnel of a chimney."

"And it leads?"

"To the bottom of a precipice which forms a defense for Devil's Cliff;
three sides of this precipice are a peak, and it is as impossible to
descend as to ascend it; but as to the fourth side, it is not
inaccessible, and with the help of the jutting rocks one can reach by
this road the limits of the park of Blue Beard."

"I understand--this subterranean passage will conduct us to the bottom
of the abyss above which towers Devil's Cliff?"

"Exactly, colonel; it is as if we were at the bottom of a moat, one of
whose sides is perpendicular and the other sloping. When I say sloping,
that is simply a figure of speech, for in order to reach the summit of
the peak, one must more than once hang suspended by some vine between
heaven and earth. But when there, we find ourselves at the edge of the
park of Devil's Cliff--once there, we can hide ourselves in some place
and wait our opportunity----"

"And this opportunity is not far distant; come, come, you, who know so
much, must, at one time, have been in the service of Blue Beard!"

"I told you, colonel, I came from the coast with her and her first
husband; at the end of three months, they sent me back; then I left for
San Domingo. I have heard no further word of them."

"And she--would you know her well?"

"Yes, as to her height and general air, but not her face; for we reached
the coast at night, and once on shore she was carried in a litter to
Devil's Cliff. When by chance she walked in the daytime, she wore a
mask. Some say she is as beautiful as an angel; others, that she is ugly
as a monster. I cannot say which are in the right, for neither I nor my
mates ever put foot in the interior of the mansion. Those who perform
the special attendance and service are mulattresses as mute as fish."

"And he?"

"He is handsome, tall and slender, about thirty-six years old, brown,
with black hair and mustache, and has an aquiline nose."

"It is certainly he," said the colonel, when John had thus described
him. "It is thus that he was always described; and it is not positively
known that he is dead?"

"It is said he died on the voyage, but no one has ever really known."

"And no one doubts that he died?"

"Faith! no, colonel, because Blue Beard has been married twice since
then."

"And have you seen these two husbands?"

"No, colonel, for when I arrived from San Domingo, only eight days
since, you engaged me for this expedition, knowing that I could serve
you. You have promised me fifty guineas if I will introduce you into
this island, in spite of the French cruisers, which, since the war, do
not allow any vessels to approach the coast, which is accessible, be it
understood. Our canoe, however, was not interfered with, for, thanks to
the sharp rocks of Cabesterre, no one could conceive that we could land
on this coast of the island, and they have not watched that."

"And then, beside, no one would suspect our presence on the island,
though, according to what you tell me, Blue Beard has a kind of police
who keep her informed of the arrival of all strangers."

"At least, colonel, they say that the men who are so employed, at St.
Pierre and Fort Royal, were on the watch and that a stranger who landed
at Martinique did not escape their vigilance."

"All that is for the best; you shall have your fifty guineas. But, once
more, you are very sure about this subterranean passage?"

"Be easy as to that, colonel; I have passed through it, I tell you, with
a negro who was a pearl-fisher, and he it was who first took me through
it."

"But you were obliged to climb the precipice in order to reach the park
of Devil's Cliff?"

"Doubtless, colonel; since it was from curiosity to see this park, in
which no one was permitted to enter, that I accepted the pearl-fisher's
offer; being of the household, I knew Blue Beard and her husband were
absent; I was then sure that I could pass through the garden after
climbing the precipice; that was what we did, not without the risk of
breaking our necks, however, a thousand times, but what would you have?
I was dying with curiosity to see the interior of this place, which had
been forbidden. It was a perfect paradise. What was most amusing was the
surprise of the mulattress who guarded the entrance; when she saw us,
myself and the negro, she could not conceive how we had been able to
enter. We told her we had escaped her notice. She believed us; she put
us out as quickly as possible, and she committed suicide rather than be
punished by her employers."

After a few minutes' silence the colonel said abruptly, "This is not
all; now there is no retreat, I must tell you everything."

"What then, colonel?"

"Once introduced into Devil's Cliff, we have a man to surprise and
overcome; whatever he does to defend himself, a hair of his head must
not be harmed, at least, unless he absolutely forces us to protect our
lives; then," continued the colonel, with a sinister smile, "then two
hundred guineas for you, whether we succeed or not."

"A thousand devils! you have waited rather long to say this to me,
colonel. But, as the wine is drawn, it must be quaffed."

"Come, I did not deceive myself, you are a brave man."

"Ah, as to that, is the man whom you seek also strong and brave?"

"Well," said Rutler, after some minutes of reflection, "consider a
little the first husband of the widow--a man tall and slender."

"The devil! he was slender, 'tis true; a rod of steel is, also, slender,
but that does not prevent its being furiously strong. See here, colonel,
that man was made of iron. He was so strong that I have seen him take an
insolent negro by the middle and throw him ten feet from him, as if he
were an infant, though the black was larger and more robust than you.
So, colonel, if the man you seek resembles that one, we would be unwise
to bait him--as you say----"

"Less than you believe. I will explain to you----"

"And then," continued John, "if by chance the filibuster, the buccanneer
or the cannibal who they say frequently visit the widow, should also be
there, it would become somewhat embarrassing."

"Hear me; after what you have told me is there at the end of the park a
tree where one could hide?"

"Yes, colonel."

"With the exception of the buccaneer, the filibuster or the cannibal no
one enters the private habitation of Blue Beard?"

"No one colonel except the mulattresses who wait upon her."

"And except also the man whom I seek, be it remembered; I have my
reasons for believing we shall find him there."

"Well, colonel?"

"Then nothing is simpler; we will hide ourselves in the thickest tree
until our man comes to our side."

"That cannot fail to occur colonel because the park is not large and
when one walks in it he is forced to pass near a marble basin not very
far from the place where we shall be hidden."

"If our man does not take a walk after night comes, we will wait until
he has gone to bed, and we will surprise him there."

"This will be easy, colonel, unless he calls one of Blue Beard's
comforters to his succor."

"Be easy about that; for with your assistance I can place my hand on him
and then though he were surrounded by a hundred men armed to the teeth
he is mine; I have a sure means of obliging him to obey me; this
concerns me. All that I require of you is to conduct me into the ambush
from which I can spring upon him suddenly."

"This shall be done, colonel."

"Then let us be going," said Rutler, rising from the ground.

"At your orders, colonel; but instead of walking, we must creep. But let
us see," continued John, bending down, "if we can perceive the daylight.
Yes, it is there--but how distant it seems. Speaking of that, colonel,
if, since I came by this road, it should have been stopped up by a
landslide, we should cut, in such a case, a sorry figure! condemned to
remain here, and to die of hunger or to eat each other! Impossible to
get out by the gulf, seeing that one cannot remount a sheet of water as
a trout ascends a cascade."

"That is true," said Rutler, "you appal me; happily, there is no
likelihood of this. You have the sack?"

"Yes, colonel; the straps are strong and the skin impervious. We shall
find our knives, our pistols and our cartridges in it as dry as though
they came from an armory."

"Then, John, let us be starting; go ahead," said the colonel. "We must
have time to dry our clothes."

"That will not take long, colonel; once at the foot of the precipice we
shall be as in an oven; the sun shines full upon it."

John lay down on his face and commenced to glide into the passage, so
small that he could scarcely enter. The darkness was profound; in the
distance only, one could distinguish a faint light. The colonel
followed, dragging himself over a damp and dirty soil.

For some time the two Englishmen advanced in this manner, crawling on
their knees, on their hands, and on their stomachs, in total darkness.
All at once John paused suddenly and cried in a frightened voice,
"Colonel!"

"What is it?"

"Do you not notice a strong odor?"

"Yes, a fetid odor."

"Do not move; it is the serpent--'Fer de lance'--we are lost."

"A serpent!" exclaimed the colonel, with horror.

"We are dead. I dare not advance; the odor is growing stronger and
stronger," murmured John.

"Be quiet--listen."

In mortal terror the two men held their breath. All at once at some
little distance they heard a continuous, rapid sound, as if something
was beating the earth with a flail. The nauseating and penetrating odor
which exhales from these large serpents became stronger and stronger.
"The serpent is furious; it is his tail which is beating the earth
thus," said John in a feeble voice. "Colonel, let us commend our souls
to God!"

"Let us cry out and terrify the serpent," said Rutler.

"No, no, it would but precipitate itself at once upon us," replied John.

The two men remained for some moments a prey to the most horrible
suspense. They could neither retreat nor change their position. Their
chests rested upon the earth; their backs touched the rocks. They dared
not make a movement of recoil for fear of drawing the reptile in pursuit
of them. The air, more and more impregnated by the infectious odor of
the serpent, became suffocating.

"Can you not find a stone at hand in order to throw at it," said the
colonel in a low tone.

Hardly had he said these words when John uttered the most piercing cries
and struggled violently, exclaiming, "Help! help! I die!"

Paralyzed with terror, Rutler strove to turn about, but he struck
himself violently on the head against the side of the passage. Then,
retreating as rapidly as he could with the assistance of his knees and
hands, he sought flight by backing out, while John, in extremity with
the serpent, made the most terrible and pitiful cries of terror and
suffering. All at once these cries became fainter and inarticulate, as
if the sailor was strangling. In fact, the enraged serpent, after
having, in the obscurity, stung John in the hand, the throat and face,
attempted to introduce its flat and lance-like head into the open mouth
of the unfortunate man, and stung his lips and tongue; but this last
assault finished the sailor.

The serpent, having satisfied his rage, withdrew his horrible fangs and
took to flight. The colonel felt a damp, icy body touch his cheek; he
remained motionless. The serpent glided rapidly along the side of the
subterranean passage and escaped.

The danger past, the colonel remained some moments petrified with
terror; he heard the last struggle of John; his agony was short. Rutler
heard him make several convulsive shudders and that was all. His
companion was dead. Then Rutler advanced and seized the sailor's leg.
The leg was already cold and stiff; for the venom of the serpent works
rapidly.

A new cause for fear assailed the colonel. The serpent, not finding an
egress in the cavern, might return the same way it had gone. Rutler
seemed already to hear a slight noise behind him. He could not proceed
in advance, because the body of the sailor completely blocked the
passage; flight by the rear was only to expose himself to an encounter
with the serpent. In his terror the colonel seized the corpse by the two
legs, to the end that he might drag it to the entrance of the
subterranean passage and thus clear the only outlet to the cavern. His
efforts were in vain. Whether his strength was paralyzed, he being in
such a cramped position, or whether the poison had already distended the
body, Rutler could not extricate it.

Not wishing to think that this only and last chance for salvation was
taken from him, he found a means of detaching his belt and of fastening
it to the feet of the dead man; he took it between his teeth, and,
aiding himself by his two hands, pulled with all the energy of despair.
He could scarcely cause even the slightest movement of the corpse. His
terror increased; he sought his knife, in the mad idea of cutting up the
body of the sailor. He saw soon the uselessness of this attempt.

The pistols and ammunition of the colonel were in the sack of skin swung
over the shoulders of the dead man. He set himself to work to remove the
sack from his companion; he did so after great difficulty. He then set
himself anew to retreat to the entrance of the passage.

Once again in the cavern he felt faint, but the air revived him; he
plunged his head into the cold water and seated himself on the sand. He
had almost forgotten the serpent. A long hiss caused him to raise his
head; he saw the reptile balancing itself a few paces above him, half
coiled up on the rooks which formed the roof of the cavern.

The colonel recovered his coolness at the sight of this danger;
remaining almost immovable, and using his hands only, he unfastened his
pouch and drew from it a pistol and cocked it. Happily the charge and
priming were intact.

At the moment that the serpent, irritated by the movement of Rutler,
precipitated itself upon him, the latter aimed and fired. The serpent
fell at his feet with his head crushed. It was of a blue-black, spotted
with yellow, and some eight or nine feet in length.

Delivered from this enemy, and encouraged by his success the colonel
made a final effort to clear out the only path by which he could pass.
He glided anew into the passage, but, in spite of his strength, his
efforts were in vain--he could not move the corpse of the sailor.

Returning to the cave, he examined it in every direction but could find
no outlet. He could not hope for help outside; his shouts could not be
heard. At this terrible thought his eyes fell upon the serpent. Here was
a momentary resource; he knew that sometimes the famished negroes ate
this flesh, which, though repulsive, was not poisonous.

Night came, and he found himself in profound darkness. The waves
murmured and broke at the entrance of the cave; the waterspout
precipitated itself with a crash into the lower basin.

A new fear took possession of Rutler. He knew that the serpents went in
pairs and often rejoined each other at night; drawn by the tracks, the
male or female of the reptile which he had killed would come in search
of its mate.

The colonel's vigil became frightful. The slightest sound made him
tremble, in spite of his courageous nature; he asked himself whether, in
case he came through this horrible situation by a miracle, he should
continue the enterprise he had commenced. At first he believed that he
saw, in this adventure, a warning from heaven; then he accused himself
of cowardice, and attributed his mad fears to the feeble condition in
which he found himself.

Leaving the colonel in this difficult strait, we will transport our
reader to Devil's Cliff.



CHAPTER VIII.

DEVIL'S CLIFF.


The moon, brilliant and pure, shed a light almost as strong as the
European sun, and enabled one to distinguish perfectly the top of a very
high rock, and surrounded by woods on all sides of a dwelling built of
brick, and of peculiar architecture.

One could reach it only by a narrow path, forming a spiral around this
species of cone. The path was bounded on one side by a mass of
perpendicular granite; on the other by a precipice of which in the broad
daylight one could not discover the bottom.

This dangerous road terminated in a platform crossed by a brick wall, of
great thickness and edged with spikes.

Back of this species of glacis arose the walls surrounding the dwelling,
into which one entered by a very low oak door. This door communicated
with a large, square court, occupied by the outbuildings and other
buildings. This court passed, one discovered a vaulted passageway
leading to the sanctuary; that is to say, to the pavilion occupied by
Blue Beard. None of the blacks or mulattoes who formed the large force
of servants of the house had ever passed the limits of this passageway.
The serving of Blue Beard was done through the intermediary of a number
of mulattresses, who alone communicated with their mistress.

The house was built on a slope opposite the one by which access was had
from the cliff. This slope, much less steep, and laid out in a number of
natural terraces, was composed of five or six immense steps which, on
all sides, commanded the precipice.

By a phenomenon frequent in these volcanic islands, a pond of about two
acres' circumference covered almost all the length of one of the upper
terraces. Its waters were limpid and pure. Blue Beard's residence was
separated from this small lake by a narrow path of smooth sand, shining
like silver. This house was of one story. At the first glance it seems
to be constructed entirely of trees from which the bark had been
removed. Its bamboo roof was steeply inclined and overlapped by some
five or six feet the outer wall, which rested upon the trunks of palm
trees driven into the ground, and formed a kind of gallery around the
house.

A little above the level of the lake, in gentle declivity, was a lawn of
turf as fresh and green as that of the most beautiful English fields;
this was a rare thing at the Antilles, and was due to underground
irrigation which flowed from the lake and gave to this park a delightful
freshness. From this lawn, ornamented by baskets of tropical flowers,
opened a garden composed of large variegated shrubs, the slope of the
ground being such that one did not see their trunks, but only their
enameled tops of the freshest color; then, beyond these trees, on a
terrace lower still, was a large orange and citron grove covered with
fruit and flowers. In the daytime, seen thus from above, one would have
said it was a carpet of perfumed snow strewn with golden balls. At the
extreme horizon the slender stems of the banana and cocoanut trees,
formed a splendid retreat and overlooked the precipice at the bottom of
which was the subterranean passage of which we have spoken, and in which
Colonel Rutler was then imprisoned.

Meantime, let us enter one of the most remote portions of this mansion.
There we will find a young woman of from twenty to twenty-three years;
but her features are so infantile, her figure is so tiny, her freshness
so youthful, she would easily pass for sixteen. Robed in a muslin gown
with flowing sleeves, she is reclining on a sofa covered with Indian
silk, brown in color, embroidered with golden flowers; she leans her
white forehead on one hand, half-hidden by a wilderness of loose curls
of reddish blond tint, for the young woman's hair is dressed _à la
Titus_, a profusion of silky curls falls on her neck, her snowy
shoulders, and frames her charming little face, rounded, firm and rosy
as that of a child.

A large book, bound in red morocco, lies at the side of the divan on
which she is stretched, and is open before her. The young woman reads
attentively, by the light of three perfumed candles, which rest in a
little silver gilt candelabra, enriched by exquisite chasing.

The eyelashes of the pretty reader are so long that they threw a slight
shadow on her cheeks, where are to be seen two charming dimples. Her
nose is of a rare delicacy; her mouth curved and crimson, and her
beautiful blue eyes large and expressive; her whole face presents a
ravishing expression of innocence and candor. From the edge of her
muslin gown appear two feet like Cinderella's, shod in white silk hose
and Moorish slippers of cherry satin embroidered with silver, which one
could hold in the palm of one's hand. The attitude of this young woman
leaves to the imagination an exquisite whole, in spite of her slight
figure. Thanks to the width of her sleeve, which has fallen back, one
can admire the ravishing outline of a rounded arm, polished like ivory,
and having at the elbow a charming dimple. Her hand which turns the
leaves of her book is worthy of such an arm; the nails, very long and of
the transparency of agate. The tips of the fingers shade to a deep rose
color, such as is imparted by the henna of the Orientals.

The figure of this charming creature recalls the ideal Psyche, the
lovely realization of a beauty so fleeting that it passes with the first
flower of youth. Certain organizations retains their first youth a long
time, and as we have said, in spite of her twenty-three years, Blue
Beard is of the number of these privileged persons.

For this is Blue Beard. We will no longer hide the name of the inmate of
Devil's Cliff from our readers, but will say she is called Angela.
Unfortunately, this celestial name, this candid face, contrasts
singularly with the diabolical reputation which this widow of three
husbands possesses; and who it is said has as many consolers as she has
had husbands. The course of this story will enable us to condemn or
vindicate Blue Beard.

At a slight sound which she hears in the adjoining room, Angela lifts
her head suddenly, like a gazelle on the alert, and seats herself on the
edge of the sofa, throwing back her locks by a graceful movement.

At the moment she rises, exclaiming, "It it he!" a man raises the
_portière_ of the room. Not sooner does the iron fly to the magnet than
does Angela to the newcomer. She throws herself into his arms, and
twining them about him in a kind of tender fury, covered him with
caresses and passionate kisses, and joyfully cries, "My tender
friend--my dear James!"

This first ebullition over, the newcomer takes Angela into his arms as
if she were a child, and carries his precious burden over to the sofa.
Then Angela, seated on his knee, takes one of his hands in hers, passes
her beautiful arm about his neck, draws his head to her, and looked at
him with eager delight.

Alas! were the scandal-mongers right in suspecting Blue Beard's
morality?

The man whom she receives with such familiar ardor is of the copper
color of a mulatto; he is tall and supple, active and robust; his noble
and fine features show nothing of the negro type; a profusion of jet
black curls frame his forehead; his eyes are large and of velvety
blackness; under his thin lips, red and moist, shine the most
beautifully enameled teeth. This beauty, at once charming and manly,
this appearance of strength and elegance, resembles the noble
proportions of an Indian Bacchus or of an Antinous.

The mulatto's costume is such as certain filibusters then generally
adopt when on shore. He wears a waistcoat of rich maroon velvet, with
buttons of filigree gold; large Flemish boots of like material and
ornamented with the same style of button, which extend the length of the
thigh, being met by a belt of orange silk, in which is stuck a poignard
richly chased; and, finally, long leggings of white kid embroidered in
many colored silks after the Mexican style, show a leg of the finest
outline.

Nothing could be more striking or pretty than the contrast between James
and Angela thus grouped. On the one hand, blond tresses, alabaster
tints, rosy cheeks, infantile grace and elegance; on the other, the
bronze tint, ebony locks, and manner at once assured and manly.

Angela's white dress is outlined on the somber colors of James'
vestments; and thus the fine and supple figure of Blue Beard is
accentuated.

Fixing her great blue eyes on the black eyes of the mulatto, the young
woman amuses herself by turning back the embroidered collar of James'
shirt, in order to admire the better his sunburned neck, which in color
and shape rivals the most beautiful Florentine bronze.

After prolonging this unconventional performance, Angela gives the
mulatto a noisy kiss under his ear, takes his head between her two
hands, mischievously rumples up his black locks, gives him a little blow
on the cheek, and says, "That is how I love you, Monsieur Hurricane."

A slight sound is heard behind the tapestry forming the _portière_, and
Angela calls, "Is it you, Mirette? what do you wish?"

"Madame, I am coming with the flowers and will arrange them in the
stand."

"She hears us!" said Angela, making a mysterious signal to the mulatto;
then she amuses herself laughing madly at and rumpling her lover's hair.
He takes her little caprices with complaisance, and contemplates her
with love. Then he says, smilingly,

"Child! because you look only sixteen, you think everything is permitted
you." Then he adds in a tone of gentle raillery, "and who would think,
seeing this little rosy, ingenuous face that I hold on my knees the most
notable scamp of the Antilles?"

"And who would think that this man, who speaks in so sweet a voice, is
the ferocious Captain Hurricane, the terror of England and Spain?" cried
Angela, breaking into a laugh. The mulatto and the widow express
themselves in the purest French, and without the slightest foreign
accent.

"What matters it," she cries, smilingly, "it is not _I_ whom they call
Blue Beard."

At these words which appear to call up sad memories, the little widow,
with a coquettish pout, gave a hardly perceptible tap to the end of
Captain Hurricane's nose, indicating by a movement of her hand that in
the neighboring room one can hear him, and says with a mischievous air,
"That will teach you to speak of trespassing."

"Fie! the monster!" says the captain, breaking into a laugh; "and what
of remorse, then, madame?"

"Give me a kiss of remorse, then, and I shall----"

"May Lucifer assist me! It takes a woman to be chief of criminals! Ah,
my dear, you are well named; you make me tremble! Suppose we have
supper."

Angela touches a bell. The young mulattress who had overheard the above
conversation enters. She wears a dress of white linen with bright
stripes, and has silver rings on arms and ankles.

"Mirette, have you arranged the flowers," said Blue Beard.

"Yes, madame."

"You have been listening?"

"No, madame."

"However, it does not matter; when I speak it is that I may be heard.
Make ready the supper, Mirette."

Then, addressing herself to the captain, "What wine do you prefer?"

"Sherry, but let it be iced; this is a notion of mine."

Mirette goes out for a moment, and shortly reappears and begins to
prepare the table.

"By the way, I forgot to tell you of a great event," says Blue Beard's
companion.

"What then? has one of my deceased husbands returned to life?"

"Faith, almost."

"Now? Ah, Master James, Master James, no more of your wicked
pleasantries," cries Angela, with a frightened air.

"No, it is not a dead man, a ghost, but a very living pretender who
demands your hand in marriage."

"He wishes to marry me?"

"He wishes to marry you."

"Oh, the unhappy wretch! is he then weary of life?" cried Angela,
laughing.

Mirette, at these words, makes the sign of the cross while
superintending the spreading of the board by two other mulattresses who
are carrying bottles of Bohemian glass, engraved with golden arabesques,
and plates of the most magnificent Japanese porcelain.

Blue Beard continues, "This lover of mine is not a countryman, then?"

"By no means! for in spite of your wealth, my dear, I defy you to find a
_fourth_ husband, thanks to your diabolical reputation."

"Where does he come from, this would-be husband, my dear James?"

"From France."

"France! he comes from France to espouse me, the deuce!"

"Angela, you know that I do not like to hear you swear," says the
mulatto, with pretended seriousness.

"Pardon, Captain Hurricane," replies the young woman, dropping her eyes
with a hypocritical air. "I only meant to signify that I find your news
very astonishing. It appears that my reputation has reached Europe."

"Do not be so vain, my dear. It was on board the Unicorn that this
worthy paladin heard you spoken of, and by the mere mention of your
riches he has become enamored, yes, madly enamored of you. This, I
trust, will take down your pride."

"The impertinent fellow! and who is this man, James?"

"The Chevalier de Croustillac."

"Who?"

"The Chevalier de Croustillac."

"This is the name of the pretender to my hand?" And Angela breaks into a
merry peal of laughter which nothing can arrest, and the mulatto finally
joins in her merriment.

The two have scarcely subsided when Mirette enters preceded by two other
mulattresses who carry a table sumptuously set out in gilded dishes. The
two slaves place the table near the divan; the captain arises to take a
chair, while Angela, kneeling on the edge of the sofa, uncovers the
dishes one after another, and examines the table with the air of an
epicurean kitten.

"Are you hungry, James? As for me, I am famished," says Angela. And as
if to prove without doubt this assertion, she opens her coral lips and
shows two rows of ravishing little pearly teeth which she clinches
twice.

"Angela, my dear, you were certainly badly brought up," said the
captain, helping her to a portion of dorado, served with ham and an
appetizing sauce.

"Captain Hurricane, if I receive you at my table, it is not that you may
scold," said Angela, making an almost imperceptible grimace to the
mulattress. Then she continues, attacking her fish bravely, and pecking
at her bread like a bird, "If he scolds me, Mirette, I will not receive
him again?"

"No, mistress," said Mirette.

"And I will give his place to Rend-your-soul, the buccaneer?"

"Yes, mistress."

"Or to Youmäale, the cannibal?"

"Yes, mistress."

"You hear that, sir?" said Angela.

"Never mind, my dear, I am not jealous, you know that; beauty is as the
sun, it shines for all the world."

"Because you are not jealous, then, I will pardon you. Help yourself to
what is before you. What is that, Mirette?"

"Madame, the roe of fish fried in pigeon's fat."

"Which is not equal to the fat of quail," says the captain, "but it must
have the juice of a lemon while it is warm."

"See what a glutton! Ah! but my future spouse, I had forgotten him. Pour
me some wine, Mirette."

The filibuster, corsair as he is, forestalls the mulattress and pours
out some iced sherry for Angela.

"It must be that I love you, to drink this, I who prefer the wines of
France." And Blue Beard drinks resolutely three drops of the sherry,
which puts fresh life into her lips and blue eyes and tinged her cheeks
a carmine hue.

"But to return to my future spouse. How is he? Is he agreeable? Is he
worthy to join the others?"

Mirette, in spite of her passive submission, cannot prevent a tremor in
hearing her mistress speak thus, although the poor slave must be
accustomed to these atrocious pleasantries, and doubtless many greater
enormities.

"What ails you, Mirette?"

"Nothing, mistress."

"If you are unwell----"

"No, mistress."

"You would be sorry to see me marry again? I shall not do so for a long
time. Go, child." Then, addressing Captain Hurricane, "And the Chevalier
de--de--what did you say was his name?"

"Chevalier de Croustillac."

"Have you seen him?"

"No; but knowing his plans and that he intends, at all hazards, and in
spite of the efforts of the good Father Griffen, to come here, I begged
Youmäale, the cannibal," says the captain, looking at Angela in a
singular way, "to address a little warning in order to induce him to
renounce his projects."

"And you did this without letting me know, sir? What if I do not wish to
rebuff him, this pretender; for, after all, this Croustillac is a
Gascon, and I never married a Gascon."

"Oh, he is the most famous Gascon that has ever gasconaded on the earth;
with that, a figure indescribable and assurance unbounded; and as to the
rest, sufficient courage."

"And Youmäale's warning?"

"Has accomplished nothing. It glided off the undaunted soul of this man
as a ball from the scales of a crocodile; he started out this morning
bravely, at break of day, to traverse the forest, with his pink silk
hose, his rapier at his side, and a staff to frighten the serpents. He
is still there, without doubt, at this hour, for the road to Devil's
Cliff is not known to all the world."

"James, I have an idea!" cries the widow joyfully; "let him come here
and amuse us; that we may torment him. So, he is in love with my riches
and not myself! So, he would espouse me, this fine knight errant. We
will see as to that! Well? You do not laugh at my idea, James. What ails
you? But moreover, you know, sir, that I will not be thwarted; I will
make a feast for this Gascon. If he is not devoured by the wildcats or
killed by the serpents I will have him here to-morrow. You go to sea
to-morrow; tell the cannibal and Rend-your-soul to bring him to me."

The captain, instead of joining in the gayety of Blue Beard, according
to his custom, is serious, pensive, and seems to reflect deeply.

"James! James! do you not hear me?" cries Angela, impatiently, tapping
her foot. "I want this Gascon. I want him."

The mulatto makes no reply; he draws with the forefinger of his right
hand a circle about his throat, and looks significantly at the young
woman. She understands this mysterious sign; her face all at once
expresses both sorrow and distress; she rises suddenly, runs to the
mulatto, falls on her knees before him and cries in a touching voice,
"You are right. My God! you are right! I am insane to entertain such a
thought. I understand you."

"Rise, Angela, calm yourself," says the mulatto. "I do not know if this
man is to be feared, but he is a stranger, he may come from England or
France, and----"

"I tell you I was mad! that I was jesting, my dear James! I forgot that
which I never ought to forget--it is frightful."

The beautiful eyes of the young woman fill with tears; she bends her
head, and takes the hand of the mulatto, over which she weeps silently
for some minutes.

Hurricane kisses tenderly the forehead and tresses of Angela, and says
gently, "I never wish to recall these cruel memories. I should have said
nothing to you, assured myself that there is no danger in bringing this
imbecile to you as a plaything, and then----"

"James, my friend," cries Angela sadly, interrupting the mulatto, "my
love, what do you think then? for a childish caprice that I would expose
you, you whom I love most dearly in the world?"

"There! there! be calm," replies the mulatto, lifting her up and seating
her near him; "do not be frightened; Father Griffen has informed himself
as to the Gascon, he is only ridiculous. In order to be more certain, I
will go to-morrow and speak with him at Macouba, and then I will tell
Rend-your-soul, who is fortunately hunting on the coast, to discover
this poor devil in the forest, where he has, no doubt, lost himself. If
he is dangerous," says the mulatto, making a sign to Angela (for the
slaves were still present awaiting the conclusion of supper), "the
buccaneer will relieve us of him and cure him of the desire to know you;
if not, as you never have any amusement here, he shall bring him to
you."

"No, no, I do not wish it," says Angela. "All the thoughts which come to
me, now are of mortal sadness--my disquietude returns."

Angela, seeing that the mulatto would not eat any more, arose; the
filibuster imitated her, and says, "Reassure yourself, my Angela, there
is nothing to fear. Come into the garden, the night is fine, the moon
magnificent. Tell Mirette to bring my lute; in order to make you forget
these painful thoughts I will sing you the Scotch ballads you love so."

So saying, the mulatto passes one arm around the figure of Angela, and
clasping her thus, he descends the few steps leading to the garden. On
leaving the apartment Blue Beard says to her slave, "Mirette, bring the
lute into the garden, light the alabaster lamp in my bed-chamber. You
can go, I shall not need you again to-night. Do not forget to say to
Cora and to the other mulattresses that to-morrow begins their service."
Then she disappears, leaning on the arm of the mulatto. This last order
of Angela was occasioned by a habit she has had, since her last
widowhood, of alternating every three days the service of her women.

Mirette carries a very beautiful ebony lute incrusted with gold and
mother of pearl, into the garden. After an interval of some moments, the
filibuster's voice is heard singing with infinite grace and pathos the
Scotch ballads which the chief of royalist clans always sang in
preference during the protectorate of Cromwell. The voice of the mulatto
is at once sweet, vibrant and melancholy.

Mirette and the two slaves listen with delight during some moments. At
the last lines, the voice of the filibuster becomes moved, tears seem to
mingle in it--then the songs cease.

Mirette enters Blue Beard's chamber in order to light the alabaster
lamp, which throws a soft and veiled light on the surrounding objects.
This room is splendidly furnished in Indian stuff with white ground
embroidered with flowers; a mosquito net of muslin, fine as a spider's
web, envelopes an immense bed of gilded wood with a headboard of
plate-glass, which appears thus in a slight mist.

After executing the orders of her mistress, Mirette withdraws
discreetly, and says to the two slaves with a malicious smile, "Mirette
lights the lamp for the captain, Cora for the buccanneer, and Noun for
the Caribbean."

The two slaves nod their heads with an intelligent air, and the three go
out, after carefully closing and locking the door which leads to the
outbuilding of this special domain of Blue Beard.



CHAPTER IX.

NIGHT.


We had left the chevalier when he had penetrated into the forest, which
was alive with the cries of all the animals which peopled it. For a
moment stunned by the tumult, the Gascon bravely pursued his course,
turning his steps ever toward the north, at least toward what he
believed to be so, thanks to his astronomical knowledge. As the priest
had foretold, he could not find any path through the forest; decayed
vegetation, tall shrubs, vines, trunks of trees, an inextricable
undergrowth, covered the ground; the trees were so thick that the air,
light and sun, penetrated with difficulty through this veil of foliage,
among which exhaled a warm moisture almost suffocating produced by the
fermentation of vegetable matter which to a great extent thickly covered
the earth.

The heavy perfume of tropical flowers so saturated this suffocating
atmosphere that the chevalier experienced a kind of intoxication, of
faintness. He walked with a slower step, he felt his head become heavy,
exterior objects became indifferent to him. He no longer admired the
leafy colonades stretching out as far as the eye could see, into the
shadows of the forest. He cast a careless glance at the sparkling and
varied plumage of the parrots, birds of paradise and other birds
joyfully crying out and pursuing the golden-winged insects or snapping
in their beaks the aromatic woods of the Indies. The gambols of the
monkeys, balancing themselves on the garlands of passion vines, or
springing from tree to tree, did not even bring a smile to his lips.
Completely absorbed, he had strength only to contemplate the end of his
perilous journey. He thought only of Blue Beard and her treasures.

After some hours' walk, he began to observe that his silk stockings were
inconvenient for traversing a forest. A large branch of thorny wood had
made a great hole in his coat; his breeches were not irreproachable by
any means; and more than once, feeling his long sword embarrass him by
catching in some plants which obstructed his path, he involuntarily
turned to chastise the importunate object which took the liberty of
interfering with his progress.

Either by chance, or thanks to the frequent use of his staff, with which
he beat the bushes continually, the chevalier had the good fortune not
to encounter any serpents. Toward noon, worried and fatigued, he paused
in order to pick some bananas, and climbed a tree in order to breakfast
at his ease. To his joy and surprise he found that the leaves of this
tree, rolled into cornucopias, held clear water, fresh and delicious to
the taste; the chevalier drank several of those, put his remaining
bananas into his pocket, and continued his journey.

According to his calculation, he must have traveled nearly four leagues,
and could not be very far from Devil's Cliff. Unhappily the chevalier's
calculation was not exact, at least, as to the direction in which he
believed himself to have gone; for he had estimated the distance
traversed correctly enough, but he was, at midday, a little further from
Devil's Cliff than he had been when he entered the forest. In order not
to lose sight of the sun (which he could with difficulty discern through
the treetops), he had necessarily been obliged to lift his eyes
frequently to the heavens. Now, the road was almost impenetrable, and he
was also obliged to be on the watch for serpents; thus, divided between
the sky and the earth, the attention of the chevalier went somewhat
astray. However, as it was impossible to believe that he could a second
time be deceived in his calculations, he took fresh courage, certain of
reaching the end of his journey.

About three o'clock in the afternoon he commenced to suspect that
Devil's Cliff receded in proportion to his approach. Croustillac became
harassed; but the fear of passing the night in the forest spurred him
on; by means of walking forward steadily he finally reached a kind of
indentation between two large rocks. The chevalier drew his breath,
expanding his lungs.

"Faith!" cried he, removing his hat and fanning himself with it, "I am
then at Devil's Cliff. I seem to recognize it, though I have never seen
it. I cannot, however, lose myself. I have love for a compass; one can
follow this in the antipodes without deviating a hair's breadth. It is
very simple; my heart turns toward wealth and beauty, as the needle to
the pole! for if Blue Beard is rich, she must be beautiful; and,
further, a woman who can rid herself so quickly of three husbands must
love change. I shall prove a new fruit to her--and what a fruit! After
all, the three men who are dead got what they deserved, because they
were in my path. What assures me of the physique of Blue Beard is that
only a very pretty woman could permit herself such irregularities, such
methods--a little offhand to be sure--of breaking the conjugal chain.
Zounds! I shall see her, please her, seduce her. Poor woman! She does
not dream that her conqueror is at hand! If--if--I wager that her little
heart beats strongly this very moment. She feels my approach, she
divines it, her presentiment does not deceive her. She will be
overcome--happiness will arrive on the wings of love!"

Thus saying, the chevalier threw a glance on his toilet. It did not
escape his notice that it was slightly disordered; his stockings,
originally purple, then pale pink, had become striped, zebra-fashion,
with a number of green rays, since his journey in the forest; his coat
was ornamented with various holes fancifully arranged, but the Gascon
made this reflection aloud, if not very modest, at least very consoling:
"Faith! Venus arose from the sea without any covering; Truth had no more
on when she emerged from the well; and if beauty and truth appeared
without a veil, I see not why--love--Beside, Blue Beard must be a woman
who will understand me!"

Completely reassured, the chevalier hastened his steps, climbed the face
of the rocks, and found himself in an inclosure of the forest, even more
somber and impenetrable than that which he had quitted. Others would
have lost courage. Croustillac said to himself, on the contrary "Zounds!
this is very clever. Hiding her habitation in the most dense forest is a
woman's idea. I am sure the more I push on into these thickets the
nearer I approach the house. I consider I have already arrived. Blue
Beard, Blue Beard, finally I behold thee."

The chevalier cherished this precious illusion while the daylight
lasted, which was not long; there is little twilight in the tropics.
Soon the chevalier saw, with astonishment, the summits of the trees
little by little obscure themselves, and assume a fantastic appearance
in the great mass of the forest. For some moments there remained a
half-shade, here and there lighted by the bright reflection of the sun,
which seemed as red as the fire of a furnace, for he was "making his
couch in the wind," as they say in the Antilles.

For a moment the vegetation, so brilliantly green, took on a purple
tint; the chevalier believed that nature was painted a living red, what
was perceived being a mingling with the tints of the heavens. "Zounds!"
exclaimed the chevalier, "I did not deceive myself; I am near this
infernal place, this illumination proves it. Lucifer is without doubt
making a visit to Blue Beard, who, in order to receive him, is lighting
the furnaces of her kitchen."

Little by little these warm tints disappeared, they became pale red,
then violet, and were swallowed up in the amethyst of the evening skies.
As soon as the shadows wrapped the forest in their arms, the plaintive
cries of the jackals, the sinister hooting of the owls, proclaimed the
return of night. The sea breeze, which always rises after the setting of
the sun, passed like a great sigh over the tops of the trees; the leaves
shivered. The thousand nameless, vague and distant cries which one hears
only at night, began to resound from all quarters.

"Of a truth," said the chevalier, "this is a pretty figure to cut! To
think I am not a hundred steps, perhaps, from Devil's Cliff, and that I
am compelled to sleep under the stars!"

Croustillac, fearing the serpents, directed himself toward an enormous
mahogany tree which he had observed; by the aid of the vines which
enveloped this tree on all sides, he succeeded in reaching a kind of
fork, formed by two large branches; here he installed himself,
comfortably, placed his sword between his knees, and commenced a supper
of the bananas, which fortunately, he had kept in his pockets. He did
not experience any of the fears which would have assailed many men, even
the bravest, placed in such a critical situation. Beside, in extreme
cases the chevalier had all kinds of reasoning for his use; he said:
"Fate is implacable against me, it chooses well--it cannot
mistake--instead of addressing itself to some rascal; to some wretch,
what does it do? It bethinks itself of the Chevalier de Croustillac
thus: 'Here is my man--he is worthy of struggling with me.'"

In the situation in which he found himself the chevalier saw another
providential circumstance no less flattering to him. "My good fortune is
assured," he said: "the treasures of Blue Beard are mine; this is the
final trial to which the aforesaid Fate subjects me; it would be bad
grace in me to revolt. A brave man does not complain. I could not merit
the inestimable recompense which awaits me."

By means of these reflections the chevalier combated sleep with success;
he feared if he yielded to it he would fall from the tree; he ended by
being enchanted by the obstacles which he had surmounted in his course
to Blue Beard. She would know how to value his courage, he thought, and
be alive to his devotion. In this excess of chivalrous feeling, the
chevalier regretted even that he has not had a serious enemy to combat
and not to have had to struggle alone against pitfalls, thorns and the
trunks of trees. At this moment a strange cry drew the adventurer's
attention; he listened, and said, "What is that? One would think that
the cats were holding their Sabbath. I know, now, because of these cats,
that the house cannot be far distant." But Croustillac deceived himself.
These were not domestic cats but wildcats, and never were tigers
fiercer; they continued to make an infernal uproar. In order to quiet
them, the chevalier took his staff and struck on the tree. The wildcats,
instead of flying, approached him with furious and redoubled cries. For
a long time these woods had been infested by these animals, who were not
inferior to jaguars in size, strength and ferocity; they attacked and
devoured young kids, goats, and even young mules.

In order to explain the hostile assault of these carnivorous beasts
which surrounded the chevalier, who had been discovered by their
powerful sense of scent, we must return to the cavern in which Colonel
Rutler was immured. We know that the corpse of the sailor John, dead
from the sting of the serpent, completely obstructed the subterranean
passage by which Rutler could alone leave the cavern. The wildcats had
descended the precipice, scented the corpse of John, approached it first
timidly, then, emboldened, had devoured it. The colonel heard and knew
not what to think of these ferocious cries. At daybreak, thanks to the
gluttony of these animals, the obstacle which prevented Rutler from
leaving the cavern had entirely disappeared. There remained in the
subterranean passage only the bones of the sailor, and these the colonel
could easily remove.

After this horrible feast, the wildcats, fed but not appeased by this
new repast to them, felt a taste for human flesh; they abandoned the
foot of the precipice, regained the wood, scented the chevalier, and
their carnivorous ferocity was increased.

For some time fear withheld them, but, encouraged by the immobility of
Croustillac, one of the boldest and most famished slowly climbed the
tree, and the Gascon saw, all at once, near him two large, brilliant,
green eyes, which shone out of the midst of the obscurity. At the same
instant he felt a vigorous bite at the calf of his leg. He drew back his
leg abruptly, but the wildcat held on and fastened its claws in his
flesh, and gave a deep, furious growl which was the signal of attack.
The assailants climbed up from all sides and the chevalier saw about him
flaming eyes and felt himself bitten in many places at once.

This attack was so unexpected, the assailants were of such a singular
kind, that Croustillac, in spite of his courage, remained for a moment
stupefied; but the bites of the wildcats and, above all, his deep
indignation at having to combat with such ignoble enemies, aroused his
fury. He seized the most venturesome by the skin of his back, and in
spite of several blows from his claws, threw him heavily against the
trunk of the tree and broke his back. The cat gave some frightful cries.
The chevalier treated in like manner another of these creatures which
had leaped upon his back, and had undertaken to devour his cheek.

The band hesitated. Croustillac seized his sword, and using it as a
poignard, pierced several others, and thus put an end to this attack in
a novel manner, saying, "Zounds! to think Blue Beard does not know that
the brave Croustillac has been nearly devoured by wildcats, even as if
he were but a chicken hanging on a hook of a larder!"

The remainder of the night passed peacefully, the chevalier sleeping but
little. At daybreak he descended from his tree, and saw extended at his
feet five of his adversaries of the night. He hastened to quit the scene
of his exploits, at which he blushed, and, convinced that Devil's Cliff
could not be far off, he resumed his journey.

After having walked thus vainly, after his vigil, the gnawing of his
stomach, occasioned by a famished feeling, warned him that it was in the
neighborhood of noon. His delight may be imagined when the breeze bore
to him the delicious odor of roasted meat, so fine, so penetrating, and
so appetizing that the chevalier could not prevent himself from passing
his tongue across his lips. He redoubled his speed, not doubting, this
time, that he had arrived at the end of his troubles. However, he saw no
sign of habitation, and knew not how to reconcile this apparent solitude
with the exquisite odor which grew more and more tantalizing.

Unobserved himself, and without being heard, and walking rapidly, he
arrived at a kind of clearing, where he stopped a moment. The sight
which greeted his eyes was worthy his notice.



CHAPTER X.

A BUCCANEER.


In the midst of a close thicket appeared a cleared space forming a long
square; at one of its extremities was an ajoupa, a kind of hut made of
branches attached to the trunk of a palm tree, covered with long
polished leaves of balisier and of cachibou. Under this shelter, which
guaranteed protection from the rays of the sun to whoever might retire
therein, a man was stretched upon a bed of leaves; at his feet some
twenty dogs lay sleeping. These dogs would have been white and orange if
their original color had not disappeared, owing to the blood which
covered them. Their heads and breasts were completely stained by reason
of copious eating.

The chevalier could but indistinctly see the face of the man, half
hidden in his bed of fresh leaves. Not far from the hut was a covered
fire where, cooking slowly, after the fashion of buccaneers, was a
year-old boar. The stove or gridiron was formed by four forks driven
into the earth, on which were hung cross-pieces, and on these were laid
small poles, all of green wood.

The boar, still with its hide on, was stretched on its back, the belly
open and empty; strings attached to its four feet held it in this
position, which the heat would otherwise have disturbed.

This gridiron was raised above a hole four feet in length, three wide,
and of great depth, filled with broken charcoal; the boar cooked by the
equal heat of this steady and concentrated brazier. The cavity of the
animal was half filled with lemon juice and cut spices, which, combined
with the fat, which the heat caused to slowly ooze out, formed a kind of
interior sauce which smelled very appetizing.

This immense roast was nearly cooked; its skin began to frizzle and
crack; what was visible of the flesh through the gravy was red and
tempting. Finally, a dozen large yams, of yellow and savory pulp, were
cooking in the ashes, and exhaled a fine odor.

The chevalier could restrain himself no longer; carried away by his
appetite, he entered the inclosure, and in so doing broke down some
branches. One or two of the dogs awoke and ran at him with a menacing
air. The man, who was dozing, arose abruptly, looked about him with an
amazed air, while the entire pack of hounds manifested the most hostile
objection to the entrance of the chevalier, bristling and showing their
formidable teeth. Croustillac recalled the history of the assistant of
Rend-your-Soul being devoured by his dogs, but he was not intimidated;
he raised his staff with a menacing air, and said, "To heel, varlets; to
heel, varlets!"

This term, imported from the kennels of Europe, made no impression on
the dogs; they assumed an attitude so menacing that the chevalier struck
some blows at them with his staff. Their eyes burned with ferocity; they
would have precipitated themselves upon Croustillac had not the
buccaneer, coming out of the hut with a gun in his hand, cried in a
species of dialect, part negro, part French, "Who touches my dogs? Who
are you that come hither?"

The chavalier bravely put his hand on his sword and replied, "Your dogs
would devour me, my good fellow, and I foil them. They would employ
their teeth upon me as I would mine if I had before me a morsel of that
appetizing boar, for I am lost in the forest since yesterday morning and
have a most infernal hunger."

The buccaneer, instead of replying to the chevalier, remained stupefied
at the odd appearance of this man, who, staff in hand, had traversed a
forest in pink stockings and coat of taffeta and embroidered vest. On
his side, Croustillac, in spite of his hunger, contemplated the
buccaneer with no less curiosity. This hunter was of middle height, but
agile and vigorous; his only clothing, short drawers and a shirt which
was loose like a blouse. His clothing was so much stained with the
blood of bulls or boars which the buccaneers skin in order to sell the
hide and smoke the flesh (the principal branch of their traffic) that
the linen appeared tarred, it was so black and stiff. A belt of bull's
hide embellished with its hair confined the shirt about the buccaneer;
from this belt hung, on one side, a sheath of compartments, revealing
five or six knives of various lengths and divers shapes; from the other,
a pouch. The hunter's legs were bare to the knees; his shoes were
without fastening, and of a single piece, according to a custom there,
and in use among buccaneers.

After skinning a bull or some large boar, they carefully loosen the skin
of one of the front extremities, from the breast to the knee, and turn
it back like a stocking which one pulls off; after having completely
detached it from the bones, they then put their feet into this supple
and fresh skin, placing the large toe a little more toward the place
which covered the knee of the animal. Once shod in this manner they tie
up with a sinew that portion which extends beyond the end of the foot,
and cut off the surplus. Then they raise and pull up the remainder of
the skin halfway up their legs, where they fasten it with a leather
strap. In drying, this species of boot assumes the shape of the foot,
remaining perfectly soft, supple, and wearing a long time, it being
impervious, and proof against the sting of serpents.

The buccaneer looked curiously at Croustillac, leaning on his gun, a
kind especially used by buccaneers; these guns were made at Dieppe and
St. Malo. The figure of the hunter was rough and common; he wore a cap
of boar's skin; his beard was long and bristling; his look ferocious.

Croustillac said resolutely, "Ah, comrade, would you refuse a morsel of
this roast to a gentleman who is famished?"

"The roast is not mine," said the buccaneer.

"How? to whom, then, does it belong?"

"To Master Rend-your-Soul, who has his depot of skins and buccaneer
supplies at Caiman's Point."

"This roast belongs to Master Rend-your-Soul," cried the chevalier,
surprised at the chance which had brought him in contact with one of
the happy lovers of Blue Beard, if these slanderous stories were true.
"This roast belongs to Rend-your-Soul," repeated Croustillac.

"It belongs to him," said the man with the long gun, laconically.

At this moment was heard a shot which echoed through the forest. "That
is the master," said the man.

The dogs recognized, doubtless, the approach of the hunter; for they
began to bark joyfully, and dashed off through the undergrowth in order
to reach the buccaneer.

Warned of the return of the master, the man, whom we will call Peter,
took out one of his largest knives, approached the wild boar, and in
order the better to moisten the venison, stabbed the flesh several
times, without injuring the skin, for the plentiful mixture of lemon
juice, spice and fat which filled the belly of the boar was running out.
Each of these incisions caused such appetizing odors to rise that the
chevalier, inhaling this exquisite odor, almost forgot the approach of
Rend-your-Soul. However, the latter appeared, followed by his dogs,
jumping and pressing about him.

Master Rend-your-Soul was large and robust. His skin, naturally white,
was browned by the sun and by the wild life which he led; his thick
black beard fell on his breast; his features were regular, but severe
and hard. Although not so poor as that of his servant, his clothing was
of much the same fashion. Like him, he wore at his waist a case filled
with a number of knives; his legs, however, in place of being half
naked, were incased, as far as the knee, by bands of boar-skins tied
with sinews, and he wore large shoes of untanned leather. His large
Spanish hat was ornamented with two or three red feathers; and the
mountings of his buccaneer gun were of silver. Such was the difference
between the costume and arms of Master Rend-your-Soul and that of his
servant.

When he entered the clearing, he held his gun under his arm and plucked
carelessly a wood-pigeon which he had killed; three others were hung at
his belt by a snare; he threw them to Peter, who immediately began to
pluck and clean them with wonderful dexterity. These wood-pigeons, of
the size of a partridge, were plump, fine and round as quails. As fast
as Peter had one ready, he cut off its head and feet and put it to cook
in the thick and abundant sauce which filled the boar's belly. When
Master Rend-your-Soul had finished plucking his, he threw it in also.

Peter said, "Master, shall I close the roast?"

"Close it," replied the master.

Then Peter cut the strings which held the boar; the cavity of the belly
almost closed and the pigeons began to boil in this novel fashion.

During all these culinary preparations the buccaneer had not appeared to
perceive the chevalier, who, with foot advanced, nose in the air, and
hand on the hilt of his sword, was prepared to answer proudly any
interrogatories which might be made, and even to question in return
Master Rend-your-Soul. The latter, having cut off the head and feet of
the pigeon which he was plucking, wiped his knife quietly and replaced
it in his case.

To explain the indifference of the buccaneer, we must say to the reader
that nothing was more common than that people should visit the
buccaneers out of curiosity. The buccaneers were, in their customs, very
like the Caribbeans. Like them they were proud to accord hospitality;
like them they allowed any one to come who was hungry and thirsty and
partake of their repasts; but, like the Caribbeans also, they regarded
an invitation as a superfluous formality. The feast ready, let eat it
who would.

After disembarrassing himself of his belt and gun, Rend-your-Soul
extended himself on the ground, drew a gourd hidden under the fresh
leaves, and drank some brandy as a preparation for dinner.

Croustillac was still in the same attitude, nose in the air, foot
advanced, hand on his sword; the color rose to his forehead; nothing
could have insulted him more than the absolute indifference of
Rend-your-Soul to his presence.

Had Blue Beard, by the intermediation of the filibustering captain,
instructed the buccaneer to act in this manner if he should encounter
the chevalier? Was this hunter's carelessness genuine or feigned? This
is what we cannot yet tell the reader. The situation of Croustillac was
none the less delicate and difficult; in spite of his audacity he did
not know how to begin the conversation. Finally recovering himself, he
said to the buccaneer, advancing toward him, "Are you blind, comrade?"

"Answer, Peter, some one speaks to you," said Rend-your-Soul,
carelessly.

"No, it is to you I speak," said the Gascon impatiently.

"No," said the buccaneer.

"How so?" replied the chevalier.

"You said 'comrade;' I am not your comrade; my servant is, perhaps."

"Zounds!"

"I am a master buccaneer; you are not; it is only my brother-hunters who
are my comrades," said Rend-your-Soul, interrupting Croustillac.

"And how is one to address you in order to have the honor of a reply?"
said the chevalier, angrily.

"If you come to purchase skins or buccaneer supplies, address me as you
will; if you come to see the station, look about you; if you are hungry,
when the boar is cooked, eat."

"They are regular brutes, true savages," thought the chevalier; "it
would be folly in me to resent their stupidities; I am dying with
hunger, I am lost; the animal can give me a dinner, and if I carry
myself wisely will point out to me the road to Devil's Cliff. Let us
eat." Then, looking at the man, half barbarian that he was, with his
garments stained with blood, Croustillac said to himself, shrugging his
shoulders, "And it is to such a boor that they give the beautiful, the
adorable Blue Beard. Zounds! she must be like him herself."

Peter, finding the boar cooked to a turn, busied himself in removing the
cover; he placed on the earth, under the trees, a number of large
leaves, fresh and green, to serve as a tablecloth. He then picked a
large leaf, made four holes at its edge, and passed a creeper through
them, and thus formed a species of cup in which he squeezed the juice
of a number of lemons which he had picked, and with which he mixed salt
and spices crushed between two stones. The sauce was called pimentade,
was extremely strong, and was used generally by buccaneers and
filibusters. Opposite this sauce and in another leaf, he put yams cooked
in the ashes; their skins, a little burned, had split open and showed a
pulp yellow as amber.

The chevalier was disturbed as to how he was to drink, for he had a
burning thirst, but he quickly saw the servant returning with a large
gourd filled with a pink and limpid liquor. It was the sugar of the
maple tree, which flowed in abundance from the tree when it was pierced
deeply. This was a fresh and healthy beverage and tasted like Bordeaux
wine mixed with sugar and water.

Finally, after placing this gourd on the leaves which served as a
tablecloth, the servant broke off a large branch of apricots, covered
with flowers and fruit, and stuck it into the earth in the midst of the
leaves. These natives are not so stupid as they appear, thought the
chevalier. Here is a repast which Dame Nature pays for and which would
satisfy, I am sure, the greatest gourmand. Croustillac waited
impatiently for the moment to begin. Finally the servant, having
examined the boar with a critical eye, said to the buccaneer, "Master,
it is cooked."

"Let us eat," said the master.

By means of a fork cut out of oak, the servant took one of the pigeons,
put it on a fresh leaf, and offered it to the buccaneer; then, helping
himself in turn, he left the fork in the venison. The chevalier, seeing
that no one occupied himself with him, took a pigeon, a yam, seated
himself near the master and servant buccaneers, and, like them, began to
eat with the best of appetites.

The pigeon was cooked so deliciously, the yams were perfect, and like
the most delicious potatoes. The pigeons disposed of, Peter cut long and
thick slices of the venison for his master. The chevalier followed his
example and found the flesh exquisite, fat and succulent, of fine flavor
enhanced the more by the pimentade.

Croustillac frequently quenched his thirst, as did his companions, from
the gourd of maple sugar, and he finished his repast by eating half a
dozen apricots of wonderful fragrance and very superior to the European
species.

Peter brought, then, a gourd of brandy; the master drank and then passed
it to his servant, who did likewise, then closed it carefully, to the
great disappointment of the chevalier who had extended his hand for it.
This was not stupidity on the part of the buccaneers; there is among the
Caribbeans a great distinction between the natural gifts which cost
nothing, belonging, so to speak, to everyone, and the articles purchased
with money, which belong exclusively to those who possess them--brandy,
powder, bullets, arms, skins, venison prepared after the fashion of the
buccaneers for sale, being of this number; fruits, game, fish, were
held, on the contrary, in common.

Nevertheless, the chevalier frowned, rather from pride than gluttony. He
was on the point of complaining of this lack of respect to the servant,
but reflecting that, after all, he owed his excellent repast to
Rend-your-Soul, and that the latter could alone put him on the road to
Devil's Cliff, he restrained his ill humor, and said to the buccaneer
with a jovial air, "Faith! sir, do you know you give great and good
cheer?"

"One eats what he finds; boars and bulls are not wanting in this island,
and the sale of their skins is good," said the buccaneer, filling his
pipe.



CHAPTER XI.

MASTER REND-YOUR-SOUL.


The more closely the chevalier studied Master Rend-your-Soul, the less
he was able to believe that this half barbarian was in the good graces
of Blue Beard. The buccaneer, having lighted his pipe, lay down on his
back, put his two hands under his head, and smoked, with his eyes fixed
on the hut, with an appearance of profound beatitude, and said to the
chevalier, "You have come here in a litter, with your pink stockings?"

"No, my good friend, I have come on foot, and I would have come on my
head in order to see the most famous buccaneer in all the Antilles,
whose fame has even reached Europe."

"If you are in need of skins," said the buccaneer in answer, "I have a
dozen bulls' skins so fine and beautiful that you would suppose them to
be buffalo. I have also a string of boar's hams such as are not cured in
any station."

"No, no, my brave friend, I tell you admiration, nothing but admiration
has guided me. I arrived from France five days since in the Unicorn, and
my first visit is to you, whose merit I am well aware of."

"Truly?"

"As true as I call myself the Chevalier de Croustillac, for you will not
be displeased, perhaps, to know with whom you talk. My name is
Croustillac."

"All names are a matter of indifference to me, except that of
_purchaser_."

"And admirer, my brave friend, admirer, is that nothing? I, who have
come from Europe expressly to see you?"

"You knew, then, that you would find me here?"

"Not exactly; but Providence has arranged it; and, thanks to
Providence, I have met the famous Rend-your-Soul."

"Decidedly he is stupid," thought the chevalier. "I have nothing to
contend with in such a rival; if the others are no more dangerous, it
will be very easy for me to make Blue Beard adore me; but I must find
the road to Devil's Cliff. It will be truly racy to be conducted thither
by this bear." He spoke: "But, my brave hunter, alas! all glory is
bought; I wished to see you, I have seen you."

"Very well, go your way, then," said the buccaneer, expelling a cloud of
tobacco smoke.

"I like your brusque frankness, worthy Nimrod; but in order to go, I
must learn a road thence, and I know none."

"From whence came you?"

"From Macouba, where I lodged at the house of the Reverend Father
Griffen."

"You are only two leagues from Macouba; my servant will guide you
there."

"How! only two leagues!" cried the chevalier. "It is impossible! I have
walked since daybreak yesterday, until night, and since early morn until
noon, and have I gone but two leagues?"

"One sometimes sees boars and above all young bulls deceived thus, and
make many steps almost without changing the inclosure," said the
buccaneer.

"Your comparison smacks of the art of hunting, and, noble following as
it is, cannot shock a gentleman; then, admit that I have dodged about,
even like a young bull, as you say; it does not follow that I wish to
return to Macouba; and I depend upon you to show me the road I should
follow."

"Where do you wish to go?"

For a moment the chevalier hesitated, and knew not what reply to make.
Should he avow frankly his intention of going to Devil's Cliff?
Croustillac sought refuge in a subterfuge--"I wish to go by the road to
Devil's Cliff."

"The road to Devil's Cliff only leads to Devil's Cliff, and----"

The buccaneer did not finish his sentence, but his face became menacing.

"And--where does the road to Devil's Cliff lead?"

"It leads sinners to hell, and saints to paradise."

"So, a stranger, a traveler, who has a whim to visit Devil's Cliff----"

"Would never return from thence."

"At least, in that case, one does not risk getting lost on the return,"
said the chevalier coolly. "'Tis well, my good friend, then show me the
way."

"We have eaten under the same roof, we have drunk from the same cup; I
would not willingly cause your death."

"So, in conducting me to Devil's Cliff, you kill me?"

"It will come to the same thing."

"Although your dinner was perfect, and your company very agreeable, my
brave Nimrod, you almost make me regret it, as this prevents you from
satisfying my wish. But what danger threatens me, then?"

"All the dangers of death that a man can brave."

"All these dangers--make but one, seeing that one can but die once,"
said the Gascon carelessly.

The buccaneer scanned the chevalier closely, and appeared impressed by
his courage as much as by the air of frankness and good humor which
showed through all his extravagance.

The chevalier continued: "The Chevalier de Croustillac never knows fear
while he has his sister at his side."

"What sister?"

"This, which, by heavens, is not virgin," cried the Gascon, drawing his
sword and brandishing it. "The kisses she gives are sharp, and the
bravest have regretted making her acquaintance."

"Miaow! miaow!" said the servant, who was a witness of this scene. This
cry made the Gascon start, and recalled to him the exploits of the
preceding night. He colored with rage, advanced upon the servant with
the sword's point, in order to chastise him with the flat of his steel;
but Peter withdrew dexterously and got out of reach, while the buccaneer
burst into laughter.

This hilarity exasperated the chevalier, who said to Rend-your-Soul,
"Zounds! if you dare attack a man as you would a bull, beware."

"Look at your sword; the steel is stained with blood and covered with
the hair of wildcats; it is that which made Peter cry out 'Miaow!'"

"Defend yourself," repeated the chevalier furiously.

"When I have four feet, claws and a tail, I will fight with you," said
the buccaneer quietly.

"I will mark your face, then," said the chevalier, advancing toward
Rend-your-Soul.

"Softly, velvet claws, pussy velvet claws," said the buccaneer,
laughing, and parrying with the muzzle of his gun the furious thrusts
which the exasperated chevalier bestowed upon him.

The servant would have come to the rescue of his master, but the latter
forbade.

"Do not stir; I will answer for this redoubtable fellow. 'The burned cat
dreads cold water,' as they say. I am going to give him a good lesson."

These sarcasms increased the chevalier's rage; he forgot his adversary
was defending himself with a gun, and he showered some desperate blows
upon him, while the buccaneer, showing a marvelous address and a rare
vigor, used his heavy gun like a stick.

During this unequal combat, the buccaneer added to his insolence by
imitating the cry which cats make when they are angry, when they
disagree. This last outrage capped the climax; but against his attack he
found, in the buccaneer, a gladiator of the greatest strength in
fencing; and he had shortly the chagrin of seeing himself disarmed; his
sword was struck off some ten paces. The buccaneer threw himself upon
the Gascon; raised his gun like a club; he seized the chevalier by the
collar and cried, "Your life is mine; I am going to break your head like
an eggshell."

Croustillac, looking at him without flinching, said, coldly, "And you
are trebly right, for I am a triple traitor." The buccaneer recoiled a
step. "I was hungry--you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me
drink; you were unarmed and I attacked you. Break my head--Zounds! break
it, you are right. Croustillac is dishonored."

This was not the language of an assassin or a spy; then, holding out his
hand to the chevalier, the buccaneer said, with a rough voice, "Come,
clasp hands; we have been seated under the same roof, we have fought
together--we are brothers."

The chevalier was about to put his hand in that of the buccaneer, but he
paused and said gravely, "Frankness for frankness; before giving you my
hand I must tell you one thing."

"What?"

"I am your rival."

"Rival! how is that?"

"I love Blue Beard, and I am resolved at all hazards to go to her and to
please her."

"Clasp hands, brother."

"A moment--I must say to you that when Polyphème Croustillac wishes to
please, he pleases; when he pleases, one loves him; and when one loves
him, one loves him madly and unto death."

"Clasp hands, brother."

"I will not touch your hand until you tell me if you will accept me
openly for your rival?"

"And if not?"

"If not, break my head; you will be right in so doing. We are alone;
your servant will not betray you; but I will never renounce the hope,
the certainty, of pleasing Blue Beard."

"Ah, this is another matter."

"A last question," continued the chevalier; "You go often to Devil's
Cliff?"

"I go often to Devil's Cliff."

"You see Blue Beard?"

"I see her."

"You love her?"

"I love her."

"She loves you?"

"She loves me."

"You?"

"Me."

"She loves you?"

"To madness----"

"She has told you so?"

"And--Blue Beard----"

"Is my mistress."

"On the word of a buccaneer?"

"On the word of a buccaneer."

"Then," said the chevalier to himself, "there is no more discretion
among barbarians than among civilized people. Who would say at the sight
of such a stupid fellow, that he was a coxcomb?" Then he said aloud,
"Ah, well, then, I repeat to you, break my head, for if you spare my
life I shall reach Devil's Cliff; I shall do all I can to please Blue
Beard, and I _shall_ please her, I warn you. So, then, once more, break
my head, or resign yourself to seeing in me a rival, shortly a happy
rival!"

"I say to you, clasp hands, brother."

"How? in spite of what I say?"

"Yes."

"It does not alarm you?"

"No."

"It is all the same to you if I go to Devil's Cliff?"

"I will conduct you there, myself."

"Yourself?"

"To-day."

"And I shall see Blue Beard?"

"You shall see her as often as you wish."

The chevalier, moved by the confidence in him which the buccaneer
testified, did not wish to abuse it; he said in a solemn tone, "Listen,
buccaneer, you are as generous as a savage; this is not by way of
offense; but, my worthy friend, my loyal enemy, you are as ignorant as a
savage. Reared in the midst of the forest, you have no idea what a man
is who has passed his life in pleasing, seducing; you do not know the
marvelous resources which such a man finds in his natural attractions;
you do not know the irresistible influence of a word, a gesture, a
smile, a look! This poor Blue Beard does not know either; to judge from
what they say of her three husbands. They were three worthless fellows,
three vagabonds; she rid herself of them, rightly. Why has she rid
herself of them? Because she sought an ideal, an unknown being, the
dream of her dreams. Now, my brave friend, always be it said without
offense, you cannot deceive yourself to such a degree as to think that
you realize this dream of Blue Beard; you cannot really take yourself
for a Celadon--for an Adonis----"

The buccaneer looked at Croustillac with a stupid air and did not appear
to understand him; he said, pointing to the sun, "The sun is setting; we
have four leagues to make before we arrive at Devil's Cliff; let us
start."

"This unhappy man," thought the chevalier, "has not the slightest idea
of the danger he runs; it is a pity to disabuse his blindness; it is
like striking a child; it is snaring a sitting pheasant; it is killing a
sleeping man; on the honor of De Croustillac, it gives me scruples."
Then aloud, "You do not understand, then, my brave friend, that this man
as seductive as irresistible of whom I speak is none other than myself?"

"Ah, bah! it is impossible."

"Your surprise is not flattering, brave hunter, but if I speak thus to
you of myself, it is that honor compels me to tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth. You do not understand that, once
having seen me, Blue Beard will love me; and she will not love you any
more, my poor Rend-your-Soul. Understand, then, that it would be
cowardly and treasonable on my part not to warn you in advance as to the
position you hold with Blue Beard. I repeat, from the moment when I put
foot in Devil's Cliff, from the moment she sees me, when she hears me,
her love for you is at an end. Meantime, I have warned you, loyally
warned you; consider if you are willing to risk it."

"Clasp hands, brother," said the buccaneer, seemingly insensible to the
danger that the chevalier pointed out to him. "Let us be going. We will
arrive at night at Devil's Cliff; a fall from the precipice would not be
pleasant at this hour."

"Come on--you are mad--so be it, but I have warned you; it will be open
war," said the chevalier.

The buccaneer, without making any reply to the chevalier, said to his
servant, "Shut up the dogs in the house, and have ready two dozen bulls'
skins, which will be needed to-morrow at Basse-Terre; I shall not
return to-night."

"It falls aright," said the servant to himself, and with a shrewd air;
"he sleeps away from the hut one night in every three."

While the buccaneer attached his belt, the chevalier said to himself,
looking at the hunter with a feeling of pity, "Faith! but he puts the
rope gayly about his own throat; since he will not heed my warning, let
him look out for himself. It appears that lovers are, in such cases, no
wiser than husbands. But as regards Blue Beard--if she is pretty--it
must be that she is--can she receive such a savage? Poor little thing.
It is very simple. She does not know the compensation that is reserved
for her. Hail to the gods. Croustillac, thy star has arisen!" continued
the chevalier, after some minutes of reflection.

"Come, brother, let us start," said the buccaneer; "but before doing so,
Peter shall envelop your legs in a piece of skin which he has, for we
are going to traverse a bad quarter for serpents."

The chevalier thanked the buccaneer, not without shrugging his shoulders
in pity for him, and said, "Unhappy man! he is shoeing me, but I shall
put a cap on him!"

This stupid joke was to be fatally punished in Croustillac, who followed
his guide with renewed ardor, for was he not going to see Blue Beard?



PART II.



CHAPTER XII.

THE MARRIAGE.


After four hours' walk the chevalier and the buccaneer arrived close to
Devil's Cliff. The road was so difficult and so much incumbered that the
two companions could scarcely converse. Croustillac became more
thoughtful the nearer his approach to the dwelling of Blue Beard; in
spite of the good opinion he had of himself, in spite of his consoling
reflections regarding the allegorical nudity of Venus and Truth, he
regretted that his natural advantages were not set off by costly
garments. He ventured, then, after some hesitation, to tell a falsehood
to the buccaneer. "I assure you, my true and worthy rival, that my
servants and trunks are at St. Pierre and I find myself, as you see,
hardly clothed in a proper fashion to present myself before the queen of
my thoughts."

"What do you mean?" said the buccaneer.

"What I would say, brave Nimrod, is that I have the appearance of a
beggar, in that my coat and shoes, which yesterday were almost new, are
to-day abominably tattered and appear at least six months old."

"Six months? Oh! they are devilishly older than that to all appearances,
my brother."

"All which proves how torrid your devilish sun is; in one day it has
faded my clothing which yesterday was the freshest sea-green, the most
tender and coquettish of colors, until now----"

"They are almost mould-green," said the buccaneer. "It is like your
shoulder-strap--our devouring sun eats gold until he leave but a red
thread."

"What signifies the shoulder-strap if the sword is free and strong from
the scabbard?" said Croustillac proudly. Then softening his tones, he
continued, "It is just because I am momentarily in an outfit unworthy my
rank, that I would inquire if I can find garments more suitable at
Devil's Cliff?"

"Ah, do you think that Blue Beard keeps a second-hand clothing
establishment?" said the buccaneer.

"Heaven forbid that I should accuse her of such an ignoble traffic! But,
in fine, it would not be surprising if, as I say, by chance, there had
been overlooked in some corner of a clothes-press some garments
belonging to one of the deceased husbands of our charming friend?"

"Ah!" said the buccaneer.

"Well?" replied the chevalier imperturbably, "although it would cost me
an effort to appear in what did not belong to me, and above all, in what
could not fit me very well, I would reconcile myself to so doing, in
default of my fine clothing now at St. Pierre, even at the risk of being
abominably disfigured, perhaps, by the chance garments," continued he
disdainfully.

The buccaneer broke into peals of laughter at the singular notion of his
companion. Croustillac colored with annoyance and said, "Zounds! you are
very facetious, my friend."

"I laugh because I see I am not alone in the traffic of skins," said
Rend-your-Soul. "Truly we are brothers! If I despoil the bulls of their
skins, you are not too proud to despoil one of the husbands of the
widow. But we are now at the foot of the cliff. Take care, friend, one
must have a sure foot and a true eye to climb this ascent unharmed! If
you find it too rough, you need go no further; I will send you a guide
to conduct you back to Macouba."

"Remain here! at my journey's end, almost! after a thousand
difficulties! at the moment when I shall see and captivate this
enchantress, Blue Beard," cried the chevalier. "You have lost your wits.
Come on, comrade, what you do, I will do," said the chevalier.

Truth to say, thanks to his long legs, his natural agility and his
coolness, Croustillac followed the buccaneer over the perilous road
that led to the mansion, across the terrible precipice of Devil's Cliff.
A signal from the buccaneer and the wall of the platform was scaled,
and, with his companion, he entered the outer buildings.

Reaching the covered passage which led to the widow's especial suite,
the buccaneer whispered a word in the ear of the mulattress. She took
the chevalier's hand and led him to a stairway in the passage.
Croustillac hesitated a moment to follow the slave. The buccaneer said,
"Go on, brother, you do not wish to present yourself thus before the
widow; I have said a word to old Jennette, and she is going to provide
you with the means to shine like the sun. As for me, I go to announce
your arrival to Blue Beard."

So saying, the buccaneer disappeared in the covered passage.
Croustillac, guided by the mulattress, came to a room very elegantly and
comfortably furnished.

"Zounds!" cried the adventurer, rubbing his hands and taking long
strides, "this begins well. Provided I can appear to advantage, provided
that the deceased husbands of the widow had decent figures and that
their clothes will not disfigure me too much, I shall please--I shall
captivate the widow; and this animal of a buccaneer, ousted by me from
the heart of Blue Beard, will return to-morrow--perhaps even to-night,
to his forest."

Croustillac soon saw a number of negroes enter the room. One of them
staggered under an enormous parcel; the other carried on a chased silver
tray a silver gilt dish, wherein smoked a soup of the most appetizing
odor; two glass carafes, one filled with old Bordeaux, the color of
rubies, the other with Madeira wine, color of topaz, flanked the dish
and completed this light refreshment sent to the chevalier by the widow.
While one of the slaves placed before him a little table of ebony inlaid
with ivory, the negro bearing the parcel laid upon the bed a costume of
black velvet ornamented by rich flowers embroidered in gold. What was
singular about the coat was that the left sleeve was of cherry-colored
satin; this sleeve closed above the wrist with a broad facing of buffalo
skin.

For the rest, with the exception of this peculiarity, the coat was
elegantly cut; stockings of very fine silk, a rhinegrave, or cravat, of
magnificent lace, a large felt hat adorned with beautiful white plumes
and a heavy gold cord were to complete the transformation of the
adventurer.

While the chevalier endeavored to divine why the left sleeve of this
black velvet coat was of cherry-colored silk, the two negroes prepared a
bath in a neighboring dressing-room; another slave asked Croustillac in
quite pure French if he would be shaved and have his hair dressed;
Croustillac assented. Entirely refreshed and invigorated by an aromatic
bath, wrapped in a dressing-gown of fine Holland linen which exhaled the
most exquisite odors, the adventurer lounged on a soft divan while the
slaves waved enormous fans.

The chevalier, in spite of his blind faith in his destiny, which,
according to him, was to become as beautiful as it had heretofore been
miserable, believed himself at times in a dream.

His wildest hopes were surpassed; in casting a complacent glance on the
rich costume with which he was clothed, and which was to render him
fatally irresistible, he was seized with a feeling akin to remorse, on
account of the buccaneer, who had so unwisely given ingress to the wolf
into this fold in which dwelt his love. The thought of this good fellow
made Croustillac smile; he was prepared to bewilder Blue Beard by
language in which he would be victorious over her barbarous adorers.

Suddenly a horrible fear obscured the smiling prospect for the Gascon.
He began to fear for the first time that Blue Beard might be repulsively
plain; he had also the modesty to think that perhaps it would be too
much of him to require of fate that Blue Beard be of an ideal beauty.

Croustillac possessed good qualities. He said to himself with the
conviction of a man who knew perfectly how to moderate and set bounds to
his ambition--"Providing the widow be not more than from forty to fifty
years; that she be not blind or outrageously lame; that she has some
teeth and hair--faith! her wine is so good, her service so fine, her
servants so attentive--if she is worth three or four millions, I
consent to take the risk my predecessors did, and to make the widow
happy, on the honor of De Croustillac! seeing that I prefer to take the
consequences of my rôle as a husband rather than return on board the
Unicorn and swallow lighted candles for the amusement of that amphibious
animal, Captain Daniel. Well, then, should Blue Beard be plain, and of
overripe age, she is still a millionaire, and I will take care of this
good lady, and will be so very agreeable to her that, far from sending
me to join the other dead husbands, she will have no desire but that of
cherishing me dearly, and embellishing my life by all kinds of delicious
cares. Come, come, Croustillac," said the adventurer, with increased
exaltation, "I say truly, your star is in the ascendent, and shall shine
more than in the past it has been overcast! Yes, it is in the
ascendent."

So saying, the chevalier called one of the blacks who was awaiting his
orders in a neighboring room, and with his assistance put on the velvet
dress with the cherry colored sleeve. The Gascon was tall, but bony and
thin; the garment which he donned was made for a man of the same height,
but broad-chested and small in the waist; so the vest formed some large
folds about the body of Croustillac; and his cherry-colored stockings
draped themselves no less majestically about his long, thin, and nervous
legs.

The chevalier did not concern himself about these slight imperfections
of his costume; he threw a final glance at his reflection in the
Venetian mirror which the slave held up to him, arranged his rough,
black hair, caressed his long mustache, hung his formidable sword to a
rich strap of buffalo skin which had been brought to him, proudly put on
the felt hat with golden cord and white plumes, and, strutting up and
down the room with a triumphant air, impatiently awaited the moment of
presentation to the widow. This moment arrived shortly. The aged
mulattress who had received the adventurer came to seek him, and begging
him to follow her, ushered him into the retired building which we have
already seen.

The room in which Croustillac waited some moments was furnished with a
luxury of which he had heretofore had no idea; superb old paintings,
magnificent porcelains, curiosities in goldsmith's work, of the most
costly nature, incumbered the furniture, as valuable on account of its
material as for its workmanship; a lute and a theorbo, whose ornaments
of ivory and gold were of a finish most uncommon in carving, attracted
the attention of Croustillac, who was delighted to think that his future
wife was a musician.

"Zounds!" cried the chevalier, "is it possible that the mistress of so
much wealth is as beautiful as the day? No, no, I should be too
fortunate; although I deserve this happiness."

We may judge of the surprise, not to say the shock, to the Gascon when
Angela entered. The little widow was radiant in youth, grace, beauty and
dress; robed in a costume of the fashion of Louis the Fourteenth, she
wore a dress of sky blue, the long waist of which seemed to be
embroidered with diamonds, pearls and rubies, though this profusion of
gems was arranged with taste.

Croustillac, in spite of his audacity, recoiled before such a vision. In
all his life he had never encountered a woman so ravishingly pretty, so
royally dressed; he could not believe his eyes; he looked at her with
bewilderment. We must say, to the chevalier's credit, that he had a
laudable attack of modesty, but unhappily as fleeting as sincere. He
thought that so charming a creature might perhaps hesitate to marry an
adventurer like himself; but he recalled his impertinent and
vainglorious confidences to the buccaneer; he said to himself that,
after all, one man was as good as another, and he recovered very rapidly
his imperturbable assurance.

Croustillac made, one after another, three of the most respectful bows;
in order to resume his upright attitude and at the same time display the
nobility of his figure, advancing on one of his long legs, and drawing
the other a little behind it, he assumed a conquering air, holding his
hat in the right hand and resting his left hand upon the handle of his
sword. Doubtless he was about to make some gallant compliment to Blue
Beard, for he had already placed his hand on his heart, and opened his
large mouth, when the little widow, who could no longer repress an
irresistible desire to laugh at the absurd appearance of the chevalier,
gave free vent to her hilarity. This explosion of gayety shut
Croustillac's mouth and he endeavored to smile, hoping thus to humor
Blue Beard.

This polite effort took the form of so grotesque a grimace that Angela
fell on the sofa, forgetting all rules of politeness, all dignity, and
abandoned herself to a mad fit of laughter; her beautiful blue eyes,
always so brilliant, were veiled in tears of amusement; her cheeks
became crimson and her charming dimples deepened to such an extent that
the widow could have hidden in their depths the entire end of her rosy
little finger.

Croustillac, much embarrassed, remained motionless before the pretty
widow, first contracting his eyebrows with an angry air, then, on the
contrary, he endeavored to relax his thin long face into a forced smile.
While these successive expressions did not tend to put an end to Blue
Beard's mirth, the chevalier said to himself that for a murderess, the
widow did not have such a gloomy and terrible appearance after all.
Nevertheless, the vanity of our adventurer could not easily brook the
singular effect which he had produced. For want of better conclusion he
ended by saying to himself that above all things he always struck the
imagination of women keenly; it was necessary at first to astonish them,
upset them, and that, in this respect, his first interview with Blue
Beard left nothing to be desired.

When he saw that the widow had become a little calmer, he said
resolutely, and with superbly bombastic manner, "I am sure you laugh,
madame, at all the despairing efforts that I make to prevent my poor
stolen heart from flying quickly to your feet. It is that which has
brought me here; I could not but follow, in spite of myself; yes,
madame, in spite of myself. I said to it, 'there, there, softly, softly,
my heart, it does not suffice, in order to please a divine beauty, to be
passionately loving,' but my little, or rather my great and rash, heart
replied ever by drawing me to you with all its strength; as if it had
been the steel and Devil's Cliff the magnet; my heart, I say, replied to
me, 'Reassure yourself, master; tender and valiant as you are, the love
that you feel shall cause the birth of a love which you shall share.'
But pardon me madame, the language of my heart makes me outrageously
impertinent--it is doubtless this impertinence which makes you laugh
anew."

"No, sir, no; your appearance diverts me to this great extent because
you resemble--ha! ha! ha!--in a strange way, my second husband. You have
positively the very same nose--ha! ha! ha!--and in seeing you enter, I
believed I saw his spirit--ha! ha! ha!--coming to reproach me--ha! ha!
ha!--with his cruel end--ha! ha!"

The laughter of Angela redoubled. The chevalier was not ignorant of the
antecedents with which Blue Beard might be reproached, but he could not
conceal his great surprise at hearing this charming little creature
acknowledge the crime of murder with such incredible audacity.
Nevertheless, the chevalier recovered his customary coolness and replied
gallantly, "I am too happy, madame, to recall to you one of your
deceased husbands; and of reviving by my presence one of your memories,
whatever it may be. But," continued Croustillac with a gallant manner,
"there are other resemblances that I would wish to have to the
deceased--whose memory diverts you so much."

"That is to say, you desire to marry me?" said Blue Beard to him.

The chevalier was stupefied for a moment by this abrupt question.

Angela went on: "I expected it; Rend-your-Soul, whom I call by an
abbreviation, my little Rendsoul, has informed me of your desires;
perhaps he wishes to raise false hopes," added the widow, looking
coquettishly at the chevalier.

Croustillac experienced surprise after surprise. "How," he cried, "the
buccaneer has told you, madame----"

"That you have come from France for the express purpose of marrying
me--is it true? See, speak frankly--do not deceive me. Oh, I do not like
to be thwarted. I warn you, if I have taken it into my head that you
shall be my husband, you shall be."

"Madame, I beg of you, do not take me for a fool, for a jackanapes, for
a stupid; if I am dumb, it is with emotion, surprise." And Croustillac
looked about him uneasily, as if to assure himself he was not the sport
of a dream. "May I be shot if I expected such a reception."

"Well, there is no need to make so many words over it," replied the
widow. "I have been told you wish to marry me--is it true?"

"As true as that you are the most dazzling beauty that I have ever met,"
said the chevalier impetuously, placing his hand on his heart.

"Truly? Truly? You have really decided to marry me?" cried the little
widow, clapping her hands joyfully.

"I am so decided, adorable widow, that my only fear now is of not seeing
this desire realized; it is, I avow, an excessive desire, a great dream,
and----"

"Be quiet, then," said Blue Beard, interrupting the chevalier with
childlike frankness. "What is the use of these big words? You ask my
hand--why should I not give it to you?"

"How, madame, can I believe it! Ah, wait, beautiful Islander. I have had
many triumphs in my life; princesses have avowed their passion for me;
queens have sighed when looking at me, but never, madame, never have I
found such a one! Yes, madame, you can congratulate yourself, you can
boast of having brought to its height my surprise, my joy and my
gratitude. Repeat, then, I implore you, repeat those charming words--you
consent to take me for your husband, me, Polyphème de Croustillac?"

"I will repeat it as much as you desire; nothing is simpler; you can
well understand that I have too much trouble in finding husbands not to
seize eagerly the offer which you make me."

"Ah, madame," replied the chevalier courteously, "at the risk of passing
for an impertinent man, I must allow myself to contradict you. Never can
I believe that you could find it difficult to find a husband. I will say
more--I am convinced that you have had, since your widowhood only
embarrassment of choice, but you have simply not wished to select. You
have too good taste, madame," said Croustillac audaciously, "you
waited----"

"I might deceive you and allow you to think this, chevalier, but you are
too brave and gallant a man to be abused--at present," continued Angela,
with a gracious and confidential manner, "I will tell you all. Listen to
me. The first time I married, I had but to choose, it is true. O,
heavens! suitors presented themselves in swarms, and I chose--very well,
too. Then my second marriage: it was even then not the same thing.
People had commented on the singular death of my first husband, and
suitors had already begun to reflect before declaring themselves.
However, as I am not stupid, thanks to determination, cajolery and
coquetry, I succeeded in getting a second husband. Alas! it was not
without trouble. But the third. Oh, you have no idea all the trouble I
had; truly I was in despair!"

"Ah, madame, why was I not there!"

"Doubtless, but, unhappily, you were not. If they talked about the death
of my first husband; you can judge what they said about that of my
second. People began to distrust me," said the widow, shaking her pretty
little head with an expression of ingenuous melancholy. "What would you
have? the world is so meddling, so slanderous; men are so strange!"

"The world is stupid and egotistical, foolish," cried Croustillac,
filled with pity for this victim of calumny. "Men are cowards and fools
who believe all the gossip which is told them."

"What you say is very true. You are not so, my friend?"

"She calls me her friend," cried Croustillac, in a transport; and he
answered, "No, certainly not, and I am not so."

"Doubtless," said the widow, "you are very different; you spoil me by
accepting my proposition so quickly."

"Say, rather, that I am beyond bounds overjoyed at it, madame."

"You spoil me," continued the widow, with an enchanting smile, and
throwing a tender glance at the chevalier. "I assure you you spoil me;
you are so easy, so accommodating. Ah! how shall I replace you?"

"Replace me?"

"Yes, after you, friend."

"After me?"

"Yes, certainly, after you."

"Madame, I do not understand you. I do not wish to understand."

"It is very simple; how can I hope to find another like you, who will
marry me so willingly? Ah, no, such men are rare!"

"How, madame, after me?" cried Croustillac, overcome by this idea. "You
dream, then, of a successor to me?"

"Yes, friend," replied the widow, with the most touchingly sentimental
air imaginable; "yes, for when you are no more I must renew my quest,
seek, ask, and find a fifth husband. Think, then, of the difficulties
and obstacles to overcome. Perhaps I shall not succeed. Think, then, a
widow for the fourth time. You forget that; it is a fact, however; my
friend, after you, I shall be a widow for the fourth time."

"I do not forget it at all, madame," said Croustillac, whose ardor
became somewhat chilled, and began to ask himself if this affair was not
madness. "I shall not forget, certainly, in case I have the honor of
marrying you, that you will be for the fourth time a widow if you lose
me; but it appears you place a rather short period to my love."

"Alas! yes, my friend," said the widow, in a tender voice, "one year,
and a year is very short. A year! it passes so quickly when one loves,"
continued she, casting the glance of a perfect assassin at him.

"A year, madame," cried the chevalier. But then, believing that the
words of Blue Beard hid perhaps a test, that she wished possibly to
judge of his courage, he added in a chivalrous tone, "Ah, well, so be
it, madame; whether my happiness last but a year, a day, an hour, a
minute--it matters not; I will brave all, if only I can say that I have
been fortunate enough to obtain your hand."

"You are a true knight," said the widow, charmed. "I expected no less of
you. That is agreed; only I must forewarn my little Rendsoul, for form's
sake, understand, for married or not I shall always be to him what I
have been."

"But, madame," said Croustillac, "is it permitted me, will it be
indiscreet to ask you what you are to this hunter of wild beasts, and
what are his relations with you? Or, rather, will you explain to me what
intimacy it is that you feel obliges you to speak to him of your plans?"

"Certainly; and to whom would I make this statement if not to you, my
friend? I will confess to you that Rendsoul is one of my lovers."

Here Croustillac made such a singular grimace and coughed two or three
times in such a manner, that Angela broke into a peal of laughter.

Croustillac, for a moment dumfounded, came to this reflection full of
wisdom: "I am a fool! Nothing is simpler. She had a kind of fancy for
this stupid fellow. The sight of me has decided her to sacrifice him;
unlucky buccaneer that he is! But why the devil does she tell me that at
the end of a year she must find a successor to me?"

"Wait--here comes my Rendsoul," said the widow. "We will tell him our
plans, and we will sup together like three friends."

"It matters not to me," said Croustillac, seeing the buccaneer enter.
"Here is a little woman who wishes to show that she is an original."



CHAPTER XIII

THE SUPPER.


When the buccaneer entered the chevalier hardly knew him. Rend-your-Soul
had put off his hunter's costume; he wore a coat and nether garment of
guinea cloth, thickly embroidered with alternate rays of white and deep
red; his black beard fell upon a shirt of dazzling whiteness, which was
close like a doublet by a row of small coral buttons; a scarf of red
silk, hose of the same color, and shoes of doeskin with large
ribbon-bows, completed a costume most elegant for a buccaneer, and
showing to advantage his tall and robust figure; in the brilliant light
of the candles his complexion seemed less brown than in the daytime; his
black hair, curling naturally, fell carelessly on his shoulders; and
finally, his hands were beautiful, in spite of his rough following as a
hunter.

At the sight of the buccaneer, so transformed and almost unrecognizable,
in spite of the hard character which his thick beard always gave to his
face, the chevalier said to himself, "I should prefer that this person
had at least a civilized appearance; it would be too humiliating for
Polyphème de Croustillac to triumph over a rival so plain as the one
which he at first sight appeared to be. But, while I do not doubt this
Nimrod, I must say that Blue Beard has a singular manner of acting.
Could she not have given him his dismissal in some other way than in my
presence? I hate to so cruelly use my advantage in crushing a poor
rival; for, after all, a man is a man! This poor buccaneer is going to
find himself in a pitiable position. But let me hold firm; and show Blue
Beard that I am not the dupe of her confidence concerning her deceased
husbands, and that I am not afraid to die like them."

Croustillac ended this reflection when the pretty widow, indicating the
adventurer by a triumphant nod of the head, said ingenuously to the
buccaneer, "This gentleman asks for my hand in marriage. You see you
were wrong in persisting to me that I would not find a fourth husband.
So you can imagine I have very quickly accepted the chevalier's
proposal; it was too good an opportunity to let slip."

The buccaneer did not reply at once. Croustillac mechanically put his
hand on the hilt of his sword, in order not to be without means of
defense in case the hunter, exasperated by jealousy, should wish to do
him an injury. What was his surprise when he heard Rend-your-Soul say,
after seating himself in a large chair, "I have always said to you, my
beautiful one, just what that comrade Hurricane said, 'Marry, a thousand
devils marry! if you desire to, for husbands are rare, for one never
knows what you will do; but one thing is certain, they never live long.'
As for me, I do not approve your little proceedings. I have more than
once seen your little white hands prepare certain beverages----"

"Oh, fie! fie! bad man!" said Angela, shaking her finger at him.

"Nevertheless, it is true," said the buccaneer. "What is the secret of
that gray powder of which I had only given a pinch to my servant who was
devoured by my dogs. What infernal concoction was it?"

"Yes, madame, this gray powder--tell us its compounds," said
Croustillac.

"Oh, you indiscreet man!" said Angela, looking at the buccaneer, with an
air of annoyance. "The chevalier will take me for a child; how shall I
appear in his eyes if he thinks I occupy myself with such trifles?"

"Have no fears on that score, madame," said Croustillac; "I am
delighted, I assure you, to have these new evidences of your youthful
candor! Well, worthy Nimrod, this gray powder?"

"Truly, I am very much ashamed!" said Angela, hanging her head and
lowering her eyes, and at the same time making a charming little
grimace.

"Imagine, then," said the buccaneer, "that I gave my servant just a
little pinch of powder in a glass of brandy."

"Well?" said Croustillac, with interest.

"Well, for two days he was so gay that he laughed from night till
morning and morning till night."

"I do not see anything bad in that," said Croustillac.

"But wait!" continued the hunter. "My servant did not do this from
amusement, he suffered the torments of the damned; his eyes were
bursting from their sockets, and he said, between his paroxysms of
laughter, that such torture as he endured was beyond belief. The third
day he suffered so that he fell as if in a fit, and remained thus a long
time; all due to the pinch of madame's gray powder. It may not surprise
you to learn that madame's second husband was as gay as a lark, and that
he died very joyfully."

"Oh! heavens, as if one could not commit a little mischief without being
reproached by you," said Angela, like a capricious child.

"Listen, comrade! she calls that a little mischief," said the hunter.
"Just imagine! her second husband laughed so hard that the blood burst
from his nose, eyes and ears. But whatever he laughed about, he did so
as if he had seen the most amusing thing in the world. But that did not
prevent him from saying, like my servant, that he would rather have been
burned at a slow fire than suffer such gayety; he also died, laughing to
the last, and swearing like a devil."

"There! you go too fast," said Blue Beard, shrugging her shoulders.
Then, whispering to the Gascon, "Friend, do not be afraid--I have lost
the secret of the gray powder!"

The chevalier, in an attempt to smile, made quite a grimace. He had left
France at a time when the fearful practice in poisons was at its height,
and people talked only of the heir's powder, the powder of the aged, and
the widow's powder. The names, even, of certain poisons were cited with
fear. Now Blue Beard's laughing powder could not but give rise to the
most doleful reflections on the part of the chevalier. "So," he said to
himself, glancing defiantly at Angela, "does this creature deal in
chemistry and draughts--is this story true?"

"What ails you, brother?" said the buccaneer, struck by Croustillac's
silence.

"You have made him afraid of me," said the widow.

"No, my beautiful lady, no," said Croustillac, "I was thinking that it
must be very pleasant to die thus of laughter!"

"Faith, you are right, brother, one had better die so than as the last
husband died." And the buccaneer shuddered with horror.

"It appears that the death of the latter must have been more terrible
than the former," said Croustillac, with affected carelessness.

"As to that story, comrade, I will not tell you that, you would be
afraid."

"I? afraid?" and the Gascon shrugged his shoulders.

Blue Beard leaned over and whispered again to the Gascon, "Let him tell
it, friend; this tale, at least, is worth the trouble. I am going to
trap Rendsoul."

Then, addressing herself to the buccaneer, "Well, go on; speak! Why do
you not speak? Do not pause in the middle of the road. You see the
chevalier is listening with all his ears--go on, speak. I do not wish
him to buy, as they say, a 'a cat in a bag.'"

"You should say a tigress in a bag," replied, laughingly, the buccaneer.
"Ah, well, sir," addressing Croustillac, "Fancy this third husband a
man, handsome, of dark complexion, thirty-six years of age, a Spaniard
by birth. We came across him at Havana."

"Heavens! tell it quickly," said the widow, "the chevalier is impatient
to hear."

"It was not a gray powder that he tasted, this one," replied the
buccaneer, "but a drop, one drop only, of a pretty green liquid
contained in the smallest flask I ever saw in my life, for it was made
of a single hollow ruby."

"That is simple enough," said Angela, "the strength of this liquid was
such that it would dissolve or break any flask which was not made of a
ruby or a diamond."

"You can judge, after that, chevalier," said the hunter, "of the
pleasure which this liquid must have given our third husband. Certainly
I am neither over-tender nor timid, but, after all, it is difficult to
become accustomed to seeing a man who looks at you with green eyes,
luminous, and set so deep in their orbit that they have the effect of a
glowworm in the depths of a subterranean cave."

"The fact is," said Croustillac, who could not prevent a slight shudder,
"the fact is that at first this would appear strange."

"That is not all; listen to the rest," said the widow with an air of
perfect self-satisfaction.

The buccaneer continued: "That was only his usual condition, poor man,
having eyes like a glowworm, but what was most frightful was when madame
gave a supper to Hurricane, myself and Youmäale. She dipped a camel's
hair brush into the little ruby flask and compelled the unhappy Spaniard
to approach, and passed this brush over his eyelashes. Then one would
have said that from the eyelashes of this unhappy man there issued a
thousand rays; his green eyes, sunken in his head, protruded and rolled
in their orbit like two globes of fire, and threw such varied and
continual light that they sufficed to light up our feast, while the
wretched man stood immovable as a marble statue, saying in a piteous
voice, 'My head furnishes fuel for the lamps of my eyes!' It was well
that the poor man could not see the fire," said the buccaneer, bursting
into laughter at this cruel jest. "And when the supply of oil in the
lamp failed, the madame's husband went to join his predecessors, in
order to leave his place open to you."

"What Rendsoul tells you is correct," said Blue Beard. "He is very
indiscreet, as you see, but he is truthful. And so am I. I have singular
ideas and caprices, I know; my God! I do not wish to represent myself as
better than I am. Above all, I would be frank with you and conceal
nothing. You would ask why my husbands are the only victims of my
playfulness? I have no power over others. And I always warn them what
will be their fate. It is that which makes it so difficult for me to
find a husband. It is on these conditions alone that Satan signs my
contract, and then this contract, signed by him, acquires a virtue as
wonderful as mysterious. Alas! my friend, may he soon sign ours. I have
thought of two preparations which are entirely different from the
others, and the effects of which are truly magical."

All this time Croustillac experienced a strange sensation, which he
attributed to the fatigue of the day and the evening; it was as if a
lethargy possessed his brain and almost took from him the power of
resisting by use of his reason the impression made by these strange
tales of the widow and the buccaneer. Without believing these fabulous
inventions, he was nevertheless frightened by them as one is by a bad
dream. The chevalier hardly knew whether he was awake or asleep; he
looked at the buccaneer and the widow by turn, with a stupefied air,
almost terrified. Finally, being ashamed to show his credulity, he rose
abruptly and paced up and down a few minutes in the hope that movement
would dispel the torpor which he felt overwhelming him.

Croustillac did not wish to be a butt for these two persons, and he
almost regretted having embarked so imprudently in this mad adventure.
He said to Blue Beard resolutely, "Come, come, you are jesting, madame;
do not trouble yourself; I comprehend the joke. I do not believe you as
ferocious or as much of a magician as you wish to appear; to-morrow, I
am sure I shall learn the secret of this comedy, which to-night, I avow,
gives me a kind of nightmare."

These words of the chevalier, spoken from no motive but to show the
dwellers of Devil's Cliff that he did not intend to be their dupe,
produced on Blue Beard a singular effect. She cast a terrified glance at
the buccaneer, and said haughtily to Croustillac, "I do not jest, sir;
you came here with the intention of marrying me; I offer you my hand,
and I will tell you upon what conditions; if these are agreeable to you,
we will be married in eight days; there is a chapel here; the reverend
Father Griffen, of the parish of Macouba, will come hither in order to
unite us; if my conditions do not meet with your approval, you can quit
this house, where you never ought to have come."

As Blue Beard proceeded her face lost its look of wicked cajolery; she
became sad, almost menacing. "A comedy!" she said; "if I thought you
took all that has been said as such, you should not remain a moment
longer in this house, sir," she continued, in a changed voice, betraying
her deep feeling.

"No, the chevalier must not take it all as a jest," said the buccaneer,
looking steadily at the Gascon.

Croustillac, naturally impatient and vivacious, experienced vexation at
not being able to discover what was true and what feigned in this
singular adventure. He cried then, "Well, zounds! madame, what do you
wish me to think? I encounter a buccaneer in the forest; I impart to him
my desire to meet you; he informs me abruptly that you will yourself
tell me that he has the good fortune to be in your good graces."

"And then, sir?"

"Then, madame, though I have warned him, the buccaneer has brought me to
you, by whom I have been received with the greatest hospitality, I must
acknowledge; I am introduced to you; informed of my desires, you
yourself offer me your hand, you inform your friend the bull-hunter of
my wishes."

"Well, sir?"

"Madame, up to that time all went well; but now the buccaneer wishes to
inform me, with your consent, that I am reserved for a fourth deceased
husband, and to succeed a man who laughed himself to death, and one
whose eyes served as lights for one of your orgies!"

"It is the truth," said the buccaneer.

"How, the truth?" continued Croustillac, recovering his lost vivacity.
"Are we in the land of dreams? Do you take the Chevalier de Croustillac
for a simpleton? Do you think I am one of those weak-minded creatures
who believe in the devil? I am not a goose, and I also ask twenty-four
hours in which to demolish all these ridiculous stories."

Angela became very pale, and threw a look of agony and indescribable
fear on the buccaneer, and replied to the chevalier with ill-concealed
anger, "Ah, who told you, sir, that all that has taken place is natural?
Do you know why I, young and rich, offer you my hand the first moment I
see you? Do you know what this union will cost you? You believe yourself
to have a strong mind; who told you that certain phenomena would not go
beyond your comprehension? Do you know _who_ I am? Do you know _where_
you are? Do you know in consequence of what strange mystery I offer you
my hand? A comedy?" repeated Blue Beard bitterly, regarding the
buccaneer with an appearance almost of fear; "can you not be made to
understand that all this is not a play, sir? It is hardly to be believed
that your good angel brought you here, at least."

"And then, after all, who told you that you would ever go out of this
place?" said the buccaneer coldly.

The chevalier recoiled a step, trembling, and said:

"Zounds! no violence, at least--or if so----"

"If so, what can you do?" said Blue Beard, with a smile which appeared
to the Gascon implacably cruel.

Croustillac thought, too late, of the doors he had shut behind him, of
the difficult road he had had to traverse in order to reach this
diabolical house; he saw himself at the mercy of the widow, of the
buccaneer, and of their numerous slaves. He repented heartily and most
earnestly of having so blindly entered upon such an enterprise. On the
other hand, Croustillac, in contemplating the enchanting figure of Blue
Beard, could not believe her capable of such bloodthirsty perfidy.
Nevertheless, the strange avowals she had made him, the terrible reports
concerning her, the threats of the buccaneer, began to make some
impression upon the chevalier. Just then a mulattress came in to
announce supper.

During the gloomy reflections of the adventurer, Angela had a few
minutes' conversation with the buccaneer, carried on in a low voice; she
was, as a result, apparently satisfied and reassured, for, little by
little, her brow cleared, and the smile again came to her lips. "Come,
brave knight," said she gayly to the chevalier, "do not be afraid of me
any more; do not take me for the devil; and do honor to the modest
supper that a poor widow is only too happy to offer you."

So saying, she graciously offered her hand to Croustillac. The supper
was served with a sumptuousness, a refinement, which left no doubt in
the chevalier's mind as to the enormous fortune of the widow. Only, we
would say to the reader that the silver-gilt service was not engraved
with the royal arms of England, as were the objects which were placed
only before Blue Beard.

In spite of the sprightliness and ideal grace of the widow, in spite of
the witty sallies of the buccaneer, the supper was a gloomy one for
Croustillac. His habitual assurance had given place to a kind of vague
inquietude. The more charming Angela seemed to him, the more she
exercised her fascinations, the greater the luxury which surrounded her,
the more the adventurer found his distrust increased. In spite of their
absurdity, the strange tales of the buccaneer kept returning to the
remembrance of the chevalier--both the tale of the gray powder which
caused one to die of laughter, and the liquid in the ruby flask which
changed the eyes into brilliant lamps. While these recitals might not be
more real than a bad dream past--the Gascon, from dread of some infernal
dish, could not prevent himself from distrust of the viands and wines
with which he was served. He observed the widow and the buccaneer
closely; their manners were perfectly correct. Rendsoul bore himself
toward Blue Beard with the proper degree of familiarity which a husband
displays toward his wife before a stranger. "But then," the chevalier
asked himself, "how does this reserve accord with the cynicism of the
widow, who declared so cavalierly that the Caribbean and the filibuster
shared her good graces with the buccaneer, without the latter being
jealous in the slightest degree?" The Gascon asked himself still further
what could be the object of Blue Beard in offering her hand to him, and
what price she would put upon this union. He was too clear-sighted not
to have noticed the lively emotion, sincere on the part of the widow,
when she showed such indignation that the adventurer should believe her
capable of playing a comedy in offering her hand. On this point
Croustillac had not deceived himself. Blue Beard had been deeply moved;
she had been in despair on seeing that the Gascon took for a jest or a
comedy all that had passed at Devil's Cliff. She had been reassured on
seeing the vague disquietude which the face of the chevalier showed in
spite of himself. He was lost in vain conjectures. Never had he found
himself in a situation so strange that the idea of a supernatural
influence or power should present itself to his mind. In spite of
himself, he asked himself if there was nothing unnatural in what he had
seen and heard. The fact that he felt the first heavy agony of a
superstitious terror struck him most disagreeably. He did not dare to
acknowledge to himself that more determined men, wiser and more learned
men than he, had, within the century, and even the latter part of it,
testified a belief in the existence of a veritable devil. And then,
finally, the adventurer had been until then much too indifferent in the
matter of religion not to believe in the devil, sooner or later.

This fear passed rapidly through the mind of the chevalier, but it would
leave, for the future, an indelible mark; however, he reassured himself,
little by little, at seeing the pretty widow do honor to the supper; she
showed herself too fond of the pleasures of the table to be a spirit of
darkness.

The supper at an end, the three entered the drawing room, and Blue Beard
said to the chevalier in a solemn voice, "To-morrow I will inform you on
what conditions I will give you my hand; if you refuse them, you must
leave Devil's Cliff. In order to give you a proof of my confidence in
you I consent that you shall pass this night in the interior of this
house, although I never accord this favor to strangers. Rendsoul will
show you the rooms reserved for you." Saying this, the widow entered her
own apartment. Croustillac remained absorbed in thought.

"Ah, well, brother, how do you feel?" said the buccaneer.

"What is your motive in addressing such a question to me? Is it
sarcasm?" said the chevalier.

"My motive is simply to know how you like our hostess."

"Hum, hum--without wishing to detract from her, you must confess that
she is a woman very difficult to estimate, at first sight," said
Croustillac, with some bitterness. "You cannot be surprised if I
consider the subject before I answer your question. To-morrow I will
tell you my opinion, if I am able to answer, myself."

"In your place I should not consider the subject," said the buccaneer.
"I would accept, with eyes closed, all that she offered me, and I would
wed her; for, by my faith, one cannot tell who will live or who die;
tastes change with years. The days which succeed each other are
dissimilar."

"Ah, well, have done with your proverbs and parables," said the Gascon,
exasperated. "Why do you not marry her yourself?"

"I?"

"Yes, you!"

"Because I do not wish to die of laughter or have my eyes converted into
lamps."

"And do you think that I wish to do so?"

"You?"

"Yes; why should I more than you wish to see the devil sign my contract,
as this woman playfully says?"

"Then do not marry her; you are your own master; that is your lookout."

"Certainly, it is my affair, and I will marry her if I choose! _Peste!_"
exclaimed the chevalier, who began to fear that he was losing his wits
by reason of this chaos of strange ideas.

"Come, brother, be calm!" said the buccaneer; "do not worry yourself. Do
you doubt I will keep my word? I have brought you to Devil's Cliff; the
prettiest woman in the world offers you her hand, her heart and her
treasures; what more would you have?"

"I would understand all that has taken place, everything that has
happened to me for the past two days, all that I have seen and heard
to-night!" cried Croustillac, exasperated beyond bounds. "I would know
if I am awake or dreaming."

"You must not be too exacting, brother. Perhaps this night will bring
you a dream which will explain and enlighten you upon these subjects.
Come--it is late, the day has been hard; follow me." And, saying these
words, the buccaneer took up a candle and made a sign to the chevalier
to follow him.

They passed through a number of sumptuously furnished rooms, and a
little gallery, at the end of which they reached a very elegant
bed-chamber, whose windows opened on the beautiful garden of which we
have already spoken.

"You have been a soldier or a sportsman, brother," said the buccaneer,
"you will know, then, how to get along without a servant. No man, except
myself, Hurricane, and the Caribbean has ever passed the first door of
this place; our beautiful hostess has made an exception in your favor,
but this exception must be the only one. Knowing this, brother, may God
or the devil keep you in his care." The buccaneer went out, shutting
Croustillac in by means of a double lock.

The chevalier, much disturbed, opened a window which looked out on the
little park. It was guarded by a trellis of steel netting which it was
impossible to break, but which did not hide a view of the beautiful
garden which the moon illumined with its soft light.

Croustillac, ill at ease, examined the wainscoting and floor of his
chamber, in order to assure himself that they did not cover any trap; he
looked under his bed, sounded the ceiling with his sword, but failed to
discover anything suspicious. Nevertheless, by way of further prudence
and to make sure, the chevalier laid down in his clothing, after having
placed his faithful sword at his side, within reach. In spite of his
resolve not to go to sleep, the fatigue and emotions of his journey
plunged him quickly into a profound slumber.

       *       *       *       *       *

Angela, seated in the room of which we have spoken before, said to the
buccaneer: "Unfortunately, this man is not so stupid and credulous as we
had thought. Heaven grant he may not be dangerous!"

"No, no; reassure yourself," said the buccaneer. "He has shown good
stuff, but our two narratives have struck him; he will remember this
night for a long time, and, what is better, he will talk about it.
Believe me, all the exaggerations which he will use to embellish his
recitals will only add to the strange stories afloat concerning Devil's
Cliff."

"Ah!" cried the widow, still alarmed at the remembrance of the
adventurer saying that all was a comedy and that he would investigate
it, "in spite of myself I am terrified."

"There is nothing to be afraid of, I tell you, Madame Blue Beard," said
the buccaneer gayly, kneeling before Angela, and looking at her
tenderly. "Your diabolical reputation is too well established to suffer
the slightest diminution; but acknowledge that I have an imagination,
and that my gray powder and my green liquid accomplished wonders."

"And my devil who witnesses my contract," said Angela, laughing merrily.

"That is well; I love thus to see you laughing and merry," said the
buccaneer. "When I see you sad and dreamy I am always afraid our retreat
bores you."

"Will you please hold your tongue, Monsieur Rendsoul? Have I the
appearance of wearying near you? Are you jealous of your rivals? Ask
them if I love them better than I do you. Have you not procured me this
distraction and the sight of this Gascon, to whom I owe the most
delightful amusement? I was unreasonable. Except for my stupid fears,
this evening was charming, because you were here, your eyes on mine, my
lover. Ah! the moonlight is superb, let us go for a walk in it
outdoors."

"Beyond the house?"

"Yes; we will walk on the great cliff, you know, where one sees in the
distance the ocean. On such a beautiful night it will be delicious."

"Come, then, capricious child, take your mantle," said the buccaneer,
rising.

"Come, Sir Black Beard, take your Spanish sombrero and be ready to carry
me in your arms, out of reach of stumbling, for I am lazy."

"Come, Madame Blue Beard; but you do not wish to visit our guest?"

"I am sure the poor devil has some horrible dream. Ah, well, to-morrow
we will give him a guide and send him away."

"No, keep him here another day. I will tell you what Father Griffen
thinks of it; amusements are rare, he will amuse you."

"Heavens! what a beautiful night," said Angela, opening the blinds of
the window. "It will make me so happy to take a walk."

Opening the outer doors of Devil's Cliff, the buccaneer and the widow
left the house.

       *       *       *       *       *

Contrary to his expectation, Croustillac passed an excellent night. When
he awoke the following morning the sun was already high in the heavens;
the blinds which were on his chamber windows had been lowered,
fortunately, which softened the light. The chevalier had lain down with
all his clothing on. He arose and went over to the window, and opened
the blinds partially. What was his astonishment to see, at the end of a
long walk bordered with tamarinds, that formed a screen almost
impenetrable to the light, Blue Beard walking, negligently, leaning on
the arm of a Caribbean of vigorous stature. This Caribbean was entirely
dyed, according to custom, that is to say, painted with a kind of
luminous composition of a reddish brown; his hair, black and glossy,
parted in the center, fell on either side of his cheeks; his beard
seemed carefully trimmed; his perfectly regular features partook of the
character of calm severity peculiar to the savage; on his neck shone
large crescents of carracolis (a kind of metal of which the West Indians
alone knew the secret, and composed of gold, brass and silver).

These ornaments, of a brilliant red, were curiously chased and incrusted
with green stones, the color of malachite, and to these the Indians
attribute all kinds of marvelous virtues. The Caribbean was clad in a
loose white garment having a border of blue fringe; the large and
sweeping folds of this costume would have served as a model for the
drapery of a statue. With the exception of the neck, right arm naked to
the shoulder, and the left leg, this cotton garment enveloped the
Caribbean completely; on his wrist he had bracelets of carracolis also
incrusted with green stones; his leg was half hidden by a kind of sandal
made of bands of cotton stuff of a vivid color and very picturesque.

Angela and Youmäale, for this was he, were walking slowly, and came
directly toward the window from the shadow of which the Gascon watched
them. A pink girdle about the beautiful figure of the widow confined a
long robe of white muslin; her blond curls fell around her fresh and
youthful face, which the adventurer had not seen before by day. He could
not refrain from admiring her white and clear complexion, her rosy and
transparent cheeks, her eyes so limpid and blue.

The evening before, Angela had appeared to Croustillac in brilliant
apparel, and disturbed by the strange confidences of Blue Beard and the
buccaneer, the admiration of the chevalier was mixed with distrust,
impatience and fear, and he had been more alarmed than touched by the
beauty of Angela; but when he saw her in the morning so simply pretty,
he experienced a profound emotion; he was moved; he forgot Devil's Cliff
and the cannibal, and thought only of the beautiful creature before him.
Love, yes, true love took possession suddenly of the chevalier's heart
just before so little in love. Though the growth of this sudden passion
was so rapid and instantaneous, it was none the less sincere.

Doubtless the evening before, Croustillac had suffered from too much
agitation, too sudden astonishment, too strange preoccupations, to
really appreciate Blue Beard; refreshed by a night's sleep, the past
seemed like a dream and Angela appeared as if for the first time to him;
admiring the supple figure outlined by the perfect fit of her white
muslin robe, he forgot the brocaded dress studded with precious stones
with which he was so impressed the preceding evening. He sought vainly
to discover, in the ingenuous and charming features which he now beheld
the diabolical smiles of the singular woman who had made such sinister
pleasantries concerning her three deceased husbands. In fact, poor
Croustillac was in love. Perhaps it was he and not Blue Beard who had
changed; but with his new love came all kinds of cruel jealousy.

Seeing Angela and Youmäale walking together so familiarly, the
adventurer experienced agony and new disquietude increased by an intense
curiosity. Alas! what a sight for him. At times, Angela dropped the
Caribbean's arm in order to pursue, with the ardent enjoyment of a
child, the beautiful gold and blue insects, or to pick some lovely
fragrant flower; then she would suddenly return to Youmäale, always
calm, almost solemn, who seemed to have a feeling of grave and tender
protection for the young woman.

At times the Caribbean gave his hand to the widow to kiss. Angela, happy
and proud at this favor, carried the hand to her lips with an air at
once respectful and passionate; she seemed a Caribbean woman accustomed
to live a submissive and devoted slave to her master. Youmäale held a
magnificent flower which the widow had given him. He let it fall to the
earth. Angela bent quickly, and picking it up, handed it to him, while
the savage made no gesture to prevent her, or to thank her for this
attention.

"Stupid and gross animal!" cried Croustillac indignantly; "would one not
think he was a sultan? How can that adorable creature bring herself to
kiss the hand of a cannibal, who had no other way of sounding the
praises of the good priest Simon than that he had eaten him! Yesterday a
buccaneer, to-day a cannibal, to-morrow, without doubt, a filibuster.
But she is a veritable Messalina!" continued Croustillac, at once
despairing and feeling within himself a victim to a real passion.

The widow and the Caribbean approached nearer and nearer the window
where Croustillac stood watching them, and he could hear their
conversation. Youmäale spoke French with the slight guttural accent
natural to his race; his words were few and brief. Croustillac overheard
these words of the conversation:

"Youmäale," said the little widow, leaning on the arm of the Caribbean
and looking tenderly at him, "Youmäale, you are my master, I will obey
you; is it not my duty, my sweet duty, to obey you?"

"It is thy duty," said the Caribbean, who used that form, but which
Angela did not. His dignity as the man demanded this.

"Youmäale, my life is your life, my thoughts are yours," returned
Angela; "if you should tell me to put to my lips the deadly juice of
this poisonous apple, I should do it, to show you that I belong to you,
as your bow, your cabin, your canoe, belong to you."

Saying these words Angela showed the silent Caribbean a yellow fruit
which she held in her hand, and which contained the most deadly and
subtle poison. Youmäale, after subjecting Angela to the most piercing
scrutiny, made an imperative gesture holding up the forefinger of his
right hand. At this sign, the widow quickly raised the deadly fruit to
her lips, and, had it not been for a movement still more rapid on the
part of the Caribbean she would perhaps have given this fatal proof of
passive obedience to the slightest caprice of her master. A movement of
affright as fugitive as lightning, contracted the impassive features of
the Caribbean as the widow lifted the apple to her lips; but he quickly
recovered his coolness, lowering the hand of Angela, kissing the young
woman gravely on the forehead, and saying to her in a sweet and sonorous
tone, "It is well."

At this moment the two pedestrians were so close to the window of
Croustillac that the latter, fearing to be discovered eavesdropping,
withdrew suddenly into his chamber, and said "How she frightened me with
her poison. And this savage animal, who looks like a lobster, as much
from the color of his skin as from his movements, says to her, 'It is
well,' when this adorable woman, at a sign from him, would have poisoned
herself; for once in love, women are capable of anything." Then, after
some moments of cruel reflection, the Gascon exclaimed, "It is
inexplicable that a woman should be in love with a man such as this one
appears to be; with two, for this is evident; although it is an
enormity! But it is impossible that she should love three at the same
time; this descends to monstrosity--it is worthy of the lower regions.
How! Blue Beard, linked to a buccaneer, and a filibuster, also has a
frightful fancy for this cannibal who eats missionaries, without taking
into account in addition that she proposes to me to marry her! Zounds!
this is enough to make one lose his head. Decidedly I will not remain
here; no, no, a thousand times, no! What I have seen has made me ill. I
will not become so stupid as to take this woman; I should lose all my
advantages. Real love makes one as stupid as a goose; during this last
hour I have already lost more resolution than since my arrival here. My
heart has melted; I feel myself inclined to do the most ridiculous
things. Fly, fly; this is madness, a dream. I was born poor; I have
always been poor; I will die poor. I will leave this house, I will seek
out the worthy captain of the Unicorn. After all," said Croustillac,
with a discouragement singular in a man of his character, "there are
worse things than swallowing lighted candles to amuse Captain Daniel."

These sad reflections were interrupted by the entrance of the old
mulattress, who knocked at his door and informed him that the negro who
had waited upon him in the capacity of valet the previous day was
waiting for him in the outer building.

Croustillac followed the slave, was dressed, shaved and thus went to
wait upon Blue Beard in the same room where he had waited the preceding
night.

The widow shortly appeared.



CHAPTER XIV.

TRUE LOVE.


At sight of Blue Beard, in spite of himself, Croustillac blushed like a
schoolboy.

"I was very disagreeable yesterday, was I not?" said Angela to the
chevalier, with an enchanting smile. "I gave you a bad opinion of me
when I permitted Rendsoul to tell all kinds of tricks; but do not let us
speak of them any more. By the way, Youmäale, the Caribbean, is here."

"I saw you from my window, madame," said the chevalier bitterly, while
he thought, "She has not the slightest shame. What a pity, with such an
adorable face. There, Croustillac, be firm!"

"Is Youmäale not very handsome?" asked the widow with a triumphant air.

"Humph! he is handsome for a savage," returned the chevalier,
unwillingly; "but, now that we are alone, madame, explain to me how you
can in one day (do not be shocked by this question which circumstances
compel me to ask you), how you can in one day change your lover?"

"Oh, it is simple enough; one comes, the other goes; it is very simple."

"One comes, the other goes--it is very simple from this standpoint, but,
madame, nature and morality have laws!"

"All three love me truly, why should I not love all three?"

This answer was made with such perfect candor that the chevalier said to
himself, "It seems as if this unhappy woman must have been raised in
some desert or cavern. She has not the slightest idea of good and evil;
one would have to absolutely educate her." He said aloud, with some
embarrassment, "At the risk of being taken for an indiscreet and
wearisome person, madame, I would say that this morning, during your
walk with the Caribbean, I both saw and heard you. How is it that at a
sign from him you would dare, at the risk of poisoning yourself, lift to
your lips the deadly fruit of the poisonous apple?"

"If Youmäale should say to me 'die' I should die," replied the widow.

"But the buccaneer, the filibuster--what would they say if you should
die for the Caribbean?"

"They would say I had done right."

"And if they demanded that you should die for them?"

"I would die for them."

"As you would for Youmäale?"

"As for Youmäale."

"Then you love the three equally?"

"Yes, because all three love me equally."

"She has a rooted idea and no one can dislodge it," thought the Gascon;
"I lose my trouble. Her accent is too frank to be assumed. It may be
that evil tongues have slandered a fraternal affection that this young
woman bears for these three bandits. Though the buccaneer gave me to
understand--after all, perhaps I misunderstood him and, as I am going to
leave her, I would much rather believe her more innocent than culpable;
although she does appear very hard to me to acquit." He went on: "A last
question, madame. What was the object of the atrocious tales that you
and the buccaneer related last night concerning two of your deceased
husbands--that one had died of laughter and the other been used as a
lamp, thanks to the intervention of Satan who always, according to the
same story, signs your marriage contract? You must feel, madame, that,
however polite I may be, it is extremely difficult for me to appear to
believe such follies as these."

"They are not follies."

"How--you wish me to believe----"

"Oh, you must believe them, and many other things, after you have
evidence of them," said the widow, with a peculiar tone.

"And when will you explain this mystery to me, madame?"

"When I tell you the price I place upon my hand."

"Ah, she is beginning to jest again," thought the Gascon. "I will appear
to be duped, in order to see what she will do; I wish she was far
away--that my stupid fancy were completely extinguished." Then aloud,
"Was it not to-day that you were to say what price you place upon your
hand, madame?"

"Yes."

"At what hour?"

"This evening, when the moon rises."

"Why not now, madame?"

"That is a secret you will know like others."

"And if I marry you, you will give me but one year to live?"

"Alas! only a year."

"Let me appear duped," said the Gascon to himself; and aloud, "Is it
your desire that my days should be so few?"

"No, no!" cried the widow.

"Then, personally, you do not dislike me?" said Croustillac.

At this question the face of Blue Beard changed entirely and her
expression became grave and thoughtful; she raised her head proudly, and
the chevalier was struck with the air of nobility and goodness which
overspread her face. "Listen to me," she said, with an affectionate and
protecting voice. "Because certain circumstances in my life oblige me to
a conduct often strange; because I perhaps abuse my liberty you must not
think I have a contempt for men of heart."

Croustillac looked at the widow with surprise. She was not the same
woman. She appeared like a woman of the world. He was so taken aback
that he could not speak.

Blue Beard continued: "You ask me if I hate you; we have not yet reached
the point where such sentiments, good or bad, can attain such extremity;
but I am far from hating you; you are certainly very vain, very
boastful, very arrogant----"

"Madame!"

"But you are good, brave, and you would be capable, I am sure, of a
generous devotion; you are poor, of obscure birth----"

"Madame, the name of Croustillac is as good as any other," cried the
chevalier, unable to vanquish the demon of pride.

The widow continued as if she had not heard the chevalier. "If you had
been born rich and powerful, you would have made a noble use of your
power and your wealth. Want has counseled you to more evil than she has
made you perform, for you have suffered and endured many privations----"

"But, madame----"

"Poverty finds you careless and resigned; fortune would have found you
prodigal and generous; in a word, what is of rare occurrence, you have
not been more hurt by poverty than you would have been by prosperity. If
the amount of your good qualities has not brought you much more than the
heedlessness of youth, this house would not have been open to you, be
certain of that, sir. If the proposition that I shall make you to-night
is not agreeable to you, I am sure, at least, that you will not carry
away a disagreeable remembrance of Blue Beard. Will you await me here?"
she said, smiling, "I am going to take a look at Youmäale's breakfast,
for it is customary with the Caribbeans that the women alone take care
of this, and I wish, in that respect at least, that Youmäale should feel
as if in his own cabin."

So saying, the widow left. This interview was, so to speak, a finishing
touch to the unhappy chevalier. Although the widow had shrewdly summed
up the character of Croustillac, she had expressed it in a manner full
of kindness, grace and dignity. She had, in fact, shown herself in a new
light, which overthrew all the Gascon's suppositions. The simple and
affectionate words of Angela, the sweet and noble look which accompanied
them, rendered Croustillac prouder and happier than he would have been
at the most extravagant compliments. He felt, with a mixture of joy and
fear, so completely and hopelessly in love with the widow that had she
been poor and friendless he would have been truly and generously devoted
to her--the most unmistakable symptom of true love.

The astounding presumption of the chevalier deserted him. He understood
how ridiculous the part he had played must appear; and, as the property
of true sentiment is always to make us better, more intelligent and more
sensible, in spite of the chaos of contradictions which surrounded
Angela's conduct, the chevalier discerned that these appearances must
hide a grave mystery; he also said to himself that the intimacy of Blue
Beard with her lovers, as she called them, covered, without doubt,
another secret, and that this young woman was, as a consequence,
slandered in a most unjust manner. He said, further, that the apparent
ease with which Angela assumed a frightful cynicism before a stranger
was not without some very pressing reason. In consequence of this
rehabilitation of Blue Beard in the mind of Croustillac, she became in
his eyes, completely innocent of the murder of her three husbands.
Finally, the adventurer began to believe, so much had love metamorphosed
him, that the solitary inmate of Devil's Cliff wished to mock him; and
he proposed to clear up his suspicions that same night, when the widow
should tell him the price she placed upon her hand.

One thing embarrassed Croustillac--how could the widow have informed
herself of his life so completely? But he remembered, with some
exceptions, that he had not made any mystery of the greater part of the
antecedents of his life on board the Unicorn, and that the business
manager of Blue Beard's affairs at St. Pierre might have discussed the
passengers with Captain Daniel. Finally, with a wisdom and good sense
which did credit to the new feeling which animated him, Croustillac put
these two cases to himself: Either Blue Beard wished to amuse herself,
and that night would say to him frankly, "Sir, you have been an
impertinent meddler; blinded by vanity, urged on by cupidity, you have
made a wager that you would become my husband in a month's time; I have
wished to torment you a little, and to play the ferocious part
accredited to me; the buccaneer, the filibuster, and the Caribbean are
my three servants in whom I have entire confidence; and as I live alone
in a very isolated locality, each of them comes by turn to watch at
night. Knowing the absurd stories afloat, I wished to amuse myself at
the expense of your credulity; this morning, even, I saw from the end of
the walk that you were spying upon me, and the comedy of the poisonous
apple was arranged with Youmäale; as for the kiss he placed upon my
forehead"--here the chevalier was embarrassed for a moment as to how to
excuse this part of the rôle which he supposed played by the widow; but
he solved the question by saying to himself that, according to Caribbean
customs, this familiarity was, doubtless, not considered strange.

The chevalier felt that he must be satisfied with this explanation; and
to do him justice (a little late, in truth) he would renounce his mad
hopes, beg the widow to forget the conduct of which he had been guilty,
kiss her hand and ask her to furnish him with a guide, resume his poor
old garments, of faded green, and pink stockings, and return to a
happier fate which awaited him in the cabin of the Unicorn's worthy
captain.

If, on the contrary, the widow had serious views in regard to the
chevalier (which he found some difficulty in admitting to himself,
although he was not blind to his own merit), he would repay her with the
happiness of his life; he would charge himself personally with
protecting his wife, and banish the buccaneer to his trading-station,
the Caribbean to his hut, and the filibuster to his occupation; at
least, if the widow did not prefer to return with him to France to live
there.

We must say to the honor of poor Croustillac that he hardly dwelt upon
this last hope; he considered his first interpretation of the conduct of
the widow as much more probable. Finally, by a natural reaction, of mind
over matter, the triumphant boasting of the chevalier ceased at the same
time with his conceit. His face was no longer distorted by grotesque
vanity; for it expressed the better qualities of the
chevalier--resolution, courage--we would add loyalty, for it was
impossible to add more frankness to his conceit than was to be found in
the Gascon.

While the Chevalier de Croustillac waited with impatience the night of
this day which promised to be so fertile in developments, because Blue
Beard intended to signify her final intention, let us conduct the reader
to Fort Royal, at Martinique, the principal port of the island, where
the governor resided the greater portion of the time. There had
transpired a new incident which demands our immediate notice.

The shipyard at St. Pierre, where the Unicorn had touched, was intended
for the anchorage of merchant vessels, just as the shipyard at Fort
Royal was for ships-of-war.

About the same time that Youmäale was walking with Blue Beard, the
lookout above the governor's house (at Fort Royal) signaled a French
frigate; the watch sent his assistant to inform the officer of artillery
commanding the battery at the fort, in order that he might fire a salute
(as was the custom) to the king's flag, (the custom being to fire a
salute of ten guns from all the ships-of-war when they came to anchor).
To the great surprise of the lookout who repented then of having
dispatched his assistant to the sergeant, he saw the frigate heave to,
outside the roadstead, and lower a boat; this boat was propelled through
the waves to the entrance of the port, while the frigate rode at anchor
and waited for it.

This proceeding was so strange that the lookout reported to the captain
of the Governor's Guards, and related to him what had occurred, to the
end that he could countermand the salute from the fort. This order
given, the captain went at once to inform the governor of this singular
evolution on the frigate's part.

An hour later, the boat belonging to the French ship arrived at Fort
Royal, and landed a person dressed like a man of some rank, who was
accompanied by the lieutenant of the frigate. They went at once to the
house of the governor, Baron de Rupinelle.

The officer gave a letter from the captain commanding the Fulminante to
the baron. His vessel was under orders to wait the result of the mission
with which Monsieur de Chemerant was charged, and to depart at once.
They had hastily taken on some fresh victuals and fresh water for the
men on board. The lieutenant went out to attend to matters pertaining to
reprovisioning the frigate, and Monsieur de Chemerant and the governor
were alone.

Monsieur de Chemerant was a man of from forty-five to fifty years, of a
dark olive complexion which gave to his sea-green eyes an added charm;
he wore a black peruke and a brown coat trimmed with gold braid. His
features were intellectual, his words few, his eye piercing; his mouth,
or rather his lips, were altogether too thin and compressed to ever
smile; if he occasionally gave vent to sarcasm upon what had happened,
his face became still more serious than usual. He had also very polished
manners and showed his familiarity with the best society. His courage,
discretion and coolness were such that Monsieur de Louvois had already
frequently employed him in missions of the greatest difficulty and
danger.

Monsieur de Chemerant afforded a striking contrast to the governor,
Baron de Rupinelle, a large and indolent man, having but one care, that
of keeping cool; his face was gross, purple and full; his eyes,
unusually round, gave him a look of perpetual surprise. The baron,
honest and brave, but a perfect nonentity, owed his position to the
powerful influence of the Colbert family to which he was related through
his mother.

In order to receive the lieutenant of the frigate, and Monsieur de
Chemerant with proper courtesy, the baron had removed, much to his
regret, a white cotton coat and a hat of Caribbean straw to put on an
enormous blond wig, squeeze into a coat of a kind of blue uniform
embroidered with gold braid, and buckled on a heavy shoulder-belt and
sword. The heat was intense, and the governor anathematized the
etiquette of which he was the victim.

"Sir," said De Chemerant, who seemed perfectly indifferent to this
tropical temperature, "can we speak without fear of being overheard?"

"There is no danger on that score, sir; this door opens into my study
where there is no one, and that one into the gallery which is also
unoccupied."

Monsieur de Chemerant arose, looked into the two places, and carefully
shut both doors.

"Pardon, sir," said the governor, "if we remain here with only two
windows open----"

"You are right, baron," said De Chemerant, interrupting the governor and
shutting the windows with equal care, "that is more prudent; we might be
heard from the outside."

"But, sir, if we remain without a current of air we shall suffocate
here. It will become a perfect oven."

"That which I have the honor to say to you, sir, will not take long; but
it concerns a state secret of the greatest importance, and the slightest
indiscretion may jeopardize the success of the mission which has been
confided to me by the king's command. You must accord me, then, the
privilege of shutting ourselves in here until the close of our
interview."

"If it is the king's orders, I must submit, sir," said De Rupinelle,
with a heavy sigh and wiping his forehead. "I am entirely at your
service."

"Be so good as to cast your eye upon my credentials from his majesty,"
said De Chemerant; and he took a paper from a little box which he bore
with great care and never intrusted to any one.



CHAPTER XV.

THE ENVOY FROM FRANCE.


While the governor read his dispatch De Chemerant looked with a
satisfied air at an object within his box and said to himself, "If I
have occasion to use it, this will be perfect; my idea is excellent."

"This order, sir, is regular; I must execute all the commands you give
me," said the governor, looking at his visitor with profound
astonishment. Then he continued, "It is so very warm, sir, that I must
ask your permission to remove my wig, in spite of proprieties."

"Make yourself comfortable, sir, make yourself comfortable, I beg of
you."

The governor threw his wig on the table and seemed to breathe more
easily.

"And now, baron, be so good as to reply to a number of questions which I
have the honor to put to you." And De Chemerant took from his little box
some notes wherein was stated, doubtless, what he wished to ask the
governor.

"There is, not far from the parish of Macouba, in the midst of woods and
rocks, a kind of fortified mansion called Devil's Cliff?"

"Yes, sir, and this same house does not bear a very good name. Chevalier
de Crussol, my predecessor, made a visit to the place to learn what
foundation there was for these rumors, but I have searched in vain for
papers bearing upon this subject among his correspondence."

Monsieur de Chemerant continued: "This house is occupied by a woman--a
widow, baron?"

"So thoroughly a widow, sir, that she has been surnamed in the country
Blue Beard, because of the rapidity with which she has successively made
way with the three husbands she has had. Might I venture to say that
this cravat in stifling me, sir?" added the unhappy governor; "we do
not usually wear them here, and if you will permit me----"

"Take it off, sir, the service of the king will not suffer thereby.
Chevalier de Crussol, your predecessor, you say, began an investigation
on the subject of the disappearance of the three husbands of this Blue
Beard?"

"So they told me, sir, but I have never found any trace of this
investigation."

"Commander de Saint-Simon, who fulfilled the duties of governor after
the death of De Crussol, and before your arrival here, did not deliver
to you, baron, a confidential letter written by De Crussol?"

"Yes--yes, sir," said the governor, looking at De Chemerant with
profound astonishment.

"This letter was written by De Crussol a short time previous to his
death?"

"Yes, sir."

"This letter relates to the inhabitant of Devil's Cliff; is this not
true, baron?"

"Yes, sir," said the governor, more and more surprised to find De
Chemerant so well informed.

"Monsieur de Crussol assured you in this letter, upon his honor, that
this woman called Blue Beard was innocent of the crimes imputed to her?"

"Yes, sir, but how can you know?"

Monsieur de Chemerant interrupted the governor and said, "Allow me to
say, sir, that the king ordered me to make inquiries of you, and not
replies. I have the honor to ask of you if, in this letter, the
deceased, De Crussol, did not vouch for the entire innocence of the
widow surnamed Blue Beard?"

"Yes, sir."

"He affirmed to you, on the faith of a Christian, and at the moment when
he was about to appear before his God, also on his word as a gentleman,
that you could, without prejudice to the service of the king, leave this
woman at liberty and in peace?"

"Yes, sir."

"And that, finally, the Reverend Father Griffen, a man of well-known
piety and the most honorable character, would be further surety for
this woman, if you demanded it of him?"

"Yes, sir, and, in truth, in a confidential interview, very special and
very secret----"

"Which you had with Father Griffen, baron, this religious man confirmed
to you what De Crussol had stated in his last letter, and you made him,
in form, a promise not to disturb the aforesaid widow?"

The governor, unable to fathom his being so well informed, gazed at De
Chemerant in bewilderment. The kind of emotion which this examination,
joined to the oppressiveness of the air, occasioned, was choking the
baron. After a short pause he said resolutely to De Chemerant, "Faith,
sir, one must accommodate oneself to one's situation. I must ask
permission to take off my coat. This trimming of gold and silver weighs
a hundred pounds, I believe."

"Take it off, take it off, baron; the coat does not make the governor,"
he said gravely, with a bow; then he continued: "Thanks to the advice of
De Crussol and the Reverend Father Griffen, the dweller at Devil's Cliff
has not been disturbed, baron? You have not visited the place, in spite
of the strange stories about it?"

"No, sir, I assure you, the recommendation of the persons so respectable
as Father Griffen and the deceased De Crussol were sufficient. And then
the road to Devil's Cliff is impassable; the rocks bare and rent; it
takes two or three hours to climb them; and faith, I assure you, sir, to
make such a journey under the sun of the tropics," said the baron,
wiping his forehead, which was perspiring at the mere thought of such a
climb, "appears to me entirely inadvisable, because, morally, I am
convinced that the aforesaid stories have no foundation, and I think in
that I am not wrong."

"Allow me, baron, to ask you some further questions."

"At your service, sir."

"The woman called Blue Beard has a counting house at St. Pierre?"

"Yes, sir."

"Her business man is empowered to send out her vessels which are always
destined for France?"

"That, sir, is very easily verified in the clearing books of the
captains.

"And these registers?"

"Are there in that case."

"Will you take the trouble to look them over, baron, and to select from
them some dates which I was going to ask of you?"

The governor arose, mounted painfully on a chair, and took down a large
volume bound in green leather, placing it on his desk; then, as if this
exertion had redoubled the heat he was suffering from and exhausted his
strength, he said to De Chemerant: "Sir, you have been, doubtless, a
soldier; you can understand that we live a little carelessly; for,
without further parley and asking pardon for the great liberty, I will
remove my vest, if you please; it is embroidered in cloth and as heavy
as a cuirass."

"Take it off--take off everything that you wish to," replied De
Chemerant with impervious gravity; "there is so little left for me to
say to you that I trust you will not need to remove more of your
apparel. Can you feel assured, other than from these facts, that the
vessels loaded with cargoes by our widow have always been sent to
France?"

"Yes, sir," replied the governor, opening his register; then, following
with the end of his finger the tables, he read, "'For Rochelle, for
Rochelle, for Bordeaux, for Bordeaux, for Rochelle, for Rochelle, for
Havre de Grace.' You see, sir, the vessels have always sailed for
France."

"That is well, baron. According to the direction, frequent enough, of
vessels of commerce, which leave the counting-house wharves, it follows
that Blue Beard (we will adopt the popular surname) can put a vessel to
sea very quickly."

"Doubtless, sir."

"Has she not a brigantine always ready to put to sea, and which can in
two hours be at the Creek of Caymans, not far from Devil's Cliff, where
there is a little harbor," said De Chemerant, consulting his notes once
more.

"Yes, sir; this brigantine is called the Chameleon; Blue Beard recently
placed it, very generously, at my service (through the mediation of
Monsieur Morris, her man of business), to give chase to a Spanish
pirate, and there is an old filibuster of a captain called Hurricane,
who commands the vessel----"

"We will speak of this filibuster later, sir, but this pirate----"

"Was sunk in the Rivière des Saints."

"To return to this filibuster, baron; he frequents the house of Blue
Beard?"

"Yes, sir."

"As much so as another bad fellow, a buccaneer by trade?"

"Yes, sir," said the baron in a dry tone, resolved to confine himself to
the secondary rôle which De Chemerant imposed upon him.

"A Caribbean also is often there?"

"Yes, sir."

"The presence of these men in the island is of how recent date?"

"That I do not know, sir; they were established here at my arrival in
Martinique. They say that the filibuster formerly pursued his calling on
the north of the Antilles and the seas of the south. Like many captains
who have made something by filibustering, he has bought here a little
dwelling at the point of the island, where he lives alone."

"And the buccaneer, baron?"

"This kind of person is here to-day, gone to-morrow, according to
whether the hunt is more or less abundant; sometimes he remains away a
month, and it is the same with the Caribbean."

"This information accords perfectly with that which was given me;
beside, I do not speak of men of this sort other than by hearsay. They
are far too unimportant, and too foreign to the mission which I am in
charge of, to merit their occupying my attention for any length of time.
They are, at most, passive instruments," continued De Chemerant to
himself, "and they are probably very indirectly connected with this
grave matter." Then, after a few minutes' reflection, he said aloud,
"Now, baron, one more question: have not your secret police notified you
that the English have tried to introduce themselves into this island
since the war?"

"Twice, lately, sir, our cruisers have given chase to a suspicious
vessel coming from the Barbadoes seeking to approach from the windward,
the only places where one can land in the island; elsewhere the coast is
too rugged to permit landing."

"Very good," said De Chemerant. After a moment's silence he said, "Tell
me, baron, how long would it take to go to Devil's Cliff?"

"About eleven hours; the roads are difficult, one could not reach there
before nightfall."

"Well, then, baron," said De Chemerant, taking out his watch, "in two
hours from now, that is to say, at one o'clock in the afternoon, you
will have the goodness to order thirty of your most reliable guards to
arm themselves, to provide themselves with scaling ladders, one or two
bombs, and to hold themselves in readiness to follow and obey me as they
would yourself."

"But, sir, if you wish to go to Devil's Cliff, you must start at once in
order to arrive by daylight."

"Doubtless baron; but as I desire to arrive in the middle of the night,
you will see the wisdom of my not starting for two hours."

"That is another thing, sir."

"Can you procure for me a covered litter?"

"Yes, sir, there is mine."

"And can this go to Devil's Cliff?"

"To the foot of the mountain only, not a step further, for they say it
is impossible for a horse to climb the heaped-up and yawning rocks."

"Very good; will you, then, be so good, baron, as to have this litter
prepared, as well as a mount for me; I will leave it at the foot of the
cliff."

"Yes, sir."

"I warn you, baron, that it is of the greatest importance that the
object of this enterprise be perfectly concealed; all will be lost if
they are warned of my visit to Devil's Cliff; we shall not inform the
escort of our destination until outside Fort Royal, and we shall make, I
hope, as much haste as the roads will permit. In a word, baron,"
continued the envoy, with a confidential air, which he had not assumed
until then, "mystery is so much the more indispensable that it concerns
a state secret and the future of two great nations."

"Because of Blue Beard?" said the governor, questioning with a curious
glance the cold and grave face of De Chemerant.

"Because of Blue Beard."

"How?" replied the baron. "Blue Beard, then, counts for something in a
state secret, in the peace of two great nations?"

Monsieur de Chemerant, who did not like repetition, made an affirmative
sign and continued, "I also beg of you, baron, that you will see that
the frigate's boat does not leave the wharf, so that I may return on
board and put to sea without remaining here a second, if, as I hope, my
mission be successful. Ah! I forgot; the litter must be such that it can
be entirely closed."

"But, sir, is it, then, a prisoner that you are in search of?"

"Sir," said De Chemerant, rising, "a thousand pardons for repeating to
you that the king ordered me to make inquiries of you instead of----"

"Good, very good, sir," said the governor. "Then I may open the
windows?" asked the baron, who was suffocated in this apartment.

"I see nothing to prevent, baron."

The governor arose.

"So, baron," said De Chemerant, "it is understood that you do not inform
the guide who is to conduct me of my destination, until the moment of
our departure?"

"But in the meantime, sir, if I send for him, what shall I say to him?"

The visitor seemed astonished at the simplicity of the governor, and
said to him, "Who is this guide, sir?"

"One of my blacks, who works at the king's house, a good league from
here. He is an oddity who has run away himself so often that he is more
familiar with the inaccessible spots of the island than with the open
roads."

"Is this slave reliable, sir?"

"Entirely, sir; he would have no object in leading you astray; beside, I
will warn him that if he does, I will have his nose and ears out off."

"It is impossible that he should resist such a consideration, baron. But
to reply to your objection--how will this negro occupy himself until the
moment of our departure?"

"An idea!" cried the baron triumphantly; "he can be flogged; that will
mislead him; he believes that no one summons him here other than for
that reason."

"That would be, certainly, an excellent means, baron, of working a
diversion in his ideas, but it will suffice, I think, to keep him shut
up until the moment of our departure. Ah! I had forgotten another thing,
baron; I beg you will see that, during my absence, everything that can
be found in the way of delicacies in fruit, vegetables, game, fine
wines, confections, etc., etc., be sent on board ship. You need not
consider expense, I will meet that."

"I understand you, sir; I must collect, in the way of refreshments, all
that it is possible to keep on board during the first days of the
voyage, as much so as if it were for the entertainment of a person of
the greatest distinction," said the governor curiously.

"You understand me marvelously well, baron. But I fancy this black, our
guide, has viewed, at least from the outside, the habitation at Devil's
Cliff."

"Yes, sir; and he tells very strange stories about that house and the
solitudes where it is builded."

"Ah, well, baron; here is a task for this slave; give orders that he be
brought to me pending the time of our departure, and I will question him
concerning what I wish to discover."

"I will send in search of him at once," said the governor, going out.

"May God or the devil convey this affair into safe harbor," said De
Chemerant, when he was alone. "Fortunately, I have no need of the aid of
this stupid governor; the greatest difficulty is still to be surmounted;
but no matter, I have faith in my star. The affair of Fabrio-Chigi was a
much more difficult matter, and then the hope, if not of a crown, at
least almost of a throne, the ambition to direct the course of a great
nation, the desire of recovering the good graces of the king, his
relative, would not there be reasons sufficient to determine the most
rebellious will? and, moreover, if these reasons were not enough," said
De Chemerant, after some moments of silence, striking his little box,
"here is another argument which will be, perhaps, more effectual."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours later De Chemerant started for Devil's Cliff at the head of
thirty of the Governor's Guards, armed to the teeth. A litter, drawn by
two mules, followed this little detachment, preceded by the guide. This
slave had had a long interview with De Chemerant, and, as a consequence,
he had taken two scaling ladders and petards carried on a pack horse, a
bundle of stout ropes with grapples of iron, and two axes. Moreover, De
Chemerant had given orders to the lieutenant of the frigate to send him
two good sailors chosen from among the fifteen sailors forming the crew
of the boat which awaited, at the landing at Fort Royal, the result of
the expedition.

This little company set out, preceded by the guide, who, flanked by the
two sailors, marched a little in advance of De Chemerant. After having
followed the coast for a long time, the troop climbed a very high hill,
and pressed on into the interior of the island.

We will leave De Chemerant advancing slowly toward Devil's Cliff, and
will rejoin Father Griffen at Macouba, and Colonel Rutler at the bottom
of the precipice, where he had arrived by way of the subterranean
passage, after the wildcats, by devouring the corpse of John, had
removed the obstacle which before had held the English envoy in the
cavern of the Caraibe.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE STORM.


Monsieur De Chemerant had scarcely left Fort Royal at the head of his
escort when a young mulatto of about fifteen, after having followed for
some time, hiding in the ravines or the swamps, on seeing the troop take
the road to Devil's Cliff, started with all haste for Macouba.

Thanks to his perfect knowledge of the country and of certain roads not
open, this slave reached Father Griffen's parish very soon. It was about
four o'clock in the afternoon; the good priest was taking his afternoon
nap, comfortably extended in one of the hammocks so ingeniously made of
rushes by the Caribbeans. The young mulatto had the greatest difficulty
in persuading one of the priest's two slaves to awaken his master;
finally Monsieur concluded, after long hesitation, because of the deep
and peaceful sleep of the priest, to do so.

"What do you want?" said the priest.

"Master, a young mulatto has come in haste from Fort Royal and wishes to
speak to you at once."

"A mulatto from Fort Royal," said Father Griffen, springing from his
hammock. "Let him come in quickly. What do you want, my child?"
continued he, addressing the young slave; "have you come by direction of
Monsieur Morris?"

"Yes, Father. Here is a letter from him. He told me to follow an escort
of troops leaving Fort Royal this morning, and directed me, if they took
the road to Devil's Cliff, to come and tell you, Father. His letter will
explain the rest."

"Very well, my child, the troop----"

"Plunged into the Goyaviers valley, and took the road to the Black
Rocks; that leads only to Devil's Cliff."

Father Griffen, much disturbed, broke the seal of the letter and seemed
overcome at its contents. He re-read it with evidence of the greatest
surprise, and then said to the mulatto, "Go quickly and find Monsieur."

The mulatto went at once.

"An envoy from France has arrived; he had a long interview with the
governor, and I fear he has started with armed men for Devil's Cliff, as
Monsieur Morris believes," said the priest, walking up and down
agitatedly. "Monsieur Morris does not know, cannot know more. But
I--I--I tremble to think of the consequences of this visit. Doubtless
the mystery has been unveiled. And how, how? Who can have put them on
the scent? Did not the secret die with De Crussol? His letter is my
guarantee. Did they not quiet the governor and cause him to give up all
pursuit of this unhappy woman?" Then, referring to Monsieur Morris'
letter, the priest continued: "'A French frigate which remains at anchor
outside the roadstead, an envoy who confers for two hours with the
governor, and who, after this interview, leaves for Devil's Cliff with
an escort'--there is more than suspicion, there is certainty? They have
come to carry her off. My God! can it be true? But, the secret--who but
myself knew it? for I only knew it, oh, yes, I alone, at least unless a
frightful sacrilege--but no, no!" said the priest, clasping his hands
with terror. "Such a thought on my part is a crime. No, it is
impossible. I would rather believe it was indiscretion on the part of
the only person who has an interest for life or death in the mystery,
than that it should be the most impious treachery. No, a thousand times
no; it is impossible! but I must start at once for Devil's Cliff.
Perhaps I can get the advance of this man who has left Fort Royal with
an escort. Yes, by hurrying, I may do it. I will find that unlucky
Gascon; they have nothing to fear there. His extraordinary appearance on
board made me believe the poor devil, for a time, to be an emissary from
London or Saint-Germain; but I have, as they say, turned him inside out,
in every way. I mentioned before him abruptly certain names which, had
he been in the secret, he would have found it impossible not to betray
it, however guarded he might be, and he remained impassible. I
understand men too well to have been deceived by him; the chevalier is
nothing but a crazy adventurer, a spoiled child, in whom, after all,
good qualities triumph over the bad ones."

At this moment Monsieur appeared.

"Saddle Grenadille at once."

"Yes, master."

"Unchain Colas."

"Yes, master."

"Do not forget to put my large traveling cloak behind my saddle."

"Yes, master."

The black went out, then returned almost immediately, saying, "Master,
shall I arm Colas?"

"Certainly, we go through the forest."

While his mare was being saddled, the priest continued to pace up and
down restlessly. All at once he cried, with fright, as if struck by a
sudden thought, "But if I have been deceived; if this adventurer, under
a guise of frivolity, concealed some plan coolly resolved upon--some
sinister design? But no! no! cunning and dissimulation could not attain
to such an odious perfection. But what if his errand coincides with that
of this man who has started out with an escort? And I, I who have
answered for this adventurer, I who in my letter of yesterday have
almost approved their decision concerning him, thinking, as they did,
that this Gascon by repeating the mysterious stories connected with
Devil's Cliff, would only advance the ends of those who live there. But
what if I have been deceived? if I have helped introduce a dangerous
enemy there? But no! he would have taken action before this if he had
known the secret. And still--no! no! perhaps he waited the arrival of
this frigate and this emissary before acting? Perhaps he is working with
him? Oh! I am in terrible uncertainty."

So saying, Father Griffen went out quickly to hasten the preparations
for his departure. Monsieur was saddling Grenadille and Jean was arming
Colas.

Some explanation is necessary in order to instruct the reader in regard
to a new actor of which we have thus far had no occasion to speak. Colas
was a boar, possessed of marvelous intelligence; this boar always
accompanied him and went ahead on these excursions. Thanks to their
long, rough hair, and to their thick coat of fat, which impedes and
congeals, so to speak, the sting of serpents, boars and even
domesticated pigs carry on in the colonies a desperate war with these
reptiles; Colas was one of their most intrepid enemies. His armor
consisted of a kind of muzzle of iron pierced with little holes, and
ending in a kind of very sharp crescent. This protected the end of the
boar's head, its only vulnerable part, and furnished him with a
formidable weapon against serpents. Colas always preceded Grenadille
some steps, clearing the road and putting to flight the serpents which
would have stung the mare.

Father Griffen, if he had known of the abrupt departure of Croustillac
(the adventurer had, as we know, left the parsonage without any farewell
to his host), would have offered Colas to the chevalier, when he became
assured that Croustillac was absolutely determined to penetrate the
forest. The priest thought that the boar would protect Croustillac from
some of the dangers to which he would be exposed; but the early flight
of the latter rendered the thoughtfulness of Father Griffen futile.

After placing the house in charge of the two blacks, on whose
faithfulness he knew he could count, the priest spurred Grenadille,
whistled to Colas, who responded with a joyful grunt, and like another
St. Antony, the good father took the road which would lead him to
Devil's Cliff, fearful of arriving too late, and also of encountering on
the way De Chemerant, whom he could with difficulty hope to head off.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reader will remember that, thanks to the voracity of the wildcats
which had devoured the corpse of the sailor John, Colonel Rutler had
been enabled to emerge from the pearl-fisher's cave by way of the
underground passage. In order to understand the extreme importance and
difficulty of the expedition which Colonel Rutler had undertaken, we
must recall to the reader that the park contiguous to Blue Beard's
mansion ran from north to south, like a kind of isthmus surrounded by
abysms. On the east and west these abysms were almost without bottom,
for on these sides the furthermost trees of the garden overhung a peak
of tremendous height, whose granite face was washed by the deep and
rapid waters of two torrents. But on the north, the park jutted on a
steep incline, accessible, though dangerous in the extreme.
Nevertheless, this side of the garden was sheltered from attack, for in
order to climb these rocks, less perpendicular than those on the east
and west, it was necessary to first descend to the bottom of the abyss
by the opposite side, an undertaking physically impossible to attempt,
even with the aid of a rope of sufficient length, the face of the rock
sometimes jutting out and sometimes broken by the angles of the rocks
projecting or receding.

Colonel Rutler, on the contrary, having passed through the underground
passage, had at once reached the foot of the precipice; there remained
for him only to essay the perilous ascent in order that he might gain
entrance into Devil's Cliff. It would take about an hour to climb these
rocks; he did not wish to enter the park surrounding the mansion until
night had fallen; he waited before starting on his road, until the sun
should be setting. The colonel had thrust the skeleton of John out of
the passage. It was thus, near these human remains, in a profound and
wild solitude, in the midst of a veritable chaos of enormous masses of
granite thrown up by the convulsions of nature, that the emissary of
William of Orange passed some hours, reclining in a cleft in the rocks
in order to escape the heat of a tropical sun.

The oppressive silence of this solitary place was now and then
interrupted by the roar of the sea as it fell upon the beach. Soon the
golden light of the sun became more rosy; great angles of light outlined
the face of the rocks where one could discern the further trees of Blue
Beard's park, becoming fainter, little by little; and dull mists began
to envelop the bottom of the abyss where Rutler waited. The colonel
judged it time to depart.

Notwithstanding his rare energy, this man of iron felt himself seized,
in spite of himself, with a kind of superstitious fear; the horrible
death of his companion had affected him keenly, the enforced fast to
which he had been subjected since the preceding evening (he could not
bring himself to eat the serpent), mounted to his head, causing singular
and sinister ideas; but, surmounting this weakness, he commenced the
ascent.

At first Rutler found the points of support allowed him to rapidly climb
a third of the face of the cliff. Then serious obstacles began to
present themselves; but with dogged courage he surmounted them. At the
moment when the sun disappeared suddenly below the horizon, the colonel
reached the summit of the cliff; broken by fatigue and pain, he fell
half-fainting at the foot of the further trees of the park at Devil's
Cliff; happily among these were several cocoanut trees; a large quantity
of ripe nuts lay on the ground. Rutler opened one with the point of his
dagger; the fresh liquid inclosed within appeased his thirst, and its
nourishing pulp his hunger. This unexpected refreshment renewed his
strength, and the colonel penetrated resolutely into the park; he walked
with extreme caution, guiding himself by the instructions John had given
him, in order that he might reach the white marble fountain not far from
which he wished to conceal himself. After walking some time in this
obscurity, under a tall forest of orange trees, Rutler heard in the
distance a slight sound as of a stream of water falling into a basin;
soon after he reached the border of the orange grove, and by the faint
light of the stars--for the moon would not rise until later--he saw a
large vase of white marble, situated in the midst of a circular space,
on all sides surrounded with trees. The colonel, pushing aside some
thick shrubs of Indian plants, enormous reeds which grow abundantly in
that humid soil, hid himself some steps away from the fountain and
quietly awaited events.

       *       *       *       *       *

In order to sum up the chances of the safety or danger to which the
mysterious dwellers at Devil's Cliff were exposed, we must remind the
reader that De Chemerant had started from Fort Royal in the afternoon,
and was advancing with all haste; that Father Griffen had hastily left
Macouba in order to head off the French envoy; and that Colonel Rutler
had secreted himself in the center of the garden.

We must now relate all that since the morning had passed over the heads
of Youmäale, Blue Beard and the Chevalier de Croustillac.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE SURPRISE.


We left the adventurer under the unexpected attack of a passion as
sudden as it was sincere, and waiting impatiently the explanation,
possibly the hope, which Blue Beard was about to give him.

After partaking of a repast respectfully served him by Angela, to the
despair of the chevalier, the Caribbean gravely withdrew and seated
himself on the border of a small lake, under the shadow of a mangrove
tree which grew on its bank; then resting his elbows on his knees and
his chin in the palms of his hands Youmäale gazed into space, and
motionless maintained for a long time the contemplative idleness so dear
to savage races.

Angela had re-entered the house. The chevalier walked up and down in the
park, throwing, at intervals, a jealous and angry glance at the
Caribbean. Impatient at the silence and immobility of his rival, and
hoping, perhaps, to draw from him some information, Croustillac placed
himself near Youmäale, who, however, did not appear to notice him.
Croustillac moved and coughed; no change on the part of the Caribbean.
Finally the chevalier, with whom patience was not a favorite virtue,
touched him lightly on the shoulder and said, "What the devil have you
been looking at for the past two hours? The sun is nearly setting, and
you have not moved."

The Caribbean turned his head slowly toward the chevalier, looked
fixedly at him, still resting his chin on his palms, and then resumed
his former attitude, without replying.

The adventurer colored angrily, and said, "Zounds! when I speak, I wish
to be answered."

The Caribbean maintained silence.

"These grand airs do not impress me," cried Croustillac. "I am not one
of those to be eaten alive!"

No answer.

"Zounds!" continued the chevalier; "do you not know, stupid cannibal
that you are, I can make you take an involuntary bath in the lake as a
means to teach you manners, and in order to civilize you, you savage?"

Youmäale arose gravely, threw a disdainful glance at the chevalier, then
pointed at an enormous trunk of a mahogany tree with gnarled roots which
formed the rustic bench upon which he had been sitting.

"Well, what of it?" said the chevalier. "I see that trunk, but I do not
understand your gesture, unless it signifies that you are as deaf and
dumb and as stupid as that tree."

Without responding to this, the Caribbean stooped, took the trunk of the
tree in his muscular arms, and threw it into the lake with a significant
gesture, which seemed to say, "That is how I could treat you." Then he
slowly withdrew, without having revealed in his features the slightest
emotion.

The chevalier was stupefied by this proof of extraordinary strength; for
the block of mahogany tree appeared to him, and in fact was, so heavy
that two men could with difficulty have accomplished what the Caribbean
unaided had done. His surprise having passed, the chevalier hastened
after the savage, exclaiming, "Do you mean to say that you would have
thrown me into the lake as you threw that trunk?"

The Caribbean, without pausing in his passage, bent his head
affirmatively.

"After all," thought Croustillac, halting, "this eater of missionaries
is not lacking in good sense; I threatened him first with throwing him
into the water, and after what I have seen I am obliged to confess that
I should have found it hard to do so, and then it would have been rather
a dishonorable way in which to dispose of a rival! Ah, the evening is
slow in coming. Thank God! the sun is setting, the night will soon fall;
the moon will rise and I shall know my fate; the widow will tell me
everything, I shall unravel all the profound mystery which is hidden
from me now. Let me think over the sonnet which I have reserved for a
grand effect--it is intended to describe the beauty of her eyes. Perhaps
she has never heard a sonnet--possibly she will be sensible of its
beauty and spirit; but no, I cannot hope for that happiness."

Pacing the path with long strides, Croustillac began to declaim his
verses:

    "They are not eyes, they are two gods,
    Which are robed in power complete.
    Gods? nay, they are the heavens----"

The adventurer was not to finish his verse, for Mirette came to inform
him that her mistress was awaiting him at supper. The Caribbean never
partook of this meal, and Croustillac was to be alone with the widow.
She seemed dreamy and said little; she started involuntarily and
frequently.

"What troubles you, madame?" said Croustillac, also preoccupied.

"I do not know; strange presentiments, but I am foolish. It is your
gloomy face that gives me the blues," she added, with a forced smile.
"Come, amuse me a little, chevalier. Youmäale is doubtless at this
moment worshiping certain stars, and I am surprised at not seeing him;
but it rests with you to make me forget his absence."

"Here is an excellent opportunity to produce my sonnet," said the Gascon
to himself. "If I dared, madame, I would recite some little verses which
might, perhaps, interest you."

"Verses--how? are you a poet, chevalier?"

"All lovers are, madame."

"That is an admission--you are in love, in order to be entitled to be a
poet?"

"No, madame," said Croustillac sadly. "I am in love by right of
suffering."

"And to chant your sad martyrdom--let us hear the verses."

"The verses, madame, do all in their power to picture two blue eyes,
blue and beautiful, like yours; it is a sonnet."

"Let us have this sonnet."

And Croustillac recited the following lines in a languorous and
impassioned tone:

    "They are not eyes, rather gods are they,
    They are above kings in power true.
    Gods, no! they are the heavens of tender blue,
    And their radiant glance makes kings obey."

"One must choose, chevalier," said Blue Beard; "are they eyes, or gods,
or the heavens?"

Croustillac's reply was a happy one:

    "The heavens, no! each a radiant sun
    Whose burning rays but blind the view.
    Suns? not so, but light so strong, so true,
    They predict the love but just begun!"

"Really, chevalier, I am curious to know where you will stop. Suns, I
own, please me; gods also."

Croustillac continued with a languorous softness:

    "Ah! if gods, would they work me ill?
    If the heavens, would add more sorrow still?
    Two suns? 'tis false--that orb is one----"

"Ah, heavens, chevalier, you delight me; among all these charming
comparisons there remains nothing more for me but lightening----"

Croustillac bowed his head:

    "Stars! no, the stars are too many, too clear,
    Always my meaning shineth still,
    Eyes, gods, suns, and stars appear."

"How charming; at least, chevalier," said Angela, laughing, "you have
given me a choice of comparisons, and I have but to select; therefore I
shall keep them all--gods, heavens, suns and stars."

The adventurer looked at Blue Beard a moment in silence; then he said,
in a tone the sadness of which was so sincere that the little widow was
struck by it, "You are right, madame; this sonnet is absurd; you do well
to mock at it, but what would you have? I am unhappy, I am justly
punished for my mad presumption, my stupidity."

"Ah, chevalier, chevalier, you forget my request; I told you to divert
me, to amuse me----"

"And if, in so doing, I suffer? if, in spite of my absurd situation, I
experience a cruel mortification; how can I play the buffoon?"

The adventurer uttered these words quietly but in a penetrating tone,
and with considerable emotion. Angela looked at him in astonishment, and
was almost touched by the expression of the chevalier's face. She
reproached herself for having played with this man's feelings; after
all, he lacked neither heart, courage nor goodness; these reflections
plunged the young woman into the midst of melancholy thoughts. In spite
of the passing effort which she had made to be gay and to laugh at the
sonnet of the Gascon, she was a prey to inexplicable forebodings,
oppressed by vague fears, as if she felt instinctively the dangers that
were gathering about her.

Croustillac had fallen into a sad reverie. Angela's eyes fell upon him
and she felt sorry for him; she would no longer prolong the mystery of
which he was a victim. She rose abruptly from the table and said to him,
with a serious air, "Come, we will walk in the garden and rejoin
Youmäale. His absence worries me. I do not know why, but I am oppressed
as if a violent tempest were about to break upon this house."

The widow left the room, the chevalier offered her his arm, and they
descended into the garden, where they sauntered through the different
paths. The adventurer was so impressed by the anxious frame of mind in
which he saw Angela that he retained little hope, and hardly dared to
recall to her the promise which she had made him. Finally he said with
some embarrassment, "You promised me, madame, to explain the mystery
of----"

Blue Beard interrupted the chevalier by saying, "Listen to me, sir;
whether it is owing to timidity or to premonition, I grow more and more
agitated--it seems to me that misfortune menaces us; on no account would
I at this time, and in the condition of my spirits, prolong any further
a jest which has already lasted too long."

"A jest, madame?"

"Yes, sir; but I beg of you, let us descend to the lower terrace. Do you
see Youmäale there?"

"No, madame; the night is very clear, but I see no one. You say, then, a
jest only----"

"Yes, sir; I learned through our friend, Father Griffen, that you
intended to offer yourself to me; I sent the buccaneer to meet you,
charging him to bring you here. I received you with the intention, I
confess, and I beg your pardon, of amusing myself a little at your
expense."

"But, madame, this evening, even, you intended to explain to me the
mystery of your triple widowhood--the death of your husbands and the
presence successively, of the filibuster, the----"

Angela interrupted the Gascon by saying, "Do you not hear a footfall? Is
it Youmäale?"

"I hear nothing," said Croustillac, overwhelmed in the view of his
ruined hopes, though he held himself in readiness for anything, now that
a true love had extinguished his stupid and foolish vanity.

"Let us go further," said Blue Beard; "the Caribbean is among the orange
trees by the fountain, perhaps."

"But, madame, this mystery?"

"The mystery," replied Angela, "if it is one, cannot, must not be solved
by you. My promise to reveal this secret to you to-night was a jest of
which I am now heartily ashamed, I tell you; and if I kept this foolish
promise it would be to make you the object of another mystery more
culpable still."

"Ah, madame," said the chevalier quickly, "this is very cruel."

"What more would you ask, sir? I accuse myself and beg your pardon,"
said Angela, in a sweet and sad voice. "Forget the folly of what I have
said; think no longer of my hand, which can belong to no one; but
sometimes remember the recluse of Devil's Cliff, who is, perhaps, at
once very culpable and very innocent. And then," she continued
hesitatingly, "as a remembrance of Blue Beard, you will permit me, will
you not, to offer you some of the diamonds of which you were so enamored
before you had seen me."

The chevalier blushed with shame and anger; the pure feeling which he
felt for Angela made him feel as derogatory an offer which at one time
would, doubtless, have been accepted without the slightest scruple.
"Madame," said he, with as much pride as bitterness, "you have accorded
me hospitality for two days; to-morrow I shall leave; the only request I
make of you is to give me a guide. As to your offer, it wounds me
doubly----"

"Sir!"

"Yes, madame, that you should believe me low enough to accept payment
for the humiliating circumstances----"

"Sir, such was not my idea."

"Madame, I am poor, I am ridiculous and vain; I am what is termed a man
of expediencies; but even I have my point of honor."

"But, sir----"

"But, madame, that I should barter my pride and will as an exchange for
the hospitality offered me, would be a bargain like another, worse than
another, perhaps; so be it; when one places oneself in dependence upon
another more fortunate than oneself, one must be content with anything.
I entertained the captain of the Unicorn in exchange for my passage,
which he gave me on board his vessel. We are quits. I have cut a
contemptible figure, madame; I know it more fully than any one else, for
I have known misfortune more fully."

"Poor man!" said the widow, touched by his avowal.

"I do not say this to be pitied, madame," said Croustillac proudly. "I
only desire to make you understand that if, from necessity, I have been
compelled to accept the part of a complacent guest, I have never
received money as a compensation for an insult." Then he continued, in a
tone of profound emotion, "Can you, madame, be ignorant of the wrong
which has been done me by this proposition, not so much because it is
humiliating, as because it was made by you? My God! you wished to amuse
yourself with me: that I would have endured without complaint; but to
offer me money to compensate for your raillery--ah! madame, you have
made me acquainted with a misery of which I was heretofore ignorant."
After a moment's silence he continued, with added bitterness, "After
all, why should you have treated me otherwise? Who am I? Under what
auspices did I come here? Even the clothes I wear are not my own! Why
concern yourself with me?"

These last words of the poor man had an accent of such sincere grief and
mortification that the young woman, touched by them, regretted deeply
the indiscreet proffer she had made him. With bent head she walked
beside Croustillac. They arrived, thus, near the fountain of white
marble of which they had spoken.

The young widow still leaned on the adventurer's arm. After a few
minutes of reflection she said, "You are right; I was wrong. I judged
you wrongly. The compensation I offered you was almost an insult; but do
not for a moment think that I wished to humiliate you. Recall what I
said to you this morning of your courage and the generosity of your
heart. Well, all this I still think. You say you love me; if this love
is sincere it cannot offend me; it would be wrong in me to receive so
flattering a feeling with contempt. So," she continued, with a charming
air, "is peace declared? Are you still angry with me? Say no, that I may
ask you to remain here some days as a friend, without fear of your
refusal."

"Ah, madame," cried Croustillac, with transport "order, dispose of me--I
am your servant, your slave, your dog. These kind words which you have
spoken will make me forget all! Your friend! you have called me your
friend! Ah, madame, why am I only the poor younger son of a Gascon? I
should be so happy to have it in my power to prove my devotion."

"Who knows but that I have a reparation to make you? Await me here; I
must go and look for Youmäale and find something, a present, yes,
chevalier, a present which I defy you to refuse this time."

"But, madame----"

"You refuse? Ah, heavens! when I think that you desired to be my
husband! Wait here, I will return." And so saying, Angela, who had
reached the marble fountain, turned quickly into the path in the park on
the side of the house.

"What does she wish to say--to do?" asked Croustillac of himself,
looking mechanically into the fountain. Then he exclaimed, with fervor,
"It is all the same, I am hers for life and death; she has called me her
friend. I shall perhaps never see her again, but all the same, I worship
her; that cannot hurt any one; and I do not know but that it will make
me a better man. Two days ago I would have accepted the diamonds; to-day
I would be ashamed to do so. It is wonderful how love changes one."

Croustillac was suddenly interrupted in the midst of his philosophical
reflections. Colonel Rutler, by the uncertain light of the moon, had
seen the adventurer walking arm in arm with Blue Beard; he had heard her
last words--"my husband; wait for me here." Rutler had no doubt that the
Gascon was the man for whom he was looking; he sprang suddenly from his
hiding-place, hurled himself upon the chevalier threw a cloak over his
face, and, profiting by Croustillac's surprise, felled him to the
ground. Then he passed a rope around his hands and had quickly mastered
his captive's resistance, thanks to great strength. The chevalier was
thus overpowered, garroted and captured in less time than it has taken
to write these words.

This accomplished, the colonel held a dagger at Croustillac's throat,
and said, "My lord duke, you are dead if you make a movement, or if you
call Madame the Duchess to your aid. In the name of William of Orange,
King of England, I arrest you for high treason, and you will follow
me."



CHAPTER XVIII.

MY LORD DUKE.


Suddenly attacked by an adversary of extraordinary strength, Croustillac
did not even attempt to resist. The cloak which enveloped his head
almost deprived him of breath. He could hardly utter a few inarticulate
cries. Rutler leaned over him and said in English, with a strong Dutch
accent, "My lord duke, I can remove this cloak, but beware, if you call
for aid you are a dead man; can you feel the point of my dagger?"

The unfortunate Croustillac did not understand English, but he
understood the dagger's point, and exclaimed, "Speak French!"

"I can understand that your grace, having been brought up in France,
should prefer that language," replied Rutler, who believed that his
Dutch accent made his words a little obscure, and he continued, "You
must pardon me, my lord, if I do not express myself very well in French.
I have the honor to inform your grace that at the slightest sound from
you I shall be compelled to kill you. It depends upon you, my lord, to
preserve your life or not, by preventing madame the duchess, your wife,
from calling for aid if she returns."

"It is evident that he takes me for some one else," thought the
chevalier. "In what devil of a network am I entangled? What is this new
mystery? and who is this brutal Dutchman with his eternal dagger and his
'my lord duke?' After all, it is gratifying not to be taken for an
insignificant man. And Blue Beard is a duchess and passes for my wife!"

"Listen, my lord," said Rutler after some moments of silence, "for your
grace's greater convenience, I can free you from the cloak which enwraps
you; but, I repeat, at the slightest cry from madame the duchess, the
slightest indication of a rescue by your slaves, I shall be compelled to
kill you. I have promised the king, my master, to bring you to him, dead
or alive."

"I stifle! take off the cloak at once, I will not make any outcry,"
murmured Croustillac, believing that the colonel would discover his
error.

Rutler removed the cloak which enveloped the face of the adventurer, who
saw a man kneeling beside him and threatening him with a dagger. The
night was clear; the chevalier could distinguish perfectly the features
of the colonel; they were absolutely unknown to him.

"My lord! remember your promise," said Rutler, who did not evince the
slightest surprise when the face of the adventurer was seen.

"How! he does not perceive his mistake," thought the astonished
chevalier.

"Meanwhile, my lord," replied the colonel, assisting Croustillac to seat
himself as comfortably as he could near the fountain, "meanwhile, my
lord, pardon the rudeness of my attack, but I was forced to this."

Croustillac made no reply. Divided between fear and curiosity, he was
burning to know to whom these words were addressed: 'My lord duke.'
Naturally of an adventurous turn, he could not but be the gainer,
doubtless by being taken for another, above all, for the husband of Blue
Beard; and the chevalier resolved to play, as far as he could, the rôle
which he had involuntarily assumed, hoping, possibly, to thus learn the
secret of the dwellers of Devil's Cliff. He answered, however, "Are you
sure, sir, that it is I whom you are seeking?"

"Your grace need not attempt to deceive me," said Rutler. "It is true
that I have not had the honor of seeing you before to-day, my lord; but
I heard your conversation with madame the duchess. Who but you, my lord,
would be walking with her at this hour? Who but you would be dressed in
this coat with the red sleeve, as shown by James Syllon, who painted you
in this costume?"

"And I thought this costume so fantastic," reflected Croustillac.

"It is not for me to express surprise at finding you wearing these
garments which must often recall memories so cruel," continued Rutler,
with a gloomy air.

"Cruel memories!" repeated Croustillac.

"My lord," said the colonel, "two years before the fatal day of
Bridgewater, dressed in this coat, did you not render homage to your
royal father, when hunting at Lancaster?"

"To my royal father? a falcon?" said the chevalier, astounded.

"I understand your grace's embarrassment, and that you do not wish to
recall these sad disputes for which you have been so severely and,
permit me to say it, my lord, so justly punished."

"I will permit you to say anything to me, sir, in fact, I earnestly
insist upon it without delay," replied the Gascon; and, aside, "perhaps
I shall learn something in this way."

"Time is precious," said Rutler. "I must hasten to inform your grace
that I only await your submission to the commands of my master, William
of Orange, King of England."

"Speak, sir, and do not hesitate to enter into the most minute details."

"In order to make you understand, your grace, what remains for me to
exact from you, it is very necessary to establish clearly your position,
my lord, however painful the duty may be."

"Establish it, sir, speak frankly; hold back nothing. We are men and
soldiers; we should know how to hear all things."

"You acknowledge, then, that from this moment you cannot escape."

"That is true."

"That your life is in my hands."

"That is also true."

"But that, which must be a very great consideration, my lord, is that,
in attempting to escape, or in refusing to obey the orders which I bear,
you put me to the hard necessity of killing you."

"A hard necessity for both of us, sir."

"Then your grace will give strict attention to what I have to say," said
the colonel, emphasizing the following words: "I can with the more
impunity kill you, my lord, because _you are already dead_--and
therefore it would not be necessary to render an account for shedding
your blood."

The chevalier looked at Rutler with a stupefied air, thinking he must
have heard him wrong. "You say, sir, that you could with the more
impunity kill me?"

"Since your grace is already dead," said Rutler, with a sinister smile.

Croustillac looked at him more closely, believing he was dealing with a
madman; then he said, after a moment's silence, "If I understand you
aright, sir, you wish to make me believe that you could kill me with
impunity, under the pretext, specious enough, that I am already dead!"

"Exactly, my lord; that is very simple."

"You think that very simple, sir?"

"I do not think you wish to deny, my lord, what is known to all the
world," said Rutler impatiently.

"It seems to me that, without wishing to pass for a man who has lost his
head, and who is dominated with a desire to contradict the whole world,
I must still to a certain extent deny that I am dead."

"I would not have believed, my lord, that you could jest at such a
moment, you who always carry with you such frightful memories," said the
colonel, with gloomy surprise.

"Certainly, sir, at such a moment one cannot forget himself. That which
is more difficult is to retain memory," said Croustillac, smiling.

The colonel could not prevent a gesture of indignation, and cried, "You
smile! when it is at the price of the noblest blood that you are here!
Ah, such then will always be the gratitude of princes!"

"I must say to you, sir," impatiently replied Croustillac, "that it is
not of gratitude or ingratitude that we speak in this matter, and
that--but," he continued, fearing to make some blunder, "but it seems to
me that we wander strangely from the question at issue. I prefer to
speak of something else."

"I can imagine that such a subject would be disagreeable to your grace."

"It is not a lively one, sir, certainly; but return to the motive which
has brought you hither--what do you wish of me?"

"I am ordered, my lord, to conduct you to the Barbadoes; from there you
will be transported and incarcerated in the Tower of London, of which
your grace has retained remembrance."

"Zounds! to prison!" said the Gascon to himself, to whom this prospect
was not inviting; "to prison--in the Tower of London! I must inform this
Dutch animal of his mistake; this mistaken identity no longer pleases
me. The devil! to the Tower of London! this is paying for 'your grace'
and 'my lord' rather too dearly!"

"It is unnecessary for me to say to you, my lord, that you will be
treated with the respect due to your misfortunes and your rank. Except
for liberty, which can never be accorded you, you will be surrounded by
care and consideration."

"After all," thought Croustillac, "why should I hasten to dissuade this
northern bear? I have no hope, alas, of interesting Blue Beard in my
martyrdom. It seems to me that I perceive vaguely that the mistake of
this Dutchman in my person may serve this adorable little creature. If
that is so, I shall be delighted. Once having reached England, the
mistake will be discovered and I set free; and, as it is best, after
all, that I return to Europe, I should like better if it were possible,
to return in the character of a great prince, a lord, than as a free
passenger of Captain Daniel's. I shall not at least be compelled to
balance forks on the end of my nose nor be reduced to swallowing lighted
candles."

The colonel, taking the Gascon's silence for despair, said to him, in a
gentler tone, "I suppose your grace perceives with pain the future
before you. There is enough occasion for it, it seems to me."

"To be a prisoner always in the Tower of London?"

"Yes, my lord; but you cannot enjoy much liberty here; perhaps this life
of agony and continual unrest is not so much to be regretted?"

"You wish to gild the pill, as they say, sir; your motive is
praiseworthy; but you appear very certain of carrying me to Barbadoes,
and from there to the Tower of London?"

"To accomplish this, my lord, I had brought with me a most determined
man. He is dead, however--a most frightful death." And Rutler trembled
in spite of himself at the remembrance of John's death.

"And so, sir, you were reduced to accomplish this expedition yourself?"

"Yes, my lord."

"And you flatter yourself that you can carry me off, unaided?"

"Yes, my lord."

"You are sure of that?"

"Perfectly sure."

"And by means of what miracle?"

"There is no need of a miracle; the thing is very simple, my lord."

"May I know it?"

"You must be informed of it, my lord, because I count principally upon
your assistance."

"To enable you to carry me off?"

"Yes, my lord."

"The fact is, that, without vanity, I can, under these circumstances, if
I mix myself in the matter, be of some help to you?"

After a moment's reflection, Rutler said, "Your firmness has not been
exaggerated, your grace; it would be impossible to show a more resolute
spirit or more coolness under ill fortune."

"I assure you, sir, that it would be difficult for me to bear it
otherwise."

"If I have spoken thus my lord, it is because you, being a man of
coolness and resolution, can understand better than any one what must be
accepted with coolness and resolution, for I have no choice but to carry
you away from here."

"Listen, sir; if the expedient is good, I will be the first to
acknowledge it. One moment, however; you seem to forget that I am not
here alone."

"I know that, my lord; madame the duchess has but just quitted you, she
may return any moment."

"And not alone, I warn you of that."

"Were she accompanied by a hundred armed men I should not fear."

"Truly?"

"No, my lord, I will go further; I rather count upon the return of the
duchess to decide you to follow me in case you still hesitate."

"Sir you speak in riddles."

"I will tell you the word very soon my lord, but first I must inform you
that almost all is known concerning you since your flight from London."

"In denying this to him I shall force him to speak; and I shall perhaps
learn something more," said the chevalier to himself. "As to that, sir
I, cannot believe it; it is not possible."

"Listen to me, my lord; it is now four years since you espoused in
France the mistress of this house. Whether the marriage be legal or not,
having been contracted after your execution, and consequently during the
widowhood of your first wife, does not concern me--that is a matter for
your conscience and the church."

"Decidedly my friend the duke has placed himself in an exceptional
position," said Croustillac to himself, "he can be murdered because he
is dead; and he can remarry because his wife is his widow! I begin to
have my ideas singularly mixed, for since yesterday very strange things
have come to my knowledge."

"You see, my lord, that my information is exact."

"Exact--exact--to a certain point. You believe me capable of having
remarried after my execution; that is rather risky. The devil! sir, one
must be very sure of his facts, at least, to attribute to men such
original proceedings."

"Hold, my lord, you doubtless do not believe in my authority, and you
jest; but your gayety does not surprise me; your grace has kept his
freedom of spirit in circumstances more serious than this."

"What would you wish, sir? gayety is the wealth of the poor."

"My lord," cried the colonel, in a severe tone, "the king, my master,
does not merit this reproach."

"What reproach?" said the Gascon, stupefied.

"Your grace said that gayety is the wealth of the poor."

"Well, sir, I do not see what there is to insult your master, the king,
in that."

"Is it not equivalent to saying, my lord, that because you see yourself
in the power of my master that you look upon yourself as despoiled of
everything?"

"You are sensitive, sir. Be assured this reflection was purely
philosophical and did not have reference to my particular position."

"That is different, my lord; but I am astonished to hear you speak of
your poverty."

"Zounds! that has often made me bitterly lament," said Croustillac,
laughing.

"Few fortunes equal yours, sir. The enormous sum you received from the
sale of a portion of your precious stones will be secured to you and
yours. William of Orange, my master, is not one of those who enrich
themselves by confiscating the goods of their political enemies."

"I did not know thou wast so rich, poor Croustillac," said the Gascon to
himself. "If I had known this, how little would I have swallowed candles
for the amusement of that brute of a sea captain." Then he continued,
aloud, "I am aware of the generosity of your master, sir; also of my
goods and treasures." And the Gascon said to himself, "It does me good
to say this for once in my life--my goods, my treasures."

"The king, my master, my lord, has directed me to say to you that you
can charter a vessel to carry your wealth to England."

"Oh, my old pink hose, my old green coat, my felt hat and my old sword!"
said Croustillac to himself; "those are my real possessions, my real and
personal estate! It would not take a merchant ship to transport them."
Then he continued aloud, "But let us return to the motive, sir, which
brought you here, and to the discoveries which you have made as to my
past life."

"For the past three years, my lord, you have lived on this island,
remaining hidden to every one, and causing to be spread by a filibuster
and others in your pay the strangest stories concerning your house, in
order to keep the curious away."

"I do not understand this at all," thought Croustillac. "Blue Beard--no,
the widow, that is to say--no, the duchess or rather the wife of the man
who is dead, who is a widower--in fact, the wife of no matter whom, is
not, then, behind the best of them with her three oddities. For I have
seen with my own eyes her strange familiarity with them. I have
heard--come, come, if this lasts but a little longer I shall become mad;
I am beginning to feel stupid and to see an endless succession of Roman
candles in my head!"



CHAPTER XIX.

THE SURPRISE.


Rutler continued: "The maneuvers of your emissaries were crowned with
perfect success, my lord, and it was due to the merest chance that your
existence was revealed to my master, some two months since, and in order
to inform him that without your knowledge, or without your full consent,
they would make, my lord, a dangerous instrument of you."

"Of me? an instrument of me? and what kind of an instrument, sir?"

"Your grace knows that as well as I do; the policy of the cabinet at
Versailles and of the papal court at Saint-Germain recoils before no
means; it matters little to them that civil war shall lay waste an
unhappy country provided their plans succeed. I have no need to say
more, my lord."

"Yes, sir, yes. I desire that you tell me everything; I would see to
what point your credulity has been abused. Explain, sir."

"The proof that my credulity has not been abused, my lord, is that my
mission has for its end the ruin of the projects of an emissary from
France, who, with or without the co-operation of your grace, may arrive
at any moment at this island."

"I give you my word of honor, sir, that I am ignorant of the arrival of
this French emissary."

"I must believe you, my lord. However, certain rumors have caused the
king to think that your grace, forgetting his old resentment against
James Stuart, your uncle, had written to this dethroned king to offer
him his services."

"James Stuart, being dethroned," said Croustillac, with an accent full
of dignity, "changes entirely the face of things, and I should have been
able to condescend in regard to my uncle to proceedings which my pride
would never have permitted me before."

"Then, my lord, from your point of view, your resolve would not have
lacked generosity."

"Doubtless I could perfectly well, without compromitting myself, have
been reconciled to a dethroned king," replied Croustillac courageously;
"but I have not done so; I swear it on the honor of a gentleman."

"I believe you, your grace."

"Well, then, your mission has no further object."

"You understand, my lord, that, in spite of this guarantee,
circumstances may change, and your resolve change with circumstances.
The hope of ascending the throne of England causes one to forget many
promises and to evade many agreements. Far be it from me to wish to
reproach you for the past, but your grace knows what must be sacrificed
when one lays audacious hands upon the crown of three kingdoms."

"Zounds!" said Croustillac to himself; "it seems that my hand is not
dead, and that I am, clearly, a courageous fellow to be well caged. If I
only knew how all this would end I should be very much amused."

"The king can never forget, my lord, that you have your own aspirations
to the throne."

"Ah, well, that is true," cried Croustillac, with an expression of
frankness--"it is true, I do not deny. But what would you have?
ambition, glory, the vigor of youth! But believe me, sir," continued he
with a sigh and speaking in a melancholy tone, "age robs us of all that
and makes us wise; with added years, ambition is extinguished and one
becomes content with very little in one's retreat. Once safely in port,
we can cast a philosophical glance on the storms of passion and
cultivate the paternal lands, if one has such, or at least look upon the
tide of life placidly when about to be swallowed up in the ocean of
eternity. In a word, you understand, sir, that if in our first youth we
have let ourselves go at an audacious pace it does not follow that in
our ripe age we should not realize that all is vanity. I live obscurely
and peacefully in the bosom of my retreat, with a young and lovely
wife; loved by those about me and doing some good. Ah, sir, this is the
only life that I desire; I do not hesitate, then, in confirmation of
these words, to swear to you that I will never raise the slightest
pretension to the throne of England; on the word of a gentleman, I have
not the slightest desire to."

"Unhappily, my lord, I am not at liberty to take your oath; the king,
alone, could receive it, and accept it if it seemed well to him, as a
sufficient guarantee against fresh troubles. As for me, I have been
ordered to conduct your grace to London, and I must fulfill my orders."

"You are very persistent, sir. When you have an idea, you keep to it."

"At whatever cost, my lord, I must carry out the orders given me. You
can see by the perfectly calm interview between us that I do not doubt
the success of my undertaking; your grace fully understands the motives
that influence me; and I do not doubt that you will follow me without
the slightest resistance."

Croustillac had prolonged this interview as far as he could; he had
decided either to follow the colonel or to tell him the whole truth. He
then said to Rutler, "And suppose, sir, that I consent to follow you
willingly, what will be the order of our march, as they say?"

"Your grace, though your hands are tied, permit me to offer you my left
arm; I shall hold my dagger in my right hand, ready at any moment to
plunge it into you, in case of a surprise, and we will proceed to your
house."

"And then, sir?"

"Once having reached your house, my lord, you will order one of your
slaves at once to direct your negro fishermen to get their boat in
readiness; it will suffice to transport us to Barbadoes. In that place
we will find a man-of-war which awaits us, and on board which, my lord,
you will be transported to London, and placed in the custody of the
governor of the Tower."

"And you seriously believe, sir, that I will myself give the order to
prepare for my own abduction?"

"Yes, my lord, and for a very simple reason; your grace will feel the
point of this dagger."

"Yes, doubtless; you always go back to that, you repeat it often, sir."

"We Dutchmen have little imagination; what would you have? There is
nothing more churlish than our manner of acting; but to resume, what is
more to the point, this blade of steel will suffice, for if you refuse
to obey my slightest injunction, my lord, I have already said by way of
warning that I shall kill you without mercy."

"I have also said to you, sir, that your manner of proceeding does not
lack originality; but I have slaves--friends, sir--and you see that, in
spite of your bravery----"

"My God! your grace, if I kill you it is evident that I shall be killed
in turn, either by your slaves or your familiars, the filibuster or the
buccaneer, or by the French authorities, who would do perfectly right in
shooting me because I come from England, and I have come to this island,
which is considered as a stronghold in time of war."

"You perceive, then, sir, that my death will not go unpunished?"

"In accepting this charge I made, in advance, the offering of my life.
All that I desire, my lord, is that you shall no longer be the source of
fear to my master, a source of trouble for England. King William does
not love bloodshed, but he hates civil war. Your perpetual imprisonment
or your death alone can reassure him; choose, then, my lord, between the
dagger or prison; it must be one; you must become my prisoner or my
victim. Moreover, if you were not absolutely in my power I would not say
to you, at the price of my life, what I will now say."

"Speak, sir."

"This confidence, while showing you the evil which you can do to
England, my lord, also will show you what interest King William has that
an enemy like yourself should be rendered powerless to act; the
companions of your rebellion, who saw you beheaded before their own
eyes, cherish still for you the dearest memories."

"Truly? This does not surprise me in them, and it is the more
disinterested in that they all believe that I can never thank them for
it." Then Croustillac said to himself, "It must be that this Dutchman,
who otherwise is reasonable enough, has a craze on this point--a fixed
idea concerning my execution."

The colonel continued, "Ah, my lord, you pay dearly for your influence."

"Very dearly, too dearly, sir, if this be so."

"Why do you wish to deny it, when your enemies remember? when it is
known that your followers cherish portions of your clothing, stained
with your blood, as if holy relics, and each day lament your death? What
would be the result if you should suddenly appear before their eyes?
What enthusiasm would you not arouse? I repeat to you, my lord, it is
because your influence might be fatal in these troublous times, that it
must be neutralized at any cost."

"To stab a man or imprison him for life is what you call _neutralizing
his influence_," said Croustillac. "Ah, well, this is probably a
political view of it. After all, I understand the distrust that I
inspire you with, for I am an incorrigible conspirator. They cut off my
head before my partisans, believing that thus I will be reformed. Not at
all! instead of taking warning by this paternal admonition, I conspire
still further. It is evident that this ends by making your master
impatient. Ah, well, sir, he is unnecessarily moved; for the last time,
I solemnly declare, before heaven, that I shall conspire no more; he can
rest in peace on his throne, and his crown does not excite in me the
slightest covetousness. Is this plain enough, sir?"

"Very plain, and well put, my lord; but I must carry out the commands of
the king. When we shall have arrived at your house, I shall have the
honor to transmit to you an autograph letter of His Majesty King
William, which will leave you in no doubt as to the purpose and
authority of the mission with which I am intrusted. Come, my lord,
resign yourself; it is the fortune of war. Beside, if you hesitate, I
can count upon a powerful ally."

"And that is----"

"Informed by me of the fate which menaces you, you proceed under the
touch of my dagger."

"Always his eternal dagger! he is insufferable with his dagger," thought
Croustillac. "He has but one word on his tongue."

"The duchess," continued Rutler, "would far rather see you a prisoner
than killed; it is well known how she loves you, how devoted she is to
you. She would give her life for you. She will aid, then, I am sure, in
making you face your position wisely. Meanwhile, my lord, choose; either
summon some of your people, if they can hear you, or show me to your
house yourself, for your departure must be hastened."

It must be said to Croustillac's credit, that, learning that Blue Beard
was the wife of an invisible lord whom she loved passionately, and that
he had been taken for this grand lord, he generously resolved to be of
some use to this young wife by prolonging as far as possible the
mistaken identity of which he was the victim, and to allow himself to be
carried off in place of the unknown duke. Happy at the thought that
Angela would be under a great obligation, the Gascon resigned himself
courageously to submit to all the consequences of the position which he
had accepted, only he did not know in what manner he could leave Devil's
Cliff without the discovery of his stratagem.

"My lord, I am at your service; it is absolutely imperative that we
depart at once," said the colonel impatiently.

"It is I who am at your service," replied the chevalier, who viewed with
some disquiet the approach of the critical moment of this interview.

A brilliant idea struck Croustillac; he saw a means of escaping from
this danger and of saving the mysterious husband of Blue Beard. "Listen,
sir," said the adventurer, assuming an impressive manner. "I give you my
word as a gentleman that I will follow you willingly wherever you lead
me, but I desire that my wife, the duchess, shall not be informed of my
arrest until I have gone."

"How, my lord, you are willing to thus abandon your wife without telling
her of your sad situation?"

"Yes, because of reasons known to me alone, and then I would spare
myself farewells, which must always be distressing."

"My orders concern you alone, my lord," said the colonel; "you are free
to act as seems best to yourself, as far as the duchess is concerned.
Nothing could be easier, it seems to me, than to do what you propose. If
your wife is astonished at your departure, you can plead the imperative
necessity of a journey of some days' duration to St. Pierre. As to my
presence here, you can easily explain that. We will go, and your boat
will take us to the Barbadoes."

"Doubtless, doubtless," said the embarrassed Gascon, for he saw a number
of dangers in the proposition which the colonel made. "Doubtless my
departure might be easily explained so, but to give my orders to the
negroes, to cause a commotion in the house, would attract my wife's
attention. She is extremely timid and is alarmed at everything. Your
presence here would arouse her suspicions, and they would necessarily
lead up to the painful scene which I would avoid at all cost."

"But, then, my lord, what shall we do?"

"There is a sure way, sir; however dangerous may have been the road by
which you have arrived, let us follow it; we will leave the island by
the same method by which you reached it. Once at the Barbadoes I will
inform my wife of my abduction--the cruel abduction which separates me
forever from her; and you will swear to me that she shall not be
disturbed after my departure."

"Unfortunately, my lord, what you propose is impossible."

"How is that?"

"I came by way of the pearl diver's cavern, my lord."

"Well, can we not leave by the pearl diver's cavern?"

"Is it possible that you are ignorant, my lord, of the secret
communication which exists between this cavern and the abyss which
surrounds your park?"

"I am entirely ignorant as to it, but if this communication exists, can
we not use it to leave by?"

"That is impossible, my lord; no one can enter the cavern except by
allowing the waves to precipitate him to the bottom of a subterranean
lake, after having descended a cataract."

"And in order to get out of this cavern?"

"You must ascend a waterfall twenty feet in height."

"That is too much for me. So, the vessel that brought you to the outside
of this cavern----"

"Has already left for the Barbadoes, my lord. It could approach this
island in spite of the French cruisers only because this coast is
inaccessible."

"I thought that this road was impenetrable," said the chevalier,
overcome.

"If you will believe me, my lord, you will limit yourself to announcing
to madame the duchess that you will be absent for several days only. I
have faith in your word as a gentleman that you will make no attempt to
escape from my hands."

"I have given you my word, sir."

"I believe you, my lord, and my dagger answers to me for its
fulfillment."

"I should have been very much astonished if the dagger had not
reappeared," thought Croustillac. "He trusts implicitly in my word; that
does not prevent his trusting as much to his dagger. Zounds! what
distrust! But that is not what concerns me. What shall I do? The duchess
is not prepared; the slaves will not obey me if I give them orders. It
is no use; behold me at the end of my falsehoods."

Croustillac had forced himself to become resigned to his assumption. He
regretted sincerely that he was not to be permitted to devote himself
more efficaciously to the service of Blue Beard; for he did not doubt
that his ruse would be discovered the moment he put foot in the house.
He had shortly another apprehension. The Caribbean, seeing Croustillac
return accompanied by a stranger armed to the teeth, would attack the
colonel. Now, the latter had assured the adventurer that at the first
attack he would be compelled to kill him without mercy.

The chevalier began to find his rôle less diverting and to curse the
stupid curiosity, the imprudent heedlessness which had thrown him into a
position as complicated as it was dangerous.



CHAPTER XX.

THE DEPARTURE.


The spirit of Croustillac was too mercurial and too adventurous to
remain long under the weight of fear or sadness. He reasoned as follows:
To-day, as heretofore, I have little or nothing to lose; if I decide to
go out from this house, I continue to pass for the duke, and I am
treated like a prince until some one discovers the imposition; then I
shall become big John as heretofore, and I shall have rendered a great
service to this pretty little Blue Beard, who has mocked at me, but who
enchants me, for she interests me more than I wish, more than she merits
perhaps, for, in spite of her love for this invisible husband, she
appears to me madly tender with the buccaneer and that other brute, the
cannibal. Well, what does it matter if it is my caprice to devote myself
to this little woman? I am surely my own master; yes! but if, on the
other hand, I do not leave this place? Suppose the Caribbean mixes
himself in the affair, this would spoil all; it is clear that I shall be
killed like a dog by this thick-headed Belgian. How, then, can I escape
such a catastrophe? Say at once to the man with the dagger that I am not
the duke? This might save me, perhaps, but no! this would be cowardice,
and useless cowardice; for, to prevent my alarming the house, this
beer-drinker would dispatch me at once. Yes, yes, in spite of my word as
a gentleman not to seek to escape, he presses near me. Zounds! this man
with his dagger is absurd! Bah! his dagger! he can only kill me once,
after all. Come, then, courage! courage! Croustillac! and above all do
not deliberate--this brings you sorrow; you never commit greater
stupidities or more tremendous mistakes than when you deliberate.
Commend yourself to your lucky star, shut your eyes, as usual, and go
ahead.

Reassured by this excellent logic, the chevalier said aloud, "Well, sir,
as we must absolutely pass the house in order to get out of this, let us
go on."

"Sir," said the colonel, after a moment's reflection, "you have given me
your word as a gentleman not to escape."

"Yes, sir."

"But your people will wish to free you?"

"My life is in your hands, sir; you have my word; I can do no more."

"That is true, my lord; but then, in your interest, warn your slaves
that the slightest act against me, on their part, will cost your life,
for I have sworn, also, that I will carry you away, dead or living."

"It will not be my fault, sir, if you do not keep your word; come on."
And the chevalier and the colonel advanced toward the house.

Rutler held the arm of Croustillac under his left arm, and had his hand
constantly on his dagger; not that he doubted the word of his prisoner,
but the slaves at Devil's Cliff might wish to rescue their master.

Croustillac and Rutler were not more than a few steps from the house
when from an obscure path a woman advanced dressed in white. The colonel
stopped, pressed firmly the arm of his prisoner, and said aloud, "Who is
this? My lord, warn this woman not to cry out."

"It is Blue Beard! I am lost; she will scream like a peacock, and all
will be discovered," thought Croustillac. To his great astonishment the
woman paused and did not speak. The Gascon said, "Who is it, then?"

"Is it so dark that my lord cannot recognize Mirette?" said the
well-known voice of Blue Beard.

Croustillac was speechless with astonishment. Blue Beard also called him
my lord, and assumed the name of Mirette! "Zounds!" he said to himself,
"I understand nothing, nothing at all; all becomes more and more
obscure; all the same, hold steady and play out the game."

"Who is this woman?" said the colonel, in a low tone.

"She is the confidential maid of my wife," responded the chevalier.

Angela spoke: "My lord, I come to say to your grace that my lady retired
not feeling very well; but she is asleep now."

"All is in our favor, sir," said the colonel, in a low voice to
Croustillac. "Madame the duchess is asleep; you can depart without her
knowing anything about it."

Angela, who had approached, said with a frightened manner, and
retreating a few steps, "Heavens! your grace is not alone, then?"

"My lord," said the colonel, "if she gives a cry it is all over with
you."

"Do not be afraid, Mirette," said the chevalier; "while you were with my
wife this gentleman arrived; he came from Fort Royal on pressing
business; it is necessary that I should accompany him back."

"So late, my lord, but you must not think of it! I will go and inform
madame."

"No! no! I forbid it; but I shall have need at once of the negro
fishermen and their canoe; go and notify them."

"But, my lord----"

"Obey."

"That is not hard; to-morrow morning they fish in the open sea; the
negroes must be nearly ready to go; in order to be before dawn at the
Creek of Caymans, where their boat is moored."

"My lord, all favors us; you see it; let us go," said the colonel in a
low voice.

"It is astonishing how Blue Beard anticipates my demands; and how she
facilitates my departure," said Croustillac to himself; "there is
something very strange under this. I was not, perhaps, altogether wrong
in accusing her of magic or necromancy." Then he continued aloud, "You
will go and open the outer gates, Mirette, and tell the blacks to
prepare themselves at once. Well," said Croustillac, seeing the woman
remain motionless, "did you not hear me?"

"Certainly, my lord, but then your grace is determined----"

"'My lord! your grace!' you have repeatedly called me this before a
stranger," said the Gascon with a threatening manner, thinking thus to
make a master stroke. "What would happen if this gentleman were not in
the secret?"

"Oh, I know well that if this stranger is here at this time, it follows
that one may speak before him as before your grace and before madame.
But is it possible, my lord, that you intend to go away?"

"The little fox wishes to have the air of detaining me in order to
better play her part," thought Croustillac. "But who has informed her?
who has designed this rôle for her so well? Decidedly, there must be
jugglery going on here."

"But, my lord," continued Mirette, "what shall I say to madame?"

"You may say to her," said poor Croustillac, with a tenderness which the
colonel attributed to most natural regrets, "you may say to this dear
and good woman not to be afraid, do you hear, Mirette? not to be afraid;
assure her that the short journey I am going to take is absolutely in
her interest; tell her to think sometimes of me."

"Sometimes, my lord! why madame thinks of you and will think of you
always," replied she, in an agitated voice, for she understood the
hidden sense of Croustillac's words. "Be easy, my lord, madame knows how
you love her, and she never forgets. But you will be here to-morrow,
before she awakens, will you not?"

"Yes," said Croustillac, "certainly, to-morrow morning. Come, Mirette,
hurry and warn the negro fishermen and open the gates; it is necessary
to leave without delay."

"Yes, my lord, and at the same time I will bring your sword and your
mantle in the _salon_, because the night is cold in the mountains. Ah! I
had forgotten; here is your _bonbonière_ which you carry always with
you, and which you left in madame's room." So saying, Angela gave Gascon
the box, warmly pressed his hand and left.

"Heaven be praised, my lord duke, that things are turning out better
than I hoped," said the colonel. "Is the house very far off?"

"No; after we have climbed this last terrace we shall arrive there."

At the end of several minutes, Rutler and his captive entered the
drawing room; the chevalier found Angela, who had put on a large veil
and a long cloak which hid her figure; the young woman offered the
chevalier a cloak which she had placed on a sofa.

"Here are your cloak and sword, my lord," she said to Croustillac,
giving him a magnificent sword. "Now I will go and see if the slaves are
ready." So saying she left the room.

The sword of which we have spoken was as rich in workmanship as curious
in shape; the hilt was of massive gold; the scabbard enameled with the
coat of arms of England; the hilt bore on it a rampant lion whose head,
surmounted by a royal crown, served as a handle; the belt of great
richness, although worn by frequent use, was of red velvet embroidered
with fine pearls, in the midst of which the letters "C. S." were
reproduced repeatedly.

Before putting on his sword Croustillac said to the colonel, "I am your
prisoner, sir; may I retain my sword? I repeat my word not to make any
use of it against you."

Doubtless this historic weapon was known to the colonel, for he replied,
"I knew that this royal sword was in the hands of your grace; I have
been ordered to respect it in case you followed me willingly."

"I understand," said Croustillac to himself. "Blue Beard continues to
act with consummate cunning. She has decorated me with a part of the
outfit of this mysterious duke, in order to clinch the error of this
Flemish bear. My only regret is not knowing my name. I know, it is true,
that my head was cut off; that is something; but that is not sufficient
to prove my identity, as the lawyers say. Finally this will last as long
as God pleases; once I have turned my back, Blue Beard will, doubtless,
put her husband in some safe place. That is the principal thing.
Meanwhile, let me put on his cloak and my disguise will be complete."

The mantle was of peculiar cut and was of blue with a kind of cape of
red cloth trimmed with gold lace; it was easy to see that it had been in
use a long time.

The colonel said to the chevalier, "You are faithful to the memory of
the day at Bridgewater, my lord!"

"Hum, hum--faithful--here or there; that depends on the disposition in
which I find myself."

"Nevertheless, my lord," returned the colonel, "I recognize the mantle
of the red troops who fought so gallantly under your orders on that
fatal day."

"That is what I tell you; whether I am cold or warm, I wear this mantle,
but it is always in commemoration of that battle, when the red troops,
as you say, fought so valiantly under me." The chevalier had placed the
snuff box on the table. He took it up and looked at it mechanically; on
the cover he recognized a very characteristic face which he had several
times seen reproduced in engravings or paintings. After having searched
his memory he remembered that the features were those of Charles II. of
England.

Rutler said, "My lord, may your grace pardon me for recalling you from
thoughts it is easy to divine on seeing the portrait on that box--but
time is precious."

Angela entered at this moment and said to Croustillac: "My lord, the
negroes are waiting with torches to light the way."

"Let us go, sir," said the chevalier, taking his hat from the hands of
the young woman, who said to him in a low voice, "Next to my husband, it
is you whom I love most in the world, for you have saved him."

The massive doors of Devil's Cliff closed on the chevalier and the
colonel, and they at once started on their road, preceded by four blacks
carrying torches to light the way.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the adventurer left Devil's Cliff as Colonel Rutler's prisoner, we
will introduce the reader into a secret apartment belonging to Blue
Beard.

This was a large room very simply furnished; here and there, hung on the
walls, were costly arms. Above a couch was a beautiful portrait of King
Charles II. of England; beyond this was a miniature representing a woman
of most enchanting beauty. In an ebony frame were many studies in
crayon, well designed, and representing always the same people. It was
easy to see that they were drawn as portraits from memory. The frame was
supported by a kind of stand in chased silver, representing funeral
symbols, in the midst of which one might read the date, "July 15, 1685."

This apartment was occupied by a young man in the prime of
manhood--large, supple and robust. His noble proportions recalled
vividly the height and figure of Captain Whirlwind, of the buccaneer
Rend-your-Soul, or of the Caribbean Youmäale. By coloring the fine
features of the man of whom we speak to the copper-colored tint of the
mulatto, the ruddy color of the Caribbean, or by half-concealing them
under the thick black beard of the buccaneer, one could almost see the
three individuals in the same person.

We will here say to the reader, who has doubtless penetrated this
mystery, that the disguises of the buccaneer, the filibuster, and the
Caribbean, had been successively assumed by the same man, who was none
other than the natural son of Charles II., James, Duke of Monmouth,
_executed_ at London, July 15, 1685, as guilty of high treason. All
historians agree in saying that this prince was very brave, very
affable, and of a very generous nature and a face beautiful and noble.
"Such was the end of a prince," says Hume, in (speaking of Monmouth)
"whose great qualities would have made him an ornament to the court, and
who was capable of serving well his country. The tenderness which his
father, the king, bore for him; the praises of a large faction and the
blind devotion of the populace, drew him into an enterprise beyond his
strength. The love of the people followed him in all the vicissitudes of
fortune; even after his execution, his followers cherished the belief
that they would some day see him at their head."

We will explain later the cause of this singular hope of the prince's
adherents, and how Monmouth had, in effect, survived his execution.

Having removed his disguise as the Caribbean, and the dye which stained
his features, Monmouth wore an ample gown of light blue covered with
orange flowers, and read attentively a large number of papers spread
before him.

In order to explain the mistake of which the chevalier was the voluntary
victim, we must explain that Croustillac, without really resembling
Monmouth, was of the same age, the same height, brown as the other, as
slender, and that the duke had, in common with the Gascon, a nose
decidedly prominent, and a strong chin. Others beside Rutler, a Dutch
officer arrived from the United Provinces in the suite of William of
Orange, would have fallen into the same error, above all, seeing in the
hands of Croustillac certain priceless objects known to have belonged to
the son of Charles II.

As to the choice of Rutler, one must understand that in order to fulfill
such a mission with all its consequences, it needed a man careful,
fearless, blindly devoted, and capable of pushing that devotion even to
assassination. The choice of William of Orange was necessarily
circumscribed by such exigencies; it would have been probably impossible
for him to have found a man who knew Monmouth personally who would not
have recoiled before such terrible extremities as were entailed in this
perilous and cruel undertaking.

Monmouth was deeply absorbed in reading several English journals. All at
once the door of his room opened violently, and Angela threw herself on
his neck, crying, "Saved! saved!"

Then, bursting into tears, laughing and sobbing by turn, kissing his
hands, his forehead, his eyes, she repeated, in a stifled voice, "Saved!
my beloved James! Saved! there is no longer any danger for thee, my
lover, my husband. God be praised, the danger is past! But what terror
has been mine! Alas! I tremble still!"

Startled by the transports of Angela, Monmouth said to her with infinite
tenderness, "What is the matter, child? What do you say?"

Without replying to him, Angela cried, "But this is not all; we must
fly, do you understand? King William of England is on our track;
to-morrow we must quit this island. All will be ready; I have given the
order to one of our negro fishermen to go and say to Captain Ralph to
have the Chameleon ready to set sail; it is anchored at Cayman's Creek;
and in two hours we shall have left Martinique."



CHAPTER XXI.

THE BETRAYAL.


The duke could hardly believe what he heard; he looked at his wife in
agony. "What do you say?" cried he. "King William knows that I am on
this island?"

"He knows it. One of his emissaries has obtained entrance here this
night. But be calm; he has gone; there is no danger," cried Angela,
seeing Monmouth run to arm himself.

"But this man--this man?"

"He has gone, I tell you; the danger is past. Should I be here if not
so? No; you have nothing to fear, at present, at least. But do you know
who has aided me in overcoming this threatening cloud?"

"No; for mercy's sake explain."

"It was the poor adventurer whom we have made our butt."

"Croustillac?"

"Yes, his presence of mind saved us; God be praised, the danger is
past."

"Truly, Angela, I believe I am dreaming."

"Listen to me, then. It was an hour ago, when you left me to read the
papers arrived from England. I went into the garden with the chevalier.
I had a presentiment of our danger and I was sad and thoughtful. I
wished to get rid of our guest as soon as possible, not caring to amuse
myself with him longer. I said to him that I could not explain the
mystery of my three widowhoods; that my hand could belong to no one, and
that he must leave the house at break of day. Our object was thus
accomplished. The Gascon, by his exaggerated tales of what he had seen,
will give more credence still to the stories which have been circulated
during the past three years on the island, absurd stories but useful,
and which until now alas! have been our safeguards by so confusing
events that it has been impossible to separate the true from the false."

"Doubtless, but through what fatality this mystery? Tell me!"

"Having informed the chevalier that he could no longer remain here, I
told him that we wished, nevertheless, to give him a valuable token of
his sojourn at Devil's Cliff. To my great surprise he refused with a
manner so painfully humiliated that I pitied him. Knowing how poor he
was, and wishing, for the very reason that he showed some delicacy, to
oblige him to accept a present, I came here to seek a medallion
surrounded by diamonds on which was my monogram, hoping that the
chevalier would not refuse that. I returned carrying this token, when in
approaching the inclosure where I had left him, at the end of the park,
near the fountain--Ah! my love, I tremble still!" And the young woman
threw her two arms around James' neck, as if she would protect him
against this past danger.

"Angela, I beg of you, calm yourself," said Monmouth tenderly. "Finish
your story."

"Ah, well," she continued, "when I approached the fountain I heard
voices; frightened, I listened."

"It was this emissary, I presume?"

"Yes, my beloved."

"But how had he effected an entrance? How did he leave? How did he
confide his designs to the Gascon?"

"He mistook the chevalier for you!"

"He mistook the chevalier for me?" cried Monmouth.

"Yes, James. Doubtless he was deceived by the resemblance in figure, and
by the suit that the Gascon wore, and which you had had made, in order
to satisfy one of my caprices in dressing yourself like the portrait of
which you have told me."

"Oh," said Monmouth, passing his hand across his forehead, "Oh! you do
not realize the terrible memories that all this awakens in me."

Then, after having heaved a deep sigh and looking sadly at the ebony
frame encrusted with silver containing the drawing of a portrait, the
duke resumed: "But what was the result of this strange encounter? What
did the chevalier say? What did _you_ do? Truly, if your presence and
your words did not assure me, I should go myself----"

Angela interrupted the duke. "Again, my beloved James, should I be so
calm if there was anything to fear at this hour?"

"Very well. I hear you, but you can understand my impatience."

"You shall not be in doubt long. From the few words I overheard I
divined that the chevalier, leaving our enemy in error, did not know how
to get him out of the place, fearing he would not be obeyed by our
servants. Counting, with reason, on the Gascon's intelligence, I
presented myself to him at the moment when he approached the house,
taking care to warn him, indirectly, that he must take me for Mirette.
Having seen that the emissary of King William, believing he was
addressing you, called him 'my lord duke' or 'my lord,' I called him so
also; I caused the doors to be opened, and, in order to complete the
illusion, I gave the Gascon your sword, your enameled snuff box, and the
old cloak to which you are so attached."

"Ah! What have you done, Angela?" cried the duke, "my father's sword,
the snuff box my mother gave me, and the cloak which belonged to the
most saintly, the most admirable martyr who ever sacrificed himself to
friendship."

"James, my love, pardon. I thought I was doing for the best," cried
Angela, overcome by the expression of bitterness and chagrin which she
read in the features of James.

"Poor beloved angel," replied Monmouth, taking her hands in his, "I do
not reproach you, but I have so great a respect for these holy relics
that it grieves me to see them profaned by a falsehood, even of a few
moments' duration. I repeat, you do not know the terrible memories which
are attached to the cloak. Alas! I have not told you all!"

"You have not told me all?" said Angela in surprise. "When you came to
seek me in France in the name of my second father, my benefactor, dead
on the field of battle," and Angela sighed sorrowfully, "did you not
offer to share your life with me, poor orphan that I was, did you not
say that you loved me? what matters the rest? If it did not concern your
well-being, your life, should I ever have dreamed of speaking to you of
your condition, of your birth? I married you proscribed, flying from the
furious hate of your enemies. We have escaped many dangers, evaded many
suspicions, thanks to my pretended marriages, and your various
disguises. Then, what can you have hidden from me? If it is some new
danger, James, my beloved husband, my lover, I will never forgive you,
for I must partake all with you, good or bad fortune. Your life is my
life; your enemies my enemies. Although this attempt happily failed, now
that they know your retreat, they will continue to seek you with
increased malignity. You must fly. In two hours the Chameleon will be
ready to set sail."

Deeply occupied with his thoughts, Monmouth had not heard Angela. He
walked up and down with long strides, repeating to himself, "There is no
doubt, they know I am living; but how has William of Orange penetrated
this secret which was known only to Father Griffen and myself, because
the holy martyr who carried this secret to the tomb, and De Crussol,
last governor of this island, are dead. When I think that for greater
safety I have concealed my real name from my devoted and adored wife,
who then can have betrayed me? Father Griffen is incapable of such
sacrilege; for it is under the seal of the confessional that the
governor made the revelation to him."

After some minutes of silent thought the duke said, "And what means did
the chevalier employ to discover the designs of the emissary of William
of Orange?"

"His designs, my love, were not concealed; I heard them; he wished to
carry you away, dead or alive, to the Tower of London."

"Without doubt. Since the Revolution of 1688 they fear that I may become
reconciled to the dethroned king; the public prints even announce that
my old partisans are moving," said Monmouth, speaking to himself. "I
recognize there the policy of my old friend William of Orange. But by
what right does he suspect me capable of ambitious designs? Again, who
has aroused in William these unjust suspicions, these ill-founded
fears?"

After another silence he said to Angela, "God be praised, my child, the
storm is past; thanks to thee; thanks to this brave adventurer!
Nevertheless I am not sure if, in spite of the devotion which he has
shown on this occasion, I can confide to him a part of the truth;
perhaps it would be wiser to have him in ignorance and to persuade him
that the emissary had been misled by false information. What do you
think, Angela? Dare I appear to the chevalier under any other form than
that of Youmäale, or shall I charge you to-night to see and thank this
brave man? As to recompense, we will find a way to do that without
wounding his delicacy."

Angela looked at her husband with growing astonishment. Monmouth had not
understood her; he thought that the Gascon had succeeded in removing
this emissary of William of Orange from Devil's Cliff; he did not know
he had accompanied him as a prisoner.

"I do not know when the chevalier will return. He will doubtless make
this mistake last as long as possible in order to give us time to
escape."

"The chevalier is no longer here, then?" cried the duke.

"No, he has gone as a prisoner, under your name, with this man. Our
negro fishermen accompany them to the Cayman's Creek, where the emissary
will embark for the Barbadoes in one of our boats with the chevalier."

The duke could hardly believe what he heard. "Gone under my name!" cried
he. "But this emissary, discovering his mistake, will be capable of
killing the chevalier. By heavens! I cannot allow that! Too much blood,
oh my God! has already been spilled for me."

"Blood! oh, do not fear that; the chevalier will run no danger. In spite
of my desire to avert the danger that threatened from ourselves, I would
never have exposed this generous man to certain destruction."

"But, unhappy woman," cried the duke, "you do not know the terrible
importance of the secret of state which the chevalier is now possessed
of?"

"My God! what do you mean?"

"They are capable of killing him."

"Oh, what have I done? Where are you going?" cried the young wife,
seeing the duke preparing to leave the room.

"I am going to join them and save this unfortunate man. I will take some
blacks with me. The Gascon has hardly an hour's advance of me."

"James, I implore you, do not expose yourself."

"What! cowardly abandon this man who has devoted himself to me? I give
him up to the resentment of William's emissary? never! Ah, you do not
know, unhappy child, that certain sacrifices impose on one gratitude as
dolorous as remorse. Go, I pray you, tell Mirette to order some slaves
to be in readiness to follow me at once. Thanks to the tide, the
chevalier cannot put to sea before daybreak, I can then overtake him."

"But this emissary is capable of anything! if he sees you come to the
aid of the chevalier, he will understand, perhaps, and then----"

"That it is not James of Monmouth, but the mulatto filibuster, who is on
his track. Beside, I have faced other dangers than these, I believe."

So saying, the duke entered a small room connected with his apartments.
There he found all that was necessary for his disguise. Left alone,
Angela gave herself up to the most cruel regrets. She had not supposed
that the consequences of the mistake into which the Gascon had led
Rutler could be so fatal. She feared also that Monmouth would be
recognized in spite of his disguise. In the midst of her distress she
heard a sudden violent knock at the outer door of the apartment where
she was, apparently rigorously closed to all the servants in the house.

Angela ran to this door and saw Mirette. The mulattress, with a
frightened air, said to Angela that Father Griffen sent an imperative
request to enter, having the most important matters to confide to her.

The order was given to admit him at once into the reception hall on the
ground floor. At the same moment Monmouth came out of his room
completely disguised as the mulatto filibuster.

"My love," said Angela, when the maid had gone, "Father Griffen has just
arrived, he has things of the utmost importance to say to us. In the
name of heaven, wait and speak to him."

"Father Griffen!" exclaimed the duke.

"You know he never comes here unless circumstances of the gravest
importance brings him. I beg you see him," said Angela.

"I must; but each minute of delay may risk the life of this unhappy
chevalier," said the duke.

He descended with Angela. Father Griffen, pale, agitated, broken with
fatigue, was in the hall.

"In fifteen minutes they will be here," he cried.

"Who, then, Father," said Monmouth.

"That miserable Gascon," said the priest.

"Oh, James! everything is discovered; you are lost!" said Angela,
uttering a cry of despair; and she threw herself into the arms of
Monmouth. "Fly; there is still time."

"Fly, and where? there is but one road to Devil's Cliff, and from it. I
tell you that they follow me," said the priest; "but be calm, nothing is
hopeless."

"Explain yourself, Father, what is it? In mercy speak, speak!" said
Angela.

"Father, you alone knew my secret; I would rather believe the impossible
than doubt your sacred word," said the duke gravely.

"And you are right not to doubt it, my son. There is some unaccountable
mystery, which will come to light some day, believe me; but the minutes
are too precious to seek now for the cause of the misfortune which
menaces you. I hurried to you, then I have not betrayed you. Let us
think of what is most pressing. Under this disguise it is impossible
that you should be recognized," said the priest. "But that is not all;
your situation has become almost inextricable."

"What do you say?"

"This Gascon is a traitor; a scoundrel. May God pardon me for having
been so deceived in him and having made you partake of my error. Cursed
be the hypocrite."

"On the contrary," said Angela, "he is the most generous of men; he has
voluntarily devoted himself for my husband."

"Yes, he has assumed your name," said the priest to the prince, "but do
you know for what vile purpose?"

"Tell me, oh, tell me! I am dying of fear," cried Angela.

"Listen, then," said the priest, "for the moments fly and the danger
approaches. This morning I received at Macouba a letter from Captain
Morris, of Fort Royal, in compliance with the order he had received from
you to warn me of all arrivals of vessels and of those whose appearance
seemed unusual. He sent me a special message to inform me that a French
frigate had dropped anchor in sight of the harbor, after having sent an
unknown passenger ashore. This person, after a long conference with the
governor, started at the head of an escort in the direction of Devil's
Cliff. In fact, he comes here."

"An agent of France," said Monmouth; "what have I to fear at present,
even if my secret was known at Versailles? Is not France at war with
England?"

"My God! my God! have pity on us!" cried Angela.

"Listen! I started with all haste," continued the priest, "in order to
warn you, hoping to arrive before this man and his escort, in case he
was really coming here, and, unfortunately, or fortunately perhaps,
joined him at the foot of the cliff. He recognized my robe; he said to
me that he was sent by the King of France; that he came to fulfill a
mission of state, and he begged me to be his guide and to introduce him,
because I knew the dwellers in this house. I could not refuse to do this
without arousing suspicions. I remained near him. He told me his name
was De Chemerant. He began to ask me some very embarrassing questions as
to you and your wife, my lord, when all at once, at some distance, we
heard a loud voice cry, 'Who goes there?' 'An agent of France,' replied
De Chemerant. 'Treason!' continued the voice, and a dull groan reached
us with these words, 'I am killed!' 'To arms!' cried De Chemerant,
taking his sword in hand, and running after two of our sailors who
served as guides. I followed him. We found the Gascon stretched on the
side of the road, four blacks kneeling, petrified with fear, while our
two sailors had thrown on the ground, and held there with difficulty, a
strong man clothed like a mariner."

"And the chevalier?" exclaimed Monmouth, "was he wounded?"

"No, sir; and although this is a very wicked man, we must return thanks
to heaven for the wonderful chance which saved him. The man dressed as a
mariner, hearing the noise of our escort, and the words of De Chemerant,
who had responded 'Agent of the King of France,' believed himself
betrayed, and led into ambush; he had then given the Gascon such a
furious blow with his dagger that the unhappy adventurer would have been
killed if the blade had not broken on his shoulder-belt. Nevertheless,
thrown down by the violence of the shock, he fell to the ground,
exclaiming, 'I am killed,' and remained motionless. It was at this
moment we reached the group. Seeing us the assassin of the Gascon cried
with a ferocious laugh as he kicked the body of what he supposed his
victim, 'Mr. Agent of France, your designs have been unmasked, they are
frustrated. You have come to seek James, Duke of Monmouth, in order to
raise a standard for sedition; the standard is broken; take up the
corpse, sir. It is I, Rutler, colonel in the service of King William,
whom God preserve, who has committed this murder.'"

"'Unhappy man,' exclaimed De Chemerant.

"'I glory in this murder,' replied the colonel. 'Thus have I foiled the
odious projects of the enemies of my master, the king; thanks to me, the
sword of Charles II., which James of Monmouth carried at his side, will
no more be drawn against England.'

"'Colonel, you will be shot in twenty-four hours,' said De Chemerant. 'I
know my fate,' replied the colonel; 'a traitor is dead. Long live the
King of England.'"

"But the chevalier?" asked the duke.

"When he heard these words of Rutler's he made a slight movement, and
heaved a sigh; and while some of the escort held the colonel, who yelled
with rage at seeing that his victim was not dead, De Chemerant hurried
to reach the Gascon, to whom he said, 'My lord, are you dangerously
wounded?' I understood at once, without knowing why, that the chevalier
was playing a rôle and had assumed your name; this error would serve
you--I held my tongue. 'The blow had struck the belt of my father's
sword,' said the rascal, in a faint voice as they raised him. 'My lord
duke, lean on me,' replied De Chemerant, 'I come to you in the name of
the King of France, my master. Mystery is now unnecessary. In two words
I will tell you, sir, the object of my mission, and you can then judge
whether or not you will return as quickly as possible to Fort Royal to
embark with us.' 'I hear you, sir,' said the chevalier, feigning a
slight English accent, doubtless to better play his part. Then at the
end of several moments of thought, the Gascon said in a loud voice, 'If
this be so, sir, I cannot be separated from my wife, and I desire to go
and seek her at Devil's Cliff. She will accompany me; such is the
destiny which is reserved for me.'"

"The wretch!" exclaimed Angela.

"Then he continued," said the priest, "'I feel giddy from my fall; I
will rest here a moment.' 'That shall be as you wish, my lord,' said De
Chemerant. Then, turning to me, 'Will you be so good, Father, as to go
and announce to Madame the Duchess of Monmouth that the duke will come
to seek her to take her away; and request that she make hasty
preparations, for we must be at Fort Royal at daybreak and set sail the
same morning.' Now," said the priest to Monmouth, "do you understand the
plan of this traitor? He abuses the name that he has taken in order to
carry off your wife, and you will be compelled either to declare who you
are, or to consent to the departure of madame the duchess."

"Rather a thousand times death!" cried Angela.

"Cursed be the Gascon!" said the priest; "I believed him but a sot and
an adventurer, and he is a monster of hypocrisy."

"Do not let us despair," said Angela suddenly. "Father, will you return
to the outer buildings and order Mirette to open the door to the Gascon
and the French agent when they come. I will take care of the rest."



PART THIRD.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE VICEROY OF IRELAND AND SCOTLAND.


While the Duke of Monmouth and his wife, informed by Father Griffen of
the infamous treachery of Croustillac, were seeking to escape this new
danger, we will return to the adventurer, who, carelessly leaning on the
arm of De Chemerant, climbed the steep ascent of Devil's Cliff.

Colonel Rutler, furious at having been thwarted in his attempt, was led
away by a guard of two soldiers.

Chemerant did not know Croustillac; not having the slightest doubt as to
the identity of the Gascon with the Duke of Monmouth, the action and
words of Rutler confirmed his error. In the colonel's possession was
found an order from William of Orange for the capture of James, Duke of
Monmouth. What doubt could he then have when the emissary of King
William recognized Croustillac as the duke, so fully that he was ready
to pay with his life for his attempt to assassinate this pretended
prince.

Seeing the new aspect this adventure was taking, Croustillac felt the
necessity of being more guarded, so as to complete the illusion which he
desired in order to accomplish his own ends.

He at least knew, now, the name of the person whom he represented and to
what country he belonged. These points, however, were not very useful to
the adventurer as yet, for he was absolutely ignorant as to
contemporaneous history; but at any rate, the knowledge that the man he
personated was English led him to endeavor to modify his Gascon
pronunciation, and he gave it an English accent so strange that De
Chemerant was far from suspecting that he spoke with a Frenchman.

Croustillac, in order not to compromise the part he was playing, deemed
it wisest to maintain an extreme reserve; De Chemerant was not
surprised; he knew the reserved character of the English.

Some words which were exchanged by the two persons who walked at the
head of the escort will give an idea of the new and embarrassing
position of the chevalier.

"When we arrive at your house, sir," said De Chemerant, "I shall
communicate to you the full powers which his majesty has charged me to
place before the eyes of your highness."

"Highness--the devil!" thought Croustillac: "this man pleases me better
than the other; beside subjecting me to the inconvenience of his
everlasting dagger, he called me only my lord or your grace, while this
one calls me highness. This is progressive. I go on. I touch the
throne."

Monsieur de Chemerant continued: "I shall also have the honor to hand to
you, sir, a number of letters from England which will prove to you that
the moment was never more favorable for an insurrection."

"I know it," said the Gascon, with effrontery, remembering that this was
what Rutler had said to him; "I know it, sir; my partisans are acting,
and bestirring themselves greatly."

"Your highness is better informed of affairs in Europe than I had
thought."

"I have never lost sight of them, sir, never."

"Your highness fills me with joy in speaking thus. It depends on you to
assure to yourself the brilliant position which is your due, and which
you will acquire if you obtain a decisive advantage."

"And how, sir?"

"By putting yourself at the head of the partisans of your royal uncle,
James Stuart; forgetting the dissensions which have heretofore separated
you, for the king no longer desires to see in you other than his worthy
nephew."

"And, between us, he is right; it is always necessary to turn to one's
family. My God, if each one puts in a little of his own, it will end by
arranging itself."

"Thus, your highness, King James gives you a mark of the highest
confidence in intrusting to you the defense of his rights and those of
his young son."[A]

    {[A] The Pretender, born in 1688.}

"My uncle is dethroned; he is unhappy; this makes me overlook much,"
said Croustillac gravely. "I will not betray his hopes. I will devote
myself to the defense of his rights and those of his young son, if the
circumstances permit."

"Your highness need not have the slightest doubt as to the opportunity
to do so when you will have heard, in this respect, the large number of
your old companions at arms; of your most enthusiastic followers."

"In fact, they, better than any one, will be able to give certain
information, but alas! before I can see them, these brave men, these
loyal and faithful men, much time must, unhappily, elapse."

"I am going to give your highness a very delightful surprise."

"A surprise?"

"Yes, your highness. Several of your partisans, having learned by what
happy occurrence the life of your highness has been preserved, have
asked permission of the king to accompany me here."

"To accompany you?" cried the chevalier. "And where are they, then?"

"They are here, aboard the frigate which brought me, your highness."

"Aboard your frigate!" exclaimed Croustillac, with an expression of
surprise that De Chemerant interpreted in a very favorable manner to
affectionate memories of the chevalier.

"Yes, your highness. I understand your astonishment, your happiness,
your joy in the prospect of shortly seeing your old companions-in-arms."

"You have not the slightest idea of the impatience with which I await
the moment when I shall again see them, sir," said Croustillac.

"And their conduct justifies your eagerness, your highness; they will
bring you the loyalty of all your English friends; and they will very
soon put you in touch with the affairs of that country. Who can better
inform you on these subjects than Dudley and Rothsay?"

"Ah! that dear Rothsay, has he also come?" said the Gascon with an easy
manner.

"Yes, your highness, but he is suffering so from his old wounds that he
can hardly walk, still he said, 'It is no matter if I die--if I die at
the feet of our duke,' for it is thus they speak of you in the
familiarity of their devotion."

"The poor Rothsay, always the same!" said Croustillac, passing his hand
across his eyes, with a touching air. "The dear friends."

"And Lord Mortimer, then, your highness; he is as if mad. If it were not
for the king's orders, which were of the strictest, it would have been
impossible to have prevented his coming on shore with me."

"Mortimer also--brave Mortimer!"

"And Lord Dudley, your highness."

"Lord Dudley is as wild as the others, I wager?"

"He threatened to swim ashore as the captain had refused to give him a
boat."

"Such a friend is a true spaniel for fidelity and love of the water!"
thought Croustillac, very much embarrassed.

"Ah, your highness, and to-morrow?"

"Well, what of to-morrow?"

"What a great day it will be for your highness."

"Yes, superb."

"Ah, your highness, what a touching scene! what a moment for you and for
those who are so devoted to you. Happy indeed are the princes who find
such friends in adversity."

"Yes it will be a very touching interview," said Croustillac aloud; then
he continued, inaudibly, "To the devil with this animal of a Mortimer
and his companions! _Peste!_ these are very stupid friends; what fly is
stinging them? They will recognize me, and I shall be lost, now that I
know De Chemerant's state secret."

"The presence of those valiant nobles," replied De Chemerant, "has yet
another object. Your highness ought not to be ignorant of it?"

"Speak, sir; they seem to me to have excellent ideas, these dear
friends."

"Knowing your courage, your resolution, sir, the king, my master, and
the king, your uncle, have ordered me to make you an overture which you
cannot fail to accept."

"What is it, sir? this begins excellently."

"Not only are your most courageous partisans on board the frigate, which
is at anchor, sir, but the ship is filled with arms and ammunition.
Sentinels have been stationed on the coast of Cornwall; the whole
country awaits only a signal to rise in your favor. It but remains for
your highness to disembark at the head of your partisans, and give the
people the necessary arms. The movement will spread even to London, the
usurper will be driven from the throne, and you will restore the crown
to the king, your uncle."

"I will do it, by the gods! I am capable of that. Of a surety here is a
magnificent project, but there must be contrary chances, and above all,
I must be careful, very careful of the lives of my partisans and of the
safety of my uncle's subjects."

"I recognize the habitual generosity of the character of your highness;
but there are hardly any contrary chances to fear; all is ready, loyalty
prevails. You will be received with enthusiasm. The remembrance of you
is so lasting, they say, so ever present to the people of London, that
they have never believed in your execution, sir, not even those who were
present. Live, then, for this noble country which has so deeply mourned
you, and which awaits your coming as they await the day of their
deliverance."

"Come! he also," thought Croustillac; "he thinks that I have been
executed; but this man is more reasonable than the other, who wished to
kill me in the name of the regrets that my death had caused; at least,
this one desires me to live in the name of these same regrets, and I
prefer this."

"In a word, sir, set sail from Martinique for the coast of Cornwall, and
if, as all believe, the English people rise at the sound of your name,
my master, the king, will support this insurrection with his strong
forces, and make the movement a success."

"Ah! ah! I see, my good fellow, I see. Although I am not a political
end," said the Gascon to himself, "in my humble opinion I understand
that the king, your master and mine, wishes to make use of me as a
forlorn hope. If I succeed, he will support me; if I do not, he will
leave me to be captured. All the same this tempts me; my ambition
awakens. To the devil with the Mortimers, the Rothsays, and my other mad
friends! Without these rogues I shall be curious to see Polyphème de
Croustillac revolutionizing Cornwall, driving William of Orange from the
throne of England, and generously restoring this same throne to King
James. Without being tempted to seat myself upon it--hum, perhaps I
shall seat myself a little, to see--there, there, Polyphème, no more of
that! give the throne to the old man, Polyphème, restore him his throne.
So be it, I will give it to him, but decidedly, for some time, very
strange things have happened to me, and the Unicorn which brought me
here must be an enchanted vessel." The chevalier then spoke, with a
thoughtful air: "This is a very serious thing, at least, sir; there is
much to be said for, and also much against it. I am far from wishing to
temporize too long, but it would be, I think, wisdom to consider more
fully before giving the signal for this uprising."

"Your highness, permit me to say to you that the conditions are
pressing; action necessary; the secret projects of the king, my master,
have been betrayed. William of Orange has deputed Colonel Rutler to
carry you off, living or dead, so much does he fear to see you the
leader of an insurrection. Sir, we must strike a quick, decisive blow,
such as a sudden disembarkment on the coasts of Cornwall. I repeat, this
expedition made in the name of King James will be received with
enthusiasm and the all-powerful influence of Louis XIV., will
consolidate the revolution you will have so gloriously begun; and,
thanks to you, the rightful King of Great Britain will once more ascend
his throne."

"This seems to me assured, if my side has the advantage."

"It will have, sir, it will have!"

"Yes, unless it is defeated, and then if I am killed, this time it will
be without pardon. It is not through unworthy egotism that I make this
reflection, sir; you can understand that, after the antecedents which
they attribute to me, I must be thoroughly accustomed to being dead, but
I would not leave my party orphaned; and then, consider, sir!--to plunge
this country once more into the horrors of civil war! Ah!" and
Croustillac heaved a sigh.

"Doubtless, sir, this is a sad thought; but to these passing troubles
would succeed a most profound calm. Doubtless, war has fatal chances,
but it has, also, happy ones; and then, what a future awaits you! The
letters I bring you will show you that the viceroyship of Ireland and
Scotland is reserved for you, without counting other favors which are
likewise reserved for you and my master, and James Stuart, your uncle,
when he is once more on the throne which he will owe to you."

"_Peste!_ Viceroy of Scotland and Ireland!" said Croustillac to himself.
"With this, husband of Blue Beard, and, in the bargain, son and nephew
of a king, ah Croustillac, Croustillac, I have well said thy star is in
the ascendent--it would be too bad that this should be for another. Come
on, while it lasts!"

Monsieur de Chemerant, seeing the chevalier's hesitation, made use of a
more powerful means of forcing him to act conformably to the wishes of
the two kings, and said to him, "There remains, your highness, a last
communication to make you, and, painful as it is, I must obey my
master's orders."

"Speak, sir."

"It is almost out of the question to refuse to put yourself at the head
of the uprising, your highness; your ships are burned!"

"My ships burned?"

"Yes, your highness, that is, figuratively."

"Very well, sir, I understand, the king would compel me to act as he
desires?"

"Your habitual keensightedness does not allow you to be deceived, your
highness. In case you do not believe it your duty to follow the
pressing counsel of my master, the king, in case you thus show his
majesty King James that you are unwilling to make him forget these sad
and annoying memories, in devoting yourself to his cause, as he had
hoped----"

"Well, sir," said the adventurer, becoming cautious, believing he was
going to see, as is said, the reverse side of the medal.

"Well, your highness, the king, my master, for pressing reasons of
state, in such a case would see himself, with much regret, obliged to
possess himself of your person. That is why I have an escort with me."

"Sir! violence?"

"Unfortunately, your highness, my orders are explicit. But I am sure
your highness will not put me to the hard necessity of carrying them
out."

This menace caused Croustillac to reflect.

Monsieur de Chemerant continued: "I must add, sir, that prudence demands
(seeing your execution has taken place) that your features should be
henceforth concealed, and your face must be covered with a mask that
will never be removed. In fact, in compliance with the orders of his
majesty, I shall have the honor of conducting you, sir, at once to the
Saint Margaret Islands, where you will remain henceforth a prisoner. I
leave to you to imagine the regrets of your partisans, who have come so
far in the hope of seeing you once more at their head."

After remaining for a long time in the attitude of a man who was
thinking deeply and who struggled inwardly against many conflicting
thoughts, Croustillac raised his head proudly, and said to De Chemerant,
in a dignified manner, "Upon reflection, sir, I will accept the
viceroyship of Ireland and Scotland, you have my word. However do not
think that fear of a perpetual prison forces me thus to act. No, sir,
no; but after mature reflection, I am convinced that I would be culpable
not to yield to the wishes of an oppressed people, who are stretching
out their arms to me, and not to draw my sword for their defense," said
the adventurer with a heroic air.

"If that is so, your highness," cried De Chemerant, "long live King
James and his Royal Highness the Duke of Monmouth. Long live the
Viceroy of Scotland and Ireland."

"I accept the augury," gravely replied the chevalier, while he said to
himself, "Devil of a man! with his sweet manner, I do not know if I do
not like the other better in spite of his eternal dagger. This is a
difficult choice. To go with the Dutchman a prisoner to London Tower,
that was not difficult; while now my rôle is complicated and becomes
diabolical, thanks to my mad friends who like vultures are awaiting me
on board the frigate. To-morrow, I dare say, all will be discovered. And
Blue Beard? But I who believed I had made a master stroke in coming to
seek her at Devil's Cliff? What will happen from all this? Bah! after
all, what can happen me? Taken prisoner? or hanged? Prisoner?--that
gives me a future. Hanged?--it is a trifle, the dropping of an eyelid, a
gasp. Come, come, Croustillac! no cowardice! console yourself by mocking
at these men, and amuse yourself with the strange adventures the devil
sends you! It is all the same, cursed be my partisans! except for them
all would go well. Let us see if there is not some way of sending them
to love me--elsewhere."

"Tell me, sir," said he, aloud, "are my followers on board many?"

"Your highness, there are eleven."

"That must incommode you; they must be uncomfortable themselves."

"They are soldiers, your highness, they are accustomed to the rough life
of a camp; beside, the end which they propose to attain is so important,
so glorious, that they do not dream of privations which the sight of
your highness will make them quickly forget."

"It is all the same--is there not a means of finding a place elsewhere?
sending them to another vessel would be infinitely better, that I and my
wife may accommodate ourselves on the frigate? And then, for reasons
known to myself, I shall not discover myself to these dear and good
friends until the moment arrives to disembark in England."

"That is impossible! to be on the same vessel with you, your friends
will sleep on deck in their clothes."

"It is terrible to inspire such devotion," said Croustillac to himself.
"Then think no more of it," said he aloud. "I shall be very sorry to
thwart such faithful partisans. But what accommodations have you for
myself and wife?"

"They will be very plain, sir, but your highness will deign to be
indulgent in recognizing the imperative necessity of the case. Beside,
the well-known attachment of your highness for the duchess," replied De
Chemerant, smiling, "will make you, I am sure, excuse the smallness of
the apartment, which is none other than the captain's cabin."

The adventurer could not prevent a smile in return, and answered, "The
room, sir, will be sufficient."

"Then, your highness, you have fully decided that you will bring madame
with you?"

"More than ever, sir; when I was the prisoner of Colonel Rutler, when I
was destined to perish, perhaps, I left her ignorant of my peril, and
abandoned her without warning her of the fate that awaited me."

"So the duchess is ignorant----"

"Of everything, sir; the poor woman is ignorant of everything. Surprised
by Colonel Rutler, while she was asleep, I left word in quitting Devil's
Cliff, that my absence would extend over but a day or two. But
circumstances have suddenly changed. There are no more dangers that I am
going to run. I know my wife, sir; glory and danger, she would partake
all. In going to seek her, to carry her away with me, I am furthering
her dearest wish."



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE ARREST.


Monsieur de Chemerant and Croustillac walked on in silence for some
little time toward Devil's Cliff. Meanwhile the guard reached the
heights of the rocks. From this spot were discerned at a distance the
platform and the wall of the park surrounding Blue Beard's home.

At the sight of this species of fortification De Chemerant said to the
chevalier, "This retreat is well chosen, your highness, to keep at a
distance curious persons; to say nothing of the fact that the reports
that you have caused to be made by the three fellows in your service,
are not such as to encourage many visitors."

"You allude, I presume, to the buccaneer, the filibuster and the
Caribbean?"

"Yes, your highness, it is said that they are devoted to you, for life
and death."

"They are singularly attached to me. Nevertheless," said Croustillac to
himself, "I do not yet know what right these three miscreants have to an
intimacy with the duchess, nor how, in fact, her husband, the Duke of
Monmouth, can permit such bandits to be so very familiar with his
wife--speaking tenderly to her and embracing her. The Caribbean, above
all, with his grave air like a donkey that one has curried--he has above
all the faculty of setting my nerves on edge. And then, how can the duke
permit these familiarities? Doubtless it is to mislead people. It saves
appearances. But, zounds! it seems to me that this misleads a little too
much. Ah, Croustillac, Croustillac! you are becoming more and more in
love, my friend; it is jealousy you feel for these bandits. Ah, well, I
shall unravel this mystery shortly. Meanwhile, I must endeavor to learn
how it was discovered that the prince was hidden at Devil's Cliff."
"Sir," continued Croustillac aloud, "I desire to ask you a very
important question."

"I am all attention, your highness."

"If you are permitted to answer this, tell me how it became known at
Versailles that I was hidden in Martinique?"

After a moment's silence De Chemerant replied, "In telling you what you
wish to know, your highness, I do not in any way betray a state secret.
Neither the king nor his ministers have confided to me anything on this
point. It is entirely due to a circumstance which it would take too long
to tell you now, that I had discovered that of which they thought I was
in ignorance. I can, however, count upon your silence on this subject,
your highness."

"You may be sure of that, sir."

"Then, I believe, your highness, that the late Governor of Martinique,
the late Chevalier de Crussol, had known you in Holland, where he owed
his life to you. At the battle of Saint Denis, where you commanded a
Scotch regiment in the army of the stadtholder, while the Chevalier de
Crussol served in the army of the Marshal Luxembourg----"

"This is true in every particular," said Croustillac imperturbably.
"Proceed."

"I believe, also, your highness, that the late Chevalier de Crussol
having been, by a combination of events, chosen governor of this colony,
and, having believed it his duty to inquire into the mysterious
existence of a young widow called Blue Beard, went to Devil's Cliff,
entirely ignorant of the fact that you had found refuge there."

"That also is true, sir; you see I am frank," said Croustillac, charmed
at penetrating, little by little, this mystery.

"Finally, it appears certain that Chevalier de Crussol, recognizing in
you the prince who had saved his life, swore to you that he would guard
your secret----"

"He swore it, sir, and if anything surprises me on the part of so
gallant a man, it is that he failed to keep his word," said the Gascon
severely.

"Do not be too hasty in accusing Chevalier de Crussol, your highness."

"I will reserve my judgment, then."

"You know, your highness, there were few men more religiously inclined
than De Crussol?"

"His piety was proverbial; it is that fact which so surprises me at his
failure to keep his word."

"When dying, your highness, Chevalier de Crussol felt it a point of
conscience that he had not made known to his master, the king, a state
secret of such importance. He therefore confessed the truth to Father
Griffen."

"I know all that, sir; go on," said Croustillac, who did not desire that
the devouring curiosity with which he listened to De Chemerant should
appear.

"As for that, your highness, I speak of what occurred then only from
memory. I shall touch upon certain particulars unknown, I think, to your
highness. At the point of death, Chevalier de Crussol, wishing so far as
possible, to continue to you the protection which had surrounded you
during his life, and, fearing that his successor would begin a search
against the mysterious residents at Devil's Cliff, he wrote a letter to
the governor who would succeed him. In this letter he affirmed on his
guarantee and on that of Father Griffen that the conduct of Blue Beard
was in no wise to be suspected. It is believed, your highness, that the
dying governor had warned you that scruples of conscience having
compelled him to confess all to Father Griffen, under the seal of the
confessional, he did not consider he had broken the promise that he had
given you."

"If this is so, sir, this poor man remained until the close of his life
the pious and loyal gentleman that I always knew him to be," said
Croustillac, deeply affected; "but must one then, accuse the good Father
Griffen of a sacrilege? This would be cruel. I can with difficulty
reconcile myself to that, sir."

After a moment's silence, De Chemerant said to the adventurer:

"Do you know, your highness, the game of the poisoned shoulder-knot?"
The Gascon looked at the envoy with surprise. "Is this a pleasantry,
sir?"

"I would not take such a liberty, your highness," said De Chemerant,
bending his head.

"Then, sir, what connection----"

"Permit me, your highness, to explain to you what this game is, and by
the aid of this figure, I shall perhaps be able to also explain to your
highness the fortunes of the state secret.

"Explain this figure, sir."

"Well, the game of the poisoned shoulder-knot consists in this: a circle
of men and women is made; one man takes one of the shoulder-knots from
his coat and seeks to slip it into his neighbor's pocket as secretly as
possible, for the person who is found in possession of it is obliged to
give a forfeit."

"Very well, sir," said the Gascon, "the skill of the play resolves
itself into getting rid as soon as possible of the shoulder-knot, by
passing it, adroitly, on to another."

"There you have it, your highness."

"But I do not see what connection there is between the state secret
which concerns me and this game."

"Pardon me, sir, to some consciences, at once scrupulous and timid,
certain confidences, or rather certain confessions, have the same effect
as the poisoned shoulder-knot in the play of that name; the aforesaid
consciences think only of getting rid of the secret to a neighboring
conscience in order to protect themselves from all responsibility."

"Well, sir, I see the analogy; it seems that the game of the poisoned
shoulder-knot has been played with the confessor of this unhappy
Chevalier de Crussol."

"That is just what happened, your highness. Father Griffen, seeing
himself the depository of such an important state secret, found himself
terribly embarrassed; he feared to commit a culpable action toward his
sovereign in keeping silent; he feared by speaking to violate the seal
of the confessional and to ruin you. In this quandary, and desiring to
quiet his conscience, he resolved to go to France, to confess all to the
general of his order, and to thus free himself of all responsibility."

"I understand, now, your comparison, sir; but as this secret has been
noised abroad, it necessarily follows that, in order to carry out your
comparison, some one has cheated."

"I can assure your highness that it is many months since Father Griffen,
after his resolution had been taken, arrived in France and confided all
to the general of the order; he, in turn, took all the responsibility
upon himself, and completely absolved Father Griffen, recommending to
him the greatest secrecy."

"And to whom the devil did the general of the order pass the
shoulder-knot?" said the Gascon, who was much amused by this story.

"Before answering your highness, I must say that the general of the
order concealed beneath an austere exterior a most unbridled ambition;
that few men possessed to so high a degree the genius for intrigue; or
played more audaciously with what the world reveres. Once master of the
important secret that Father Griffen had confided to him, as his
spiritual superior, in order to quiet his conscience, the general of the
order desired to use this secret for his own personal advancement.
Intimately linked with the confessor of his majesty, King James, Father
Briars, a cunning Jesuit, who understood perfectly the condition of
affairs in England, he led the conversation one day to the location of
this island, and the general of the order asked Father Briars if, in
case you had been still living, your highness, you would not have many
opportunities for rallying about you the partisans of the Stuarts, and
thus placing yourself at the head of a movement against the Prince of
Orange. Father Briars replied that if you had lived your influence would
have been immense, if you were sincerely devoted to the cause of King
James; that this prince had often regretted your death, when thinking of
the services you could have rendered to the cause of the Stuarts. You
can imagine, your highness, the joy of the general of the order. The
secret of the confessional was betrayed, your highness, and your
existence revealed.

"But this is an abominable man, this general of the order," cried
Croustillac.

"Doubtless, sir; but he was ambitious to wear the cardinal's hat; and as
the prime mover of the enterprise, he would be a prince of the church
if King James, your uncle, ascended the throne of England. It is
unnecessary to tell you, sir, that once Father Briars was master of this
secret, he availed himself of it with his royal penitent, and that the
remainder of the arrangements were converted between Louis XIV. and
James Stuart."

"All is clear now," said Croustillac to himself. "I am not surprised at
the uneasiness of Father Griffen when I persisted in going to Devil's
Cliff. Knowing the secret of the place, he doubtless, believed me to be
a spy. I can now understand the questions with which he overwhelmed me
during our journey, and which seemed so absurd."

Monsieur de Chemerant attributed to astonishment the silence of
Croustillac at this recital, and he said, "Now all should be clear to
you. Without doubt, the preparations of this enterprise have not been so
secret that William of Orange has not been kept posted by spies who
gained entrance into the cabinet at Versailles, and even into the inner
circle of the lesser court at Saint Germain. In order to baffle the
projects which rest entirely upon your highness, the usurper has given
to Colonel Rutler the mission which came so near being fatal to you,
your highness. You see, then, in all this Father Griffen has been
perfectly innocent. Some one has abused his confidence most
sacrilegiously; but, after all, sir, you must exercise forbearance, for
it is to this discovery that you will have the glory, some day, of
re-establishing James Stuart upon the throne of England."

Although this confidence had satisfied the adventurer's curiosity, he
regretted having provoked it; if he was discovered, he would, no doubt,
be made to pay dearly for his knowledge of this state secret, which he
had involuntarily surprised; but Croustillac could not retrace his
steps; he was to become more and more involved in the dangerous way
wherein he walked. The escort arrived on the plain at the foot of the
wall of the house. It was agreed that Rutler, still bound, should remain
outside, and that six soldiers and two sailors should accompany
Chemerant and Croustillac. On reaching the foot of the wall, the Gascon
called, resolutely, "Ho, slaves!"

After waiting some moments, the ladder was lowered. The adventurer and
De Chemerant, followed by their men, entered the house; the arched door
used exclusively by Blue Beard was opened by Mirette. Chemerant ordered
the six soldiers to remain outside the arch.

Mirette, instructed by her mistress, as to what she should do and say in
response to questions, appeared struck with surprise at the sight of the
Gascon, and exclaimed, "Ah, my lord!"

"You did not expect me? and Father Griffen?"

"What, my lord is it you?"

"Certainly it is I; but where is Father Griffen?"

"Learning that you were going away for some days, madame had ordered me
to allow no one to enter."

"But the reverend Father, who came here on my account--has he not seen
your mistress?"

"No, my lord; madame told me to allow no one to enter, so the reverend
priest has been shown to a room in the outer building."

"Then your mistress is not expecting my return?"

"No, my lord; but----"

"It is well; leave us."

"But, my lord, I will go and inform Madame de----"

"No, it is no matter; I will go myself," said the Gascon, passing before
Mirette and walking toward the drawing room.

"Your highness, you are about to give a pleasant surprise to the
duchess, who does not expect you for some days, and will thus change her
regrets to a very tender joy, since Father Griffen has not yet been able
to see your wife," said De Chemerant.

"She is always thus, poor dear child, she is very timid; when I am not
here," said Croustillac, tenderly, "she will not see a human face, not
even this good priest; my shortest absence causes her sadness,
desolation and tears; this is what worries me; all this is very simple;
since I have been condemned to this absolute retirement I have never
left my wife, and this absence to-day, short as she believes it to be,
is terribly hard for her, poor, dear soul."

"But then, your highness, what a delightful surprise! If your highness
will permit me to advise, I will promise to persuade the duchess to
leave this night, for you know, our enterprise cannot succeed except it
be by a very rapid move."

"My wish also is to carry away my wife as soon as possible."

"This hasty journey will unfortunately cause the duchess some
inconveniences."

"She will not think so, sir; it concerns following me," said
Croustillac, with a triumphant manner.

Monsieur de Chemerant and the adventurer reached the little gallery
which gave entrance to the drawing room of Blue Beard. As we have said,
this room was separated from the drawing room only by _portières_; a
thick Turkish carpet covered the floor.

Monsieur de Chemerant and Croustillac approached the inner room
noiselessly, when they suddenly heard peals of laughter. The chevalier
recognized the voice of Angela, and, seizing the hand of De Chemerant,
he said in a low voice, "It is my wife--listen."

"The duchess appears to me less overcome than your highness believed."

"Perhaps, sir; there are sobs, you know, which in their violence have
something of the sound of convulsive laughter. Do not move; I wish to
surprise her in the abandon of her grief," said the Gascon, making a
sign to his companion to remain motionless and to keep silent.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE INTERVIEW.


In order to explain the confidence of the Gascon, we must say that,
having heard Mirette address him as master, he was fully persuaded that
Blue Beard was on her guard, and that Monmouth was securely hidden. In
spite of what the mulattress said, he was convinced, with reason, that
Father Griffen had informed Angela that her supposed husband would come
to see her. The situation was so grave that the priest, knowing all the
mysteries of Devil's Cliff, could not but have insisted on warning Blue
Beard of the fresh peril which menaced her.

If Mirette had stated that Father Griffen had not seen Blue Beard, it
was because it was in accord with her wishes that it should appear that
he had not communicated with the inhabitants of Devil's Cliff.

This explains at once what will seem contradictory in Croustillac's
conduct, and will answer the question "if he wished to take advantage of
the name he had assumed, to carry off Blue Beard, why had he warned
Father Griffen of his intention?"

Croustillac, having warned De Chemerant to be silent, advanced on
tiptoe, to the half-drawn _portière_, and looked into the room, for the
peals of laughter still continued. He had scarcely cast a glance into
the room when he quickly turned toward De Chemerant; and with a
distorted face and outraged manner said, "See and listen, sir! this is
the reward of surprises. I had a presentiment when I sent Father Griffen
here. By heavens! prudent husbands should be preceded by an escort of
cymbals to announce their return!"

In spite of these ironical words, the features of Croustillac were
convulsed; his whole physiognomy expressed a singular mixture of sorrow,
anger and hatred.

Rapidly glancing into the room, De Chemerant, in spite of his assurance,
lowered his eyes, colored, and for some moments remained perfectly
overwhelmed with confusion.

Let one judge of the spectacle which caused the confusion of De
Chemerant, and the rage, not feigned but sincere, even cruel, of
Croustillac, who, as we have said, passionately loved Blue Beard,
devoted himself generously for her, and was not in the secret of the
prince's different disguises.

Monmouth, in the disguise of the mulatto filibuster, Whirlwind, was
negligently extended on a sofa; he was smoking a long pipe, the bowl of
which rested on a low stand.

Angela, kneeling beside the latter, quickened the flame of the pipe with
a long golden pin.

"Good! that is all right," said Monmouth, whom we will call Whirlwind,
during this scene. "My pipe is lighted, now for something to drink."

Angela placed on a table a large Bohemian glass and a crystal _carafe_,
and, going over to the divan, while the filibuster puffed several
mouthfuls of tobacco, poured out a brimming glass of Muscatel wine and
handed it to him with a charmingly graceful air.

The filibuster emptied it at a single draught, after which he kissed her
roughly, saying, "Wine is good, and the woman is pretty; to the devil
with the husband!"

Hearing these very significant words, De Chemerant wished to retire.
Croustillac took hold of him and said, in a low tone, "Remain, sir,
remain, I desire to surprise, to confound them, the miserable wretches!"

The face of Croustillac clouded more and more. The warning which he had
given in begging Father Griffen to go and prepare Blue Beard that he was
about to seek her, concealed a very praiseworthy and generous purpose,
which we will explain later.

The sight of the filibuster exciting the adventurer's jealousy into rage
quickly changed his good intentions. He could not understand the
audacity of this young woman. He could not be blind to the evidence of
these familiarities on the part of the mulatto whom he had not yet
seen. He remembered those, no less shocking, of the Caribbean and the
buccaneer. He believed himself to be the dupe of a frightfully depraved
creature; he believed that Monmouth, her husband, no longer existed or
no longer lived at Devil's Cliff; and if Angela had co-operated with
himself (Croustillac) in his strategy, it was in order to rid herself of
an awkward witness.

Furious at being thus deceived and played with, deeply wounded in a true
love, Croustillac resolved to avenge himself without pity, and, this
time, to really abuse the power his assumed name and the situation which
he assumed with such honorable motives had given him. He said to De
Chemerant, in a stifled voice, but with an expression of concentrated
wrath, which entered admirably into the spirit of his rôle, "Not a word,
sir; I wish to hear all, because I wish to punish both without mercy."

"But, your highness----"

An imperious gesture from Croustillac closed De Chemerant's mouth; both
of them gave an attentive ear to the conversation of Angela, and the
filibuster, who, we must say, knew perfectly that they were overheard.

"At last, my beautiful child," said Whirlwind, "you are free for a time
at least."

"If not forever," said Blue Beard, smiling.

"Forever? what do you mean, you little demon," returned the filibuster.

Angela arose and seated herself near the mulatto. While talking to him
she passed her hand through his hair with a cajoling coquetry which put
the unhappy Croustillac beside himself.

"Your highness, one word, and my men shall rid you of this scoundrel,"
said De Chemerant, in an undertone, in pity for the Gascon.

"I shall know well how to avenge myself," said the adventurer sullenly,
who no longer desired to prolong the scene; and so, turning to De
Chemerant, continued, "Sir, leave me alone with these two wretches."

"But, your highness, this man appears strong and robust."

"Be easy, I will give a good account of him."

"If you will listen to me, your highness, we will leave at once; you
will abandon to her remorse, a woman so unhappy as to thus forget her
duty."

"Leave her? No, my heavens! Willingly or otherwise, she shall follow
me--that will be my revenge."

"If your highness will permit me a remark: After a disclosure so
scandalous, the sight of the duchess can only be forever odious to you.
Let us go; forget such a guilty spouse; glory shall console you."

"Sir, I desire to speak to my wife," said Croustillac impatiently.

"But, your highness, this miserable----"

"Once more, am I a man without courage and without force, that such a
rascal should intimidate me? Some domestic scenes must be secret. Will
you await me in the next room? In a quarter of an hour I will be with
you."

Croustillac said these words with an intonation so imperious, and with
such an agonized manner, that De Chemerant bowed without persisting
further. He went into a room the door of which the chevalier had opened,
and which he immediately closed upon him.

Crossing the drawing room with quick steps, the adventurer entered
suddenly into the room where the mulatto and Blue Beard were.

"Madame," said the Gascon with sorrowful indignation, "your conduct is
abominable."

The mulatto, who was extended on the divan, arose quickly; he was about
to speak; Angela with a glance begged him to do nothing. As much as
Monmouth had generously desired to prevent the sacrifice of the
chevalier when he believed this sacrifice disinterested, he was as much
resolved not to make himself known when he believed the adventurer
capable of an unworthy betrayal.

"Sir," said Angela coldly, to the Gascon, "the French emissary may still
overhear us; let us go into another room."

She opened the door of Monmouth's own room, and entered, followed by the
filibuster and Croustillac. The door once closed, the adventurer cried:
"I repeat that you have shamefully abused my trust in you."

"I demand an explanation of your disloyal conduct," said Angela proudly.
"Explain yourself at once."

During this scene, Monmouth, gravely preoccupied, walked up and down the
room with his arms folded, his eyes fixed on the carpet.

"You desire that I explain myself, madame? Oh, that will not take long!
First know that, right or wrong, I love you," cried Croustillac, in a
burst of tenderness and anger.

"That is to say, that you have boasted to your fellow-travelers that you
would marry the rich widow of Devil's Cliff?"

"So be it, madame; on board the Unicorn my language was impertinent, my
pretensions absurd, madame; covetous, I admit. But when I spoke thus,
when I thought thus, I had not seen you."

"The sight of me, sir, has not inspired you with ideas much more
honorable," said Angela severely, still convinced that Croustillac
wished to cruelly abuse the position in which he found himself.

"Hear me, madame; I love you truly; that is to say, that I was capable
of anything to prove to you my love, absurd and stupid as it appears to
you. Yes, I loved you, because my heart told me I did well to love you;
because I felt myself better for loving you. You may laugh at this love;
I was sufficiently repaid by the happiness it gave me. When you have
said, 'Sir, I mock at you, I use you for a plaything, you are a poor
devil, I have bestowed charity upon you, and you should be content
therewith---- '"

"Sir!"

"When you have said all this, do not think that I was humiliated. No,
that hurt me, hurt me much, but I quickly forgot this injury, when I saw
that you understood that, poor as I am, I could be touched by something
else than money. Then you said to me some kind words, you called me your
friend--your friend! After this I would have thrown myself into the fire
for you, and that for the sole pleasure of throwing myself into it, for
I had nothing more to hope for from you; the time of my folly is past; I
see too clearly into my heart not to recognize that I was a kind of
mendicant buffoon; I can never have anything in common with a woman as
beautiful and as young as you. My only ambition--and this can offend no
one--would have been to devote myself to you. But how to have such
happiness? I, a vagabond, with nothing but my old sword, my old hat, and
my pink hose! Ah! well, by a chance which I at first blessed, Colonel
Rutler to-night mistook me for him they call your husband; this mistake
might be useful to you. Judge of my joy--I could save the man whom you
so passionately loved. I should have preferred to save something else,
but I had no time to choose. I risked all, including the everlasting
dagger of the colonel. I augmented, by every means possible, his double
mistake. You came to my assistance; that is, you buried me in the mud up
to the neck, by means of the bagatelles with which you loaded me. It is
all the same--I go with all my heart; I am satisfied to do so, and I
leave this house without hope of ever seeing you again, with the gallows
or prison in prospect, not to count the everlasting dagger of the
Dutchman. Ah, well, in spite of all, I repeat, I was content: I said to
myself, I know not what awaits me, rope or dungeon; but I am sure Blue
Beard will say, 'It is fortunate, very fortunate for us at least, that
this eccentric Gascon came here. Poor devil! what has happened to him?'
There! that was my ambition. But I did not ask even a regret, a
memory--a memory," said the Gascon, moved in spite of himself.

"Sir," said Angela, "as long as I believed you really generous, my
gratitude did not fail you."

These words increased the Gascon's wrath; he exclaimed, "Your gratitude,
madame! Zounds! it is beautiful. But to proceed. We started from this
place with the Belgian. In descending the hill we met the French
emissary. Rutler at once believed himself betrayed, and made a furious
lunge at me with his everlasting dagger. These are the fruits of
devotion. If the blade had not broken, I should have been killed.
Nothing is simpler; when one sacrifices oneself for others, it is hardly
with the expectation of being crowned with roses, or caressed by nymphs
of the woods. Well, the dagger broke; one of the men throttled Rutler;
I found myself face to face with the French emissary. I did not lose my
head. It was a matter touching you and the unhappy exile whom you loved
passionately. I would rather it had been your father or your uncle, but
I had no choice. Beside, the idea of being useful to two young and
interesting people threw my egotism into the background. The greater the
complications the more my pride incited me to save you. I redoubled my
audacity and coolness. The great but honest falsehoods I have uttered
for you should absolve me from those which I have spoken for an unworthy
cause. The good God took up the cause; I was inspired to the greatest
falsehoods you can imagine; they were swallowed up as eagerly by the
French envoy as if it had been manna from on high. I played my rôle with
all my might. Monsieur De Chemerant told me in two words the object of
his mission; an insurrection favored by the King of France was on foot
in England; if the Duke of Monmouth were to put himself at the head of
the affair its success was assured."

Monmouth made a movement and stealthily exchanged glances with Angela.

The Gascon continued: "When I was on the way to an English prison with
the Belgian and his everlasting dagger I did not breathe a word. I was
well protected from any wish to return here. But when De Chemerant
confided to me a thing of possible advantage to the prince, I had no
right to refuse it for him. I therefore accepted in his name all manner
of viceroyalties. But, if he really desired to take part in this
uprising, how was I to let him know? Monsieur De Chemerant desired to
set sail at once. By what means could I return here with the envoy of
France without exposing the duke, who was ignorant of my last adventure
and believed me still to be the Belgian's prisoner, thinking, doubtless,
that he was secure here? An idea seized me. I said to De Chemerant,
'Things have changed their aspect; I desire to take my wife with me.
Come, let us return to Devil's Cliff.' Faith, it was the only way in
which I could manage an interview with you, madame--of warning the
prince of this proposal. If he accepted it, I would throw off the
prince; if he refused, I would refuse as before, and he would be saved."

"How, sir!" cried Angela. "Such was your generous intention? You
would----"

"Oh, wait, madame, wait; do not think me either more stupid or more
generous than I am," said the Gascon bitterly. "I begged Father Griffen
to come and prepare you, madame, that I desired to take you with me.
Chemerant heard me; I could say no more to the priest, but this
sufficed. One of two things would result: either you would understand
the situation or you would believe me guilty of infamous intentions; in
either case, you would be on your guard, and the prince saved; for it
was my fixed idea----"

"So, sir," cried Angela, looking at him with mingled surprise and
gratitude, "you did not really intend to abuse----"

The Gascon interrupted her shortly. "No, madame, no. I had then no such
wicked intentions, though certain particulars of your life appear to me
inexplicable. I believed you sincerely attached to an unhappy prince,
and at any cost I would have saved the duke."

"Ah! sir, how I have misjudged you? You are the most generous of men,"
cried Angela.

The adventurer burst into a sardonic laugh, which stupefied the young
woman; then he continued with a somber air:

"Thank God, my eyes have been opened. I see now that generosity would be
stupid, devotion foolish. I shall profit by this lesson. Polyphème de
Croustillac rarely revenges himself, but when he does, he revenges
himself well; above all, when the vengeance is as charming as that which
awaits him."

"You would be revenged, sir," said Angela, "and on whom?"

"On whom, madame? You have the audacity to ask me that?"

"Why, certainly, what have I done; why this hatred?"

The adventurer stamped his foot so violently that the mulatto made a
step toward him; but Croustillac curbed himself and said to Angela
shortly, and with ironical bitterness, "Listen to me, madame. It seems
to me, that without being possessed of colossal pride, I deserved
something, when for you I threw myself into the midst of the most
dangerous situations. It seems to me, madame," continued the Gascon, who
could not contain his indignation, which increased in measure as he
spoke, "It seems to me that it was not at the moment when, at the risk
of my life, I was doing all I could to save the husband whom you love so
passionately, as they say, that it was not at such a time that you
should forget all modesty----"

"Sir!"

"Yes, madame, forget all modesty, all shame, by throwing yourself into
the arms of this miserable mulatto, and go to the depth of lighting his
pipe. Truly, I was very stupid," continued the Gascon with an increase
of rage. "In my devotion to you I risked my skin for the husband of
madame! while madame, outrageously mocking her husband and me, abandoned
herself to orgies with a lot of scamps. I am beside myself! My mother's
son does not merit having been born in my country and having played all
manner of pranks, as they say, in the capital of the world, if he cannot
find something, in his turn, to laugh at in this adventure. In a word,
madame," he said, sullenly, "you can believe me to entertain the
wickedest intention in the world, and you will not overstep the reality,
for I am now as much your enemy as I was your friend. As for the rest, I
am well pleased; nothing is more wearying than fine sentiments. I should
have resumed my shepherd songs and my morning sonnets. I shall take good
care not to do so. I prefer the fashion in which I love you now, rather
than heretofore," said Croustillac, throwing a glittering look at
Angela.



CHAPTER XXV.

REVELATIONS.


The poor Gascon, carried away by anger and jealousy, appeared more
furious than he was in reality. Unhappily, the Duchess of Monmouth did
not know him well enough to understand the exaggeration of this
ferocious appearance.

Angela thought the adventurer seriously regretted having shown a
generous spirit; in doubting him she naturally hesitated to calm the
Gascon's jealousy by imparting the disguise of the duke; this avowal
would ruin everything if the chevalier was not faithful. It was, then,
prudent to hold this in reserve.

"Sir," said Angela, "you deceive yourself; there is a certain mystery in
my conduct which I cannot yet explain to you."

These words redoubled Croustillac's irritation; for the past three days
he had been surrounded by mysteries; therefore he exclaimed, "I have had
enough mystery; I have had too many concerning yourself. I do not wish
to be your dupe any longer, madame. I do not know what may await me; I
do not know how all this will end, but I _swear_ you shall follow me!"

"Sir!"

"Yes, madame, I have all the inconveniences of the rôle of your
well-beloved husband; I will at least have its pleasures; as to this
unworthy scoundrel of a mulatto, who says nothing, but thinks evil and
would do it, I will deliver him over to De Chemerant, who will give me a
good account of him. If it was not for soiling the sword of a gentleman
by dipping it in his slave blood, I myself would take this vengeance."

Angela exchanged glances with Monmouth, whose imperturbability
exasperated the Gascon. Both of them realized the necessity of calming
the chevalier; his anger might prove dangerous; he must be quieted at
once, without betraying the secret of the prince's disguise.

The young woman said to the adventurer, "All will be explained, sir; my
greatest, my only wrong toward you has been in doubting the generosity
of your character, and the loyalty of your devotion. Father Griffen,
although he answered for you, has been, like myself, deceived as to the
real motive of your intentions; we have believed, and we have been wrong
in so believing, that you were capable of abusing the name which you
have taken. In order to escape a fresh danger with which you seemed to
threaten us, it became necessary to attempt a means, very uncertain,
doubtless, but which might succeed. I could not escape--that would be
only to meet you. I gave the necessary orders, then, that you should be
introduced here with De Chemerant, hoping that you would surprise me,
suddenly, and thus become a witness of the tender intimacy which linked
me with the captain----"

"How! did you arrange this agreeable scene for me?" cried the Gascon
furiously, "and you dare say it to my face? But this is the last degree
of degradation and shame, madame. And for what purpose, if you please,
did you wish to prove to me the abominable intimacy which binds you to
this bandit?"

"To the end that it should be impossible for you to take me with you.
Monsieur De Chemerant being a witness to my culpable intimacy with
Captain Whirlwind, you could not, you who are passing as the Duke of
Monmouth, take with you a woman, who, in the eyes of the French envoy,
is as culpable as I would appear to him--as culpable as I am."

"You acknowledge it, then, madame?"

"Yes, and again yes, sir! Do not be generous by halves; what does it
matter to you whom I love--a slave, as you say?"

"How, madame? What does it matter to me? have you then sworn to drive me
mad? And what does it serve that I play the part of your husband? Does
he really exist? Is he here, and do you not avail yourself of the
mistakes of which I am a victim to get rid of me? Is he not already
safely at a distance, this husband of yours? This is enough to drive one
mad!" cried the Gascon wildly. "I believe my head is turned; am I or am
I not for the past two days the sport of an abominable nightmare? Who
are you? Where am I? Who am I? Am I Croustillac? Am I my lord? Am I the
prince, am I a viceroy, or even a king? Have I had my throat cut or not?
How is this to be explained? This thing must stop! If there _is_ a Duke
of Monmouth, where is he? Show him to me," cried the unhappy adventurer,
in a state of excitement impossible to describe, but easy to imagine.

Angela, frightened and less ready than ever to tell the Gascon
everything, said hesitatingly, "Sir, certain mysterious
circumstances----"

Croustillac did not give her time to go on, but cried, "Still more
mysteries! I tell you I have had enough mystery. I do not believe my
brain is weaker than any other, but one hour more of this and I shall be
a lunatic!"

"Sir, if you could understand----"

"Madame, I do not wish to understand," cried the chevalier, stamping his
foot in a rage. "It is just because I have wished to understand that my
head is almost turned."

"Sir," said Angela, "I beg you to be calm and reflect----"

"I do not wish to reflect nor to comprehend," cried Croustillac,
exasperated afresh. "Right or wrong, I have determined that you
accompany me, and you _shall_ accompany me. I do not know where your
husband is and I do not wish to know; what I do know is that you have
not been obdurate either to Caribbeans, or buccaneers, or mulattoes;
very well you shall not be obdurate to me. You see that clock--if in
five minutes you do not consent to accompany me, I will tell De
Chemerant everything, come of it what will. Decide, then; I shall speak
no more; I shall be deaf, for my head will burst like a bombshell at the
slightest word."

Croustillac threw himself into a chair, put his hands over his ears in
order to hear nothing, and fixed his eyes on the clock.

Monmouth had walked up and down the room incessantly; he, as well as
Angela, was in terrible perplexity.

"James, perhaps he is an honest man," said Angela in a low tone, "but
his excitement terrifies me; see how wild his manner is."

"We must risk confiding to his loyalty, otherwise he will speak."

"But if he deceives us--if he tells all?"

"Angela! between two dangers we must choose the least."

"Yes, if he consents to pass for you, you are saved, at least this
time."

"But in this case I cannot leave him in the power of De Chemerant."

"Oh! it is frightful!"

"Never will I consent to again plunge England into a civil war. I would
a thousand times prefer prison and death; but to leave you, my God!"

"What shall we do, James? What danger does this man run?"

"Immense! the possessor of such a state secret."

"But then, I must lose you or follow him. Ah, what shall I do? Time
presses."

After a moment's reflection, Monmouth said, "We must not hesitate. Tell
him everything. If he then consents to play my rôle for some hours, I am
safe, and will have the means to place him beyond the resentment of the
French envoy."

"James! if this man should be a traitor? Heavens! take care."

At this moment the adventurer, seeing the hand of the clock reach the
fifth minute, said to Angela, "Well, madame, what have you decided upon?
Yes or no? For I am incapable of listening to or understanding anything
beyond. Will you follow me or will you not? Speak."

Monmouth approached him with a grave and imposing air. "I am going, sir,
to give you a proof of the highest esteem and of----"

"Your esteem, scoundrel," cried Croustillac indignantly, interrupting
the duke. "Is it, indeed, to me that you dare speak thus? Your
esteem----"

"But, sir----"

"Not another word," continued Croustillac, turning toward Angela.
"Madame, will you follow me? Is it yes or no?"

"But listen----"

"Is it yes or no?" exclaimed he, walking toward the door; "answer, or I
will call De Chemerant."

"But by St. George!" cried Monmouth.

The chevalier was about to open the door when the young woman seized him
by the hands with such a beseeching air that he paused in spite of
himself.

"Yes, yes, I will go with you," she said, in a frightened manner.

"At last!" said the Gascon, "so be it. Take my arm and let us go; De
Chemerant has waited a long time."

"But just a moment--you must know all," said the poor woman hastily.
"The Caribbean is in reality the filibuster, or rather the buccaneer and
the Caribbean are----"

"Ah, there you go again; do you wish that I should retain my senses?"
cried the Gascon, making a desperate effort and running toward the door
in order to call De Chemerant.

The prince flung himself upon Croustillac, and, seizing his two wrists
in one hand, placed the other over his mouth at the moment Croustillac
called "Help, De Chemerant!" then he said, "I am the Duke of Monmouth!"

The prince thought the chevalier would understand everything the moment
he spoke, but in the exasperation which Croustillac felt, he only saw in
this statement a new artifice or a new provocation, and he redoubled his
efforts to escape. Though much less strong than the duke, the chevalier
was not without energy; he began to struggle violently, when Angela,
terrified, ran and took up a flask, and, putting on her handkerchief a
drop of the liquid, rubbed the hand of the prince, removing the stain
upon it and showing the white skin.

"Do you understand now, sir, that the three persons are one?" said the
prince, releasing Croustillac and showing him his white hand.

These words were a revelation to Croustillac, and he understood all.

Unfortunately, at the moment when the prince took his hand from the
mouth of the Gascon, the latter had uttered the words, "Help! De
Chemerant!"

The sound of the struggle had already attracted the attention of the
French envoy, and, hearing the cry of Croustillac, he rushed into the
room, sword in hand. It would be impossible to depict the stupefaction,
the fright of the three when De Chemerant appeared. The duke put his
hand upon his sword. Angela fell back into a chair and hid her face in
her hands. Croustillac looked about him with an agonized air, regretting
his imprudence, but too late.

Nevertheless, the adventurer's presence of mind returned to him little
by little; as it needs but a ray of the sun to dispel the thick mist, so
the moment that the good chevalier had the key to the three disguises of
the prince, everything became clear to him. His mind, until then so
sadly agitated, became calm; his unworthy doubt of Blue Beard ceased;
there only remained his regret at having accused her, and the desire to
devote himself to her and the prince.

With wonderful quickness of invention (we are familiar enough with the
Gascon now to say with a marvelous facility for lying) Croustillac
formed his plan of campaign against De Chemerant, who still, sword in
hand, stood on the threshold and said for the second time, "What is it,
your highness? what has happened? I thought I heard a cry and struggle,
and an appeal for aid."

"You were not deceived, sir," said Croustillac gloomily.

Monmouth and his wife experienced a terrible anxiety. They were ignorant
of the Gascon's intentions; knowing Monmouth's secret, he was now
completely master of their fate.

If Angela and her husband had had enough presence of mind to scrutinize
Croustillac's face, they would have seen a kind of triumphant and
malignant joy, which betrayed itself in spite of him in the menacing
frown of his forehead.

Monsieur De Chemerant asked him a third time why he had called.

"I called you, sir," said the chevalier in a dismal voice, and with the
air of coming out of a deep study, "I called you to my aid----"

"Was it this wretch? your highness," said the envoy, pointing to
Monmouth, who, standing with arms crossed, remained by the chair where
Angela had seated herself, ready to defend her and to sell his life
dearly, for, as we have said, he was ignorant of the adventurer's
intention. "Speak the word, your highness," continued De Chemerant, "and
I will hand him over to my guards."

The Gascon shook his head, and answered, "I charge myself with this man;
this is my affair. It is not against such a creature as this that I
called you to my assistance, sir, it is against myself."

"What do you say, your highness?"

"I mean that I was afraid that I would allow myself to be softened by
the tears of his woman, as dangerously hypocritical as she is
audaciously culpable."

"Your highness, it often takes courage--much courage--to be just."

"You are right, sir; that is why I feared my weakness. I called you in
order that the sight of you might keep alive my indignation and rekindle
my wrath, for you have been a witness of my dishonor, sir. So, tell me
that if I pardon I would be a coward, that I should merit my fate. Is it
not so, sir?"

"Your highness----"

"I understand you--you are right--yes, by St. George!" Croustillac
remembered having heard the prince use this oath; "by St. George, I will
be revenged."

Angela and the duke breathed again. They understood that the chevalier
wished to save them.

"Your highness," said De Chemerant severely, "I do not hesitate to
repeat to your highness, before madame, what I had the honor to say to
you some short time ago, that an insurmountable barrier now separates
you from a guilty spouse," continued the envoy, with an effort, while
Angela hid her confusion by covering her face with her handkerchief.

Croustillac raised his head, and cried in a heartbroken tone, "Deceived
by a mulatto; think of it, sir, a miserable mulatto, a mongrel, a
copper-colored animal!"

"Your highness----"

"In a word, sir," said Croustillac, turning toward the envoy with an
indignant and sorrowful manner, "you know why I returned, what my plans
were; what I would have placed upon the brow of madame. Ah, well, is it
not a frightful irony of fate that at this very moment a wife--a
criminal----"

"Your highness," cried De Chemerant, interrupting the Gascon, "at
present these projects must be a secret from madame."

"I know it; I know it! but then what a horrible surprise! I enter with a
heart beating with joy, into the home circle, into my peaceful home, and
what is it that I hear?"

"Your highness----"

"You have heard it as well as I. That is not all--what is it that I
see?"

"Your highness, calm yourself."

"You have seen, as I have, a mulatto outlaw. But this shall not stop
here, no, by St. George! Yes, I did well to call you. Now my anger
boils; the most cruel plans crowd in upon my imagination. Yes, yes, that
is it;" said Croustillac, with a meditative air. "I have it at last! I
have found a revenge fitting the offence!"

"Your highness, the contempt----"

"The contempt--that is very easy for you to say, sir, contempt. No, sir,
there remains another thing; I have found something better, and you
shall assist me."

"Your highness, anything that depends upon my zeal, without prejudice to
the orders which I have received, and the success of my mission."

"I renounce and cast off this unworthy woman. From this day, from this
moment, all is forever at an end between her and me."

"Thank God!" cried De Chemerant, delighted with this resolve; "you could
not act more wisely."

"To-morrow at daybreak," said the Gascon, in a curt tone, "she and her
odious accomplice will embark on board of one of my vessels."



CHAPTER XXVI.

DEVOTION.


"Yes, sir!" repeated the Gascon, "to-morrow my wife and this miserable
wretch shall go aboard one of my vessels. That is all my vengeance,"
continued he, dwelling on these words with savage irony. "Oh, I know
what I am doing. Yes, by heaven! She and her guilty accomplice, those
two, as if they were really husband and wife, the miserable wretches!
shall embark together. As to the destination of the vessel," said the
chevalier, with a glance of such horrible ferocity that De Chemerant was
struck by it, "as to the fate that awaits these guilty ones, I cannot
tell you, sir; that concerns no one but myself."

Then, taking Angela roughly by the arm, Croustillac exclaimed, "Ah, you
desire a mulatto for a lover, duchess? very well, you shall have him.
And you, scoundrel, you must have a white woman, a duchess? very well
you shall have her. You shall never separate, tender lovers that you
are, never again; but you do not know at what a terrible price you will
be reunited."

"Your highness, what do you intend to do?"

"That is my affair; your responsibility will be at an end; the rest will
take place on neutral ground," returned the Gascon with a smile at once
mysterious and ferocious; "yes, on a desert island; and since this
tender couple love one another, love each other to death, there will be
time for them to prove it--until death."

"I understand you, your highness; I see perfectly; but that will be
terrible," said De Chemerant, who thought that Croustillac intended to
starve his wife and the mulatto.

"Terrible! you have said it, sir. All that I ask of you, and as a
witness of my injury you cannot refuse me, is to give me the necessary
assistance in order to conduct this guilty pair on board one of my
ships. I will, myself, place them with the captain and give him his
orders; orders which, perhaps he would not dare to obey if I did not
give them in person."

Monsieur de Chemerant, in spite of his cunning, was duped by the seeming
rage of Croustillac; he said to him respectfully, "Your highness,
justice is severe, but should not be cruel."

"What do you say, sir?" cried Croustillac proudly, "am I not the sole
judge of the punishment due this guilty pair? Do you refuse me your
assistance when it only requires you to take this man and his accomplice
on board a vessel belonging to me?"

"No, sir, but I would say to your highness that it would be, perhaps,
more generous----"

Angela, seeing that she must no longer remain inactive, threw herself at
the feet of Croustillac, crying, "Have mercy!" while Monmouth seemed to
be wrapped in a deep and sad silence; then, addressing De Chemerant, the
young woman continued, "Oh, sir, you seem to be sensible and good;
intercede for me with my dear lord, that he condemn me to less cruel
pain. I have merited it all, I will suffer all, but that my dear
lord----"

"I forbid your calling me your 'dear lord,' madame," said Croustillac.
"I am no longer your dear lord."

"Ah well, your highness, do not send me on board the vessel of which you
speak."

"And why not, madame?"

"My God! because that the brigantine is the Chameleon, commanded by
Captain Ralph; your highness, this man is cruel; he succeeded the
filibuster Whirlwind in this command."

"And that is just why I have chosen the Chameleon, madame; it is just
because Captain Ralph is the most cruel enemy of your unworthy lover,"
said Croustillac, who understood perfectly Angela's meaning.

"But, your highness, you know very well that this vessel will be
anchored to-morrow morning very near here, almost at the foot of the
cliff in the alligators' cave."

"Yes, madame, I know it."

"Oh, your highness, would you compel me to embark there when nothing in
the world would make me even approach its banks? My God! have you
forgotten the frightful memories that this place is connected with in my
mind?"

"Oh! the cunning creature," thought Croustillac; "she wishes to say,
what I did not know, that there is a vessel of hers called the
Chameleon, whose captain is devoted to her, and who will anchor
to-morrow near here. I have it! This is just her own vessel she had
prepared hastily to furnish her and the duke a means of escape, when she
saw me carried off by Colonel Rutler; one of the negro fishermen was
doubtless sent ahead to deliver her directions."

The Gascon, after some little reflection, said aloud, "Yes, those
memories are terrible to you, I know it, madame."

"Then, your highness, have you the heart----"

"Yes, yes," cried the chevalier, in an explosion of rage, "yes, no pity
for the infamous creature who has so unworthily outraged me! All the
better, my vengeance commences but the sooner. I will show you that you
have no pity to look for from me; you shall see!" He struck a bell.

"What are you going to do, your highness."

"Your faithful Mirette will come; you shall yourself give her the order
to send to Captain Ralph to prepare everything on board the Chameleon to
set sail at daybreak."

"Ah, your highness, it is barbarous to make me give the order, myself."

"Obey, madame, obey."

Mirette appeared. Angela gave the order in a broken voice.

"I have obeyed you, and now your highness, in pity grant me a last favor
in the name of our past love."

"Oh, yes, by St. George!" cried Croustillac, "past? oh, past,
decidedly."

"Allow me one moment, your highness, the favor of an interview."

"No, no, never!"

"Do not refuse me; do not be so pitiless?"

"Out of my sight, faithless woman!"

"My lord!" said Angela, clasping her hands.

"Your highness," said De Chemerant, "at the moment of quitting madame
forever, do not refuse her this last consolation."

"You also, De Chemerant, you also? and though you have been a
witness?--Ah, well, I consent, madame, but upon one condition."

"You have but to order."

"That your paramour remain during our conversation."

"Really, this is not so bad, I think," said Croustillac to himself; "I
hope the duchess will understand me and at first refuse."

"But, my dear lord," said Angela; "the last interview that you grant me
should be between us alone."

"Marvelous! oh, she comprehends a half word," said Croustillac to
himself; then aloud, "And why, then, should our interview be private?
Have you something you desire to hide from your best beloved--from the
lover of your choice?"

"But if I desire to beg your forgiveness, sir?"

"You can do so before your accomplice. The more you accuse yourself, the
more you depict your conduct as disloyal, infamous, unworthy, the more
you affirm the lowness of your choice. This will be your punishment and
this scoundrel's also."

"But, my lord?"

"That is my ultimatum," replied Croustillac.

"Do you not fear the despair of this man?" said De Chemerant in a low
tone.

"No; traitors are always cowards. Behold this one--what a gloomy,
downcast air. He does not dare as much as lift his eyes to me. In any
case, sir, send, I beg, some men of yours to the gallery outside,
instructed to enter at my first signal." Then, turning with an air of
reconsidering, and desiring to make a master stroke, Croustillac said,
"In fact, if you will be present at this interview, Monsieur De
Chemerant, the punishment of this guilty couple will be complete."

"Oh, sir, in pity do not condemn me to such a depth of shame and
humiliation," cried Angela, in despairing tones. "And you, sir, have the
generosity not to consent to this," she said to De Chemerant.

Monsieur De Chemerant had the delicacy to excuse himself to the Gascon;
he left the room, and left Monmouth, Angela, and the adventurer
together.

The envoy had hardly left the room before Monmouth, after assuring
himself that he could not be overheard, held out his hand cordially to
Croustillac, and said to him, feelingly, "Sir, you are a man of spirit,
courage, and resolution; accept our thanks, and pardon us for having
suspected you even for a moment."

"Yes, yes, pardon our unjust suspicions," said Angela, on her part
taking the Gascon's hand between her own. "We were so disturbed, and
your manner was so furious, so wild!"

"We all had reason, madame;" said the adventurer, "you had reason to be
disturbed, because my return was not very reassuring. I had reason to be
furious, because I supposed the duke to be a bandit. As to my wild
manner, by heavens! it may be said without offense, you will acknowledge
that enough strange things have occurred during the last two days, and I
may be excused for being a little astounded. Fortunately, I recovered my
self-possession when I saw I had been a fool and had risked everything."

"Brave and excellent man," said Monmouth.

"Bravery is in the blood of the Croustillacs, sir; as to being
excellent, I do not know about that; if such be the case, it is not my
fault; it is your wife's work, who has aroused in me the desire to be
better that I really am. Ah, well, prince, time is precious; everything
is in train to raise a county of England in your favor; Louis the XIV.
will support this insurrection. There is offered you the viceroyship of
Ireland and Scotland, and all kinds of other favors."

"Never will I consent to profit by these offers. Civil wars have cost me
too dear," cried Monmouth; "and"--looking at Angela, "I no longer have
ambitions."

"Your highness! reflect well! If your heart counsels remove the bronze
color from your face, and say to De Chemerant that reasons known only to
yourself obliged you to guard your secret until now. You will prove to
him who you are; I will return your duchy to you, and ask your
permission to go and fight at your side in Cornwall, or elsewhere, in
order to serve you, as they say, as a living armor. I am sure this will
please the duchess."

"And we have suspected him," said Angela, looking at her husband.

"He must forgive us," said the duke. "Men like him are so rare that it
is not unnatural to doubt them when one encounters them."

"Hold on, my lord, you embarrass me. Let us speak of other matters. Do
you, or do you not, accept the viceroyship? After that, do not think I
shall press you to speak in order to relieve me from your rôle; it
pleases me, it amuses me. I have become quite accustomed to it.
Nevertheless, it will be somewhat unpleasant to no longer hear myself
addressed as 'my lord duke,' to say nothing of my laughing in my sleeve
when I think of all the absurdities which I have made that good De
Chemerant, with his important air, swallow. If I persist, your highness,
in praying that you resume your rank, as it seems they are terribly in
need of you in England in order to secure the happiness of the people in
general and that of Cornwall in particular; you must know that better
than I do----"

"Ah! I know only too well the vain pretexts that one offers to
ambition."

"But, your highness, all appears to be perfectly prepared. The frigate
which has brought the good De Chemerant is filled with arms and
ammunition; there is in it enough to arm and revolutionize all the
Cornishmen in the world; moreover, you can count on a dozen of your
partisans."

"Of my partisans! and where, then?" cried Monmouth.

"On board Chemerant's frigate. These brave men are waiting for me, that
is to say, waiting for you, your highness, with great impatience. There
is above all a madman named Mortimer, whom De Chemerant had the
greatest difficulty in the world to keep on board, so much was he
possessed with the desire to embrace me--I would say embrace you, for I
confound us all the time."

Angela, seeing the troubled manner of her husband, said to him, "My God!
what ails you?"

"I can no longer hesitate," replied Monmouth, "I must tell De Chemerant
the whole truth."

"Heavens, James! what are you saying?"

"You wish to be viceroy, your highness?" interposed Croustillac.

"No, sir, I desire to prevent your ruining yourself on my account. My
gratitude will be no less lasting for the service that you wished to do
me."

"How, your highness? Is it not, then, to become viceroy that you would
dispossess me of my principality?"

"My partisans are on board the frigate; if I should accept your generous
offer, sir, to-morrow you would be known--lost."

"But, your highness----"

"Except for this circumstance which, I repeat, would cause your
discovery in a moment, I would, perhaps, have excepted your generous
devotion, the mistake of De Chemerant might have continued for a few
days, and I could have put you beyond the reach of his resentment; but
to accept your offer, sir, knowing the presence of my friends on board
the frigate, would be to expose you to certain danger. I can never
consent to do that."

"Your highness forgets that it means perpetual imprisonment for you if
you do not place yourself at the head of this movement?"

"It is because it means for me the escape from a danger that I do not
choose to sacrifice you, sir. When I learned that you were taken
prisoner by Rutler I was going to rush to your assistance in order to
release you."

"My God, James! think of the prison! of eternal confinement! but it is
not possible! and what will become of me, if I should be forbidden to
accompany you? No, no! you will not reject the sacrifice which this
generous man offers to make!"

"Angela!" said the duke, in a tone of reproach; "Angela! and this
generous man, shall we abandon him shamefully when he is devoted to
us--to escape imprisonment, shall we condemn him to an eternal
captivity?"

"Him?"

"Doubtless! is he not the possessor of a state secret? Will not De
Chemerant be furious at seeing himself tricked. I tell you, he cannot
escape prison when the trick shall be discovered."

"Confound it! my duke, attend to your own affairs!" cried Croustillac,
"and do not take the bread out of my mouth, as they say. Prisoner of
state! that disgusts you, but do you not know that that would be an
assured retreat for me, a refuge for my old days? To be frank, the life
of an adventurer palls upon me; there must be an end to it. I would have
something more sure; judge, then, if that would not suit me? Prisoner of
state! can I not secure that? I beg of you not to take from me the last
resource of my old age; do not destroy my future."

"Listen to me, you brave and worthy man," responded Monmouth,
affectionately pressing his hand. "I am not deceived by your ingenious
pretenses."

"Your highness, I swear----"

"Listen, I beg of you; when you have heard me you will no longer be
surprised at my refusal. You will see that I cannot accept your generous
offer without being doubly culpable. You will understand the sad
memories, not to say remorse, that your devoted offer and the present
chain of circumstances awake in me. And you, Angela, my dearly beloved,
you shall at last learn a secret that until this present moment I have
hidden from you; it needed circumstances as grave as these in which I am
now placed to force me to make this sad revelation."



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE MARTYR.


"James! James! what are you saying? you terrify me!" exclaimed Angela,
as she witnessed the duke's emotion.

"You know," said the duke to Croustillac, "in consequence of what
political events I was arrested and confined to the Tower of London in
1685?"

"You will excuse me, your highness, if I know not a word of it; I am as
ignorant as a fish of contemporaneous history, which, be it said in
passing, and without boasting, rendered my part outrageously difficult
to play; for I was always afraid I should make some ridiculous
statement, and thus compromise, not my reputation as a scholar--I am no
priest--but your fortune which I so imprudently assumed."

"Very well then," said the duke; "after the death of my father; when the
Duke of York, my uncle, ascended the throne under the title of James
II., I entered into a conspiracy against him. I shall not seek to
justify my conduct; years of reflection have made things clear to me. I
know now that I was as culpable as I was insane; the young Duke of
Argyle was the soul in this plot. All this was carried on under the very
eyes of the Prince of Orange, then a stadtholder, now King of England.
Argyle knew my views of the Protestant action, my ambition, my
resentment against James II.; he had no trouble in associating me with
his plans. At once, owing to my name and influence, I was at the head of
the conspiracy. I had news from England which only waited my presence
there to overthrow the throne of the papist king to proclaim me king in
his place. I departed from the Texel with three vessels transporting
soldiers whom I had recruited. Argyle, having preceded me in Scotland,
had paid with his head for the audacity of his attempt. I landed in
England at the head of a number of devoted partisans. I realized then
how greatly I had been deceived. Three or four thousand men at the most
joined the handful of brave men who were pledged to my cause, and among
others were Mortimer, Rothsay and Dudley. The son of Monck, the young
Duke of Albemarle, advanced against me at the head of a royal army; and
I, desiring to bring fortune to the point, made a decisive move. I
attacked the enemy at Sedgemore, near Bridgewater; I was beaten in spite
of the prodigies of valor shown by my little army, and, above all, by my
cavalry, commanded by the brave Lord George Sidney." In pronouncing this
name, the voice of the prince failed him, and deep emotion was depicted
upon his face.

"George Sidney! my second father! my benefactor!" cried Angela. "It was
in fighting for you he was killed! it was at that battle, then, that he
was killed? This is the secret you have hidden from me?"

The duke bent his head, and after a few minutes' silence, said, "You
will know all, very soon, child! Our rout was complete. I wandered off
at hazard; my head had a price upon it. I was seized the day after this
fatal defeat and conducted to the Tower of London. My case was tried.
Convicted of high treason, I was condemned to death."

"Oh," cried Angela, throwing herself into the duke's arms; "you deceived
me; I believed you to be only exiled."

"Be calm, Angela; yet I have hidden this from you, as much that you
should not be troubled as--." Then, after a moment's hesitation,
Monmouth continued, "you shall know all; it requires much courage to
make this revelation."

"Why? What have you to fear?" said Angela.

"Alas! poor child, when you have heard me, perhaps you will regard me
with horror!"

"You, James? do you believe that I can ever do that?"

"Well," said Monmouth, "whatever the result, I must speak, at the risk,
perhaps, of separating us forever."

"Never, never!" cried Angela despairingly.

"Zounds! I will sooner throw De Chemerant from these cliffs at the least
pretense," cried Croustillac. "And, as for that, with your slaves, we
could furnish him a fine escort. But I think--will you try this method?
How many slaves can you arm, sir?"

"You forget that De Chemerant's escort is considerable; the negro
fishermen have gone--there are not more than four or five men here.
Violent means are impossible. Providence doubtless wills that I shall
expiate a great crime. I will be resigned."

"A crime, James? guilty of a great crime? I will never believe it!"
cried Angela.

"If my crime was involuntary, it was none the less horrible. Angela, it
is now my duty to tell you what I owe to Sidney, your noble relative who
took such care of you in your infancy, poor orphan! While you were
receiving your education in France, where he had himself taken you,
Sidney, whom I had seen in Holland, attached himself to my fortunes; a
singular similarity of tastes, of principles and thoughts, had drawn us
together; but he was so proud that I was obliged to make the advances.
How happy I was at having first pressed his hand! Never was there a
living soul as beautiful as Sidney's. Never was there a nobler character
or a more generous and ardent heart! Dreaming of the happiness of the
people, deceived as I was myself as to the true end of my plans, he
believed that he was serving the holy cause of humanity, when he was in
reality only serving the fatal ambition of a man! While the conspiracy
was organizing, he was my most active emissary and my most intimate
confidant. To describe to you, my child, the profound, blind attachment
of Sidney for myself would be impossible; one affection only struggled
in his heart with that which he had vowed to me; it was his tenderness
for you--you, his distant relative of whom he had assumed the care. Oh!
how he cherished you! Through all the agitations, and the perils of his
life as a soldier and conspirator, he always found some moments in which
to visit his Angela. There were ever tears in his eyes when he spoke to
me of you. Yes, this man, of intrepid courage and indomitable energy,
wept like a child in speaking of your tender grace, the qualities of
your heart, and your sad and studious youth, poor little abandoned one,
for you had no one in the world but Sidney. On that fatal day at
Bridgewater he commanded my cavalry. After prodigies of valor, he was
left for dead on the battlefield; as for me, carried away in a rush of
flying troops, grievously wounded, it was impossible for me to find
him."

"Was not that the day when he died?" said Angela, wiping her eyes.

"Listen, Angela; oh, you do not know how these sad memories break my
heart!"

"And ours also," said Croustillac. "Brave Sidney! I do not know what it
is that tells me that he did not die that day at Bridgewater, and that
we shall hear of him again."

Monmouth trembled, remained silent a moment, and then continued: "I must
have courage. I will tell you all. Sidney was left for dead on the
battlefield; I was arrested, condemned to death, and my execution fixed
for the 15th of July, 1685. When they told me I was to be executed the
following day, I was alone in my prison.

"In the midst of the terrible thoughts to which I was a prey during
those dreadful hours that preceded the moment of my execution, I swear
to you, Angela, before the God that hears me, if I had any sweet and
consoling thoughts to calm me, they were those I gave to Sidney, in
recalling the beautiful days of our friendship. I believed him dead and
I said, 'In a few hours I shall be united to him forever.' All at once
the door of my cell opened and Sidney appeared!"

"Zounds! so much the better! I was sure he was not dead," exclaimed
Croustillac.

"No, he was not dead," replied the duke with a sigh. "Would to God he
had died as a soldier on the field of battle."

Angela and Croustillac looked at Monmouth in astonishment. He continued:
"At the sight of Sidney I believed myself the dupe of a fancy conjured
up by my extreme agitation; but I soon felt his tears on my cheek, and
myself pressed within his arms. 'Saved! you are saved!' he said,
through his tears. 'Saved?' said I, gazing at him stupidly. 'Saved, yes;
listen to me,' said he, and this was what he told me: My uncle the king
could not openly show me mercy; policy forbade; but he did not wish his
brother's son to perish on the scaffold. Informed by one of his
courtiers who was, notwithstanding, one of my friends, of the
resemblance between Sidney and myself, a resemblance which so struck you
the first time you saw me," said Monmouth to Angela, "King James had
secretly provided Sidney with means to get into my prison. This devoted
friend was to assume my clothes, and I to put on his, and go out of the
Tower by means of this strategy. The next day, learning of my escape and
the devotion of Sidney remaining prisoner in my stead, the king would
put him at liberty and give orders to seek me out; but these orders
would only be in appearance. He favored, secretly, my departure for
France. I was only to write to the king and give him my word to never
return to England."

"Ah, well," said Angela, interested to the last degree by this recital;
"you accepted Sidney's offer, and he remained a prisoner in your stead?"

"Alas! yes, I accepted it, for all that Sidney said to me seemed so
probable; his presence at that hour in the prison, in spite of the
severe watch to which I was subjected, made me believe that an
all-powerful will aided mysteriously in my flight."

"It was not so, then?" cried Angela.

"Nothing could be more naturally arranged, it seems to me," said
Croustillac.

"In effect," said Monmouth, smiling bitterly, "nothing was more
naturally arranged; it was only too easy for Sidney to persuade me, to
turn aside my objections."

"And what objections could you make?" said Angela. "What was there
astonishing in that King James, not wishing to shed your blood on the
scaffold, should connive at your escape?"

"And how could Sidney succeed in getting into the prison, sir, without
the assistance of some powerful influence?" said the adventurer.

"Oh, is it not so?" said the duke with sad satisfaction, "was it not
that all that Sidney said to me might seem probable, possible? Was I not
justified in believing him?"

"Undoubtedly," said Angela.

"Was it not," continued Monmouth, "was it not possible to put faith in
his words without being misled by the fear of death, without being
influenced by a cowardly, horrible egotism? And still, I swear to you, I
did not agree to what Sidney said to me. Before accepting life and
liberty which he came to offer me in the name of my uncle, I asked
myself what would happen to my friend if James did not keep his promise?
I said to myself that the greatest punishment that could befall a man
who was an accomplice in aiding another to escape, was imprisonment in
turn; thus, admitting this hypothesis, once free, although compelled to
hide myself, I had sufficient resources at my disposal not to quit
England before having, in my turn, liberated Sidney. What more can I say
to you? The instinct of life, the fear of death, doubtless obscured my
judgment, troubled my discernment. I accepted, for I believed everything
Sidney said to me. Alas! why was I so insane?"

"Insane? Faith, you would have been insane had you not accepted!" cried
Croustillac.

"Who, indeed, would have hesitated in your place?" added Angela.

"No, no, I tell you that I should not have accepted; my heart, if not my
head, should have revolted at this deceptive thought. But what did I
know. A strange fatality, perhaps a frightful egotism, pushed me on. I
accepted. I pressed Sidney in my arms, I took his clothes, and I said to
him, 'To-morrow!' with the conviction that I should see him the
following day. I left my cell; the jailer escorted me to the gate;
thanks to my resemblance to Sidney, he noticed nothing wrong, and led me
in haste by a secret road as far as a door of the Tower. I was free! I
forgot to tell you that Sidney had informed me of a house in the city
where I could wait for him safely, for he would return, he said, to me
the following day, in order to plan our departure. At last I found, at
this house in the city, the precious stones I had confided to Sidney on
my departure from Holland, the value of which was enormous. Wrapped up
in his mantle, a mantle which you wear to-day, and which has remained
sacred to me, I directed my steps toward the city. I rapped at the door;
an old woman opened it, and leading me into a secluded chamber, she gave
into my hands the iron casket, the key of which Sidney had handed me. I
found there my precious stones. Broken with fatigue, for the sleepless
hours I had passed were frightful, I fell into a slumber. For the first
time since my sentence to death, I sought sleep without saying to myself
that the scaffold awaited me on my awakening. When I arose the following
day it was broad daylight; a bright sun penetrated between my curtains.
I raised them; the sky was clear; it was a radiant summer day. Oh! I
felt such rapturous joy and such inexpressible happiness. I had seen my
open tomb, and I still lived. I breathed the air in every pore. Seized
with gratitude, I threw myself upon my knees, and blessed God, the king,
and Sidney. I waited to see this dear friend from one moment to another.
I did not doubt, no, I could not doubt, the king's clemency. All at once
I heard in the distance the criers announcing important events; it
seemed to me that I heard my name. I thought it was an illusion, but, in
fact, it was my name. Oh, then, a frightful presentiment seized me; my
hair stood on end. I remained on my knees. I listened with my heart
beating violently; the voices came nearer; I still heard my name mingled
with other words. A ray of joy, as foolish as my presentiment had been
horrible, changed my terror into hope. Madman! I believed they were
crying the details of the _escape of the Duke of Monmouth_. In my
impatience, I descended to the street; I bought the account; I mounted
again with palpitating heart, holding the paper in my hands."

Saying these words, Monmouth became frightfully pale, and could hardly
support himself. A cold perspiration bathed his forehead.

"Well?" cried Angela and Croustillac, who experienced a piercing agony.

"Ah," cried the duke despairingly, "it was the details of the _execution
of the Duke of Monmouth_."[B]

"And Sidney?" cried Angela.

"Sidney had died for me, died a martyr to friendship. His blood, his
noble blood, had been shed upon the scaffold instead of mine. Now,
Angela, you see, unhappy child, why I have always hidden this terrible
secret."

At these words the duke fell back on the sofa, hiding his face in his
hands. Angela threw herself at his feet, sobbing bitterly.

     {[B] Hume says: "After his execution, his partisans held to the
     hope of yet seeing him at their head; they flattered themselves
     that the prisoner who had been beheaded was not the Duke of
     Monmouth, but one of his friends, who resembled him greatly, and
     who had had the courage to die in his stead."

     Sainte-Foix, in a letter on the Iron Mask (Amsterdam, 1768), says:
     "It is true that the report spread through London that an officer
     of Monmouth's army who greatly resembled the duke, having been
     taken prisoner, and knowing death to be inevitable, received a
     proposition to represent the duke with as much joy as if life had
     been offered him; and hearing this, that a great lady, having
     bribed those who could open his coffin, and having looked at the
     form, cried, 'Ah, that is not the Duke of Monmouth.'" Furthermore,
     Sainte-Foix, who sought to prove that the Iron Mask was no other
     than the Duke of Monmouth, cited a passage of another English work
     by Pyms, in which he says: "Count Landy sent to seek Colonel
     Skelton, who was the ex-lieutenant of the Tower, and whom the
     Prince of Orange had dismissed to give the place to Lord Lucas."
     "Skelton," said Count Landy to him the previous evening, in dining
     with Robert Johnston, "you say that the Duke of Monmouth is living
     and imprisoned in an English castle?" "I cannot vouch for this,
     because I do not really know," said Skelton, "but I affirm that the
     night after the pretended execution of the Duke of Monmouth, the
     king, accompanied by three men, came himself to the tower and
     carried the duke away."

     Sainte-Foix cites still another conversation with Father
     Tournemine, saying, "The Duchess of Portsmouth said to Father
     Tournemine and to the confessor of King James that she always
     imputed to that prince the execution of the Duke of Monmouth,
     because Charles II., at the moment of his death and when about to
     receive the last communion, had made King James (then Duke of York)
     promise on the Host, which Huldeston, a Catholic priest, secretly
     carried, that whatever revolt the Duke of Monmouth might attempt he
     (James) would never punish him with death; so King James did not
     put him to death," said Father Sanders.

     We will not multiply citations. We only desire to establish that
     the foundation of this story is not merely a romantic fiction, and
     that if it is not based upon a historic certainty, it is at least
     based upon a likely supposition.}



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE DUKE RELATES THE SACRIFICE TO WHICH HE OWES HIS LIFE.


The chevalier, profoundly moved by the recital of Monmouth, furtively
brushed aside his tears, and said, "I understand now what that animal
Rutler, with his everlasting dagger, meant by speaking to me of my
execution."

"Angela, Angela, my child," exclaimed the duke, lifting his noble
countenance bathed in tears, and pressing the young woman to his heart,
"how can you ever forgive me the murder of Sidney, my friend, my
brother, your only relative, your only protector."

"Alas! have you not replaced him to me, James? I have bewailed his
death, believing him killed on the field of battle. Do you believe that
my regrets will be greater, now that I know that he sacrificed his life
for you--that he did what I would gladly do for you, James, my lover, my
husband!"

"Angela! best beloved guardian angel of my life!" cried the duke; "your
words cannot assuage the violence of my remorse, but at least you know
what religious gratitude I have always had for Sidney, this holy martyr
to friendship. What more can I tell you? I passed two days in a state
bordering on madness; when I returned to myself I found a letter of
Sidney's. He had arranged that I should not receive it until the evening
of the day on which he died for me. He explained his pious falsehood; he
had not seen King James."

"He had not seen him!" exclaimed Angela.

"No; all that he had said to me was false. So you can understand that I
had reason to forever curse the culpable facility with which I had
allowed myself to be persuaded. Meanwhile he had died for me; the fable
which I had believed in now seemed monstrous folly. No, he had not seen
the king! From the depository of my precious stones, he had subtracted
wherewith to procure a sum sufficient to gain over one of the officers
of the Tower, whom he besought to allow him to see me for the last time.
Was this officer in league with Sidney as to the substitution of some
one who desired to save me? or was he deceived by the resemblance to
such an extent that he suspected nothing. I do not know. The following
day, when they went to seek Sidney, he followed the hangman, but he
refused to speak for fear his voice would be recognized. The sacrifice
was accomplished," said Monmouth, wiping his tears away, which had not
ceased to fall during his recital. "I quitted London secretly and went
to France under a false name, in order to seek you, Angela. Sidney had
given me full power to take her away from the persons to whom he had
confided her," said the duke, addressing Croustillac. "Struck by her
beauty, her candor, and her other adorable traits, I, believing myself
worthy and able to fulfill the last wishes of Sidney in making his
adopted child happy, married this angel. We started for the Spanish
colonies, where I believed we would be safe. We took the greatest
precautions not to be recognized. By chance I encountered an English
captain at Cuba whom I had seen at Amsterdam. I believed myself
discovered. We left. After a journey of some months, we established
ourselves here. In order to divert suspicion, to watch over my wife, and
not wishing to be condemned to an imprisonment which would have been
fatal to me, I assumed, by turns, the disguises which you are aware of,
and I could, with impunity, traverse the island. Thanks to my precious
stones, we were able to purchase a number of small vessels, through the
good offices of Master Morris, a man of great probity, who knew, without
being in the secret, what to think of the pretended widowhoods of my
wife. Not only our commercial vessels increased little by little our
fortune, which we shall bequeath to our children, but they afford us
always a means of flight. The Chameleon was built for this very purpose,
and I have sometimes commanded in the guise of a filibuster, and
encountered a Spanish pirate, much to the fright of Angela. We were
living here very happily, almost peacefully, when I learned that the
Chevalier de Crussol, whose life I had once saved, had become the
governor of the island. Although he was a man of honor, I feared to tell
him who I was. My first idea was to quit Martinique with my wife; but I
then learned of the declaration of war from France to England, Spain and
Holland, and that certain rumors began to circulate in England as to the
miraculous manner in which I had been saved. My partisans were
bestirring themselves, it was said. I could expect no justice from
William of Orange, and believed myself safer in this colony than
anywhere else. I remained, therefore, in spite of the presence of De
Crussol, but redoubled my precautions. The pretended widowhoods of my
wife, the frequent visits of the filibuster, the Caribbean, and the
buccaneer, furnished a collection of facts so incomprehensible that it
was impossible to distinguish the truth, which was in our favor. We
were, however, much troubled.

"Monsieur de Crussol, curious to know the strange woman of whom such
different tales were related, came to Devil's Cliff. Fate ordained that
I should be there, also, in the disguise of the buccaneer. I could not
avoid meeting the governor, whom we were far from expecting. In spite of
the thick beard which disguised my features, De Crussol had preserved
too clear a remembrance of me not to recognize me; but, in order to
assure himself of the truth, he said to me abruptly, 'You are not what
you appear.' Fearing that all would be disclosed to Angela, who knew
that I was a fugitive, but who was ignorant of the dangers to which I
would be exposed if my existence was known, I said to De Crussol, 'In
memory of a past service, I ask silence, but I will tell you all;' and I
did not hide anything from him. He swore on his honor to keep my secret
and do everything in his power to prevent our being disturbed. He kept
his promise, but in dying----"

"He told Father Griffen everything from scruples of conscience," said
Croustillac.

"How do you know that?" said the duke.

Croustillac then told Monmouth how the mystery of Devil's Cliff had been
revealed to the confessor of King James, and how Father Griffen had
unintentionally betrayed him.

"Now, chevalier," said Monmouth, "you know at the price of what an
admirable sacrifice I owe this life which I have sworn to consecrate to
Angela. I have related to you the frightful remorse which the devotion
of Sidney causes me. You understand, I hope, that I cannot expose myself
to new and cruel regrets by causing your destruction."

"Ah, you think, your highness, that what you have told me will take from
me any desire to devote my life to you? Zounds! you are greatly
mistaken."

"How?" exclaimed the duke, "you persist?"

"I persist? I persist more than ever, if you please, and for a very
simple reason. Hold, sir! why should I hide it from you? A short time
since it was more for the sake of the duchess that I wished to serve
you, than for interest in you; this is no offense to you, for I did not
know you; but now, that I see what you are; now, that I see how you
regret your friends, and how gratefully you remember them, and what they
do for you, your wife may be a real Blue Beard, she may be the devil in
person, she may be in love with all the buccaneers and the cannibals of
the Antilles, but I will do for you all that I would have done for the
duchess, sir."

"But, chevalier----"

"But, your highness, all I can say to you is that you have inspired me
with the desire to be a second Sidney to you; that is all. Zounds! it is
very simple; one never inspires such devotion unless one merits it."

"I wish to believe you, chevalier, but a person is unworthy such
devotion when he accepts it willingly."

"Zounds, sir; without offense, I must say you are as pig-headed in your
generosity as that Flemish bear was insupportable with his everlasting
dagger. Come, let us reason together. What you most desire, is it not,
is to save me from prison?"

"Doubtless."

"Now I do not think you are very anxious to abandon the duchess. Well,
by telling De Chemerant who you are, would you save me? I am not much of
a lawyer but it seems to me that that is the question, is it not,
madame?"

"He is right, my love," said Angela, looking at her husband
beseechingly.

"To proceed," said Croustillac proudly. "Now, you say to this good
Chemerant, 'Sir, I am the Duke of Monmouth, and the chevalier here is
only a scapegoat.' So be it; so far all goes well. But at this stage the
good Chemerant will reply, 'Your highness, do you or do you not consent
to head this insurrection in England?"

"Never! never!" cried the duke.

"Very well, your highness, now I know what insurrection has cost you.
Now I have the honor of knowing the duchess; like you I say, 'Never!'
only what will the good Chemerant say to this? The good Chemerant will
say, 'You are my prisoner,' is it not so?"

"Unhappily it is very likely," said Monmouth.

"Alas! it is only too true!" said Angela.

"'As to this rascal, this schemer,' the good Chemerant will continue,
addressing himself to me," said Croustillac, "'as to this imposter, this
sharper, as he has impudently imposed upon me, so that I confided to him
a half-dozen secrets of state, each more important than the other,
particularly as to how the confessors of the great kings have played the
game of the poisoned shoulder-knot with their penitents, he shall be
treated as he deserved.' Now the said Chemerant, so much the more
furious that I had caused him to make such a fool of himself, will not
handle me very gently, and I may consider myself very lucky if he leaves
me to perish in a dungeon, instead of hanging me quickly (seeing his
full power), which would be another method of reducing me very
effectually to silence."

"Oh! do not speak so, the idea is frightful," cried Angela.

"You see well, then, generous madman, the imminent danger to which you
are exposed," said the duke to him tenderly.

"Now, your highness," said the Gascon with imperturbable calm, "as I
said a short time ago, to madame, as I believed her madly in love with a
certain fellow of leathern tint, it is clear that one does not devote
oneself to people to the sole end of being crowned with roses and
caressed by sylvan nymphs. It is the danger that constitutes the
sacrifice. But that is not the question. In delivering yourself up as
prisoner to the good Chemerant, do you in any way spare me prison or
scaffold, sir?"

"But, chevalier----"

"But, sir, I shall pursue you constantly with this argument _ad hominum_
(that is all my Latin), as the Belgian pursued me with his everlasting
dagger."

"You deceive yourself, my worthy and brave chevalier, in believing that
your situation is so desperate, when I shall have delivered myself up to
Chemerant."

"Prove it to me, your highness."

"Without insisting too much upon my rank and my position, they are such
that one would be always obliged to account for with me. So, when I say
to De Chemerant, that it is my desire that you be not punished for a
trait which does you honor, I do not doubt that De Chemerant will be
eager to please me and put you at liberty."

"Your highness, allow me to say that you are entirely mistaken."

"But what more could he ask? Should I not be in his power? What would
your capture amount to to him?"

"Your highness, you have been a statesman; you have been a conspirator;
you are a great nobleman, consequently you must know men; you reason,
pardon my bluntness, as if you did not know them at all, or rather, your
generous desires in my behalf blind you."

"No, indeed, sir----"

"Listen to me, your highness. You concede, do you not, that the news
that comes from England, and the part Louis XIV. has taken in this
conspiracy, prove the importance of Chemerant's mission?"

"Without doubt."

"You will, therefore, concede, your highness, that Chemerant relies upon
the success of this mission for his good fortune?"

"That is true."

"Well, your highness, by refusing to take part in this insurrection,
you leave Chemerant only the part of a jailer; your capture cannot make
a success of the enterprise in which these two kings have so lively an
interest. Then, believe me, you will cut a very sorry figure asking
clemency of Chemerant, above all, at a time when he will be furious at
seeing his hopes destroyed; above all, when he knows that the man in
whose favor you intercede has made him see numberless stars at full
noon. Believe me, then, your highness, by accepting all Chemerant's
propositions, by seconding the plans of these two kings, you could
scarcely hope to secure my pardon."

"James! what he says is full of wisdom," said Angela. "I would not
counsel you to be cowardly or egotistical, but he is right, you cannot
deny it."

The duke bent his head without answering.

"I indeed believe I am right," said Croustillac. "I am wrong often
enough once, by chance, to have common sense."

"But, for the love of heaven, at least look things in the face, if I
accept," said the duke, taking both hands of Croustillac in his own.
"You must conduct me and my wife on board the Chameleon; we will hoist
sail and will be saved."

"All right, your highness, that is how I like to hear you speak!"

"Yes, we shall be saved, but you, unhappy man, you will return on the
frigate with Chemerant, and when you are brought face to face with my
friends, your ruse will be discovered and you will be lost!"

"Zounds! sir, how you go on! Without offending you, you then look upon
me as a pitiful fellow; you deprive me of all imagination, of all
ingenuity. If I am not mistaken, it is some distance to the Cayman's
Creek, at Fort Royal?"

"About three leagues," said the duke.

"Very well, your highness, in this country three leagues are three
hours, and in three hours a man like myself has at least six chances of
escaping. I have long legs and strong as a stag's. The companion of
Rend-your-Soul has taught me how to walk," replied the Gascon, smiling
with a malicious air. "Now I swear to you that it will make the good
Chemerant's escort take some pretty lively strides to keep up with me."

"And you desire that I should allow you to stake your life on a chance
as doubtful as that of an escape, when thirty soldiers, used to the
country, would instantly be on your track?" said the duke. "Never!"

"And you desire, your highness, that I place my life, my salvation on a
chance as uncertain as the clemency of the good Chemerant?"

"At least I should not sacrifice you to a certainty, and the chances are
equal," said the duke.

"Equal!" cried the adventurer indignantly. "Equal, your highness? Do you
dare compare yourself with me? Who am I? and what purpose do I serve
here below if not to carry an old sword at my side, and to live here and
there according to the whims of humankind? I am nothing, I do nothing, I
have nothing to care for. To whom is my life of any use? Who interests
himself about me? Who even knows if Polyphème de Croustillac exists or
not?"

"Chevalier, you are not right, and----"

"Zounds! your highness, you belong to the duchess, the adopted child of
Sidney. If he died for you, it is the least you can do to live for her
whom he loved as his own child! If you reduce her to despair, she may
die of grief, and you will have two victims instead of one to lament."

"But once more, chevalier----"

"But!" cried Croustillac, with a significant glance at Angela, and
beginning to talk loudly enough to deafen one, thus drowning the voice
of the duke, "But you are a miserable wretch! an insolent fellow! to
speak so to me! Help! help! come to my assistance!"

Then Croustillac said rapidly, and in a low tone, to the duke, "You
force me to do this, your highness, for I have no alternative." And the
adventurer began to shout at the top of his lungs.

The duke, paralyzed with surprise, remained motionless and looked at him
in stupefaction.

At the cry of the Gascon, six men, forming a portion of the escort,
which De Chemerant had stationed as sentinels in the gallery by the
request of Croustillac, rushed into the room.

"Gag this rascal! gag him instantly!" cried Croustillac, who trembled at
the fear that Chemerant might enter at this juncture.

The soldiers obeyed the chevalier's order; they threw themselves upon
the duke, who cried, as he struggled with them, "I am the prince; I am
Monmouth."

Happily, these dangerous words were stifled by the loud cries of the
chevalier, who, from the beginning of this scene, pretended to be a prey
to the greatest anger, and stamped his foot with rage.

One of the soldiers, with the aid of his scarf, succeeded in gagging the
duke, who was thus prevented from speaking.

Chemerant, attracted by the noise, entered quickly. He found Angela pale
and greatly agitated. While she understood the reason of this struggle,
she could not help being deeply moved.

"What has he done, then? your highness," cried Chemerant.

"That miserable wretch made such abominably insolent propositions to me
that, in spite of my contempt for him, I was obliged to have him
gagged."

"Your highness, you were right; but I foresaw that this miserable wretch
would break his ominous silence!"

"This scene, however," cried Croustillac, "was not without its use. I
was still hesitating, yes, I avow it, I was weak enough to. Now the die
is cast; the guilty ones shall suffer for their crime. Let us start at
once for the Cayman's Cove; I have sent my orders to Captain Ralph; I
shall not be content until I have seen them embark, under my own eyes;
then we will return to Fort Royal."

"Do you really wish to be present at this sad scene, your highness?"

"Do I wish to? I would not give up that precious moment for the throne
of England! I shall go to the vessel, and see these two criminals set
sail for their destination where the breath of my vengeance will take
them!"

"It is final, then, that you insist upon this?" said De Chemerant, still
hesitating.

"It is final," returned Croustillac, in a most imposing and threatening
voice, all in admirable accord with the part he played; "I expect to be
obeyed when my orders are just. Make all preparations for the departure,
I beg of you; if this miserable wretch does not choose to walk, he shall
be carried; but above all, see that he is securely gagged, for if he
should offer any further insolence I do not desire to hear it at any
price."

One of the soldiers assured himself that the gag was securely tied;
taking the duke, they tied his hands behind his back, and marched him
off under guard.

"Are you ready, De Chemerant?" said Croustillac.

"Yes, your highness, I have only to give some orders to my men."

"Go, then, I will await you; I also have some orders to give."

The governor saluted and withdrew.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE DEPARTURE.


Angela and the chevalier were alone.

"Saved! saved by you!" cried Angela.

"I would have wished to use different means, madame, but, without
reproach to the duke, he is as obstinate as I am. It was impossible to
do differently. There only remain a few moments now in which we may act.
Chemerant will return; let us think of what is most pressing. Your
diamonds--where are they? Go quickly and get them, madame. Take them
with you. Once all is discovered, beware of confiscation."

"The stones are there, in a secret box, in the duke's apartment."

"Go quickly and get them. I will ring for Mirette to get you some
clothing."

"Generous friend! But you! Oh God!"

"Be quiet; when I have no longer need to protect you, I will look out
for myself. But quick! get your diamonds. Chemerant will be here
shortly; I will ring for Mirette." The chevalier touched the bell.

Angela disappeared through the door leading to the duke's private
apartments.

Mirette appeared.

"She is very pretty, this little duchess," mused Croustillac to himself,
"very pretty. Oh, this time I am struck to the heart, I know it only too
well. I shall never forget her. This is love; yes, this is true love.
Happily this danger will distract me, or these emotions would make me
dizzy. Ah! there she comes!"

Angela entered carrying a small box. "We have always kept these stones
in reserve, in case we should be suddenly compelled to fly," said she to
Croustillac. "Our fortune is a thousand times assured. Alas! why is it
that you----"

The young woman paused, fearing to offend the Gascon; then she continued
sadly, with tears in her eyes, "You must have thought me very ignoble,
did you not, in accepting without hesitation your noble sacrifice? But
you will be kind and indulgent. It was necessary in order to save the
one who is the dearest object in the world to me--the man for whom I
would give my own life a thousand times over. But wait, this is
frightful egotism, to speak to you thus, to you whom I owe everything,
and who are going, perhaps, to death for me. I am mad! Forgive me."

"Not another word on this subject, madame, I beg of you. Here is the
duke's sword, it was his father's; here also is this little box which
his mother gave him. These are precious relics; put them all in this
large basket."

"Good and generous man!" exclaimed Angela, who was deeply moved; "you
think of everything!"

Croustillac made no reply; he turned his head away in order that the
duchess should not see the great tears rolling down his cheeks. He
extended his large, bony hands to the duchess, and said, in a stifled
voice, "Adieu, forever adieu! You will forget that I am a poor devil of
a fellow and you will remember me sometimes as----"

"As our best friend, as our brother," said Angela, bursting into tears.

Then she took from her pocket a small medallion containing her cipher,
and said to Croustillac, "See what I returned to the house to seek this
evening. I desired to offer you this token of our friendship; it was in
bringing it to you that I overheard your conversation with Colonel
Rutler. Accept it, it will be a double souvenir of our friendship and of
your generosity."

"Give it to me! oh, give it to me!" cried the Gascon, and then, pressing
it to his lips, he said, "I am more than paid for what I have done for
you, for the duke----"

"We are not ingrates. As soon as the duke is safe, we shall not leave
you in the power of Chemerant, and----"

"Here is Mirette; let us resume our rôle," cried Croustillac,
interrupting the duchess.

Mirette entered, followed by the slave, carrying in her hand
Croustillac's old sword; a soldier bore the basket containing the
clothes.

Angela placed the box of diamonds and Monmouth's sword in the basket.

Chemerant entered the room, saying, "Your highness, all is in
readiness."

"Offer madame your arm, if you please," said the chevalier to Chemerant,
with a gloomy manner.

Angela appeared struck with a sudden thought and said to the chevalier,
"Sir, I wish to say something, privately, to Father Griffen. Do you
refuse me this last petition?"

"Just now, your highness, the good Father, hearing the noise, came to
ask if he might speak to madame."

"He is here!" cried Angela, "God be praised!"

"Let him enter," said the Gascon gloomily.

Chemerant bowed and the guard withdrew.

Father Griffen entered. He was grave and sad.

"My Father," said Angela, "can you give me some moments' interview?"

So saying, she entered a room near by, followed by the priest.

"Your highness," said Chemerant, showing a paper to the Gascon, "here is
a letter which was found on the person of Colonel Rutler; it leaves no
doubts as to the plots of William of Orange against your highness.
Rutler will be shot upon our arrival at Fort Royal."

"We will speak of that later, sir, but I lean toward clemency in the
colonel's case--not through weakness, but from policy. I will explain to
you another time my reasons for this."

The little bay in which the Chameleon lay at anchor was not very far
from the residence of Blue Beard. When the escort arrived there the
horizon was tinged with the first rays of the rising sun. The Chameleon
was a brigantine, light and swift as a kingfisher, riding gracefully on
the waves, at her mooring. Not far from the Chameleon was seen one of
the coast guards who traversed in his rounds the only point of
Cabesterre which was accessible.

The launch of the Chameleon, commanded by Captain Ralph's first mate,
waited at the landing; in it were four sailors seated, with oars raised,
ready to row at the first signal.

The Gascon's heart beat as if it would burst. At the moment of attaining
the price of his sacrifice, he trembled lest an unlooked-for accident
should upset the fragile scaffolding of so many stratagems.

The litter in which Monmouth was shut up arrived on the bank, and was
quickly followed by that containing Angela.

The soldiers ranged themselves along the landing. The Gascon said to
Angela, in an agitated tone, "Go on board ship, madame, with your
accomplice; this package (and he put into the hands of the mate a paper)
will inform Captain Ralph of my final orders. Meanwhile," said the
chevalier all at once, "wait--I have an idea!"

Chemerant and Angela gazed at Croustillac with surprise.

The adventurer believed he had discovered a means of saving the duke,
and of himself escaping from Chemerant; he had no doubt of the
resolution and devotion of the five sailors in the boat; he thought of
precipitating himself with Angela and Monmouth into the boat and
ordering the sailors to make all speed over the waves in order to join
the Chameleon, and to set sail with speed. The soldiers, though thirty
in number, would be so surprised by this sudden flight that success
would be possible. A new incident upset this project of the chevalier.

A voice which, though distant, was very powerful, cried, "In the name of
the king, stop; allow no one to embark!"

Croustillac turned suddenly toward the direction from which the voice
came, and he saw a marine officer who was coming out of a redoubt
erected near Cayman's Cove.

"In the name of the king, allow no one to embark," came the voice again.

"Be easy, lieutenant," responded a subordinate, who until then had not
been perceived, for he was hidden by the piles of the wharf, "I will
not allow the tender to leave without your orders."

"That is well, Thomas, and beside," replied the officer, firing a shot
from his gun as a signal, "the coastguard will not permit the brigantine
to sail."

It would be impossible to paint the frightful agony of the actors in
this scene. Croustillac saw that his plan for flight was out of the
question, because the slightest signal from the coastguard would prevent
the departure of the Chameleon.

The officer who had just appeared stopped in front of Croustillac and
Chemerant, and said to them, "In the name of the king, I order you to
tell me who you are and where you are going, gentlemen; by the
governor's orders no one can sail from here without a permit from him.

"Sir," said Chemerant, "the soldiers who are with me are part of the
governor's guard; you see, I am acting by his consent."

"An escort, sir! you have an escort!" said the astonished officer.

"There, near the mole, sir," said Croustillac.

"Oh, that is another matter, sir; the light was so feeble that I had not
noticed the soldiers. I hope you will pardon me, sir."

This man, who seemed extremely talkative, approached the governor's
guard, examined them a moment, and said with excessive volubility, "My
orders are simply to prevent persons going toward the wharf, just now
the Chameleon, and a fine vessel she is, belonging to Blue Beard, and
which has bravely run down a Spanish pirate--came last night to the
mooring."

"Sir, I beg you to silence this insupportable babbler," said the
chevalier to Chemerant, "you must see how painful this scene is to me."

"You see, sir," said Chemerant to the lieutenant of marines, "the
persons who are going to embark, do so under my personal responsibility.
I am Chemerant, commissioner extraordinary to the king, and am furnished
with full powers."

"Sir," said the lieutenant, "it is unnecessary to cite your authority;
this escort is sufficient guarantee, and----"

"Then, sir, remove the order."

"Nothing is easier, sir; the order being now useless, it is useless to
maintain it." "Thomas," cried this irrepressible talker to his
subordinate, "you know the order that I gave you?"

"Which, lieutenant?"

"How! brainless one!"

"Sir, my time is valuable, I must return shortly to Fort Royal," said
Chemerant.

The lieutenant continued, recklessly, "How! you have forgotten the order
I gave you?"

"The last one? no, lieutenant."

"No, lieutenant! well, repeat it, then; let us hear the order." Then,
addressing Chemerant, he said to him, while pointing to his soldier, "He
hasn't the memory of a gosling! I am not sorry to give him this lesson
before you, it will profit him."

"Confound it! I am not here to assist in educating your functionaries,"
said Chemerant.

"Well, Thomas, this order?"

"Lieutenant, it was to let no one embark on the vessel."

"Very well, that is all right; now I remove the embargo."

"Go on board at once, madame," said Croustillac, unable to moderate his
impatience.

Angela cast a last look at him.

The duke made a despairing effort to break his fetters, but he was
quickly carried off to the tender by the soldiers.

At a sign from Blue Beard, the sailors dipped their oars into the sea
and headed for the Chameleon.

"Are you satisfied now, your highness," said Chemerant.

"No, no; not yet, sir. I shall not be content until I see the vessel set
sail," replied the Gascon in a changed voice.

"The prince is implacable in his hate," thought Chemerant; "he trembles
still with rage, although his revenge is assured."

All at once the sky was irradiated by the rays of the sun which made
more somber still the line of azure which the sea formed on the horizon;
the sun rose majestically, pouring torrents of red upon the water, the
rocks, and the bay.

At this instant the Chameleon, which had been joined by the small boat,
flung to the breeze its white sails, and began to draw in its cable, by
which it was attached to the mooring. The brigantine, with a graceful
movement, began to tack; during a few seconds it completely hid the disk
of the sun, and appeared enveloped in a brilliant aureole. Then the
swift vessel, turning its prow toward Cayman's Cove, began to make
toward the open sea.

Croustillac remained motionless in sorrowful reverie, with his eyes
fixed upon the vessel, which was carrying away the woman whom he so
suddenly and so madly loved.

The adventurer, thanks to his keen sight, could perceive a white
handkerchief which was waved from the stern of the vessel. It was the
last farewell of Blue Beard.

Shortly the breeze freshened. The little vessel, with swift movement,
bent under her sails, and went so rapidly that it was, little by little,
lost in the midst of the warm mist of the morning. Then it entered into
a zone of torrid light which the sun threw on the waves.

For some time Croustillac could not follow the Chameleon with his eyes;
when he saw her again, the brigantine drew nearer and nearer to the
horizon, appearing but a speck in space. Then, doubling the last point
of the island, she disappeared all at once.

When the poor chevalier could no longer see the vessel, he experienced a
profound sorrow. His heart seemed as empty and as solitary as the ocean.

"Now, sir," said Chemerant, "let us go and find the friends who are
awaiting you so impatiently. In an hour we will be on board the
frigate."



PART IV.



CHAPTER XXX.

REGRETS.


As long as Croustillac contemplated his sacrifice; as long as he had
been exalted by its dangers and upheld by the presence of Angela and
Monmouth; he had not realized the cruel consequences of his devotion;
but when he was alone, his thoughts became very painful. Not that he
feared the danger which menaced him, but he felt keenly the absence of
Angela, for whom he had braved everything. Under the eye of Angela, he
had gayly faced the greatest peril; but he would never see her again.
This was the real reason of his gloomy dejection.

With arms crossed upon his breast, bowed head, fixed gaze and somber
manner, the adventurer remained silent and motionless. Twice De
Chemerant addressed him: "Your highness, it is time to go."

Croustillac did not hear him. Chemerant, realizing the uselessness of
words, touched him lightly on the arm, repeating louder, "Your highness,
there still remain more than four leagues to travel before arriving at
Fort Royal."

"Zounds! sir; what do you want?" cried the Gascon, turning impatiently
toward De Chemerant.

The face of the latter expressed so much surprise at hearing the man
whom he believed to be the Duke of Monmouth give vent to such a peculiar
exclamation, that the Gascon realized the imprudence of which he had
been guilty. He quickly recovered his usual coolness, looked at De
Chemerant in an abstracted manner; then, as if he had awakened from a
profound meditation, he said, in a short tone, "Very well, sir, let us
go." Again mounting his horse, the Gascon took the road to Fort Royal,
still followed by the escort and accompanied by De Chemerant.

Croustillac was not a man, in spite of his chagrin, to entirely despair
of the present. Chemerant, recovering from his surprise, attributed the
somber taciturnity of the Gascon to the painful thoughts which the
criminal conduct of the Duchess of Monmouth must cause him; while the
adventurer, summing up the chances of escape which remained to him,
analyzed the state of his heart, reasoning as follows: "Blue Beard (I
shall always call her that--it was thus I heard her name for the first
time, when I thought of her without knowing her), Blue Beard is
gone--forever gone; I shall never see her again, never, never, it is
evident. It will be impossible to escape from the memory of her. It is
absurd, stupid, not to be imagined, but so it is--this proves it that
this little woman has completely subjugated me. I was gay, careless and
loquacious as a bird on the bough, but little scrupulous as to delicacy,
and now behold me, sad, morose, taciturn, and of a delicacy so
inordinate that I had a horrible fear lest Blue Beard should offer me,
in parting, some remuneration other than the medallion from which she
had the generosity to remove the jewels. Alas! from this time forth,
this memory will be all my happiness--sad happiness! What a change! I,
who heretofore cared so much the more for bravery of attire since I was
badly clothed; I, who would have found such happiness in wearing this
velvet coat garnished with rich gold buttons--I wish for the moment to
come when I can don my old green garments and my pink hose, proud to say
'I leave this Potosi, this Devil's Cliff, this diamond mine, as much of
a beggar as when I entered into it.' Is it not, my faith, very plain
that before knowing Blue Beard, I had never in my life had such
thoughts? Now, what remains for me to hope?" said Croustillac, adopting,
as was his wont, the interrogative form to make what he called his
"examination of conscience."

"Now, then, be frank, Polyphème, do you care much for life?

"Eh! eh!

"What say you to being hanged?

"H--m, h--m.

"Come, now, frankly?

"Frankly? well, the gallows, strictly speaking, might please me if Blue
Beard was there to see me hanged. And yet, no, it is an ignoble death, a
ridiculous death; one's tongue hangs out, one kicks about----

"Polyphème, you are afraid--of being hanged?

"No, faith! but hanged all alone, hanged by myself, hanged like a mad
dog, hanged without two beautiful eyes looking at you, without a pretty
mouth smiling at you----

"Polyphème, you are a stupid oaf; do you believe that Her Grace the
Duchess of Monmouth would come to applaud your last dance? Once more,
Polyphème, you are tricking, you seek all sorts of evasions. You are
afraid of being hanged, I tell you."

"So be it--yes, I am afraid of the gallows, I own it; let us speak no
more of it. Put aside these probabilities, do not admit into our future
this exaggerated fear. Zounds! one is not hanged for so little, while
the prison is possible, not to say probable. Let us talk, then, of the
prison.

"Well, how does the prison seem to you, Polyphème?

"Eh! eh! the prison is devilishly monotonous. I know well that I should
have the resource of thinking of Blue Beard, but I shall think of her so
much, I shall think of her even better in the peaceful solitude of the
woods, in the calm of the paternal valley. The paternal valley! yes,
decidedly, it is there that I would prefer to finish my days, dreaming
of Blue Beard. Only, shall I ever find it again, this paternal valley?
Alas! the mists of our Gavonne are so thick that I shall wander long,
without doubt, before I find this dear valley again.

"Polyphème, you purposely wander from the subject; you wish to escape
the prison as well as the gallows, in spite of your philosophical
bombast.

"Well, yes, zounds! I do want to escape both; to whom should I avow it
if not to myself? Who will comprehend me if not I, myself?

"That admitted, Polyphème, how will you evade the fate that threatens
you?

"Just at present this road is hardly favorable for escape, I know; rocks
on the right hand, on the left the sea, in front of and behind me the
escort. My horse is not bad; if it was better than that of the good
Chemerant, I might make a trial of swiftness with him.

"And then, Polyphème?

"And then I would leave good Chemerant on the road.

"And then?

"And then, abandoning my horse, I would conceal myself in some cavern; I
would climb the rocks; I have long legs and muscles of steel.

"But, Polyphème, you will be sure to find the maroons. You, who are not
accustomed as they are to a nomadic life, you will be easily found by
them, at least if you are not devoured by wildcats or killed by
serpents. Such are your only two chances of escaping the efforts they
will make to catch you again.

"Yes, but at least I have some chance of escape, while in following the
good Chemerant, as the sheep follows the butcher who leads it to the
slaughter-house, I fall full into the hands of my partisans. Mortimer
will fall on my neck, not to embrace me, but to strangle me, when he
sees who I am, or rather, whom I am not; while in attempting to escape I
may succeed, and, who knows? perhaps rejoin Blue Beard. Father Griffen
is devoted to her; through him I shall learn where she is, if he knows.

"But, Polyphème, you are mad! You love this woman without a ray of hope.
She is passionately in love with her husband; and, although people have
complacently taken you for him, he is as handsome, as much of a 'grand
seigneur,' as interesting, as you are ugly, ridiculous, and
insignificant, although of ancient race, Polyphème.

"Eh? Zounds! what does it matter? In again beholding Blue Beard I shall
not be happy, that is true, but I shall be content. Cannot one enjoy a
beautiful sight, an admirable picture, a magnificent poem, an enchanting
piece of music, although this sight, this picture, this poem, this
music, are not one's own? Well, such will be the kind of my content in
the presence of the divine Blue Beard.

"A last observation, Polyphème. Your rhapsody, happy or not, will it not
awaken the suspicions of De Chemerant? Will you not thus compromise the
safety of those whom you have, I must avow, very skillfully rescued?

"There is nothing to fear on that side. The Chameleon flies like an
albatross--she is already the devil knows where. She will put to their
wits' ends all the coastguards of the islands to know where she is.
Thus, then, I see no inconvenience in trying whether my horse goes
faster than that of the good Chemerant. The good man seems to me plunged
in meditation just now; the strand is good and straight. If I should
start----

"Come, then, try--start, Polyphème!"

Scarcely had the adventurer mentally given himself this permission,
when, giving some touches of his spur to the horse, he set off suddenly
with great rapidity.

Chemerant, surprised for a moment, gazed after the flying Croustillac;
then, not comprehending this strange action on the part of the supposed
duke, he started in pursuit.

Chemerant had been in many wars, and was an excellent rider. His horse,
without being superior to that of Croustillac, being much better managed
and trained, immediately regained the distance the adventurer had
covered. Chemerant closely followed the track of Croustillac, crying,
"My lord, my lord, where are you going?"

Croustillac, seeing himself so closely pursued, urged his horse forward
with all his force.

Very soon the adventurer was obliged to stop short; the strand formed an
elbow in this place, and the Gascon found himself face to face with
enormous blocks of rock leaving only a narrow and dangerous passage.

Chemerant rejoined his companion. "By all the furies! my lord," he
cried, "what gnat has bitten your highness? Why this sudden and furious
gallop?"

The Gascon responded, coolly and boldly, "I am in great haste, sir, to
rejoin my partisans--this poor Mortimer especially, who awaits me with
such lively impatience. And then, in spite of me, I am besieged with
certain vexatious ideas concerning my wife, and I wish to fly from them,
these ideas, to fly from them by any means," said the Gascon, with a
dolorous sigh.

"It appears to me, my lord, that morally and physically you fly from
them with all your might; unfortunately the road forbids your escaping
them any further."

Chemerant called the guide. "At what distance are we from Fort Royal?"
he asked him.

"A league at most, sir."

Chemerant pulled out his watch and said to Croustillac, "if the wind is
good at eleven o'clock, we might be under sail and _en route_ for the
coast of Cornwall, where glory awaits you, my lord."

"I hope so, sir, without which it would be absurd in me to go there. But
apropos of our enterprise, it seems to be a bad beginning to inaugurate
it with a murder."

"What do you mean, your highness?"

"I should see with pain the shooting of Colonel Rutler. I am
superstitious, sir; this death seems to me a bad omen. The crime was one
entirely personal to me; I then formally demand from you his pardon."

"Your highness, his crime was flagrant, and----"

"But, sir, the crime has not been committed. I insist that the colonel
shall not be shot."

"He should, at least your highness, expiate by perpetual imprisonment
his audacious attempt."

"In prison? so be it; one can get out of it, thank God! or at least, one
can hope so, which shortens the time infinitely. Beside, the colonel
might noise abroad my approaching descent into Cornwall, which would be
truly disastrous."

"What you desire in this case shall be done, your highness?"

"Another thing, sir. I am superstitious, as I have told you. I have
remarked in my life certain lucky and unlucky days. Now, for nothing in
this world would I choose to begin an enterprise so important as ours
under the influence of an hour which I believe to be fatal to me.
Beside, I am much fatigued; you ought to be able to understand that, in
thinking of the emotions of all kinds which have beset me since
yesterday."

"What, then, are your designs, your highness?"

"They will perhaps not agree with yours, but I will credit you with
doing what I desire, which is not to set sail before to-morrow morning
at sunrise."

"Your highness!"

"I know, sir, what you are going to say to me, but twenty-four hours,
more or less, are not of much consequence, and, finally, I have decided
not to put my foot on board to-day. I should bring upon you the most
direful fate; I should draw upon your frigate all the tempests of the
tropics. I will, then, pass the day with the governor, in absolute
retirement. I have need of being alone," added Croustillac, in a
melancholy tone; "alone, yes, always alone, and I ought to begin my
apprenticeship to solitude."

"Solitude? But, my lord, you will not find it among the agitations which
await you."

"Ah! sir," responded Croustillac philosophically, "the unfortunate finds
solitude even in the midst of the crowd, when he isolates himself in his
regrets. A wife whom I loved so much!" added he, with a profound sigh.

"Ah! your highness," said De Chemerant, sighing in order to put himself
in sympathy with Croustillac, "it is terrible; but time heals the
deepest wounds."

"You are right, sir, time heals the deepest wounds. I will have courage.
Well rested, well recovered from my fatigue and my cruel agitations,
to-morrow I will console myself, I will forget all in embracing my
partisans."

"Ah! your highness, to-morrow will be a blessed day for all."

The position of the supposed duke demanded too much consideration from
De Chemerant for him not to give in to the suggestions of his companion;
he acquiesced, then, though with regret, in the will of Croustillac.

The Gascon, in postponing the hour in which his deception should be
discovered, hoped to find a chance to escape. He remembered that Blue
Beard had said to him, "We will not be ungrateful; once the duke is in
safety, we will not leave you in the power of De Chemerant; only seek to
gain time."

Although Croustillac did not count much on the promise of his friends,
knowing all the difficulties which they would have to brave and to
conquer before they could succor him, he wished in any case not to
sacrifice this chance of safety, however uncertain it should be.

Thus, as the guide had informed them, they arrived at Fort Royal at the
end of an hour's march.

The residence of the governor was situated at the extremity of the city,
on the edge of the savannahs; it was easy to reach it without
encountering any one.

Chemerant sent one of the guards in all haste to warn the governor of
the arrival of his two guests.

The baron had replaced his long peruke, and resumed his heavy,
tight-fitting coat, in order to receive De Chemerant and the supposed
duke. He regarded the latter with eager curiosity, and was extremely
puzzled by the black velvet coat with the red sleeve. But, remembering
that De Chemerant had spoken to him of a state secret in which the
inhabitants of Devil's Cliff found themselves mixed up, he did not dare
to meet Croustillac without profound deference.

The governor, profiting by a moment during which the adventurer cast a
melancholy glance at the window, striving to see whether it would serve
his purpose, said in a low tone to De Chemerant, "I expected to see a
lady, sir. This litter that you brought with you----"

"Well, baron, you unfortunately counted without your hostess."

"You must have been much heated by this morning sun," added the baron
with a careless air, although he was piqued by De Chemerant's answer.

"Very much heated, sir, and your guest also. You should offer him some
refreshment."

"I have thought of that, sir," replied the baron, "and have ordered
three covers laid."

"I do not know, baron, whether my lord (indicating Croustillac) will
deign to admit us to his table."

The governor, stupefied with surprise, regarded Croustillac with a new
and burning curiosity. "But, sir, is this, then, a great personage?"

"Baron, I am again under the necessity of reminding you that it is my
mission to ask questions of you and not----"

"Sufficient, sufficient, sir. Will you ask the guest whom I have the
honor to receive if he will do me the favor to accept this breakfast?"

Chemerant transmitted the invitation of the baron to Croustillac, who,
pretending fatigue, asked to breakfast alone in his apartment.

Chemerant whispered a few words in the ear of the governor, who
immediately offered his finest apartment to the supposed great
personage.

Croustillac prayed the baron to have the pannier, of which one of the
two guards had taken charge, and which, as we know, contained only
Croustillac's old garments, brought to his room.

Chemerant was in the room of the Gascon when the pannier was brought in.

"Who would think, to look at this modest pannier, that it contained more
than three millions' worth of jewels?" said Croustillac negligently.

"What imprudence! your highness!" cried De Chemerant. "These guards are
trusty, but----"

"They are ignorant of the treasure they carry; there is, then, nothing
to fear."

"Your highness, I ought to tell you that it is not the intention of the
king that you should use your personal resources in order to bring this
enterprise to a successful end. The purser of the frigate has a
considerable sum destined to the payment of the recruits who are
embarked, and for necessary expenses, once the debarkation is
accomplished."

"It does not matter," said Croustillac. "Money is the sinew of war. I
had not foreseen this disposition of the 'great king,' and I wish to put
at the service of my royal uncle that which remains to me of blood,
fortune and influence."

After this sounding peroration, De Chemerant went out.



CHAPTER XXXI.

CROUSTILLAC DEPARTS.


Croustillac seated himself at the table which had been prepared for him,
ate but little, and then lay down, hoping that sleep would calm him and
perhaps bring to him some fortunate idea of how to escape. He had
recognized with chagrin the impossibility of escaping by the window of
the chamber he occupied; the two sentries of the governor's residence
paced constantly at the foot of the building.

Once alone, De Chemerant began to reflect on the singular events of
which he had been the witness. Although he did not doubt that the Gascon
was the veritable Duke of Monmouth, the conduct of the duchess seemed so
strange to him, the manners and language of Croustillac, although very
skillfully adapted to his rôle, were sometimes so redolent of the
adventurer, that without the aid of the evident proofs which should
demonstrate to him the identity of the person of the duke, De Chemerant
would have conceived some suspicions. Nevertheless, he resolved to
profit by his sojourn at Fort Royal to question the governor anew on the
subject of Blue Beard, and Colonel Rutler on the subject of the Duke of
Monmouth. The baron did no more than to repeat certain public rumors,
viz., that the widow was on the best possible terms with the three
bandits who haunted Devil's Cliff.

Chemerant was reduced to deploring the depravity of the young woman, and
the blindness of the unfortunate duke, a blindness which had, without
doubt, endured till that very moment.

As for Rutler, his arrest by De Chemerant, the arrival of the envoy from
France at Devil's Cliff, far from shaking his conviction in respect to
Croustillac, had confirmed it; thus, when De Chemerant came to question
him, in announcing to him that he was not to be shot, the colonel, on
his part unwittingly, concurred in giving still more authority to the
false rôle of the adventurer.

The sun was on the point of setting. Chemerant, completely reassured as
to the very satisfactory result of his mission, was thinking over the
advantages it must bring to him, while walking up and down the terrace
of the governor's residence, when the baron, out of breath with having
climbed so high, came to tear his guest away from the ambitious thoughts
with which he was delighting himself.

"Sir," said the governor to him, "a merchant captain called Master
Daniel, and commanding the three-master the Unicorn has arrived from St.
Pierre with his ship; he asks to talk with you for a moment on very
pressing affairs."

"May I receive him on this terrace, baron?"

"Certainly, sir; it is much cooler here than below." Then advancing to
the staircase by which he had ascended, the baron said to one of his
guards, "Send Master Daniel up here."

We have forgotten to say that as soon as the supposed duke had
manifested a desire to pass the night on land the frigate had received
orders to anchor at the extremity of the roads.

After some minutes, Captain Daniel, our old acquaintance, appeared on
the terrace. The physiognomy of the captain, ordinarily so frank and
joyous, betrayed great embarrassment.

The worthy captain of the Unicorn, so completely king on the deck of his
vessel, seemed uncomfortable and ill at ease. His cheeks, always more
than red, were slightly pale; the almost imperceptible quivering of his
upper lip agitated his thick gray mustache--a physiological sign which
indicated in Captain Daniel a grave preoccupation; he wore trousers and
tunic of blue and white striped cloth; in his girdle of red cotton was
thrust a long Flemish knife; an India handkerchief, knotted sailor
fashion, surrounded his brick-colored throat; finally, he mechanically
gave the most whimsical forms to the large and flexible straw hat which
he twisted about with both hands.

The worthy master, with many low bows, approached De Chemerant, whose
dry, harsh face, with its piercing glance, seemed to intimidate him
greatly.

"I am sure that this poor man is all in a perspiration," said the
governor to De Chemerant, in a pitying tone.

In fact, great drops of perspiration covered the prominent veins on the
bald and sunburned forehead of Captain Daniel.

"What do you wish?" said De Chemerant to him brusquely.

"Come, speak, explain yourself, Master Daniel," added the baron, in a
gentler tone, seeing the merchant captain more and more intimidated.

At last the captain ended by saying, in a voice strangled by emotion,
and addressing himself to De Chemerant, "Your highness----"

"I am not 'your highness' but 'sir,'" replied Chemerant; "speak, I am
listening."

"Well, then, my good sir, I arrived at St. Pierre with a cargo, a very
rich cargo of sugar, coffee, pepper, cloves, tafia----"

"I do not need to know the inventory of your cargo; what do you want?"

"Come, Master Daniel, my boy, reassure yourself, explain yourself, and
dry your forehead; you look as if you had come out of the water," said
the baron.

"Now, your high--now, good sir, although I have a dozen small guns, and
a few swivel guns, my cargo is of such value that I come, good sir, in
fear of corsairs and pirates----"

"Well?"

"Go on, Master Daniel, I have never seen you thus."

"I come, good sir, to ask your permission to set sail in company with
the frigate which has anchored just now in the roads."

"Confound it! I can understand why you are embarrassed in making such a
request, Master Daniel," said the baron. "They are to give you his
majesty's frigates to serve as escort to your cargo!"

Chemerant looked fixedly at the captain, shrugged his shoulders, and
responded, "It is impossible! The frigate is a fast sailer; she could
not diminish her speed to attend on your vessel--you are crazy!"

"Oh, sir, if it is only that, fear nothing. Without decrying his
majesty's frigate, since I do not know her, I can engage to follow her,
no matter how much sail she carries, or whatever wind or sea is in her
sails or ahead."

"I tell you you are crazy. The Thunderer is the swiftest of ships."

"My good sir, do not refuse me," said Master Daniel, in a supplicating
tone. "If this proud frigate sails quicker than the Unicorn--well, this
man-of-war will desert the poor merchant ship, but at least I shall have
been a good part of the way under the shelter of the flag of the king,
and the prowlers of the sea are only especially to be feared in the
starting. Ah, sir, a cargo worth more than a million, by which the
enemies of our good king will profit if they succeed in getting
possession of the Unicorn----"

"But I repeat to you that the frigate, although a man-of-war, would not
have time to defend you if you were attacked; her mission is such that
she ought not to be embarrassed with a convoy."

"Oh, good sir," replied Captain Daniel, clasping his hands, "you will
have no embarrassment because of me; there will be no risk of my being
attacked if they see me under the protection of your guns. There is not
a corsair who would dare even to approach me, seeing me so bravely
accompanied. With all respect, sir, the wolves attack the lambs only
when the dogs are absent."

"Poor lamb of a Master Daniel!" said the governor.

"Ah, good sir, let it not be said that a warship of the king, our
master, refused a poor unfortunate merchant who asked only the
protection of his flag, so long as he was able to follow it."

Chemerant found it hard to refuse this request, which in nowise
interfered with the maneuvers of the frigate, as Captain Daniel engaged
to follow the course of the Thunderer or allow himself to be abandoned.
Nevertheless, De Chemerant refused. "You know well," he said to the
captain, "that if, in spite of our escort, a corsair attacked you, a
king's ship could not leave you defenseless. Again, you will hinder the
maneuvers of the frigate. It is impossible."

"But, sir, my rich cargo----"

"You have guns, defend it. I will not allow you the convoy. It is
impossible."

"Alas! my good God! I, who have come expressly from St. Pierre to ask
this favor from you!" said Daniel, in a dolorous tone.

"Well, you will wait for another chance. I cannot cover you with my
flag."

"However, good sir----"

"Enough!" said Chemerant, in a harsh and peremptory tone.

Captain Daniel made a last reverence, and, retreating slowly to the
staircase, he disappeared.

"To see these merchants! To hear them one would think there were no
interests in the world but those of their cargoes," said De Chemerant.

"There are, however, very few circumstances in which one refuses an
escort," said the governor, with an air of astonishment.

"There are very few, indeed, baron, but there are some," said Chemerant
brusquely, while withdrawing.

Croustillac had been conducted to the finest apartment in the house.
When he awoke night had fallen, and the moon shone with so brilliant a
light that it illuminated his chamber perfectly.

Croustillac looked out of his window; the two sentinels paced peacefully
at the foot of the wall.

"The devil!" said the adventurer. "It is decidedly impossible to make my
escape on this side; there are at least twenty feet to descend just to
fall on the backs of these sentinels, and they would find this manner of
quitting the governor's house very singular. Let us look at the other
side, then."

Croustillac approached the door with a light step; but a bright light
thrown on the floor showed him that the neighboring room was lighted and
probably occupied.

By the aid of a tinder-box which he found on the mantel, he lighted a
candle, and dressed himself in his old clothes, with a melancholy
satisfaction. They exhaled the strong and aromatic odor of the plants
and herbs of the surroundings through which Croustillac had so long
walked in his wanderings in the forest around Devil's Cliff.

"Zounds! Chance is devilishly well named Chance," said the Gascon to
himself. "It has always had a particular affection for me. If it was
canonized, I would make it my patron saint. Chance--Polyphème, Sire de
Croustillac! When, on board the Unicorn, I made a bet that I would marry
Blue Beard, who could have foreseen that this foolish wager was almost
won; for, after all, in the eyes of the man with the dagger and of De
Chemerant, I passed, I still pass, as the husband of the lady of Devil's
Cliff. How all things hang together in fate! When I quitted the
parsonage of Father Griffen, nose in air, shoulders squared, my switch
in my hand to drive away the serpents, who the devil would have said
that I left to go, not directly it is true, to incite the Cornwallers to
revolt in favor of King James and Louis XIV! Zounds! One may well say
that the ways of Providence are inscrutable. Who could have penetrated
into this? Ah! now the critical moment approaches. I am sometimes
tempted to disclose all to the good man Chemerant. Yes, but I think that
each hour gained removes the duke and his wife three or four leagues
further from Martinique. I think that here, on land, my trial might be
carried out immediately and my gallows raised in the wink of an eye,
while on the open sea there would perhaps be no persons present
competent to judge me. I think, after all, that if Blue Beard has begged
(as I suppose) Father Griffen to endeavor to withdraw me from the claws
of Chemerant, that a sudden and imprudent revelation on my part would
spoil all. Much better, then, to keep silence. Yes, all well
considered," resumed Croustillac after a moment of reflection, "to let
De Chemerant's mistake last as long as possible, that is the better part
for me to take."

During these reflections Croustillac had dressed himself. "Now," he
said, "let me see if there are any means of getting out of here
secretly."

So saying, he softly opened the door and beheld with disappointment the
lackeys of the governor, who rose respectfully on seeing him. One went
to seek the baron; the other said to Croustillac, "Monsieur the governor
forbade us to enter the chamber of your highness until called; he will
come on the instant."

"No matter, my boy, only show me the door to the garden. It is very
warm; I wish to take the air for awhile--but no, there are undoubtedly
trees in the garden; I prefer the open space, the field----"

"That is very simple, your highness; in descending from the gallery you
will find yourself in the garden, from which a gate opens into the
fields."

"Very well, then, my boy, conduct me there quickly. I long for the
fields like a bird in a cage."

"Ah, it is not necessary, your highness; here is monsieur the baron, he
will conduct you himself," said the lackey.

"To the devil with the baron!" thought Croustillac. The governor was not
alone; Chemerant accompanied him.

"Faith, your highness," said the latter, "fortunately we see you risen.
We came to wake you."

"To wake me--and why?"

"Wind and tide wait for no one. The tide goes out at three o'clock; it
is now half-past two. It will take us a half hour to reach the mole,
where the boat awaits us. We have just time to get there, your
highness."

"Now, then, the die is cast," said Croustillac. "Let us try only to gain
a few hours before being presented to my partisans. Sir, I am at your
orders," added the adventurer, draping himself in a brown mantle which
he had found with his clothes.

The governor felt it his duty to accompany, as escort, De Chemerant and
the mysterious unknown to the mole; the flight of the Gascon was thus
rendered absolutely impossible.

At the moment of quitting the governor, Chemerant said to him, "Sir, I
will render to the king a full account of the efficient aid you have
given me. I can now say it to you, the secret has been perfectly kept."

"But, sir, may I know what were these indications?" cried the baron, so
poorly informed on what he was burning to know.

"You may be certain, baron," said Chemerant, cordially pressing his
hand, "that the king will know all--and it will not be my fault if you
are not rewarded as you deserve."

Thus saying, Chemerant gave the order to put off.

"If the king is to know all he will be much ahead of me," said the
baron, slowly returning to his house. "What I have learned from the
guards of the escort has only augmented my curiosity. It was hardly
worth the trouble to toil and moil, and stay on one's feet all night, to
be so badly informed of things of the greatest importance, taking place
in my own government!"



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE FRIGATE.


The moon threw a brilliant light over the waters of Fort Royal. The long
boat which bore Croustillac and his fortunes advanced rapidly toward the
Thunderer, which was anchored at the entrance of the bay.

The Gascon, enveloped in his mantle, occupied the place of honor in the
boat, which seemed to fly over the water.

"Sir," said he to Chemerant, "I wish to reflect ripely on the discourse
which it is my intention to address to my partisans; you comprehend--it
is necessary that I pronounce a sort of manifesto in which I disclose my
political principles; that I tell them my hopes in order to make them
partakers in them; that, in fine, I give them, in a manner, a plan of
campaign; now all this needs long elaboration. These are the bases of
our undertaking. It is necessary to disclose all to them--the
consequences of the alliance, or rather the moral, that is to say
material support which England lends us, or rather France--In short,"
said Croustillac, who began to be singularly mixed up in his politics,
"I do not wish to receive my partisans till to-morrow, in the morning. I
wish, even, that my arrival on board should be conducted as quietly as
possible."

"It is very probable, my lord, that all these brave gentlemen are
asleep, for they did not know at what hour your highness was to arrive."

"This mad--this brave Mortimer is capable of waiting up all night for
me," said Croustillac, with disquietude.

"That is not to be doubted, your highness, by one who knows the ardent
impatience with which he desires your return."

"Hold, sir," said the Gascon, "between you and me, I know my Mortimer;
he is very nervous, very impressionable. I should fear for him--a shock,
a too sudden effect of joy, should I appear abruptly before him. Thus,
in going aboard I shall take the precaution of well wrapping myself up
in order to escape his eyes--and even if he asks you if I shall soon
arrive, oblige me by answering him in an evasive manner. In this way we
can prepare him for an interview, which without these precautions might
prove fatal to this devoted friend."

"Ah! fear nothing, your highness; excess of joy can never be fatal."

"Indeed, you deceive yourself, sir; without taking account of a thousand
general facts with which I might corroborate my opinion, I will cite on
this subject a fact quite personal and particular to the very man of
whom we are now talking."

"To Lord Mortimer?"

"To him, sir. I shall never forget that once I saw him seized with
frightful convulsions under circumstances almost similar. There were
nervous starts--swoons----"

"However, your highness, Lord Mortimer has an athletic constitution."

"An athletic constitution? Come, then, it only remained that I should
encounter a Hercules in this run-mad Pylades," thought Croustillac. He
spoke aloud:

"You don't know, sir, that it is these very men of great strength who
are just the ones who most keenly feel such shocks. I will even tell
you--but this is entirely between ourselves--at least----"

"Your highness may be sure of my discretion."

"You will understand my reserve, sir. I will tell you then that, on the
occasion of which I speak--this unfortunate Mortimer was so
stupefied--(if it were not for our intimate friendship, I should say
rendered stupid) by seeing too suddenly some one he had not met for a
long time--that his head--you comprehend----"

"What, your highness, his reason----"

"Alas! yes, in this instance only--. You now comprehend why I demand
secrecy of you?"

"Yes, yes, your highness."

"But that was not all; the shock suffered by poor Mortimer was such
that, after having remained several moments stupefied with surprise, he
no longer recognized this person; no, sir, he did not recognize him,
though he had seen him a thousand times!"

"Is it possible, your highness?" said De Chemerant, in a tone of
respectful doubt.

"It is, alas! only too true, sir, for you have no idea of the
excitability of this good fellow. So I, who am his friend, should watch
carefully that no trouble come to him. Think, then, if I should expose
him to the risk of not knowing me. Mortimer is now the one whom I love
most in the world, and you know, alas! sir, if the consolations of
friendship are necessary to me."

"Still these unhappy memories, your highness?"

"Yes, I am weak, I own it--it is stronger than I."

"What is this ship anchored not far from the frigate?" demanded De
Chemerant of the master of the long boat, in order to change the
conversation, out of regard for the feelings of the supposed duke.

"That, sir, is a merchantman, which arrived last night from St. Pierre,"
said the sailor, respectfully removing his cap.

"Ah! I know," said De Chemerant; "it is probably the ship of that fool
of a merchant-captain who demanded our escort. But here we are, your
highness--the lights are all out--you are not expected."

"So much the better, so much the better; provided Mortimer is not
there."

"It seems to me that I see him on the bridge, your highness."

Croustillac raised his mantle almost to his eyes.

"Ah! there is the officer of the watch on the ladder. What a pity to
arrive so late, your highness. It is to the beat of drums, the flourish
of trumpets, that your highness should have been received, with the
ship's crew presenting arms."

"Honors to-morrow--honors to-morrow," said Croustillac; "the hour of
these frivolities always comes soon enough."

Chemerant drew aside to allow the Gascon to mount the ladder first. The
latter breathed freely again on seeing on deck only an officer of
marines, who received him with bared head and a profoundly respectful
air. Croustillac responded with great dignity, and above all, very
briefly, enveloping himself in his mantle with the utmost care, and
casting uneasy glances around him, fearing to see the terrible Mortimer.
Fortunately he saw only the sailors talking together or reclining by the
side of the guns.

The officer, who was speaking in a low tone to De Chemerant, saluting
Croustillac again, said to him:

"Your highness, since you command it, I will not awaken the captain, and
I shall have the honor of conducting you to your cabin."

Croustillac inclined his head.

"Till to-morrow, your highness," said De Chemerant.

"Till to-morrow," responded the adventurer.

The officer descended by the hatchway to the gun-deck, opened the door
of a large, wide cabin perfectly lighted by a skylight, and said to the
Gascon: "Your highness, there is your cabin; there are two other small
rooms to the right and left."

"This is admirable, sir; do me the favor, I pray you, to give the
strictest orders that no one enters my cabin to-morrow until I call. No
one, sir, you understand--absolutely no one!--this is of the last
importance."

"Very well, my lord. Your highness does not wish that I should send one
of the people to assist you to disrobe?"

"I am a soldier, sir," said Croustillac proudly, "and I disrobe without
assistance."

The young officer bowed, taking this response for a lesson in stoicism;
he went out, ordering one of the orderlies to allow no one to enter the
cabin of the duke, and again ascended on deck to rejoin De Chemerant.

"Your duke is a veritable Spartan, my dear De Chemerant," said he to
him. "Why! he has not brought even a lackey."

"That is true," responded De Chemerant; "such strange things have taken
place on land that neither he nor I thought of it; but I will give him
one of my people. Just now the important thing is to set sail."

"That is also the opinion of the captain. He gave me orders to wake him
if you judged it necessary to depart at once."

"We will start on the instant, for both wind and tide are in our favor,
I think," answered De Chemerant.

"So favorable," said the officer, "that if this wind holds, to-morrow by
sunrise we shall no longer be able to see the shores of Martinique."

A half-hour after the arrival of the Gascon on board, the Thunderer got
under sail with an excellent breeze from the southwest.

When De Chemerant saw the frigate leaving the roads, he could not
refrain from rubbing his hands, saying to himself, "Faith it is not that
I am vain and boastful, but I would only have given this mission in a
hundred to the most skillful of men--to unravel the projects of the
English envoy, to conquer the scruples of the duke, to aid him to
revenge himself on a guilty wife, to tear him by force of eloquence from
the overwhelming feelings this conjugal accident has roused in his soul,
to bring him back to England at the head of his partisans--by my faith,
Chemerant, my friend, that was left to you to do! Your fortune, already
on the road to success, behold it forever assured; this good success
delights me the more that the king regards this affair as important.
Once more, bravo!"

Chemerant with a light and joyful heart slept, cradled by the most
pleasing and ambitious thoughts.

It was half-past ten in the morning; the wind was fresh, the sea a
little rough, but very beautiful; the Thunderer left behind her a
shining wake. The land was no longer to be seen. The ship was in
mid-ocean.

The officer of the watch, armed with a glass, examined with attention a
three-masted vessel about two cannon shots distant, which kept precisely
the same route as the frigate and sailed as quickly as she did, although
carrying a few light sails the less.

On the extreme horizon the officer remarked also another ship which he
as yet distinguished vaguely, but which seemed to follow the same
direction as the three-master, whose maneuver we have just pointed out.
Wishing to find out if this latter ship would persist in imitating the
movements of the Thunderer, the officer ordered the man at the wheel to
bear away a little more to the north.

The three-master bore away a little more to the north.

The officer gave orders to bear away to the west.

The three-master bore away to the west.

More annoyed than startled at this persistence, because the three-master
was not capable of a struggle with a frigate, the officer, by the order
of the captain, tacked about and sailed straight down upon the
importunate vessel.

The importunate three-master tacked about also, and continued to
scrupulously imitate the evolutions of the frigate, and sailed in
concert with her, but always beyond reach of her guns.

The captain, irritated by this, veered about and ran straight down upon
the three-master. The three-master proved that she was, if not a better
sailer, at least as good a one as the frigate, which was never able to
shorten the distance between them. The captain, not wishing to lose
precious time in this useless chase, resumed his course.

The vexatious three-master also resumed its course.

This mysterious ship was no other than the peaceable Unicorn. Captain
Daniel, in spite of the refusal of De Chemerant, had judged it proper to
attach himself obstinately to the Thunderer until they reached the open
sea.

A new personage appeared on the deck of the frigate. This was a man of
about fifty years of age, large, stout, wearing a buff coat with wide
scarlet breeches, and boots of sheepskin. His hair and mustache were
red, his eyes light blue, the eyeballs veined with little vessels which
the slightest emotion injected with blood, showing a violent and
passionate temper.

We hasten to inform the reader that this athletic personage was the most
fanatical of all the fanatical partisans of Monmouth, and he would have
thought himself a thousand times blessed to have shared the fate of
Sidney; in a word, this man was Lord Percy Mortimer. His disquietude,
his agitation, his impatience, were inexpressible; he could not stay in
one place a moment.

Twenty times had Lord Mortimer descended to the door of Croustillac's
cabin to know if "my lord the duke" had not asked for him. In vain had
he implored the officer to send word to the duke that Mortimer, his best
friend, his old companion in arms, wished to throw himself at his feet;
his wishes were vain, the orders of the unhappy Croustillac, who
regarded each minute gained as a precious conquest, were rigorously
carried out.

Chemerant also went upon deck, clothed in a magnificent dress, his air
radiant and triumphant; he seemed to say to all: "If the prince is here,
that is thanks to my ability, to my courage." Seeing him, Mortimer
approached him quickly.

"Well, sir," he said to him, "may we know at last at what hour the duke
will receive us?"

"The duke has forbidden any one to enter his apartment without his
order."

"I am on red-hot coals," replied Mortimer; "I shall never forgive myself
for having gone to bed this night, and not to have been the first to
press our James in my arms, to throw myself at his feet--to kiss his
royal hand."

"Ah, Lord Mortimer, you love our brave duke well?" said De Chemerant;
"partisans such as you are rare!"

"_If_ I love our James!" cried Mortimer, turning a deep and apoplectic
red, "_if_ I love him! Hold! I and Dick Dudley, my best friend, who
loves the duke, not as much as I (we fought once because he made this
absurd claim)--I and Dudley, I tell you, asked each other just now if we
should have the strength to again see our James without giving way--like
silly women."

"The duke was right," thought De Chemerant. "What enthusiasm! It is not
attachment, it is frenzy." Mortimer resumed with vehemence: "This
morning on rising we embraced each other; we committed a thousand
extravagances on thinking we should see him again to-day. We could not
believe it, and even yet I doubt it. Ah! what a day! what a day! To see
again in flesh and blood a friend, a companion in arms whom we had
believed dead, whom we had wept for for five years! Ah! you do not know
how he was cherished and regretted, our James! How we recalled his
bravery, his courage, his gayety! What happiness to say, not _it was_,
but _it is_ the heart of a king, a true heart of a king, that of our
duke."

"It must be that this is true, my lord, since with the exception of
yourself, of Lord Dudley, and this poor Lord Rothsay who, ill as he is
from his old wounds, has chosen to accompany you, the other gentlemen
who came to offer their arms, their lives and their fortunes to our
duke, knew him only by reputation."

"And I should like well to see if, on his renown alone, and on our
guarantee, they would not love him as much as we love him. This recalls
to me that once I fought my friend Dick Dudley because he vowed he loved
me a little more than our James!"

"The fact is, my lord," said De Chemerant, "that few princes are capable
of inspiring such enthusiasm simply by their renown."

"Few princes, sir!" cried Lord Mortimer in a formidable voice, "few
princes! Say, then, no other prince--ask Dudley!"

Lord Dudley appeared at this moment on the deck. The hair and mustache
of this nobleman were black and beginning to turn gray; in stature,
strength, and stoutness there was a great conformity between him and
Mortimer; true types (physically speaking) of what are called
gentlemen-farmers.

"What's the matter, Percy?" said Lord Dudley familiarly to his friend.

"Is it not true, Dick, that no prince can be compared with our James?"

"Excepting our worthy friends and allies on this vessel, any dog who
dares maintain that James is not the best of men I will beat him till
the blood comes, and cut him in quarters," said this robust personage,
striking with one of his fists the gunwale of the ship. Then, addressing
De Chemerant: "But now you know him as well as we--you, the chosen you,
the happy man who saw him first! Your hand, De Chemerant, your brave and
loyal hand--more brave and more loyal, if it is possible, since it has
touched that of our duke!"

Dudley violently shook the right hand of De Chemerant, while Mortimer
shook no less violently the left hand.

There is nothing more contagious than enthusiasm. The partisans of
Monmouth had one by one come up on deck and grouped themselves around
the two noblemen--all wishing in their turn to press the hand which had
touched that of the prince.

"Ah! gentlemen, I suspect that his grace puts off the honor of seeing
you. He fears the emotion inseparable from such a moment."

"And we, then!" cried Dudley. "It is now about forty days since we left
Rochelle, is it not? Well, may I die if I have slept more than three or
four hours any night, and then the sleep, at once agitated and pleasant,
that one sleeps on the eve of a duel--when one is sure of killing one's
man. At least, that is the effect of this impatience on me. And you,
Percy?" said the robust gladiator to Mortimer.

"On me, Dick?" responded the latter; "it has a contrary effect on me;
every moment I wake with a start. It seems to me that I should sleep
thus the eve of the day that I was going to be shot."

"As for me," said another gentleman, "I know the duke only from his
portrait."

"I only from his renown."

"I, as soon as I knew that it concerned marching against the Orange
faction--I quitted all, friends, wife, child."

"So did we----"

"Ah, sir, it is also for James of Monmouth," said another, "that is a
name which is like the sound of a trumpet."

"It suffices to pronounce this name in Old England," said another, "to
drive all these Holland rats into their marshes."

"Beginning with this William----"

"On my honor, gentlemen," said De Chemerant, "you make me almost proud
of having succeeded so well in an enterprise which, I dare to say, is a
very delicate one. I do not wish to attribute to my reasoning, to my
influence, the resolution of the prince--but believe, at least,
gentlemen, that I have known how to make good use with him of the
enthusiasm with which his memory has inspired you."

"And so, our friend, we will never forget what you have done! You have
brought him here to us--our duke!" cried Mortimer cordially.

"For that alone we owe you eternal gratitude," added Dudley.

"To see him! to see him," cried Mortimer in a new access of feeling, "to
see him again whom we believed to be dead--to see him indeed face to
face--to again find before our eyes this proud and noble figure--to see
it again in the midst of the fire--the--the--ah, well--yes, I weep--I
weep," cried the brave Mortimer, no longer restraining his emotion;
"yes, I weep like a child, and a thousand thunderbolts crush those who
do not comprehend that an old soldier thus can weep."

Emotion is as contagious as enthusiasm.

Dick, followed the example of his friend Percy, and the others did as
Dick and his friend Percy did.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE JUDGMENT.


A new personage came to augment the number of the passionate admirers of
Monmouth. There was seen advancing, supported by two servants, a man
still young, but condemned to premature infirmity by numerous wounds.

Lord Jocelyn Rothsay, in spite of his sufferings, had wished to join
himself to the partisans of the prince, and if not to fight for the
cause that Monmouth was going to defend, at least to come before the
duke and to be one of the first to felicitate him on his resurrection.

Lord Rothsay's hair was white, although his pale face was still young
and his mustache was as black as his bold and brilliant eyes. Enveloped
in a long dressing-gown, he advanced with difficulty, supported on the
shoulders of the two servants.

"Here is the brave Rothsay who has as many wounds as hairs in his
mustache," cried Lord Dudley.

"By the devil, who will not carry me away before I have seen our duke,
at least," said Rothsay, "I will be, like you, one of the first to press
his hand. Have I not, in my fresh youth, risked my life to hasten by a
quarter of an hour a love tryst? Why should I not risk it in order to
see our duke a quarter of an hour sooner?"

A man with troubled face appeared on deck shortly after Rothsay.

"My lord," said he entreatingly, "my lord, you expose your life by this
imprudence! The least violent movement may renew the hemorrhage from
this old wound which----"

"The devil! doctor, could my blood flow better or more nobly than at the
feet of James of Monmouth?" cried Rothsay with enthusiasm.

"But, my lord, the danger----"

"But, doctor, it would be to his everlasting shame if Jocelyn Rothsay
should be one of the last to embrace our duke. I made this voyage for no
other purpose. Dick will lend me one shoulder, Percy another, and it is
sustained by these two brave champions that I shall come to say to
James: Here are three of your faithful soldiers of Bridgewater."

So saying, the young man abandoned his two servants, and supported
himself on the shoulders of the two robust noblemen.

The roll of drums, to which was added the flourish of trumpets, the
shrill noise of the boatswain's whistle, announced that the marines and
infantry belonging to the frigate were assembling; very soon they were
drawn up on deck, with their officers at their head.

"Why this show of arms?" asked Mortimer of Chemerant.

"To render homage to the duke and to receive him with the honors of war
when he comes directly to review the troops."

The captain of the frigate advanced toward the group of gentlemen:
"Gentlemen, I have just received the orders of his grace."

"Well?" all said with one voice.

"His highness will receive you at eleven o'clock precisely; that is to
say, in exactly five minutes."

It is impossible to give any idea of the exclamations of profound joy
which escaped from every breast.

"Hold! now, Dick, I feel myself growing faint," said Mortimer.

"The devil! pay attention, Percy," said Rothsay; "do not fall; you are
one of my legs."

"I," said Dudley, "I have a sort of vertigo----"

"Listen, Dick; listen, Jocelyn," said Mortimer; "these worthy companions
have never seen our duke; be generous, let them go first; we shall see
him first from a distance; that will give us time to place ourselves in
his sight. Is it done?"

"Yes, yes," said Dick and Jocelyn.

Eleven o'clock sounded. For some moments the deck of the frigate
offered a spectacle truly grand. The soldiers and marines in arms
covered the gangways. The officers, bareheaded, preceding the gentlemen,
slowly descended the narrow stairway which led to the apartment
appropriated to the Duke of Monmouth.

Last, behind this first group advanced Mortimer and Dudley, sustaining
between them the young Lord Rothsay, whose bowed figure and trembling
steps contrasted with the tall stature and manly bearing of his two
supports.

While the other gentlemen incumbered the narrow stairway, the three
lords--these three noble types of chivalrous fidelity--remained on the
deck.

"Listen, listen," said Dudley, "perhaps we shall hear the voice of
James----"

In fact, the most profound silence reigned at first, but it was soon
interrupted by exclamations of joy with which mingled lively and tender
protestations. At last the stairway was free.

Scarcely moderating their impatience from regard for Lord Rothsay, who
descended with difficulty, the two lords reached the gun-deck and
entered in their turn the great cabin of the frigate, where Croustillac
gave audience to his partisans. For some moments the three noblemen were
stupefied by the tableau presented to their eyes.

At the back of the great cabin, which was lighted by five portholes,
Croustillac, clothed in his old green coat and pink stockings, stood
proudly beside De Chemerant; the latter, swelling with pride, seemed to
triumphantly present the chevalier to the English gentlemen.

A little back of De Chemerant stood the captain of the frigate and his
staff. The partisans of Monmouth, picturesquely grouped, surrounded the
Gascon.

The adventurer, although a little pale, retained his audacity; seeing
that he was not recognized, he resumed little by little his accustomed
assurance, and said to himself: "Mortimer must have boasted of knowing
me intimately in order to give himself airs of familiarity with a
nobleman of my degree. Come then, zounds! let that last which can!"

The force of illusion is such that among the gentlemen who pressed
around the adventurer some discovered a very decided "family look" to
Charles II.; others, a striking resemblance to his portraits.

"My lords and gentlemen," said Croustillac, with a gesture toward De
Chemerant, "this gentleman, in reporting to me your wishes, has decided
me to return to your midst."

"My lord duke, with us it is to the death!" cried the most enthusiastic.

"I count on that, my lords; as for me, my motto shall be: 'All for
England and'----"

"This is too much impudence! blood and murder!" thundered Lord Mortimer,
interrupting the chevalier and springing toward him with blazing eyes
and clinched fists, while Dudley upheld Lord Jocelyn.

The apostrophe of Mortimer had an astounding effect on the spectators
and the actors in this scene. The English gentlemen turned quickly
toward Mortimer. De Chemerant and the officers looked at each other with
astonishment, as yet comprehending none of his words.

"Zounds! here we are," thought Croustillac; "only to see this tipsy
brute; I should smell the Mortimer a league off." The nobleman stepped
into the empty space that the gentlemen had left between the Gascon and
themselves, in recoiling; he planted himself before him, his arms
crossed, his eyes flashing, looking him straight in the face, exclaiming
in a voice trembling with rage: "Ah! you are James of Monmouth--you!--it
is to me--Mortimer--that you say that?"

Croustillac was sublime in his impudence and coolness; he answered
Mortimer with an accent of melancholy reproach: "Exile and adversity
must indeed have changed me much if my best friend no longer recognizes
me!" Then, half-turning toward De Chemerant, the chevalier added in a
low tone: "You see, it is as I told you; the emotion has been too
violent; his poor head is completely upset. Alas, this unhappy man does
not know me!"

Croustillac expressed himself so naturally and with so much assurance,
that De Chemerant still hesitated to believe himself the dupe of so
enormous an imposition; he did not long retain any doubts on this
subject.

Lord Dudley and Lord Rothsay joined Mortimer and the other gentlemen in
showering upon the unfortunate Gascon the most furious apostrophes and
insults.

"This miserable vagabond dares to call himself James of Monmouth!"

"The infamous impostor!"

"The scoundrel must have murdered him in order to pass himself off for
him!"

"He is an emissary of William!"

"That beggar, James, our duke!"

"What audacity!"

"To dare to tell such a lie!"

"He ought to have his tongue torn out!"

"To deceive us so impudently--we who had never seen the duke!"

"This cries for vengeance!"

"Since he takes his name he must know where he is!"

"Yes, he shall answer for our duke!"

"We will throw him into the sea if he does not give our James back to
us!"

"We will tear out his nails to make him speak!"

"To play thus with what is most sacred!"

"How could De Chemerant have fallen into a trap so gross!"

"This miserable wretch has deceived me most outrageously, gentlemen!"
cried De Chemerant, striving in vain to make himself heard.

"Come, then; explain yourself, sir."

"He shall pay dearly for his audacity, gentlemen."

"First, chain up this traitor."

"He abused my confidence by the most execrable lies. Gentlemen, any one
would have been deceived as much as I was."

"One cannot mock thus the faith of brave gentlemen who sacrifice
themselves to the good cause."

"De Chemerant, you are as culpable as this miserable scoundrel."

"But, my lords, the English envoy was deceived as well as I."

"It is impossible; you are his accomplice."

"My lords, you insult me!"

"A man of your experience, sir, does not allow himself to be made
ridiculous in this way."

"We must avenge ourselves!"

"Yes, vengeance! vengeance!"

These accusations, these reproaches bandied about so rapidly, caused
such a tumult that it was impossible for De Chemerant to make himself
heard among so many furious cries. The attitude of the English gentlemen
became so threatening toward him, their recriminations so violent, that
he placed himself alongside the officers of the frigate, and all carried
their hands to their swords.

Croustillac, alone between the two groups, was a butt for the
invectives, the attacks, and the maledictions of both parties. Intrepid,
audacious, his arms crossed, his head high, his eye unblenching, the
adventurer heard the muttering and bursting forth of this formidable
storm with impassible phlegm, saying to himself: "This ruins all; they
may throw me overboard--that is to say, into the open sea; the leap is
perilous, though I can swim like a Triton, but I can do no more; this
was sure to happen sooner or later; and beside, as I said this morning,
one does not sacrifice oneself for people in order to be crowned with
flowers and caressed by woodland nymphs."

Although at its height, the tumult was dominated by the voice of
Mortimer who cried: "Monsieur De Chemerant, have this wretch hanged
first; you owe us this satisfaction."

"Yes, yes, hang him to the yardarm," said the English gentlemen; "we
will have our explanations afterward."

"You will oblige me much by explaining yourselves beforehand!" cried
Croustillac.

"He speaks! he dares to speak!" cried one.

"Eh! who, then, will speak in my favor, if not myself?" replied the
Gascon. "Would it be you, by chance, my gentleman?"

"Gentlemen," cried De Chemerant, "Lord Mortimer is right in proposing
that justice be done to this abominable impostor."

"He is wrong; I maintain that he is wrong, a hundred thousand times
wrong!" cried Croustillac; "it is an obsolete, tame, vulgar means----"

"Be silent, unhappy wretch!" cried the athletic Mortimer, seizing the
hands of the Gascon.

"Do not lay your hands on a gentleman, or, Sdeath! you shall pay dear
for this outrage!" cried Croustillac angrily.

"Your sword, scoundrel!" said De Chemerant, while twenty raised arms
threatened the adventurer.

"In fact, the lion can do nothing against an hundred wolves," said the
Gascon majestically, giving up his rapier.

"Now, gentlemen," resumed De Chemerant, "I continue. Yes, the honorable
Lord Mortimer is right in wishing to have this rascal hanged."

"He is wrong! as long as I can raise my voice I will protest that he is
wrong! it is a preposterous, an unheard-of idea; it is the reasoning of
a horse. A fine argument is the gallows!" cried Croustillac, struggling
between two gentlemen who held him by the collar.

"But before administering justice, it is necessary to oblige him to
reveal to us the abominable plot which he has concocted. It is necessary
that he should unveil to us the mysterious circumstances by the aid of
which he has shamelessly betrayed my good faith."

"To what good? 'Dead the beast, dead the venom,'" cried Mortimer
roughly.

"I tell you that you reason as ingeniously as a bulldog which leaps at
the throat of a bull," cried Croustillac.

"Patience, patience; it is a cravat of good hemp which will stop your
preaching very soon," responded Mortimer.

"Believe me, my lords," replied De Chemerant, "a council will be formed;
they will interrogate this rascal; if he does not answer, we shall have
plenty of means to force him to it; there is more than one kind of
torture."

"Ah, so far I am of your mind," said Mortimer; "I consent that he shall
not be hanged before being put to the rack; this will be to do two
things instead of one."

"You are generous, my lord," said the Gascon.

In thinking of the fury which must have possessed the soul of De
Chemerant, who saw the enterprise which he thought he had so skillfully
conducted a complete failure, one understands, without excusing it, the
cruelty of his resolution in regard to Croustillac.

Their minds were so excited, the disappointment had been so irritating,
so distressing even, for the greater part of the adherents of Monmouth,
that these gentlemen, humane enough otherwise, allowed themselves on
this occasion to be carried away by blind anger, and but little more was
needed to bring it about that the unfortunate Croustillac should not
even be cited before a species of council of war, whose meeting might at
least give an appearance of legality to the violence of which he was the
victim.

Five noblemen and five officers assembled immediately under the
presidency of the captain of the frigate.

De Chemerant placed himself on the right, the chevalier stood on the
left. The session commenced.

De Chemerant said briefly, and with a voice still trembling with anger:
"I accuse the man here present with having falsely and wickedly taken
the names and titles of his grace the Duke of Monmouth, and with having
thus, by his odious imposture, ruined the designs of the king, my
master, and under such circumstances the crime of this man should be
considered as an attack upon the safety of the state. In consequence, I
demand that the accused here present be declared guilty of high treason,
and be condemned to death."

"'Sdeath, sir, you draw your conclusions quickly and well; here is
something clear and brief," said Croustillac, whose natural courage rose
to the occasion.

"Yes, yes, this impostor merits death; but before that, it is necessary
that he should speak, and that he should at once be put to the
question," said the English lords.

The captain of the frigate, who presided over the council, was not, like
De Chemerant, under the influence of personal resentment; he said to the
Englishmen: "My lords, we have not yet voted a punishment; it is
necessary before interrogating him to listen to his defense, if he can
defend himself; after which we will consult as to the punishment which
should be inflicted upon him. Let us not forget that we are judges and
that he has not yet been declared guilty."

These cool, wise words pleased the five lords less than the angry
excitement of De Chemerant; nevertheless, not being able to raise any
objection, they were silent.

"Accused," said the captain to the chevalier, "what are your names?"

"Polyphème, Chevalier de Croustillac."

"A Gascon!" said De Chemerant, between his teeth; "I might have known it
from his impudence. To have been the sport of such a miserable
scoundrel!"

"Your profession?" continued the captain.

"For the moment, that of an accused person before a tribunal over which
you worthily preside, captain; for you do not choose, and with reason,
that men should be hanged without a hearing."

"You are accused of having knowingly and wickedly deceived Monsieur de
Chemerant, who is charged with a mission of state for the king, our
master."

"It is De Chemerant who deceived himself; he called me 'your highness,'
and I innocently answered to the name."

"Innocently!" cried De Chemerant furiously; "how, scoundrel! have you
not abused my confidence by the most atrocious lies? have you not
surprised from me the most important secrets of state by your impudent
treachery?"

"You have spoken, I have listened. I may even declare, for my
justification, that you have appeared to me singularly dull. If it is a
crime to have listened to you, you have rendered this crime
enormous----"

The captain made a sign to De Chemerant to restrain his indignation; he
said to the Gascon: "Will you reveal what you know relative to James,
Duke of Monmouth? Will you tell us through what chain of events you came
to take his names and titles?"

Croustillac saw that his position was becoming very dangerous; he had a
mind to reveal all; he could address himself to the devoted partisans of
the prince, assure himself of their support in announcing to them that
the duke had been saved, thanks to him. But an honorable scruple
withheld him; this secret was not his own; it did not belong to him to
betray the mysteries which had concealed and protected the existence of
the duke, and might still protect him.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE CHASE.


When the captain intimated anew to Croustillac the order to reveal all
he knew about the duke, the adventurer responded, this time with a
firmness full of dignity:

"I have nothing to say on this subject, captain; this secret is not
mine."

"Thunder and blood!" cried Mortimer, "the torture shall make you speak.
Light two bunches of tow dipped in sulphur. I will myself place them
under his chin; that will loosen his tongue--and we shall know where our
James is. Ah! I had indeed a presentiment that I should never see him
again."

"I ought to say to you," said the captain to the Gascon, "that if you
obstinately maintain a culpable silence, you will thus compromite in the
gravest manner the interests of the king and of the state, and we shall
be forced to have recourse to the harshest means in order to make you
speak."

These quiet words, calmly pronounced by a man with a venerable
countenance, who since the beginning of the scene had endeavored to
moderate the violence of the adversaries of Croustillac, made on the
latter a lively impression; he shivered slightly, but his resolution was
not shaken; he answered with a steady voice: "Excuse me, captain, I have
nothing to say, I will say nothing."

"Captain," cried De Chemerant, "in the name of the king, by whom I am
empowered, I formally declare that the silence of this criminal may be
the occasion of grave prejudice to the interests of his majesty and the
state. I found this man in the very domain of my lord the Duke of
Monmouth, provided even with precious objects belonging to that
nobleman, such as the sword of Charles II., a box with a portrait, etc.
All concurs, in fine, to prove that he has the most precise information
concerning the existence of his grace the Duke of Monmouth. Now this
information is of the highest importance relative to the mission with
which the king has charged me. I demand therefore that the accused
should immediately be constrained to speak by all the means possible."

"Yes! yes! the torture," cried the noblemen.

"Reflect well, accused," said the captain, again. "Do not expose
yourself to terrible suffering; you may hope everything from our
indulgence if you tell the truth. If not, take care!"

"I have nothing to say," replied Croustillac; "this secret is not mine."

"This means a cruel torture," said the captain. "Do not force us to
these extremities."

The Gascon made a gesture of resignation and repeated: "I have nothing
to say."

The captain could not conceal his chagrin at being obliged to employ
such measures.

He rang a bell.

An orderly appeared.

"Order the provost to come here, four men to remain on the gun-deck near
the forward signal light, and tell the cannoneer to prepare bunches of
tow dipped in sulphur."

The orderly went out.

The orders were frightfully positive. In spite of his courage,
Croustillac felt his determination waver; the punishment with which they
threatened him was fearful. Monmouth was then undoubtedly in safety; the
adventurer thought that he had already done much for the duke and for
the duchess. He was about to yield to the fear of torture, when his
courage returned to him at this reflection, grotesque, without doubt,
but which, under the circumstances in which it presented itself to his
mind, became almost heroic, "One does not sacrifice oneself for others
with the sole aim of being crowned with flowers."

The provost entered the council room.

Croustillac shuddered, but his looks betrayed no emotion.

Suddenly, three reports of a gun, in succession resounded long over the
solitude of the ocean.

The members of the improvised council started from their seats.

The captain ran to the portholes of the great cabin, declaring the
session suspended. Partisans and officers, forgetting the accused,
ascended in haste to the deck.

Croustillac, no less curious than his judges, followed them.

The frigate had received the order to lay to until the issue of the
council which was to decide the fate of the chevalier.

We have said that the Unicorn had obstinately followed the Thunderer
since the evening before; we have also said that the officer of the
watch had discovered on the horizon a ship, at first almost
imperceptible, but which very soon approached the frigate with a
rapidity almost marvelous.

When the Thunderer lay to, this ship, a light brigantine, was at the
most only half a league from her; in proportion as she approached, they
distinguished her extraordinarily high masts, her very large sails, her
black hull, narrow and slender, which scarcely rose out of the water; in
one word, they recognized in this small ship all the appearance of a
pirate.

At the apparition of the brigantine the Unicorn at once proceeded to
place herself in her wake, at a signal which she made to her.

It was in time of war; the preparations for combat began in a moment on
board the frigate. The captain, observing the singular maneuver of the
two ships, did not wish to expose himself to a hostile surprise.

The brigantine approached, her sails half reefed, having at her prow a
flag of truce.

"Monsieur de Sainval," said the captain to one of his officers, "order
the gunners to stand by their guns with lighted matches. If this flag of
truce conceals a ruse, this ship will be sunk."

De Chemerant and Croustillac felt the same astonishment in recognizing
the Chameleon on board of which the mulatto and Blue Beard had embarked.

Croustillac's heart beat as if it would burst; his friends had not
abandoned him, they were coming to succor him--but by what means?

Very soon the Chameleon was within speaking distance of the frigate and
crossed her stern. A man of tall stature, magnificently dressed, was
standing in the stern of the brigantine.

"James!--our duke! there he is!" cried enthusiastically the three peers,
who, leaning over the taffrail of the frigate, at once recognized the
duke.

The brigantine then lay to; the two ships remained immovable.

Lord Mortimer, Lord Dudley and Lord Rothsay gave vent to cries of the
wildest joy at the sight of the Duke of Monmouth.

"James! our brave duke!--to see you--to see you again at last!"

"Is it possible? you are the Duke of Monmouth, my lord?" cried De
Chemerant.

"Yes, I am James of Monmouth," said the duke, "as is proved by the
joyful acclamations of my friends."

"Yes, there is our James!"

"It is he indeed, this time!"

"It is indeed our duke, our veritable duke!" cried the noblemen.

"Your highness, I have been most unworthily deceived since day before
yesterday, by a miserable wretch who has taken your name."

"Yes, and we are going to hang him in honor of you!" cried Dudley.

"Be careful how you do that," said Monmouth; "the one whom you call a
miserable wretch has saved me with the most generous devotion, and I
come, De Chemerant, to take his place on board your ship, if he is in
any danger for having taken mine."

"Surely, your highness," said De Chemerant, seizing this occasion of
assuring himself of the person of the prince, "it is necessary that you
should come on board; it is the only means by which you can save this
vile impostor."

"That is, if this 'vile impostor' does not save himself, however," said
Croustillac, springing upon the taffrail and leaping into the sea.

The movement was so sudden that no one could oppose it. The Gascon
plunged under the waves, and reappeared at a short distance from the
brigantine, toward which he directed his course.

There was but a short distance between the two vessels; the Chameleon
was almost level with the sea; the chevalier, aided by the Duke of
Monmouth and some of the sailors, found himself on the deck of the
little ship before the passengers on the frigate had recovered from
their surprise.

"Here is my savior, the most generous of men!" said Monmouth, embracing
Croustillac.

Then James said a few words in the ear of Croustillac, who disappeared
with Captain Ralph.

The duke, advancing to the edge of the stern of the brigantine,
addressed himself to De Chemerant: "I know, sir, the projects of the
king, my uncle, James Stuart, and those of the king, your master; I know
that these brave gentlemen come to offer me their arms to aid me in
driving William of Orange from the throne of England."

"Yes, yes, when you shall be at our head we will drive away these Dutch
rats," cried Mortimer.

"Come, come, our duke, with you we will go to the end of the world,"
said Dudley.

"My lord, you may count on the support of the king, my master. Once on
board, I will communicate to you my full powers," cried De Chemerant,
ravished to see that his mission, which he had believed desperate,
revived with every chance of success.

"Your highness, do you wish the long boat sent for you, or will you come
in one of your own boats?" added De Chemerant; "and since your highness
is interested in this miserable rascal, his pardon is assured."

"Make haste, noble duke----"

"Come as you wish, James--our James--but come at once!"

"Yes, come," said Mortimer, "or we will do as this rascal in green
cassock and pink stockings; we will leap into the water like a band of
wild ducks, to be the sooner with you."

"No imprudence, no imprudence, my old friends," said Monmouth, who
sought to gain time since the Gascon disappeared.

At last Captain Ralph came to say a word in the ear of the prince; the
latter gave a new order in a low voice and with a radiant air.

"Your highness, they are about launching the long boat," said De
Chemerant, who was burning with impatience to see the duke on board.

"It is useless, sir," said the duke. Then, addressing himself formally
to the noblemen with an accent of profound emotion: "My old friends, my
faithful companions, farewell, and forever farewell, I have sworn by the
memory of the most admirable martyr to friendship, never to take part in
civil troubles which might deluge England with blood; I will not break
my oath. Farewell, brave Mortimer, farewell good Dudley, farewell
valiant Rothsay; it breaks my heart not to embrace you for a last time.
Forget this my appearance. Henceforth let James of Monmouth--be dead to
you as he has been to all the world for five years! Again farewell, and
forever farewell!"

Then turning toward his captain, the duke cried quickly in a sonorous
voice:

"Set all sails, Ralph!"

At these words Ralph seized the helm; the sails of the brigantine,
already prepared, were hoisted and trimmed with marvelous rapidity.
Thanks to the breeze and her galley oars, the Chameleon was under way
before the passengers of the frigate had recovered from their surprise.
The brigantine, in moving off, kept in the direction of the stern of the
frigate in order not to be exposed to her guns.

It is impossible to paint the rage of De Chemerant, the despair of the
noblemen, in seeing the light vessel rapidly increasing the distance
between them.

"Captain," cried De Chemerant, "set all sail; we will overhaul this
brigantine; there is no better sailer than the Thunderer."

"Yes, yes," cried the peers, "board her!"

"Let us capture our duke!"

"When we have him we will force him to place himself at our head!"

"He will not refuse his old companions!"

"My boys, two hundred louis to drink the health of James of Monmouth if
we overtake this waterfly," cried Mortimer, addressing the sailors, and
pointing to the little vessel.

The Chameleon soon found herself beyond reach of the guns of the
frigate. She quitted the direction she had first taken, and in place of
keeping close to the wind, altered her course.

This maneuver exposed the Unicorn, which during the conference of the
duke and De Chemerant had remained behind in the wake of the Chameleon
and absolutely in a line with her.

It is on board the latter ship that we shall conduct the reader; he can
thus assist at the chase which the frigate is about to give to the
brigantine.

Polyphème de Croustillac was on the deck of the Unicorn in company with
his old host, Captain Daniel, and Father Griffen, who embarked the
evening before on this vessel.

The reader recalls the plunge that Croustillac made in leaping from the
taffrail of the frigate into the sea in order to rejoin Monmouth. While
the Gascon shook himself, rubbed his eyes, and allowed himself to be
cordially embraced by the duke, the latter had said to him: "Go quickly
and await me on board the Unicorn; Ralph will conduct you there."

Croustillac, still dizzy from his leap, enraptured at having escaped
from De Chemerant, followed Captain Ralph. The latter made him embark in
a little yawl rowed by a single sailor.

It was thus that the adventurer boarded the Unicorn. In order not to
lose time, Ralph had ordered the sailor to follow the chevalier and
abandon the yawl; the transfer of the Gascon was then executed very
rapidly.

The duke had not given the order to hoist the sails of the frigate until
he knew Croustillac to be in safety, for he foresaw that De Chemerant
would inevitably abandon the shadow for the substance, the false
Monmouth for the true, the Unicorn for the Chameleon.

Master Daniel, at sight of the Gascon, cried out: "It is written that I
never shall see you come aboard my ship but by strange means! In leaving
France you fell from the clouds; in quitting the Antilles, you come to
me from out of the sea like a marine god; like Neptune in person."

Very much surprised at this encounter, and especially at seeing Father
Griffen, who, standing on the poop, attentively observed the maneuvers
of the two ships, the chevalier said to the captain: "But how the devil
do you find yourself here at a given point to receive me, coming out of
that nutshell down there, floating away at hazard?"

"Faith, to tell the truth, I know almost nothing about it."

"How is that, captain?"

"Yesterday morning my shipowner at Rochelle asked me if my cargo was
complete. I told him it was; he then ordered me to go to Fort Royal,
where a frigate was just leaving, and earnestly demand her escort; if
she refused it, I was to _make_ myself escorted all the same, always
keeping in sight of the said frigate, whatever she might do to prevent
me. Finally, I was to conduct myself toward her almost as a mongrel cur
toward a passer-by to whom he attaches himself. The man in vain drives
the dog away; the dog always keeps just beyond reach of foot or stone;
runs when he runs, walks when he walks, gets out of the way when he
pursues him, stops when he stops, and finishes by keeping at his heels
in spite of him. That is how I have maneuvered with the frigate. That is
not all; my correspondent also said to me: 'You will follow the frigate
until you are joined by a brigantine; then you will remain just behind
her; it may be that this brigantine will send you a passenger (this
passenger I now see was yourself); then you will take him and set sail
at once for France without troubling yourself about either the
brigantine or the frigate; if not, the brigantine will send you other
orders, and you will execute them.' I know only the will of my
shipowners; I have followed the frigate from Fort Royal. This morning
the brigantine joined me, just now I fished you out of the water; now I
set sail for France."

"The duke will not come on board, then?" asked Croustillac.

"The duke? what duke? I know no other duke than my shipowner or his
correspondent, which is all the same as--ah! look there! there goes the
frigate, giving tremendous chase to the little ship."

"Will you abandon the Chameleon thus?" cried Croustillac. "If the
frigate overhauls her will you not go to her aid?"

"Not I, by the Lord, although I have a dozen little guns which can say
their word as well as others, and the twenty-four good fellows who form
my crew are a match for the marines of the king--but that is not the
point. I know only the orders of my shipowners. Ah, now the brigantine
cuts out some work for the frigate," said Daniel.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE RETURN.


The Thunderer pursued the Chameleon furiously. Whether from calculation,
or from an enforced slackening in her course, several times the
brigantine seemed on the point of being overtaken by the frigate; but
then, taking a turn better suited to her construction, she regained the
advantage she had lost.

Suddenly, by a brisk evolution, the brigantine tacked about, came
straight toward the Unicorn, and in a few minutes came within reach of
the voice.

One may judge of the joy of the adventurer when on the deck of the
Chameleon, which passed astern of the three-master, he saw Blue Beard
leaning on the arm of Monmouth, and heard the young woman cry to him in
a voice full of emotion: "Adieu, our savior--adieu--may Heaven protect
you! We will never forget you!"

"Adieu, our best friend," said Monmouth. "Adieu, brave and worthy
chevalier!"

And the Chameleon moved off, while Angela with her handkerchief, and
Monmouth with a gesture of the hand, made a last sign of farewell to the
adventurer.

Alas! this apparition was as short as it was ravishing. The brigantine,
after having for a moment grazed the stern of the Unicorn, turned back
on her way and made straight toward the frigate, with incredible
boldness, keeping almost within range of her guns.

The Thunderer in her turn tacked about; without doubt the captain,
furious at this useless chase, wished to end it at any price. A sudden
flash, a dull and prolonged report was heard a long distance, and the
frigate left behind her a cloud of bluish smoke.

At this significant demonstration, no longer amusing herself with
doubling before the frigate, the Chameleon came close up to the wind--a
movement particularly favorable to her--and then took flight seriously.
The Thunderer pursued her, both ships directing themselves to the south.

The Unicorn had the cape on the northeast. She sailed splendidly. One
thus comprehends that she would leave very soon and very far behind the
two ships which sank more and more below the horizon.

Croustillac remained with his eyes riveted on the ship which bore Blue
Beard away. He followed it with yearning and desolate eyes until the
brigantine had entirely disappeared in space. Then two great tears
rolled down the cheeks of the adventurer.

He let his head fall into his two hands with which he covered his face.

Captain Daniel came to suddenly interrupt the sad reverie of the
chevalier; he slapped him joyously on the shoulder and cried out: "Ah,
ha, our guest, the Unicorn, is well on her way; suppose we go below and
drink a madeira sangaree while waiting for supper? I hope you are going
to show me again some of your funny tricks which made me laugh so much,
you know? when you held forks straight on the end of your nose. Come,
let us drink a glass."

"I am not thirsty, Master Daniel," said the Gascon, sadly.

"So much the better; you will only drink with the more pleasure; to
drink without thirst--that is what distinguishes the man from the brute,
as they say."

"Thanks, Master Daniel, but I cannot."

"Ah! the devil! what is the matter with you then? You have a very queer
air; is it because you have not been lucky, you who boasted you were
going to marry Blue Beard before a month had passed? Say then, do you
remember? You must have lost your bet completely; you have not dared
only to go to Devil's Cliff, I am sure."

"You are right, Master Daniel, I have lost my bet."

"As you bet nothing at all it will not ruin you to pay it, fortunately.
Ah! say then, I have had several questions on my tongue for a quarter of
an hour: how did you come to be on board the frigate? how did the
captain of the brigantine pick you up? did you know him? and then, this
woman and this lord who said adieu to you just now--what does all this
mean? Oh, as to that, if it bothers you, do not answer me; I ask you
that, only to know it. If it is a secret, _motus_, let us speak no more
of it."

"I can tell you nothing on that subject, Master Daniel.''

"Let it be understood, then, that I have asked no questions about it,
and long live joy! Come, laugh then, laugh then! what makes you sad? Is
it because here you are still with your old green coat and the very pink
hose so prettily stained with seawater, be it said without offending
you? I will lend you a change, although it is as hot as a furnace,
because it is not healthy to let one's clothes dry on one's body. Come,
come, quit that gloomy air! See, are you not my guest, since you are
here by order of my shipowner? And, whatever comes, have I not told you
that you can stay on board the Unicorn as much as you please? for, by
the Lord, I adore your conversation, your stories, and especially your
tricks. Ah! say, I have a species of tow made with a thread of the bark
of the palm tree, that will burn like priming; that will be famous, you
will swallow that, and you will spit flame and fire like a real demon;
is it not true?"

"The chevalier appears not disposed to amuse you very much, Master
Daniel," said a grave voice.

Croustillac and the captain turned; it was Father Griffen who, from the
poop, had watched the pursuit of the brigantine, and who now was
descending to the deck.

"It is true, Father, I feel somewhat sad," said Croustillac.

"Bah! bah! if my guest is not in the mood, he will be, very soon, for he
is not naturally a melancholy man. I will go to prepare the sangaree,"
said Daniel. And he quitted the deck.

After some moments of silence, the priest said to Croustillac:

"Here you are, again, the guest of Captain Daniel; here you are, as poor
as you were ten days ago."

"Why should I be richer to-day than I was ten days ago, Father," asked
the Gascon.

It must be said to the praise of Croustillac, that his bitter regrets
were pure from all covetous thoughts; although poor, he was happy to
think that, apart from the little medallion Blue Beard had given him,
his devotion had been entirely disinterested.

"I believe," said Father Griffen, "that the Duke of Monmouth will be
annoyed at not being able to requite your devotion as he ought. But it
is not altogether his fault; events have so pressed upon one
another----"

"You do not speak seriously, Father. Why should the duke have wished to
humiliate a man who has done what he could to serve him?"

"You have done for the duke what a brother might have done; and why,
knowing you to be poor, should he not, as a brother, come to your aid?"

"For a thousand reasons, I should be disturbed beyond measure, Father. I
even count on the events of the life, more adventurous than ever, that I
am about to lead, to distract my mind, and I hope----"

The Gascon did not finish his sentence, and again concealed his face in
his hands. The priest respected his silence and left him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thanks to trade winds and a fine passage, the Unicorn was in sight of
the coast of France about forty days after her departure from
Martinique.

Little by little the gloomy sadness of the chevalier softened. With an
instinct of great delicacy--an instinct as new to him as the sentiment
which, without doubt, had developed it--the chevalier reserved for
solitude the tender and melancholy thoughts awakened in him by the
remembrance of Blue Beard, for he did not wish to expose these precious
memories to the rude pleasantries of Captain Daniel, or to the
interpretations of Father Griffen.

At the end of eight days the chevalier had again become in the eyes of
the passengers of the Unicorn what he had been during the first voyage.
Knowing that he was to pay his passage by his good companionship, he put
that kind of probity which was natural to him into his efforts to amuse
Captain Daniel; he showed himself so good a companion that the worthy
captain saw with despair the end of the voyage approach.

Croustillac had formally declared that he was going to take service in
Moscow where the Czar Peter then received soldiers of fortune gladly.

The sun was on the point of setting when the Unicorn found herself in
sight of the shores of France. Captain Daniel, from motives of prudence,
preferred waiting for the morning before proceeding to the anchorage.

Shortly before the moment of sitting down to the table, Father Griffen
prayed the Gascon to come with him to his room. The grave, almost
solemn, air of the priest appeared strange to Croustillac.

The door closed, Father Griffen, his eyes filled with tears, extended
his arms to the Gascon, and said: "Come, come, excellent and noble
creature; come, my good and dear son."

The chevalier, at once moved and astonished, cordially pressed the
priest in his arms and said to him: "What is it, then, my father?"

"What is it? what is it? How, you, a poor adventurer, you, whose past
life should have rendered less scrupulous than others, you save the life
of the son of a king, you devote yourself to his interests with as much
abnegation as intelligence; and then, that done and your friends in
safety, you return to your obscure and miserable life, not knowing even
at this hour, on the eve of reentering France, where you will lay your
head to-morrow! and that without one word, one single word of complaint,
of the ingratitude, or at least, of the forgetfulness of those who owe
you so much!"

"But, my Father----"

"Oh, I have observed you well during this voyage! Never a bitter word,
never even the shadow of a reproach; as in the past, you have become gay
and thoughtless again. And yet--no--no--I have well seen that your
gayety was assumed; you have lost in this voyage your one possession,
your only resource--the careless gayety which has aided you to bear
misfortune."

"My Father, I assure you, no."

"Oh, I do not deceive myself, I tell you. At night I have surprised you
alone, apart, on the deck, sadly dreaming. Of old, did you ever dream
thus?"

"Have I not, on the contrary, during the voyage, diverted Captain Daniel
by my pleasantries, good Father?"

"Oh, I have observed you well; if you have consented to amuse Master
Daniel, it was in order to recompense him as you could for the
hospitality he has given you. Listen, my son--I am old--I can say all to
you without offending you; well, conduct such as yours would be very
worthy, very fine on the part of a man whose antecedents, whose
principles rendered him naturally delicate; but on your part, whom an
idle, perhaps culpable youth, should seem to have robbed of all
elevation of thought, it is doubly noble and beautiful; it is at once
the expiation of the past and the glorification of the present. Thus,
such sentiments cannot remain without their recompense--the trial has
endured too long. Yes, I almost blame myself for having imposed it on
you."

"What trial, my Father?"

"Yet, no; this trial has permitted you to show a delicacy as noble as
touching----"

A knock at the door of Father Griffen's room.

"What is it?"

"Supper, Father."

"Come, let us go, my son," said Father Griffen, regarding Croustillac
with a peculiar air; "I do not know why it seems to me that the journey
will terminate fortunately for you."

The chevalier, very much surprised that the Reverend Father should have
brought him to his room in order to hold the discourse we have reported,
followed Father Griffen on deck.

To the great astonishment of Croustillac, he saw the crew in gala
attire; lighted torches were suspended to the shrouds and the masts.
When the adventurer appeared on deck, the twelve guns of the
three-master resounded in salute.

"Zounds! Father, what is all this?" said Croustillac; "are we attacked?"

Father Griffen had no leisure to respond to the adventurer; Captain
Daniel, in his holiday clothes, followed by his lieutenant, his officer
and the masters and mates of the Unicorn, came to respectfully salute
Croustillac, and said to him with ill-concealed embarrassment:
"Chevalier, you are my shipowner; this ship and its cargo belong to
you."

"To the devil with you, comrade Daniel!" responded Croustillac; "if you
are as crazy as this before supper, what will you be when you have been
drinking, our host?"

"I ask no end of pardons, chevalier, for having made you balance things
on your nose, and for having led you to chew oakum in order to spit fire
during the voyage. But as true as we are in sight of the coast of
France, I did not know that you were the proprietor of the Unicorn."

"Ah, Father, explain to me," said Croustillac.

"The Reverend Father will explain to you many things--so much the
better, chevalier," continued Daniel, "that it is he who brought me just
now the letter of my correspondent of Fort Royal, which announces to me
that in view of the power of attorney he has always had from my
shipowner in Rochelle, he has sold the Unicorn and her cargo as attorney
to Chevalier Polyphème de Croustillac; thus then the Unicorn and her
cargo belong to you, chevalier; you will give me a receipt and discharge
of the said Unicorn and of the said cargo when we reach a port of
France, or foreign land which it shall suit you to designate; which
receipt and discharge I will send to my shipowner for my entire
discharge of the said ship and said cargo."

Having pronounced this legal formula all in a breath, Captain Daniel,
seeing Croustillac abstracted and anxious, thought that the chevalier
bore him some grudge; he replied with new embarrassment: "Father
Griffen, who has known me for many years, will affirm to you, and you
will believe it, chevalier, I swear to you that in asking you to swallow
oakum and spit out flame, I did not know that I had to do with my owner,
and the master of the Unicorn. No, no, chevalier, it is not for one who
possesses a ship, which, all loaded, might be worth at least two hundred
thousand crowns----"

"This ship and her cargo is worth that price?" said the adventurer.

"At the lowest price, sir; at the lowest price, sold in a lump and at
once; but, by not hurrying, one would have fifty thousand crowns more."

"Do you now comprehend, my son?" said Father Griffen, "our friends of
Devil's Cliff, learning that grave interests recalled me suddenly to
France, have charged me with making you accept this gift on their parts.
Pardon me, or rather felicitate me for having so well proved the
elevation of your character, in revealing to you only at this late hour,
the bounty of the prince."

"Ah, Father," said Croustillac bitterly, drawing from his breast the
medallion that the duchess had given him, and which he wore suspended by
a leathern cord, "with that, I was recompensed as a gentleman, why now
do they treat me as a vagabond in giving me this splendid alms?"

The next day the Unicorn entered port, Croustillac, making use of his
new rights, borrowed twenty-five louis of Captain Daniel, on the value
of the cargo, and forbade him to land for twenty-four hours.

Father Griffen was to lodge at the seminary. Croustillac appointed a
meeting with him for the next day at noon. At noon the chevalier did not
appear, but sent the priest the following note by a messenger of La
Rochelle:

       *       *       *       *       *

"My good Father I cannot accept the gift which you have offered me. I
send you a deed drawn up according to rule, which substitutes you in all
my rights over this ship and her cargo. You will employ it all in good
works, as you understand how to do. The notary who will send you this
note will consult with you as to formalities; he has my power of
attorney.

"Adieu, my good Father; sometimes remember the Gascon, and do not forget
him in your prayers.

"CHEVALIER DE CROUSTILLAC."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was years before Father Griffen heard of the adventurer again.



EPILOGUE.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE ABBEY.


The abbey of St. Quentin, situated not far from Abbeville and almost at
the mouth of the Somme, possessed the finest farms in the province of
Picardy; each week its numerous tenants paid in kind a part of their
rents. In order to represent abundance, a painter might have chosen the
moment when this enormous tithe was carried to the convent.

At the end of the month of November, 1708, about eighteen years after
the events of which we have spoken, the tenants were met together on a
misty, cold autumn morning, in a little court situated outside the
buildings of the abbey and not far from the lodge of the porter.

Outside one saw the horses, the asses, and the carts which had served
for the transportation of the immense quantity of produce destined for
the provisioning of the convent.

A bell rang, all the peasants pressed to the foot of a small staircase
of a few steps, situated under a shed which occupied the back part of
the court. The flight of steps was surmounted by a vault through which
one came out from the interior of the convent.

The cellarer, accompanied by two lay brethren, appeared under this
vault.

The fat, rubicund, animated face of the Father, detached itself like a
Rembrandt on the obscure depth of the passage at the extremity of which
he had stopped; from fear of the cold, the monk had drawn over his head
the warm hood of his black cloak. A soft _soutane_ of white wool draped
itself in large folds about his enormous obesity.

One of the brothers carried an ink bottle at his girdle, a pen behind
his ear, and a big register under his arm; he seated himself on one of
the steps of the staircase, in order to enter the rents brought by the
farmers.

The other brothers classified the goods under the shed as they were
placed there; while the cellarer, from the top of the flight of steps,
presided solemnly over their admission, his hands concealed in his large
cuffs.

It is impossible to number and describe this mass of comestibles placed
at the foot of the staircase. Here were enormous fish from the sea, the
lake, or the river, which still wriggled on the slabs of the court;
there magnificent capons, monstrous geese, large ducks coupled by their
feet, fluttered convulsively in the midst of mountains of fresh butter
and immense baskets of eggs, vegetables, and winter fruits. Further on
were tethered two of these sheep fattened on the salt meadows, which
give such fine flavor to their succulent flesh. Fishers rolled along
small barrels of oysters; further on were shellfish of every kind,
lobsters, eels and shrimps, which shook the wicker baskets in which they
were inclosed.

One of the porters of the abbey was on his knees before a buck a year
old, in full flesh, and killed the day before; he weighed with his hand
a quarter, to make the cellarer admire its weight; near the buck lay two
kids, a good number of hares and partridges; while another porter opened
hampers filled with every species of marsh fowl and birds of passage,
such as wild duck, woodcock, teal, plovers, etc.

Finally, in another corner of the court, were spread out the more
modest, but no less useful offerings, such as sacks of the purest flour,
dried vegetables, strings of perfumed hams, etc.

At one time these gastronomics were so heaped up that they reached the
level of the staircase where the cellarer stood.

Seeing this rotund monk with his shining face, his vast abdomen,
standing on this pedestal of comestibles which he watched with the eye
of a gormand, one would have called him the genius of good cheer.

According to the quantity or quality of his tribute, each tenant, after
having received a word of blame or praise from the cellarer, withdrew
with a slight genuflection. The Reverend Father even deigned at times to
withdraw from his long sleeves his fat, red hand, to give it to the most
favored to kiss.

The roll-call of the lay brother was almost at an end.

There was brought to the cellarer a savory caudle in a silver bowl borne
on a tray of the same metal. The Reverend Father swallowed this
consommé, a perfect specific against the morning cold and fog. At this
moment the lay brother complained of having in vain twice called James,
the tenant of the farm of Blaville, who owed ten hens, three sacks of
wheat and one hundred crowns for the rent of his farm.

"Ah, well!" said the cellarer, "where then is James? He is ordinarily
exact. For fifteen years that he has held the farm of Blaville, he has
never failed in his rent."

The peasants still called for James.

James did not appear.

From out the crowd of farmers came two children, a young boy and a young
girl from thirteen to fourteen years of age; trembling with confusion,
they advanced to the foot of the staircase--redoubtable
tribunal!--holding each other by the hand, their eyes downcast and full
of tears.

The little girl fingered the corner of the apron of coarse cloth
covering her petticoat of whitish cloth rayed with wide black stripes;
the young boy convulsively grasped his cap of brown wool. They stopped
at the foot of the staircase.

"These are the children of the farmer James," said a voice.

"Very well! and the ten hens, and the three sacks of wheat, and the one
hundred crowns from your father?" said the reverend man severely.

The two poor children pressed against each other, nudging one another
with the elbow, as an encouragement to answer.

Finally the young boy, having more resolution, raised his noble,
handsome face, which his coarse garments rendered still more remarkable,
and sadly said to the monk: "Our father has been very ill for two
months; our mother is taking care of him--there is no money in the
house; we have been obliged to take the wheat and the rent to support
the day laborer and his wife who takes my father's place in the farm
work, and then it has been necessary to sell the hens to pay the
doctor."

"It is always the same story when tenants fail in their rents," said the
monk roughly. "James was a good and punctual farmer; this is how he
spoils all, just like the others; but in the interests of the abbey as
well as in his own, we will not let him wander into the bad way." Then,
addressing himself to the children, he added severely: "The
father-treasurer will consider this--wait there."

The two children withdrew into an obscure corner of the shed. The young
girl seated herself, weeping, on a bench; her brother stood near her,
looking at his sister with gloomy sadness.

The roll-call finished, the monks re-entered the abbey, the peasants
regained the horses and carts which had brought them, the two children
remained alone in the court, waiting with sad disquietude the decision
of the treasurer with regard to their father.

A new personage appeared at the gate of the little court. This was a
tall old man with large, white mustache and neglected beard; he walked
with difficulty with the help of a wooden leg, and wore a uniform-coat
of green with an orange-colored collar; a wallet of leather slung on his
back carried his modest baggage; he supported himself on a thick cane
made from the dogwood tree, and on his head was a big Hungarian cap of
black worn fur, which descending to his eyebrows, gave him the most
savage air in the world; his hair, as white as his mustache, tied with a
leathern string, formed a long queue which fell to his shoulders; his
skin was tanned, his eyes were bright and lively, though age had bowed
his tall stature.

This old man entered the court without seeing the children; he looked
about him like a man seeking to find his way; perceiving the two little
peasants, he went straight to them.

The young girl, startled by this strange figure, or rather, by this
enormous cap of bristling fur, gave a cry of affright; her brother took
her hand to reassure her, and although the poor child wished to withdraw
it, he advanced resolutely toward the old man.

The latter stopped, struck with the beauty of these two children, and
especially the delicate features of the young girl, whose face of
perfect regularity was crowned with two bands of blond hair half
concealed under a poor little child's cap of a brown color; she wore,
like her brother, rude wooden shoes and wool stockings.

"You are afraid of me then! Zounds! you will not tell me, then, where
the Abbey of St. Quentin is?" said the old soldier.

Although he was far from wishing to intimidate the children, the tone of
his voice frightened the young girl still more, who, pressing closely to
her brother, said to him in a low tone: "Answer him, James, answer him;
see what a wicked air he has."

"Have no fear, Angela, have no fear," answered the boy. Then he said to
the soldier: "Yes, sir, this is the Abbey of St. Quentin; but if you
wish to enter the porter's lodge is on the other side, outside of this
court."

The boy might have spoken a long time without the soldier paying
attention to his words.

When the young girl called her brother "James" the old man made a
movement of surprise; but when James, in his turn, called his sister
"Angela" the old man started, let his stick fall, and was obliged to
support himself against the wall, so violent was his agitation.

"You call yourselves 'James' and 'Angela,' my children?" said he, in a
trembling voice.

"Yes, sir," answered the young boy entirely reassured, but astonished at
this question.

"And your parents?"

"Our parents are tenants of the abbey, sir."

"Come," said the soldier, whom the reader has doubtless already
recognized, "I am an old fool--but--the union of these two
names--James--Angela. Come, come, Polyphème, you lose your head, my
friend; because you encounter two little peasants you imagine--" he
shrugged his shoulders; "it is hardly worth while to have this big white
beard at one's chin only to give way to such visions! If it is to make
such discoveries that you return from Moscow, Polyphème, you might just
as well--have done----"

While speaking thus to himself, Croustillac had examined the young girl
with the greatest curiosity; more and more struck with a resemblance
which seemed incomprehensible, he fastened eager eyes on Angela.

The young girl again frightened, said to her brother, hiding her face
behind his shoulder: "Heavens! how he frightens me, again!"

"However, these features," said Croustillac, feeling his heart beat with
doubt, anxiety, fear and despair all at once, "these charming features
recall to me--but no--it is impossible--impossible. By what probability?
Decidedly, I am an old fool. Farmers? Come, that sabre cut I got on the
head at the siege of Azof has deranged my brain. After all, there are
chances so strange (and surely, more than any one else, I should believe
in the oddities of chance; I should be an ingrate to deny it); yes,
chance might occasion peasants to give their children certain names
rather than others, but chance does not make these resemblances--come,
it is impossible. After all, I can ask them, and in asking them I shall
laugh at myself; it is stupid. My children, tell me, what is your
father's name?"

"James, sir."

"Yes, James--but James--what?"

"James, sir."

"James? nothing more?"

"Yes, sir," answered the boy, regarding Croustillac with surprise.

"This is more and more strange," said Croustillac, reflecting.

"Has he been long in France?"

"He has always been here, sir."

"Come, I was mad; decidedly, I was mad. Has your father ever been a
soldier, my children?"

Angela and James looked at each other with astonishment.

The young boy answered: "No, sir, he has always been a farmer."

At this moment the door which communicated with the abbey opened and one
of the lay brothers appeared at the top of the stairway.

This brother was the type of an ignoble monk, gross and sensual. He made
a sign to the children, who tremblingly approached.

"Come here, little one," said he to the girl.

The poor child, after casting a doubtful look at her brother, whom she
could not make up her mind to leave, timidly mounted the steps.

The monk took her insolently by the chin with his coarse hand, turned up
her face which she held down, and said to her: "Pretty one, you will
warn your father that if he does not pay eight days from now his rent in
kind and the hundred crowns which he owes, there is a farmer who is more
solvent than he who wants the farm and who will obtain it. As your
father is a good fellow, they will give him eight days--but for that,
they would have turned him out to-day."

"My God! my God!" said the children, weeping and clasping their hands,
"there is no money at home. Our poor father is sick. Alas! what shall we
do?"

"You will do what you can," said the monk, "that is the order of the
prior;" and he made a sign to the young girl to go.

The two children threw themselves into each other's arms, sobbing, and
saying: "Our father will die of this--he will die!"

Croustillac, half-hidden by a post of the shed, had been at once touched
and angered by this scene. At the moment the monk was about to close the
door, the Gascon said to him: "Reverend Father, a word--is this the
Abbey of St. Quentin?"

"Yes, and what of it?" said the monk rudely.

"You will willingly give me a lodging till to-morrow, will you not?"

"Hum--always beggars," said the monk. "Very well; go and ring at the
porter's gate. They will give you a bundle of straw and give you bread
and soup." Then he added: "These vagabonds are the plague of religious
houses."

The adventurer became crimson, drew up his tall form, thrust, with a
blow of his fist, his fur cap over his eyes, struck the earth with his
stick, and cried in a threatening tone: "Zounds! Reverend Father, know
your company a little better, at least."

"Who is this old wallet-bearer?" said the irritated monk.

"Because I carry a wallet it does not follow that I ask alms of you,
Reverend Father," said Croustillac.

"What dost thou want, then?"

"I ask a supper and a shelter because your rich convent can well afford
to give bread and shelter to poor travelers. Charity commands this from
your abbot. And beside, in sheltering Christians, you do not give, you
restore. Your abbey grows very fat from its tithes."

"Wilt thou be quiet, thou old heretic, thou insolent old fellow!"

"You call me an insolent old fellow. Very well; learn, Don Surly, that I
have still a crown in my wallet, and that I can do without your straw
and your soup, Don Ribald."

"What dost thou mean by Don Ribald, rascal that thou art?" said the lay
brother, advancing to the top of the steps. "Take care lest I give thy
old rags a good shaking."

"Since we thee-and-thou each other, Don Drinker, take care in thy turn,
Don Greedy, that I do not make thee taste of my stick, Don Big Paunch,
infirm as I am, Don Brutal."

The vigorous monk for a moment made as though he was about to descend to
chastise the Gascon, but he shrugged his shoulders and said to
Croustillac: "If thou hast ever the impudence to present thyself at the
porter's lodge, thou wilt be thrashed to some purpose. That is the kind
of hospitality thou wilt receive henceforth from the Abbey of St.
Quentin." Then addressing himself to the children: "And you be sure to
tell your father that in eight days he pays or quits the farm, for, I
repeat to you, that there is a farmer more solvent than he who wants
it."

The monk shut the door brusquely.

"I cannot tell it to the children," said the adventurer, speaking to
himself; "that would be a bad example for youth; but I had something
like a feeling of remorse for having aided in the burning of a convent
in the Moravian War--well, it pleases me to imagine that the roasted
ones resembled this fat, big-bellied animal, and it makes me feel quite
cheerful. The scoundrel! to treat those poor children so harshly! It is
strange how I interest myself in them--if I had at least some reason for
it, I should let myself hope. After all, why not clear up my doubts?
What do I risk by it? I have plenty of money. Ah, then, my children,"
said he to the young peasants, "your father is sick and poor? He will
not be vexed to gain a little windfall; although I carry a wallet, I
have a purse. Well, instead of going to dine and sleep at the inn (may
the lightning strike me if I ever set foot in this abbey, the Lord
confound it!) I will go and dine and sleep at your place. I will not be
any trouble to you. I have been a soldier, I am not hard to suit; a
stool in the chimney corner, a morsel of lard, a glass of cider, and for
the night a bundle of fresh straw, the gentle warmth of the stable--that
is all I need; and that means a piece of twenty-four sous which will
come into your house. What do you say to that?"

"My father is not an innkeeper, sir," answered the young boy.

"Bah! bah! my boy, if the good man has sense; if the good mother is a
housekeeper, as she ought to be, they will not regret my coming; this
piece of good luck will make your pot boil for a whole day. Come,
conduct me to your farm, my children; your father would scold you for
not bringing him an old soldier."

In spite of his apparent roughness and his uncouth figure, the chevalier
inspired James and Angela with confidence; the children took each other
by the hand and walked before the invalid soldier, who followed them
absorbed in a profound reverie.

At the end of an hour's walk, they arrived at the entrance of a long
avenue of apple trees, which led to the farm.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

REUNION.


James and Angela entered the farm in order to learn if their father
would consent to give the old soldier hospitality. While waiting the
return of the children, the adventurer closely scanned the outbuildings
of the farm.

Everything appeared to be carried on with care and neatness; at the side
of the working buildings was the farmer's house; two immense walnut
trees shaded the door and its thatched roof of velvety green moss; a
light smoke escaped from the brick chimney; the sound of the ocean was
heard in the distance, as the farm lay almost on the cliffs of the
coast.

The rain began to fall; the wind moaned; a shepherd boy was bringing
home from the fields two beautiful brown cows which turned toward their
warm stable, causing their little bells to give forth a melancholy
sound. The adventurer was touched by this peaceful scene. He envied the
lot of the people of this farm, even though he knew their momentary
embarrassment. He saw approaching him a woman pale and small in figure,
and of middle-age. She was dressed like the peasants of Picardy, but
with extreme neatness. Her son accompanied her; her daughter remained in
the doorway.

"We are very much grieved, sir."

Hardly had the woman said these words, when Croustillac became as pale
as a ghost, extended his arms toward her without saying a word, let his
cane escape, lost his equilibrium and fell suddenly his full length on a
heap of dry leaves which was, happily, behind him.

The adventurer had fainted.

The Duchess of Monmouth (for it was she) not at once recognizing the
chevalier, attributed his weakness to fatigue or need, and hastened,
with the assistance of her two children, to resuscitate the stranger.

James, a strong boy for his age, supported the old man to the trunk of
one of the walnut trees, while his mother and sister hurried off to seek
a cordial. In opening the chevalier's coat in order to facilitate his
respiration, James saw, attached by a leathern braid, the rich medallion
which the adventurer carried on his breast.

"Mother! see this beautiful reliquary," said the young lad.

The duchess approached and was in turn stupefied at recognizing the
medallion she had once given Croustillac. Then, regarding the chevalier
with closer attention, she cried:

"It is he! it is the generous man who saved us!"

The chevalier began to revive. When he opened his eyes they were filled
with tears.

It would be impossible to paint the happiness, the transports of the
good Croustillac.

"You in this dress, madame! you whom I see after so many years! When I
heard these children just now call each other James and Angela, my heart
beat so strong! But I could not believe--hope--And the duke?"

The Duchess of Monmouth put one finger on her lips, shook her head
sadly, and said: "You are going to see him! Alas! why should the
pleasure of seeing you again be saddened by the sickness of James? Had
it not been for this, to-day would have been beautiful for us."

"I can hardly recognize you again, madame; you, in this costume--in this
sad condition."

"Silence! my children may hear you. But wait a moment here; I will go
and prepare my husband to receive you."

After some minutes the adventurer entered Monmouth's room; the latter
was extended on one of those green serge canopied beds such as may still
be seen in the houses of some of the peasants.

Although he was emaciated by suffering, and was at that time more than
fifty years old, the physiognomy of the duke showed the same gracious
and high character.

Monmouth held out his hands affectionately to Croustillac, and
indicating a chair at his bed, said to him: "Seat yourself there, my
good friend. To what miraculous chance do we owe this happy meeting? I
cannot believe my eyes! So, chevalier, we are reunited after more than
eighteen years of separation. Ah! how often Angela and I have spoken of
you and of your devoted generosity. Our regret was not being able to
tell our children the debt of gratitude that we owe you, and which they
also owe you."

"Ah, well, my duke, consider what is most pressing," said the Gascon,
"each in his turn."

So saying, he took his knife from his pocket, unfastened his coat, and
gravely made a large incision in the lining.

"What are you doing?" asked the duke.

The chevalier drew from his secret pocket a kind of leathern purse, and
said to the duke: "There is in this one hundred double-louis, your
highness; on the other side there is as much. This is the first of my
savings on my pay, and the price of the leg which I left the past year
at the battle of Mohiloff, after the passage of Beresina; for he was
first, Peter the Great--well-named--in paying generously the soldiers of
fortune who enrolled themselves in his service and who gave, many of
them, the sacrifice of some one of their limbs."

"But, my friend, I do not understand you," said Monmouth, gently pushing
away the purse which the adventurer tendered him.

"I will be explicit, my lord; you are in arrears to the amount of one
hundred crowns of rent, and you are threatened with being turned out of
this farm in eight days. It is a pot-bellied animal, bearded and
corpulent, robed in the garb of a monk, who has made this threat to your
poor, dear children but a short time since at the convent door."

"Alas, James! this is only too probable," said Angela, sadly, to her
husband.

"I fear it," said Monmouth, "but this is not a reason, my friend, to
accept----"

"But, my lord, it seems to me that you made me such a fine gift, it is
now eighteen years ago, that we might well share it to-day; and when we
speak of the past, in order to disembarrass yourself at once of what
concerns me, and to speak henceforth of your affairs at our ease, my
lord, in two words, this is my history. Upon my arrival at Rochelle,
Father Griffen told me that you had presented me the Unicorn and its
cargo!"

"My God! my friend, this was such a small thing after all that you had
done for us," said James.

"May we not at least recognize all that you have done for us?" said
Angela.

"Without doubt, it was little--it was nothing at all--a cup of coffee
well sugared, with rum to soften it, was it not? Only the cup was a
ship, and to fill it there was coffee and sugar and rum, the cargo of a
vessel of eight hundred tons--the whole worth two hundred thousand
crowns. You are right--it was less than nothing--but in order to put
aside useless discussion and to be frank, Zounds! this gift wounded
me----"

"My friend----"

"I was paid by this medallion--speak no more of it. Besides, I have no
longer the right to resent it; I made deed of gift of the whole to
Father Griffen in order that he might in his turn give it to the poor,
or to the convent, or to the devil if he chose to."

"Can it be possible that you refused it?" exclaimed both husband and
wife.

"Yes, I did refuse it, and I am sure, my lord, although you pretend
surprise, that you would have acted as I did. I was not already so rich
in good works as not to keep the memory of Devil's Cliff pure and
without stain. It was a costly luxury, perhaps, but I had been James of
Monmouth twenty-four hours, and somewhat of my rôle of grand seigneur
still clung to me."

"Noble and excellent heart!" exclaimed Angela.

"But," said Monmouth, "you were so poor!"

"It is just because I am used to poverty and an adventurous life that
that cost me nothing--I said to myself: 'Polyphème--consider! thou hast
dreamed this night that thou wast worth two hundred thousand crowns.' I
dreamed this dream--all has been said--and that did me good. Yes, often
in Russia, when I was in misery--in distress--or when I was nailed to my
pallet by a wound, I said to myself, to comfort and to rejoice me:
'After all, Polyphème, for once in thy life thou hast done something
noble and generous.' Well, you may believe me, that restored my courage.
But this is boasting, and what is worse, it unmans me--let us return to
my departure from Rochelle. I avow it to you and I thank you for it;
nevertheless, I have profited a little by your generosity. As nothing
remained to me of my three unlucky crowns, and that was a small sum to
travel to Moscow on, I borrowed twenty-five louis from Master Daniel on
the cargo; I paid my passage on a Hamburg ship from Hamburg to Fallo; I
embarked for Revel on a Swedish vessel; from Revel I went to Moscow; I
arrived there like seafish in Lent; Admiral Lefort was recruiting a
forlorn hope to reinforce the _polichnie_ of the czar; in other words,
the first company of infantry equipped and maneuvering after the German
mode which had existed in Russia. I had made the campaign in Flanders
with the '_reiters_;' I knew the service; I was then enrolled in the
_polichnie_ of the czar, and I had the honor of having this great man
for file closer, for he served in this company as a simple soldier,
seeing he had the habit of thinking that in order to know a trade it is
necessary to learn it.

"Once incorporated in the Muscovite army, I served in all the wars. Do
not think, my lord, that I am going to recount to you my campaigns, to
speak to you of the siege of Azof, where I received a saber cut on my
head; the taking of Astrakhan under Scheremetoff, where I received a
lance thrust in my loins; of the siege of Narva, where I had the honor
of aiming at his majesty, Charles XII., and the good fortune to miss
him; and finally, the great battle of Dorpat.

"No, no, do not fear, my lord; I keep these fine stories to put your
children to sleep with during the winter nights, in the chimney corner,
when the seawinds rage in the branches of your old walnut trees. All
that remains for me to say to you, my lord, is that I have made war ever
since I left you, first as a noncommissioned officer, and then as
lieutenant. I might have done it still, perhaps, if last year I had not
forgotten one of my legs at Mohiloff. The czar generously gave me the
capital of my pension, and I returned to France because, after all, it
is there that one dies best--when one is born there; I went on foot,
lounging along, regaining my paternal valley, lodging and sleeping in
the abbeys to spare my purse, when chance--this time, no," said the
chevalier, in a grave and penetrating tone which contrasted greatly with
his ordinary language, "oh, this time, no--it was not chance, but the
providence of the good God which caused me to meet with your children,
my lord; they have brought me here; I fell back in a swoon on a heap of
dry leaves on recognizing the duchess, and here I am.

"Now, here is my plan--at least, if you consent to it, my lord. My
paternal valley is very empty--my father and my mother are long since
dead; I should wish, of all things, to establish myself near you.
Although lame, I am still good for something, if only to serve as a
scarecrow to hinder the birds from eating your apples and cherries. I
will forget that you are 'my lord:' I will call you 'Master James,' I
will call the duchess, 'Dame James,' your children shall call me Father
Polyphème; I will tell them of my battles, and it will go on like that,
_vitam æternam_."

"Yes! yes! we accept; you shall never leave us," said James and Angela
together, their eyes filled with tears.

"But on one condition," said the chevalier, drying his eyes also, "that
is, that I, who am as proud as a peacock, shall pay you, in advance, my
board; and that you will accept from me these two hundred louis that you
refused; total, six thousand livres; at five hundred francs a year,
twelve of board. In twelve years we will make another lease."

"But, my friend----"

"But, my lord, it is yes or no. If it is yes, I remain, and I am more
happy than I deserve to be. If it is no, I take again my stick, my
wallet, and I start for the paternal valley, where I shall die, in a
corner sadly and all alone, like an old dog who has lost his master."

Grotesque as were these words, they were spoken in a tone so full of
emotion and so touching that the duke and his wife could not refuse the
offer of the chevalier: "Well then, I accept."

"Hurrah!" cried Croustillac, in the voice of a stentor, and he
accompanied this Muscovite exclamation by throwing into the air his old
fur cap.

"Yes, I accept with all my heart, my old friend," said Monmouth,
"and--why conceal it from you?--this unexpected succor which you offer
us so generously, saves, perhaps, my life--saves, perhaps, my wife and
children from misery, for this sum sets us afloat again, and we can
brave two years as bad as those which have been the cause of our first
embarrassment. Fatigue, chagrin, fear for the future, have made me ill;
now, tranquil as to the fate of my dear ones, assured of a friend like
you--I am sure that my health will return to me."

"Zounds! my lord, how did it happen that, with the enormous amount of
jewels that you had, you are reduced?"

"Angela will tell you that, my friend; emotion at once so keen and so
sweet as I feel has fatigued me."

"After having left you on board of the Unicorn," said Angela "we set
sail for Brazil; we sojourned there some time, but from prudence, we
resolved to depart for India on board a Portuguese vessel. We had lived
three years in this little-known country, very happy and very tranquil,
when I fell seriously ill. One of the best physicians in Bombay declared
that the climate of India would become fatal to me; my native air alone
could save me. You know how James loves me; it was impossible for me to
alter his resolution; he chose at all hazards to return to Europe, to
France, in spite of the dangers that threatened him. We started from the
Cape in a Dutch ship, making sail for the Texel. We possessed a very
considerable sum coming from the sale of our jewels. Our voyage was very
fortunate as far as the coast of France, but there a terrible tempest
assailed us. After losing her masts, and being beaten about by the waves
for three days, our ship went ashore on the coast a quarter of a league
from here; by a miracle of Heaven, James and I alone escaped an almost
certain death. Several of the passengers were, like us, cast on the
beach during this horrible night--all perished. I repeat to you, my
friend, that a miracle from Heaven was necessary to save us, James and
me--to save me especially, ill as I was. The tenants whom we replaced on
this farm found us almost dying on the shore; they brought us here. The
ship was swallowed up with all our riches; James, occupied solely with
me, had forgotten all; we no longer possessed anything; I was an orphan
with no fortune; James could not apply to any one without being
recognized.

"What remained to us in Martinique had, without doubt, been
confiscated--and then, how could we claim this property? For all
resource there remained to us a ring which I wore on my finger at the
time of the ship-wreck; we intrusted it to the tenants of this farm, who
had received us, to sell the diamond at Abbeville; they got for it about
four thousand livres--that was all our store. My health was so affected
that we were obliged to stop here; this measure, besides reconciled both
prudence and economy; the farmers were good, full of cares for us.

"Little by little my health became re-established. Almost without
resources we thought of the future with terror; however, we were young,
misfortune had redoubled our love; the simple, obscure, peaceable life
of our hosts impressed us; they were old, without children; we proposed
to them to take the half of their farm, and to make our apprenticeship
under their direction, avowing to them that we had no other resources
than the four thousand livres that we would share with them. Touched
with our position, these good people wished at first to dissuade us from
this project, representing to us how hard and laborious this life was. I
insisted; I felt myself full of courage and strength; James had lived a
hard life too long not to accustom himself to that of the fields. We
accomplished our design; I was tranquil about James. Who would seek the
Duke of Monmouth in an obscure farm in Picardy? At the end of two years
we had finished our apprenticeship, thanks to the lessons and teaching
of our good forerunners; their little fortune, augmented by our four
thousand livres, was sufficient. They made an agreement with the
treasurer of the abbey that we should succeed them and we take the
entire farm."

"Ah, madame, what resignation! what energy!" cried the chevalier.

"Ah, if you knew, my friend," said Monmouth, "with what admirable
serenity of soul, with what gentle gayety Angela endured his rough
life--she, accustomed to a life of luxury!--if you knew how she always
knew how to be gracious, elegant, and charming, all the while
superintending the affairs of the household with admirable activity!--if
you knew in fine, what strength I drew from this brave and devoted
heart; from this gentle regard always fixed upon me with an admirable
expression of happiness and content precarious as was our position! Ah,
who will ever recompense this beautiful conduct?"

"My friend," said Angela tenderly, "has not God blessed our laborious
and peaceful life? Has He not sent us two little angels to change our
duties into pleasures? What shall I say to you?" resumed Angela,
addressing the chevalier; "for the almost sixteen years that this
uniform life has lasted, of which each day has brought its bread, as the
good folks say, never a chagrin had come to trouble it, when, in the
past year, a bad harvest hampered us very much. We were obliged to
discharge two of our farm hands for economy's sake. James redoubled his
efforts and his work, his strength gave out; he took to his bed; our
small resources were exhausted. A bad year, you see, for poor farmers,"
said Angela, smiling softly, "is terrible. In short, without you, I do
not know how we could have escaped the fate which threatened us, for the
Abbot of St. Quentin is inflexible toward tenants in arrears, and yet it
was our pride to pay him always a term in advance. One hundred
crowns--as much as that--and a hundred crowns, chevalier, are not easily
gotten together."

"A hundred crowns? That does not pay for the embroidery on a baldric,"
said James with a melancholy smile. "Ah, how many times, in experiencing
what misfortune is, have I regretted the good I might have done."

"Listen, my lord," said Croustillac gravely, "I am no devotee. Just now
I came near shaking a monk out of his robes; I committed irregularities
during my campaign in Moravia, but I am sure there is One above Who does
not lose sight of honest people. Now, it is impossible that after
nineteen years of work and resignation, now when you grow old, with two
beautiful children, you should dream of remaining at the mercy of an
avaricious monk or a year of frost. In listening to you, an idea has
come to me. If I was the boaster of old, I should say that it was an
idea from above; but I wholly believe that it is a fortunate idea. What
has become of Father Griffen?"

"We do not know; we did not return to Martinique."

"He belongs to the order of Preaching Friars; he must be at the end of
the world," said Monmouth.

"I, who have had no news of France for eighteen years, I know no more
than you, my lord, but this is why I concern myself. I left to him the
price of the Unicorn; he is a good and honest priest; if he still lives,
there must remain to him some of it, for he would have been prudent and
careful in his almsgiving. My advice would be to seek to know where the
Reverend Father is, for if the good God has willed that he should have
kept some good morsel from the Unicorn, own, my lord, that this would
not be bad eating at this moment; if not for you, at least, for these
two beautiful children, for my heart bleeds to see them with their
wooden shoes and their woolen hose, although they may keep their feet
warmer than boots of leather and gilded spurs, or shoes of satin with
silken hose, should they be red, these hose! red like those I wore in
1690," added the chevalier, with a sigh. Then he resumed: "Ah, well! my
lord, what say you to my Griffen idea?"

"I say, my friend, that it is an idle hope. Father Griffen is without
doubt dead; he will doubtless have left your fortune to some religious
community."

"To the Abbey of St. Quentin, perhaps," said Angela.

"Zounds! it wants but that! I would instantly set fire to the
monastery!"

"Ah--fie! fie! chevalier!" said Angela.

"It is also because I am raging at having done what I did with your two
hundred thousand crowns; but could I then imagine that I should find
again, as a farmer, the son of a king who handled his diamonds by the
shovelful? Ah, it is no use to philosophize here; but to find Father
Griffen again if he is still living!"

"And how to find him again?" said Monmouth.

"By seeking him, my lord. I who have no reason for concealing myself,
to-morrow I will take up this quest, hobbling around. Nothing is more
simple; in truth, I am stupid not to have thought of it sooner. I will
direct myself at once to the Superior of Foreign Missions, thus we shall
know what we have to look to. The Superior will at least inform me if
the good Father is alive or not; and even, on this account, I will
to-morrow make a visit to your neighbor, the abbot of St. Quentin. He
will tell me what to do about it--how to get this information. I will
carry him your hundred crowns; that will be a good way to contrive the
interview."

The three friends passed the day together. We leave the reader to
imagine the stories, the reminiscences, gay, touching, or sad, which
were recalled.

On the morrow Croustillac, who had already made friends with young
James, started for the abbey. The amount of the rent, in bright _louis
d'or_, was an excellent passport to the presence of the treasurer.

"Father," said Croustillac, "I have a very important letter to place in
the hands of a good priest of the order of Preaching Brothers; I do not
know if he is alive or dead; if he is in Europe, or at the end of the
world; to whom should I address myself for information on this subject?"

"To one of our canons, my son, who has had much to do with missions, and
who, after long and painful apostolic labors, came six months since to
repose in a canonicate of our abbey."

"And when can I see this venerable canon, Father?"

"This very morning. In descending to the court of the cloister, ask a
lay brother to conduct you to Father Griffen."

Croustillac gave so tremendous a blow of his staff on the floor,
shouting three times his Muscovite exclamation, "hurrah! hurrah!
hurrah!" that the reverend treasurer was startled by it, and rang the
bell precipitately, thinking he had to do with a madman.

A friar entered.

"Pardon, good Father," said Croustillac; "these savage cries, and this
no less savage blow of the stick, paint to you the state of my soul, my
astonishment, my joy! It is Father Griffen, himself, that I seek."

"Then conduct this gentleman to Father Griffen," said the treasurer.

We will not attempt to depict this new recognition, so important in the
results the Gascon expected from it. We will only say that the good
priest, charged with the trust of Croustillac, and fearing lest the
chevalier should one day come to regret his disinterestedness, but
wishing, however, to execute till then his charitable intentions, and
not to deprive the unfortunate of this rich alms, had each year
distributed to the poor the revenue of the capital, which he reserved
for a pious foundation if the Gascon should not reappear.

The sale of the Unicorn, prudently managed, had brought about seven
hundred thousand livres. The Father, finding by chance an advantageous
sale of property in the environs of Abbeville, not far from the abbey of
St. Quentin, had profited by it. He had thus become proprietor of a very
fine estate called Chateauvieux.

On his return from his long voyages, six months before the time of which
we speak, Father Griffen had asked by preference, a canonicate in
Picardy, in order to be more within reach of the property which he
managed, always ignorant whether the Gascon was dead or alive, but
inclining rather to the former supposition, after a silence of eighteen
years.

Father Griffen, very old, very infirm, quitted the abbey only to visit
the estate of Chateauvieux. During the six months he lodged at St.
Quentin, he had never gone to the side of the farm of which James of
Monmouth was the farmer. The reunion of Father Griffen, the duke and his
wife, was as touching as that of the adventurer.

After much discussion it was decided that one-half of the estate
belonged to James; the other half to Croustillac, in whose name it
remained.

The Gascon immediately made his will in favor of the two children of
Monmouth on condition that the son should take the name of Jacques de
Chateauvieux.

In order to explain this sudden change of fortune to the eyes of the
people of the abbey and the environs, it was agreed that Croustillac
should pass as an uncle from America, who had come incognito to test his
nephew and his wife, poor cultivators of the soil.

James gave up his farm to the tenant who had been destined to replace
him, and departed with his wife, his children and his uncle Croustillac
for Chateauvieux.

The three friends lived long and happily in their domain, and their
children and grandchildren lived there after them. The chevalier never
left Monmouth and his wife. Once a year Father Griffen came to pass some
weeks at Chateauvieux.

One single day yearly cast a gloom over this peaceful and happy life;
this was the anniversary of the 15th of July, 1685, the anniversary of
the sacrifice of the courageous Sidney.

Never did the son of James of Monmouth know that his father descended
from a royal race. The secret was always kept by James, by his wife, by
Croustillac, and by Father Griffen.

Age had so changed the duke; so many years, beside, had passed over the
event of Martinique, that he was no longer disquieted by it. Only
sometimes, the children and grandchildren of James of Monmouth opened
astonished eyes when their good and old friend, the Chevalier de
Croustillac, addressing himself to the Duchess of Monmouth with an air
of understanding, said to her, while striving to hide a tear of emotion,
the following apparently truly cabalistic words:

_Blue Beard, Whirlwind, Rend-your-Soul, Youmäale, Devil's Cliff_.


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *


OMEGA

BY

"A REPORTER"

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