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Title: A Tatter of Scarlet - Adventurous Episodes of the Commune in the Midi 1871
Author: Crockett, S. R. (Samuel Rutherford), 1860-1914
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Tatter of Scarlet - Adventurous Episodes of the Commune in the Midi 1871" ***

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  A TATTER OF SCARLET



  A TATTER OF
  SCARLET

  ADVENTUROUS EPISODES OF THE
  COMMUNE IN THE MIDI
  1871

  BY
  S. R. CROCKETT

  SECOND EDITION

  HODDER AND STOUGHTON
  LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO

  _Printed in 1913_



  CONTENTS


                                            PAGE

          CHAPTER I

  HOW THE TRICOLOUR CAME DOWN                 1

          CHAPTER II

  KITH AND KIN                                9

          CHAPTER III

  THE LAUNDRY DOOR                           13

          CHAPTER IV

  THROUGH THE ENEMY'S LINES                  21

          CHAPTER V

  THE DEVENTER GIRLS                         30

          CHAPTER VI

  AN OLD MAN MASTERFUL                       34

          CHAPTER VII

  OUR FIRST COMMUNARD                        44

          CHAPTER VIII

  I SEE THE SCARLET TATTER NEAR AT HAND      50

          CHAPTER IX

  A REUNION OF THE REDS                      57

          CHAPTER X

  JEANNE'S VELVET EYES                       65

          CHAPTER XI

  HOW MEN SEE RED                            73

          CHAPTER XII

  "GOOD-BYE, RHODA POLLY"                    78

          CHAPTER XIII

  WE SEEK GARIBALDI                          84

          CHAPTER XIV

  "THE CHILDREN"                             96

          CHAPTER XV

  FIRST BLOOD                               101

          CHAPTER XVI

  THE COMING OF ALIDA                       107

          CHAPTER XVII

  A DESERT PRINCESS                         117

          CHAPTER XVIII

  THE PRINCESS COMMANDS                     126

          CHAPTER XIX

  KELLER BEY COMES TO ARAMON                132

          CHAPTER XX

  I PLAY "THREE'S COMPANY"                  138

          CHAPTER XXI

  THE GOLDEN HEART OF RHODA POLLY           145

          CHAPTER XXII

  IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW               149

          CHAPTER XXIII

  THE MISGIVINGS OF ALIDA                   156

          CHAPTER XXIV

  PEACE BEFORE STORM                        169

          CHAPTER XXV

  THE PROCLAMATION                          175

          CHAPTER XXVI

  KELLER BEY, INSURGENT                     185

          CHAPTER XXVII

  UNDER WHICH KING, BEZONIAN?               199

          CHAPTER XXVIII

  STORM GATHERING                           208

          CHAPTER XXIX

  WITHIN THE PALE                           216

          CHAPTER XXX

  DEVIL'S TALK                              226

          CHAPTER XXXI

  THE BLACK BAND                            233

          CHAPTER XXXII

  "READY!"                                  239

          CHAPTER XXXIII

  "HELL UPSIDE DOWN!"                       251

          CHAPTER XXXIV

  THE PASSING OF KELLER BEY                 259

          CHAPTER XXXV

  A CAPTAIN OF BRIGANDS                     266

          CHAPTER XXXVI

  LEFT-HANDED MATTHEW                       273

          CHAPTER XXXVII

  LOOT                                      284

          CHAPTER XXXVIII

  THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE BLACK BAND      291

          CHAPTER XXXIX

  THE CONVERSION OF CHANOT                  306

          CHAPTER XL

  THE LAST OF THE "TATTER OF SCARLET"       312



A TATTER OF SCARLET



CHAPTER I

HOW THE TRICOLOUR CAME DOWN


Deventer and I leaned on the parapet and watched the curious things
which were happening in Aramon across the river. We were the biggest
boys in the school and kept even the Seniors in awe, being "Les Anglais"
to them--and so familiar with the "boxe"--though Deventer was an
Irishman, and I, Angus Cawdor, a Scot of the Scots.

We had explained the difference to them many times by arguments which
may have temporarily persuaded some, but without in the least affecting
the fixed French notion that all English-speaking people are of English
race.

Behind us circulated the usual menagerie-promenade of the "Grands,"
gabbling and whispering tremendous secrets in files of two and three.

Hugh Deventer was a great hulk of a fellow who would take half a dozen
French Seniors and rub their heads together if I told him, laughing
loudly at their protestations as to loss of honour. He had been
challenged several times to fight duels with small swords, but the
Frenchmen had given that up now. For Deventer spat on his palms and
pursued the seconds who came with the challenge round and round the
playground till he caught and smacked them. Whereat he laughed again.
His father was chief of the Small Arms Factory, which of late years had
been added to the arsenal works of New Aramon opposite to us on the left
bank of the Rhône.

My own father was a clergyman, who for the sake of his health had
retired to the dry sunny Rhône valley, and had settled in a green and
white villa at Aramon because of the famous _lycée_ which was perched up
on the heights of Aramon le Vieux.

There was not much to distinguish Aramon the Old from Aramon the New,
that is, from a distance. Both glowed out startingly white and
delicately creamy between the burnished river and the flawless sapphire
of the Provençal sky. It was still winter time by the calendar, but the
sun beat on our bowed shoulders as we bent over the solid masonry of the
breastwork, and the stones were hotter than in English dog-days as we
plucked away our hands from it.

Deventer and I looked across at the greater New Aramon where his father
lived. It was the Aramon of shops and hotels and factories, while Aramon
le Vieux, over which our great _lycée_ throned it like a glorified
barracks, was a place of crumbling walls, ancient arcaded streets,
twelfth-century palaces let as tenements, and all the interesting
_débris_ of a historical city on the verges of Languedoc.

Our French _lycéens_ were too used to all this beauty and antiquity to
care anything about it, but we English did. We were left pretty much to
ourselves on our rare days of liberty, and as the professors, and
especially the _proviseur_, knew that we were to be trusted, we were
allowed to poke about the old Languedocian outpost much as we pleased.

It was the month of January, 1871. France was invaded, beaten, but not
conquered; but here in the far South, though tongues wagged fiercely, in
his heart the good bourgeois was glad to be out of it all.

At any rate, the _lycée_ was carried on just as usual. Punishments were
dealt out and tasks exacted. _Pions_ watched constantly over our
unstable morals, and occasionally reported misdemeanours of a milder
kind, not daring to make their position worse by revealing anything that
really mattered.

But, generally speaking, Aramon le Vieux dreamed away the hours,
blinking in the sunshine. The war did not touch it save in the fierce
clatter of _café_ dispute. Only in the forts that rose about the arsenal
of the newer city opposite to us a feeble guard of artillery and
linesmen lingered as a protection for the Small Arms Factory.

For the new Paris Government was still far from stable, and some feared
a renewal of the White Terror of 1815, and others the Red of the Commune
of 1848. The workmen of the arsenal, hastily gathered from all quarters,
were mostly sealed to the "Internationale," but it was supposed that the
field-pieces in Fort St. André could easily account for any number of
these hot-heads.

Besides Hugh Deventer and I there were several other English boys, but
they were still screeching like seagulls somewhere in the Lower School
and so did not count, except when an anxious mamma besought us with
tears in her voice to look after her darling, abandoned all day to his
fate among these horrid French.

To "look after" them Deventer and I could not do, but we gathered them
into a sort of fives team, and organised a poor feckless game in the
windowless angle of the refectory. We also got hockey sticks and
bastinadoed their legs for their souls' good to the great marvel of the
natives. Deventer had even been responsible for a trial of lacrosse, but
good missionaries though we were, we made no French converts.

The Juniors squealed like driven piglings when the ball came their way,
while the Seniors preferred walking up and down their paved cattle-pen,
interminably talking with linked arms and lips close to the ear of a
chosen friend.

Always one or two read as they walked alone, memorising fiercely against
next Saturday's examination.

The pariah _pion_ or outcast usher, a most unhappy out-at-elbows youth,
was expected to keep us all under his eye, but we saw to it early that
that eye passed leniently over Deventer and myself. Otherwise he counted
for nothing.

The War--the War--nothing but talk of the War came to our ears from the
murmuring throng behind us. How "France has been betrayed." "How the new
armies of the Third Republic would liberate Paris and sweep the
Prussians back to Berlin. From every side brave patriots were even now
closing in upon the beleaguered city. Ha, then the spiked helmets would
see!"

Still, a few facts grew more clear to us. At Lyons and Grenoble,
Bourbaki was organising the army of the South-East. There came a sound
from nowhere in particular that this army was to be joined and led by
Garibaldi himself with thirty thousand of his red jackets from Italy.

Deventer and I were immensely excited. We made plans for immediate
invasion. We would fight for France and wear a red cardigan in the
Foreign Legion. But the _Lycée_ St. André was well guarded, and so far
no one had succeeded in escaping. I do not know that they tried very
hard. They were French lads and brave--as many of them showed
afterwards--but they were of the Midi, and even then the Midi was
proverbially hard to budge. Not as in the North and East had the iron of
the invasion entered the soul.

The parapet upon which we leaned was of very ancient masonry, solid
blocks laid clean and Cyclopean with very little visible cement. It had
formed part of the defences of an ancient castle, long since overwhelmed
by the college buildings, the materials of which had mostly been
quarried from its imposing mass.

Beneath us ran the Rhône in a fine, broad, half-mile-wide sweep, five or
six miles an hour, yet save for the heaped hillocks of water about the
bridge piers, and the swirl where the far bank curved over, as smooth as
a mirror.

Hugh Deventer and I had been talking of the great '61 campaign of
Garibaldi in Sicily and through Naples--a thousand red-shirts and a
kingdom in the dust! Ah, the glory of that time!

But as we leaned and looked we fell silent. We saw Aramon the New
opposite to us, as it were at our feet, across only that span of water.
The factories were curiously silent, and from one fort after another
darted the white spurt of smoke which meant artillery practice.

We listened, knowing that in a little we should hear the report.

_Boom! Boom! Rattle-rattle-chirr!_

Fighting--they were fighting in Aramon! Deventer's father would be in
the thick of it. We looked and longed, but the way was closed. What
could it be?

Deventer knew that there were continually troubles between the
operatives and the "masters," or rather the representatives of the
masters of whom his father was the chief.

The great _Compagnie d'Armes de Guerre Aramoise_ was not distinguished
for generosity. The men were well lodged but poorly paid. In these war
times they had been over-driven. So many hundreds of rifles to turn out
daily--field artillery, too, and a new department to be set up for the
manufacture of mitrailleuses.

Outside, Dennis Deventer said little about the politics of the works,
nothing at all to his son Hugh.

We of the _lycée_ knew that France was already fairly evenly divided
between true Republicans and those others who looked upon Gambetta's
republic as a step to a monarchy or even the restoration of the
Napoleons. The sons of functionaries mostly held the latter opinion. The
scions of the aristocratic families of the neighbourhood, the old Whites
of the Midi, prayed for the Bourbon flag and the coming of Henry V to
his own again.

So when we heard the ripple of musketry fire and the sullen boom of the
artillery, Deventer and I supposed that a mutiny of sorts had broken out
at the works, or that news had come from Paris of some sudden change of
government.

We were not far from the mark. There had been news from Paris and a
mutiny had broken out. At any rate, they were fighting over in Aramon,
and we must find out what it was all about.

For the moment this was impossible for us. The cliff was too sheer on
the side of our recreation ground. There were over many eyes upon us. We
must wait for the night, and in the meantime Deventer could only sniff
the battle from afar, and hold in the desire to set off and help his
father.

"The Dad doesn't want me," he said. "Of course, I know that. He would
most likely tan me well for breaking bounds, but I can't bear being
cooped up here doing silly mathematics when over yonder----But listen to
them!"

A patter of what might have been heavy rain on a tin roof came faintly
to our ears. A little white cloud hung over the statue in the market
square, and presently flung down devilish fingers earthward. We did not
then know the signs of the explosion of shrapnel.

By this time the school was crowding about us, as curious as ourselves.
The bell clanged for classes to resume, but no one moved. The _pion_
screamed impotently in the rear. None took any notice, and the windows
above were black with the gowns of the professors.

Some thought that the noise was only the letting off of blasts in the
Pierre de Montagne quarries, but it was pointed out that such explosions
took place only at eight, one, and four, the hours when the men would be
out of the quarries at their meals. Besides, the crackle of small fire
was unaccounted for, and each moment it became more lively.

Practice at the Chassepot factories? Very likely--but at human targets.

Finally the college authorities caused discipline to prevail, and
Deventer and I watched alone by the parapet. We had both passed our
_bachot_, and were an honour to the college. So the strictness of rule
and line was relaxed in our case.

Our hearts beat, and in the instancy of our watch we would not have
turned our heads if the _proviseur_ himself had been at our side.

Presently we could see soldiers marching, the flash of bayonets, and
groups of a dozen, as if pushed beyond their patience, turning and
firing with rapid irregularity. All this in flashes of vision, mostly at
the bridge-end, or at the intersection of two streets. Through the
northern gate a kind of uncertain retreat began to dribble--the red
breeches of the linesmen, the canter of the artillery horses attacking
the hill, with stragglers here and there looking about for their
regiments.

Neither Deventer nor I knew enough to explain these things.

"There are no Germans nearer than Toul or Besançon," he said, with a
puzzled anxiety.

The field guns answered him smartly. From all the houses about the
northern gate a storm of rifle fire broke out. The soldiers on foot
hastened their retreat. The artillerymen, better led or of firmer
courage, faced about, and with one volley pitted the façades of the
houses from which the attack had come. They withdrew regularly, covering
the retreat of the infantry, and spat out their little devils' claws of
shrapnel over every group which showed itself outside the wall. Slowly
the soldiers passed out of sight. The artillery bucketed over the knolls
of the Montagne of Aramon among the evergreen odoriferous plants and the
faint traces of the last snow wreaths.

There was nothing left for us to see now except the town of Aramon, its
green and white houses sleeping in the sun, the tall chimney of the
Small Arms Factory, now smokeless--and the broad Rhône sweeping grave
and placid between them and us.

Nevertheless we waited alone on the recreation ground, our heads a
little dizzy. The swooning hum of the class-rooms awoke behind us, but
we heeded not at all.

We saw the tricolour of the Republic come down with a run from the tall
flagstaff on Fort St. André, and presently, irregularly tugged, rising a
few feet at a time, a red flag fluttered out, probably an improvised
table-cover or bedspread. It flapped out bravely in the brisk breeze off
the water.

We had had our first glimpse of "The Tatter of Scarlet."



CHAPTER II

KITH AND KIN


I don't think I troubled much about my father when I resolved to run
away from the _Lycée_ St. André. He had, as I thought, never troubled
much about me.

Afterwards I found that I had been mistaken, but perhaps not more than
most. For it is the rarest thing in the world to find a son entering
upon life, able to do justice to his father's ideas and motives.

Yet it was for my sake that he had given up the society of his fellow
savants and had exiled himself to Aramon le Vieux, with only his books
for company. At Nice, Mentone, or Cap Martin, the author of "The History
and Growth of Italian Art" could have lived a great part of the year
among kindred spirits, but because of me and St. André, he had shut
himself up with his books and collections in the Villa Gobelet on the
piney southern slopes of the long convent ridge, the summit of which was
crowned by the immense acreage of rambling white masonry which
constituted our _lycée_.

My father, Gordon Cawdor, mixed freely enough with the engineers in New
Aramon. But I knew very well that he endured rather than enjoyed their
society.

They talked of springs and hoppers, of pauls and recoil tampons, and my
father sat with his gentle wise head nodding as if taking in each point.
But he never spoke to them of his own work, and, excepting Deventer's
father, there was not one who knew more about Italian art than a dim
memory of a bad lithograph of Da Vinci's "Last Supper" could recall to
him.

Dennis Deventer, a tall dark grey man with the most mobile eyebrows I
ever saw in my life, lives much in my early memories of my father's
house. He seems now to have been always there, though of course he could
really have come but seldom--a massive, slow-moving, swiftly
scrutinising man, who bent shaggy eyebrows upon his son and myself, and
in whose presence it was not good to make the easily forged excuses
which served so well for my scholarly father.

Hugh said that it was because he listened all day to excuses and
explanations over at the Arms Factory, without believing any one of
them.

He had succeeded a manager who had been driven from Aramon because he
was afraid of his men. But now the men, though they hated him as the
representative of the Company, freely acknowledged his courage and
austere justice.

His house was the largest in New Aramon, and he had within it three
daughters all verging on, or just overlapping early womanhood, besides a
comfortable wife who purred her way contented and motherly through all
domestic storms. She alone could tame her husband's furies. They sank
before her eye, her husband changing obviously to all men's sight, his
factory oaths silenced, his bullying temper visibly crumbling, and the
man growing sweet and wholesome as newly ground meal.

These were the two houses best known to me as a boy, and indeed to the
edge of manhood. Judge ye which I liked the best?

My father was a beautifully profiled Scottish minister of the old
school, whom an unexpected fortune had enabled to follow his impulses in
the matter of work. He had long ago retired from his parish, indeed
before I could remember, and as I learned from his steadfast retainer,
old Saunders McKie, immediately after the death of my mother.

"Irongray Parish was no more for him, oh no," Saunders would say,
sententiously pausing in the polishing of my father's silver
shoe-buckles. "He laid down his wark as if he had been stricken. He
never preached again, and his pulpit was silent for three whole weeks
after her death. Assistants and siccan cattle werena sae common to come
at then as now--when ye send a telegram in the morning, and the laddie
is down on the six train wi' his baggie. So the elders juist read a
portion, and sent down to the Cameronian meeting-house for a man fit to
put up a prayer. We were Established, ye see, so the like was no to be
expected o' _us_!

"Eh, a broken man was your farther in thae days. He would wander from
room to room, tak' down a book here, look at it a while and then put it
up again with a muttered 'Tush' as if he could make nothing of it. I
doubt if he so much as saw the print line by line, but all
troubled-like, as one might through a green whorl of skylight glass.
Then he would dawner into the room where you were lying, or maybe being
fed, and at sight o' ye, the state that man would be in!

"He could not get out o' the nursery quick enough, yet for all that he
would be back within the hour."

Saunders was a great standby. His humour jumped with mine far more
nearly than my father's. This, too, in spite of the fact that I rarely
saw him without calling down the vials of his wrath. My father seldom
reproved me, never in anger, but Saunders, with the care of my young
soul heavy on his Calvinistic conscience, laboured faithfully with me in
season and out of season.

One good he did me. He kept me from forgetting my Scottish tongue, and
there was never a day that he did not supply me with some phrase sappy
with mother wit and drowned in Scotland.

"Aängus," he would say, "I kenna wha it is ye favour--nane o' your
faither's folk at any rate--all chestnut-brown and quick as an eel. No
wonder ye can tie knots in yoursel' at the parallel bars that were
siccan a trouble to set up for ye to caper on, and your e'en like sloes
after the first frosts. It's a gipsy ye are and no real Cawdor of all.
Though they do say that the Cawdors have gipsy blood on the distaff
side. At ony rate ye will never be the 'sponsible sober man your faither
is."

In spite of all this I stood high in the good graces of Saunders, and he
would sometimes ask my father for the additional pocket-money which I
dared not hint at myself. Saunders often wandered back into reminiscence
of the time when he had been a jobbing stonemason on the Cromarty Firth,
a companion of Hugh Miller's, and "the very deevil for raking the
country."

He had tramped scores of miles with Hugh Miller only for the sake of
hearing him talk, yet I gathered that he had not believed a single word
he had been told about the great fishes and curious monsters that once
swam in the lakes of the Old Red Sandstone.

"But I never telled him sae," he would conclude; "oh, no, Saunders
kenned better. Hugh Miller was no doubt a wonderful genius, but at that
time he was a man easily angered, and when roused, violent of his
hands."

So now I have sketched the school, and the several domestic surroundings
which we proposed to leave behind us. I do not think that we thought
much about these. I know that I did not, and I don't believe that
Deventer did either--not, that is, till we saw the soldiers retreating
from the barracks and forts of Aramon, and that little oblong blot of
red in the sky which meant insurrection, and God only knew what of
terror and destruction, fluttering in the brisk mistral wind from the
tower on which we had so long seen the tricolour.

At that time we had only the vaguest idea of what the Commune was, and
none whatsoever of the new ideas of justice and equality which underlay
that cumbrously ill-managed business.



CHAPTER III

THE LAUNDRY DOOR


After a while Deventer and I went back to our joint study, where we
essayed to do some work. But mostly we spoke apart, with lips that
hardly moved, of our plans and all that lay in liberty-land beyond the
walls. Deventer would go nowhere but to his father's house, and though I
meant to end up with the red blouse of Garibaldi on my chest, I did not
see how I could fail him at such a time.

We had to wait till night, and the time was almost unendurably long. The
lines in our text-books which our eyes followed did not bite upon our
minds. We were thinking so hard of other things that philosophies slid
aside impotent and discomfited.

We began immediately to plan our escape, or at least I planned and
Deventer, his great shaggy head on his hands and his eyes tight shut to
concentrate thought, gave himself to the task of spotting the weak
points.

At the bottom of the junior promenade was a door which opened upon the
river, and on the opposite side dwelt a man who owned a skiff. The
elders of the upper school used to employ this man, Jules Rameau by
name, to ferry them across as often as they had enough money for a
secret supper at a cabaret in some shy street. But some ill-paid _pion_
must be bribed to allow the key to be "lifted" from the inside of his
door. He must also take care to be in the deepest of sleep when it was
returned. But this would not do for us. We were not coming back at all,
and we could not allow any wretched usher to be sent about his business
on our account.

In our leisure time we had studied the whole of the ground plan of St.
André. The school buildings occupied an enormous amount of space, far
more than was needed for educational purposes. By sticking to it we made
some astonishing discoveries. For instance, after passing through the
kitchen, by descending a flight of steps which led to an unoccupied
wing, where all sorts of educational rubbish had been
accumulated--globes, wall-maps, ancient copy-books with headlines set by
hand, and a good bust of the first Napoleon--we reached a
clean-smelling, brightly lighted range of offices all set out with tubs,
soap, boiling vats, and blue stains which ran over smooth boards.

We had come upon the laundry of the college. On pegs, which ran all
round, overalls were hung. There was even a shawl here and there, or a
bonnet or two, as it were, flaunting their sex in this temple of the
masculine virtues.

Not Crusoe on his island was more astonished when he came on the
footprint. For it was not known to any of us, not even to the _pions_,
that a single feminine foot profaned any part of the _lycée_.

But, whatever our surprise, it did not prevent us from locking the door
and extracting the key of one of the range of exits which led out from
the fixed washtubs upon the narrow drying ground, a terrace wholly
invisible and unsuspected from our quarters on the opposite waterfront
of the building.

Of course, Deventer and I said nothing about our discovery. We did not
want the whole upper school playing leap-frog through the kitchens, or
telling lies as to their conquests among the laundry maids.

It was possible that the lock of the door might be changed immediately,
but we considered it more likely that the forewoman or caretaker in
charge would say nothing at all about the loss, and trust to the key
turning up.

We thought the whole matter well over, and considered it probable that a
gate in the wall would be left permanently open to facilitate the
comings and goings of the workwomen in the early morning. Such an
opening in the wall must lead immediately out upon the main road that
wound circuitously up the hill, and by which all stores and provisions
were brought to the porter's lodge.

Then we made ready for the trip, laying out our most comfortable and
inconspicuous town-going suits to take the place of the brass-buttoned
_lycée_ uniform.

With our door carefully locked, we raised a piece of the skirting board
of our study and examined our store of arms, a couple of revolvers
procured by Deventer in some vague inexplicable way at the works, three
packets of ammunition apiece, and a couple of "surins," or long Apache
knives--the use of which we had learned from the sous-préfet's son, a
youth precondemned to the gallows, who before expulsion had sojourned an
eventful and long-remembered three months at St. André.

We profited by his instructions as to guards and undercuts by practising
with models whittled in wood. This we were enabled to do in open
playground by the simple expedient of calling the exercise legerdemain.

Except what we could carry in our pockets, and the warlike accoutrement
mentioned above, we left the whole of our property at the college. At
the last minute Deventer packed away a Globe Shakespeare, and I found
room for a limp Bagster Bible of small size, which my father had given
me.

The clatter of the bedward-driven flocks began to tramp past our study
door. The hum of lesson preparation in the schoolrooms ceased. We
carefully set our house in order, for it was time for our evening visit
from Professor Renard. But he was called "Renard by Name and Renard by
Nature" among the Juniors whose small deceits he had the knack of seeing
through, even before the explanation was well under way. He was a Jesuit
of the newer school, of an educated candour, which seemed natural to our
young eyes, and a ready sympathy for our misdemeanours, which made him
the most popular professor in the _lycée_ of St. André.

He always tapped at our door before entering. He never listened nor made
use of the information of the common school spy. These things counted
for much.

"Well, gentlemen," he said, as he came in and sat down in our one
arm-chair, "you were too long on the terrace to-day to have a good
report of your studies!"

We convinced him to the contrary. For we had always gone on the
principle that who does his work early and well has his way made plain
for him, and in him a thousand things are overlooked for which a
"slacker" would get himself jumped upon.

After he had examined our exercises and approved of them, he looked up
at us suddenly from under his overhanging brows.

"You understood what the disturbance was about over there?" he demanded.

"I knew," said Deventer, before I could stop him, "that if my father was
left behind with his factories to look after, he would find himself
mightily short-handed. He would have only the English staff to support
him."

"Ah," said Professor Renard, "you look at it from a personal point of
view, as is natural. Your father----"

"I have also a mother and sisters over there----"

"I think I can promise that they will be safe whatever happens to your
father. And you can trust to my judgment. By custom and training my
class, the clergy of France, parochial and regular, are royalists. The
fight over yonder was only tiger eating leopard. The reds of Gambetta's
hue were chased out by the deeper scarlet of the Commune. Did you see
that flag of theirs to-night, just before sunset? It glowed with the
true hell-fire light."

I had been in the habit of arguing in favour of the working men who were
to constitute the brain and brawn of the Commune, but to-night I said
nothing. Renard did not notice my silence, however, but continued his
diatribe.

"We have had Napoleons of victory and Napoleons of disaster--republics
of guillotine and republics of veiled Cæsarism. And now we have a third
which is a house divided against itself. Listen well, young men--the
Bible speaks the truth--it cannot stand. Even now the time for its fall
is almost come. The little financier Thiers will pay off the Germans
from the chimney-corner hoards of the peasants. Oh, make no mistake,
lads, we are beaten as a nation, because we have not obeyed God and His
anointed king. The atheist Garibaldi, spoiler of churches and enemy of
the Pope, will do nothing for France, except to widen the area over
which the German flood will spread. Their armies of Rouen, of the Loire,
and of the South-East are condemned in advance. It is as if the Lord of
Hosts had said, 'I am against thee, O France! Thou wast once the eldest
daughter of the Church. Now thou hast defiled thyself with the
unbeliever, with the captains of Assyria, and art become a castaway.'"

He seemed to recall himself. He was speaking as he did in the pulpit.
The glow faded from his features. He smiled a little contemptuously at
himself.

"I am gabbling like a novice of the first year, and withal to a couple
of Protestants," he said, getting up and extending his hands, one to
each, as was his habit. "Forgive me!"

Cramming our special themes into his pocket for after-consideration, he
went downstairs with a heavy regular tread, and the noisy dormitories
hushed at the sound. The Renard could not be taken in with the usual
explanation that they had been reciting their prayers. Not till he was
safe in his own room did the hum and clatter begin all over again.

It was past midnight before we judged it prudent to begin our descent.
Safe of course it was not, nor could ever be. In a school directed by
clerical influences, supervision is personal and unceasing. The two of
us owed our comparative immunity to our having passed our recent
_baccalauréat_, and to having done honour to the college in the national
examinations, but still more to the fact that we were English heretics,
whose eternal damnation was assured beforehand, and whose lesser
transgressions, therefore, mattered little, so long as they did not
flaunt themselves before the pupils, devout, Catholic, and Roman.

There was a faint sufficient light from the southern windows, for the
moon was nearly full. The empty class-rooms smelt heavy and sour, and
their doors stood open like the portholes of a battery, setting our
hearts fluttering. We did not mean to let anything stand in the way of
our purpose, but as we had been on good terms with the heads of the
_lycée_ of St. André, we did not want any trouble now at the eleventh
hour, or rather when for us the time was close on the stroke of twelve.

We passed through the schoolrooms unchallenged. The dormitories were
hushed and silent. We could see the dim light of the _pions'_
watch-candles under the doors. We considered that we had passed the zone
of danger, and were hurrying forward with less precaution, when a light
in the open door of the kitchen pulled us up all standing.

I was lighter than Deventer, so I slipped my shoes and went forward on
my stocking-soles to spy out the land.

A "mitron," or cook-boy, was writing a letter to his sweetheart with
incredible pains. He wrote with his hands, with his body, with the
wrinkles on his brow, and the tongue which stuck out of his mouth,
responsively vibrant as a compass-needle to the spirit of his
composition.

Here was a pretty pass. We must wait on this white-capped, dirty-aproned
rascal who seemed in no hurry to finish his task. He had a file of
feuilletons bound in brown paper before him, and he turned over the
leaves of these in search of expressions which had pleased him, and
which he now desired to appropriate. There seemed no end to his literary
zeal, and if he was not hurried morning might come before we could get
clear.

Then I remembered that among Deventer's accomplishments was that of
being able to imitate the wheezy asthmatic breathing and hollow cough of
the _proviseur_. So I sent him back with instructions to carry out his
imitation at the foot of the kitchen stairs.

At the first wheeze and accompanying shuffle of a hand on the smooth
wooden stair-rail, out went the "mitron's" candle. I could hear him
gathering up his home-bound books of feuilletons, and whisking away his
letter paper. I drew back as close to the wall as possible, for I
suspected he would pass my way in order to reach his bedroom. I was no
more than in time, for he stumbled over my foot, which had been
carelessly thrust forward into the passage way. He did not stop to
inquire into this, probably thinking that someone had put out their
shoes to be cleaned in the morning. It was a narrow escape, for if it
had chanced to be the boot-boy instead of an amorous 'prentice-cook we
might not have escaped so easily.

Deventer and I crossed the kitchen quickly. The wick of the "mitron's"
candle was still smoking red, as we stole down the corkscrew stair which
led to the laundry. Everything here smelt strongly of damp clothes and
lye, but somewhere a window was open, for the current of air was
pronounced, and suggested possible alternative if the lock of our door
had been changed.

But in this we were fortunate. The key which I had carried so long in
the inner pocket of my jacket turned easily. The door swung noiselessly
inwards, and the clean breath of the salt breeze from the Camargue
marshes made our faces pleasantly chill and our lips sticky. We locked
the door on the outside, and in another minute stood in the roadway,
looking back at the great ghostly pile of the Palace of the Monks--as
Louis the XIV had called it, when he cut down the plans so that it
should not rival in dimensions that "abyss of expenditure" which was
Versailles.

But it was no time to stand sentimentalising upon architecture. We
turned and went down the vacant white road as fast as our legs would
serve us.



CHAPTER IV

THROUGH THE ENEMY'S LINES


"Halt there!" cried Deventer suddenly to me. We were passing a pleasant
white and green villa with a light in one ground-floor window.

I stopped, and Deventer took me by the arm, with forceful compulsion.

"I am going to help _my_ father," he whispered. "Don't you run off
without telling yours what you mean to do. He can't prevent you, if you
have made your mind up."

"He won't try--he will only be glad to get back to his books."

"Perhaps, but at any rate tell him yourself. He will like it better than
when the hue and cry gets up to-morrow over yonder. You take my word for
it, Angus Cawdor."

I did not want to go, for at that time I did not understand nor much
like my father. But Deventer said that if I would not walk he would
carry me, a threat which at any other time would have made me smile.
However, to please him I walked carefully to the window. With his
habitual thoughtlessness about external things, the sash swung a little
open and the light air blew the curtains back. My father was sitting
like a student, with a shawl over his knees, a quite necessary fire of
olive roots smouldering on the andirons, and his head, shining and
silvery, bent over a book in which he was making notes.

I did not wish to startle him, so I spoke in English, and in as
commonplace a tone as I could muster.

"Father," I said, as if my calling hours were the most ordinary in the
world, "will you come across to the window for a moment?"

He rose instantly and came over to the open window, one half of which I
had pushed wide. The note-book was still in his hand, and the breeze
ruffled its leaves so that he shut and clasped it.

"Why, Angus, where do you come from?" he said. "Is it late? Won't you
come in? Are you on your way back to college?"

"No, father," I said; "I ought to be, but I have made up my mind to go
to the war. I have had enough of learning, and examinations disgust me
even when I come out first."

He looked at me long and quietly, and then nodded his head.

"I know--I know," he said, "it is the riot in the blood. I do not say
that you do wrong to go, but you will need some money. I have a few
hundred francs by me for which I have no use. They will not come amiss.
Let me see--six, seven, eight hundred and fifty. Does Deventer go with
you?"

"He is waiting on the road below."

"I thought as much--well, bid him good luck from me, and now good night,
and God be with you, boy! Get your wild-oat sowing done as soon as
possible and come back. You will find me waiting for you. You and I will
do something yet."

My father coughed a little in the draught through the open window,
whereupon I made haste to be gone. The movement was purely unconscious,
yet it was just such slight things that kept me such a long while from
understanding my father. He seemed to be so careful for himself in
little matters of health, that he had no care to spare for me, his only
son, and this thought, I am ashamed to say, I carried away with me, even
while my fingers caressed the eight hundred and fifty francs nestling
safely in my breeches pocket.

On the road I found Deventer waiting for me.

"Well," he said, "I see you are glad you went?"

"Yes," I answered, "eight hundred and fifty francs glad, but the old man
hurried up my going, because the open window made a draught that
irritated his cough."

Deventer did not answer directly.

"My governor thinks a lot of yours!" he said, and left the reproach to
sink in. The which it did, all the more because _I_ thought a lot of
Deventer's father, and was presently to think more and better.

We took our road between the rows of sleeping houses, alternately black
in shadow and mildly radiant under the moon. Not a light showed
anywhere, not even in the _auberge_, with the huge branch stuck over the
door in token of the excellence of the wine served out within.

A vagrant cat or two, a baying dog spasmodically darting in and out of
an alley-way, alone took note of our bygoing.

The crowning buildings of the _lycée_ on the Convent Ridge showed up
massive and almost martial among the dark pines. Then, after a sprinkle
of villas, we struck the close-packed town with the clean water from the
Gardon river prattling in the sewers at either side of every street.
Aramon was one of the towns of the Midi (now rare) where they had not
forgotten ancient Roman lessons as to the value of running water.

As we descended the flat plain the river-meadow came up to meet us. We
crossed the market-place among the splotched trunks of the plane trees,
and turned along the quay of the great canal of the Little Rhône. Barges
in long lines and solid tiers occupied it from end to end, and on each
of these was a dog. So that we passed through a chorus of yelping curs,
till the massive pillars of the great suspension bridge rose stark and
marble-white in the moonlight. On the Old Aramon side the _douanier_ was
asleep in his little creeper-covered cabin. We saw his head pillowed on
his crossed arms as he bent over the table, and a smoking tallow candle
guttered low at his elbow.

Along the wide quadruple track of the bridge, stretched like the taut
string of a bow for half a mile ahead of us, we saw nothing except the
glistening planks underfoot, and overhead the mighty webbing of chains.

But as we were stepping down the little descent which leads into the
newer town of Aramon-les-Ateliers, we found our way suddenly barred. A
couple of fellows, not much older than ourselves, suddenly sprang out of
the shadows, and set shining bayonets to our breasts, demanding at the
same time where we came from and whither we were going. It had been
arranged between us previously that in any difficulty Deventer was to
let me do the talking. Somehow he did not tell his lies with conviction,
at least not yet.

I gave our names, and said that we were runaway Seniors from the _lycée_
on the hill, on our way to enlist with the red-shirts of Garibaldi. I
think that on hearing this one of the youths would have let us go on our
way, but the younger, a cautious lad, spoke out in favour of taking us
to head-quarters.

"What! And leave the bridge unguarded!" cried his companion. "Either
shoot them out of hand, say I, or let them go on to seek their
Garibaldi. They wear the red as well as we. We have heard of his army at
Dijon, but his son is recruiting at Orange, so your tramp will be so
much the shorter."

Finally they permitted us to pass after a whispered consultation, but
the younger put several questions to us to prove whether we really came
from the college or not--what days certain meats were served, the names
of the lay brothers, the woodman, the _ramoneur_ or sweep, with personal
details of several others. These we answered promptly, and to his
apparent satisfaction. He knew much about the _lycée_, but we could not
place him. His smooth face was hidden under a great Biscayan bonnet with
red tassel, and his common speech was probably assumed.

They directed us to follow the outer boulevard which skirted the town,
and which should bring us to the Avignon gate without our needing to
enter Aramon at all. The younger drew out a small box filled with
inkpads and brass _tampons_, with which he stamped an order that would
permit us to pass the opposite gate without annoyance.

Naturally we took the road between the scant white poplars, as it had
been indicated to us, and stuck to it faithfully so long as we were in
sight of the post at the bridge-end.

Then, at a particularly dark corner where the blank gable of a workshop
loomed up to meet the overhanging flange of a fitting-shed, Deventer,
who was now on his own ground, slid suddenly aside, and was lost in a
devious track along which I had hard work to follow him. I could see his
big figure, black against the glimmer of white-washed walls. I stumbled
over anvils and heavy gearing scattered about, among which Deventer
steered his way with the crafty experience and dainty serenity of a
night-raking cat.

From this labyrinth we emerged on innumerable tiny little gardens, with
the stubs of cabbages and a few trenches of early vegetables for sole
contents. Rickety cane hedges leaning over at every angle surrounded
these, and Deventer pushed his way through them with the silent
expertness of an Indian on the trail.

Soon we came out on a wide park which was surrounded by a high wall.
Deventer made directly for this. He struck it at a spot where a tree had
thrust a sturdy limb through a fissure. The crack had been mended with
plaster, but perhaps from curiosity, perhaps owing to carelessness, the
branch of the tree had been allowed to go on growing. It was easy to
swing oneself upon it and so gain the top of the wall.

Deventer and I had made a good straight rush from cover, and flattered
ourselves that we should be able to mount unnoticed, but a patter of
bullets went buzzing like bees over our heads, while others buried
themselves with a sullen "spat" which threw up little fountains of black
leaf-mould in the ground at the foot of the wall.

None, however, came our way, and the next moment Deventer and I were
crouching among the lean spiky laurels and green-bedripped statues of
his father's garden.

"They are besieged," he whispered; "we must be careful. We are not
inside yet, and you may be sure they will shoot quite as readily as the
insurgent jacks behind there, and with better aim too. Dad kept the
English and Americans on the ranges every evening all last summer."

It was I who had the idea this time.

"Lend me your lantern and I will Morse them a message."

"The sentinel may not be able to read it off."

"No, but he will bring someone who can. At any rate let us try."

We established ourselves in an old summer-house at the edge of a pond,
with a foolishly rustic door which opened straight upon the front of the
house. Our light would be seen only by someone on the balconies, or at
the windows of the upper floors. It was entirely dark, of course, but
Deventer had no doubt that his father was there with all his faithful
forces, "keeping his end up like a good old fighting Derryman," as his
son expressed it.

"Hugh--Deventer--and--his--friend--Cawdor-are--down--here.
Answer--by--Morse--by--which--door--they--can--enter--the--house."

I had Morsed this message three times before any notice was taken from
within, and I had begun to give up hope. There must be nobody inside
Château Schneider, as the place was called. But Deventer was far more
hopeful.

"They have gone to waken my father," he whispered. "You see, they
daren't do anything in these parts without the old bird. He is quite a
different man from the one you saw poking about among your father's
books, or drinking in his wisdom. Here he makes people do things. Try
her again."

It was tedious work, but I flashed the whole message over again,
according to the Morse code. This time the reply came back short and
sweet.

"What--the--devil--are--you--doing--there?"

"That's Dad," said Hugh Deventer triumphantly. "Now we shall catch it."

I answered that having seen the soldiers retreat, we had come to help.

"Did--anybody--send--word--that--you--were--wanted?" twinkled the point
of fire somewhere high among the chimney-stacks on the roof. These were
a rarity in a district where one chimney for a house is counted a good
average, but after one winter's experience of the windy Rhône valley,
Dennis Deventer had refused to be done out of an open fireplace in every
room.

Now he reaped the fruit of his labours, for in summer he had sat behind
his low wall and taken the air of an evening, and now it needed little
to convert the chimney-stacks on the flat roof of his house into
reliable defences.

It was difficult to say in slow Morse alphabetage what we were doing
down in the old summer-house, but at least I managed to convey that we
had run the insurgent pickets and were in danger of being captured.

We got our reply quickly enough.

"Hugh--knows--the--door--under--the--main-outer--staircase."

"Of course," said Hugh, "I always went in that way when my feet were
dirty. Come on!"

And we hurried across the sward, keeping between a sundial and
fountain-basin railed about, into which half a dozen copper frogs sent
each a thin thrill of water, with a sound quite unexpectedly cheerful
and domestic thus heard in the darkness of the night.

This time there was no clatter of firing behind us. The sharpshooters of
the insurrectionaries had learned a lesson of caution near the house of
the manager of the Small Arms Factory. Dennis Deventer had been training
his assistants and lieutenants the whole year at movable butts. He had
rigged up a defile of six men-shaped figures which passed in front of a
firing party, or, bent forward in the attitude of men running, dashed
one by one across the men's field of vision as they lay at the firing
line.

Hugh Deventer and I took for our goal the great double flight of steps,
broad as a couple of carriage ways, which in the style of the Adams
architecture united in front of a debased Corinthian portico at the
height of the first floor windows of the Château.

"What, Jack Jaikes!" cried Hugh to the grinning young man who opened the
door for us.

"Aye, just Jack Jaikes same as yesterday, and eh, but the chief is going
to leather ye properly afore he sends ye back to school."

"But we are not going to school any more!"

"Maybe not--maybe not, but in this house we mostly go by what the master
says. 'Tis more comfortable like all round. Eh, but ye have come in time
to be leathered proper. If the lads of the Internationale yonder had
been brisk at the firing ye might have gotten off, but as it is the auld
man has nothing better to do than attend to ye on the spot!"

This made me a little uncomfortable as to our reception, but Deventer
did not seem greatly disturbed.

"You tell me where my sisters are, and then go and find somebody else
who will believe your lies, Jack Jaikes!"

The dark young man with the large hands grinned still more.

"Where should the three young ladies be at this time of night but in
their beds? Go and take your dose, young gentlemen. No use stopping to
think it over. In an hour, maybe, the worst of the sting will be by
with--and at any rate there are sofas in the parlour!"

"Get out, Jack Jaikes! Hannah and Liz may be in bed, but I warrant that
Rhoda Polly is somewhere on the look-out with a gun ready."

"Correct!" admitted Jaikes, with a chuckle. "I saw her at the window
just over this old stone staircase a minute before t'owd man shouted the
order for me to let you in."

"Come on then, Cawdor," Hugh cried; "let's find Rhoda Polly!" He ran
upstairs as fast as he could, anxious to find his sister before having
the first interview with his father. For though he knew that Jack Jaikes
had been lying, he could not be sure on what basis of fact so much
imagination reposed.

And then there was the message flashed from behind the chimney-pots,
"Did anyone send you word that you were to come?"

"You did not want to go and see your father," he whispered, as we stood
close together, panting in the dark of the second landing. "You came
away with well on a thousand francs in your pocket--got without asking,
too. I run a thousand dangers to see my father, and all I am likely to
get is a hiding."

The moon was lighting up one side of the landing, and showing where
mattresses and corn-sacks had been used to block the windows damaged by
rifle fire. The house was wonderfully still, astonishingly so when one
thought how many people were in it on the alert. But we must have made
more noise than we had supposed in coming up the stairs, for as we stood
here out of breath with the speed of our rush, a voice came calmly from
the shadows by the window curtains.

"Come over here, Hugh--and you, Angus Cawdor--I am Rhoda Polly."



CHAPTER V

THE DEVENTER GIRLS


I suppose this is as good a place as any to bring in and explain the
daughters of the house of Deventer. I had known them ever since I could
remember. First as "kids" to be properly despised, then as long-legged,
short-skirted, undistinguishable entities, useful at fielding, but
remarkably bad at throwing in to the wicket.

During our long stay at the _lycée_ these creatures had been at schools
of their own. Their hair had gradually darkened and lengthened, so that
it could be more easily tugged. It had been gathered up and arranged
about their heads at a period which synchronised with the lengthening of
their skirts, and the complete retirement of the ankles which had once
been so freely whacked with hockey sticks and even (I regret to say)
kicked at football practice.

There was no great difference in age between the girls. They might have
been triplets, but denied the accusation fiercely and unanimously, with
more of personal feeling than seemed necessary. Often as court of last
appeal the arbitration of their mother had to be referred to. In her
gentle cooing voice she would give the names of the various medical men
who had ushered them into the world. These were settled in various
mineralogical centres.

"There was Doctor Laidlaw of Coatbridge. He was Rhoda Polly's. A fine
sharp man was Doctor Laidlaw, sandy-whiskered, but given to profane
swearing. Not that he ever swore in _my_ presence, but he had the name
for it among the colliers and ironworkers."

"It's from him," insinuated Hugh, "that Rhoda Polly gets her
vocabulary."

"That's as it may be," his mother would reply patiently, her thoughts
travelling before her to pick out number two.

"Let me see. For Hannah I had Doctor Butterworth--Tom Butterworth of
Barrow-in-Furness--and of all the upsetting conceited creatures on this
earth, commend me to Tom. Tom-Show-a-Leg he was called, because he came
to the balls in knee-breeches and silk stockings. But for all that I
will never deny that he did his duty by Hannah, though at times I had my
own adoes to keep Dennis from heaving him out of the window.

"And there was Liz, poor thing. She had to put up with a 'locum' at
Herbestal, in Belgium, before your father came here. There was not an
English doctor in the place, but it made no great difference, for Madame
Batyer was wiser than a whole college of doctors, and I will always
think that beginning to be used to the language so soon has improved
Liz's French accent!"

Obviously it was impossible for me during my salad days to escape from
falling in love with one or other of these three pretty girls. I solved
the question by falling in love with all three in turns, the rotation of
crops being determined chiefly by whose vacations coincided with mine.

This bred no jealousies, for the girls were large-minded, and at that
time a sweetheart more or less had no particular significance for them.

Rhoda Polly was the learned one; she had been to college at Selborne,
and still retained in speech and manner something Oxonian and aloof. But
really she was gentle and humble-minded, eager with sympathy, and only
shy because afraid of proffering it where it was not wanted. Rhoda Polly
was a creamy blonde with abundant rippling hair, clearly cut small
features, and the most sensitive of mouths. Yet she was full of the most
unselfish courage, ready for long smiling endurances, and with that
unusual feminine silence which enables a woman to keep her griefs to
herself and even to deceive others into thinking she has none.

Did anyone want anything, Rhoda Polly would find it. Had two tickets
only been sent for the theatre, Rhoda Polly would not mind staying at
home. Rhoda Polly never minded anything. She did not cry half the
afternoon like Hannah over a spoilt dress, nor fall into any of Liz's
miniature rages. She was Rhoda Polly, and everybody depended upon her.
The girls confided in her largely, and never expected her to have any
secrets of her own for truck, barter, or exchange.

Hannah had been delicate always--or at least had been so considered by
her mother.

Her character had been formed between her mother's favour and her elder
sister's habit of giving way rather than face an argument. She was dark
and slender, placidly sure of being always right, and of looking best in
a large picture hat with a raven plume.

Hannah had been sent to school near Lausanne, which was kept by the
daughter of the famous Froebel, assisted by a relative of the still more
famous Pestalozzi. An English lady was in residence at the
Pestalozzi-Froebel Institute, to teach the pupils the aristocratic
manners, so rare and necessary an accomplishment in a country where the
President of the Republic returns from his high office to put on his
grocer's apron, and goes on weighing out pounds of tea at the counter of
the old shop which had been his father's before him.

Liz was all dimples and easy manners, the plaything of the house. She
knew she could do no wrong, so long as she went on opening wide her eyes
of myosotis blue, now purring and now scratching like a kitten; she
would often dart away for no reason whatever, only to come back a minute
after, having apparently forgotten the cause of her brusque
disappearance. She was accordingly a good deal spoilt, not only by the
young engineers who frequented the Château Schneider, but by her parents
and sisters as well.

One of the former, asked the reason of a decided preference for Liz,
declared that it was because she could never be mistaken for a French
convent-bred girl. It was pointed out to him that the same might be said
for the other two, but he stuck to his point. Rhoda Polly with her
Oxford manner of condescending to undergraduates, and Hannah with the
Pestalozzi Institute refinements, might speak and look as if they had a
duenna hidden in the background, but Liz--never! She was more likely to
box somebody's ears.



CHAPTER VI

AN OLD MAN MASTERFUL


Deventer and I came upon Rhoda Polly while we were getting our breath
after the rush upstairs. We were old friends, and Rhoda Polly did not
even put aside her rifle to greet us.

"Come from school without leave--run away--good!" she exclaimed. "Have
you made it all right with father?"

"Not yet--that is--the fact is---we thought you might as well come along
with us, Rhoda Polly."

"You think there will be a storm, Hugh?"

"Sure of it, but at least you can tell the Pater that Cawdor here is no
prodigal. He comes with his father's blessing and a whole pile of paper
money."

"Father is among his entrenchments on the roof," said the girl; "better
wait till he comes down. He is never quite himself when he is up there
and the wind is blowing. Now tell me what made you run away?"

"We are going to enlist among Garibaldi's volunteers, and fight for
France--at least that's what Cawdor says. But I mean to stay here till
all is safe for mother and you."

At this moment Rhoda Polly nudged us. There was a sound of heavy decided
footsteps grating on the steel ladder which led to the roof, then a
thump and the noise of feet stamping on the floor above us.

"He has been lying behind the chimney till he is stiff," whispered Rhoda
Polly. "Give him time to limber himself."

For a minute all was quiet along the Potomac, and then a mighty voice
was heard demanding "those two young rascals."

Deventer's smile was somewhat forced, and it might only have been the
moonlight, but he certainly looked both sick and white about the gills.
I was not greatly affected, but then I had not had his discipline. My
case and credit were clear. All the same, it was obvious that the Dennis
Deventer who captained his forces against the insurgents within the
walls of Château Schneider, and the seeker after knowledge who prowled
about my father's library or listened modestly to his interminable
expositions, were very different persons.

"Better not keep him waiting," said Rhoda Polly. "I will take you. He
has a room for himself fitted up on the third floor."

At the opening of the door we saw a long table covered with guns and
revolvers, each ready to the hand, while behind the centre ran a
continuous mountain range of ammunition in packets of gay-coloured
green, red, and yellow.

"What's all this, boys?" said Dennis Deventer gruffly, as soon as he
caught sight of us. "Now, you Rhoda Polly, hold your tongue! You are not
put up to tell their story. Come--out with it. What is it?"

He thrust his hands through his crisping mane of hair with quick,
nervous movements.

"Come, get it into word, Master Hugh Deventer. You were put to do your
duty at school. Why didn't you stay put?"

Hugh Deventer had a difficulty about articulation. He was bold and brave
really, besides being extraordinarily strong of body, but something in
the tones of his father's voice seemed to make all these qualities,
which I had seen proved so often, of no use to him. I looked at Rhoda
Polly, and, to my amazement, even she appeared a little anxious. I began
vaguely to understand the difference among parents, and to realise that
with a father of the calibre of the Old Man Masterful I might have
turned out a very different sort of son.

Finally Deventer managed to stammer out his account of the retreat of
the troops and the hoisting of the Red Flag.

"I knew that they would be besieging you," he said, "so I came. I could
not stop there doing mathematics, hearing the shots go off, and thinking
what might be happening to my mother and the girls!"

I could see in a moment that he had taken good ground with his father.
The strong muscular hands were laid flat on the table, with a loud clap
which made the pistols spring.

"You did pretty well in your examinations--they tell me?"

"Second--Cawdor was first. He coached me, or I should never have got
within smelling distance. As it was we halved the honours, and were
asked to dine with the _proviseur_ and professors when we got back."

"You look a perfect ox for strength. Let me see if you can lift this
table without disturbing anything."

Deventer smiled for the first time, and after trying about for a little
time so as to find the proper centre of gravity, he lifted the table,
guns, ammunition and all, holding them with flexible arm on the level of
his father's eyes. I think he was perfectly happy at that moment.

Old Dennis did not smile like his son. He only nodded, and said, "Yes,
you may be useful. Can you shoot?"

"Fairly," Deventer admitted, "but not so well as Cawdor; and you should
just see him send the Frenchmen's foils twirling to the roof of the
gymnasium. He has fought three duels, Pater, and won every time. Even
the Frenchmen could not deny it!"

"Gilt-edged nonsense--duelling," old Dennis broke out, "though your
grandfather was out a score of times in County Down in his day. But what
do you do when the Frenchmen challenge you?"

"Oh," cried Hugh gleefully, "I just chase them or their seconds till I
catch them, and then I spank them till they agree that honour is
satisfied. Generally by that time they are crying with rage, but that
does not matter. However, they mostly let me alone now."

"Well done, Hugh," said his father; "have something to eat, and then
come up and find me on the roof. We ought to have something lively to
amuse you before the morning. By the way, Cawdor, what does your father
say to all this?"

Deventer forestalled me, for he was anxious that I should say nothing
about the draught from the window or my father's sending me off.

"His father sent him along with his blessing, and eight hundred and
fifty francs."

"Well," rapped out the old man with the mane of grey hair, "you can keep
the blessing, but I will take care of the money for you."

And with that he held out his hand. Quite instinctively I gave it to
him, without thinking what I was doing. Then, the next moment, I
regretted the act and strove to undo it. I remembered muttering
something about fighting for France and joining the levies of Garibaldi,
when I should need all the money I could get.

But old Dennis calmly locked my banknotes away in his safe, and assured
me that I might 'list if I liked, but that it would be a downright
fool's trick to carry about so much money among a parcel of Italians. He
would send it on to me as I wanted it--twenty francs at a time. I could
pick it up as I went, either at a bank, or from a correspondent of the
Small Arms firm.

Once left to ourselves, Rhoda Polly seemed to think that we had come
rather well out of the scrape.

"But it was Cawdor being there that saved you," said Rhoda Polly.
"Father got so keen about Angus not spending his father's money, that he
forgot about you. Now, you have only to run straight and do as you are
bid----"

"Do you think I shall be able to go with Cawdor when this simmers down?
I want to wear the red blouse as much as he does."

"As to that I don't know," said Rhoda Polly. "I don't believe he took it
that you wanted to go soldiering as well. He means to put you into the
works--fair field--no favour--up at five in the morning, breakfast in a
tin can--that sort of thing--and as for Garibaldi's red jackets, he will
sell them guns, but I rather fancy he will keep his son at home."

"Well," said Deventer, "I shall be ready for the works all in good time,
but if Cawdor goes off with Garibaldi, I go. I could not stay behind.
Nor could even the Pater keep me. He would not chain me to a wall,
and----"

"At any rate," broke in the watchful Rhoda Polly, "here you are now, and
the better you please the commander-in-chief the better chance there
will be for you afterwards when the time comes. I shall do what I can
for you, Hugh."

"Thanks, old girl," said Deventer. "Where are Hannah and Liz?"

"Where should they be but in bed, where, of course, I ought to be also.
Only I have a dispensation to get what sleep I can in the daytime. I can
see in the dark better than anyone in the house. I saw them gathering
for the attack under the shadow of the pines on Thursday night, an hour
after the moon had gone down. The Pater said it was a near shave, and
spoke about my 'high-power vision' as if it were an attachment he had
had fitted before I was born."

The defence of the Château was undertaken by the entire English-speaking
colony of Aramon. The wives and children of the overseers and foremen
were lodged in the rooms looking on the inner quadrangle, but took their
meals in the great hall floored with many-coloured marbles. Their
husbands and the younger unmarried men looked in occasionally when they
could get off, ate what snacks stood handy on the sideboard and
disappeared.

It was their duty to keep a watch over the workshops of the Company, and
on the roof of the stables were half a dozen mitrailleuses ready to
sweep the open square which lay out flat as a billiard-board beneath the
windows of the Château Schneider, surrounded by workshops and
storehouses on every side.

But a far more dangerous task was the raid through the ateliers
themselves, which Dennis Deventer ordered to be made at irregular
intervals.

"The divils would be breaking up the Company's machinery if I did not
keep all their little plans in the back of my head. And that's none so
easy, young Cawdor, for mark me this, 'tis easy to keep track of what a
clever man will imagine to do. You have only to think what you would do
yourself in his place. But you never know where ignorant stupid fools
will break out, and that's the danger of it, Angus me lad!"

"But," I said, "they cannot all be such fools, for with my own eyes I
saw them send the regular soldiers to the rightabout."

"The regular soldiers--raw levies mostly, I tell you," burst out old
Dennis fiercely. "I should know, for I armed them man by man out of my
own gun-sheds and rifle-racks. And I tell ye that beyond a few
instruction sergeants from the artillery, there was divil a man among
them who could point a chassepot or lay a piece. Our noisy
revolutionaries simply frightened them out of the town, and if it had
not been for our little stock company here, the biggest manufacturing
arsenal in France would have been in their hands. Even as it is they
have found enough rifles to arm themselves, but so far we have saved the
mitrailleuses and the field artillery. The deputation which came from
Marseilles did not go away very much the richer."

"But what is it that they want, sir?" I asked.

Dennis Deventer looked at me straight between the eyes.

"They want what they ought to have, Angus me boy, and what they should
have, if I were not a servant of the Small Arms Company."

I was taken aback at his answer, though I had heard something like it
from my father. But in his case I had taken it for mere poetry or
philosophy, and so thought no more about it. But a man like Dennis
Deventer, who was fighting these very insurgents--why, I tell you it was
a curious thing to listen to, and made me wonder if I had heard aright.
The old man continued, his bold blue eyes looking straight over my
shoulder as if he saw something beyond me.

"You ask me why in that case I am fighting men who are in the right?
Right is right, and wrong is wrong, you say. But bide a moment, Master
Angus. I agree that these poor devils should have better wages, shorter
hours, and a chance to lead the lives of human beings. I agree that at
least half of the net profits we make ought to go to the men who made
every penny. The proportion would not be too large. I should be willing
that my own share should be cut down to help this along. But, also,
Angus me lad, I know that murder and arson are not the best way for men
to get their rights. General insurrection is still worse. They have
tried to kill me, who am their best friend. That is nothing. It belongs
to the business of manager. It is one of our risks. But they have also
tried to break the machinery and to set fire to the buildings. They
would burn Aramon if they could--they are so ill-advised. And what for?
Only to find themselves left stranded without work or wages.

"This is a flea-bite," he went on. "I defend the Château because of my
wife and daughters. But the business began when the men saw the masters
flaunting their riches, entertaining the Emperor and Empress at the cost
of millions on the very day when processes were being served from door
to door of the rows of cottages belonging to the Company. A man may burn
his hand or hurt his foot, but he must by no means get behind with his
rent. If we had not laid a dozen firebrands by the heels without
troubling the police, blood would have been shed in Aramon that day of
the Imperial reception."

Dennis Deventer had spoken with such determination and cold anger, that
it took me with a new surprise to see him spring like a boy up the steel
ladder on to the roof in answer to some call unheard by me.

Rhoda Polly followed, and Hugh and I did not stay behind. Rhoda Polly
gave us both a hand.

"Mind your feet," she whispered, "there are all sorts of things
scattered about."

I could hear the voice of Dennis Deventer somewhere in the darkness. The
stars were still keen and bright, though the morning of the Midi was
nigh to the breaking.

"Clear machine-guns three, four, and six," he ordered. "Train them on
the doors of the fitting-shed. There are lights over yonder I don't
like, and I can sniff the paraffin in the air!"

Deventer and I stood quite still with Rhoda Polly between us. Neither of
us knew what to do. We had received no word of command, and what we had
just heard had somehow dislocated our simple world of duty. We had
imagined all the right to be on one side, all the wrong on the other.
Now quite unexpectedly we saw the "tatter of scarlet" from a new angle.
Its colour heightened till it glowed like a ruby. After all it stood for
an idea--the ideal even which had brought us from school, and sent us on
our wild-goose chase for Garibaldi.

The weak were to be supported against the strong. Perhaps, after all,
those who had been long driven to the wall were at last to hold the
crown of the causeway.

Meanwhile, peering into the night we could see the dark masses of men
clustering about the street corners of Aramon. The stars were paling a
little when we saw them suddenly bunch together and run towards the long
tiled roofs of the fitting-sheds, filled with valuable new machinery.
Lanterns winked and tossed as they went, torches flamed high, and there
came to our ears a kind of smothered cheer.

"Are you there, Jack Jaikes?"

"Here, sir."

"Aim well in front of them, and let them have it as soon as they get
close to the buildings. The ricochet from the walls will scare them as
well as anything else."

There was no hesitation in the Old Man's fighting dispositions, whatever
he might think privately of the men's cause. He would protect his
master's property, and point out in the most practical way to the men
that they were going the wrong way about to get their wrongs redressed.

"B-r-r-r! B-r-r-r!" whirred and spluttered the mitrailleuses. These
first machine-guns made a curious noise like the explosion of many
sulphur matches held one after the other over a lamp chimney. The
effect, however, was wonderful. The black rush of men checked itself a
score of paces from the fitting-sheds. Several fell to the ground, with
a clatter of spilt petroleum cans, but the most turned tail and ran as
hard as possible for the shelter of the streets and the trees along the
boulevards.

One man only, very broad in the shoulders, bareheaded and belted with a
red sash, kept on. He was carrying a torch dipped with tar, and this he
thrust repeatedly under the doorway of the atelier.

"Give me Number 27, quick!" commanded Dennis Deventer. "I know who that
man is, and I am sorry, but he must be stopped."

Jack Jaikes placed the rifle in the old man's hand, and everybody held
their breaths. The lintel of the fitting-shed protected the fire-raiser
a little. We could see him thrusting with his torch till the sparks and
smoke almost enveloped him. Then he threw down the torch and ran heavily
back. He took hold of the first jar of petroleum which had been
abandoned in the flight, and was hastening back with it when Number 27
spoke. The man appeared to gather himself up. Then he made a spring
forwards, spilling the oil in a gush in the direction of the smouldering
torch.

But there came no answering burst of flame. The distance was too great.
Dennis watched a moment after reloading, then shook his head gloomily.

"He was a good workman too--yet that does not help a man when once the
maggot begins to gnaw underneath the brain pan."

The next day broke fresh and bright, with only that faint touch of
Camargue mist which the sun dissolves in his first quarter of an hour.

From the roof and northern balcony we could hear a curious thudding
sound in the direction of the moulding-works.

"The steam hammer," said Jack Jaikes; "pity we did not think to put her
out of gear."

When he came down the chief listened a moment with his better ear turned
towards the sound. Then he smiled ironically.

"They are trying to get a big field-gun ready for us. Luckily we have
sent off the last we had in store. But they can't do it. At least they
can't do it in time. There are good workmen and capital fitters among
them, but who is to do their calculations?"

"No matter," grumbled Jack Jaikes, half to himself, "they will go by
rule of thumb, and though their gun would not pass army tests, they will
make it big enough and strong enough to drive a solid shell in at one
side of this house and out at the other."

At that moment the girls came down for breakfast, and there was no more
talk about the insurgents, or the state of siege at Château Schneider.



CHAPTER VII

OUR FIRST COMMUNARD


Hannah and Liz Deventer came in arm and arm. Hannah grave and sweet,
with her air of taking admiration for granted and being rather bored by
it; Liz dimpled and glancing from one to the other, deciding which of
the young men would best serve her for cavalier that day. As for Rhoda
Polly she had been in and out of the room for an hour, enforcing
authority in the kitchen, rousing new courage in frightened servants
whom only her example and abounding vitality shamed into remaining at
their duty.

Dennis Deventer did not appear. Jack Jaikes came down presently and
carried him up a pot of strong coffee and some rolls. Most of us hardly
made even a pretence of sitting down, so eager were we to get back to
our posts, but Hugh Deventer and a young apprentice, Laurent, the son of
an English mother and a French father, stayed to keep the two younger
girls company. As for me, I followed Rhoda Polly out upon the roof.

There I cleaned her rifle for her carefully, while she sat and watched
me, her chin upon her palms. We were both quite comfortably hidden
behind the stack of north-looking chimneys.

Rhoda Polly had always been a friend of mine, and there was no false
shame between us, any more than between two college comrades of the same
age and standing.

In quickly lapsing phrases she told me how the trouble had begun.

"It was," she said, "altogether a political matter at first. It had to
do with the position of Procureur of the Republic, held by young Gaston
Cremieux of Marseilles. He had been appointed by Gambetta in September,
in the war year. But he was a 'red' and belonged to the Internationale,
so that the solid people of the department, royalists for the most part,
set about to try and dislodge him. He used to come often to our house,
and he and father sat long arguing. I think we all liked him. He had
great influence with the men up at the works, and so long as he was
permitted to speak to them and go to their reunions, we had no trouble.

"But when Gambetta lost his power, and Thiers became dictator, or
president, or something, Gaston Cremieux could not long remain
Procureur. They stripped him of his office, and gave it to a dry-as-dust
lawyer who did as the military tribunals bade him."

I put a question here.

"No," continued Rhoda Polly, with a flash of indignation, "if you knew
my father better, you would know that he does not shelter himself behind
anyone. Still, Cremieux was undoubtedly a help. My father can explain
better than I can, but the men down here wanted to make our department a
sovereign state like the American ones--New York, Massachusetts, Ohio,
and so on."

"But," said I, "over there they have just fought a long and bloody war
for the purpose of proving that no state is sovereign, but each must be
subordinate to the central authority at Washington."

"Well, I don't know," said Rhoda Polly, "at least, that was the idea of
these people down here, and I suppose all over France wherever there are
many workmen. The peasants and agriculturists are different. They want
only two things: low taxes and high prices."

Rhoda Polly was swinging herself back and forward on the low parapet
which ran round the roof in so careless a fashion, that I begged her to
take care that she did not lose her balance. At my words she stopped,
cast a glance behind her, was instantly brought to her feet by what she
saw, and ran towards the steel ladder crying, "It is Gaston Cremieux. I
must let him in."

I went to the parapet holding the cleaned gun idly in my hand. A tall
young man, with dark hair and a slight pointed beard, was coming
straight across from the head-quarters of the insurgents. He walked
easily and with a confident swing up the wide Stair of Honour which led
to the front door.

Before he had reached the top the bolts were already shooting from
within, and the door soon stood open; for Rhoda Polly had gathered in
Jack Jaikes on her way, to help in undoing the intricate barrage and
strengthening of the defence.

I am not sure that Jack Jaikes looked with much favour upon the welcome
which Rhoda Polly gave to the young ex-Procureur of the Republic, but
the lady knew well what she was about. In losing his office he had
neither lost in influence nor authority, and she knew that if anyone
could help to end the strife, it was this polite and deferential young
man.

"I have been over at Nîmes seeing the family of my friend Rossel," he
explained. "I heard there was some trouble at the works, so I took
Aramon-les-Ateliers on my way back to Marseilles."

"That was good of you," said Rhoda Polly, "if anyone can set things
right, you can. You know what my father thinks, and what he has done for
the men, but he will not have the firm's machinery tampered with if he
can help it."

Gaston Cremieux nodded his head of crisp black curls.

"_I_ understand," he said; "but there are men over yonder who cannot
understand the uprightness of a man like your father. Worse still, they
cannot believe that he wishes them well, just because he is a manager in
the pay of the Company. He must on that very account be their enemy,
they say, and they remain blind to the fact that he alone can put their
needs and demands before the masters."

"Come up and see my father," said the girl, and without waiting for any
word of consent, she turned and led the way, flitting before him with
the lithe grace learned in the gymnasia of Selborne College.

Some minutes afterwards I encountered Jack Jaikes who had returned from
re-bolting and restrengthening the door.

"If I could break that young scoundrel's neck I would be doing some
good. He is at the bottom of all this trouble. I went to one of his
speechifyings to see what he was after, and he led them like a flock of
lambs. He was preaching revolt and red revolution, so far as I could
make out--the works to belong to the workers and such-like clotted
nonsense--and now Rhoda Polly receives him like an angel from heaven,
and up they go to throw dust in the eyes of the old man. If I had my way
of it--_augh_!"

And here Jack Jaikes turned away snorting to express the suddenness and
certainty with which he would regulate the case of ex-Procureur Gaston
Cremieux, if the matter were left in his hands.

On the roof another view was being taken. I heard the details from Hugh
Deventer, who at this time was constantly with his father, now that he
had been forgiven and, as it were, taken back into the general scheme of
things as conceived by Dennis Deventer.

"Rhoda Polly brought him up" (so ran his narrative), "and it was like
watching a hen with a new brood of chickens to see the pair of them.
Rhoda Polly is like that. She was quite sure that she had found the
specific remedy for all our woes, so she could hardly let the man speak
at first, so anxious was she that he should say the right thing.

"She kept at it interrupting so long, that at last the Pater, who was
not specially patient just then, told her to go away and let them talk
it out in peace. And that is pretty strong from the Pater to Rhoda
Polly, for mostly he encourages her to say and do just what she likes.
She is not like the others. There is nothing of the
mother's-apron-string-girl about Rhoda Polly. She likes running about
the works in a dirty blouse much better than sitting all day, with
embroidery on her knee, listening to mother purring.

"As for Cremieux and my father, they understood each other from the
first. It was wonderful to find how much they had in common. And he will
help to stop the rioting. He says he will not go away from Aramon till
the men are back at work. Cremieux's opinion is that these sporadic
risings do no good, even when run on the best lines, without personal
violence or destruction of property. To succeed, the thing must be a
national movement, concerted and directed from each one of the great
towns, otherwise the bourgeois government merely waits till its feet are
free elsewhere, and then tramples out one by one all the little
revolts."

At that moment Deventer caught me by the arm.

"Hold hard," he whispered, "here he comes with the Chief. I declare they
are as thick as thieves, and yet in an hour he may be leading the
rascals over yonder to burn down the Château."

The restless eyes of Dennis Deventer spied me out.

"Ah, Angus me boy," he hailed, "come this way. You two ought to know one
another. This is our philosopher's son from Gobelet, who has run away
from college to take service under Garibaldi."

"If he casts his eyes in that direction," said the dark young man,
smiling, "I can find him more profitable work nearer home."

"Come, none of your proselytising on my ground!" said Dennis Deventer,
laying a heavy hand on his companion's shoulder. "If he chooses to go
and get a bullet in him for the sake of France, that is his own affair.
But I will not have him mixed up in your little revolutions about which
he knows nothing at all."

"But I will teach him. He is intelligent--of a fine race--it is such
men we need. Let me speak to him, I beg."

But Dennis Deventer would listen to nothing. He pushed his visitor out
of the hall, laughing and shaking his head good-humouredly.

"Take anyone you like from my rank and file," he said, "but leave my
staff officers alone."

But I did not forget that tall, grave young man, who talked so earnestly
and pleaded so strongly for a chance to teach me the wisdom of
insurrection.



CHAPTER VIII

I SEE THE SCARLET TATTER NEAR AT HAND


I might have thought much more about Gaston Cremieux and the dark
fatality of his eyes, if other things had not immediately distracted my
attention. The garrison had had its noon dinner in the great hall, and
at one o'clock the family were served in the fine red and gold
dining-room, the furnishings of which had been the gift of the Emperor.
Dennis Deventer sat at the top of the table with the gleeful air of
having dispatched the business of the day.

There was a feeling of picnic unceremoniousness about the feast. The
servants were somewhat thinned by flight, and as there was no
hard-and-fast etiquette in Dennis Deventer's house on any occasion,
several of the younger apprentice engineers assisted in the service,
partly from a general feeling of loyalty, and partly because they liked
to steal glances at the three Deventer girls--glances of which only Liz
appeared conscious and or in any way prompt with a return fire.

Even Jack Jaikes, a dark figure of a Spanish hidalgo, in engineer's blue
serge and pockets continually bulging with spanners, looked in and said
with brusque courtesy:

"Anything I can do for you, Chief?"

"Nothing," said Dennis Deventer, over his shoulder, "except to come in
and sit down with us."

"Thank you, Chief," answered Jaikes, "but I have dined already. I am
watching the rascals from the roof. They have gone away for a while to
their 'speak-house,' where doubtless they are talking over the matter.
But it will not do to trust to appearances. I wish you would let me run
that live wire from the big dynamo in the power-house. That would curl
them up by the score if they tried any more of their rushes."

Dennis Deventer turned on him savagely, the carving-knife in hand and
upheld threateningly.

"You pirate," he cried, "do as I tell you, and if I hear of your
meddling with the wires I will blow your brains out. Don't you see that
we have got to go on living here, and the men we have to work the
factory with are the fellows out in the brush yonder? They will try to
kill us now, but they will not bear any lasting malice if a few of them
are bowled over while we are defending ourselves. But electrocution by a
live wire is a different thing. They can't fight us with those weapons,
and I am not going to have our lives made impossible by any wholesale
scientific butchery."

Jack Jaikes held his ground in the doorway, his thin body flattened
against the panels to let the hurrying servants and apprentices pass.

"I don't know about 'scientific butchery,'" he said, "but I do know that
some one of them is pretty handy with the trick of short-circuiting our
new Gramme armature. It wasn't any garlic-smelling 'Gugusse' who worked
that out. I have put it right three times, so I know it was no accident.
But at any rate I am going to watch, if I have to slink about the
dynamo-sheds all night. I shall carry the new Henry thirteen repeater I
had from Edinburgh yesterday, and if I don't touch up that other gang of
scientific ruffians my name is not Jack Jaikes, and I never smelt the
good Clyde water from the Broomielaw."

Having thus had the last word, he shouldered his notable new Henry rifle
and strode off with his head in the air.

"Bit of buccaneer blood in that fellow," said Dennis Deventer, "a hard
horse to hold in sober times, but deuced dependable in an emergency.
Hates the Frenchmen, however, and does not get on with them. Mostly I
have to keep him on special duty, or in the office, though he is a
capital engineer, and a capital 'driver' with Englishmen or Scots of his
own breed who understand him. But if he is not careful he will get
something for himself one of these days--a knife between the
shoulder-blades as like as not."

Gentle Mrs. Dennis had her lament to make.

"I wish you would give him to me to look after. He can do almost
anything. He mended my spare sewing-machine which has not worked for
years, and made the missing parts himself. I believe some of them were
given to Liz to play with when she was a little girl, and I have never
seen them since."

"By all means have Jack Jaikes to tinker at your embroidery frames--that
is, if you can tame him. For myself I do not see him in the rôle of
family emergency man. But you must wait till we get the things all fixed
here and the shops running handily. Then I dare say it may be just as
well for Jaikes to eclipse himself for a day or two. If you can persuade
him to spend his time in the Château without coming into the works till
things cool off a bit, it will be best for all of us. He will not find
himself exactly popular for a while."

"Of course I can, Dennis," said his wife, who never doubted her powers
of persuasion. "There are hundreds of things that need to be done, and
the girls and I can easily find him work for a year. The place is going
to rack and ruin. High or low hardly a bolt will slide. Not a door will
lock except the outer ones which you yourself have had looked to
recently. What do you say, girls?"

"It is quite true, father," said Rhoda Polly. "I was trying to get Hugh
to do some little things down in the kitchen yesterday, but whatever
they teach him up at St. André, to make himself useful is certainly not
among them. He was as dense as a French plum-pudding, and I had far more
idea of how to handle a tool, for all he is older and twice my size."

Both Hannah and Liz agreed that there was a decided missionary call for
the assistance of Jack Jaikes in the Château as soon as possible.
Something in the tone of his youngest daughter touched Dennis Deventer's
educated ear.

He looked up sharply from his plate.

"Now, Liz," he said, "I will have no nonsense of _that_ kind!"

Liz blushed and dimpled, but kept her eyes well on her knife and fork
without a word. But there was a smile which lurked about the corners of
her mouth which said that her father, though a wise and masterful man in
his own house, could not control what was in the mind of a young girl.

It was a family tradition that at table Dennis Deventer should not be
argued with. Their mother might say inconsequent things in her purring
fashion, but only Rhoda Polly was allowed to stand up to their Old Man.
Even she rarely interfered, except in case of flagrant injustice or
misunderstanding, or when the subject matter under discussion had been
agreed upon beforehand in the family conclave. In Liz's case Rhoda Polly
judged there was no cause to interfere. It had become too much Liz's
habit to count all males coming to the house as "her meat," hardly
excluding the halt, the maimed, and the blind. If her father had noticed
this growing peculiarity, he had done so "off his own bat," and on the
whole it was a good thing. The knowledge that she was under suspicion at
head-quarters might do something to keep Liz within bounds. At least if
she did get tangled up in her own snares, she would not have the face to
go to their father for pity or demands for disentanglement. Rhoda Polly
hoped that this would put some of the iron which was in her own blood
into that of her more temperamental and impulsive younger sister.

The turmoil, the constant clatter of knives, forks, and plates, the
discussion which swayed from one side of the table to the other, the
well-worn family jests, which, because I held no key to their origin,
shut me out from the shouts of merriment they provoked--all produced on
me a feeling of dazed isolation. I liked the Deventers singly,
especially Rhoda Polly and her father. I could talk to each with ease
and an honest eye to my own profit or amusement. But I will not hide it
from you that I found the entire Deventer family, taken together, too
much for me.

I think I inherit my father's feeling for a "twa-handed crack" as the
only genuine method of intercourse among reasoning beings. More than
three in a conversation only serves to darken counsel by words without
knowledge. In a company of four my father is reduced to complete
silence, unless, indeed, he assumes his gown professorial and simply
prelects. In this way alone, and on condition that nobody says a word,
my father could be induced to give forth of his wisdom in company.

But a sympathetic touch on the shoulder from Rhoda Polly, one of whose
peculiarities was that she understood things without being told,
delivered me from my awkwardness.

"I don't think you have been here since we all grew up," she said, with
a smile. "We _are_ rather _assommant_, I admit. We stun people with our
trick of throwing ourselves at each other's heads. But you will soon get
used to the clamour. Meantime, if I were you, I should go out and walk
in the acacia avenue. It is a good place to be quiet in, and I have it
in my mind that you may learn something there"--she paused a
moment--"something that will take the taste of Jack Jaikes' threatenings
and slaughters out of your mouth."

She had moved back her chair a little so as to let me slip out, and then
with a nod and half-smile she launched herself into the fiercest of the
fray. So keen was challenge and _réplique_ just at that moment that I
was outside the fine old tapestried dining-room without being perceived
by anyone.

I ran downstairs and reported to the sentinel on duty at the front door.
I told him that I did not feel well and was going to take the air. He
asked if I had my revolvers with me, and was only pacified at sight of
them. He had gone often with messages from the Chief to my father at
Gobelet, and so took an interest in me.

I skirted the house, and was just plunging into a belt of woodland
through which I could gain the acacia walk without being seen, when I
was hailed from the roof by Jack Jaikes. He wanted to know where I was
going, and what I was going to do when I got there.

Instead of being rude and obvious I made him the reply which I knew
would baffle him.

"Ask Rhoda Polly!" I said, and he swore aloud. If he had not been safe
on the roof he would have come after me at once. As it was I advised him
that he had as much responsibility as one man could safely shoulder, and
that he would do wisely not to fret about me.

With that I waved my hand and stepped into the thickest of the bushes.
The little wood ran round an artificial lake, and was prolonged right to
the great wall of the Château policies half a mile away. It was the part
of the grounds most distant from the works, and from what might be
called the centre of disturbance.

I climbed a young but good-sized plane which overtopped the wall. It had
been pollarded, and the step from the tree to the top of the wall was
rather a long one. I managed it, however, without difficulty, thanks to
the bough of an acacia which came swaying and trembling over from the
highway beyond. The next moment I had dropped like a cat out of the
acacia boughs into the road. A young man was sitting on a fallen tree
trunk, pensively smoking a cigarette, his hat pulled low on his brow,
and his eyes on the road.

I had no chance to escape his notice, for the sound of my feet attracted
him and he looked up at once. He rose smilingly and held out his hand.
It was Gaston Cremieux.



CHAPTER IX

A REUNION OF THE REDS


"Did Rhoda Polly send you?" Cremieux asked, though I am sure he knew.

"She bade me come here, saying that perhaps I might learn something to
my advantage."

He looked at me queerly, and with a shade of suspicion which I quite
misunderstood.

"Then I may take it that she does not mean to come herself?"

"I am sure she has not the least idea of that. She was in the very thick
of a discussion upon the possibility of factories and ateliers being run
entirely by working men. The whole family had taken sides, and when I
came away I expected every moment to see them leap at each other's
throats."

"They are extraordinary, but quite admirable," he said, throwing away
his cigarette and rising. "We cannot breed anything of the kind in
France. Our spirit of family discipline forbids it. We have the cult of
ancestor worship as in China, only we do not get farther back than
father and mother. It is mainly the mother who leads the young men of
France. We have them among us too, these good mothers, women who teach
their sons to fight to the death for the great Day of Freedom. But they
are scarce. Our women are still under the heel of the priesthood, and
the young men, though they may follow us, still keep the inmost corner
of their hearts for their mothers; and one day when we most want them,
we may find them missing at roll-call. His mother cannot bear that her
son should be outcast and accursed. He need not go to Mass, but if he
will only see her favourite priest a moment in secret, she is sure that
he will stay at home with her. Like you, Rossel is a Protestant and has
not this to put up with. He is now in Metz with Bazaine, but he will
return, and then you and the world will see a man."

I asked him what the men meant to do, and if he thought he could not
prevent further fighting and burning.

Before he had time to answer a bell began clanging furiously in the
town.

"That is the signal," he said; "the Commune of Aramon is to meet in
general assembly. Will you come? You will be quite safe with me, even
though I am going to make them very angry. And besides, as Rhoda Polly
says, you will learn something to your advantage."

"Do you think she meant that?" I asked.

"Ah, you may go far and look long before you find out all that is in
Rhoda Polly's mind, but at any rate I suppose she meant that you would
be safe with me, and might hear a few things that are not included in
the curriculum of the _Lycée_ St. André."

We took our way towards the clanging bell, and it had the weirdest
effect as we topped a knoll, where the noise came so fierce and angry as
to put a stop to our conversation. Anon descending into deep dells out
of which the pines shot straight upwards like darts, sheer trunks for a
hundred feet before the first branch was poised delicately outwards as
if to grasp the light, we lost the sound of the rebellious tocsin, or it
came to our ears soft as the Angelus floated over the fields to a
worshipping peasantry in days that were yet of faith.

But Gaston Cremieux kept on his way without paying much notice to the
woodland sights about him. His colour rose, and his shoulders were bent
forward with a certain eagerness. The bell seemed to be calling him, and
I doubt not he was thinking of the responsibility of guiding aright
these darkened souls. His convictions, his aspirations were theirs. But
their volcanic outbursts of destructive energy, sudden, spiteful, and
inexplicable, vexed and troubled him.

Yet the reason plainly was that they had been hurt by those in authority
over them, and they struck back as naturally and instinctively as bees
fly out to sting when their hive is overturned. That the affair is
partly an accident does not matter either to bee or workman.

Presently we began to pass little villas--"Mon Plaisir," "Mont Dore,"
and "Château des Roses." The mountain path among the pines began to
widen into a made road, and to carry traces of wheelmarks. My leader
quickened his pace, and after a few minutes of threading our way among
the houses of New Aramon, we turned aside and entered a wide space in
the centre of which was a hall roofed with corrugated iron. Doors wide
and high as those of a barn stood open, and in the interior we could see
many people, men and women, already seated on rude benches.

There were also groups outside, but these were mostly younger men,
sullen-faced and furtive of eye. To me it seemed as if they regarded my
companion with no favourable looks. Several had been wounded in the
fighting, and now carried bandaged arms or white-wrapped heads. Somehow
I knew at once that this was the dangerous element, and I knew that the
whirring machine guns behind which glanced the pitiless eye of Jack
Jaikes, had had something to say to them.

Outwardly the Reunion of the Reds had nothing to distinguish it from
other political gatherings in the Midi. Indeed the type had been struck
out in the earlier pre-Robespierre period of the great Revolution,
improved upon in 1830 and 1848, and had now imposed itself even upon the
anarchists.

A president was appointed, who had his pair of vice-presidents and a
couple of secretaries to prepare a report of the proceedings exactly as
you may find described in Mirabeau's _Courier de Provence_.

The Hall of the People at Aramon had been an old riding-school in the
days before Solferino, when the scheming Emperor was hotly preparing for
his campaign across the Milanese plains. It was now a rather dimly
lighted, well-ventilated meeting-place, with a clean light-varnished
platform in front for speakers, and behind a broader space on which cane
chairs had been set out for the "assessors"--as we would say "members of
committee." These were being filled as we entered the hall. Names were
called out, and sturdy fathers of families rose from beside their
spouses to tramp up to the "assessors" chairs, not without a certain
conscious dignity as citizens whose worth was unexpectedly made apparent
to all men. I have seen the same expression since on the faces of men
pressed to become members of a municipality, or even a village council,
and I suppose Cabinet Ministers look like that when the new Prime
Minister hints at the object of his visit.

The entrance of Gaston Cremieux called forth a kind of shrill cheer, but
the Latin races had not at that time learned the full-bodied roar which
greets and encourages a favourite orator in England or America.

I was seated at the right of the speaker's platform, and a little behind
in shadow--which was as well, for there I could see without being seen.
And what I saw astonished me. There were nearly a couple of thousand
people in the riding-school by the time that Gaston Cremieux had shaken
hands with the President and taken his seat. The iron galleries which
ran round contained the younger people, many girls and their
sweethearts, while at the far end were a score or two of long-limbed
fellows clustered together--probably day labourers whose dusky tints and
clustering black curls indicated their Italian origin.

So long as the great doors remained open, I could see outside the
restless hither and thither of the young men who had scowled at us as we
came into the court.

It was not long before the President and Bureau of Workmen of the
Ateliers des Armes at Aramon declared that this properly called and
constituted general meeting was open.

It was evident that some of the elder men were ready enough to speak,
and a grave-faced grey-headed man rose to make his way towards the
speaker's platform. But long before he reached the _estrade_, it had
already been taken possession of by a young man with a shaggy head and
wild beady eyes. This was Georges Barrès, a moulder in the new big gun
factory. He had but recently arrived from St. Etienne, and had instantly
become a notable firebrand.

The speech into which he plunged was a fierce denunciation of the
masters and managers, through which ran the assertion that all property
was theft. The workers, therefore, were justified in redressing their
wrongs with the strong hand, and he and his companions would see to it
that they did not die of starvation with so many rich and fine houses
all about them. As for Monsieur Deventer and his English vermin of
overseers, they must be killed out like rats. Only so would the town be
purified. Only so would their dead comrades be avenged, and a solid
foundation be laid for the Free Commune in which the works and all
within them, the profits and everything included in the year's trading,
should belong absolutely to the workers.

There was some applause from the groups that had gathered in, ceasing
their rapid caged-wolf sentry-go to hear their leader. But for the most
part the meeting sat silent and unresponsive.

At a nod from the chairman a sturdy mechanician rose. He was an
"assembler," or skilled workman, who takes the parts of the gun as they
are sent in from the various departments, and then with file, saw, and
sandpaper, but especially by the wisdom of the eye, "assembles" them
into one complete weapon such as can be issued to fill the orders of the
Government. Père Félix was a man much regarded in Aramon les Ateliers,
and a silence followed his taking of the speaker's place. He was in no
hurry to begin. He knew his power and the worth of his opinion, and was
determined to conduct himself with the restraint and gravity which he
demanded from his audience.

Père Félix opened by a word as to the speaker who had preceded him on
the rostrum. Comrade Barrès had spoken (he said) with an earnestness
which would have been noble if it had been allied with wisdom. But of
course their companion laboured under the double disadvantage of being a
foreigner himself, a Spaniard from Catalonia, and of knowing nothing
about the district. The Englishmen who were to be killed like rats had
been for the most part of them friends and neighbours ever since the
works were opened, and in any case for a much longer period than Comrade
Barrès had spent in France. Besides, like themselves, they were men with
wives and families. They had aided each other in sickness, their wives
had interchanged kindlinesses, their children had played together--why
should they be doomed to a slaughter of the innocents worse than that of
Bethlehem?

As for Director Deventer, he had defended himself when he was attacked
in his own house as every man has a right to do. And what was the use of
founding an Internationale in Aramon to bring about universal peace if
its first action was to send men sneaking forth under cloud of night to
kill women and children? Blood had been shed and he regretted it, but
the lesson learned was a useful one, bitter in the mouth, but sweet in
the belly.

When Gaston Cremieux rose to give an account of his mission he was
received with a storm of applause, but the young men at the back,
clustered near the door, were conspicuously silent. But lately Cremieux
had been their idol, and would be so again; but for the moment he was
under deep suspicion, and they stood sullenly glowering at him,
occasionally murmuring to each other the accusations so typical of men
of Latin race, when their idol does not exactly fulfil their
expectations.

Gaston was a traitor. He had sold himself. So much was evident to them,
though as usual it was difficult to see who would have money or interest
to buy the traitor to the Cause.

But after all there is something communicative in the thunderous
applause of a great assembly, and many of those who had come to hoot
were readiest with their cheers before Cremieux had uttered a score of
sentences. He spoke rather slowly, with marked emphasis, and repeated
each point of his argument in different words till he had firmly
impressed his meaning on his audience.

Yes, he had seen the manager. He had talked with him on the subject of
their grievances, and he knew that so far as the power lay with Monsieur
Dennis Deventer, their demands would be granted. Moreover, the Director
would use what influence he had with the Government to prevent reprisals
for the expulsion of the garrison from the town on the 21st of January.

They, on their side, must return as good workmen to take up their jobs.
Nothing would be said. No man would suffer for the past, and pay on the
higher scale would begin from the day they started work.

"And the comrades who died fighting, what of them?"

The question came bitter and scornful from the back of the hall, deep
under the shadow of the gallery.

"What of them?" answered Gaston Cremieux calmly. "Well, we are all
travelling the same road. We shall all end the same. They a little
earlier, I a little later. We are not making revolution by sprinkling
rosewater. From the beginning your Aramon outbreak was a mistake, as all
such things done in a corner must be. When the bells ring for that
august Twilight of the Newer Gods, you must waste no time storming
through the streets of Aramon, shooting and destroying. You must go in
mass to the railway, requisition trains, get yourselves instantly
transported to Marseilles, to Lyons, or to Paris. There your brothers
will have formed governments which your disciplined bayonets must
sustain. Then, having established a firm rule over the big towns, the
submission of the rural districts is only a matter of time.

"But," he added, with slow emphasis, "we can only succeed by being sure
of our comrades. They must wait for the signal, and the signal may not
be long in coming."

He concluded with a moving picture of the new Heavens and earth which
would arise when the workman was made part owner of his factory, and
when wars were no longer made by kings and emperors against the will of
the people--a glad peaceful world, well ordered, well content, and
without poverty.

It was very noble and very convincing, delivered with a kind of austere
fire strange in one so young and fragile. The people shouted for
"Gaston" as if he had been a son of each of their houses. The motherly
women shed tears, and I heard prayers spoken aloud that this and that
saint, or more especially the Holy Virgin, should protect him.

There was no doubt at all that he carried the meeting with him. The
works of Aramon would be reopened next day, and the director's terms
would be accepted.

This was the sense of the meeting as interpreted by the President. It
was put to the vote and carried unanimously, but the sullen young men
under the gallery had already opened the doors and passed silently out.
I could see them resuming their wolf's prowl in little packs of four or
five, keeping quite distinct from the decent burgesses who had so lately
filled the body of the riding-school, and were now pouring towards their
homes in Aramon in dense black streams.



CHAPTER X

JEANNE'S VELVET EYES


"These are our potential Troppmanns," said Gaston Cremieux, as we passed
through the grounds of the riding-school. "We must not blame them too
much. It is partly our fault. We have taken their religion from them,
and they have not yet enough moral sense to balance the loss. They have
learned at our meetings and conferences that they have not come to their
own, and they want to break their way to immediate wealth and
independence by the stroke of their own hands. All they can see is that
the rich have pleasures from which they are shut out--wine, women, and
feasting chiefly. This orgy of their imaginations heats the blood so
that the younger of them have come to think such things the only good.
The schoolmasters also are to blame. They have not instructed them in
noble thoughts and duties. The Church which has let them slip without
effort is to blame. But we of the liberating societies are most to
blame, for we have given them nothing to replace the Catechism they
learned, and the mystic trappings of that religion in which we have
taught them not to believe. Hence they are our Troppmanns in haste to be
rich, on edge to taste every sort of forbidden fruit, and in order to
reach their pleasure they are ready to slaughter men, women, and little
children with as much cold-bloodedness as did the murderer of the Kinck
family at Pantin."

Gaston spoke of a terrible crime which had shaken France the year
before, when a young man of twenty, active and intelligent, had with
devilish cunning slain an entire family of eight, his friends and
neighbours, in order that he might "get rich quick," and begin a new
life in a new country.

Cremieux seemed to feel himself in some measure responsible for these
lost sheep, but he made no attempt at present to conciliate them,
feeling perhaps that the pains would be thrown away or his motives
misunderstood.

"If we can keep them from active mischief till we want them, all will be
well," he kept repeating. "A time will come when such as they will be
invaluable, but at present they exist in every town and village in
France--budding 'hooligans' or 'Apaches,' ready for robbery and murder,
counting their own life a light thing and the taking of another's a
jest. If only they would take service with Garibaldi and be made into
men! That is where the North and East are going to outstrip us in the
coming years. Their Troppmanns are all being swept into the fighting
line, and will come out honourable citizens, while we of the South,
untouched by the German armies, have our idle rascals on our hands,
becoming a greater curse and burden every year, and a standing menace to
the next generation.

"But," he paused thoughtfully upon the phrase, "when the day for the
real struggle begins, we can find them work to do, and shoot them if
they will not do it. To keep them quiet in the meantime is the
difficulty."

By the time Gaston Cremieux had thus delivered his soul upon the
question of the town-bred ne'er-do-weels--the Vauriens of the Midi--he
was striding along the edge of the Rhône, till at the end of the quay we
turned in the direction of the Durance, the swift river which comes
rushing from the mountains, and the muddy torrent of which makes
turbulent the clear glaucous-blue of the Rhône from a little below
Avignon.

By this time my stomach, always on campaign, began to remind me that,
though I had been learning the secrets of Communism, particularism was
still rampant within my body.

"Let us go to see Madame Félix," I suggested. "Her husband spoke at the
reunion to-day. He is a chief among the workmen, but his wife is worth a
score of him when a fellow is hungry, and his daughter Jeanne Félix is
the girl best worth looking at in these parts--our friends at the
Château alone excepted."

Gaston Cremieux smiled indulgently and with a sort of patient scorn for
my enthusiasms.

"I hardly know what it is to be hungry," he said gently; "and except
some of our brave mothers of the Commune, and of course Rhoda Polly, one
woman is much the same to me as another."

It was on the tip of my tongue to say, as I should have done to
Deventer, "Then the more fool you!" But there was actually something
about the young ex-Procureur of the Republic which made one shrink from
familiarity. Instead, I turned through a growth of tall rushes, the
cane-brakes peculiar to Provence, in the direction of the little
ferry-house. It was war-year, and nobody had thought of cutting them.
The stiff leaves whistled frostily as we pushed our way through, the
supple yellow _cannes_ clattering behind us as they sprang back. After
them came a tangle of withered vines, still clinging to the trellis of a
dismantled house, and then we found ourselves on the river bank
overlooking the cottage belonging to Mère Félix of the Durance Ferry.
The boats were all on the other side, so I was obliged to make a trumpet
of my hands and call loud and long for "Mariana," which besides being
the baptismal name of the lady of the house, is an excellent resonant
word to carry across an estuary. Now the Durance, though an absurdly
tricky river, is no arm of the sea. Its race is short and turbulent,
though it makes as much trouble as possible (which is no little) for
those who dwell on its banks. It plays with inundations, whirlpools,
eddies, and deceitful currents, as a child with toys. You cannot row for
ten strokes straight upon it, for it will bubble up and snatch the oar
out of your hand, or failing in this, it will suddenly send the bow of
your boat deep into a reed-bed as if it were part of a conjuring trick.
I knew somewhat more of the matter than most, for had not Jeanne Félix
taught me? I had often gone over to spend a day there during the long
vacations. For my father, buried among his books, made no objections to
my roaming the country at will.

Cremieux and I presently stood at the top of a rough and tumble-down
flight of steps which led to a pier in somewhat better condition. I
recognised the work of my own hands upon this last. For Jeanne and I had
coopered it up only last year, so that her passengers might land without
risking their lives each time. Paths extended both up and down stream,
but as yet nothing had been done to the flight of rough-hewn steps of
split pinewood leading to the forest above. These things I did not
communicate to my new revolutionary friend, for I was busy wondering
what effect Jeanne Félix would have upon him.

My fourth or fifth shout brought the Mère Félix wrathfully down to the
river edge where her white cap and broad head ribbons showed between the
tall _cannes_. She had a couple of oars upon one shoulder and called
across at us, "Who is making such a noise with their Marianas? There is
no Mariana here except to my husband, the Père Félix, who is now from
home, doubtless at one of his foolish reunions----"

"Dear Mariana," I answered, showing myself at the end of the little
pier, "push out a boat and you can kiss me for it. My father says you
may. Also send Jeanne quickly, for she and I can row so well together."

"It is that rascal of an English student, Monsieu' Aügoose from Gobelet.
Well, I might have guessed. Yet it is not playtime at St. André that I
have heard. I shall have you sent back and whipped. What, they do not
whip at St. André? Ah, it is no wonder, then, that you young people wax
so impertinent. If only you were _my_ boy, I should not call upon Père
Félix to help me. No, no--I would----" and the old lady, smacking one
hard hand upon the other, conveyed her meaning exactly.

"Send Jeanne," I repeated, taking no notice of her pantomime.

"Send Jeanne," she imitated my college-trained voice,
"Jeanne--Jeanne--it is always Jeanne!"

"Perhaps," I ventured, "when you were Jeanne's age it was always
'Mariana'! I'll wager that more people than Père Félix called you that
in those days, petite mère!"

"Here comes Jeanne at last," she called, so that I could hear. "Do not
put up with his insolence, Jeanne. He is a spoilt schoolboy, nothing
more."

Jeanne stepped sagely into the skiff, with a foot so light and practised
that the frail craft hardly quivered in the water. She was a tall, dark
girl with a supple figure, both light and well-rounded, remarkably
Diana-ish in a land where the women, save a few, are inclined to
shortness, and in addition are already overshadowed by the stoutness
which inevitably overtakes them after marriage.

Jeanne Félix received us without the least embarrassment into her boat.
When I mentioned my friend's name in introducing him, there was one
rapid up-and-down flicker of the drooping eyelashes, a flash of velvet
eyes, and then without a word or a salutation she handed me the bow oar
as if we had parted only the night before.

When we landed on the neat little _embarcadère_, below the Restaurant
Sambre-et-Meuse, Madame Félix had vanished. I knew her to be already
busy with the _menu_ of our dinner, a matter which, in spite of her
abuse of me, she would entrust to nobody.

There was a great chestnut tree before the door, and though the month
was January, my pocket thermometer registered 62° Fahrenheit in our
shadowed nook.

Here we sat and waited, talking with Jeanne till her mother should call
us in to lunch.

The reformer smoked innumerable cigarettes, but he said little. I fancy
he had not much small talk, and at times he seemed so far away that I
wondered whether he heard the light badinage in which Jeanne and I are
fond of engaging. Jeanne is freed from all fear of her mother's reproof
and I do as I like, because I am a choice favourite with that lady,
being the only person in the world she permits herself to abuse grossly,
except her goodman Père Félix--who, according to her, is still more
_impayable_ and gifted with a faculty of irritation not to be told.

As for me, I am younger and not her husband, but she has known me since
I could really receive from her palm the manual chastisement she had so
familiarly illustrated.

Still, I must admit that so far as Cremieux was concerned, interest in
the Restaurant Sambre-et-Meuse awaked only when from the river-path
along the Durance we heard the sound of voices, and presently Père Félix
emerged talking eagerly with Pipe-en-Bois Soult, nicknamed the Marshal,
and several of the Old Guard of the Commune. Then his eyes lit up
suddenly. He rose as if throwing a weight from his shoulders. He had
come to his own again. This man bore the weight of a bullet he had
gained on the day of the _coup d-étât_. Pipe-en-Bois had been in front
of the battle about the Luxembourg that morning of 1848 when Cavaignac's
fusillade proved the futility of moderate Republican promises.

In the kitchen was great rattling of dishes, the voice of Mère Félix
calling on her daughter Jeanne, summoning from a great way off her
"torchon" Babette, a kind of scullery-maid gathered chance-wise from
among the numerous squatter families clustered along the river's edge.

Such long-limbed slatterns were plentiful as blackberries and of as rank
a growth all along the Durance. Monsieur Brunet, horsemaster and former
"Red of the Midi," owned the water meadows all about, and smilingly
allowed the little street of wooden houses fringing the banks. A stray
rabbit might be caught out of the pine knolls, but Monsieur's grazing
rights must be respected, and his ponies and brood-mares left in peace.

Probably none except the family Félix all along that riverine sweep of
reed-bed paid a penny of rent or a tax to the Government. The rural
guard with his sash and his great brass plate of office must, of course,
have known of the colony. But for some reason or another he said
nothing, and all the time the huts of the "zoniers" tailed out at both
ends into more and more ramshackle sheds and _bicoques_.

Here arose the danger of the community. They could only exist by
attracting no attention, and many of the ancient inhabitants, in good
odour with the Sieur Brunet, were compelled to replace the fences which
had been torn down to burn, or used as building material by their less
scrupulous neighbours.

Hence came quarrels, sharp words, and occasionally the breaking of
heads. The chief penalty was that no offenders against the unwritten law
of the settlement were allowed to drink under the cool shade of Mère
Félix's vine trellises.

The men who had come back with the proprietor of the Restaurant
Sambre-et-Meuse were, of course, the fine flower of this scattering
Faubourg Durance. They were full of admiration for their host, but every
man of them knew that Père Félix would occupy a very different position
at the Sambre-et-Meuse from what had been his in the late great meeting
of citizens at the riding-school of Aramon. They seemed to be wishing to
make up to him all the way for the coming loss of prestige.

At the journey's end he would have to submit to his wife's inevitable
dictatorship, and support in his own proper person the reproach of the
whole company. He became responsible (among other things) for the
misdeeds of the half-wild cook-maid, for the uncertainties of the
weather, for the lack of fuel, and for the vicissitudes of the lady's
culinary apparatus. Like many a high officer, colonel, or commandant,
whose word is law to a thousand men in barracks, the Père Félix came
home to do pack-drill and practise the goose-step under the eye of a
severe drill-sergeant armed with a broomstick.

But the good woman allowed no one except herself to treat her husband
lightly, so that in a measure his self-esteem was re-established before
company. The more guests there were at the Sambre-et-Meuse, the more
consideration was it necessary to show for the proprietor.

A chicken had been set aside for me, and of that I was not to be
deprived, or at least of as great a portion as could be piled on my
plate within her inviolable kitchen, by Mariana of the liberal hand.
Gaston Cremieux, though she looked upon him as a perverter of youth, and
the worst of examples for her husband, was still a guest of honour, and
he had come there in my company. Therefore he should have a share in the
chicken. Roast mutton, soup, and boiled beef out of the soup-pot which
had simmered all day by the fire were good enough for the others. There
was plenty of good bread, better than rich men could buy in Paris at
that moment--let the newcomers "bank up" with that and be thankful.
These, with regard to food supply, were the conclusions of Mariana of
the Restaurant of Sambre-et-Meuse among the reed-beds of the Durance.



CHAPTER XI

HOW MEN SEE RED


I need not tell at length of the wonderful talk, so new and strange to
me, in which men and things were judged wholly from a revolutionary
point of view. But all the same I began to perceive that the men before
me were really and fundamentally simple souls, to whom the future state
of Liberty and Equality appeared as a kind of fairy godmother. Out of
some inexhaustible bag she would pay each man according to his family
needs, money sufficient for his wants and pleasures. He would labour
just long enough to place an equivalent in the Fairy Godmother's hands,
but no longer. Their wives would keep in order the wardrobes of the
bachelor leaders and orators. They would at certain hours also set their
houses in order. Others would clean the schools and public-buildings,
and for such services additional monies would accrue.

The immediate settlement with the Small Arms Company and its manager was
considered purely a temporary matter. Oh, yes, Monsieur Deventer was a
good man, and no one could find any fault with him so far as the work
was concerned. But, of course, there would be no real peace till they
themselves owned the mines and factories, the rolling-mills, the
assembling sheds and the hard-stone quarries. Then, indeed, a golden
flood would flow directly into their pockets, and in a year or two they
might be busily building houses "like proprietors." It was their own
word, and even then they did see the delightful incongruity of the
proposal. I did not think it worth while to point out that if they
disinherited the mill-owners, a younger and still more advanced
generation would very hastily expropriate any villas they might build.

But one question I did put to them. "Supposing," I said, "that you take
possession of the Arms Factories and carry them on dividing the proceeds
among you in proper ratio, after all machinery such as you use is
delicate. It wears out quickly. Who is to replace it? Will you keep back
so much each week from your wages? Whom will you entrust with the money?
How do you know that he will not escape to Switzerland or Italy,
carrying your new machinery with him in his breeches pocket?"

This they could not answer themselves. They had not thought of it. Of
course, they were accustomed to seeing Deventer and his gang installing
a new machine, but where it came from or who paid for it never crossed
their minds. With one accord they looked to Gaston Cremieux. He would
know what to reply, for he had taught them all they knew. Only by his
teaching did they understand even so much. His answer was ready.

"The Commune will lay aside so much of the factory profits each week or
month for repairs, the renewal of machinery, the introduction of new
types, and so on. This deduction shall be made before wages can be
paid."

Such was the oracle's decision, which to me seemed just and natural, but
it was wonderful to see the swiftly darkening brows of those who
listened.

"What, the Commune would keep back a part of our earnings!" cried
Pipe-en-Bois. "Then I say that we will only have exchanged one master
for another, and it is not worth the trouble."

Nor could he be moved from his position. Gaston Cremieux could silence
him, telling him that doubtless he would himself be a member of the
Commune of Aramon. But the man's dark mask as of a gargoyle only took on
a deeper scowl, and he looked from one to the other of his companions,
sure of their sympathy as he repeated, "What is the use of changing when
the Commune will steal from us the earnings of our hands even as the
masters do now?"

These were early days and militant theorists (as at present) found
construction as difficult as destruction was easy.

Marvelling I sat, and viewed about me these grave men, the elect of the
factories and mills, accomplished artisans, yet even now incapable of
leadership, or even of submitting to the guiding brain which would give
them a chance of success. This thoughtful young advocate of Marseilles
was their idol, yet for a mere difference of opinion they were ready to
cast him down from the throne they had just set for him. I conceived a
new opinion as to the value of popular favour, and I noted that the head
of an iconoclast had no easier a resting-pillow than that of the king
whose crown he threatened.

We waited till the feast had begun to degenerate a little. Sundry jests
and snatches of song seemed to offend the austere thoughtfulness of
Cremieux. So I made a signal to Jeanne, previously agreed upon, and she
hastened away to get ready the boat, while Gaston and I regulated the
expenses with the good hostess, her face still shining from her culinary
labours.

While she was changing a ten-franc piece from an immense pocket which
swung from her side under her blue rep petticoat, she seemed suddenly to
become aware of the noise within. She stepped to the door of the
dining-room, listened a moment, and then opening it sharply, said, "Père
Félix, if you continue as you are doing, I shall ask you to leave my
house!"

"Pardon, Madame," said her husband instantly, rising to his feet and
bowing, and the company, feeling themselves somehow vaguely in the
wrong, rose to their feet and bowed also in the direction of the door at
which appeared the heated face of Madame la Ménagère.

There was no doubt about it that Mère Félix intended to be both master
and mistress in her own house, and behind her back the men rubbed their
hands and thought how differently _they_ could manage a woman.

We stepped outside into the clean well-aired vault of the twilight. The
breeze was from the east, which in Provence of the South has not the
terrors of our wind of that name, but is soft and perfumed with the
early blossoms along the Gulf of Genoa. The Coast of Azure was sending
us up an evening blessing.

We strolled a long way in silence, taking the river road which leads
towards Aramon. Then Cremieux broke the silence by asking me brusquely
if I had known Rhoda Polly long. I did not think the question ought to
have been asked in that tone, but he had done a good deal for me that
day and I most certainly owed him a civil answer.

"I have known Rhoda Polly," I said, "ever since I can remember. We used
to fight in the garden for pig-nuts and in the woods for acorns. Rhoda
Polly scratched my face with long sharp nails, and I thumped her back
with little attention to chivalry. She could run faster than I, scratch
more savagely, and when trapped she would sometimes bite like a little
squirrel taken in the hand--yes, bite till the blood came."

Gaston Cremieux listened with a rather forced smile upon his lips. "And
the others--were they present? Were you two allowed to run about the
woods all by yourselves?"

You can change anything about a Frenchman except his idea concerning the
co-education of the sexes. Here the anarchist is at one with Monsieur
the Count de Mun, and Monsieur Jean Jaurès with the Archbishop of Paris.

The convent rule, whether applied by lay mistress or sister of the Sacré
Coeur, constant supervision, a fiction of ignorance of things of the
commonest knowledge, the girl never to be out of sight of her mother or
aunt till the day she is delivered to her husband--these are what the
heart of every Frenchman believes to be the only path which the girls he
would marry should be allowed to tread. He may praise English and
American methods, allow the charm of the result, but in his heart he
prefers for himself his "snow-white gosling."

"Tell me about the college to which Rhoda Polly went," he continued,
putting aside the early fightings and scratchings as too unsatisfactory
for comment.

I told him of the restless yet ordered activity of Selborne College, of
the work and of the professors, of the days when the students were
permitted to receive young men of other colleges, properly introduced
and vouched for. I dwelt mischievously upon the friendships which arose
during the common intellectual life of these years. I pitched it all a
little strong, because I could not see why in the world he could not
take Rhoda Polly as she was, and accept her marked kindness to him
without submitting her past to hostile analysis.

When I told him all, he seemed to shake himself suddenly as a man half
awake by force of will breaks his way out of a bad dream.

"Good night," he said, "I must go back to Aramon."

And so he left me planted open-mouthed upon the river bank.



CHAPTER XII

"GOOD-BYE, RHODA POLLY"


At Château Schneider I was received with tumultuary questioning on my
return from the reed-beds. Where had I been? What had I been doing? I
might easily have got my throat cut and no one would have been sorry. It
was a scurvy trick I played them, slipping off like that. And so
on--Hugh De venter being the loudest and most persistent.

"My friend in whom I trusted," was his cry. His grievance was not that I
had broken bounds and would give no account of myself, but that I had
sneaked off alone without giving him a chance to come along with me.
However, a glance from Rhoda Polly and the smiling response of her eyes
shut my ears to all this hubbub. She understood, and that was enough. I
would, of course, tell her about it, making only a mental reservation in
the little private matter of Jeanne Félix, and the spraying shadows
which her long lashes cast on her eyes of purple-velvet. With a woman,
there is no use of talking of another woman--not at least till the
listener is well over fifty, and even then it must be done with
circumspection.

But I knew my duty, and with another glance at Rhoda Polly I demanded to
know where her father was, and in five minutes was sitting among the
chimney-pots with that old fighter and captain of men stuffing a pipe
bowl and preparing to listen. He nodded his head gravely when I told of
my meeting with Gaston Cremieux. He grew restless as a caged beast
himself when I described to him the hither-and-yon wolf's prowl of the
sullen young men in front of the riding-school. But when I told him of
the men's resolve to go at once to work, he rose suddenly to his feet
with a shout.

"Jaikes, Irvin, Allerdyce, Brown, Macallister! Here!"

And at his cry these subordinates came running to him like dogs at the
shepherd's whistle. Eagerness was in their faces, and confidence in
their leader showed in their eyes.

"Young Cawdor has brought good news," he said. "The men are coming back.
It may not be for long, but they are coming. They have taken the terms,
and now I shall have to fight the masters single-handed. However, I can
manage that. Run, fellows! Get the squads together. Set the furnaces
going, and steam up in the boilers. It will be the easier for the men
when they come in if they find everything ready for them. A few will
troop in first in a non-committal way, then will set in a steady trickle
of the secretly willing, and lastly the factory benches will fill up
with a rush. In two days we will have the ateliers working at high
pressure, and we may begin to send out our orders by Saturday."

The engineering sub-chiefs swung their hats in the air and yelled. It
was the best of news for them, and they did not even wait to ask how I
chanced to be so well informed. Dennis Deventer had doubtless assured
himself of that. That was his business, not theirs. They rattled down
the ladder one after the other as quickly as a barrel would roll the
same distance. They simply fell through the trap-door and disappeared
from sight. Presently we could see them leading their emergency gangs
across the courtyard to the entrance of the works. In Jack Jaikes's
contingent I noticed the broad shoulders and rough blond head of Hugh
Deventer, towering like a Viking among the wiry Clydeside and bearded
Tynemouth men about him.

His father must have noticed him too, for he turned to me with a smile.

"Yonder goes our Hugh. He is a strong lad, but has no spring. He falls
all over himself at present. If you are still set on soldiering, you can
take him with you. He has little sense as yet, but I can see that he
will do what you tell him."

"Thank you, sir," I said; "war is a stranger business than we young
fellows dream of. I cannot be responsible for accidents, but if you
trust me with Hugh--well, he is my comrade, and I shall look after him
as myself."

He held out his hand, after first glancing about to see that we were not
overlooked, and grasped my fingers. Such demonstrations of emotion were
by no means in his way.

"With Hugh it is a case of thews and brawn," he said. "When it comes to
the marching, see that you make him carry your musket as well as his
own. He has no heavy load in his top story."

Of course I had to see Rhoda Polly before our final marching off towards
the north. As I came down the great front steps of the Château Schneider
I saw her crossing the lawn far away to the right. She was going in the
direction of the vegetable garden, and I stood still on the steps till I
watched her into the potting-house. With her hand on the latch she cast
a look over her shoulder in my direction.

"Amaryllis desires to be first seen," I muttered, and after a
comprehensive tour of the grounds I approached the potting-house from
the rear.

Rhoda Polly was sitting on a bench with peat and leaf-mould in little
boxes about her, and a red flowerpot held firmly between her knees while
she kneaded the black flaky mass down with urgent little knuckles.

"If I don't get those Alan Richardson roses to do this year--why, the
devil fly away with me!"

She spoke in French, and the words had not the same sound as in English.
Something gay and Rhoda Polly-ish rang cheerfully in my heart.

"Really you should not swear!" said I. "What would Miss
Balfour-Lansdowne say to that at Selborne College?"

"Oh, sometimes we said a good deal worse than that on the hockey ground,
or in the heat of an argument. Besides, if you did not want to hear, you
need not have followed me."

"Rhoda Polly," I said, "you know that I followed you because you made me
a signal that you wanted to talk to me."

"Yes, I know," owned up Rhoda Polly, who scorned concealment. "Well,
what have you to tell me now that you are here? I let you go just now
and unbosom yourself to the Paternal without complaining. That was only
playing the game, but certainly you owe it to me to stand and deliver as
soon as you got clear."

"Well, and here I am, Rhoda Polly--which will you have--plain
narrative--question and answer--the Socratic method, or a judicious
mixture of the two?"

I knew the inquiry would resolve itself into the latter. Rhoda Polly
went on with the potting of her Alan Richardson, biting her under lip at
critical points, but ever and anon flashing a pertinent query at me over
the boxes of mould without once raising her head.

With the exception of my talks with Jeanne and the harmless little
philandering we had indulged in to pass the time, I confided the whole
of my day's adventures to Rhoda Polly. I told her also of the permission
that her father had given that Hugh should go north and join the new
armies with me.

Then at last Rhoda Polly did lift her eyes with a vividness of reproach
in them.

"You cannot find enough to do here?" she said. "You trust these men at
the works? I tell you they are not to be trusted. I know them better
than either you or my father, I have heard their women-folk talking, and
I know what they mean to do."

"I know what they _say_ they mean to do," I retorted. "I also have heard
them in their cups, but it is only folly and emptiness."

"Do not be too sure," she said, patting the flowerpot round the edges
and squinting down at it as if it were a work of art symmetrically
finished. "I warn you we may need you here sooner than you think, and
then Gaston Cremieux may not be so friendly as he is to-day."

I asked her why, but she only bent more over her work and shook her
head. It had been clear to me from Cremieux's questions that he was in
love with Rhoda Polly, and now from Rhoda Polly's prophecy of his future
unfriendliness that she had made up her mind to reject him. But, in the
meantime, it was my clear duty to go on and do what I could in the army.

We could not hope to defeat the Germans, but at least every additional
man in the ranks added to the chance of withstanding them. If we could
only hold them at bay till the politicians did their work, all this
peaceful Southland would be spared the horrors of war and the more
wearing pains of occupation and pillage.

I said this to Rhoda Polly and she could not help agreeing. Her assent,
however, came from her clear head and trained intelligence, but her
heart was still unconvinced that Hugh and I ought to go, leaving that
houseful of women in Château Schneider. All this was perhaps natural
enough, and certainly it made me feel warmer within to know that Rhoda
Polly would regret me.

"I owe you a grudge," she said, as she stood up and rubbed the black
crumbly mould briskly from her hands, "for without you we should at
least have had Hugh. He would never have thought of going by himself."

Rhoda Polly had finished with her roses. She set out the boxes in a row,
and then stood up facing me. Her eyes were steady and level like a
man's--I mean a man of the North. They did not droop and flutter like
Jeanne's at the Ferry. Her breast did not heave nor her full throat
swell. The pent-up emotion in Rhoda Polly's bosom found no such
commonplace feminine vents. Only the firm lines about her mouth betrayed
her, and perhaps a certain moist luminousness of eye.

"I would not hinder you, Angus Cawdor," she said steadily, "let a man do
what he knows he ought. But at least you owe it to me to come back the
very day the war is over. It is not till then that the storm here will
break. I have it from the women. They advise us to go out of the
country, but I have a better plan in my head. You must be here to help
me carry it out."

"I shall be here, Rhoda Polly, if I get through all right!"

"If you get through all right----?" The words fell uncertainly.

"If I live, Rhoda Polly."

"Ah, if you live," repeated the girl, mechanically holding out her hand.
And even as I looked, the bold bright look in her eyes was dimmed, as a
pool greys over with the first coming of a breeze.

And thus I took my real farewell of Rhoda Polly. There was some of the
black mould on my fingers as I went over to the shops to search for Hugh
Deventer.



CHAPTER XIII

WE SEEK GARIBALDI


Hugh Deventer and I reached Orange only to hear that the recruiting
parties of the Garibaldians had gone away north. But on the railway,
hundreds of wagons laden with supplies were moving in the same
direction, and with the conductors of these we made what interest we
could.

We showed the letter we had brought from Gaston Cremieux, but these were
men of the Saône and Isère, who had never heard of the agitator. But
Hugh's willing help during heavy hours of loading and "transhipment,"
and perhaps also the multitude and flavour of my tales of Scotland,
gained us a footing.

From them we heard with pride of what had already been done by
Garibaldi, with such wretched material, and how the great Manteuffel
himself, in his dispatches, had allowed the excellence of Garibaldi's
tactics.

What we were most afraid of was that the whole war would be over before
we got a chance. The men of the Isère, however, who on the strength of
six months' campaigning considered themselves veterans, laughed
scornfully at our young enthusiasms. They would march. They would fight.
But as for beating the Germans in the long run it was impossible. That
time had gone by when Bazaine had let himself be locked up in Metz.

"All we can do is to help the Republic to get out of the mess with some
credit!" said a tall sergeant who sat in the open door of a bullock
wagon. And the others agreed with him. They were on tenterhooks to know
why we English should be so eager to take up their quarrel. The thousand
Italians they could understand. They came because Garibaldi did, touched
by the glory of his name, but we English--what had we to do with the
affair?

Me they suspected of Southern blood from my quick slimness and swarthy
colour, but Deventer was a joy to them. "That Englishman!" they cried,
and laughed as at an excellent jest. His big hearty blundering ways, his
ignorance of military affairs kept them perpetually on the grin. But
when they saw him strip and repair a chassepot with no more tools than a
pocket screw-driver and a nail file, they changed the fashion of their
countenances. Hugh was not the son of Dennis Deventer for nothing.

Presently we found ourselves privileged stowaways, whirling in the
direction of Lyons, protected by these good fellows, who hid us
carefully from the rounds of inspection which visited the wagons at
every stopping place. Mostly, however, no severe examination was made,
and the word of the sergeant was taken that all was right inside.

But as soon as the train slackened speed we sprang on a shelf which ran
along one end of the wagon, and there lay snug behind a couple of bags
of potatoes.

At last, near Civry, a little town on the foothills of the Côte d'Or, we
were abruptly ordered down.

It was a dark night and raining as we set our noses out. We would much
rather have remained behind the potato sacks, but there was no help for
it. Out we must come along with the rest, for Manteuffel's Uhlans were
off on a raid and had cut the line between us and Dijon. At first we
could only see the blackness and the shapes of the trees bent eastward
by many winter blasts, but after a time our eyes grew accustomed, and we
became aware of a long line of wagoners' teams drawn up on a road that
skirted the railway.

We did our best to assist at the changing of the provisions and
ammunition, and would have been glad of permission to accompany the
convoy through the hills to its destination.

But we had the ill fortune to fall in the way of a captain of regulars
who asked us our business there, and on our telling him, he answered
with evident contempt, that in that case we had better go and look for
"Monsieur Garibaldi." As far as he was concerned, if he found us in his
convoy again he would have us shot for spies. Hugh Deventer and I could
not rejoice enough that we had left our two beautiful Henry rifles and
our stores of ammunition on our sleeping shelf. We knew well that our
protector the sergeant and his men would say nothing about the matter,
though they looked with unrestrained envy and desire of possession upon
our repeating rifles.

Accordingly I advised Hugh to confide to the sergeant in private the
name of his father, and promise that a similar rifle would be sent to
him with the next consignment of chassepots.

The sergeant's eyes glowed, and he told us that he was under orders for
his native town of Epinal, which he hoped to reach in about a fortnight.
Hugh promised that he would find a Henry repeater with an abundant
supply of cartridges waiting for him there at his mother's house. And
accordingly he sat down in the empty wagon, and by the light of the
lantern wrote a note to his father which he gave into the sergeant's
hands to be posted at the first opportunity. He in his turn entrusted it
to the care of the engine driver, who was getting ready to take his
empty wagons rattling southward again to bring further supplies from the
rich Rhône valley.

The sergeant also arranged that we should accompany the rear-guard so
far as was possible during the night, when we were to strike off
diagonally to the west to pick up Autun, where Menotti Garibaldi was
reported to be waiting with a large force to cut off the retreat of the
German raiders.

So we started on our march, and had soon reason to be glad that we were
not stumbling at hazard up and down those leg-breaking vine-terraces.

The convoy had relays of peasants as guides, and at least we were kept
along some semblance of a path. We could hear the rumbling and creaking
of the wheels before us, but for that night the goad superseded the loud
crack of the whip, and the language beloved of all nationalities of
teamsters was, if not wholly silenced, at least sunk to a whisper. We
marched far enough in the rear to be rid of the cloud of dust raised by
the convoy, which fell quickly in the damp night air.

Occasionally an orderly would gallop back, dust-mantled in grey from
head to heel. He was sent to see that we of the rear-guard kept our
distance and did not straggle. The Isère and Grenoble men with whom we
marched were veterans and in no ways likely to desert, so that the
adjutant's report was at once accepted, and the officer galloped back.
All the same we two regularly sneaked aside into a belt of trees or took
refuge behind the vine-terraces as soon as the sound of hoofs was heard.

We had marched many hours in the darkness--from eight or nine of the
evening till the small hours were passing one by one with infinite
weariness. I was lighter on my feet than Hugh, having less to carry in
the way of "too, too solid flesh." Consequently he suffered more, both
from the weight of his rifle, and the dumb remorseless steadiness of the
marching column. Forward we went, however, stumbling now and then with
sleep, our feet blistered, and the rattle and wheeze of the ammunition
wagons coming back to us mixed with a jingle of mules' gear through the
dark.

At last, when it seemed as if we could do no more, the column halted,
and our grateful sergeant came back in order to set us on the road to
Autun.

"Yonder," he said, "you can see a hill which cuts the stars. It is high
and steep, but to the right of it is a pass, and when you reach the top
you will look down upon the lights of Autun."

He bade us a rapid good-bye, and hastened away to his own place in the
column. With a final word of thanks to the adjutant (who is here a kind
of sergeant-major), we left our kindly rear-guard and set out to find
Garibaldi.

The night grew suddenly darker as we missed the shoulder-touch of a
comrade on either side of us. We rolled over vine-terraces, clutching at
the gnarled roots, or stumbled with a breath-expelling "ouch" into dry
ditches all laid out for the summer irrigation. Fence rails and the
corner posts of vineyard guard-shelters marked us black, and blue, but
aloft or alow we held firm to the Henry rifles which were to be our
chief treasures, when we should at last don the red cardigan of the
Garibaldian troops.

To us it seemed as if we never would reach the top of that pass. We
could see the mountain towering up on our left hand, and once a shower
of stones came rumbling down as a warning not to venture too near. The
wind was now soft and equal, and the unusual warmth had served no doubt
to loosen the frost-bound rocks above, as well as to keep us in a gentle
perspiration while we climbed the corkscrew pathway towards the hill
crest. Things became easier after we had left the vineyards beneath us,
and our road lay over the clean grassy plateau on which the sheep had
that day been grazing. We rested a while in a shepherd's shelter hut,
and did not scruple to refresh ourselves with some slices of bread and
sausage, washed down by a long swig from a skin of wine. We left a franc
in payment, stuck into the cut end of the sausage, with a note appended
that we were two recruits on our way to join Garibaldi. Little did we
imagine that in a few weeks we should, without hurt to our consciences,
simply have transferred the whole supply to our haversacks without
thanks or payment.

There was still no hint of dawn when we started out, but beyond the
lowest part of the ridge immediately above us a kind of faint
illumination appeared. It burned steadily, and for a long while we could
not explain it. It could not be the approaching sunrise, for our
compasses told us that we were marching as near as possible due west.

Quite suddenly we topped the crest, and saw beneath us the lights of
Autun gleaming hazily through a kind of misty drizzle. But that which
struck our faces was in no wise wetting. It only struck a chill through
us, making our greatcoats welcome. We had so far carried them _en
bandoulière_.

The west side of the ridge was, in fact, already spotted with fine
sifted snow, which blew in our faces and sought a way down our necks.
Its coming had caused the fluorescent light we had seen as we were
mounting the eastern slopes, and now with bowed heads and our rifles as
well "happed" as possible, we strode downhill in the direction of the
town.

At the limits of the chestnut woods the vineyards began again, and our
troubles threatened to be as great as they had been after we left the
convoy. But though fine snow fell steadily, its clinging whiteness
showed up the stone-dykes and terraces as black objects to be avoided.
There was, therefore, less tumbling about among the ledges of loose
stones, and presently we came out upon a regular "departmental" road,
with drainage ditches on either side, rows of pollarded willows and
poplars, and kilometric pillars, with numbers on them which it was too
dark to see.

Along this we made all haste, for we were bent on getting to Autun as
soon as possible, and indeed it was not long before we were in the way
of getting our wish.

"Halt! Who goes there?" came a challenge out of the unseen. Well was it
for us that we had attempted no stealthy approach upon the town, but
serenely clattered down the middle of the turnpike. Luckier still that
we fell into the hands of regular mobiles of the army of the Vosges,
instead of a stray company of _franc-tireurs_, who as like as not, would
have cut our throats for the sake of our rifles, the stores of
ammunition, and the few silver coins we carried.

We had come upon a picket of men of the regiment of Gray on the borders
of the Haute Saône. It was like one of Napoleon's levies after
Moscow--young lads of sixteen and men of forty or fifty standing by each
other cheerfully, and without distinction of age or previous occupation.

We stated our purpose and asked to be taken to head-quarters. Like most
of such casual recruits, we thought we would be taken directly into the
presence of Garibaldi, but the Gray men astonished us by the information
that the great soldier was almost a recluse, and indeed so much of an
invalid that he could only review his troops from a carriage. His sons,
Menotti and Ricciotti, were his fighting generals, but all directing
power was centred in Colonel Bordone, through whom all orders came to
the army.

In the meantime we were conveyed amicably to the temporary head-quarters
of the 14th Mobiles of the Haute Saône. Here we found several officers,
but after a look at us and a civil enough demand for the production of
our papers, we were permitted to betake ourselves to the snug kitchen of
an ancient monastery, where the soldiers of the outpost guard were
sitting around a huge fire, or lying extended on couches of straw,
sleeping the sleep of men who had marched far the day before, and
expected to do as much more on the morrow.

Our clothes were soon dry, and our overcoats spread out to the blaze,
after being well shaken and thumped to get rid of the clinging snow. The
morning began to come tardily, and as if reluctantly. The snow had
ceased, but a thin whitish mist had been left behind, softening and
dimming all outlines.

The town of Autun bethought itself of waking up. A few shopkeepers took
down their shutters in a leisurely fashion, the first of these being a
couple of ladies, venders of sweet cakes, both pretty and apparently
exceedingly attractive to the young Italian officers, all of whom had
the racial sweet tooth as well as the desire to rival each other in the
eyes of beauty.

Our men of Gray were rather contemptuous, but could not deny that these
young sweet-suckers fought well and bravely whenever it came to blows.

"And I dare say, after all," said a tall brigadier, "it is better to
munch sugar cakes flavoured with cinnamon than to swallow the filth they
serve out to you in the _cafés_."

The others agreed, but we did not observe that their teetotal sentiments
were more than platonic. At least, during all our stay with the 3rd
Corps in the town of Autun, the Frenchmen went to the _café_ and the
Italians to the _pâtissière_.

It was nine o'clock when the brigadier of the post detailed two men to
accompany us to the Cadran Bleu, the inn where the army head-quarters
was established. We had a short time to wait, for the officers within
were judging the case of a spy, a dull heavy-witted fellow who had
formerly served in a line regiment, but who had had the ill thought to
turn his knowledge of the army of the Vosges to account by compiling a
careful estimate of the strength of Garibaldi's command, and offering it
by ordinary letter post to General Werder of the Prussian service. The
letter was addressed to his brother-in-law at Macon, who was to arrange
terms. He, however, preferred patriotism (and the chance of a possible
heritage) to his relative's life. So the officer of the day was already
picking out the firing-party, for, as was the way of the army of the
Vosges under Garibaldi, a very short shrift was given to any traitor.
Though the supreme judges were Italian and the man a Frenchman, the good
sense of the soldiers supported them in the certainty and rapidity of
such military punishments. I saw the man come out between a couple of
Mobiles with fixed bayonets. His hair fell in an unkempt mass over his
brow. His face was animal and stupid, but he had little pig's eyes that
glanced rapidly from one side to the other as if seeking for any way of
escape. But there was none for him, as the rattle of musketry testified
almost before we had reached the antechamber.

Here there were half a dozen young French officers and many Italians all
talking together, who turned from their conversations to gaze at us. We
had made what toilets we could, and the men of the Gray regiments had
rolled up our overcoats in military style.

"Two English come from Aramon to enlist," we heard them say, with a
certain resentment as if they had been offered an affront. "Do all the
foreigners in the world think that France has need of them to fight her
battles?"

However, one of the sub-lieutenants, a handsome lad, from a Protestant
family in the Isère, came over to talk to us. The ice was at once
broken, and the next moment we had quite a gathering round us admiring
our Henry repeaters, and asking questions.

"That is the new Remington action!" said one who stated that he read
English and American periodicals, but became appallingly unintelligible
as soon as he attempted to speak a single sentence of the language.

"No," said Hugh Deventer, "the movement was invented by my father."

"And who may your father be? Are you travelling for the firm?"

"My father," said Hugh steadily, "is Monsieur Dennis Deventer,
director-in-chief of the Arms Factory at Aramon-sur-Rhône, and he will
supply as many of these repeaters as the Company is paid for. The
Government have the matter under consideration, but if they do not
hurry, the war will be over before their minds are made up."

An officer in the red cloak of the Italian corps pushed a door open,
spoke an order in imperfect French, and the next moment we found
ourselves in an apartment where two men were sitting rolling cigarettes
at opposite sides of a long table. They were both tall, dark-bearded men
with swarthy faces, clad in uniforms much the worse for wear. I knew
them by instinct to be Menotti and Ricciotti Garibaldi. Both had a look
of the common lithograph portraits of their father, but perhaps no more
than one weather-beaten shepherd on a Scottish hill resembles his
comrade on the next.

We stood at attention after the English manner instilled into us by Jack
Jaikes and the numerous old soldiers who by Dennis Deventer's orders had
taken us for drill during vacation time at the works.

The two grave men looked at one another and smiled. "We have seen
something like this when the English lads came to us in Sicily eleven
years ago, eh, brother? Tell us your names, little ones! Can you speak
Italian?"

We could, and that made us, if not of the "children," at least something
very different from the dull peasants whom Gambetta's conscription
supplied, or the innumerable company of ne'er-do-weels who appeared from
nowhere in particular, drawn by the mere sound of Garibaldi's name.

Hugh Deventer did not much like to be called a "little one," but the
Italian speech is not like our English, which lends itself more easily
to oaths and cursing than to the "little language" and the expression of
emotion.

We presented the letters with which we had been furnished--one a
personal epistle to Ricciotti from Dennis Deventer--the others for the
most part addressed to the General himself.

That, however, made no difference. His sons opened them all without
hesitation or apology. Indeed, we soon learned that, excepting the
conduct of the campaign, Father Garibaldi was not allowed to concern
himself with anything.

"Ah, Dennis Deventer," said Ricciotti, starting up and embracing Hugh on
both cheeks. "I owe much to your father, more than I am likely to pay
for some while. He took our word for it that the chassepots for the new
troops would be paid for, even though he knows that the Government is
likely to fall into the hands of those who hate us. Also the new
twelve-pounders--Menotti, brother, what shall we do for this man's son?"

"I must stay with my comrade, Angus Cawdor," put in Hugh Deventer. "He
is far more clever than I am, and I should be lost without him. I am
only a boy, but he----"

"Has the thoughts of a man--I see," interrupted Menotti, who had been
considering us from under his hand without speaking. "I think it would
be no kindness to add two recruits of such mettle to the number of the
admirably combed and pressed young gentlemen in the anteroom out there.
You had better take them, Ricciotti. You will be sure to find old
Manteuffel hammering away at you on your return to Dijon, and the lads
can take bite and sup with the 'Enfants.' Since they speak Italian no
explanations need be made. They can be fitted out by the commissariat
adjutant."

"The favour is an unusual one, brother. There will be grumbling."

"The circumstances are unusual, and so are the lads. There is but one
Dennis Deventer, and we must do the best we can for his son."

And in this manner we became part of the personal following of Ricciotti
Garibaldi, and were destined to take part in the war game which he
played out successfully against Manteuffel and Werder till the coming of
the armistice stopped all fighting.



CHAPTER XIV

"THE CHILDREN"


"The Children" were young men, some of them hardly more than boys, who
had followed the Dictator from Italy. They came from all parts of the
Peninsula, but the wide windy Milanese plain supplied most of them. A
curious exaltation reigned in the camp. It was like the mystic aura of a
new religion. One became infected with it after a few hours among the
troops.

They were already veterans in their own opinion, and, feeling that the
eyes of their General was always upon them, they claimed as their
monopoly all desperate ventures, the front rank in stubborn defences,
the rear-guard in retreat, and they died with an "Evviva, Garibaldi!"
upon their lips. One snatched the standard from a falling comrade that
he might carry it closer to the Prussian lines, only in most cases to
fall in his turn under the fatal steadiness of the needle-gun.

The rest of the army of the Vosges fought under the tricolour of France,
but for "Les Enfants" Garibaldi had devised his own emblem. It was
sufficiently striking and characteristic of the man, but in France at
least it only excited astonishment among the masses, and hatred and
contempt among the clerical and aristocratic party, which was at that
time in a great majority in the provinces. The flag was of a vivid
crimson, darker a little than the "Tatter of Scarlet" I had seen go up
at Aramon when the Communards expelled the troops from the town. There
was no device upon it--only the one word in large letters:

"PATATRAC!"

I saw the rustics gazing open-mouthed upon it every day, yet it was a
word admirably descriptive and one which I have heard in frequent use
among the peasant folk of the South. "Patatrac!" or "Patatras!" the
labourer will exclaim when he lets a bucket fall at a stair-head and
hears it go rumbling down. "Patatrac!" a housewife will say when she
describes how a careless maid drops a trayful of crockery. It is the
crashing sound of the fall that is represented, and in this fashion
Garibaldi had been so accustomed to bring down in thunderous earthquake
ruin all the brood of century-old tyrannies.

It was his well-earned boast that he had made the device good against
all comers (except his special _bête noires_ of the Papacy) until the
fell day at Mentana when the French chassepots rather belatedly gave him
as we say at home "his kail through the reek!"

Yet here he was, only five years after, a broken man, fighting for that
same France, just because she had shaken off the yoke of the tyrant and
become a republic.

Wonderful always to hear the soldiers speak of their leader. They did
not cheer him as did the French corps. They clustered close about his
carriage as he moved slowly along, his thin hand, which had so long held
a sword, touching their heads, and his feeble sick man's voice saying:
"My children--oh, my children!"

Neither of his sons accompanied him on these pilgrimages in the shabby
hired barouche in which he drove out every day, but Bordone was always
with him--watchful, stern, and devoted, the real tyrant of the little
army. Menotti and Ricciotti were always with their troops, perhaps from
jealousy of Bordone, perhaps because they had enough to do licking their
raw levies into some manner of fighting shape.

The winter was bitter even among bitter winters, and the snow soon began
to be trampled hard. The troops, continually arriving, were quartered
all over Autun, and in the villages about. Finally the churches had to
be occupied, and though nothing was done there that would not have
happened with any army of occupation, Garibaldi the polluter was cursed
from one end of France to the other as if he had torn down the golden
cross upon St. Peter's dome. Not that it mattered to the old Dictator.
In silence and solitude he made his plans. He read the reports and
dispatches as they came in. He issued his orders through Bordone, before
driving out in the halting ramshackle barouche, sometimes with two
horses, more often with only one. At every halt he spoke a word or two
to the troops as he passed among them, words treasured by the true
"Children" like the oracles of God. Then he would return to his
lodgings, sit down to his bowl of soup, his loaf of bread, and his glass
of water, exactly as if he were on his own island farm within hearing of
the waves breaking on the rocks of Caprera.

We found ourselves among Ricciotti's fourth corps of Guides. We were
sent to the outfitting captain whose quarters were established in a long
hangar overlooking the river. There we found a little rotund man, very
bright of eye and limber of tongue, who fitted us out with many
compliments and bows. We had brought a letter from the commander
himself.

Our first uniform was the gayest ever seen--too picturesque indeed for
sober British tastes. It consisted of a red shirt, blue-grey riding
breeches, and high boots with jingling silver spurs (for which last we
paid from our own purses). On our heads we wore a fascinating "biretta,"
or cap with a tall feather. The captain of outfitting showed us how to
sport it with a conquering air, and with what a grace to swing the short
red cloak over one shoulder so that we should not be able to pass a girl
in Autun who did not turn and look after us.

This was what the master of the stores said as he stood with his back
against the rough pine door-post of his quarters and rubbed his
shoulder-blades luxuriously. But in practice I looked like a carnival
Mephistopheles, while Hugh Deventer's feather generally drooped over one
eye in a drunken fashion. We were not long in suppressing these gauds,
though we did our duty in them as gallopers for several days. Finally we
went to Ricciotti and begged to be allowed to carry our rifles in one of
the foot regiments. We did not want to leave the foreign troops, knowing
something of the ostracism and persecution which would be our part among
the French regiments. So we were allowed to return our chargers to the
remounting officer, and make another visit to the small rotund outfitter
in his wooden barrack by the river. There of all our gallant array we
retained only our red shirts, and for the rest were rigged out in sober
dark blue, a _képi_ apiece, and a pair of stout marching shoes on our
feet.

We mounted knapsack and haversack, shouldered our Henry rifles, and in
an hour found ourselves established among the first "Etranger," a
Milanese regiment with three or four mountain companies from Valtelline
and the Bergel.

Now it chanced that I had spent some part of my vacations climbing among
the peaks about Promontonio. There I had taken, more as companion than
as guide, a Swiss-Italian, or to be exact "Ladin"--of my own age or a
little older, by the name of Victor Dor. He was a pleasant lad, and we
talked of many things as we shared the contents of our rük-sacks on the
perilous shoulder of some mountain just a few feet removed from the
overhang of the glacier.

And here and now, with the chevrons of a sergeant, was this same Victor
Dor, who embraced me as if he had been my brother.

"Oh, the happiness to see you!" he cried. "And among the children of our
father. I know you do not come to save the French who shot us down at
Mentana. You are like us. You come because our father calls, and yet to
think of those long days in the Val Bergel when we never knew that we
were brothers. And yet I do not know. You spoke of the Man who was a
Carpenter at Nazareth, and who called his disciples to follow him. So
our father came, and we followed him. Princes and Emperors scatter
honours. Republics give decorations and offices. But look at our lads
lying on the straw yonder. Where will they be in a week? In the hospital
or in the grave? Some of these men are well off at home, others are
poor. No matter! All share alike, and all are equal before our father.
Ah, that is it! You see there is nothing to be gained except the joy of
following him. Our poor dear father Garibaldi, what has he to offer? He
has nothing for himself but a barren isle, and even that he owes to you
English.[1] The liberty of following him, of seeing his face when he
passes by, of hearing his voice as he calls us his children, the pride
of being his very own chosen, who have shared his perils and never
deserted him to the last. These are our rewards. Tell me if they are of
this world?"

     [Footnote 1: See Hamerton's "Round my House."]



CHAPTER XV

FIRST BLOOD


On the third morning after our entry into the Ricciotti's first foreign
legion, both Hugh and I awoke stiff and chilled by the frost. The lucky
among us had early found quarters in byres and cattle-sheds, where the
closely packed animals kept the place warm. We had to make the best of
it on a floor of beaten earth, still sparsely strewn with heads of wheat
and flecks of straw. The fodder had been requisitioned to the last
armful, and not enough was left to build a nest for a sparrow. The barn
was doorless, and, except for the shelter of the roof, we might as well
have slept in the open air. At least so we thought, but next day men on
the outposts told us a different tale. That night the head-quarters
thermometers had showed twenty below zero, and many men slept never
again to waken, under the open sky--slept leaning on their chassepots,
and so died standing up, no one guessing they were dead till they fell
over all in one piece like an icicle snapped.

But even Hugh Deventer and I were sorely tried in our open barn. We had
lain soft and fed well all our lives. We were not yet broken to the work
like the campaigners of Sicily, or even like those who had passed
through the war since the autumn.

"If I bored a hole or two where the joints are," groaned Hugh, "one of
Jack Jaikes's oil cans might easy my bearings greatly this morning!"

"From what I can guess," said Victor Dor, "you will find it warm enough
in an hour or two. Manteuffel is going to make a push for it to-day.
Ricciotti managed to capture a couple of Werder's Uhlans, and one of our
_franc-tireurs_ says that the whole Pomeranian army corps is coming upon
us as fast as the men can march."

"A _franc-tireur_ always lies," said another Valtelline man, Marius
Girr, scornfully, but enunciating a principle generally received in the
army.

"Still, it is possible that this one told the truth by mistake--at any
rate, it is not a safe thing to lie to Ricciotti about a matter which,
in a few days, will prove itself true or untrue. Ricciotti knows the use
of a firing party at twelve yards just as well as Bordone."

The morning grew more and more threatening as time passed. The chill
tang of coming snow clung to the nostrils. We had breakfasted meagrely
on the last rinds of bacon and scraps of sausage in our haversacks. We
longed for hot coffee till we ached, but had to content ourselves with
sucking an icicle or two from the roof of the barn, good for the thirst,
but very afflicting to the tongue at a temperature of minus twenty.

Presently the inexorable bugles called us forward to the trenches, which
extended in a vast hollow crescent from the Arroux bank opposite Autun
to the hills above St. Leger on the borders of the Nièvre. We could see
against the snow dark masses of overcoated Prussians defiling this way
and that among the valleys, and at sight of them our field-guns began to
speak. With eyes that hardly yet understood we watched the shells
bursting and the marching columns shred suddenly apart to be reformed
automatically only an instant after, as the narrow strips of dark blue
uncoiled themselves towards the plain.

Hugh and I lay close against a railway embankment from which the rails
had been ruthlessly torn up. I was inclined to make an additional
shelter of these, and indeed Hugh and I had begun the work when Victor
Dor stopped us.

"As much earth as you like," he said; "earth or sand stops bullets, but
iron only makes them glance off, and often kill two in place of one.
Scatter all the rails, plates, and ties down our side of the slope. I
will show you something that is far better!"

And with the edge of the shallow iron saucepan which he carried like a
targe at his back, he scooped up the earth so that we soon had in front
of us a very competent breastwork, giving sufficient cover for our heads
and shoulders as well as a resting-place for our rifles.

During the next hour we heard the roar of the German artillery away in
the direction of St. Léger, and the resounding "boom-boom" of our heavy
mortars and twelve-pounders answering them.

"What would Jack Jaikes give to see these in action," I said in Hugh's
ear.

"And still more my father," he answered.

Our outposts began to be driven in, but they had stubbornly defended our
front, nor did they yield till the masses of blue battalions showed
thickly, and then only to give the artillery free play.

It was in waiting behind us, and the first crash as the shells hurtled
over our heads made Hugh and I feel very strange in the pits of our
stomachs--something like incipient sea-sickness. The veterans never once
looked aloft, but only cuddled their rifles and wriggled their bodies to
find a comfortable niche from which to fire.

"Dig your toes into the embankment, you English," Marius Girr of our
company called to us; "if you don't, the first recoil of the rifle will
send you slipping down into the ditch."

It was good advice, and with a few kicks we dug solid stances for our
feet, in which our thick marching shoes were ensconced to the heels. We
excavated also hollow troughs for our knees, and, as Hugh said, we
behaved generally like so many burying beetles instead of gallant
soldiers. All this was not done easily, for the ground was frozen hard,
and in the river behind us we could hear the solid blocks of ice
clinking and crunching together as the sullen grey-green current swept
them along.

It was Sunday, and upon the town road a little behind our line, but
quite within the zone of fire, comfortable mammas and trim little
daughters were trotting to Mass with their service books wrapped in
white napkins. Hugh and I yelled at them to go home, but it was no use.
Luckily I remembered their fear of the Iron Chancellor, and assured them
by all the saints that "Bismarck was coming," whereupon they kilted
their petticoats and made off homeward, their fat white-stockinged legs
twinkling in the pearl-grey twilight. It was like a Dutch
picture--trampled snow, low brooding sky, white-capped matrons and
little girls wrapped in red shawls.

But in a few moments we had other matters to occupy us. The Tanara
regiment was on our right, and the sweep of the crescent being farther
advanced than at our position, they received the first rush of the
Pomeranians.

But there was no waiting, for suddenly out of the woods in front of us
stiff lines of blue emerged and began moving forward with the Noah's Ark
regularity of marionettes. It seemed impossible that these could be
soldiers charging. But we were soon convinced. The dip of the ground hid
them for a long time, and then suddenly they appeared not four hundred
yards off, no longer in column, but in two lines close together, with a
supporting third some distance in the rear.

We could see them extending companies far away on either side. But this
we knew to be in vain, for the river protected us on the right, while on
the left our entrenchments reached as far as the St. Leger hills which
were crowned with our forts.

Then came the splitting growl of the mitrailleuses behind us. These were
still held to be rather uncertain weapons. Men familiarly called them
pepper-pots, and it was as likely as not that a few bullets might come
spattering our way, spread-eagled as we were on the railway embankment,
and offering a far more practicable target than the advancing Germans.

But there were no casualties, at least near us, and in a moment the
Germans fired a volley which swept the embankment like hail. The rifles
of the first Milanese cracked on every side, but I bade Hugh hold his
fire till the charging enemy was only a hundred yards away. Our Henry
rifles gave us an immense advantage in speed of firing. They came on,
breaking at last through a dark barrier of yew and poplar hedge, and as
they came we could see their bayonets flash like silver in the dull
light. Their colonel was mounted on a black charger, a tall fine-looking
man who pushed his horse up every knoll in order the better to see whom
and what he was attacking.

But he dropped a little way from the yew hedge, and almost before he
reached the ground two men with a stretcher were lifting up their
officer, while a third had taken the horse by the bridle and was leading
him to the rear, as composedly as a groom in a stable-yard.

"Now, then, Hugh," I cried, "you take the right of the line and I will
take the left. But sight carefully and don't aim high."

"_Crack_--_crack_--_crack!_!" went our magazine rifles, and the big
Pomeranians went down as if an invisible sickle had mown them. As I
expected, Hugh was finished before me, but we had scarcely time to
adjust our new cartridge holders before the line broke and the blue
coats turned and ran. A few officers and a man or two immediately in
their wake got as far as the curve of the embankment--only, however, to
be shot down.

The air rang with the shouts of "Evivva Garibaldi!" And a few minutes
afterwards the Tanara regiment, encouraged by our success, repulsed the
enemy's bayonet charge, so that in an instant our whole line was
disengaged. Only out in the open the trampled earth and the glistening
crushed-sugar snow were starred here and there with spots and splotches
of red and the contorted bodies of men, some still moving, but mostly
stricken into the strange stiff attitudes of death.

It was our first battle in the service of Garibaldi. It was destined to
be our last. For that night the news of the fall of Paris and the
signing of the armistice stopped the fighting everywhere, except at
Belfort and along the desperate rear-guard line of Bourbaki's army,
which was being driven like a pack of famished wolves into the passes of
the Jura.



CHAPTER XVI

THE COMING OF ALIDA


It was the evening of the 27th of January, and we were back in Autun.
The Milanese were later than most in getting inside the gates. We had
pushed far forward after the retreating Pomeranians, and now our lot was
to bivouac in the square. The houses were full, and the churches with
their damp floors did not tempt us. Besides, we were full of the glow of
victory, and for that night a camp-fire in the middle of the square
satisfied us. The evening had fallen mild and still--clear too, though
rapidly growing misty under the red loom of camp-fire smoke. There was
not much open rejoicing. The French would not believe that the end had
come, and the Italians, still flushed with victory, felt that they had
come a long way to do but little. Still, as we lay close to our
camp-fires or threshed our arms about to keep warm, we could not keep
out of our minds the hope of better days. I know not of what Hugh
Deventer thought, but for me I was talking to Rhoda Polly, or lazily
steering the ferry-boat across the river while before me Jeanne Félix
bent lissomly to the oars. It was clear that I had not yet reached the
age of the grand expulsive passion which ignores partage. Indeed, given
a temperament like mine, no youth is worth his salt who at twenty-one
cannot drive several teams abreast.

Hugh and I put in the night wandering up and down, rendered restless by
the thoughts of peace, and unable to sleep about the camp-fires before
which we had spread our blankets. Upon the advice of a stranger in a
doorway we penetrated into a school, and from the first class-room
brought out benches and desks enough to feed our camp-fires all night in
the square of Autun. With a stroke or two of the axe Hugh smashed these
across the middle, and we soon built up such a range of blaze that the
heat drove back the sleepers, some of whom, caught betwixt two, were in
peril of being roasted. Those who did not waken we dragged off by the
shoulders, usually to be soundly cursed for our officiousness. Then we
went back to find the man who had told us of the school-house treasure.
He was standing at his door grimly regarding our bonfires. We thanked
him courteously in the name of the regiment.

"At least the Jesuits will teach no more lies to poor children on those
benches," he said. "You are true Garibaldians, though you do speak
French like Linn and myself!"

He was a tall man with a grey beard that came half-way to his waistbelt,
and when he invited us in we were wondering who Linn might be.

We found ourselves in a comfortable little kitchen, floored with red
brick. On the walls, trophies of matchlocks and Dervish swords on a
ground of palm leaves and alfa grass told us that we were in the
dwelling of one who in his day had made the campaign of the Atlas.

Over the mantelshelf, and framed in oak in a rough but artistic manner,
was a document which attracted me. One side was written in Arabic of the
dashing and ornamental sort. I had seen many such in my father's
library. The other side was ruled with a pencil, and there the writing
was that of a schoolboy just beyond the stage of pot-hooks.

"Is it permitted to read?" I asked, for my curiosity was great.

The man with the long beard was talking to Hugh, but he turned to me
with a courteous wave of the hand, and said with a ceremony that was
never learned in Autun:

"Sir, this house and all that it contains are at your service."

I followed the ill-traced letters of the translation. It was dated "From
my prison-house, in the fortress-city called Amboise," and was signed
"Sheik Abd-el-Kader." It contained, after the usual compliments,
greetings and affection to the brave fellow soldier and commander of his
forces, Keller Bey--with a congratulation on his release from
imprisonment.

So it became immediately evident to me that our host had indeed made the
campaign of the Atlas, but that he had fought against and not for the
tricolour.

He seemed to watch out of the corner of his eye the effect of the framed
certificate.

"You are English," he said, "and though you have stolen much yourselves,
you can still feel for a great man defending his country, and not
condemn the little man who helped him."

"You are Keller Bey?" I asked, pointing to the name on the much crumpled
sheet.

"I am Keller," he said, "Keller grown old and staid. Linn keeps me at
home. She had the devil's own job ere she got me buckled down, but she
did it, and now there is only Linn and our daughter Alida for me to
think about."

And in the silence of the house he lifted his voice and called aloud for
"Linn."

Presently we heard footsteps coming swiftly along the passage which led
from the inner rooms. A woman entered--tall, gaunt, and angular. Her
aspect was severe to the borders of being forbidding, and she frowned
upon us as Keller, ex-officer of Abd-el-Kader, made some brief
introduction.

But the smile with which she held out her hand was transfiguring. The
face which had been almost ugly suddenly became attractive and even
fascinating. One saw that her eyes were of forget-me-not blue, and when
she said "You are welcome" to one and the other of us, it was clear that
Linn Keller possessed gifts of attraction which do not depend upon age
or external beauty.

She was taller than her husband, but awkward and angular in her
movement. She walked with a curious shuffle as if the slipper on one
foot was always on the point of coming off, yet--in a moment we found
ourselves at home with her, and in five minutes we were calling her
"Linn" just as her husband had done. The assurance of youth can surely
no farther go.

The lamp on the mantelpiece was of an Oriental design. Curtains and rugs
were abundantly scattered about, and in one corner a looped-up hanging
showed an oblong bath sunk in the tiled floor.

"This house is our own," said Linn; "we have arranged some things to
suit ourselves, having been so long abroad that it seems impossible to
do without them. But at any rate you must stay and see Alida. You must
rise early, for she has to go out to give her lessons. Alida is a
teacher of music. We have put everything except this house and a
provision for our old age into Alida's education."

I explained to the pair that we would indeed be most grateful for the
warmth and refuge of the kitchen, but that if that were inconvenient we
could return at any hour of the morning, always provided the regiment
did not march.

"They are fine lads, eh, Linn?" said Keller, turning to his wife. "Can
we not do something better for them than the kitchen floor?"

I assured them that we asked no more than permission to stretch
ourselves on a couple of rugs with knapsacks beneath our heads. But
Linn's housewifery instinct was roused. She took us to a room on the
entresol, with two beds, and even insisted on helping us off with our
boots. There we should sleep, and she would keep an eye on the regiment,
and have us on parade in good time. As for her she was a barrack's child
and understood such things. Besides, Keller and she were back and
forward all night like the Arabs among whom they had lived.

Never had the touch of sheets felt more caressing. Never did sleep fall
upon us so deep and dreamless as when our heads touched the pillow. It
was still dark when we were awakened by a light touch on the shoulder,
and sitting up each on an elbow we beheld Linn stalking about the room
and putting back our uniforms all carefully brushed and folded. A candle
stood on a stand, and farther back a gigantic Linn was grotesquely
shadowed upon the walls.

"Breakfast is ready," she said, when we had somewhat got over our first
blankness. "You have a good hour before you, and if you dress now you
will have time to breakfast, and besides you shall see Alida."

I do not know whether it was the breakfast or the prospect of Alida seen
in the flesh which aroused us, but no sooner was the door closed behind
Linn's back than we flung ourselves into our uniforms with that ordered
rapidity which only a soldier understands.

Everything we touched had been warmed and cared for with that
affectionate motherliness which looked out of Linn's eyes. We had never
experienced any kindness like this before, and it seemed the more
marvellous that by merely putting aside the blinds of our sleeping-room
we could see our comrades still lying about the fires, and the cooks for
the week beginning with their bayonet butts to crush and grind the
berries for the morning coffee.

Yonder were Victor Dor and Marius Girr looking down at our sleeping
places, and presently beginning to roll up our blankets. It seemed a
shame that we should have passed the night between sheets, thus basely
abandoning our comrades among the trampled snow of the market square of
Autun.

But there interposed between them and us two necessities: a "made"
breakfast which we must eat--eat till we could eat no more, and--we must
see Alida Keller, daughter of the Atlas "goums."

I don't know what Hugh expected. But for myself I mingled Linn and the
ideal music mistress. Tall, forceful, and striding she must be, with
energy to bring into such evident subjection Keller Bey and his wife.
Something younger and less weather-beaten than Linn, of course--perhaps
with a certain passing glow of good looks which would fade out like the
mist bloom upon the peach trees in the frost of April.

But when at last she came in, and stood a moment to give a hand to each
of us, before nestling into her familiar corner of a low old Oriental
couch--I think both our hearts cried out at the same moment: "Oh, the
perfect creature!"

She was not like Linn in the least. Her father still less resembled her.
It is almost impossible to describe this girl of the South, nevertheless
I can but try, Alida Keller was little, but shaped with such delicate
perfection that she gave the impression of a greater height. Her skin
was of a creamy duskiness through which went and came colour now as
faint as that of a rose leaf, which anon flamed out into a vivid red,
the colour of the pomegranate flower.

Her father and Linn served her like a princess, and to this she seemed
accustomed, for except that she patted Linn's hand, or with a smile said
"Petit Père" to her father, she seemed unconscious of their attentions.

As for Hugh and myself, I declare that we were completely cheated out of
that admirable breakfast. We had meant to square our elbows, grasp our
knives and forks, and fall on. We had rank appetites, sharpened with
fighting and hard fare, but the mere presence of Alida cut at the roots
of hunger as a scythe cuts down reeds.

We simply sat and gazed at her. She was not in the least put out, ate
well and daintily, and looked at us impartially from under her dark
lashes. For the instant--I will not admit more--I forgot Rhoda Polly and
Jeanne Félix.

But I am not much to be blamed. For the burden of the conversation fell
on me. Hugh Deventer could only sit and gape, lifting the same morsel
half a dozen times to his mouth without once getting it safely in. He
uttered not a word, save sometimes in answer to a direct question he
would produce a "yes" or "no," so jerky and mechanical that I was
obliged to kick his shins under the table to keep him aware of himself.

Of this Keller and Linn saw nothing. They were all eyes and ears for
Alida, and had not a glance for us. The table was covered--we were
soldiers and could help ourselves. Meantime I was kept busy answering
the questions of Alida. She spoke in a low and thrilling contralto, a
voice that had a _ron-ron_ in it, something like the pulsing whisper of
a bell after it has been rung in a church tower.

How had we left school? We must tell her. Tell her I did, describing as
vividly as possible the laundry and the secret way out upon the road,
then the good-bye call at my father's house, and our escape from the
sentinel at the bridge end. It was lovely to see the cheeks of Alida now
going pale now flaming scarlet, and I admit that I made the most of my
opportunity. I passed rapidly over the troubles in Aramon-les-Ateliers,
both because I knew such things could not interest Alida Keller--also
(and chiefly) because I gathered that Keller and Linn would be
altogether on the side of the workmen, and I did not feel called upon to
defend the difficult position of Dennis Deventer as Manager of the Small
Arms Factory--at least not just then.

Our later adventures with the transport train, our march by night, our
incorporation in the Garibaldi army, and the many skirmishes culminating
in the big fight when we had defeated the Prussians, were all easy to
tell--and I had scarcely finished when Linn came in with the news that
the regiments were forming up for roll-call.

We had hardly time to promise to come back before we were equipped and
pushed out by Linn with well-plenished haversacks. We scurried across
the square and appeared in our places out of nowhere in particular, to
the great astonishment of Victor and Marius, who hastily arranged our
blankets across our shoulders so that we might pass inspection.

"You English fear nothing, I know," said Victor Dor, "but you almost ran
things a trifle fine this morning. See yonder!"

He pointed with a finger towards a narrow street which debouched into
the upper end of the Market Square. At first we could see nothing--and
then--lo, the ramshackle barouche, and the two fatigued white horses of
the General himself!

"_Garibaldi! Garibaldi!_"

The "Children" of the Milanese regiment could hardly keep their lines.
We front-rank men felt an impulse as if someone were pushing us from
behind. It was the concentred yearning of a thousand men.

Our officers kept whispering to us, "Stand firm. Not just now. He will
return. See how the Tanara regiment is standing--would you have them put
us to shame before our father?" So the Milanese men stood quivering each
like a tuning-fork while their General passed by. Bordone was with him,
and Ricciotti rode on the side farthest from the lines. I saw him
clearly, and noted the waxen pallor of his face. But his eye was still
bright, and the smile kindly on his lips as he passed down the lines. It
was the face of a philosopher, a thinker, or a prophet, rather than that
of the greatest leader of irregular troops the world had ever seen. But
when the carriage turned at the end of the square, the men could no
longer be held. They surrounded the old barouche, hanging round it in
clusters, like grapes, or more exactly like bees about their queen in
her summer flight. Hugh Deventer and I stood a little back, for we felt
that this was, as one might say, a family matter, and no concern of
ours. But Ricciotti spied us out, and putting his horse into the press,
brought us forward to introduce us personally to his father.

The old man extended his hand which, instead of kissing, we shook in the
English fashion. The difference pleased him.

"It is like Sicily to see you here. I had once over eight hundred of
you, and not a white feather or a faint heart among them all. I trusted
them as I trusted my children. They were as my children. Well may I love
England. They fought for me seeking no reward, and afterwards when there
was talk of expelling me, they bought my island and gave it to me, so
that none could take it away for ever."

He moved on, nodding his head and smiling, while Bordone glooming on the
seat opposite seemed vastly relieved. Ricciotti was in high spirits.

"The Chief is better to-day than I have seen him for years," he confided
to us. "He said we had done well against Manteuffel--yes, even I, his
son whom he never praises."

Victor Dor and Marius Girr came and shook hands with us repeatedly. It
was an honour to the company that the General had so distinguished us,
and would we tell them what he had said--yes, every word.

From their archway Keller and Linn had beheld, one standing on either
side of the door, and a slight vibration of the window curtains
suggested that perhaps Alida herself was not wholly without curiosity.

Then the troops were dismissed. The town was placarded with the white
oblongs reserved for Government proclamations. The Armistice (they said)
had been concluded with the Emperor of Germany, but in the meantime its
army of the Vosges was to remain under arms for the reason that poor
Bourbaki's army of the East was excepted from the cessation of
hostilities. At first no one could imagine why, because it was now
little more than a broken troop, hardly able to fight a rearguard
action, and ready to be driven through the perishing cold of the
mountain passes to surrender to a Swiss colonel beyond the frontier.
Later the truth appeared. By their own politicians the army of the East
had been wholly overlooked and forgotten! And Bismarck, irritated by the
stubborn resistance of Denfert at Belfort, was willing to take advantage
of this fact to overrun two additional French departments.

Thus it came to pass that we remained full three weeks more kicking our
heels in Autun. We were allowed to make our own arrangements for
_billets de logement_, which carried us naturally to the house in the
square inhabited by Keller Bey, his wife Linn, and--Alida.

The officers all knew that the war was over and chafed at the delay. So
I think did most of the soldiers excepting ourselves. Hugh and I alone
were content, of all the army of the Vosges encamped in and about Autun.



CHAPTER XVII

A DESERT PRINCESS


We occupied the two big gable rooms looking east on the second floor of
the Kellers' house in the market square of Autun. This suited us
admirably, though we were obliged to keep quiet so as not to disturb
Alida, who had the corresponding suite on the first floor below. We
found that the room in the entresol where we had slept the first night
was the proper bedroom of Keller and Linn his wife.

But as a matter of habit, neither of them appeared to care very much for
a regular night's rest. You would catch them, indeed, closing their eyes
after dinner over a newspaper, or when Alida was practising on her noble
grand piano, the chief pride and luxury of the Keller house.

But Hugh and I, who slept with our door of communication open in order
to talk to one another in case of sleeplessness, could hear Keller and
Linn moving about at all hours of the night down in the silence of the
ground floor--sometimes advertising their presence by a little silvery
rattle of glass set on a tray, the dull fall of a log on the chimney and
irons, or the curious slip-shuffle of Linn's walk. Sometimes, too, we
heard voices, but that not often. Once about the end of the first week,
when I could not sleep, I slipped down for a stroll about the town. It
was half-past two of a black February morning, and the snow swirls were
waltzing like spinning tops all about the market square. But there in
the archway, his back to the carven lintel, stood Keller Bey, calmly
smoking his pipe and looking out on the black turmoil as though it had
been the cool of an August evening. Linn heard us talking, and came
quickly to see who was there. Even at that hour she was in her ordinary
dress, and she dried her hands composedly on a long sheath apron of blue
_toile nationale_.

"Why are you not asleep?" she demanded sharply. "Keller, you are
teaching this young man bad habits."

His wife's accusation only made Keller wag his head wisely. Instantly I
took all blame upon myself. I had not been able to sleep, I said, I was
ashamed to disturb Deventer by my restlessness.

"You drank too much of that black coffee last night, Monsieur Auguste"
(thus had Angus gone wrong). "I must ration you in future, so that you
can get your natural sleep as young folks should."

I hastened out into the night with Keller's huge "pellerine" cast about
my shoulders, and the hood reaching my ears. It was a comfortable
garment of some unknown African cloth, rough as frieze and warm as wool.
The sudden dashes of snow swooping upon me were turned victoriously
aside by its formidable brown folds, and I felt as I wandered in the
black of the streets with the buildings towering dim and shadowy above
me, like one who in a storm has by some magic carried his house along
with him.

No soldiers were bivouacking in the streets that night. The squares were
void of bonfires. All the red shirts and blue breeches had alike found
shelter, for the superfluous regiments were now quartered upon the
neighbouring villages, or had marched to their head-quarters at Dijon.

Back and forth I tramped, from the Mairie clock with its dim one-candle
power illumination of face to the dark mass of the towers of the Holy
Trinity, I patrolled the town from end to end.

It was perhaps an hour or a little more that I wandered so, tiring
myself for sleep, my face beaten upon pleasantly by the fierce gusts of
snow charging down from among the chimney-pots, or driving level across
the open spaces. At last I turned my face towards the market square,
which I entered by the little dusky street of the Arches, and so came
suddenly upon the Keller house at the angle opposite to the mayoral
belfry.

I had expected Keller in the same position waiting for me, but when I
sheltered in the archway, no Keller was in sight. Behind me, however,
the door stood open, and as I stood dusting down and shaking out the
thick folds of Keller's pellerine, I was conscious of a stir behind me.
I turned my head in doubt, and was just in time to see the man himself
whisk upstairs with the curious enamelled iron water-jug in his hand,
which is known through all the South as a "bouillotte."

The fire had newly been made up in the kitchen, and glowed warmly. The
kettle sang shrill, and even the German stove, used on the occasions of
great feast, had hastily been put into commission.

Feeling sure that something was gravely wrong, I took off my boots to
dry slowly on the high bar alongside those of Keller and Hugh. I tiptoed
upward, hoping to gain my room without running across any one. But on
the first floor the door of the sitting-room stood wide open, and all
was bright within. I saw Alida sobbing bitterly, Linn kneeling beside
her with bottles of Cologne water and smelling-salts. She was murmuring
something evidently designed to be comforting. The girl's long dark hair
fell around her in loose masses, overspreading and almost inundating the
low canary-coloured divan of soft Oriental silk on which she was
reclining. Keller hovered helplessly about the couch, or proffered a
suggestion, to be swept off the scene with a sharp word from Linn which
sent him to the far end of the room, only to begin again a stealthy
approach.

I promise you I was passing the door as cautiously as might be, and
giving myself no small credit for my excellent management of the
business, when suddenly I heard my name called as only one in the house
could speak it.

"Aügoos Cawdori--Aügoos, I want you--I want to tell you!"

Alida, leaning on her elbow, had caught sight of me, and I could see
Linn's gesture of something like despair, which I took to
mean--"There---the secret is out. We can never stop it if once she
speaks."

She bent forward and spoke earnestly into Alida's ear. But the girl
merely signed to Linn to retire. The gesture was made unconsciously, but
with all the dignity of a princess accustomed to be unquestioningly
obeyed.

"Let Monsieur Cawdori come hither at once. I must speak with him. His
advice is good. You and Keller Bey are old and speak as the old. Aügoos
Cawdori is young as I am young, but he has the wise heart. So much I
have seen from the first."

She spoke in French, but with a curious redundancy and largeness of
phrasing unnatural to a language which is an exact science. In all
moments of agitation Alida seemed to be translating from another and
more copious tongue.

Obedient to her command I entered the sitting-room where she was lying
among the cushions of the yellow divan. The room was fitted up with a
certain barbaric splendour, and the only touches of modern life to be
seen were a bookcase of prettily bound books--red, green, and gold--set
in a corner, the big Steinway Grand with its cabinets of music ready to
hand, and the piano-stool upon which Alida often amused herself by
spinning round and round, her tiny feet in their heelless slippers of
golden brocade showing beneath the flutter of her light silk robe.

As she lay on the divan, I could see that she wore under her
dressing-gown a blouse of white silk flowered with gold, and an abundant
pair of trousers of the same gathered close about her ankles by a button
and a knot of golden cord.

"I will speak," she cried. "This young man is worthy of my confidence,
and you know it, Linn. If my father had wished me to go with Said Ali
Mohammed, the slave prince, he would not have committed me to you. No,
he would have sent me to nibble sweetmeats among the women behind the
veil. But I am not a woman of the harem. I am free and French. Obey I
shall not. I would rather die!"

She suddenly threw off a slipper, reached out a bare brown foot
exquisitely moulded, deftly picked up a letter from the floor with her
toes, and handed it to me. It was in Arabic, and at the sight of the
characters I shook my head.

"My father could read it, but not I," I said mournfully, wishing that I
had spent less time on Greek and Latin at the _Lycée_ St. André.

"Then you must learn--you must--I shall teach you to speak, and your
father shall drill you in the verbs. Listen, Aügoos Cawdori, I am not,
save in love and in the kindness which not even my life could repay, the
daughter of these best and dearest folk in the world. No, parents are
not so kind as Keller and Linn. They are more selfish, though God forbid
that I should speak so of my father. He was, ever since I can remember,
a prisoner of war--even the great Emir Abd-el-Kader himself. I am the
daughter of his one Queen, his first wife--no child of the 'Smala,' but
a princess, the daughter of a princess. Abd-el-Kader, thinking himself
near his end, committed me to the care of his old officer and his wife,
instructing them that in all things I should be brought up as a maiden
of the Franks. This they have done. You Linn, and you Keller, have kept
watch about me day and night. The God who is the God of Jesus and of
Mahomet reward you, as surely he will. I am a European girl in that
which I have learned. I have chosen a profession in which I can be
happy, here in this little town among the hills, till I seek larger
fields and try my fate in other cities."

She paused in her tale and smiled. The tears were falling steadily down
Linn's face, and she seemed suddenly to have aged a quarter of a
century. But Keller Bey, no longer restless, stood stiffly at attention
as if he had been listening to the commands of his master, the great
Emir. Alida looked from one to the other. Then lightly as a cat leaping
from the floor to a window-sill, she sprang to her feet and embraced
them tenderly.

"I am your true daughter always. Do not forget it. I owe everything to
you, and I shall never quit you if you will let me stay."

She sat down again, and taking her letter, she began:

"This is from my father, Abd-el-Kader, presently living at Brousse in
Syria on the road to Damascus. He is old, he says, and he desires to see
me about him in his latter days. All is good in Syria. The water of
Brousse is sweet, and the French Government gives him much money. He has
found a husband for me, a prince royal of Egypt, though not of Arab
race. Sidi ben Mohammed is his name, the man whom he sends with a letter
that I may see him, upon receipt of which his servant Keller Bey and his
wife will hasten to bring me to Brousse under the protection and escort
of this Prince of Egypt. Upon my arrival the solemn rites shall be
observed, and I shall be the first wife of Ali Mohammed the Prince, a
worthy man and one of great power in his own country.

"So it is written, and my father signs and seals, but whether it was
written for him or by him, I cannot tell. At any rate he has made his
signature with the flourish which none can mistake, and an order is an
order. What say you, Aügoos Cawdori? Must I obey, and become the chief
wife of this coffee-coloured fellah, no Arab of my father's race, say
the Egyptians what they will?"

Alida sat among the scatter of cushions regarding me fixedly.

"Tell me," she said, with a pitiful little gesture of appeal, "must I
obey my father? _They_ think so, though I know well it will break their
hearts as it would mine. Rather would I use this little toy" (she showed
a dainty pair of golden scissors, with which the high born of her people
sometimes open their arteries in a bath) "than I would go to Brousse to
wed the brown man with the skin greasy like that of a toad--A-ä-ä-ch!"

She shuddered and flung herself back on the cushions.

I stood there in my stockinged feet as if I had been in a mosque, but no
one remarked my bootless condition.

"Now," said Alida, "you have heard the letter of the Emir, my
father--what am I to reply to him? Tell me and I shall say it. You are
the gift of God. The messenger with the message. I knew as much when I
saw you passing the door. You have come out of the darkness to bring me
light."

It was a difficult position for my father's son. I was conscious of no
message from heaven. But on my spirits preyed the same disgust as had
fallen on her own. It was a thing impossible that this delicate girl,
educated, well-read, accomplished, should mate with an African brute,
with his Oriental ideas of the servitude of woman.

"Princess Alida," I began, but she cried out instantly, "Alida--just
Alida the music mistress--no princess at all!"

"Well, then," I acquiesced, "Alida be it. You ask for my opinion. I will
give it you. But I warn you that perhaps I am not the best of advisers,
for having a good father after his ideas (which are not mine) I have not
obeyed him very well, nor, indeed, has he asked me to obey.

"But it seems to me that your father, by making you over to Keller Bey
and Linn there--by ordering you to be brought up as their daughter, by
allowing and encouraging you to acquire the tastes and arts of the
Western people--has now no right to summon you back to a life which
would be worse to you than death. I should refuse now and always. If
necessary I should make good my French citizenship, and claim the
protection of the Government. The mere threat of the loss of his great
pension would be sufficient for Abd-el-Kader!"

The delicious little brown head was bent low, and Alida's fingers pulled
nervously at the gold threads on the sleeve of her long dressing-gown.
She was carefully considering my advice, but I could see that she
flushed her brightest scarlet at my words about her father. The proud
little spirit within her spoke freely of the Emir, but resented the
speech of others. I regretted that I had been so plain, but it was my
manifest duty (so at least I regarded it) to save this daintiest of
human creatures from the pollution and mental death of a harem,
surrounded with evil-talking slave girls and sweet-sucking, moon-faced
concubines. Alida was a product of the West, in spite of her ancestry.
The whole business appeared ludicrous and impossible. I seemed to be
listening and talking in a dream from which I would presently awaken.
Alida would don her smart walking dress, and with her brown leather
music roll under her arm would set off to give the Sous-Préfet's young
wife her daily music lesson, Linn stalking majestically beside her like
a great Danish hound on guard.

At last she spoke, but without looking at me.

"Though I agree that the thing itself is impossible--that I cannot marry
Ali Mohammed the slave and slave's son--tell me what is to be done? I
shall ruin these good people whom I love, who are paid to take care of
me. Or if I do not ruin them, I shall be obliged to live on their scanty
savings, for I know that they have spent the moneys they received from
the Emir on my education."

Linn gave one look at Keller, and flung herself down beside the girl.

"Whatever we have is yours--we shall do very well. Everyone is pleased
with you. Your professors prophesy great things for you. Keller, you
dumb dog, tell her we shall manage very well, and that she shall never
know the difference!"

"If she decides to disobey her father," said Keller Bey, "we must do as
things will do with us. But I wash my hands of the responsibility."

For the first time I saw the flash in Linn's eyes.

"Wash your hands of the responsibility, will you, Keller? So did Pilate.
But I cannot hear that much good came of that! You and I must stand
between, and prevent a Calvary for our Alida--or a Golgotha, for she
will never marry that man alive!--I know her--I brought her up, and I
never mastered her once. No more shall her father by one letter brought
by a brown thick-lipped prince in a frock coat and glossy hat!"

"Let us say no more about it," murmured Alida. "I will send away the
slave's son to-morrow. I shall write to my father also. Doubtless he
will be angry, but then--surely it is true that he and those about him
are imagining a vain thing. He should have kept me veiled and
cloistered, without a book, without music, without a mind. Then I might
have been fit for the plaything of an idle man, but that time is past. I
am a woman of the Occident, fitted to carry out my life alone, to earn
my living, and to be the mate of some man who shall be altogether mine!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE PRINCESS COMMANDS


We slept late the next morning, Hugh and I. Indeed, Hugh always slept
late unless he had the luck to be awakened. We did not breakfast till
Linn had returned from her watch-dog march along with Alida to the house
of the Sous-Préfet.

There was now no regular drill, and instead of roll-call it was regarded
sufficient if we reported to the guard which remained in permanence
playing at cards and "bouchon" under the central bastion of the fort.
This Hugh and I did, remaining a little while to gossip with Victor Dor
and others of our company who were lounging about the barrack square. I
fear that during those weeks we passed for rather sulky dogs who would
not share our bone with our neighbours. For, having little to do, the
young fellows of the first Milanese often followed with admiring eyes
the daily progress of Alida and Linn in the direction of the
Sous-Préfecture. We had requests for introductions even from the younger
officers, but all such we referred to Keller Bey, knowing that the old
man would be able to deal with any intrusion. And indeed matters stopped
there till the regiment was disbanded, and the Italians were sent home
at the expense of the French Republic.

Meantime we continued, as Saunders McKie would have said, "living at
hack and manger," free of the privileges of the house of Keller Bey and
Linn his wife.

Since Alida had taken my advice and written to her father that she would
not marry the brown man, nor leave the life for which he had educated
her for that of the harem, she had treated me as an intimate friend and
adviser. We had long talks together, so often and so long, indeed, that
I could see that Keller Bey and Linn were seriously troubled. Perhaps
they were a little jealous also, but for all that they did not dream of
opposing their wills to the slightest wish of their ward.

"What shall I do when you are gone?" Alida cried one day. It was still
early forenoon, for the Sous-Préfet's lady had to attend a Government
function. Besides, it was a dismalish day outside with a low crawl of
leaden clouds overhead, and along the horizon only one swiftly eclipsed
streak of gold bead-work to show where the sunshine was at work.

"I can _not_ stay on here, content with only the round of teaching
visits, and the love of these two good souls! 'I have had playmates--I
have had companions,' as your poet sings, and now there is you--and
Hugh--who have come to me to show me how lonely I was."

She thought a while, and then in her imperious way she sketched a
programme.

"There is no reason why Keller Bey and Linn should stop here. The house
is well placed, and one of the best in the town. It would let to-morrow.
Why should we not all go to Aramon and be happy? We could find a house
there and company--all those girls, Hugh's sisters, of whom you have
told me. I should be so happy. And we would get away from the brown man.
He would not know where to find us if he should come back!"

She clapped her hands joyfully, as if the matter were already settled,
and ran upstairs to break the matter to Keller and Linn. When next I saw
these two I was conscious of a little chill in the atmosphere. They
thought that I was responsible for the wish of Alida to leave Autun and
go to Aramon.

"Do you think it is a proper thing," said Linn, "that a maid should
follow two young men?"

"I think you wrong her," I said, "unwittingly of course, but certainly
you mistake Alida. It springs from no feeling of love for either of us,
but she has now tasted comradeship and the equality of years for the
first time. She thinks there is nothing else worth living for in the
world. She will change her mind by and by. Her mind and affection will
turn again to her elders."

So I spoke from the unplumbed depths of a youthful
self-sufficiency--that curious malady (happily fleeting) which compels
all clever young men to feel called upon to lay down rules for their
elders and for the world about them, at or about the age of twenty-one.

Linn and Keller looked at one another in a kind of hopeless
bewilderment. I think they felt that this was only the first of a series
of changes from the quiet life they had been leading. They told
themselves that they need expect no more happy uneventful days and
delicious nights when they used their house as of old they had done many
an Arab encampment, a place to wander and dally in, to lie down and rise
up, to drowse and wake, to smoke in, and to play bezique together when
the heart told them to. A sort of terror seized them as they saw
themselves going off to bed at reasonable hours like mere untravelled
burghers, each with a candle in hand, and nothing but the drum of the
rain on the roof or the gnawing of a mouse in the wainscot to help them
over the dead hours till the sun should rise.

It was Keller who this time broke the silence.

"Of course," he said, speaking slowly, and poising each word carefully,
"if Alida has set her heart upon it of her own free will, there is
nothing to be said. Linn and I must obey, at whatever cost to ourselves.
For all we have is hers, and has come to us because of her. On that
score we need not fear. We have enough for ourselves, and enough to
leave to Alida. We can go to Aramon, but the business will need to be
carefully gone about, and not too soon after your return. Alida is a
girl among ten thousand. You are well-looking young men, and doubtless
there are as many evil tongues in Aramon as there are in all places
where human creatures herd together."

This was a great concession, and accordingly I plucked up heart and
began to make plans and suggest ways and means, eager to get ahead of
all possible objections on the part of Linn.

"There is an empty house at the corner of my father's property of
Gobelet--not one so large as this, but quite large enough and pleasantly
situated within the grounds. My father has never let it, but I know that
he would be glad of a brave soldier and his wife to take care of it and
keep it in order. The place is retired and he would feel protected. The
gate in the wall opens on to the road to the _lycée_ of St. André, so
that you would come and go without any overlooking. Besides, my father
is a student and interferes with no one. He would talk as much Arabic to
you as you wish. So too would old Professor Renard up at the College. He
was once Vicar Apostolic out in your parts. You would have the best
companions for Alida, in the sisters Deventer and their friends. If you
like I will write to my father to-day? Not that there is any need. I
know that he will be delighted, nay, that he will offer you a wing of
Gobelet itself, which is much too large for him. But do not accept, the
Garden Cottage is ten times as amusing, and infinitely prettier."

I could see that I was making some way. Linn and her husband looked at
each other, and if they did not smile, at least there was a more hopeful
look on their faces. Linn was touched by the thought of the
companionship of the Deventer girls, for in this matter Autun had been
gravely lacking.

Nor did the bribe of Arabic-speaking students to talk with appear to be
wholly lost upon Keller Bey, even though he spoke still somewhat
restively.

"I have little acquaintance with book Arabic beyond the Koran, but it is
a noble language in which to vent one's thoughts."

I reassured him that both the ex-Vicar Apostolic and my father found it
so. They would sit smoking and talking Arabic all a long evening over
their parchments.

"All this must I come and see for myself," said Keller Bey; "such a
plant as Alida is not to be pulled up by the roots till we know where we
shall find better ground and more fertile in which to reset her. But
tell me, is not this Aramon of yours an unsafe town? The mob had
possession of it for some days lately, attacking the works and the
manager's house--can we safely take Alida to such a place?"

Then in mighty haste I showed him the difference between the unceasing
activity of Aramon-of-the-Workshops and the scholastic calm of Aramon le
Vieux. I extended the width of the dividing river to a three-quarters of
a mile, a size to which it only reaches in times of flood when the tall
ladder of the painted scale by the bridge-end is wholly covered, and
still the flood creeps up inch by inch till the people of Vallabrègues
and Saint Jacques are crying for succour from the roofs of their
drowned-out houses, and the pigs and poultry go out to sea feet up on a
six-knot current.

Keller and Linn sat and listened--Linn with a lost air of someone whose
scheme of life has suddenly become impossible. I think Linn had expected
the quiet days, the morning promenades with Alida, the cheerful suppers
of the house in the square in Autun to go on always. Alida would always
be as content with them as she had been when a little girl. Had she not
come back from school to the warm love and unbounded spoiling which
awaited her there?

As they sat and pondered, Alida entered, her roll of music in her hand.

"What," she cried, "you are all sitting as gloomy as crows in a
cemetery. Where is Hugh? I want you both to come out and walk by the
river. The early violets are out, and yesterday Madame the Sous-Préfet
found a daffodil."

"Alida," said I, "at Aramon all the flowers are out, and the broom runs
along the river banks like a mile-wide flame of fire. Everywhere is
yellow in spring, ranunculus, buttercups, celandine, and the yellow
wallflowers sprouting among all the old walls of Gobelet. When will you
come and see them?"

Alida went prettily to Linn and kissed her. Then she put her arms about
Keller without saying anything. The game was won. No more remained but
to make the arrangements.

"As soon as these two dear people will let me!" she said.

Bless her! She might have started next morning if she had been set upon
the matter! That is, so far as Keller and Linn were concerned.

Afterwards while we were walking home Hugh looked edgeways at me.

"Angus," said he gravely, "I should not like to have your
responsibility. Are you sure that she will take to the family at Château
Schneider? Or they to her? We are rather a handful, you know, and
she--well, she is not exactly ordinary."

"As to that I don't know," I said sharply, for I did not like to hear my
darling project decried or even suspected, "and what is more, I don't
care. The garden and the Garden Cottage at Gobelet are large enough and
safe enough."

"Pardon," he retorted, more unpleasantly than he had ever spoken to me.
"I was under the impression that Alida was going to Aramon for society."

"Well, and suppose she finds it without crossing the bridge--what then?"

"Oh, nothing," he said, "I was only considering what you meant to do for
yourself in the way of a career!"



CHAPTER XIX

KELLER BEY COMES TO ARAMON


Keller Bey came to Aramon ten days after the time of our return. Before
letting us go Alida decided that I must write her every day, and Hugh
once a week. She had never seen a line from either, but she judged from
our faculty of conversation--often quite a false test, as witness Cowper
and Gray.

For the details of that first visit of Keller to Aramon I must have
recourse to the daily letters which I wrote at that time to Alida.

                   _Monday, February_--, 1871.

    "NOBLE AND SWEET,--

    "The Bey came last night into the station of
    Aramon-les-Ateliers, where Hugh and I met him. A
    manifestation of the Internationale was crowding the
    platform to welcome some delegate who was to address the
    companions in their hall. I could see the old soldier quiver
    at the sight of the red flags they carried. If the St. André
    diligence had not been waiting at the station portico, I
    hardly think we could have persuaded him to go on. Any
    opposition to the tricolour, which he hates with the hatred
    of an old Atlas fighter, appears to excite him. We shall
    have trouble with him at Aramon if events thicken as they
    seem to be doing.

    "But for the time being, everything marched as to music. The
    Bey was installed beside me, and Hugh very considerately
    took his leave. I am sending him over a message to-day
    telling him how matters fell out. The view from the bridge
    enchanted Keller. Aramon the Elder was rich with sunset
    glow--'a rose-red city half as old as time,' with the tall
    Montmorency keep standing up from its rock as firm and proud
    as the day it was finished five centuries ago.

    "He asked concerning the fort on the top, and gloom
    overspread his face when he heard that St. André had long
    been a famous _lycée_. I think he feared the neighbourhood
    of hosts of Jesuits. But I tranquillised his mind, telling
    him that he would find Professor Renard as free a thinker
    and as tolerant a listener as even my father.

    "Before long we stopped at the gate of Gobelet, and to my
    astonishment and delight my father opened it in person. He
    had even made toilet to the extent of a rough pilot suit and
    a pair of patent leather slippers.

    "Keller instinctively saluted as my father held out his
    hand. He seemed unaccountably shy of taking it, but at last
    he did and even shook it warmly if somewhat jerkily, 'after
    the English fashion' as he was eager to inform me
    afterwards--making a useful comparison of French and English
    characteristics between 'serrer la main' and hand-shaking.

    "I let the old gentlemen go on by themselves, sure that they
    would thus become better friends, and if you will believe
    me, Alida, they were not at the corner of the path leading
    to the Garden Cottage before they were deep in Arabic, and
    the next thing I knew was my father leading the Bey prisoner
    through the open windows of his study that he might show him
    some singular and infinitely precious manuscript.

    "Well, I left them till supper time. We are simple folk and
    sup early. Then I went into the study, where I had some
    difficulty in awakening them to a world where people washed
    hands before eating and drinking.

    "'Well, we must thresh that out again,' I heard my father
    say, and I am sure he never showed himself so much
    interested by any of my performances, not even when I
    brought home the gold medal for the first place in the
    _baccalauréat_. They could hardly let each other go, and if
    you, Alida, were present at that moment in the mind of the
    Bey, you were relegated to some distant hinterland, by me
    unexplored.

    "At supper, before Saunders McKie and the domestics I
    steered my barque with care. For the ears of Saunders were
    growing long and lop like a rabbit's, with sheer intensity
    of listening. Once or twice things became a little sultry,
    as when the Bey described the bannered procession he had
    seen at the station.

    "'Ah, politics,' said my father. 'I am glad they do not
    manifest over on this side of the water. White, red, or
    tricolour, it is all one to a man among his books.'

    "'Not to me!' said the Bey, somewhat explosively.

    "'Of course not--you are a soldier, and these things have
    been your life's business. But you must make allowances for
    a recluse and a scholar!'

    "I did not think my father could have been so tactful.

    "So _Salaam_, for to-night, dear lady! I kiss your golden
    feet."


                   "_Tuesday._

    "The freshness of this high air to you! I take up my tale.
    The Bey and my father have continued inseparable. Twice have
    I guided Keller to the Garden Cottage, and twice has he
    beheld it with wandering eyes. I am so sure that he has
    taken little in and that he will be able to give Linn no
    proper satisfaction, that I have made a plan of each floor
    to scale, marking all the cupboards deep and shallow, all
    exits and entrances, and the distance from Gobelet itself,
    with the garden walks and coppices on a separate plan. These
    I send now, so that you can have them well studied before
    the Bey's return, when Linn and you will know a great deal
    more about the Garden Cottage than he will. The third expert
    in Arabic came to dinner to-night, and to my relief he wore
    his college gown. I was afraid that he might appear in the
    full black uniform of the Company of Jesus. Keller did not
    turn a hair. They addressed each other in the current Arabic
    of Algeria, and in a clapping of hands they were deep in the
    discussion of Abd-el-Kader and all manner of recent tribal
    matters among the clans of the Atlas.

    "I did not understand very much, and indeed even the
    scholarly Arabic of my father was momentarily put out by
    words and expressions so richly local that the recollection
    of them caused the Vicar Apostolic to laugh aloud.

    "As far as I could make out, however, there was talk of a
    threatened rebellion because of the defeat and humiliation
    of France, and how, from his home in Brousse, Abd-el-Kader
    was doing all he could to prevent it. The dinner was a great
    success, but my chief amusement was to watch the face of old
    Saunders McKie.

    "'Losh-an-entie, Maister Aängus,' he said afterwards, 'to
    think that men wha can talk a reasonable civilised langwage
    like English, or even a chatter-chatter like the French,
    should bemean themselves to roar at yin anither like the
    beasts o' the forest!'

    "I told him that in all probability Jesus of Nazareth and
    his disciples spoke a dialect of it. Now I did not know how
    closely Aramaic approached Arabic, but I did know that the
    argument was calculated to impress Saunders. However, he
    only said, 'Maybe, but I think none the mair o' them for a
    caper like that, and I have ay been informed by them that
    kens a deal mair than you, Maister Aängus, that when the
    disceeples spak' or wrote, they set their tongues to the
    Greek, which is a decent responsible dead language, and weel
    thocht o' amang learned folks, or they would never spend sae
    muckle time learning it to the puir divinity laddies at the
    college.' I argued, somewhat foolishly, that most
    universities now had a professor of Arabic, but Saunders
    only said, 'Guid peety them that has to sit under _him_!'

    "Before going out, for I had stayed behind to smoke a
    cigarette and enjoy the dismay of the old servant, Saunders
    betrayed the reason of his anger at the use of Arabic.

    "'And to think,' he grumbled, as he went about dumping trays
    on the sideboard, 'that there's Mistress Syme and a' the
    rest o' them in the kitchen waiting for me to tell them a'
    that was said, and me has to gang doon never a bit the
    wiser, wi' my finger in my mouth like a bairn that hasna
    learned his lesson!'"

So much I wrote to Alida of the successful reception and early doings of
Keller Bey, ancient war-leader under the Emir of the Atlas. He had taken
enthusiastically to Aramon le Vieux, and certainly Aramon in the person
of my father and Professor Renard had taken enthusiastically to him. My
father duly made the offer that I had side-tracked by anticipation.
There was room enough for half a dozen families of that size in Gobelet.
The servants were lazy, and needed something to do. Renard should come
down, and all of them should dwell together in a haze of Arabic poetry
and tobacco smoke. Besides, my father found the Bey a night-bird after
his own heart, and absolutely rejoiced in having someone under his roof
whom at any hour he might find awake and smoking in the library, if he
should find himself restless.

But this I would have at no price. I begged Keller Bey to remember that
he was here to arrange for Alida and Linn. If they were to be under my
father's roof, they would be eternally exposed to the jealous spying of
Saunders and of the other servants, while at the Garden Cottage they
would have a wall, and if necessary a locked gate, between them and any
espionage.

But by far the most delicate part of my mission was to break the news to
the Deventer family. I had sworn Hugh by solemn oath not to forestall me
in the matter, and I think he awaited my attempt with a kind of
malicious pleasure.

Certainly it was a large task to explain an unseen Alida to such a
contradictory and turbulent family as the Deventers. Yet upon them and
their manner of receiving Alida, befriending or showing her the cold
shoulder, the whole success of the plan depended.

I might indeed bluster to Hugh that we could make a society sufficient
for her within the garden bounds of Gobelet, but even as I spoke I knew
the emptiness of the boast. To be happy Alida must meet and mix with
girls of her own education and, so far as the Western world was
concerned, social position.

I resolved to begin with Rhoda Polly, and a Rhoda Polly not
argumentative and combative as in the family circle, but Rhoda Polly
walking along the river bank, her eyes full of the sunset light, and the
reeds whistling musically in a gentle fanning wind from the west.

Not till two days after the return of Keller Bey to Autun did I get my
chance, which brought us to Saturday afternoon. The occupancy of the
Garden Cottage was decided upon, and after a severe struggle on my
father's part a rent, low yet not merely nominal, was agreed upon. But I
knew from the expression of my father's face that he meant to be even
with his tenant for all that.



CHAPTER XX

I PLAY "THREE'S COMPANY"


I met Rhoda Polly by arrangement made openly on a post card, which could
be discussed in conclave and passed from hand to hand. I should be
walking over to the restaurant of Mère Félix, and as the river Durance
was in flood it might be worth while seeing. The day I mentioned,
Saturday, was generally chosen by Hannah and Liz for their private
outings, and I judged that the project would be unlikely to interest
them in any case, not even if the Durance swept the plain, so long as
the railway to Aramon remained open to them, by which to bring home
their finery. Hugh was back with his father in the works, and Mrs.
Deventer might be counted a fixture at the Château Schneider.

Remained, therefore, only Rhoda Polly, but would Rhoda Polly come? That
would depend on how Hugh Deventer had kept his promise to me. Still, I
thought that in any case, there being no jealousy in the matter, I could
trust Rhoda Polly's curiosity in the matter of Jeanne Félix. It must be
admitted that in taking her over to the Restaurant of Sambre-et-Meuse I
was sailing very near indeed to the wind. For though my conscience (such
as it was) remained clear of any overact of love-making with regard to
Rhoda Polly, it was by no means the same when I came to review my
dealings with Jeanne. Not that I mean for a moment that Jeanne thought
anything of the matter, or cherished any deep feelings for me. She was
no daughter of the sainted bourgeoisie. She was frankly of the people,
and had not been educated out of her sphere. She was just a simple frank
girl, such as one might find by Dee or Nithwater, not ignorant of the
world, nor of the designs of man, and for a French girl wonderfully
capable of looking after herself.

Still, whether Jeanne was capable of recognising in Rhoda Polly a mere
comrade of mine after the manner of the English, was a problem which
could only be solved by experiment.

Rhoda Polly met me at the corner of the garden of the Château Schneider
about half-past ten of that Saturday morning. The works were crashing
away behind, and the new big gun factory especially was noisy with
roaring blast furnaces and spitting jets of white steam.

We did not shake hands nor make any demonstration beyond the lifting of
a hat on my part and a slight nod on Rhoda Polly's. We might have been
the merest acquaintances, yet no sooner were we alongside each other,
walking on the same path, than the old understanding, trustful and
confident, took hold of us. The spring on the slopes of the Rhône and
the Durance comes early, and is the fairest time of the year. On the
sandy tracts between the rivers we passed a world of fine things. The
whole peninsula, almost correctly V-shaped, had been so often overflowed
by the turbulent Durance that the permanent shrubs, the bushes of broom,
thyme, and cistus had ascended the little rocky knolls which could keep
their heads above water. But where our path wound was a delightful
wilderness of alternate sun and shadow, black umbrageous stone pines,
laurel, myrtle, and clove, planted out as in a nursery garden, yet all
wild, the seeds brought down by the river, and now (like Shem and his
brothers scattering from Ararat) true Children of the Flood.

On the way Rhoda Polly ran hither and thither gathering flowers. With us
at Aramon the spring is well under way before the autumn flowers are
tired of blooming. She gathered purple colt's-foot and orchis, yellow
iris and goats' honeysuckle. Troops of butterflies attended us,
especially the Red Admiral and the swift poising Humming Bird Moth, some
of them so large as to look like the bird itself. Even Bates on his
beloved Amazon was deceived by it, as I took care to tell Rhoda Polly.

We arrived at the edge of the crossing, and from the bank I shouted for
Jeanne to take us over. She came down tall and nonchalant, an oar over
her shoulder, unlocked the padlock and rowed unconcernedly across. She
stood to help Rhoda Polly in, and then handed me the bow oar as was our
habit like one long accustomed to such visits. I delayed introductions
till we had reached the farther side. Rhoda Polly gave Jeanne her hand
with the swift grip of liking. But I saw a glow in Jeanne's eyes as she
took the oar away from me and marched with them both over her shoulder
to the house.

"Mademoiselle Deventer, mother," she cried, "come to visit us. Monsieur
has brought her--so kind of Monsieur!"

And Jeanne vanished round the corner with a kind of swirl of her pretty
figure, the oar-blades swooping perilously after her.

"I say," whispered Rhoda Polly, "that girl has never worn stays. Did you
see her waist and hips when she turned--a full half circle? None of us,
pinched-up wretches that we are, could do that! It was beautiful, the
poetry of motion."

I did not say so aloud, but I knew that it was something quite different
on Jeanne's part--in fact, a little fling of temper. And with the
thought of opening out the matter of Alida on the way home, I began to
wish that Rhoda Polly and I had taken another road than that which led
to the riverside hostelry of the Sambre-et-Meuse.

Mère Félix was clamorous with welcomes, smiling heartsomely upon the
daughter of the powerful manager of her husband's works, and quite
willing to accept me as an elderly relative placed in charge of the
outing. In which she made mistake, for nothing is more certain that all
such expeditions were conducted according to the sole will of Rhoda
Polly.

We arranged for lunch to be served under the _tonnelle_ overlooking the
river, and I stayed in the kitchen along with Mère Félix and the
moon-faced maid-of-all-work. It was in my mind that perhaps Rhoda Polly
might strike up one of her friendships with Jeanne, or at least do
something to explain away the rather strained situation. Nor did I seem
to be altogether wrong, for presently I saw the two girls amicably
putting a boat to rights after a night's fishing in the flooded river.
They were too distant for me to gather anything from their behaviour to
one another. But presently it was evident that Rhoda Polly was talking
in her wild harum-scarum fashion, for Jeanne threw back her head
suddenly with a tinkle of laughter and a flash of brown throat showing
pleasantly under a scarlet kerchief. I said in my heart--so vain and
foolish was I--that the battle was to the cunning, and I thought no
small potatoes of myself at that moment.

I soon found, however, that Jeanne, though she might laugh at Rhoda
Polly's freely expressed yarns, had no intention of forgiving me. If
Rhoda Polly was heart-free, that was certainly not my fault.

So when they came back to the house I tried in vain to inveigle Jeanne
behind the barns where the fish-ponds lay safe and solitary, so that I
might explain at my leisure. But it was "Monsieur is too good, but a
poor girl has her work to do. _She_ has no time to go off sightseeing of
a forenoon even with so charming a cicerone as Monsieur!"

The little vixen! She tossed her head as she said it, and I declare that
her small white teeth snapped together like a rat-trap. When I spoke to
her after this, she answered me only with the distant civility of a
well-trained servitor: "What can I do for Monsieur? If Monsieur will
only take the trouble to rest himself in the _salle_ while I send
Babette to attend to his wants!" (Babette was the moon-faced, rather
besmutted scullion of the kitchen and the courtyard.)

"Why, Jeanne," I cried, seeing that Rhoda Polly was at a safe distance
learning the receipt for some sauce or dish from the Mère Félix,
"Jeanne, why do you treat me like this? Are we not old comrades? Do you
remember the day among the reeds after the boat went down and we had to
tramp all the way home barefoot? I wrapped your feet in our
handkerchiefs, Jeanne, because you had lost your shoes and stockings in
the boat."

"I do not know to what Monsieur is good enough to refer. I think that
the walk in the sun from Château Schneider must have made Monsieur a
little light-headed!"

Of course if I had been wiser or older I would have said nothing more,
and left Time to do his own perfect work. But I could not be content. I
forgot all about Alida, and it seemed to me at that moment that nothing
else mattered so long as Jeanne Félix remained friends with me. I have
always been like that, and I cannot say that the business has worked out
badly in the long run. No matter what a tangled web I wove, I always
managed in the end to retain the good will of my dear lost loves, even
when the losing was entirely my fault.

The thought that was most prominent in my own mind at that moment was
how pleasant it would be to obey the imperious rule of Alida the
Princess on the sunny slopes below St. André, without prejudice to the
charming boy-and-girl comradeship I enjoyed with Rhoda Polly on the
walks and river promenades of Aramon-les-Ateliers--neither of these to
interfere in the least with the sweetness of Jeanne's breath and the
touch of her surrendered lips in the bosky thickets along the Durance.

The young male of twenty-one has a heart which can beat for considerably
more than one. At least so it was in my time.

It surprised me, and I must admit rather shocked me, when Jeanne of all
girls refused to lend herself to any such combination. I might have
dotted the twin rivers with my loves and Rhoda Polly would not have
cared, but such conduct from Jeanne Félix I could only look upon as
highly unsatisfactory. I had never expected it of Jeanne. It would teach
me to walk very warily in the matter of Alida. Foolish Jeanne, thus to
have killed the pure flower of candour in my bosom!

I made a last appeal to her, which to myself seemed irresistible. There
was (I averred) a relationship in the world which might be called real
brother-and-sisterhood, a fraternity of the spirit. This existed between
Rhoda Polly and myself. We had always been conscious of it. When we
played in pinafores in the dust we chose to be together, and left the
others to their noisier sports. Afterwards we studied the same subjects
at college--she at Selborne, I at St. André. We compared notes
afterwards. We talked, but Jeanne must not think that there was more in
the business than that. I could, would, must, and did assure her that
the whole matter began and ended in a close spiritual brotherhood----

"Spiritual fiddlestick!" burst out Jeanne, turning fiercely upon me.
"Have you ever kissed her?"

Now I could lie upon occasion to oblige a lady, but the question was
shot out at me so unexpectedly that my lips moved but I spake not.

Jeanne eyed me one instant, with a length, breadth, and depth of
contempt which cut to the quick even my self-conceit, at that time a
young and exceedingly healthy growth. Then without a word she turned on
her heel and went into the house. We saw no more of her that day. And
when Rhoda Polly asked after her to say good-bye as we were leaving, the
Mère Félix, after taking counsel with a casual stable-boy, informed us
that Jeanne had rowed away up the river to visit a friend whose father
kept a _pépinière_ or nursery of young trees at Cabannes farther up the
Durance. Yes, Jeanne was often there. She and Blanche Eymard had been at
school together. It was an old friendship. Besides, there was more
company and gaiety at Cabannes--what would you, maids are but young
once, and with a daughter so "sage" as Jeanne--why, Père Félix and she
never disquieted themselves for a moment. She sometimes stayed a week or
a fortnight, for she loved the culture of the young trees and the flower
seeds. The work at the _pépinière_ was like a play to her with so many
young people about her!



CHAPTER XXI

THE GOLDEN HEART OF RHODA POLLY


I admit that I was gloomy and disappointed as I turned to walk back with
Rhoda Polly--disappointed in the turn things had taken, in the ill
success of my cherished diplomacy, and especially disappointed in the
desertion of Jeanne, who had carried what ought at least to have been a
broken heart, to the consolation of a newer and gayer place where
doubtless young men abounded, as full of admiration and eagerness to
please as I had been--well, any time these last two years.

It did not strike me at the time that I was only a vain young fool,
whose corns had been most deservedly trampled upon, and that here was
the lesson which of all others would benefit me the most.

It was therefore in a most humbled and chastened frame of mind that I
opened out to Rhoda Polly the vexed and difficult problem of Alida.
Perhaps it was well that I was still suffering from the rods with which
Jeanne had chastised me. For, had I begun on the way towards the
Restaurant Félix, when I was rampant and haughty of crest, I might not
have made my points so well.

But for once I forgot my silly self, and devoted all my energies to
pleading for Alida. I painted her solitary condition, and the
unlikelihood that, if she (Rhoda Polly) refused to help her, she would
find any other friend of her rank in Aramon.

"Why, of course I will!" cried Rhoda Polly the golden-hearted; "why did
it ever get into your stupid old noddle that I would not? And so will
the rest--specially mother, who will be the most useful of us all. She
has never had any mother, really, this Alida of yours! Oh, of course,
your Linn has done her best, but then, you see, she knew she was a
princess, and from early association Madame Keller would be little more
than a servant. Oh, I shall understand, never fear. Mother will be as
grand a dame as she is, and I--well, I shall be the daughter of the
Great Emir of the Aramon Small Arms Factory. I wish she had been coming
to stay with us--but no, it is better as it is. The Garden
Cottage!--Think of it, what a Princess of the Sleeping Woods she will
make. We are too noisy. But why did Hugh never tell us? I should have
thought he would simply have raved about such a marvel. But he has been
as silent as mumchance!"

"Forgive me. I wanted to tell you myself," I said, still humbly; "it was
very good of Hugh, but I really could not let anyone else tell you, and
it seemed so hard to get hold of you these days--I mean without your
fighting tail."

"The fighting tail have gone off to-day to rustle chiffons," cried Rhoda
Polly; "but never mind them! Tell me about this Princess from the East.
I never thought I should see one, yet I once saw her father, a patch of
white on the high promenade at Amboise, the year that Dad took me with
him for company. He was bringing out a new carbine for the Cavalry
School at Saumur on the Loire. So it was from there that we went one day
to see the great man."

Then I told Rhoda Polly about the brown prince of the Khedival house,
his visit and the answer he had carried back.

"Of course she could not," she cried, all on fire in a moment. "It would
be like imprisonment for life, only far more dreadful."

Rhoda Polly's eyes, unused to untimeous moisture, were at least vague
and misty, but that might only be because she was looking into the blue
distance towards the Alps of Mont Ventoux.

"Poor precious waif," she said, "if she is wayward and a little
difficult--who can wonder? We shall all try hard to make her happy. We
will come and pay court to her in the garden."

I explained that a girl who had been a music mistress to the exigent
Sous-Préfectoral dames and other ladies of Autun, might not be so
difficult to deal with as she seemed to expect. It was only Keller Bey
and Linn who, if spoiling had been possible, had spoilt her ever since
she came to them as a little child, the charge committed to them by
their master, the battle Emir of the Atlas.

"Oh," cried Rhoda Polly, hardly able to curb her feet to a decent walk,
"how mean it will be if they stop Keller Bey's money, and that wretch of
an old Emir getting so much from the Government. I wish I did not spend
every centime of my allowance without ever knowing where it goes to! But
at any rate I mean for the future to share with Alida if she will let
me."

I explained how from what Keller had told me Alida would have enough to
live upon even if they never saw another sixpence of her father's money.
Also I described what my father was doing to the Garden Cottage to fit
it for their coming.

"Oh, do let me come and help. Ask your father. I should love to! And I
should have far more idea than a man. I could get mother to come too,
sometimes, though you know how loath she is to move far out of her own
house. Still, she could drive over."

Never was there so short a walk as that between the pier above Mère
Felix's and the gate of Château Schneider. Rhoda Polly was so eager that
she would have gone right across the river there and then, and climbed
the hill to Garden Cottage, if I had not insisted on delivering her to
her mother, and generally giving an account of my stewardship.

Before going in, however, I warned her that the secret of Alida the
Princess must be kept. It was only for herself. To the rest of the
family she must be Mademoiselle Keller, the daughter of Keller Bey and
his wife Linn.

The need to keep so great a matter secret seemed to damp the girl's
enthusiasm for a moment, but almost instantly she caught me by the hand
in her impulsive boyish way.

"I promise," she said, "and you are quite right. It was splendid of you
to tell me. I am so grateful for that."

"Of course I told you, Rhoda Polly. Who else could I have told?"

She meditated a little, finger on lip before speaking.

"Do you know it is rather a pity not to tell mother," she said at last.
"She does not interfere, but she moderates and eases off the hard
places. She has a great deal of influence in a quiet way--more than
any-one--and she would never tell a soul. I really think that it would
do Alida more good than anything else to have mother on our side from
the first. We are all trumpeters like father (except perhaps Hugh, who
is not like any of our brood), but it is mother who tells the trumpets
when to stop sounding."

I assured Rhoda Polly that she could do as she thought best in the
matter. Mrs. Deventer was all she said and more. She possessed, besides,
a pleasant quality of motherhood that glinted kindly through her
spectacles. Then, of course, Rhoda Polly knew best. All that I wanted to
avoid was having the secret which had been entrusted to me being
battered about in the daily brawls of the Deventer family--still less
did I wish that it should get abroad to set talking the commonplace
gossips of the town.

"Ah, _mon ami_," said Rhoda Polly, "you need not fear my mother. She
knows the secrets of every one of us, I think--except perhaps Hugh's,
who is too young to have any--and yet when we girls come to confide some
tremendous fact to each other, we are astonished to find that mother has
known it all the time."



CHAPTER XXII

IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW


Garden Cottage was occupied on the eleventh of March, 1871. For several
days before that, the great discharging lorries lent by Mr. Deventer had
toiled up the hill, the four stout horses leaning hard on the collar and
their drivers ready to insert the wheel-rest at every turning.

Ever since this time began, Rhoda Polly had almost lived at our house,
and she it was who had done the ordering of all the strange Oriental
furnishings, partly from her own taste and partly from questioning me as
to the arrangement of the different rooms I had seen at Autun.

Mrs. Deventer came across the bridge every day in her little blue
Victoria--taking a peep in at us in the morning and hurrying back to
tend her flocks, but in the afternoon, stopping over tea till she could
drive a rather soiled Rhoda Polly home, as it were a much ruffled chick
under a motherly wing. For indeed Rhoda Polly spared neither man nor
beast, least of all did she spare herself. A tack-hammering, painting
and varnishing, cellar-to-garret Rhoda Polly pervaded the house,
swooping upon all and sundry and compelling strict attention to business
among the much-promising, little-performing tradesmen of Aramon.

My father had already done his part, for he was a man who could not
endure the chill mistral of the Rhône valley. Every room which had a
chimney was equipped above with a wind shield, and beneath with steel
andirons, beside which the cut faggots lay ready piled. The chambers
without chimneys had been fitted with porcelain German stoves, the pipes
of which bristled like lightning-rods along the roof ridges, and in the
hall a great open fire-place shone with brass and copper, the spoil of
an ancient Spanish monastery condemned in 1835 by Mendizabal, prime
minister and Jew share-broker. What wonder if Rhoda Polly went home
dishevelled and not over clean, but full of excitement and ready to
battle for her new fad with the family at Château Schneider. Once there
her mother plumped her into a hot bath, and after a smart douche to
close the pores, Rhoda Polly came down literally as fresh as paint, to
do battle for her new enthusiasms.

Hannah and Liz Deventer came once or twice to see what it was all about,
but as they would not help, but only went round accumulating brickbats
to pelt Rhoda Polly with later in the day, on the second occasion that
capable young woman turned them both out _vi et armis_, though she must
have weighed a good third less than Hannah.

The girls went good-humouredly enough, and having found my father talked
with him in the Gobelet garden, by the old sundial which bore the arms
of a former Marquis de Gallifet, and a date which commemorated the visit
of Mesdames de Grignan and de Sevigné during the governorship of the
former's husband.

Gordon Cawdor, my father, pleased all women, and I must admit most
men--though up till now I had not been able to allow him the full
measure of my sympathy or admiration. To do him justice he did not seem
in the least conscious of the need of these, so long as I behaved
decently and did my duty at school and college.

He was a man wonderfully stoical about the modern lack of filial
recognition, no doubt saying to himself, as I came to do later, that the
bringing up of sons was a poor business if one looked for direct returns
on the capital and labour expended. But he never complained, and must, I
think, have been finally and lastingly astonished when the long-barren
fields of my filial piety ripened of themselves.

At any rate I began to know him better during these days. I marked his
gentle ways, his enormous reading and erudition, never flaunted, never
refused, never at fault. He had already finished his part of the work at
the Garden Cottage, so he sat either in his study with the tall French
window on the hasp ready to a visitor's hand--or, if the sun shone and
the mistral was stilled, out on the broad wooden bench by the fish pond,
a volume in his hand to read or annotate when alone--but quite ready to
drop it into the pocket of his velvet jacket, and turn the gaze of his
gentle scholarly eyes upon whomsoever had come forth in need of society
or soul refreshment.

I learned a lesson in those days--to know how other people estimated my
father. Of course, I had seen Dennis Deventer drinking in the knowledge
he felt the lack of, as from a fountain. I knew what Professor Renard
and the Bey thought of him. Yet, after all, these were men of Gordon
Cawdor's own age and stamp.

But when I saw the fine sweet house-motherliness of Mrs. Deventer
sitting at my father's feet and talking confidentially yet with respect,
the thing seemed to me strange. I have seen her finish the review and
arrangement of a series of china and napery closets, the laying down of
fresh papers in chests of drawers, or the ordering of knick-knacks
gathered in the Bey's campaigns. Then she would throw a fold of black
Spanish lace over her pretty grey hair, always shining and neat--and so,
without explanation or apology, hie herself out to find my father.

"A talk with him is my refreshment!" she said once when she came back
and laid the folded lace scarf down beside the work she was next to
attack. More than once I had passed them speaking low and earnestly, and
I am sure she was consulting him about some intimate affairs of which
she had spoken to no one else.

Or it was the turn of Rhoda Polly and her procedure was different. She
would remove the provision of tin-tacks, French nails, or whatnot from
her mouth, her habitual ready receptacle, throw a wisp or two of
rebellious ripe-corn hair back from her brow, and demand to be told if
there were any very bad smuts on her face! When she presented her
handkerchief or the hem of her apron to me I knew from long experience
what was expected of me. I was to remove the offending smuts from Rhoda
Polly's face with the oldest and most natural of cleansers, exactly as
we had done to one another when the dinner bell or the voice of
authority called us from some extra grubby tree-climbing or mud-pie
making experiment in the days when the world was young.

"Spell ho!" Rhoda Polly would cry; "had enough this one time. I am off
to talk to your father. He does me good."

And now when the other Deventer girls, the stately swan-necked Hannah
and the Dresden shepherdess of a dainty Liz, being expelled for
"shameless slacking" and "getting in everybody's way," took their road
with happy expectant faces to the bench by the sundial, I knew in my
heart for the first time that I would never so add to the happiness of
humanity as that gentle refined scholarly man who was my father.

To my shame I took a cast about the garden, and from the top of a ladder
looked down upon the trio in an unworthy and wholly ungentlemanly way. I
did not mean to overhear--of course not--but I overheard. My only excuse
is that I was in a quandary. I knew that I had somehow been all wrong
about my father, and I wanted to find out how I could put matters right.
Hannah was seated on the bench beside him, listening and looking down,
making diagrams meanwhile in the gravel with the point of her
_en-tout-cas_, a sort of long-handled parasol sent from Paris.

Liz had characteristically pulled one of the little stools called
"banquettes" from under the sundial, and had seated herself between my
father's knees. She had taken her hat off and now leaned her elbow on
his knee looking up into his face.

He was telling them about maidens of old times, how the Lesbia of
Catullus looked and dressed, how he and she idled the day by the length
a-dream in a boat in the bays about Sirmio. He quoted Tennyson's
delicious verses to them, and they promised to look them up that night.

"If it were not that Rhoda Polly knows so much, I should begin Latin
this very day," said Liz; "but she is such a swell that she can always
come down on a fellow. She thinks we know nothing!"

"I know I don't," said Hannah, "except how to walk and dance and behave
at table."

"No, that last you don't," retorted Liz Deventer; "you were far the
noisiest (mother said so) in our last big family fight!"

"Well, I mean I can do these things when I like, Silly!" said Hannah,
unmoved.

The hand of my father descended slowly. It had been raised to mark the
rhythm of _Olive-silvery-Sirmio_! It now rested on the curly brown locks
of Liz Deventer. He ceased to speak, and then suddenly with a sigh he
said, "I envy Dennis. I have a good son--yes, a good son," he repeated
with emphasis, "but I should have liked a daughter also. There is a side
of me she would have understood."

Instantly the girls had their arms about his neck, and I hastily
descended my shameful ladder, leaving behind me a chorus of "We will be
your daughters--Rhoda Polly too--mother too--she thinks----"

But I got out of earshot as fast as might be, quite chopfallen and
ashamed. I had not been a good son, whatever Gordon Cawdor might say--I
knew it. I had held him lightly and withheld what others found their
greatest joy in giving him--my confidence. It was no use saying that he
never invited it. No more had he invited that of Mrs. Deventer, or of
the girls--or, what touched me more nearly, that of Rhoda Polly herself.

At last the great day came, and by the same train which had brought the
Bey on his errand of inspection the three new tenants of the Cottage
arrived. The Bey looked military and imposing as he stood over the
baggage counter. Linn, tall and gaunt in unbroken black, accepted my
father's arm smilingly almost at the first sound of his voice. He showed
her through the narrow shed-like waiting-rooms to the carriage in
readiness outside. Mrs. Deventer had received Alida into her arms as she
descended from the carriage, and was now cooing over her, watched
hungrily by Rhoda Polly, who wearied for her turn to come.

It struck me that Alida was not looking quite so well as usual. It had
cost her more than I thought to disobey her father--more afterwards
perhaps than at the time. For among those of her blood, the servitude of
woman goes with heredity, and the culture of Europe, though it may
render obedience impossible, does not kill the idea of parental
authority. "Though he slay me, yet shall I trust in him!"

But when Alida greeted me, I knew in a moment that though the battle had
been sore, the victory was won. There would be no looking back.

"What, Angoos, _mon ami_, have I all those friends already? I owe them
all to you!"

I took Rhoda Polly's hand, and put it into the gloved fingers of the
little Princess.

"Not to me, dear Alida," I said, "but to this girl; she has, as you
shall find, a heart of gold."

Alida kept the strong roughened fingers in hers, and looked deep into
the eyes of Rhoda Polly as if to read her inmost soul.

"I shall remember that, Angoos," she said; "that is a beautiful thing
when it is said in the language of my own country. It sings itself--it
makes poetry. Listen!

"'Rhoda Polly of the Golden Heart--Heart of Gold, how true is my
maiden!' Wait, I will sing it for you in Arabic----"

But suddenly, no one knew why, the female heart being many stringed and
unaccountable, even to me, Rhoda Polly was crying--yes, Rhoda Polly the
dry-eyed, and who but Alida was comforting her under the stupid gaze of
hangers-on about the station of Aramon!



CHAPTER XXIII

THE MISGIVINGS OF ALIDA


At the house in the garden the new servants stood ready, neat and
smiling. My father had written to a Protestant pastor at Grenoble to
send him two maids of his religion. Accordingly two sisters had arrived,
Claire and Hermance Tessier, reliable pleasant-faced girls with no
family ties in Aramon and with the difference of religion to keep them
apart from indiscriminate gossipry. The wing of the house where they
were to sleep had formed a part of the wall, possibly even it may have
been an ancient gateway in the time of the Montmorencies. My father had
joined it to the main building by a flying bridge of iron roofed with
zinc--which was Dennis Deventer's own private contribution to Garden
Cottage. I had warned him of the nocturnal habits of Linn and her
husband, and he agreed with me that while for Alida's sake they must be
served according to the French fashion, they need not be deprived of the
nightly freedom of their own house which was their greatest luxury.

So at the Cottage door we judged it best to leave them. Rhoda Polly and
her mother drove home. My father and I withdrew, I to my den, he to his
study. If the new tenants of the Garden Cottage had any changes to make
or any fault to find with what had been prepared for them, the
alterations could be done quietly and by degrees. Besides, the pale face
of Alida haunted me and I thought that a night's rest would be for her
the surest medicine.

But the general joyousness of the journey up the hill was our best hope
that all would be well. The Bey was gay. Even Linn relaxed when she saw
the noble prospect of the blue Rhône and the little white and green
house among the laurels, walled in like a fortress. Hand in hand but
silent Rhoda Polly sat beside Alida as the coachman drove over the
bridge and up the winding road, St. André looming up a crenellated wall
of red and gold above them.

This was the beginning of a wonderful week which, lived in the unseen
and unsuspected shadow of disaster, now shines the brighter for the
contrast with what was to come after. The last week of the theatres and
baths of Pompeii was not more memorable, and we who sunned ourselves
upon the limestone slopes of Mont St. André thought as little of the
future as the many tinted crowd of merry-makers who thronged the beaches
between the city gate and the white sands of Torre del Greco.

They came on the 11th of March, and one week after fell the 18th, a date
ever memorable in the history of the cities of France.

Yet how much happiness did we manage to put in between the one day and
the other.

Next morning, that is on the 12th, I was up early, so early that no one
was visible about the Garden Cottage except the two Grenoble maids, who
had settled down to their duties as if they had been on the spot for
months. They were indeed lucky, for few new _bonnes_ come to so clean a
house--"shining like a soldier's button," averred Claire.

Linn and her husband had doubtless spent the night in making an
exhaustive survey of the dwelling, and Linn especially would be full of
discoveries. At present they were retired in their own chamber, dozing
doubtless, after their long nocturnal expeditions, and also probably
because after the awakening of the maids they felt the house no more
their own.

It was a morning when the chill gusting of the mistral wind hurtled and
raved about St. André. I had already made friends with the sisters
Tessier, of whom Claire was housemaid and Hermance cook. Rhoda Polly had
introduced us and that curious and almost affectionate regard which
springs up between good servants and friends of the house soon made my
visits very agreeable to them.

They asked counsels of me--as for example, how Monsieur liked his
coffee, if Madame was more set upon the kitchen or the "lingerie," and
how best to serve Mademoiselle, who, as they had been given to
understand (probably by Linn), was of chief standing in the house.

I told them that they needed no more than to be good brave girls and all
would go well. But I warned them that both Madame and her husband had
been accustomed to many things in the wild countries where they had
dwelt, which would be looked upon as strange by a burgher who had never
set a head outside his own wall.

I prepared them for the Bey's occasional absences, and for Linn's
restless wanderings and perpetual rangings of cupboards. They were quite
contented, thanked me blithely, and Claire took up the morning breakfast
of rolls and _café au lait_ with shining success. All that she had to
tell when she came down was that Mademoiselle had asked her to rub her
feet in order to awaken her.

Whereupon I pointed the not unuseful moral that what I had said applied
to Mademoiselle also. She had spent her childhood in Africa and though
the best and sweetest lady in the world, might do or ask for things that
need not be repeated outside the house. The Tessiers quite saw the
necessity.

"They are all tattlers in the south," said Claire, "I have heard it from
my friend who had service here. It is different at Nîmes or Grenoble,
where the families are mostly Protestant."

They knew somehow that my father had once been a _pasteur_ and they had
all the Scottish weakness for a "son of the manse."

When at last Linn began to make her presence heard in the upper story, I
retreated without being discovered, extremely satisfied with my
diplomacy. After all, this transplantation was a hazardous experiment,
and all who had taken part in the business must see to it that the
little foxes did not spoil the vineyard by any side entrance.

I had scarcely begun my task of writing for the day, when I was called
from my desk by a message from Alida. It was a cunningly folded note,
sealed with the great seal which had been her father's. The bright
splash of red wax occupied quite a third of the back. So, not to tear
the paper, I laid it a moment on the hob, and then with the thinnest
blade of my knife, I lifted it cleanly away in one piece. After which I
unfolded the rustling sheet.

"Come and see me before anyone else."

That was all and indeed quite enough, for with quick beating pulses I
hastened to obey. Linn was waiting for me at the first turn of the
wooded path, and as we paced along together towards Garden Cottage I
could feel the "gleg" inquisitorial eyes of Saunders McKie boring into
my back. I wished Linn had sent over one of the Tessiers on this first
occasion, but I do not suppose it ever occurred to her to let another do
for Alida what she could do herself.

The Bey was within the walled garden, pacing up and down, revolving in
his mind something which pleased him but little.

"What is it, Keller Bey?" I asked sharply. "Do you not find yourself
comfortable among us?"

"Too comfortable by half," he grunted, "here are many things which must
have cost much money, and yet I am told by Alida that they are presents
of welcome for which I must not pay--whereupon, of course, Linn agrees
with her, and I who was the right hand of Abd-el-Kader and thought
myself indebted to no man, am made in my own eyes a veritable pauper!"

"Keller Bey," I said, "you speak in ignorance of our English customs. At
a house-warming or the taking possession of a new residence, all your
friends are under obligation to bring their contribution to the home. It
is our way of wishing you good luck and a happy tenancy. Nothing could
be more unfortunate than any offer of payment for such a service."

"Yes--yes--I understand," he broke in testily, "I suppose I have been
too long among the black tents. I learn your ways with difficulty. I am
sure every one means well, but how am I to do all that thanking? Can I
bow backs at my age and say grace for what I would rather have done
without?"

"You cannot," I said, laughing at his perturbed face, "for we do not
tell the name of the givers lest it should bring ill-luck. But where is
Alida?"

Alida, it seemed, was in the pleasant gable parlour which, with so much
anxious forethought, we had fitted up for her. She had been arranging
her books on the shelves, and was now going from picture to picture and
from window to window.

She gave me both hands when she saw me and said immediately, "Angoos,
who would have thought that we had among us at Autun such an observant
boy! You have reproduced my room there with hardly a change, save the
pictures and the pottery. Has your father let them to us along with the
house?"

"No," I said, "they are loving gifts from Madame Deventer, and as for
the arrangement, Rhoda Polly did that, questioning me as she went, and
forcing me to recall exactly whether I would or not."

"I sent for you," said Alida, "to tell me all about this family who have
been so kind, so that I may make no mistake. And first, why did only the
women come?--where was Monsieur Hugh, who dwelt with us at Autun?"

I explained to her the mystery of a great factory, where were thousands
of men all doing different things, and how Hugh, though but a small
wheel in such a mechanism, could not leave his post at will without
interfering with the work of many others.

I sketched rough, strong, imperious Dennis to her. Rhoda Polly purposely
somewhat vague, because I knew that she would soon enough find out about
Rhoda Polly for herself. But I made word cameos of Hannah and Liz and
concluded with a full-length portrait of Mrs. Deventer, in whom I hoped
(though I took care not to say so) Alida would find the mother her youth
had lacked.

She listened with lowered eyes and a silent attention as if she were
weighing every word.

"Yes," she said, "I shall like them all. I feel sure--or almost."

Then she asked suddenly, "Does Rhoda Polly sing? Can she play?"

"In a way," I answered lamely enough; "she has had the usual lessons
before she went to college, but her voice has never been trained."

"Is she very clever?"

"Yes, at driving nails, hanging pictures, laying down carpets, and
getting a house ready--I never saw anyone to match her."

"But I mean--she is very learned--will she look down upon me who have to
step carefully among abysses of ignorance?"

"Alida," I said earnestly, "she is likely to spoil you far more than is
good for you. The others will do so also, but you will find that Rhoda
Polly will win your heart more than all of us put together."

"I do not think so," said Alida composedly.

And then, struck by the astonishment in my face, she continued, "I shall
not like her if you praise her so much!"

"Do not be foolish, Alida," I said, "you should have heard me praising
you to Rhoda Polly when I got back from Autun. It took me nearly one
whole day, and ever since she has been painting, varnishing, and
scrubbing, that the nest should be worthy of such a bird of Paradise as
I described."

"Oh, I know," pouted Alida, "she is infinitely better than I, more
unselfish, and--and--you love her!"

"She is certainly more unselfish," I said, firing up; "you have yet to
learn what the word means. Perhaps that partly explains your charm, but
all the same you must love Rhoda Polly."

"Because _you_ do?"

I was tempted to deny my gods and declare that I did not love Rhoda
Polly, when the remembrance of a particular smear on her nose one day of
mutual paintwork on opposite sides of a fireplace, and a way she had of
throwing her head back to toss the blonde curls out of her eyes, stopped
me.

"Of course I love Rhoda Polly, and so will you (and more than I love
her) when your eyes are opened!"

And with that I left Alida to digest the fact of her own selfishness. At
the time I considered myself a kind of hero for having so spoken. Now I
am not so sure. She was what Keller and Linn had made her, and I ought
to have remembered the snubs and rebuffs which she must have suffered
from Sous-Préfecture dames and other exacting though respectable ladies
of Autun.

       *     *     *     *     *

This week held many other matters and the seeds of more. Rhoda Polly
came to take Alida out in her mother's Victoria, and spent a long day in
the garden instead, sending back the coachman to be ready to take Mrs.
Deventer to the works to drive her husband home to lunch, as was her
daily custom.

I do not know what the girls said to one another. I kept out of the way,
but when I came into the dining-room with my father a little before
noon, I was certain that Alida had been crying and that Rhoda Polly had
been dabbing her eyes with hasty inexperienced fingers.

I thought this no ill sign of coming friendship, and indeed it was not
an hour before I received a first confidence on the subject from Alida.

"She is all you say and more. She makes me so ashamed of myself!"

"So she does me!" I answered, thinking of my dealings with Jeanne and
our walk home from the restaurant of Mère Félix.

Alida held out her hand quickly.

"Does she make you feel that too?--I am glad," she said, and smiled
gratefully like a child consoled.

Then came Rhoda Polly's mother, and my father, who had been talking to
Rhoda Polly by the sundial, rose and with a word and smile excused
himself and went indoors. The interview that followed I should have
loved well to watch and hear. But after all I doubt if any great part of
the gentle influences which rained from Mrs. Deventer could have been
written down. No stenographer could take note of those captivating
intonations, the soft subtle pauses of speech, the lingering tender
understanding in her motherly eyes, the way she had of laying her hand
upon Alida's.

She had been a counsellor to many, and had never forgotten a sore heart
even when healed, nor told a tale out of that gracious confessional.

Certain it is that the conquest of Alida was soon made, in so far as
Mrs. Deventer could make it. They saw each other every day, and the
sight of Rhoda Polly and Alida striking across the big bridge with the
wind right in their faces--or of Alida, with Linn, like a gaunt
watch-dog, thrusting a combative shoulder into the mistral to fend a way
for her charge--became familiar on the windy sidewalks of the great
suspension bridge.

All went as we could have wished it, till one day I took the Bey across
to go over the works. Dennis Deventer was to afford enough time to
conduct us in person. It was no small honour, for visitors were
generally either refused altogether, or handed over to Jack Jaikes with
instructions that they should see as little as possible.

I was wholly at ease about the meeting of the Bey and Dennis Deventer.
Two such fighters, I thought, could not but be delighted with one
another.

I was only partly right. They met with mutual respect. Dennis had been
in Algeria at a more recent date than the Bey, and could give news of
deaths of chiefs, of successions disputed and consequently bloody, and
of all the tangled politics of the South Oran.

But once in the hum and turmoil of the works, the power-straps running
overhead like lightning flashes, the spinning lathes, the small busy
mechanisms installed on tables and set going by tiny levers, the Bey's
attention wandered. Instead of attending to the wonderful fittings and
the constant jingle of the finished parts, he seemed to search out each
man's face, in a manner to compel their attention. Usually when a
visitor goes round with the "chief," the men make it a point of honour
to turn away their eyes almost disdainfully. But it was different with
the personally conducted trip of Keller Bey. At him the men gazed with
sudden evident respect, and we were not half-way through the first room
before the whisper of our coming ran far ahead of us through the
workshops.

I could see nothing about Keller Bey to explain this sudden interest. He
did not make masonic signs with his hands. He hardly spoke a word. He
never looked at the men who were devouring him with their eyes. All I
could see was that he wore the red tie habitual to him, clasped by a
little pin made of two crossed standards drooped upon their _hampes_,
one red with rubies and the other formed of black diamonds. It was the
only jewellery Keller Bey ever wore and naturally, since I had never
seen him without it, it seemed a part of him like his collar-stud or his
sleeve-links.

Dennis Deventer, who never missed anything in the works, noted the men's
behaviour, but continued his exposition of the secret of preventing the
jamming of the mitrailleuses.

"I am a little late with my invention," he said, "I shall have to wait
for the next war to make my demonstration complete."

"You may not have to wait so long as you think!" said the Bey quietly.
"Had you not a little private war of your own a month ago?"

The time was so ill chosen as to make Keller's reference almost a
disaster. There were men within earshot who had driven the troops of the
Republic out of Aramon, perhaps even some who had assaulted the house of
the Chief Director.

"We had some little trouble like other folks," said Dennis Deventer
lightly, "but we have forgotten all about that!"

"Ah!" said the Bey reflectively, as they passed on. In the big gun
foundry a huge Hercules of a fellow, naked to the waist, thrust his way
through the little crowd about us, seized Keller Bey by the hand,
murmured something to us unintelligible. The Bey took no notice beyond
nodding briefly to the man. Then turning to Deventer he continued
unconcernedly, "About that feeding gear, you were saying----?"

But Dennis Deventer looked at Keller Bey curiously.

"Did you know that man?" he asked earnestly.

"No, I never set eyes on him before," said the Bey carelessly as before;
"is there anything against him?"

"Not exactly," replied Deventer, "but he is one of the most dangerous
men in the works--almost as strong in body as I am myself, and much
listened to by the men. I wish I could say he leads them wisely."

Keller Bey shook his head gravely, but except repeating that he knew
nothing whatever about the foundryman, he uttered no word of excuse or
commendation. However, Dennis Deventer was in no mind to let him off so
easily.

"You are having such a success among the men as I never saw the like of,
and would not have believed if I had not seen with my own eyes. Have you
been to St. Etienne or Creusot? Many of our fellows come from there. It
is possible that they may recognise you."

"I have never been in either place in my life," said Keller Bey simply,
and so cut off discussion.

But I could see that a doubt remained and brooded upon the spirit of
Dennis Deventer. He brought the visit abruptly and rather
disappointingly to a close, by saying that there was a man waiting for
him in his office. But as men were always waiting to see Dennis Deventer
at any hour of the day, his taking himself off must have been an excuse.
I felt vaguely to blame. Indeed, I was wholly at sea, the more so when
just outside the great gates of the Small Arms Company's yards Keller
was met by half a dozen workmen of a superior sort, who saluted him
respectfully and asked for a private interview.

I said I should go and wait for him at the bridge-end, and he kept me
waiting for an hour and a half, which I would much rather have spent
with Rhoda Polly. Keller Bey was altogether too much of a responsibility
in Aramon-les-Ateliers. If he had further visits to pay on this side, he
could find his way himself, so far as I was concerned. I would not waste
a whole morning only to get myself suspected by Rhoda Polly's father.

I sat down on the parapet and watched the drowsy _douaniers_ at the
receipt of custom, or the still drowsier fishermen dropping baited lines
into a seven-knot current, which banked itself up and then swirled high
between the piers.

And lazying thus in the sunshine, I cast my mind over many things, but
particularly I thought of Hugh. Had I indeed lost Hugh Deventer? Why was
he no longer my faithful confidant and comrade as of old? Had we gone
together to the wars, slept under one blanket, only to bring about this
separation? Even to-day I had not seen him. Had he of set purpose hid
himself away?

Certainly he was no more the dreamily affectionate companion, a little
slow in comprehension but rapid and accurate in execution, upon whose
thews and muscles I had been wont to depend. Hugh Deventer was lost to
me. More than that, he could hardly any more be said to belong to the
family circle at Château Schneider. He had furnished a room for himself
down at the works, where he read and slept. His meals were cooked by the
wife of the chief night-watchman and at home no one was surprised. For
the Deventers were, even before coming of age, in fact as soon as they
had left school, a law to themselves. And I think that Dennis was
secretly pleased at his boy's setting up for himself.

But I knew that Hugh was not driven by any noble desire for
independence. Sitting there in the warm sun which beat upon the bridge
parapet, I set aside one possible cause for our estrangement after
another.

It was not on account of Jeanne or Rhoda Polly. No jealousy possessed
Hugh Deventer because I sat at his father's table far oftener than he
did. One reason only could explain all the circumstances. He had been at
Autun and had supposed that Alida's idea of coming to the Garden Cottage
had originated with me. Evidently he had resented this, and since our
return he had kept himself, in all save the most formal fashion, apart
from all the rejoicing over the new tenants.

Obviously he must consider himself in love with Alida, which was, of
course, wholly natural and within his right. But why vent his humour
upon me? I could not make Alida return his love, and certainly sulking
in the holes and corners of a factory would do nothing to soften the
heart of that imperious little lady. He had indeed become little more
than a memory to Alida.

"I don't think Hugh likes me," she said, more than once. "He never comes
to see me--not even to tell me how selfish I am!"



CHAPTER XXIV

PEACE BEFORE STORM


The 18th of March dawned clear and bright, the wind still a little
chill, but the whole land, as we looked down upon it from our Gobelet
watch-tower on the front of St. Andre's hill, tinted white and pink with
blossom, almond, peach, pear, plum, and cherry. It was wonderful to see
them running up, as it were scrambling over fence and rock scarp, till
they broke in a sunshiny spray of hawthorn blossom against the grey
walls of the _lycée_ of St. André.

Never was there a quieter day nor one that seemed filled with more happy
promise. For the first time Linn and Alida had resumed their old
understanding. For there is no doubt that Linn had been somewhat jealous
of the absorbing commerce between the house of Deventer and the cottage
in the laurel bushes beyond the garden of Gobelet.

Keller had gone to Aramon, Linn said. He might be away all night, for he
had it in his mind to push as far as Marseilles. I knew of the Bey's
absences from Autun, and so thought no more of the matter. Linn, put in
good humour by having Alida to herself (for me she did not count),
talked freely of the beauties of their installation. The Basse Cour and
the poultry especially delighted her, and she had already prepared a
ruled book which was to show in parallel columns the cost of feeding as
compared with the result in chickens and eggs.

All that day no one crossed over the bridge from Château Schneider and
the time was blessed for Linn. She knew very well that it was for just
such companionship that Alida had come to Aramon. She had herself
supported the necessity for change, even against her husband. But all
the same, now when she got her Princess a day to herself she made the
most of it, falling back into her old caressing habits and ready to
treat Alida as the little girl who long ago had been put in her hands
with all a queen's habits of command and the sweet waywardness of a
child.

I helped when I could and fetched huge stuffed buffets and cushions, so
that Alida could install herself beside my father at the fishpond, and
then I left him to make his usual conquest. He was smiling and tranquil
as I remember, but with an unwonted eagerness in his eye, which did not
by any means come from the anticipation of a morning with Alida. I
remembered afterwards that he had had an interview the night before with
Keller Bey in which they had talked much Arabic, and early this morning
he had dispatched Saunders McKie over the water with a letter to Dennis
Deventer. But these things did not fall into place in my mind, at least
not till long afterwards.

We had a happy day among the sunflecked glades of Gobelet--that is,
Alida, my father and I. When they two were alone, they talked Arabic,
but ceased as soon as I joined them.

Conscious of the awkwardness Alida renewed her offer to teach me
colloquially if my father would put me in the way of learning the
grammar, while I regretted bitterly having wasted my time at St. André.
Finally to change the subject we fell to talking over the Montmorencies
and their _Tour Carrée_ on the heights of Aramon le Vieux. Here at hand,
where the Tessiers slept at the far side of Dennis Deventer's flying
bridge of steel, was their gateway tower, still pitted by the balls of
Mazarin's troops. For a Montmorency of those days, probably held in
leash by his wife, had taken the popular side in the wars of the Fronde.

Down there on that islet in the reign of Louis XII (said my father) a
great tournament was held in which the knights of France, light and
lissom, overwhelmed the weightier champions of Burgundy.

If we had been more watchful as we talked, we might have seen the smoke
die out of the tall chimneys of Aramon-les-Ateliers, the blast furnaces
withdraw their crowns of pale flame, and an unnatural quiet settle down
upon the busy city.

But our minds were bent wholly on giving pleasure to Alida. She must be
taken through this glade, climb this steep path, and see the marvellous
spectacle of the Rhône delta with its wide wastes wandered over by
fierce cattle, its sinuous waterways blocked by the only beavers
remaining in Europe, and far away beyond it the violet-blue bar of the
Midland Sea.

We did indeed conduct Alida from admiration to admiration, and she had
what I fear Rhoda Polly would have called "the time of her life." It did
strike me several times how strange it was that since my father had sent
his morning message to Dennis Deventer, we had had no news of the
household at Château Schneider.

I sounded Saunders on the subject, but he knew nothing, or at least
would tell nothing.

"The letter? Oh, Maister Dennis just read it and put it in his waistcoat
pooch. Syne, says he, 'Saunders, will ye drink?' 'No,' says I; for if I
did, when I gaed hame I micht smell! So he gied me yin o' thae French
sovereigns as easy as puttin' a penny in the plate. Oh, a grand man is
Maister Deventer when ye get the richt side o' him, but as they tell me
the very deevil and a' when his monkey is up. Do you ken, Maister
Aängus, he was just trying me on, by asking me to drink? For if I had
ta'en as muckle as a sup frae his hand, I micht hae whistled for the wee
French sovereign--whilk is only barely worth saxteen shillings when a'
is said and done!"

Nevertheless in the full bliss of ignorance we idled away the day while
about us the flowers grew as we looked at them, so keen an edge was on
that spring day. Linn ranged her napery cupboards to her most perfect
content, not that she could do it better than Mrs. Deventer had done,
but simply for the satisfaction of, as it were, expressing her mind and
doing it differently.

The shadows passed steadily across the sundial. The underneath
inscription became more strongly incised as the sun dipped westward. The
rock plants on the little island in the pond fell into shadow and some
closed up their petals for the night. And still in the midst of a great
silence we moved and smiled and were happy. Aramon le Vieux drowsed
beneath us. The good wives at their doors were out gossiping their
hardest, but in undertones which must not pass from one group to
another. Cats sunned themselves in window sills beyond the reach of the
prowling cur, and the majestic river, so soon to be split and worried
into a hundred waterways, _étangs_ and backwaters, passed noiselessly in
front of us in one noble rush, level, calm, and swift.

I think it was about three o'clock in the afternoon when Professor
Renard, coming from the post office, where the telegraph had been
recently installed, brought tidings.

"There is a revolt in Paris," he said, "the soldiers and the National
Guard have expelled the Government. That is the news they have received,
but no one knows whether it is false or true."

Nor in the midst of our quiet park with the fruit trees in blossom
everywhere could we have any guess at the turmoil, the riding of
orderlies, and the hasty ordering of official carriages in Paris.

Indeed, the talk passed to other matter and on the surface, and the
tidings seemed to affect us little. So having left Linn still busy with
her linen, Alida and I took our way to the look-out summer-house above
the aerial swing of the suspension bridge, leaving the elders talking
very soberly together.

"Surely there is no danger here?" the girl asked when we had seated
ourselves. She spoke not from any fear but that she might contrive means
of helping her friends the Deventers if they needed it.

"Not that I know of," I answered, "but the workmen of Aramon are always
fiery and hard to handle. We _have_ had battles and sieges, yet things
were smoothed over and the works went on as before--the men who had been
busily shooting each other down talking over details of work and taking
orders from one another as if nothing had happened."

"How long ago was that?"

"Only about two months," I explained, "but you need expect nothing of
that kind on this side. The workmen never cross the bridge save when on
pleasure bent, or when our July fair-time fills the green yonder with
the din of booths, circuses, and penny theatres."

Nevertheless, Alida's face continued to express trouble.

"But Rhoda Polly, her mother, and the others--are they in danger?"

"Not, I think, for the moment. The more serious the news from Paris, the
less will the men think of their grievances against the Company and the
Company's manager. Last time the siege was bitter and determined on both
sides. Many were killed. Yet it was no more than a trade dispute which
Mr. Deventer could have settled in half an hour if the men had brought
their grievances directly to him, instead of trying to wreck the works
for the safety of which he is responsible."

"We must go and see for ourselves," said Alida imperiously. "If there is
danger for my friends, I must be there to share it."

"You must not do anything of the kind," I cried, "you do not understand
the fierce blindness which comes upon men at such times. I shall go, if
necessary, and you shall stay with my father and Linn in the refuge
which those who love you have chosen for you."

"Then if I let you go, you will come back and tell me all--remember, do
not put me off with lies such as they tell to ordinary women."

I promised, and as we stood looking across the glistening waters I saw
for the second time in my life the tricolour flutter down from its
staff, and after a pause the shining "Tatter of Scarlet" of the red
revolution blow out on the valley wind.



CHAPTER XXV

THE PROCLAMATION


The street lamps had not been lighted when I landed on the left bank of
the river, well above any outposts of the new revolt. I pulled my skiff
safely under shelter of some bushes. The spot I had chosen was one well
known to me, and exceedingly safe. My father often sent me over to bring
plants and seeds from Arcadius, the gardener at Les Linottes, whose
extensive grounds ran right down to the river's edge. A soft, rather
hulking, good-natured man was Arcadius, who went through the world
apparently breathing to the full ease of life. His body somewhat
resembled a large slug supported on two smaller slugs, which were his
legs. He worked in his garden, his pipe continually between his lips. At
a first glance the slowness of his movements seemed laughable and
ridiculous. But leave him half an hour and then see what he had
accomplished. There was no man in Aramon who could get through so much
work as Arcadius the Slug. By a kind of instinct he saw exactly where
every stroke ought to fall, how much or how little was to be done, and
the completed task ran out behind him like the wake from a well-rowed
boat.

It was in a little bay behind a promontory filled with the Slug's
sapling pines that I landed. I knew the place well, I knew also that
Arcadius would almost certainly be in his potting house, putting things
to rights after the labours of the day (the middle of March is high
season for every gardener in the Midi). There indeed I found him
surrounded with repaired hoes and rakes, and at that moment putting a
new handle into the small gardener's _bêche_ (or mattock) which was
hardly ever out of his hands while in the open air.

Arcadius was not a man of politics.

"I have never known politics to improve the weather or keep off frosts!"
he said. "I have yet to learn what good they do to a working gardener!"

I asked about the works and the town.

"Oh," he said, "my 'prentice lads stayed with me till six o'clock
because I had put the fear of death on them if they tried to run. Yet I
could see that they were itching to be off, and as soon as six struck
from the Mairie, they dropped their tools and were over the wall. Only
my Italians stayed and went soberly to bed. More I do not know. But,
though there has been much noise of cheering in the square, there has
been no shooting."

I told Arcadius of the skiff fastened up behind his sapling copse. He
nodded easily and looked out of doors to examine the weather signs.

"It is not likely to rain, but it will hurt nothing to turn her upside
down and stay her with a rope and a pair of stones. She will be ready
when you want her. If you are bound on going into Aramon to-night, you
may want her with great suddenness."

I left him at the upper gate of his garden opposite to the waste ground
where the harmless bull fights of Provence took place.

"Now," he said, "there is a key for you. Put it in your pocket. Cross
that bull yard and go through the passage, at the end of which you will
come upon a door. When you open it you will find yourself in the narrow
street by the new Lay Schools of the town."

Then my kindly Slug took himself off without waiting for thanks, shaking
all over like a jelly, and his lantern making a trickle of clear yellow
light on the pathway in front of him. His wife was calling him in to
supper, "Arcad-arcad-ar-cad-i-oos!"

I crossed the road hastily. All was empty and desolate, and in a moment
more I was fronted by the barricade over which every Sunday the
"amateurs" of this innocent bull-baiting leaped back to safety and the
applause of their friends.

Almost I had lost my way among piled benches, when a faint light showed
through a much barred door. I passed through the money-taker's box with
double doors and found myself facing the dark tunnel of which Arcadius
had spoken. It looked dismal and uninviting enough, but at least there
was no reason to suppose that any revolutionaries would be skulking
there. Even if there were, what had I, an old Garibaldian, to fear? The
passage had evidently been used for bringing the bull into the arena,
and I was glad enough when the massive double portal stopped me, even
though it was the bump on my forehead which first acquainted me with its
position.

I felt for the keyhole and found that it took all my strength to turn
the wards of the ancient lock which in that damp place creaked dismally.
The half of the heavy door swung back ponderously. The street without
seemed dim and forlorn in front of me, glimmering with a kind of bluish
light. I was glad that I had not to step at once into the bright
illumination of the Cours or the more restrained golden glow which
distinguished the Place de la Mairie. I made what slight toilet I could,
carefully wiping my muddy boots on the door-mat of a perfect stranger to
whom in days to come I make belated acknowledgments.

I peered out and it was well I did so, for not ten yards from the end of
the passage a sentry was posted in the dress of the National Guard of
Aramon, blue breeches, blue coat liberally faced with red, and a red
_képi_. I could see the light from an unseen lamp shining on the flat of
his sword-bayonet, no doubt fresh from the storehouse of Dennis
Deventer.

For since the ignominious retreat of the military two months ago, the
Government had insisted that a National Guard on the Paris model should
be established in Aramon and, for that matter, in all the larger towns
of the Midi. Dennis Deventer warned the prefect of the department of
Rhône-et-Durance that they were laying up trouble for themselves. He
told them that if they armed the workmen of the Arms Factories on the
slightest outbreak in Paris, all power in Aramon-les-Ateliers would pass
instantly into their hands. The like would also happen in every town of
the Midi.

"You of the South are afraid when a mouse squeaks," the Secretary of the
Interior had replied (for Dennis and he were closeted together). "We
accounted for the Reds easily enough in October and again in January.
They have lost both in power and numbers since then. If anything grave
does happen, we can always take Cavaignac's way--isolate suburb from
suburb and--shoot!"

"Very well," said Dennis, "if you are sure of your regular army that may
do for Paris--but at Aramon, at Marseilles, our suburbs are our rich
quarters. The men of the revolt live in the city, and to put arms into
their hands is to centralise all power there."

But the watchword of the Government for the moment was "trust of the
people," and it was not till its generals were being shot down under the
bloody apple blossom of the Rue des Rosiers, its army fraternising with
the revolutionaries, and the chiefs of the Government clattering with
foaming steeds and strained harness on the way to Versailles, that they
became aware that Dennis Deventer had been right.

At any rate, there was I, who had not been consulted in the affair,
almost within arms' length of a National Guard, my refuge in the doorway
liable to be intruded upon at any moment, and all exit blocked. I began
to ask myself what I was doing there.

Yet I had no idea of going back. I must know what had happened at
Château Schneider. I must see Rhoda Polly. There was no sound except a
confused murmur like wind overhead in high trees. No shots were fired,
and except the erect sentinel in his blue coat, his red _kêpi_ tipped
rakishly over one ear, and his shining rifle and sword-bayonet, I heard
no sound of civil strife.

I watched him carefully. He was new to his work and fidgeted constantly,
now coming a little down the street and then going a little way up, but
never a moment losing sight of my alley arch, which seemed to attract
him like a sort of black hole into the unknown.

Twice or thrice he fumbled in his pockets, and once he drew out a short
pipe which he eyed with longing. But apparently he had had his orders,
for he put it back again, changed his piece from one shoulder to
another, and resumed his uneasy guard.

I think that it must have been a good hour that I stood there watching
the shining of that fellow's broad bayonet. So we might have stood
indefinitely had not the pipe in my gentleman's pocket proved in time
too much for him. He looked this way and that, ducked suddenly under my
archway, bayonet and all, and then proceeded to strike a match. I can
affirm in excuse for what followed that I had no time to form plans. The
most natural defence was that which most concerned me. My opponent was
armed and strong, I only agile, young, and unarmed. So while the vile
governmental match still stank and hissed with its blue flame, I leaped
upon him like a cat.

He screamed, dropped his pipe, and made immediately for the street. If
he reached it I was a dead man. So I throttled him, pulling back his
head till I feared his neck might crack. He fell, and in a twinkling I
had tossed aside his gun and revolver, strapped his hands with my
waistbelt and thrust a handkerchief into his mouth, fastening it in with
another which I found in his own pocket.

Then I dragged him backwards towards the door and after some difficulty
opened it. I lifted him as well as I could upon my shoulders so that
only his feet trailed. But he must have received some stunning blow
about the head, for he never moved, though it was with relief that I
felt him breathing when I laid him down. I extended him comfortably on a
fodder crib in the bull enclosure, for which luckily my key was also
good.

Then I hastily reckoned the chances such as they were. It was clear I
could not go about the streets of Aramon as I was, with armed sentinels
at every corner. The man's red _képi_ gave me an idea. It had fallen
off. I picked it up, cleaned it, and was about to replace it, when I
suddenly snatched it away again. I lifted the man up and took off his
cloak and blue uniform coat. I would be a National Guard for the night,
and I felt sure that with my experience of soldiering I could look the
part. I bestowed my coat upon him, and gazed with longing at his blue
breeches, but gave up that exchange as too long and perilous an
undertaking. Dark brown must serve in place of the regulation blue
pattern on the principle that at night all cats are grey. But I put on
the coat which was considerably too big. I carefully cleaned the skirts
of the cloak, and then added to my array the red _képi_.

The door once locked upon my prisoner, I left him to come to himself at
his own time and as he would. On my way out I gathered up the arms that
were missing. Already I had provided myself with his cartridge belt, his
haversack and all accessories. The revolver was safe in its case near
the door-mat and the rifle and sword-bayonet were soon polished on one
of the tails of the coat. I kept the cloak open a little so that the
broad red facings might show.

With a beating heart I peeped out. The street was empty, and it struck
me forcibly that the sooner I got away from there the better.

The military organisation of the Revolt might be more complete than I
supposed. They might send out Grand Rounds to visit their sentinels, or
the guard might be changed---both of which events would be exceedingly
awkward for me, especially as I was wholly without knowledge of the
password.

Not more than an instant did I hesitate on the threshold. Then with (I
admit) my heart in my mouth, I stepped out and marched directly for the
end of the alley.

The broad Place de la République (as it had been named for six months,
vice "Imperial" superseded) was filled with a dim but pervading
illumination. The resinous smell of many torches filled the air, and as
I turned towards the Hôtel de Ville I saw the reason. On the broad
platform over the doorway, many men were standing bareheaded, and a
little in advance of the others one was holding a document in his hand.

Flags that certainly were not tricolour drooped on either hand of this
balcony and cascaded down the front of the building, hiding the
first-floor windows and reaching the ground.

I saw many National Guards hurrying from their places, some singly, some
in little groups of three and four. I let myself be carried along till I
reached the press in front of the ceremony. Discreetly I did not try to
penetrate, but kept well on the outskirts, as far from the hundred
torches as possible. Mine was not a popular position, for the reek of
the tar set people coughing, and most were not slow to move away. But I
stood as if on faction, and as such was saluted and passed by a hurrying
officer, who, barely saluting, barked at me the single word "Marx,"
shooting it in my direction like a missile. I saluted in return and he
went his way, leaving me in possession of the password for the night. It
was no immediate service, for all there were too intent on the ceremony
in front of the town hall to look at one National Guard more or less.

When I had accustomed my eyes to the acrid sting of the smoke, I moved
nearer in order to hear better, and then for the first time I became
aware that the man who was proclaiming the Commune in Aramon was--Keller
Bey himself!

The accents of the voice, falling clamorously on my ear, had indeed
sounded familiar, but I had rather thought of Père Félix, Pipe-en-Bois,
Soult or any other valiants of the former revolutions. What was Keller
doing here?

Suppositions crowded dizzily about me. Of course, there had always been
an unknown side to Keller Bey, and his hatred of the priests and the
bourgeoisie had been things to reckon with.

"Who is the speaker?" I asked of a man beside me, still in the blouse of
his daily work, his eyes red with tending furnaces and his hands grimy
with coal. He cast one look of contempt on me.

"Where have you come from," he demanded, "that you do not know Keller
Chief of the Secret Council of the Internationale?"

"I have been fighting along with Garibaldi," I answered truthfully
enough, "I have not been long in the National Guard."

Which in its way was still truer.

"Ah," he answered carelessly, "the Italian! I have heard of him. What
sort of a fellow was he?"

I explained enthusiastically, but as usual quite in vain.

"Well," said the man, cursing the smoke and beginning to move off, "he
might as well have stopped at home for all the good he did. That's my
way of it!"

And I will not conceal from the reader that this summed up pretty fairly
the bulk of French opinion upon the great leader.

As may well be imagined I stood far back, shrouded in shadow and smoke
till Keller Bey had finished his speech. He told how in Paris the revolt
of the proletariat had been completely successful, how the army had gone
over to the cause of the people, how the bourgeois Government had fled
to Versailles with hardly one to do them honour--how in all the great
cities of France the new Commune was being declared and established. At
Marseilles Gambetta's young Procureur-Général, the citizen Gaston
Cremieux, headed the movement. He read a dispatch that moment received,
urging Aramon to send a thousand men to help their brothers in
Marseilles, threatened with troops from overseas and exposed to daily
attacks from the still untaken forts.

"We shall be glad to aid our brothers in Marseilles if we are let alone
here. We desire no fighting. The troops of the tricolour are not within
our gates, and though there are some left who think differently from us,
we can, I believe, live on excellent terms with them, until our
Government is solidified and the Company of Arms is ready to nationalise
its works. Till that day we must deal prudently, rule well, allow no
attempts on private property, and behave as if we were all in reality as
well as in name comrades and brothers."

So far as I could judge, I think Keller Bey carried the audience with
him. I did not hear a murmur of dissent. Only, on the other hand, the
plaudits could not be called long-continued or well-nourished. The
workers of Aramon-les-Ateliers cherished a secret doubt--a doubt which
they wished set at rest.

"What of Dennis?" they cried. "Dennis Deventer? Are the works to be
closed? Where is the week's wage to come from?"

Keller Bey rose again, brushing aside the Père Félix.

"To-morrow," he said "you shall elect your Commune--twenty citizens of
weight and mark to take the place of the present provisional government
which has declared Aramon a city of liberty. Choose you good strong men
who can deal with the Company and the Company's agent. Have no fear. Our
cause is just. Marseilles and the great cities are with us. And
to-morrow, doubt it not, France shall be with us also. We have
inaugurated the reign of international peace. Let us begin by keeping
the peace within our own borders. If we are to govern at all, we must
show an example of good government, so that every city, town, and hamlet
shall desire to throw in its lot with us. There is to be no wrecking of
machinery, which we know must one day belong to the workers. We shall
make friends with the foremen of departments, and when we come to
restarting the works on the Communist plan we shall pay every man his
wage according to his deserts--aye, and to Dennis Deventer his, for a
head we must have. A business without a head is like an army without a
general."

At this moment I was suddenly gripped solidly from behind, my weapons
snatched away from me, and with the butt of the rifle such a blow was
delivered on the back of my head that the marvel is I am here writing of
it to-day. My gentleman of the bull enclosure had been cleverer than I
had anticipated. Most likely he had been shamming dead, and now, having
loosened himself, he had leaped the fence, made a detour of the
boulevard and appeared from behind me at the moment when I was expecting
him as little as he had looked for me in the archway.

That gun-butt was enough for me. I sank swooning on the ground under the
low smoke drift from the dim torches and with the words of Keller Bey as
to universal peace and concord still in my ears.



CHAPTER XXVI

KELLER BEY, INSURGENT


Among the panelled mirrors and gilt splendours of the Hôtel de Ville of
Aramon I opened my eyes. A doctor had been attending me. My head was
tightly bandaged and my left hand was also bound up. From many aches and
pains I judged that in my quality of detected spy I had been somewhat
severely dealt with, by the crowd, or perhaps my own man had remembered
the taste of the gag and had perpetrated some little personal atrocities
on his own account, before delivering me up to justice, in order to
square the account.

The doctor was talking to Keller Bey. It was broad day, and abundant
light, filtering through the plane trees, flooded the great room. It was
usually the Salle des Mariages, but for the time being it had been
converted into a lounging place for the people of Aramon. I had in fact
awakened on election day, and in the new Commune my vote was as good as
that of any other man. At one end was a space boarded off in the regular
way, into which one elector after another passed with his voting ticket,
and having deposited it under the eyes of the four watchful questors,
walked immediately out by the opposite door.

Presently Keller Bey passed into an inner room, which, from the gilding
upon the door and the allegorical figures above holding swords of
justice and ill-adjusted balances, I took to be a court room. It was in
fact the mayoral parlour, and the comfortable office coat and even the
dressing-gown of the late occupant still hung on the pegs behind the
door.

Keller Bey gave an order and I was immediately brought in and laid upon
a wide and springy sofa which furnished one whole side of the apartment.
I noticed the device of the crossed red and black flags had been removed
from his tie, and was now worn upon the lapel of his coat like a
decoration.

As soon as the room was clear he came over and sat down beside me. At
sight of me his grim face softened almost as it was wont to do when Linn
or Alida spoke to him.

"All this may seem very strange to you," he said, with a faint feeling
of apology in his voice, "you who have only seen me going about the
house like a tame cat. But since I was raised to high place and
consideration in the Internationale, the old fighting spirit rose within
me. I could not deny the appeal of my brothers to stand by them, and so
you find me here, at the head of the Commune of Aramon--at least till
the will of the voters is ascertained. The men who are with me are
honest fellows, but, so far as I see, quite incapable of leadership. I
do not believe that the vote will strip me of any authority or
responsibility."

I thought that he was talking straight on without stopping in order to
escape the question which he must have seen on my lips.

"And your duty to Linn and Alida?" I demanded abruptly. I could see him
flush and pale.

"Personal and private interests must give way at such times," he
answered firmly enough, but his tones did not carry conviction, not
even, I think, to himself.

"Besides," he added, after a pause, "Linn knew that it would have to
come. I dare not refuse a call of duty because of the danger."

"It is lucky for Linn and Alida," I said with the studied cruelty only
attained by boys, "that they have friends who put them before all public
duties."

"Sir," said Keller Bey, his cheek blanching to a kind of cadaveric
rigidity, so great was the intensity of his anger, "I do not allow
anyone to call my actions into question."

"Call in your soldiers, Monsieur of the Internationale," I said
tauntingly, "you can soon get even with me. There are many walls between
here and the cottage in my father's garden. My shooting will not have
the _éclat_ of the assassination of the Paris generals, but it will come
as blithe news for the three left wondering in the garden of Gobelet."

I spoke like a bad, spiteful boy, conscious of a power to wound to the
quick and thoroughly enjoying my triumph.

Keller Bey did not answer directly to my railings. He felt instinctively
that he could not meet me along these lines.

"How did you come here?" he demanded abruptly, "and why in the coat of a
Garde Nationale?"

"Because," I said, looking at him with my bandaged head lifted on my
hand, "_I_ do not forget old kindnesses. Nor yet new ones--though _my_
house had not been set in order and largely furnished by the kindness of
the Deventers. I crossed the river in a boat and was going to find
them--to help them if I could, if necessary to fight and die with them,
if your people should besiege them as they have done before."

Keller Bey threw out his arms suddenly with the gesture of a tortured
man who seeks something to grip in his agony.

"I had not thought youth so cruel," he moaned. "Do you not understand
that I am here to prevent all that? I stand between the hotheads and
Dennis Deventer. His wife and family are as safe here as mine in your
father's garden, of which you are so good as repeatedly to remind me!"

I am afraid that my expression expressed unbelief.

"You must pardon me," I said suavely and still provocatively, "but I
have been among the chimneys of the Château Schneider when the
mitrailleuses were talking. You intend to rule justly and love mercy,
but what of the men about you? I have seen them streaming across the
open court wrecking and destroying."

"Exactly," said Keller Bey, with suddenly recovered dignity, "but then I
was not at the direction of affairs. If any man now disobeys he shall be
made to feel the vengeance of the Internationale! We shall sow fear
among them as corn is sown on a windy day."

At this moment Keller was summoned outside, and I could hear his voice
dominating and allaying a quarrel between functionaries, as I lay back
listening and determined to find out what he intended to do with myself
as soon as he came back. But one thing and another was referred to him
for judgment, and it was the better part of an hour before he came in
holding a sheaf of telegrams in his hand. A secretary accompanied him,
and I had perforce to put off my demand.

Keller Bey had evidently regained some of the old military readiness
which had made him the favourite lieutenant of the great Emir. He
dictated telegrams and dispatches to Paris, to St. Etienne, to Narbonne,
and especially a long communication to Gaston Cremieux at Marseilles.

There were (he said) certainly men at Aramon and to spare, but for the
moment each Commune in revolt must depend upon itself. When the
provisional Government of Aramon, of which he was the head, had handed
over its powers to a properly elected Commune, then would be the time to
speak of sending reinforcements to a greater neighbour. It was true that
there were no troops belonging to the expelled Government of Versailles
in the city of Aramon itself, but to the north the ancient, highly
clerical Avignon offered an excellent centre for collecting an army
corps. The Government of the Assembly, exiled to Versailles, had its
hands tied by the marvellous success of the Paris revolt. But save that
the Commune of Paris was sending a pair of delegates to arrange terms of
association, no help need be looked for from that quarter.

At last Keller Bey made an end and dismissed the secretary. Then he sat
a while with his head upon his hands in deep thought.

I interrupted his meditation with my question.

"And now, Keller Bey, what do you mean to do with me?"

He did not reply instantly, but continued his meditations in silence. I
was compelled to put the question three times, and the third time with
some heat, before he raised his head to answer.

"In the meantime I shall keep you by me as a hostage. The voting is not
yet over, and, though I do not anticipate any violent change, there is
always a possibility that the fiery spirits may urge violent measures.
In that case I shall use you for a messenger to our friends at Château
Schneider. In any case, you have come to me and here you had better
stay. It may be necessary also to communicate with my family and in that
matter I could trust only you."

This was a great disappointment to me, who had thought that an hour
would see me inside the walls of the Château Schneider, talking with
Mrs. Deventer or sneaking off into the conservatory or out upon the roof
with Rhoda Polly for one of our long talks about everything in heaven
above and on the earth beneath.

But it was very evident that Keller Bey had made up his mind, and, at
any rate, I had galled him too bitterly in the beginning of our
conversation to admit of my finishing it by asking a favour. I only
shrugged my shoulders and said mockingly:

"Perhaps you would like me to lead your thousand men to Marseilles as
well?"

"Indeed," he replied unexpectedly, "I am not sure but that it is an
excellent idea--you are a friend of Gaston Cremieux. I could send you as
civil delegate without awakening any jealousy among the chiefs of
battalion. It is a suggestion which will bear thinking over--certainly
not to be lost sight of."

       *     *     *     *     *

I had many and excellent opportunities of watching Keller Bey in his new
character of insurrectional leader during the days which followed. As
every one anticipated, his name led the list of the new Commune by many
thousands majority. The others came meekly behind, even the Père Félix
only emerging from the crowd by a head.

What specially gratified Keller Bey was that no member of the noisy gang
of wreckers had been chosen.

"What did I tell you?" he cried, patting me on the shoulder; "our
Government is to be a model of firmness and sobriety."

And so it was, as far as Keller Bey could make it. But there remained
dangerous elements of which he was ignorant, but which were very clear
to Dennis Deventer, who had seen the leaven of evil at work for many
years.

On the morrow began the organisation of the services of the new
Government. It was a strange installation, and I sat there like a
spectator in a good seat at a theatre and watched the play. None of
those who were on the stage seemed to have any idea of the
ridiculousness of the performance. Only I, outside all wire-pulling, saw
the truth. The rest were hypnotised by the wonderful thing which had
happened--a Commune at Aramon!

Hour by hour I saw Aramon being cut off from the world. At the first
news of the election of a Commune the officials of the post office had
disappeared. Piles of letters accumulated on the desks and before the
ranged pigeon-holes. Sacks arrived by train so long as these were
running, and were heaped in corners. The telegraphic machines were set
down where the operators had abandoned them. I amused myself by calling
up the different towns in our neighbourhood, but received answers only
from Marseilles and Narbonne. The rest had nothing to say to a revolted
city like ours. By and by Narbonne was abruptly cut off, probably at
Cette or some intervening town favourable to the Government of
Versailles.

Half of Keller Bey's time was taken up with such matters as the choice
of a new post office staff. Where they came from I cannot imagine, these
seekers after office. And their credentials! One highly recommended
claimant for the office of receiver of contributions had been expelled
by the brutal tyranny of Napoleon from a Tobacco Bureau. He had
thereafter languished in prison, not, as he gave Keller to understand,
as a political victim, but as a good, solid embezzler of Government
money. Yet he was supported by a Commandant of the National Guards, a
relative of his own, and but for my chance recognition of him, would
doubtless have been appointed.

The post office staff was soon complete--director, assistants,
money-order clerks, telegraph clerks, and messengers--postmen for the
district town deliveries, postmen for the rural rounds--but after the
first solemn sorting of the _débris_ left behind by the old staff, not
so much as a letter or a newspaper, to pass from hand to hand, even as a
curiosity!

The civil services, the mayoral staff, the judges of the tribunal,
judges of the commercial court, Procureur of the Republic and so forth
gave a little more trouble. Père Félix was appointed President of the
Tribunal, and his good nature and popularity promised easy sentences for
the malefactors of Aramon. But they gave him for public prosecutor one
Raoux, a little wizened wisp of a man, a shoemaker and bold orator of
the bars, who in his readiness of denunciation threw Fouquier-Tinville
into the shade, and in irreverence and insolence approached Raoul
Rigault himself. Raoux was high in the National Guards, which Keller Bey
had not yet begun to recognise as the power behind his throne.
Consequently he had a real influence and soon aspired to nothing less
than a ministry of justice, both making denunciations and by his
authority sending the denounced to prison.

The officers of the city gaol were almost the only ones who remained of
the civil servants of the Empire. They were mostly Corsicans, and as
their chief Calvi said: "They had come to France to keep prisoners
safely." He would give a receipt for each on arrival, and exact a
similar receipt on his leaving the Château du Monsieur le Duc. But he
would take the same pains with the prisoners of the new Government as
with those of the old--and so, since, in fact, no Communard wished to
become a turnkey, a _garde-chiourme_, Calvi and his staff were left in
undisputed possession of the Central Prison and House of correction of
the department of Rhône-et-Durance.

Some of the happenings were curious. The prisoners within, sentenced to
various terms of reclusion and imprisonment under the Empire, found
themselves on their release walking about in a world which knew not
Joseph. Some were rearrested as spies, but even the vibrant little
cobbler Raoux could not break down the excellence of the alibi which
they had ready to hand.

Some alarmed good women by asking news of the Emperor, or loudly
expressing disbelief in a _café_ when the disasters of the war were
hinted at. A ruffianly fellow, excited by his first cup of spirits for
some years, offered to fight any man who dared to say that the Germans
had entered Paris. So fiercely did he assault the original patriot who
had mentioned the fact, that the rest of the party, gathered over their
cards and mulled wine in the Café Jacquard, denied one by one that they
had ever heard of such a thing. Finally the tyranny of the "nervi" or
ticket-of-leave man became so overbearing that it took half a company of
National Guards with fixed bayonets to convey him to the "gendarmerie,"
and from thence, after due committal, to the gloomy prison-house of
Monsieur le Duc, from which he had been but three hours released. He had
struggled gallantly against bayonet prick and rifle butt. The escort,
amateurs at this kind of work, had pitied the few wardens who must
handle such a desperado.

But when the first policeman appeared he merely bade the "nervi" lay his
thumbs together, and in an instant he was leading the formidable warrior
whither he would as submissive and obedient as a child. Calvi was called
and came hastily in, donning a uniform coat, and leaving a half-played
game of "dames" behind him.

He examined the order of the new Procureur. The stamp was as usual. The
signature mattered nothing to Calvi, who looked up at the rioter with a
kind of reproach.

"Number 333," he said, with severity, "if you had told us that we were
to be honoured with your custom so soon again, you would have saved us
the trouble of whitewashing your cell. Take care not to overturn the
materials which have been left, make yourself as comfortable as you can
to-night, and you can do the rest of the work to-morrow. Good night,
gentlemen of the National Guard!"

He should have said "citizens," and every man knew it; but after all he
was a miserable child of the Isle of Despots, and besides, no citizen,
however loyal, objects to being called a gentleman once in a way.

Keller gave me work to do occasionally. I drafted proclamations and,
after rounding the sentences to make them more sonorous, I carried them
to the Communal printing office, which did not differ from other
printing offices, save that, in the absence of a master, each printer
lounged and smoked about the cases, or took himself off to the nearest
grog-shop in the intervals of labour. Often I had to work Keller Bey's
name for all it was worth, and threaten a guard and the Bastille of
Aramon before I could get anything done.

Sometimes, during my long hours of waiting at the printing office of the
Commune, I strolled up to the Aramon station. Only a stray lamp-cleaner
sat with his legs dangling from the platform and spat upon the quickly
rusting rails, looking over his shoulder occasionally to throw a remark
to the single Garde National, who, though on duty, had laid his rifle
and cartridge-belt upon a luggage-barrow, sought out a pile of "returned
empty" sacks of coarse jute, arranged these to his mind, and finally had
laid himself down on them, only rolling over occasionally to refill his
pipe or to wheel his couch into a shady place or one more convenient for
a friendly gossip. On the whole this was the man I liked best. His
"relief," a burly fellow from the Hard Stone Quarries above the town,
calmly divested himself of his coat, wrapped his feet in his cloak, drew
his coat loosely over him, put his head on his knapsack, and slept his
watch out on the green velvet cushions of the first-class waiting-room.

Above, the man really responsible, the station-master of Aramon
Junction, was supposed to be busying himself with a report of the
reopening of the line between Lyons and Marseilles. This news had been
brought to Keller Bey by my friend of the travelling bed on the luggage
truck. He considered it hard that Monsieur Weyse never came down to
patrol the platform and pass the time of day. He yearned for society,
and one of the comfortable arm-chairs in the station-master's room would
have appealed to him strongly. It was the unseen official's own fault if
a man so naturally companionable as he of the luggage-barrow were driven
by neglect to prefer a complaint against him.

The expanse of empty quays and innumerable parallels of iron rails
preyed on his spirits. He tired of the man who cleaned lamps and sat
upon the stone parapet. He had already heard all his opinions, knew
where he was going to place his oaths, and scented his grotesque and
improper anecdotes afar off--with a sense of loathing because, in
addition to all, the lamp-man spat with a regularity and vigour
singularly disgustful to a Frenchman, who does not use his tobacco in
the "plug" form.

I was sent to interview the station-master as to the famous report. I
found him comfortably ensconced at his fireside, his legs embracing one
side and the other of the hearth, a huge pile of the complete works of
Victor Hugo, the Brussels edition, on a chair by his side. He was
fathoms deep in the third volume of "Les Misérables." I never saw a man
more enraptured nor one more enviable. I stood and looked at him, a
broad, beefy man with a shrewd Scottish countenance. His uniformed coat
and gold-broidered cap were neatly placed on a chair behind him. But the
man himself, in a long blouse drawn well above his knees, so that he
might feel the comforting of the fire, continued his reading without a
pause, stirring the logs occasionally with his toe.

I was sorry to interrupt him, but I was resolved to make a friend, for
here was a man with a set of Hugo. I had already been at the Municipal
Library, but there, the collection dating entirely from the times of the
Empire, it of course contained nothing of Hugo's later than "Hernani."

"Your servant, sir!"

Already at a mere waft of my entrance he had sprung to his feet and laid
down his book.

"You take me a little by surprise--ah--from Keller Bey? Are you a
Communard, young man?"

I reassured him. Keller Bey's family lived with my father across the
water in Languedoc. I had been captured and had given my parole, but I
was no partisan. I acted as occasional secretary to Keller Bey, that was
all.

He shook his head sorrowfully, for I think the verdancy of my youth
appealed to him.

"Do not run with the wolves too long or the wolf-hunters may not stop to
ask the difference. There is a fable about that--which I have read
somewhere--in Perrault or La Fontaine. Take back your parole and get out
of Aramon. All this foolishness will go like that----" (he snapped his
finger and thumb in the air), "and I only hope that I shall have time to
read Hugo once through before I have again to think of a train every
five minutes pouring north and south, east and west, through Aramon
Junction!"

I put the question of the report as delicately as possible. I have
rarely seen a Frenchman laugh more boisterously.

"But I have made no report. Why should I? I have received none and
written none. The wires are cut in all directions. I have not a
telegraphist on the place. There are my files if you want to look.
Everything is going by the branch lines on the other side, but even of
that I know only what I can see from my bedroom window, the white steam
of trains trailing off among the green woods, and sometimes the dull
rumble of a heavily laden goods convoy crossing a bridge. Of positive
knowledge concerning railway affairs I have none. I sit and read Hugo
and wait for the end of things. The old life will come back soon enough.
Meanwhile I am earning my salary, and when traffic opens a pretty sum
will be owing to me on the books of the company.

"See here," he said, chuckling, "this is my only report. I will write it
before your eyes."

He pointed to a folio which lay open with the day and date, but all else
blank. He took a pen and wrote:

"As yesterday--no change. Guards--Caspar and Nolli. Both quiet.
Messenger from Communal Government to ask about a report I am supposed
to be making. Exhibit this."

"There you are--you can copy that if you like. I give you my word of
honour that is all the report I ever write, and that is just enough to
prove me on the spot, able for duty, and to claim my pay!"

I told Monsieur Weyse that I would not trouble him further. I should
explain the foolish rumour to Keller Bey, and in all things he might
count upon me. At the same time _if_ there happened to be any volume of
Hugo he was not using----! Well, he might imagine my gratitude.

He sprang to his feet with a kind of smothered whoop and began to delve
among the pile which occupied the chair and slopped over upon the floor.

"Here--here," he explained, "take the first two volumes of "Les
Misérables." It is the best of all. I shall read faster than you, for I
have nothing else to do, and I keep it up far into the night. Why, my
friend, if you come to-morrow, I shall have the third volume ready for
you. No, no, don't thank me, but go instead and get your head clear of
this noose. This Communist Aramon is going to be no safe place to play
unpaid secretary in after a week or two. Those white wreaths of smoke
against the Cevennes tell me that. The Company and the Government are
working together over there, and when they are ready--it will be good
not to be here and in your shoes!"

"But, Monsieur Weyse, you will be here!"

"Ah, that is different! I am a lonely man, and a servant in the way of
his duty. Nothing can come amiss to me. Even if either side fortifies
the junction buildings--why, I am the station-master acting for the
Company. I sit and write my report once a day, and for the rest I read
Hugo. Nothing is more simple. But as for you, take an old man's word.
You are better anywhere than where you are!"



CHAPTER XXVII

UNDER WHICH KING, BEZONIAN?


The station-master was right. I saw how things were tending and how the
revolt was sure to end. Yet I was by nature so curious of the oddities
of the business that I put off speaking to Keller Bey. For one thing, I
did not want to find myself shut up in the Duke's Castle along with the
other martyrs of the new rule. I preferred the open air and risk.
Besides, I could each day assure myself of the well-being of Dennis
Deventer and his family.

I discovered where Jack Jaikes was usually to be found on guard, and,
early in the dusk of the morning, I slipped from my room in order to
speak half an hour with him in private. He first abused me like a
pickpocket for taking sides with such a dirty pack, and it was with the
utmost difficulty that he could be persuaded that there was after all a
difference between a Communard and a prisoner on parole. He did not
trouble to conceal his opinion of the latter.

"Jump over the wall," he whispered, "see, catch hold of my belt. I tell
ye, man, in business we cannot afford to be so fine. I learned that in
Glasgow long syne, when a brither-in-law o' mine took my job from me.
Now, he was my brither, though not by blood, and in a manner o' speaking
I had promised to love, honour, and obey. But instead I just bashed him
till he was laid up in bed for six weeks--so I got my job back! Now tell
me, where would I have been if I had minded about honour and 'paroles'
and them things?"

It was in vain that I pointed out to Jack Jaikes that, after all, it was
not he but his sister who had promised to love, honour, and obey the
maltreated job-jumper.

"It doesna maitter. It's all the wan thing!" was all that I could get
out of Jack Jaikes. "Now then, catch a haud and I'll hae ye beside me in
the crack o' a cow's tail!"

Now, though I had fought duels on the sly at St. André on the most
approved principles of French honour, I had done so chiefly because I
possessed an excellent method and a supple wrist trained by years of the
"Salle." Really I cared nothing about any artificial code of honour. But
it was quite a different thing to have passed my word to Keller Bey, and
entirely unthinkable to leave him in the lurch by making my escape
without telling him.

I began about this time to imagine a vain thing. It seemed that in some
way I could save both Keller Bey and the Deventers. I would be on both
sides of the fence at once, and play a universal providence. I did not
then see that I should end by being outlawed by both sides--as, save for
a curious interposition, I should have been.

Jack Jaikes had, however, sufficiently impressed me that I went to
Keller Bey and told him that he must trust me completely without any
parole. He must give me back my word about escaping. I might (I
explained) disappear for a time without leaving him altogether. In
reality I did not mean to do anything of the kind, and if it came to any
trouble about saving the Deventers, he would find me again at his side.
All this I believed perfectly feasible at the time. Indeed, I spoke with
such earnestness and spontaneity that he finished by shutting his eyes,
even as I was doing, to the difficulties or, rather, impossibilities of
the position.

Somehow he clung to my presence among these men to whom he was already
no more than a symbol of authority. They did not know the man Keller
Bey. I did. And he seemed to wish to keep me near him as a link with a
past with which he had broken. In his heart I am sure he regretted the
garden and his talks with my father and Professor Renard, while as to
Linn and Alida, they did not simply bear thinking about.

Yet he was possessed by that driving fate, ambition, call of duty, what
you will---which sends men forth from comfortable homes to battle for
life about the frozen pole, to die miserably, to leave their bones
there--though all the while in bright homes the loving hearts of women
and the laughter of children are waiting for them.

Keller Bey was fate-driven. This Aramon rising had fallen accidentally
in his way. The idealist in the man tempted him to believe that he could
make a Socialist Land of Promise out of those factories and arsenals,
which had grown up in such a beauty spot of nature, where (it was Keller
Bey's word) "merely to be alive between sea, sky, and earth was a daily
revelation of religion."

He thought nothing of the small questions of pay and personal interest
which really made up the gist of the matter to the workmen. Perhaps
also, though quite unwillingly, he had been led astray by Dennis
Deventer. Dennis was an idealist also, and he saw the workmen's side of
the question of private ownership. He would express these opinions with
such dialectic sympathy that it almost seemed to the listener that he
would be found one day persuading the owners of the factories to make
over their possessions to the workers.

His wife often reproached him with this treachery of words.

"I know, I know, colleen," he would answer contritely, "'tis Irish
Dennis hot in my brain that will get talking--then when I _do_ things
Deventer the Scot sets the count right."

"But, then, how about the people with whom you have talked, and who may
be depending on your words?"

"'Tis more the pity of them," he would say quizzically, "but, anyway, I
am no worse than these young chicks that you have brought up."

"That is nonsense, Dennis--you are the master and yet you talk like a
'red' as often as not--very likely when you have just sent Jack Jaikes
to fix a new gun where it will command a street or a gate by which you
may be attacked."

Then Dennis would hold up his hand in token of surrender. It was all
gospel truth, due perhaps as much as anything to the family habit of
free discussion, when Dennis would take up a losing cause and champion
it to the bitter end.

There is, however, room to commiserate Keller Bey, from whom these
things were hidden. He reported to the Commune of Aramon at its daily
séances, of the favourable dispositions of the representative of the
Company. Nay, during the space of a week, it was quite on the cards that
the men should return to work on the basis of some half-understood (and
wholly misunderstood) word of Dennis's, which Keller Bey and his Social
Commission had taken to mean the admission of the men's right to a share
in the half-yearly profits.

Fortunately or unfortunately, another phrase at a succeeding interview
had revealed that Dennis Deventer had no intention of committing his
owners to anything. Nor had he the power. He had merely been willing to
cast his own salary and commissions into the common fund gained by all
the workers, and leave the total to be divided by the committee
according to their idea of equity.

But then, though this was exceedingly generous, Dennis was also a
partner and a rich man. The men, except Keller Bey, were indignant at
what they counted a cheat--a false offer. Very unjustly, for to Dennis
Deventer the rights of labour extended to what a man earned. Those of
property, equally important to him, included the defence of his wife's
money invested in the Small Arms Company, and also what he had been able
to put aside during the years of his strenuous life.

This is how the great misunderstanding arose, and I do not see that any
of the parties to it were free from blame--certainly not Dennis.

But I hasten to tell how the events fell out and what was my part in the
adventure.

The same day that I had required my parole back from Keller Bey I
marched boldly and in the face of all to the gate of Château Schneider,
which was shut and boarded up, strengthened besides by criss-cross work
of iron bars, so that the half which was opened creaked and groaned on
its hinges when it turned. So careful was the watch that when at last
after parley and explanation Jack Jaikes let me in, it was only to find
myself commanded by three separate batteries of machine guns from behind
which peered the perplexed faces of McAllister's gang. They were simple
men and they could not understand this running with the hare and hunting
with the hounds. I do not blame them. No one who did not know Keller Bey
and the need of standing by him could possibly have understood. Jack
Jaikes explained as well as he could, but not being convinced himself of
the goodness of my cause, I fear his words only darkened counsel.

It was generally understood by those on guard at Château Schneider that
"I would bear watching," and indeed it was not long before the sentinels
of the National Guard on the other side of the wall came to exactly the
same conclusion, so to please all parties I was blindfolded.

But the welcome I had from the household of Deventer made up for all
this enveloping suspicion. Here, at least, I stood clear. I was
re-established in my own conceit, in my position a most valuable asset.
Was I not a martyr to duty, a prisoner on parole, one castaway among
wild and dangerous people, because I had ventured out by night to join
the Deventer defence?

Jack Jaikes had evidently done his part well. He had given me the rough
side of his tongue, but had permitted the Deventers to understand that
in the morning hours he had held converse with a hero and martyr to
duty.

Mrs. Deventer came over and graciously kissed me, and I verily believe
that I might have kissed all three girls--yes, even Hannah--under the
eye maternal, without a reprimand.

Hugh was more comrade-like than he had been for a long time, and linked
arms with me in the good old St. André way as we stood by the
fire-place. Dennis Deventer came in smiling.

"Now our family is more like itself again. Angus me boy, and how did ye
leave my good friend the commander of the forces?"

I told him that Keller Bey was well but much worried by the cares of
office. At this he laughed a little mischievously, and burst out in one
of his usual phrases:

"St. Patrick's Day and a fine morning to be whittling shillalahs. But
Keller Bey has not seen the first green of his wild oat-sowing. Let him
wait till his lambs begin to frolic. Then I do not envy him his task. As
for me, Jack Jaikes and I are making this place so strong that they
might blow it piece by piece about our ears without making us
surrender."

Presently I found myself at luncheon at the Deventers' table. Nothing
appeared to have changed, except that the young apprentices were no
longer to be seen, and indeed there was no external service of any kind.
We cut and poured out at the sideboard for ourselves. Mrs. Deventer was
the only one waited upon, Rhoda Polly bringing her what she wanted.

The discussion grew as loud as ever, but hushed instantly when a
messenger appeared at the door, cap in hand and a little breathless, to
report the situation of the various posts, or to request instructions.
Sometimes Dennis merely bade the messenger to "Ask Jack Jaikes!" More
often he reeled off a detailed and technical explanation which the
apprentice understood though I did not. Or again he would dash a few
lines on the leaf of a note-book, indicate a design sketchily, and send
the lad off again as fast as he could clatter down the stairs.

I could not help being struck with admiration of the Chief's method and
science. Keller Bey was a leader of men, but I could not help seeing,
apart from his indubitable personal magnetism, how things were bungled
for lack of those very qualities of science and method. It went well in
Château Schneider. No need for speech or lifted hand. Silence fell like
a spell whenever the runner appeared in that ever-open doorway. And
while the master of men launched his commands there was not even the
ordinary clatter of knives and forks. Everyone seemed to feel the
importance of the decision to be given. All were proud of the giver,
though the moment before and the moment after they would be refuting his
arguments, denying his statements, and generally assaulting his
positions in a Donnybrook of sound and fury, without the least apparent
reverence for the grey hairs to which he often appealed with mock
pathos.

I took care not to see any of the defences of the workshops, or those
about the Château. These had been wholly reorganised since the attempts
of January, and were now nearing completion on a far more serious scale.

I had to go back and I should assuredly be questioned. If I did not
answer I might doubtless be suspected. Therefore it was arranged that
when the time came for me to go Jack Jaikes should blindfold me and lead
me out by the main fortified entrance of the works, which was
immediately in front of a large post of National Guards.

I was longing to get Rhoda Polly by herself and hear the news from her
own lips, but Dennis was so eager for more and more detailed gossip
about this one and that other among the members of the Commune, that he
detained me a long while. He did not fish for secrets nor ask me to
divulge any of Keller's plans. I think he felt himself too strong and
sure for that.

He was, moreover, genuinely interested in the men, and wishful to know
how they conducted themselves in their new spheres. He was specially
amused at my account of the staffing of the Post-Office-Without-Letters,
and when he heard the names he instantly baptized it "The Bureau of the
Incompetents"--a sobriquet which afterwards got abroad and became a
saying, so that many of those who had earned the name left the place to
escape from it.

At last Rhoda Polly and I did manage to take refuge up on the roof
behind our favourite chimney-stack at a place where the parapet was
almost breast high. It was comfortable hiding and quite secluded--the
fortifications of the Château roof being long perfected, and indeed only
to be used as a watch-tower or as a last line of defence.

Rhoda Polly told me how she had sent three messengers to Alida, of whom
only one had been faithful to his trust. She had had to enlist Jack
Jaikes in the business, and between them they had called up lads from
the town, butchers' boys and such-like, known to the foreman from the
Clyde. To each of these she had perforce to commit her letter, taking
care that it should contain nothing compromising in case of capture. But
only one ever returned with an answer, and he a little bare-footed
rascal of a boot-black, from whom nothing had been expected. He had even
brought back a letter from Alida, telling her friend that they were well
but that for safety's sake Linn and she, with the two Tessier maids, had
been taken into the main building of Gobelet, where at least they should
be farther from the road and have men to protect them.

Alida went on to say that Linn went about as usual, but evidently
grieved for her husband in silence. She herself was occupied in learning
Latin from Mr. Cawdor, and already could read in a book called "Cæsar"
and in another by an author named Sallust.

I saw the letter as Rhoda Polly turned it over, and noted that not a
word of inquiry was wasted upon myself. My name was not once mentioned.
The Lady Alida had taken dire offence at my flight, and this was in
spite of the fact that Rhoda Polly had mentioned that I was with Keller
Bey in the city of Aramon.



CHAPTER XXVIII

STORM GATHERING


On my return I was, as I had expected, put to the question, with
lenience by Keller Bey, but with biting irony and something like
personal dislike by the Procureur Raoux. Then stood apparent all the
man's bitter nature, mordantly distilled from years of poverty and
hatred of the well-to-do.

The name of Dennis Deventer set his eyes ablaze, and the idea of his
family sitting down to a comfortable meal in spite of their isolation
from markets was to him gall and wormwood. He would hardly believe the
tale of the National Guards that they had seen me come down the steps of
the Château already blindfolded and under escort, and that I had so
continued till I was pushed out of the main entrance of the works by
Jack Jaikes.

How many guns had I seen? The little man shot out the question at me.

"Only those on the roof," I answered readily, "those which had been used
in January. They were hooded and protected from rain by waterproof
jackets."

"How did you know that?"

"Because I went up there to take the air after dinner, and I leaned my
back against one while I smoked."

"Was it a big gun? Three--four-pounder?"

I could not say exactly, but I should think four. I knew nothing about
any defensive works within the square of the factory. I had traversed
all that part blindfold.

The fierce little man grunted disbelievingly, but desisted when it was
obvious that he could make nothing more of me.

"Let Dennis Deventer take care," he snarled, "he speaks smooth words
now. Oh, the great things he will do for the workmen, but not for all
his promises does he stop that Jacques Jaikes from fortifying and
placing guns. Oh, I know more than you or Keller Bey are aware of. I do
not go about with my eyes blindfolded. What is the use of a tower of
Saint Crispin if a shoemaker may not climb it and spy out the works of
his enemy?"

"That will do, Raoux," said Keller Bey, somewhat impatiently. "I shall
send for you again when I need you."

He went out slowly, with a lingering, backward look, full of spite and
malice, his words and face distilling hatred like the poison-fangs of a
viper. I heard him mutter as he passed:

"You will send for me when you want me--take care I do not come when you
want me least!"

It was indeed time to get away--the Commune of Aramon stood on the verge
of a volcano which might blow us into the air any day.

Yet, how could I leave Keller Bey to his fate, and, if I did, how could
I face Linn and Alida?

       *     *     *     *     *

The days passed heavily in Aramon, yet with a kind of feverish
excitement too--an undercurrent of danger which thrills a swimmer
cutting his way through smooth upper waters when he feels the swirl of
the undertow. The Commune of Aramon met daily for discussion, and
reports of its meetings are still to be found in the little red-covered,
tri-weekly sheet, _Le Flambeau du Midi_, of which I possess a set.

They appear to have discussed the most anodyne matters. They gabbled of
drainage and water supplies, the suspension of rents and pawnbrokers'
pledges for six months. They came to sharp words, almost to
blows--"Moderates" and "Mountain," as in the old days of 1793--while
outside the companies of the Avengers of Marat, the dark young men of
the wolf-like prowl, kept their watch and took their sullen counsel.

Provisions showed no visible stoppage. The country about Aramon was an
early one--the great market for _primeurs_ being Château Renard, only
ten miles away. Thither Père Félix, learned in the arts of restaurant
supply, sent a little permanent guard to direct the provisioning of
Aramon city.

I think the only man outside Château Schneider who saw what was coming
upon the new Government was my Hugolâtre of a station-master up at the
junction. I went to see him every day and he never ceased to urge me to
clear out of the town lest worse should befall me.

"They are arming," he said one day in early April, "they are coming
nearer. Put your eye to that telescope--no, don't alter it--tell me what
you see. A signal post on the railway--semaphore you call it! Yes, but
did you ever see such a semaphore on a railway? With us the stiff arm
drops and all is clear. It rises half-way--'_go slowly!_' It stands at
right angles to the post--'_stop_--_the way is barred!_' But what do you
see yonder? The stiff arms are moving this way and that. You who can
Morse out a message on the telegraph apparatus, why cannot you read
something infinitely more simple? That is on the other side of the river
and tells me that the Government engineers are creeping nearer. There is
no railway line where the semaphore is. They are signalling to their
comrades on this side. The storm is gathering--be very sure. For the
present there is no great hurry. Little Dictator Thiers has many irons
in the fire. He has no time to read Hugo like me, nor has he time to
give much thought to Aramon. But yonder are those who are preparing a
path for his feet, and for the feet of his little Breton Moblots when
the time comes."

It appeared to me that I ought to look into this myself, but in a way
that would not compromise my friend the station-master. So I made my way
boldly up into St. Crispin's tower and turned the long spyglass, old as
the first Napoleon, upon the semaphore ridge. It was wagging away
cheerfully, spelling out messages which I could not understand. I went
at once to Keller Bey.

"The Government of Versailles is not so far off as you think," I said,
"they are watching you from the other side of the river, and I believe
talking across the water to the commanders of troops on this side."

And with that I told him of the semaphore and of what I had seen from
the tower of St. Crispin. He sent instantly for someone who could read
semaphore messages, and within half an hour a deserter from the
engineers quartered at Avignon was brought to him--a small, brown,
snippet of a man whom I christened at sight "the runt," but whose real
name was Pichon--one of a clan mighty in all the southland of Languedoc.

Keller Bey came with us to witness the trial, and we had not reached the
summit when we heard behind us the wheezing, asthmatic breathing of the
Procureur Raoux sorely tried by the hasty ascent.

"Why, why, why?" he gasped, poking his head through the door--"who gave
you the liberty? Ah, Keller Bey--I beg your pardon. I was not aware of
your presence."

"This young man has brought us important information," said Keller Bey.
"He has discovered a semaphore signal newly erected on a spur among the
olive trees. The enemy have a post there, and are busily sending
messages to corresponding bodies making an advance southward upon this
side."

By this time I had the glass into position, and was moving gingerly out
of the way to let in the ex-engineer of Avignon, when the little cobbler
fairly rushed at the vacant seat, catching a foot on one of the legs of
the tripod and, of course, entirely losing the semaphore on the opposite
bank of the Rhône.

"I can see nothing--there is nothing to see!" he cried, gesticulating
fiercely with fingers like claws, "it is the lies of the English. I know
them. They have always lied to us. Dennis Deventer lies. There is no
message--no semaphore. There is no regiment nearer than Lyons or
Marseilles, and there I warrant Gaston Cremieux, Procureur-Général like
myself, is giving them as much as they can think about."

With extreme difficulty Keller persuaded the acrid little man to allow
me to try.

"I will send him to the Central Prison if he has been bringing us false
news--and of course he has. What a blessing! I have a committal form
with me."

I did not shrink from the test, and while Keller Bey maintained the
cobbler-magistrate in some degree of quiet on the other side of the
platform, the expert deserter quickly got his eye on the signalling
apparatus.

"I have it," he cried, his brow glued to the eyepiece and his hand
signalling for stillness. "Oh, do be quiet!"

Raoux's dancing feet were shaking the crazy platform.

"The devil is in the fellow's legs," said Keller Bey. "Will you be
quiet, Raoux, or shall I drop you over to the glory of your patron
saint?"

He held him for a moment asprawl over the edge with a drop of two
hundred feet clear upon the packed causeway stones. Something of
helplessness in the grip of Keller Bey for a moment took the madness out
of Raoux.

He kept fairly still when Keller placed him again on the floor of the
platform, and with a pair of huge hands, one on each shoulder, held him
in place. Without taking his eyes from the spyglass the engineer
searched and found a dirty note-book to which was attached by a string a
stump of pencil. Presently he began to spell out a message from one side
of the river to the other. I could see his fingers shaking with
excitement as he jotted down the letters.

"Why," he exclaimed at the first pause, "it's our fellows from Avignon,
and they are not even troubling to code the message--shows what they
think of us."

"Tell us what they say," said Keller Bey.

"One moment--they are beginning again," and the pencil stub began to
travel.

"_Gun platform can be laid out on spur mountain, 250 feet above present
shelter trenches. Will command bridge-head of Aramon--possibly also
rebel headquarters._"

I saw Keller Bey turn pale to the lips. He understood well enough. He
had campaigned against those same invisible, tireless French engineers
for many desperate African years, and he knew that in the long run they
always made out to do the task set for them.

But Raoux the cobbler-procureur was quite unmoved.

"They are playing with levels and angle-machines as they used to do when
I was at Avignon. They went out every day clean and came back dirty. The
colonel could find nothing better for them to do. To-morrow we shall
send half a column of ours and shoot a few. Then the rest will keep
further up the river where they belong."

"As you will," said Keller Bey, "but you had better send a battalion at
least with provisions for three days."

"Provisions for three days--absurd nonsense!" foamed the little man, for
this was touching his tenderest spot, "our citizen soldiers are the
National Guard of Aramon, and will not consent to sleep away from their
houses, not for all the wig-wagging engineers and railway signalling in
France! We are not slaves but freemen. No, no, a day's excursion to
brush away these impudent land surveyors with a volley from our
patriotic rifles--and then back again before dark with victory on our
untarnished banners--that is what you can expect from the lion hearts of
our young men. We defend the Commune. We do not make war outside it. And
why should we when the chief strength of the enemy remains unassaulted
and untaken within our walls?"

Keller Bey called off the ex-engineer. With such a war method as that
which was evidently popular in Aramon, it was no use wasting time
reading semaphore messages.

The Chief and I returned very mournfully to the Mairie. I could see that
his reflections were bitter.

"They do not understand the Commune or what it means--they do not know
the spirit of the Internationale here. They care nothing except for
their little municipal quarrels. They cherish wild, vague hopes about
the works, and would attack the man upon whose charity they are living.
But of the fact that France will one day speak to them with a voice of
authority--nay, is now speaking in warning--to that they will pay no
heed. At the Commune meeting to-day a whole day was wasted arguing for
or against an extra duty on potatoes when brought across the bridge from
the Protestant department of the Deux Rives. Protestant potatoes,
Catholic and Roman potatoes! What irony, when the dusky signal-men are
crawling from hill to hill ever nearer, and any day may bring our doom
upon us!"

I let it sink well in, for I could see that Keller Bey was at last
conscious of the mistake he had made.

"You must go," he said, "I cannot fairly keep you longer. Go to your
friends and advise the good women of them to accept a safe conduct
across the river. I have still enough authority for that, if I promise
an ultimatum and an assault on the works to follow. It would make me
happy to think of these kind folk who welcomed Alida and Linn so warmly,
safely lodged under your father's roof as in a city of refuge."

He paused and looked pensively out on the uniformed groups of National
Guard lounging and smoking in the white courtyard of Fontveille stone.

"As for me," he said, "there is no room for any going back. The
Government would accept no resignation or belated repentance. I have
dreamed my dream. I thought (as thought Carl Marx) that these working
men were ready for an ideal reform, for government over themselves. I
saw other cities joining themselves to us, the good seed sown over the
country from department to department, till all should work for all and
no man only for himself. Now I see that the nature of man cannot be
changed by a theory or a form of government. Go, young man, to your
friends. I, Keller Bey, bid you! Be kind to Linn and to Alida, my
master's daughter. Perhaps all this has come because I disobeyed him for
the first time when he sent the prince of the house of Ali to bring home
his daughter. I may be justly punished, yet, nevertheless, the will of
Alida is nearer to my heart than that of the Emir Abd-el-Kader in his
house at Brousse!"



CHAPTER XXIX

WITHIN THE PALE


It was indeed high time that I went away from the perils of
Aramon-les-Ateliers. Indeed, Keller Bey was in greater danger and
condemned to greater isolation owing to my stay. At first he had counted
it a happiness to talk with me of things outside his unfortunate office
as head of the Commune. But even Père Félix and the more dependable of
the little band of members of the Government, faithful to their head,
showed something like the cold shoulder when Keller withdrew regularly
to find me in his parlour as soon as the séance was over.

I waited most of a dark and moonless night for the coming of Jack Jaikes
to the corner of the wall. At the first sound of my voice he threw over
a rope to help me to scramble up. He himself was astride the top when I
got there and we were inside the fortifications within thirty seconds.

And lo! how easy it all was--and what a difference! I seemed a thousand
miles away from everyone on the town side, and now only a few rods
divided me from the house of friends--from the sudden breaking ires of
Dennis Deventer and the quiet smiles of his wife, a mistress within her
own domain. Yes, and from Rhoda Polly--though I have left her to the
last, I had not forgotten Rhoda Polly.

"Well," said Jack Jaikes, "ye've come at last, as ye had much better
have done at the first, biding there among anarchists' trash and
breakers of God's beautiful machinery. God knows I am as good a Liberal
as ever voted for what Maister Gladstone said was right--yes, me and my
faither before me. But before I would mix mysel' up with such a lazy,
unclean, unsatisfied, cankered crew--sakes alive, I wad raither turn
Tory at yince and lose my self-respect!"

This was a terrible threat for Jack Jaikes, who had brought away from
Scotland no particular religion, except (as was common in these years)
that unbounded adoration of Mr. Gladstone, which culminated in 1880.

For that night Jack Jaikes made me a shake-down among his own gang, and
urged me to get the Chief to let me serve there.

"Man, I could be doing wi' ye fine," he said, "even though ye do not ken
one end of a gun from anither till she goes off! But there's a headpiece
on ye and they tell me that ye are fair bursting with the mathematics!"

I told him I was better at classics, and he was, I think, more desirous
of my company than ever.

"My brither passed for the kirk and was something of a dab at the Greek.
You learned yours here in France--will that be the same sort? It will?
That's grand. Ye can gie me a bit help, then? I have some o' his auld
college buiks in my box. I hae put in heaps o' spadewark at readin'
them, but it is a dreary business by yersel'! For ane foot that ye gang
forward, ye slip back twa, as the Irishman said aboot the road covered
with ice!"

Above my head great steel armatures rose high in the air. The flitting
lanterns brought out now the brass knobs of a governor, now the dim
glistening bulk of a huge fly-wheel away up near the roof of the shed
which Jack Jaikes and his men used as a dormitory. There was one fixed
light which shone upon the instrument attached to a little field
telegraph. Jack Jaikes had given up his idea of a wholesale
electrocution of an attacking force--that is, Dennis Deventer had
compelled him to give it up. But he had perfected a kind of burglar
alarm applied to a wider area, which completely encircled the works and
(separately) protected the Château and its grounds. If anyone interfered
with his wires at any point, Jack Jaikes could instantly warn the
nearest post to the disturbance, and the men would swarm out like wasps.

The plan had its little inconveniences. Cats in particular loved and
were loved upon the great factory wall. But Jack Jaikes devised means,
by "stinging them up a bit" electrically, to make them "leave that," as
he expressed it.

Rooks also came to perch and left with a whoop of terror, or clung
desperately head down with paralysed claws firmly knotted till the men
plucked them off and threw them into a corner to recover.

But the first company of the Avengers, tentatively scrambling about the
north-west corner to see what sort of watch the English kept, were
promptly checked by a dozen bayonets thrust down from above, and having
received information, they departed without standing on ceremony.

Let it not be thought that I slept much in the power-house. It was
altogether too picturesque and vivid for me. My heart beat with a
rousing and incommunicable joy. I was again among my own kind. I had
done my best to sympathise with those others over the wall. I had tried
to help and understand Keller Bey, but though I might wear the red
cardigan, follow Garibaldi, run up the "tatter of scarlet" under Keller
Bey's orders, my heart beat with the after-guard. My instincts were
"yellow"--the rest was but the rash of the blood which came with youth
and would pass like a malady of childhood.

Small wonder I did not sleep. Into that entrancing and mysterious
hangar, hooded and cloaked men stole from nowhere in particular. Each
gave a kick or a shake in passing to other men, who, silently rising,
cloaked themselves, seized arms, adjusted belts, and so wordlessly
clanked away into the dark. Then the new-comers would go over to the
embers of the fire on the forge in the corner, where the red glow would
reveal him as a pleasant-faced English lad, munching ardently his bread
and sausage, or heating his coffee on the coals. In the gloom of the
dormitory shake-downs men would talk rapidly, muttering in their sleep.
If a man snored too vigorously, Jack Jaikes, or a lieutenant of that
considerable sub-chief, would turn him over on his side, or, in extreme
case, send him to the boiler-room, where the men had room to snore one
against the other. These Jack Jaikes, always reminiscent of Glasgow,
called the "Partick Social Warblers," in memory of a certain church
glee-club soirée, to enter which he had once paid a "silver collection"
in the unfulfilled expectation of "tea and a bag."

But that night as I lay I kept awake for the pure joy of knowing myself
alive. I loved the breathing of the men about me, the ordered mystery of
the comings and goings, the clicking of the telegraphic machine as Jack
Jaikes bent over it, even the little circle of golden light which the
lamp shed, and the bristly way his moustache had of standing out beyond
the wicks of his grimly humorous mouth.

I wondered if he ever slept. Certainly he lay down. He had a blanket
with which he covered himself, head and all. It was not much of a
blanket, being pierced in the centre so that it could be worn with the
head thrust through, poncho-wise, as he stalked about. It was full of
burnt holes, showing where he had thrown himself down on cinders, some
of which had proved too recent.

About four there came a shrill _tirr-r-r-r_ of the small call-bell and
every sleeper was instantly on his feet. How Jack Jaikes got to the
ticker I do not know, but long before the men had their belts snapped,
he was reading off to them the location of the alarm.

"Between posts 48 and 49, Norwell and Omand warned. Ready there, file
out!"

The dark figures passed one by one out of the faint copper glow of the
forge, stood each a moment against the blue-black mystery of the night
framed in the doorway, and were then lost in the obscurity.

I thought of following, but first of all I was afraid of Jack Jaikes,
who had made no sign to me, and secondly and chiefly, in a yard and
among defences so sown with dangers and (for all I knew) corded with
live wires, I might easily do myself much harm, and the general welfare
of the cause little good. So, sorely against the grain, I stayed where I
was.

Presently the men came laughingly back, their humour quite vanished. Two
of the town goats--for Aramon was near enough to the mountains and to
Spain to possess many of these--had chosen to contest the narrow way to
the factory wall, from a pure point of honour as gentlemen should, for
there was no lady in the case. They had died fighting, and a bayonet's
point had been requisitioned to dislodge them both. They were now
brought in and handed over to the cook for preparation. Both had been
hard fighters in their time, and looked as if they would furnish what
Caroline in "The Heir at Law" calls "not an inviting meal."

Everybody was now fully waked up, and no one thought any more of sleep.
The night was still of the indigo dark peculiar to the South, and
outside, I could see the stars sinking one by one. The glow on the
forge-hearth was set blazing, tea billies were soon boiling, and there
was a fragrant smell of coffee in the air. The clean, appetising hiss of
frying bacon struck a joyous note. Someone set a big globe of electric
light flaring, when, _whisk-whisk_, a quartette of bullets tore through
the shed and knocked it to flinders.

Then in like an avenging genie entered Jack Jaikes.

"If I kenned wha that idiot was that set yon infernal thing blazing, I
would knock the amazing friskiness out o' him. Have I not telled ye a
score o' times that ye are no to make exhibitions o' yerselves?
Exhibitions, did I say, waur nor that, juist blank eediot targets that
the Frenchmen haena sense enough to hit!"

He made a silence about him, for all knew that his angers were black and
that he would stick at nothing, but, if provoked, strike with what came
nearest to his hand.

But the mood passed, the globe and carbons were renewed, and by the end
of their early breakfast his good-humour also was quite restored. The
men moved easily again without casting furtive eyes to see how the black
dog was riding Jack Jaikes. They knew him for an incomparable fighting
leader, an engineer without rival in the camp, but there was no doubt
that he needed humouring when, as he would have said himself, "his birse
was up." It had been remarked, even before he left the Clyde, that he
was "far ower handy wi' a spanner," and that might have been the reason
why he had tried Bristol and the Tyne before finding his master in
Dennis Deventer of the Arms Factory of Aramon.

I broke in upon the Deventers at breakfast--a meal which in defiance of
all local custom they took together as they had been used to do far away
in Barrow under the Cumberland fells. Or rather it was Jack Jaikes
himself who did the breaking. He could not deny himself that.

We heard the noise and clatter as we mounted the stairs.

"A fight," chuckled Jack Jaikes, half to himself, "but two to one on
Rhoda Polly, anyway."

But he had his little effect to make. He flung the door open, grounded
his rifle with a ringing clash, and announced in a stentorian voice:

"A deserter!"

The clamour ceased instantly. Every face was turned towards the door,
Dennis Deventer half rose, his napkin in his hand. I could see the pale,
clear-cut features of Rhoda Polly, her red lips parted, peering over her
father's shoulder.

Dennis Deventer received me with a friendly push that sent me in the
direction of Hugh, who "cleared" like a goal-keeper, and I fell into a
chair beside Rhoda Polly.

"Come in, Jack Jaikes--what will you take? Try those kidneys--they are
rather good. No, no, your chaps can't want you so soon. You are not
hatching them out there, you know!"

These and other cries at last persuaded Jack Jaikes to do what he was
yearning to do--sit down and eat a second breakfast with his master's
family. His grin was at once triumphant and sardonic, yet he left me to
answer for myself. His pleasure was not to talk much at these festivals
of his soul. I think he was fearful of what he called "langwage"--such
as he used occasionally in the works--escaping his control. At any rate
he was a happy listener, and the few words he uttered were always
destined to foment a discussion, acerbate a verbal quarrel, so that he
could lay mental bets upon his admired Rhoda Polly. When she made a good
hit, he felt inclined (as he confessed) to rise up and yell, "like a
gallery student on an opera night"--a set of savages whom he had known
during the college days of his brother, now a creditable and responsible
"placed" minister in Scotland.

When I announced that I had come to stay Rhoda Polly nearly trod my foot
off under the table, a vulgar disgrace to our comradeship for which she
apologised afterwards.

"I had to do it," she said, "or I should have been blubbering on your
shoulder with my arms about your neck! How would you have liked that,
Angus my lad?"

I answered, that before company I should have liked it ill enough, but
proffered my shoulder for the purpose since we were in private. Rhoda
Polly in her turn cried shame upon me. If I could not remember our
compact, she would not forget it. She also reminded me of saying of my
own accord that she and I had put away childish things. In vain I
represented to her that I had just returned from great danger and that
if she had been so overwhelmed with joy at breakfast as to make pemmican
of my foot, she must have still some remaining for which a suitable
expression might be found without looking out the word in the
dictionary.

But Rhoda Polly would have none of my suggestions. She was glad she had
shown her feelings, however irregularly, but now if I pleased we would
resume our good old talks together, at least when the incidents of the
siege permitted.

Her father did not allow her to run round the yard or about the posts
with the men, as she had been wont to do during the first January
difficulties.

"Oh, it isn't that," she said, answering a question in my eyes which was
also an accusation; "of course some of them think I'm nice and all that.
But it isn't that! I'm not Liz! Only father says that there are snipers
on the towers--the cathedral, St. Servan's, St. Marthe's, and St.
Crispin's--and he doesn't want any accidents happening to his eldest
daughter. But I am sure the boys miss me. I know Jack Jaikes does. He
told me so when he came in to arrange mother's sewing machine, which I
'wrongulated' on purpose to hear the news."

Later I retold Dennis Deventer the story of the coming trouble in Aramon
and the despair of Keller Bey. He listened without surprise, his
deep-set Irish eyes almost hidden under his twitching, bushy brows.

"There's a man that is obleeged to me, Angus me lad. He runs a copper
ore boat from Huelva--that's in Spain--to Marseilles. If we could get
the owld Keller man down there, I know a boatman in the Joliette who
would give him shelter till the steamer lifts her anchor. There is no
need for him to be desperate about any such thing. The world is wide and
Governments in this country are made of cardboard and bad paste. He will
be amnestied in a year or two. Can the man not be reasonable?"

I told him that the difficulty lay there. Keller Bey considered himself
bound to those who had helped him to set up the Commune in Aramon. He
would make no separate peace for himself.

"Separate fiddlesticks!" shouted Dennis Deventer. "Does he mean such
comfortable old soup-bags as Père Félix, or wine-skins like
Pipe-en-Bois, or alcohol gutters like the Marshal Soult? Let him set his
mind at rest. They are safe. No Government while I live shall harm a
hair of their heads. They will never stand behind a barricade--never
fire a shot; if they will be careful not to fall downstairs after
celebration suppers to the memory of Danton and Marat and the men of
'48, they will all die in their beds and have their memories honoured in
turn by the suppers of another and redder generation!"

There was truth in what Dennis said. These were not the men who would
die fighting when the day of reckoning came. The young sullen wolf's
breed of the sidelong glances and the whispered counsels--these were
those who would line the last ditches of the defence of Aramon.

But, then, Keller Bey felt that he was responsible also for them. He was
their chief and normal leader. He had the secrets of the Internationale
and he had made proselytes, even among the young people. Could he leave
them and flee? I knew very well Keller Bey's line of argument, and I put
it to Dennis. He clapped his knee testily.

"Oh, for a good Scots or Ulster head on a man--even English would do
because of the fine, solid underpinning and bodygear the Lord God puts
into his southern-built vessels. But when a man gets this megrim of
honour in his brain, there is no saying beforehand what he will or will
not do--except that it will surely be eediocy."

"It's a pity, too," he added, after thought, "a man that can be talking
the Arab or the Turkish with men like your father (God bless him) and
old Professor Renard."

I suggested that there was one factor we were overlooking--that it was
more than likely that before long the Conservative Commune of Aramon
would be displaced and with it would disappear the rule of Keller.

No, I did not think they would kill him. They would probably expel the
ex-Dictator and let him go where he would. Then would be the time to
secure him, and send him to the captain of the Huelva cargo-boat.

Dennis patted me on the head.

"We cannot be sure of doing much," he said, "but we can always have a
try. We shall probably be desperately busy ourselves if the wild rakes
take the lead over the wall yonder. They will come at us, not this time
in undisciplined rush, but with method and well armed--thanks to the
folly of the National Assembly."

Still, Dennis Deventer had a card up his sleeve. "You must wait with us
and see the rubber played out."



CHAPTER XXX

DEVILS' TALK


The black day which was coming upon Aramon was not long in dawning.
Barrès and Imbert were the leaders of the anarchist party, which had
always secretly opposed the Marxian communism of Keller Bey and his
adherents.

These were the men of the opposition, dark-browed cub-engineers and
piece-workers, not high in their professions--being far too careless and
off-hand for regular work, but with a dashing strain in them, and a way
of putting the matter which imposed upon the younger men.

Were they hungry? There was food in the shops. Was their miserable
fifteen pence a day insufficient? Yonder were the villas of the traders
who had sucked and grown rich on the money they had earned, inadequate
as it was. Had any man a wrong? The Government had put arms in his
hands--let him go and right it!--It may be imagined what was the outcome
of this kind of talk. So long as Keller Bey kept his hold there was no
night plundering, and several men caught playing at "individual
expropriation" were first threatened with the provost marshal and then
with a firing party. Instead they were sent to the care of Calvi in the
prison of Monsieur le Duc because the heart of Keller was tender.

This gloomy, four-square hulk of a mediæval keep had been built in the
thirteenth century by the Duke of Burgundy, to awe the riotous Frankish
burghers of Aramon le Vieux, and stands still, machicolated and fossed,
much as he left it.

It was difficult now to think of the Aramon with its strong guild of
hammer men, its coppersmiths swarming from their clattering toil, its
tanners and booth-men pouring out of these same _ruelles_ and squares,
now grey with mistral or dreamy in the white sunshine. To-day not a cat
would jump for a dozen Dukes of Burgundy, but seven hundred years ago
Aramon le Vieux had a fierce _élan_ of its own and knew how to singe the
beard of an oppressor, especially if he were at some considerable
distance.

After the building of the great feudal keep on the opposite bank, we
hear little more of the turbulent traders, and the likelihood is that
they paid their dues and gave no trouble ever afterwards, especially
after the Duke constructed a bridge of boats which opened at both sides
to allow of traffic.

Now, however, the lofty walls of the fortress of Monsieur le Duc became
the rallying place of revolt. Every evening in front of the grand
entrance, or upon the _fossé_ bridge, Georges Barrès preached the
doctrine of plunder and petroleum. There were in Aramon a certain number
of "haves"--let those who heard him see to it that there were ten times
that number of "takes"! For what were their brethren shut up there (he
pointed to the Loches-like cliff of masonry above him, nearly twice the
height of Rochester Castle), and answered, "For retaking their own--for
redressing the wrongs of the poor!"

"For plain theft--they stole hens!" proclaimed a voice in the crowd.

"Down with the spy--kill the royalist--dismember the traitor!" howled
the mob. And to show their honesty they fell upon a good citizen of
Aramon, a respectable apothecary, come there almost at random. He had
been discreetly silent. It was not he who had made the outcry, but wore
he not a black frock-coat and looked he not sleek and well fed? If he
were not a spy, what was he doing there? So they threw him in the Rhône.
He was fished out half a mile below, where for a long distance the
workshop wall skirts the river. Jack Jaikes did the job with grumbling
thoroughness and the man of drugs was brought to with a science and
celerity unknown in his own pharmacy.

Having thus asserted its power, the crowd turned with self-approval to
listen to its favourite orator.

"Here in Aramon we have a Government, and over it presides a Great
Shadow which has been sent us from the Internationale. What did ever the
Internationale do for us? Did it stop this war? Did it force back the
Germans? You tell me that we owe to this shadow the thirty sous a day on
which we starve. What of that? It is a bribe to keep us from taking all
they possess. Every day in that Château yonder the silver gleams on the
white table-cloth, the red wine mantles in the glass, the champagne
foams, and--my great God! you can hear them laughing--from the miserable
lairs where your children are clamouring for bread, and your wives are
weeping because there is none to give them!"

Now the soul of such crowds is most strange. In all that listening
assembly there was no single man who did not know that every word was
false. There was a special grant for families, and if any worker's
children had not enough bread, it was because the patriot himself had
spent the money on absinthe! Every worker knew this. Yet tears started
to their eyes, and a deep-throated roar of anger went out against the
Government which had arranged such a monstrous iniquity.

"Yonder lie the workshops--the place where money is spun--money such as
you have no idea of--millions a week--all the fruit of your toil. Do not
break the machinery. We will set it spinning money on our own
account--but first we must be quit of Dennis Deventer and his foreign
gang. Keller Bey will tell you that they are workers like
yourselves--citizens, of equal rights before the Internationale. Why
then did they collect together yonder, these brave citizens, these
honest workers, these noble revolutionaries? Why are they not walking
about these streets and taking their turn at mounting guard? I will tell
you. Because they are the guardians of the treasures of the
masters--they are keeping locked in Dennis Deventer's safes the millions
which have been wrung from you in cruelty and blood and tears!"

Such a roar as went up from that black assembly in which the white caps
of women were dotted and the massed blue knots of the National Guard
could be seen! It reached the council, drearily debating in the town
house, and there was a general desire to adjourn. The air was electric
with coming trouble. These duly elected members of the Commune felt
themselves caught between two great unknown forces--the Government of
Versailles, which was represented by the pushing surveyors of the
engineers' corps, the first skirmishers of an army which was certain to
come upon them from the north, and this uprising of the idlers and
workspoilers of their own kind.

Personally their Socialism was not deep-rooted. They had the national
respect for small property-holders, and even if they possessed none
themselves, Oncle Jean Marie or Tante Frizade were _propriétaires_ in
their own right. When these heritages fell in none of their loving
nephews and nieces would fight harder for their share than the
red-begirt members of the Commune of Aramon.

Only men like Keller Bey and Gaston Cremieux lived in a world beyond
such things--and on the other hand were those who, like Barrès and
Imbert, had nothing to gain or to lose however fortune's wheel might
turn.

Père Félix pushed his way into the dense masses about the entrance of
the prison keep. He was sure of himself, but very indignant at those of
the Commune who had allowed him to come alone. Of course it was not
fitting that Keller Bey should expose his person, but if the twenty of
Aramon had marched together in a body, each with his crimson scarf of
office girding him, they might have dominated the mob and silenced the
hair-brained Barrès. Still, all the more honour to himself, when he
should go back to twit them with their fears and tell them the story of
his triumph!

"We don't want to hear Père Félix! Down with the traitor! Trample him,
spit upon him!"

He could not believe his ears. For then began a din such as he had never
heard. The young men on the outskirts had seized the instruments of the
band of the National Guard and were now blowing, bellowing, and clanging
upon them. He stood beside Barrès, who looked at him contemptuously,
tossing the light fall of hair off his brow with a regular movement, as
a challenged bull tosses his horns.

"Comrades and citizens, in the name of the Commune of Aramon, elected by
you, I address you----"

Brazen horns brayed, tin trays and kettles were beaten, the big drum
thundered just underneath. Words issued from the mouth of Père Félix.
They must have done so, for his lips were moving, but not even himself
heard a word, and the sardonic smile on the face of the Catalan Barrès
became a grin.

The old orator, who had swayed all meetings of the plebs in Aramon ever
since '48, threw up his hands in hopeless misery.

"They will not hear me," he cried, so that this time the words reached
the ear of Barrès. "Why will they not hear me?"

Now Barrès was by this time content with his triumph, and he put his
hand to the old man's ear and shouted, "Because your day is past--you
are down, you and all your gang. You silenced me at the Riding School
meeting three months ago, but then you had Gaston Cremieux to help you.
You had better go home. I shall see to it that you do go home, and let
not Aramon see your face again. Keep on the farther side of the Durance
and no man shall meddle with you. But from this day forth take notice
that Aramon means to do without you!"

He beckoned a few determined-looking fellows from the crowd, each armed
with a rifle and cartridge-belt. A few instructions, a determined push
through the crowd which divided to right and left, shouting hateful
words all the time he was passing, and Père Félix found himself thrust
ignominiously out of the northern gate of Aramon. His captors had
treated him with a certain hasty roughness, but had up till now
refrained from insult. Now they tore the red scarf of office from about
his body and trampled it in the dust. The rule of the Twenty was over in
Aramon.

Slowly and mournfully Père Félix took the way under the beautiful trees
of the water road toward the Durance. He did not see where he was going.
His foot caught more than once in twisted roots from which the soil had
been washed away by the winter floods. Under the willows and among the
glimmering poplars shedding blue and gold, he drew nearer the broken
pier and the little height of sandy dune from which he could see the
blue reek curl upward from the kitchen chimney of the restaurant of the
Sambre-et-Meuse.

When he saw it his heart gave a sudden throb, as if he had recognised
suddenly the face of a friend unseen and neglected for years.

"This is mine," he muttered, "and what have I been caring for? The
popular applause! Mariana told me they would turn upon me and kick me at
the last. Then perhaps I would remember that I had a home. They trampled
my red sash in the dust. It was they who gave it to me--it was their own
authority vested in me. They ought to have remembered!"

There were tears in the eyes of Père Félix. The tribune of the people
could not all at once bring himself to accept a final defeat. But as he
looked a different feeling gathered warm about his heart. Yonder was
Jeanne bringing back a boat-load of firewood gathered from the flood
mark. How tall she was, and how beautiful! He had not noticed these
things before. How nobly and regularly she stood in the stern and poled
the boat with the current--a splash or two and she was safe within the
little backwater. Beyond was Mariana, busy with her fowls, scattering
feed for them with the shrill _chook_--_chook-chookychooks_ used on such
occasions by the hen-wives of all nations. Père Félix could see the
birds running stumblingly with wings outspread to the feast. Mariana
turned, glanced across the water, put on her spectacles, and called
aloud to Jeanne without any surprise.

"There is your father, Jeanne--go, fetch him home!"

And suddenly, as his daughter leaped lightly out of the boat and kissed
him on both cheeks, the colour flushing to her face and her bosom
heaving, Père Félix felt himself no more ashamed and outcasted.

"Father," said Jeanne, "I have found such a nest of logs--fine burning
wood. You are just in time to cut it into faggots for me. Then I can go
and bring away the rest while you are at work."

"Félix, you are just in time for dinner," his wife cried out at sight of
him. "There is roast lamb and green peas from Les Cabannes. You old
gourmand, I'll wager you knew and came home on purpose!"

No, Père Félix had not known, but he certainly did come on purpose and
on purpose he meant to stay.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE BLACK BAND


The first Commune of Aramon had fallen. Its place was taken by a
Committee of Public Safety sitting at the Riding School. Of these the
chiefs were Georges Barrès, the Catalan, who called himself "of
Perpignan"; Chanot, the cadet of a good house, just released from a term
of imprisonment (which he described as being for political offences);
Auroy, the proprietor of an hotel by no means of the highest class, and
Chardon, whose knowledge of the world extended as far as New Caledonia.
They were a crew of desperadoes who had been employed chiefly in
labourers' work at the factories. They knew no handicraft--at least none
sufficiently well to pass the eye of such foremen as worked for Dennis
Deventer. And, in addition, they were lazy in working hours, given to
obscene conversation and to drinking pure alcohol out of pocket flasks.
So it may be well believed that they were not popular with the oversmen
at the works, and when they fell under Jack Jaikes' rebuke he was apt to
chastise them with whips of scorpions.

At the same time, desperate and careless though they were, and backed by
the majority of the unthinking younger men of the National Guard, they
had some qualms as to disturbing Keller Bey in his fastness of the
Mairie. He had still a number of faithful defenders, and like an old
lion of the Atlas he would certainly sell his life dearly.

So Barrès and the Committee of Public Safety laid aside his case for the
moment. They had other matters which pressed. Their "rapine and pillage"
adherents desired to begin work. On the outskirts were many villas and
houses of summer resort which promised loot. Barrès had preached so
much, that (though with no great good-will) he was now driven to a
little practice. Yet he knew instinctively that in France offences
against property are far longer remembered and far more severely dealt
with than crimes against persons--shooting and assassination not
excluded.

Still, he had to satisfy his followers, and in the bosom of the
committee there were already experts--the ex-political prisoner Chanot
and the traveller to the coasts of Cayenne were not at their first essay
in "personal expropriation."

It was clearly unsafe to cross the river. The town of Aramon le Vieux
was a hornets' nest, all Gambetta republicans and royalists. The
department, too, had a fine National Guard, mostly Protestants or
commanded by Protestants, and the Moblots or Mobiles of the department
of Deux Rives were drilling every day. What plundering was to be done
must be on this side of the bridge, but there was abundance and to spare
for all, if the business were rightly managed.

The first step was to disarm the doubtful companies, and re-enlist only
those who were of proper anarchist hue and ready for "expropriation."
This was done in the Riding School where the Committee sat all day
devising mischief and laying out evil as on a map.

On the night of the 6th of April they were ready. The villas and country
houses left vacant by the officers of the troops formerly quartered in
Aramon had remained unoccupied, and, as the soldiers went right off to
the seat of war from Aramon Junction, the furniture and personal
belongings were equally untouched. The wives and children had been
dispatched to the care of parents paternal and maternal in Limousin
castles and Norman apple-orchards. Only an ancient caretaker or two
remained, hiding in some niche of the ground floor and cautiously
venturing out to make a hasty and furtive "market" in the grey of the
morning.

For the adepts of "individual redistribution" these served to whet an
appetite. By midnight Jack Jaikes called me up on the roof of the
Château. All along the river front houses were already flaming. Some, as
I looked, climaxed their particular display by the crashing down of
roofs and the falling in of floor after floor, followed by bursts of
flame many hundreds of feet high, which lit up the dim river and the
white houses of Aramon le Vieux. I could see the ancient battlements of
the Lycée St. André serrated against a velvet-black sky--nay, I could
make out that very forehead of promenade from which we had watched, that
day in January, the tricolour give place to the Tatter of Scarlet.

The rabble were giving tongue down there like packs of wolves, and at
the sound Jack Jaikes stamped and cursed as men swear only in Clydeside
ship-building yards.

"Whist now, Jackie," said the voice of Dennis Deventer at my elbow,
"what's the use of using all the Lord's fine big words that are meant to
embellish Scripture on the like of them? Is it not tempting Providence
to be cursing fools who are sprinting hot-foot to damnation by
themselves?"

"Wait--oh, wait," growled Jack Jaikes, jerking his joints till they
creaked in a way he had when he was excited; "I shall make them sing to
a different tune. Listen to them baying. Chief" (he turned suddenly to
Dennis) "could I not just lob over half a dozen shrapnel among these
cattle? They seem to be having it all their own way. Let me remind them
that there's a God left in the universe."

"You've got your business to attend to, young man. Be good enough to
leave your Maker's alone. He can manage His own affairs, Jack Jaikes,
and has been doing so for quite a while."

Yet I understood the haste of the senior lieutenant and gangforeman.
Apart from the uncompromising temperament of the Strathclyde man, it was
difficult even for me to stand idle and listen to the shrieks of
demoniac mirth as each new villa was attacked. In the silence of the
night we could hear the crash of doors beaten in, the splintering of
wood and the jangle of glass. Then came the dull rumble of many feet
beating irregularly on wooden floors, the rush upstairs, the windows
flung open, their green outer _volets_ clattering against the walls, to
let in the clear shining of a moon which had been full only the night
before.

"What could not a score of us be doing with plenty of ammunition and our
Deventer rifles?" I whispered to Jack Jaikes. He hardly looked at me. He
was in the mood for anything except disobedience. He merely heaved a
protesting sigh in the direction of his Chief, a sigh which was eloquent
of all that he could do if he were not controlled by a higher power.

"Will our turn never come?" I asked him, as he stood and gazed, his eyes
red and as if injected in the glowing of the burning buildings.

"I fear not to-night," he said, "the beasts will slink back to their
lairs to deposit their loot. To-morrow night we may expect something
serious for ourselves. But in any case I can't stand here hopping about
like a hen on a hot plate. Let us go and see that the posts are all on
the look-out."

I did not go out with him, however, instead I remained with Rhoda Polly,
whom I had run downstairs to find. She told me the names of the burning
houses and to whom they belonged--the Villa Mireille, built recently by
a great Paris grocer--Sans Souci, that of a local sausage-maker, and so
forth. All these people had long left the district, and, as I said, the
smaller houses had been let to the officers of the former Imperial
garrison.

Presently Dennis Deventer came and sat down beside us. Said Rhoda Polly,
"Father, I never knew that we harboured such wretches among our men.
Surely they do not come from the Works?"

"No," said Dennis, settling himself with his back to the chimney pots,
"I rather judge we have to thank your friend Gaston Cremieux for most of
these. His experience as Gambetta's Procureur made him intimately
acquainted with all bad characters in Marseilles. So when he became
dictator, a few executions along the Old Port, and the posting up of a
warning proclamation set the whole hive of cosmopolitan ill-doers
scattering northwards. I think Aramon got the cream of them, and they
are now acting after their kind, sure of an immunity which they could
not hope for under the rule of Gaston Cremieux."

"But Keller Bey?" said Rhoda Polly, astonishment in her accent, "why
should he allow it? He is a soldier. Alida told me of his campaigns in
the Atlas."

"Yes, Rhoda Polly," her father answered, "but though they let Keller Bey
alone in the Mairie, he has no more power in Aramon. The party of the
Reprise Individuelle, that is to say of plump and plain robbery, is in
full possession, and I doubt not but that before long we shall have such
a siege of Château Schneider as will make us forget the other
altogether. Only remember this, Miss Rhoda Polly Deventer, we about the
Yard and Works do not wish your assistance or countenance on any
pretext."

"I do not see why," said Rhoda Polly, pouting, "I know I am at least of
as much use as Hugh."

"He is a man--my son!"

"Well, if it is _that_ you are thinking of," snapped Rhoda Polly, "you
can afford better to lose a daughter than a son. You've got three of us,
Dennis, don't forget! Take my advice. Risk a daughter, and send Hugh
down cellar with the Mater!"

"Not one like you, little spitfire!" Her father spoke more tenderly than
I had ever heard him, and before going away he let his hand lie for an
instant on the vaporous curls about her brow.

We kept awake most of the night, while the moon sailed overhead and the
tall chimney stalks of the factories were made picturesque by the red
glow from the entire riverside quarter of Aramon. The shouting and the
tumult died down with the incendiary fires. The river, sometime of
molten copper, was again grey, unpolished silver under the moon, save
where the webbed and delicate shadow of the great suspension bridge
slept on the water.

At the dawning of the day mighty sleep passed upon the two of us sitting
there, and there Jack Jaikes found us sitting hand in hand, my head on
Rhoda Polly's shoulder, shamelessly slumbering under the risen sun.



CHAPTER XXXII

"READY!"


The weather changed brusquely during the day of the 7th April. Till now
it had been lovely spring weather--indeed, save for the shorter days,
comparable to our finest summers in England.

Then about noon came a thunderstorm--a sudden blackening and indigoing
of the south horizon--a constant darting of lightning flashes very far
off, this way and that--no thunder, only the inky storm advancing over
the sea. Wild fire playing about it and a white froth of spring
cloud-tufts tossing along its front.

By two the flashes were raging about us, the thunder continuous and
deafening, and the hailstones hopping like crickets on the roof of
Château Schneider. Then it rained a great rain, every gargoyle spouting,
every gap and pipe gurgling full. The wind bent double the tall poplars
and lashed the lithe willows till they fished the stream. At half-past
two all was past, for the moment at least. The roofs were giving off a
fine, visible steam under bright sunshine. The land reeked with rising
moisture, and over the water the wet roofs of Aramon le Vieux and St.
André winked like heliographs.

So it continued all day, the thunder passing off to this hand and the
other--the mountains of Languedoc or among the dainty fringe of the
dentelated Alpines behind Daudet's three windmills--which were not yet
his. But it never quite left us alone. The Rhône Valley is the laid
track and ready-made road for all thunderstorms. Even those from the
west turn into it as from a side lane, glad of the space and the easy
right of way.

I rose from my proper bed just in time to see the best of the
thunderstorm. Rhoda Polly had been up "ages before," as she asserted.
She had lunched with the family and confided to me that there had been
less row than usual, for the Chief had not been able to take the meal
with them.

She had, therefore, been deprived of the pleasure of crying to their
father, "Hey, Dennis, hold hard there!" Or, plaintively, "Now, Dennis,
you _know_ that is not true!"

So they had solaced themselves by teasing Hannah, who had first
threatened assault and battery and then retired in the sulks to her own
room, the door of which they had heard locked and double locked. Mrs.
Deventer had reproved them for their cruelty to their sister--which was
grossly unfair, seeing that she had appeared to enjoy the performance
itself, and even contributed a homily on Hannah's love of finery.

Altogether it had been a stupid lunch, and I had done well to keep out
of it. Oh, certainly, Rhoda Polly would gladly get me something to eat.
Indeed, she did not mind having a pauper's plateful of scraps herself.
Lunch proper was such an accidental meal that oftentimes all that
reached the mouth was the bare fork!

So on scraps and a glass of ale Rhoda Polly and I lunched together with
great amity and content. We spoke of the coming (or at least expected)
attack, and Rhoda Polly revealed to me her plans for seeing all she
could and yet keeping clear of the eyes of her father. This was
undutiful, but certainly not more so than shouting "You, Dennis!" at him
down the whole length of an uproarious dinner-table.

Jack Jaikes looked in upon us in a search for the Chief. There was no
privacy of any kind in Château Schneider in those days. You simply went
from room to room and from floor to floor till you ran your quarry to
earth.

Rhoda Polly and I were sitting with the width of the table between us,
our two chins on our palms, the eyes of one never leaving those of the
other, drowned in our high debate.

Jack Jaikes gazed at us a moment and then, with a grin which might have
meant "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," if Jack Jaikes had read any
poetry, he turned on his heel and went out again without speaking.

"I say," said Rhoda Polly, "he never told about catching us asleep up
behind the chimney pots with the sun baking our noses brick-red----"

"Holding hands too, and my head----"

"Glory, I'm glad it wasn't Hugh who caught us--then we should never have
heard the last of it. What sillies we must have looked. I say, Angus
Cawdor, that Jack Jaikes is a very decent sort. Suppose he had brought
the others up! Hanged if I could have kept from telling!"

"Oh, it was not to spare me, don't you deceive yourself. It was for your
sake, Rhoda Polly. He would aid and abet you in forging the Governor's
name to a cheque for a dressmaker's bill."

Rhoda Polly went to find her mother, after promising to lie down awhile
and so be fresher for the night. Dennis Deventer had instituted
four-hour watches for the same reason, and everyone not on duty was sent
to turn in. But the restless Jack Jaikes refused obedience. He had a
thousand things to do. Oh, yes, everything was in readiness, of course.
Things always were "last gaiter button" and that sort of rubbish, but to
look everything over from one end to the other of all the posts was by
no means useless, and to this he, Jack Jaikes, meant to devote himself.

At any rate I slept, and I believe so also did Rhoda Polly. At least
there was a period which otherwise could not be accounted for in that
young lady's diurnal of her time. Supper was a snatch meal, and I don't
think anyone thought much about eating, but Rhoda Polly was down in the
kitchen seeing that the men's rations were sent out to the posts. At six
I reported for duty to Jack Jaikes who had asked for me particularly. He
gave me a powerful pair of night-glasses, presented to him for
life-saving, as an inscription upon the instrument itself testified.

"You know the streets of Aramon as well as I do," he said, "you have
only got to keep your eyes about you, and report all you see. There is a
nice little Morse installed on the top of the gateway, and you will be
fairly safe behind the parapet--at least as safe as anywhere."

The little tower he spoke of carried a clock and was placed not directly
over the main gate, but to the side above the offices of the
time-keepers and accountants.

"I suppose," he added, "Rhoda Polly is coming. If so, don't let her
fire, and, of course, don't fire yourself. You are the watch, so keep
all dark above. Not a light, not a cigarette. And when Rhoda Polly
comes, make her stay behind those sand-bags in the corner. I hiked a few
up on purpose for her."

"I know nothing about it," I asserted, "I never thought of it for an
instant. If Rhoda Polly comes it will not be because I asked her."

He looked at me with a slight contemptuous grin.

"Do not worry yourself," he said; "if Rhoda Polly wants to come she will
come, and neither you will entice her, nor her father forbid her."

And he went his way.

       *     *     *     *     *

I watched the wide Cours of Aramon, white under the moon, with its plane
trees casting inky shadows on the flat stones and trampled earth. A
silence had fallen upon the streets that opened on it, and no lights
showed from the houses. The anarchists knew the value of darkness as
well as we. But for a while the moon continued to block them. The sky
filled and as regularly emptied of great white clouds, charioting up
from the Mediterranean like angelic harvest-wains.

I did not see anything worth reporting from the top of the clock-tower,
nor hear anything except a distant hammering. An intense quiet reigned
over the town of Aramon-les-Ateliers. I saw no new conflagrations. The
old were extinct, and no yelling mobs poured out towards the well-to-do
suburbs. The Extremists of the Commune had withdrawn their sentries and
outposts--at least from within sight of the defences of the works.

Jack Jaikes argued that this alone showed that they were plotting
mischief.

"These gutter scrapings of a hundred ports and a thousand prisons" was
what he called "the new lot" who had supplanted Keller Bey.

I think he secretly rejoiced. For, so long as it was a matter of
fighting the elected Commune with Keller Bey at its head, he knew that
the Chief had been lukewarm about extreme measures. He had even
negotiated in the early time, which Jack Jaikes called "a burning shame.
The best way to negotiate wi' a rattlesnake is to break his back wi' a
stick!" He recognised, however, it was no use holding back when the
Chief said "March!"

"But noo, lad," he confided to me, "they are coming for what they will
get. They are going to harry and burn and kill. There are four women
yonder, and Dennis kens as well as me that if they win in on us, it will
be death and hell following after. So he will let us turn on the
fire-hose from the first, and let off no volleys in the air. That suits
Jack Jaikes. This is no Sunday-school treat wi' tugs-o'-war and shying
at Aunt Sally for coco-nits! Aye, a-richt, you below--haud a wee, I'm
comin'!"

He had hardly remained five minutes with me, but he had put some iron
into my blood. We were no longer fighting against theorists like Keller
Bey, or broad-beamed, first-class mechanicians like the Père Félix.

And then the women--they would not bear thinking about, and indeed I had
not time, for prompt, as if answering to a call, Rhoda Polly plumped
down beside me in the sand-bag niche.

"I met Jack Jaikes," she explained. "He said he knew I was coming and
had made all snug for me. How did he know? You did not?"

"He must have guessed, Rhoda Polly--perhaps it was something you said."

"Nonsense, he is altogether too previous, that Jack Jaikes, but all the
same these sand-bags are comfy, and I can see as from an upper box."

"There is not much to see." I was saying the very words when with a
crash a wall on the opposite side of the Cours seemed to crumble in upon
itself. There was a jet of flame, a rain of stones, which reached
half-way to the defences of the works, and then a gap, dark and vague in
the veiled moonlight.

"That was dynamite," said Rhoda Polly, "though the report was not loud.
There is, quarrymen say, a silent zone in which the explosion is not
heard. We must be just on the verge of that. I wonder if there is more
to come."

We waited--I straining my eyes into the darkness and seeing nothing. The
moon did not reach down into the gulf which the explosion had created.
But I was vaguely conscious of shapes that moved and of a curious
crushing noise like that of the steam-roller upon the fresh macadam of a
roadway in the making.

But though Jack Jaikes came up to see for himself, none of us could make
out anything--till Rhoda Polly, whose eyes were like those of a cat,
made a telescope of her hands and after a long look whispered eagerly,
"I see something they have got in there. It is like a bear on end--you
know--when it is dancing."

"Try again, Rhoda Polly. Try the night-glass!"

"I can do better without it, Jack Jaikes--yes, I see better now--it is
like a big boiler for washing clothes or boiling pig's-meat with the
mouth tilted towards us. It looks as if it were mounted on a kind of
cradle!"

The words were hardly out of her mouth when Jack Jaikes exclaimed, in a
voice which might have been heard half across the wide oblong of the
Cours, "A mortar--I never thought of that--they have got a mortar. They
were clearing a way for using it--at short range too. They can plug us
anywhere now."

He sprang towards the Morse telegraph, but he did not reach it. A
concussion and a roar shook the tower to its base. I saw the flame shoot
out a yard wide from the gap in the defence wall. Our main gate and part
of the rampart to the right had been badly smashed, quite enough for a
determined storming party to penetrate if the new gun made any more
successes.

"They are firing solid shell at us," said Jack Jaikes, frantically
manipulating the keys of the telegraph instrument.

"Now I must get a gun to play upon them. It will need something big, for
though we can scourge their gun emplacement with mitraille fire, the
merit of their plan is that the gunners lie hid in a ditch. Only one
man, or two at most, are needed to slip round and drop in the charge and
shell."

"I see them," said Rhoda Polly, pointing where we saw only blank
darkness. "Give me a rifle, Jack Jaikes. I believe I can pick that man
off!"

"You shall have number 27, Rhoda Polly, the best ever made. Oh, if only
I had eyes like you!"

Jack Jaikes groaned aloud, and Rhoda Polly settled herself behind the
sand-bags. But she glanced up almost instantly.

"He is gone!" she said.

"Then look out!" cried Jack Jaikes.

We both saw the broad stream of fire this time, and the wall on the
other side of the gate came rattling down, while a big ball went
skipping across the yard of the works, kicking the dust into clouds and
bringing up with a dull smack against the wall of the foundry just
opposite.

"No harm done this journey, just topped us and brought down a few
stones. But this can't last. They will get the range and make hay of
us."

He was already making off on his quest.

"Better get down out of that, Rhoda Polly," he called back, as his feet
clattered among the fallen bricks and masonry. "Go to the cellar, Rhoda
Polly!"

"Go to the cellar yourself, Jack Jaikes--I'm going to watch for the man
who does the loading of that gun!"

And Jack Jaikes laughed, well pleased. I felt vaguely humiliated, for I
was a far better shot than Rhoda Polly, only I could not see.
Furthermore I wished her well out of the clock-tower, for the flash of a
rifle from the top of it would almost certainly cause us to be
bombarded, and with the lobbing action of the mortar shot the projectile
might very well land right on top of us, in which case the sand-bags
would prove no protection. All I could do, however, was to stick to the
Morse machine and send down the reports that Rhoda Polly threw at me
over her shoulder.

As soon as Jack Jaikes had made a tour of the posts, a hail of rifle
fire broke from the wall of our defences, directed upon the gap in the
wall and the _débris_ which sheltered the mortar.

"It's no use! Tell them to stop," called out Rhoda Polly; "they are only
making the plaster fall." I transmitted the message, and the firing from
our side slackened and ceased.

The smoke of the volleys drifted slowly along the wall, blinding and
provoking the watcher. She waved it petulantly away with her hands.

"They will make me miss my chance," she mourned. "The gunners can do
what they like behind that. I wish Jack Jaikes had had more sense. What
is the use of shooting at sparrows' nests under the eaves when the men
are down in a ditch?"

She was quite right, the next shell was a live one, and passed quite
near us with a whistling sound. It exploded just under the big iron
door, which was blown from its fastenings and fell backward into the
yard with a heavy, jangling crash which went to all our hearts like a
warning.

The square of the doorway, seen over the edge of the clock-tower, was
now quite open. The mortar of the anarchists had done good work, and our
carefully-thought-out positions were endangered. I could see Dennis
Deventer walking about from post to post, where there was danger of an
attack. The wall was not high, especially on the side of the Château,
and it would not do to leave these posts denuded of men.

At the moment while I was looking at him, Jack Jaikes with a full
gunners' team came galloping across the yard with a four-inch Deventer
quick-firing field-gun lurching after them. If once they could get that
up to the doorway they might be able to make some efficient reply to the
enemy's mortar. But a gun of that size needs some sort of emplacement,
and an approach to the doorway must be contrived.

Dennis was on the spot and I could hear him giving his orders in sharp,
lapidary phrases. In the interest below me I had not been watching Rhoda
Polly, and so the sharp report of her No. 27 startled me. Of course I
could discern nothing in the huge black gash torn by the explosion. But
Rhoda Polly was triumphant.

"I got him," she whispered; "I saw him coming out and before he could
get the shell into the muzzle, I fired. He dropped the shell and fell on
top of it. What a pity it did not go off!"

Such a bloodthirsty Rhoda Polly! But the truth was that, when it came to
fighting and what she called "taking a hand," Rhoda Polly felt
absolutely at one with the defence. She only strove to outdo those who
were her comrades, and the matter of sex, never prominent in Rhoda
Polly's mind, was altogether in abeyance.

I tapped the keys of the Morse viciously. It was all I was good for.

"Rhoda Polly has shot the gunner--now is your time!"

But still the embankment for the four-inch did not quite please Dennis.
He preferred to take his chance and wait. It seemed a long, weariful
time. Rhoda Polly peered into the blackness along the tube of No. 27.
Rhoda Polly wriggled and settled herself.

"Bang!" said No. 27. "Winged him! But he made off!" said the marksman
disgustedly. "He was quarrying under the other fellow for the shell, so
they can't have many or he would have brought out a fresh one. I do wish
father would hurry up. In a minute or two there will be such a beautiful
chance--just before they are going to fire. They will send three or four
men this next time so that I can't shoot them all. If our folk are not
speedy, down will come this old clock-tower!"

Rhoda Polly was a good prophet, and when next she spoke she had to
report that there was a little cloud of men on either side, hiding
behind the wall and preparing to load the piece, when their comrades
were ready, at any hazard.

The four-inch was now poking a lean snout out of the door which had been
smashed open by the mortar, and stretched along, laying her on the
centre of the darkness, was Jack Jaikes, cursing the Providence which
had not given him eyes like Rhoda Polly's.

"Now," said my mentor hastily, "tell them now is the time. They can't
miss if they fire into the brown! Right in the centre of the gap in the
line of that white chimney."

The discharge of the big gun beneath us quite made us gasp. It shook
Rhoda Polly's aim, and this time No. 27 went off pretty much at random.
But what we saw within the gap opposite made up for everything. The
shell burst under the mortar or perhaps within it--I could not
distinguish which. At any rate, something black and huge rose in the
air, poised as if for flight, and then, turning over, fell with a
clangorous reverberation into the house behind, smashing down the white
chimney and causing the blue-coated National Guards with which it was
filled to swarm out. Some took to their heels and were no more heard of
in the history of the revolt of Aramon. Others pulled off their coats
and fought it through in their shirts.

Dennis Deventer waved his hat, and all except Jack Jaikes yelled. He was
busy getting the gun ready for a second discharge. But Dennis stopped
him.

"Jackie, my lad," he said, "no more from this good lady the day--get up
the mitrailleuses. They had only that one big fellow and you have
tumbled him in scrap through the house behind. I don't know how you
sighted as you did."

"I did not," said Jack Jaikes grumpily--"only where Rhoda Polly told
me."

"Well, never mind--that job's done," said the Chief soothingly; "hurry
with the machine guns. They will take ten minutes to get over that
little surprise and wash it down with absinthe. Then we shall have to
look out. They will come, and if we have not their welcome ready, they
will come to stay."

At this point I begged for permission to come down and join Jack Jaikes'
gang.

I was no use up there, I said, Rhoda Polly could see all round me. She
must call down the news, as there was no time to teach her the Morse.

"Well, come along then," said Dennis, and I did not stop even to say
good-bye to Rhoda Polly. At last I was going to have a chance.

When I got to my gang Dennis Deventer was speaking.

"I will give you what help I can by sending men from the north wall and
that next the river. I don't expect any assault there. But I cannot
weaken the defence along the side of the Château orchard. That is where
we are weakest, and where I must go myself. For they are sharp enough to
know it. I leave you in charge here, Jack Jaikes. Keep the men steady
and don't allow swearing in the ranks!"



CHAPTER XXXIII

"HELL UPSIDE DOWN!"


There was strangely little exultation. Each man felt the tussle was yet
to come and nerved himself for it. The big square lay out silent under
the moon, splashed with the shadows of the pollarded poplars, the
benches upturned, a tree or two uprooted, and beyond all the black gash
knocked in the row of white houses. It had a strange look, sinister,
threatening, all the more so because it had always been so peaceful and
well-ordered--like a man's tranquil life till the day Fate's
mortal-shell bursts and there is no more peace for ever and ever.

"Now mind, you fellows," said Jack Jaikes, "fire low and steady. They
are ten times our numbers, but we will fight in shelter and we have
these beauties!"

He patted the three mitrailleuses in turn. He had taken charge of the
middle one himself, and set his friend Allerdyce and young Brown to
command those on either side. We stood at attention, each man knowing
that the time could not be long.

Far down towards the Château we heard the rush and jar of an attack. A
similar noise came from farther up the wall towards the fitting shops.

"Jehoshaphat, they are flanking us!" exclaimed Jack Jaikes. And before
anyone could interfere--supposing that any had so dared--Jack Jaikes had
stepped outside the wall into the cumbered Cours of Aramon. I took the
liberty of following. Away to the right we could see nothing, except the
clouds of smoke drifting up or being tossed by the rough sudden swoop of
the blast, stooping down out of the moonlit heavens and the night of
stars.

Jack Jaikes must have been conscious of my presence, but he did not
order me back. He was talking to himself and he wanted a listener. As
Bacon says, he wanted a friend with whom to toss his ideas as a haymaker
tosses hay.

"Down there by the Château doesn't matter," he said, looking that way
long and earnestly, "Dennis Deventer is there--with MacIntyre and the
whole Clydebank gang--little to fear there. Listen, young fellow, how
the machine guns are barking--_U-r-r-r-rh!_ I wish ours were talking
too, but that mortar shot rather scared them--though it ought not--easy
thing to rush a four-inch gun firing shell at that distance and with
their numbers. One hole in the line, and then you are upon her.
But--see, young un, there they go butting in at the corner of the wall
yonder. We must give them a volley. Fellows, run out the
mitrailleuses--my own one first. Easy there over the stones! Now the
others!"

Presently with the three machine guns we were standing completely
shelterless in the Cours of Aramon with half a dozen darksome streets
and alleyways gaping at us truculently. "Turn them to the left," he
shouted. "Farther out, Allerdyce! Keep your alignment, you
Brown--swearing's forbidden, but think that ye hear Donald Iverach at
it!"

The light little guns with the pepperpot snouts were swiftly swung round
in the direction of the scaling ladders and the hurrying clouds of men.

Each man, Allerdyce, Brown, and Jack Jaikes himself, had his hand on the
handle which was to grind death.

"Lie down, you sweeps!" he called to us. "Flat--not a head up."

We lay down, but I looked sideways between the wheels of the centre
machine gun. The long legs of Jack Jaikes almost bestrode me.

"GO!"

And then all hell broke loose. The noise of the jarring explosions
melted into one infernal whoop, and seemed to ride the storm which at
this moment was mounting to the heavens from the south and shutting out
the moon.

The attacking party was mown as with a clean-swept scythe. For an
instant three swathes were clearly visible--Jack Jaikes, Brown, and
Allerdyce had each made his share of the crop lie down.

There came an explosion of rage and anguish.

"Again!" shouted Jack Jaikes. "Keep down that head," he cried to me, and
kicked savagely in my direction as he danced about. I obeyed. No account
could be required of men at such moments. He might stamp on my head if
he found it in his way.

"Sweep the wall and fire low!" was the next order. "Mind, Donald Iverach
and the boys are on top. We must not shoot them, but we _must_ help
those ladders down. It is a pity we dare not run out the four-inch--only
we could never get her back."

Again the rending siren shriek divided the night. We lay on the ground
seeing gigantic shapes twisted in seeming agony over guns high above us.
Our chins were in the dust and the play of the lightning flashes made
the thing somehow demoniacal and unearthly.

"Hell upside down!" as the man next to me pithily said--a parson's son
like myself, but from Kent, Pembury in Kent, where young Battersby is
still not forgotten.

The mitrailleuses flared red below and the skies flared blue above. The
thunder roared continuously and the noise of the machine guns cut it
like the thin notes in the treble corner of a piano. Heaven raged
against earth, and earth in the person of Jack Jaikes ground out shrill
defiance. But that night the bolts from the earthly artillery were the
more deadly.

"Cleaned the beggars out!" shouted Jack Jaikes, or at least that is near
enough to what he said. "Now then, up you fellows and we will get them
back!"

It was easier said than done. For it was one thing to get the little
guns down the rubble heaps beneath the battered gateway and quite
another to fetch them back. We were compelled to put all our three gun
crews into one, and even then we could not have succeeded without the
help of the men with ropes pulling from within. I saw Rhoda Polly
tugging like one possessed, though why she was not on her tower I do not
know.

We had left the other two machine guns unprotected and had to jump back
to rescue them. Still there was no enemy in sight and we got Brown's
fine No. 1 back into shelter. Remained Allerdyce, and as we rattled down
to fetch her up, suddenly the whole of the square in front of us was
swept by a storm of bullets. Somehow I found Hugh Deventer beside me.

"You gave us a good easement up at the corner," he said, "I was sure
they would get back on you next. Give me a place. I can hoist a gun
better than you!"

He was behind the wheel, but even as he set his weight to it
Allerdyce---eternally smiling Scot from Ayrshire, called Soda
Bannocks--collapsed over the piece he had commanded and worked. Another
man yelled with sudden pain, and I felt a sharp blow on the calf of my
leg.

"Clear!" shouted Jack Jaikes, "I will fetch the men. Up with the gun."
And he drew Allerdyce off the top of the mitrailleuse as one might
gather a wet rag.

The storm passed and as we panted upwards the bullets still tore our
ranks. It could not be done. We had not the force. We paused half-way
and blocked the wheels with stones so that she would not slip back.

"Great God, what's that?" I turned at the anguish and surprise in the
voice of Jack Jaikes, and I saw clear under the rain-washed splendours
of the moon Keller Bey walking down the main Cours of Aramon. One hand
held aloft a white flag, and on the other side clasping his arm
was--Alida!

I dreamed--I was sure I dreamed. That bullet--those fellows knocked
over--Allerdyce smiling and abominably limp on the top of his own
gun--Jack Jaikes gathering him up--all these things had crazed me, and
no wonder. I saw "cats in corners," as I used to do in old college days
when I studied too much and too long.

But yet I looked and saw the vision continued. Moreover I heard. Keller
Bey was calling out something as he waved the flag. Black cats did not
speak. They keep an exact distance away--about four yards and always in
the corner of a room or in a stairway--never in the open. What was he
saying? One word recurred.

"Trêve!--Trêve!--Trêve!"

"I proclaim a truce in the name of the Internationale!"

Mocking laughter answered him. The Internationale! What did they care
for the Internationale? They were out to kill and to take.

Little groups began to gather at the dark alley mouths. I could see the
glitter of rifles and bayonets. Present fear was arrested when they saw
us withdrawing our guns. Hope sprang into their minds that they might
capture the mitrailleuse abandoned halfway up. Their losses stung them
to a wild and reckless fury.

I do not know whence the first bullets came--I think from the north end
of the Cours Nationale, where some men had been busy removing their dead
and wounded. At any rate it was the signal for a general discharge. The
streets and alley-ways vomited fire. The crackle of rifle shots sprang
from the windows of houses. Somehow we found ourselves outside on the
Cours. We had abandoned the gun. Jack Jaikes seemed to be giving some
kind of instructions, but I could not make out what he was saying. What
I saw was too terrible--Keller Bey on the ground, the white flag of
truce stained with blood, and Alida kneeling beside him.

"Take them up!" yelled Jack Jaikes, "run for it!"

Before me strode Hugh Deventer, huge and blond like a Viking. He caught
up Alida and would have marched off with her, but that Jack Jaikes
barred the way.

"Idiot," he cried, "who can carry a man of Keller's size but you? Give
the girl to Cawdor!"

I think at that moment Hugh could have killed him, but he gave me Alida
as bidden, and bending he shouldered the dead weight of the wounded man.
"Put him higher, then, you fool," he shouted to Jack Jaikes.

"I can't, they are coming at us with the white weapon. Heave him
yourself," yelled back Jack Jaikes. I heard no more for Alida, waking
suddenly to her position, fought desperately in my arms, escaped, and
ran up the broken stones past the abandoned machine gun till I lost
sight of her in the dusk of the broken gateway. Hugh Deventer, stumbling
after with Keller Bey, cursed me for getting in his road. We did and
said a number of things that night which can't well go in a log book,
not even now.

I turned and in a moment was with the small band which Jack Jaikes had
gathered about the gun. At any cost we must not lose that. There were
too many men in Aramon who knew how to make ammunition for any purpose.

Yes, they were coming. They were so near that I had just time to snap in
my bayonet and get beside Jack Jaikes. I saw him shake something wet
from his hand.

"Are you wounded?" I asked anxiously, for that would have been the crown
of our misfortunes.

"No, that's Allerdyce!" he answered, with ghastly brevity, but
nevertheless the thing somehow nerved me. We all might be even as
Allerdyce, but in the meantime we must stop that ugly black rush--the
charge "with the white" as they called a bayonet charge. Behind was the
gun--Allerdyce's gun--and beyond that the open defenceless port, the
waiting men clewed there by their duty--and the girls!

Lord, how slow they were--these running men!

"Now then, one volley," said Jack Jaikes, "scourge them and then steady
for the steel! Remember we are taller men and we have on an average a
foot longer reach than they have. You, Gregory, keep behind and blow
holes in anybody you can see running."

I cannot remember very clearly this part. How could I? I rather think we
did not stand very firm. I seem to remember charging out to meet
them--the others too--and Jack Jaikes laying about him in front of
everybody with clubbed rifle, grunting like a man who fells bullocks.
The lines met with a clash of steel. I remember the click and lunge
perfectly. Then suddenly we seemed to be all back to back, and somehow
or other the centre of a terrible mixed business, a sort of whirlpool of
fighting. Men quite unknown to us had appeared mysteriously from the
direction of the Mairie. They were attacking our assailants on the
flank. It was warm there under the trees of the promenade for a few
minutes. But after a volley or two, as if they had come to seek for
Keller Bey, our new allies decided to retire without him. They sucked
back firing as they went, and taking with them the red mayoral flag they
had carried.

We were left with our own battle to fight. But they had done something.
The solidity of the attack had been somewhat fused down. We were not now
so closely surrounded.

"Glory, the tucker's out of them!" cried Jack Jaikes, "give them a
volley--Henry rifles to the front. Scourge them!"

It was his word--"scourge them." And that to the best of our ability was
what we did. The shooting was not very good, or we should have been rid
of the enemy much more quickly.

"Stand clear, there!" commanded a voice from above our heads. Rhoda
Polly had got a team of men together to lever up Allerdyce's machine
gun. She was now bending over it, and those who remained of the dead
man's crew bent themselves to the task of getting it in order.

"To right and left, and fire as they run. Now then----!" commanded Rhoda
Polly.

"Re-r-r-r-rach-rach-rach!"

The mitrailleuse spat hate and revenge over our heads. The young
"second-in-command," trained by Allerdyce, stood calmly to his post and
swept the muzzle wherever he saw a cluster of assailants.

"Allerdyce! Allerdyce!" yelled the crew of No. 4. They did not mean him
to hear. Allerdyce would never hear anything again--neither the voice of
his native Doon, running free over the shallows, nor the raucous voice
of his beloved gun, nor even the shouting of his men as they wrote their
vengeance for a dead leader across the Cours of Aramon in letters of
blood.

This happened almost at the end of the battle, but what I remember best
of it all, in all that unknown and unknowable turmoil of death, is the
half-wild, half-quixotic, altogether heroic figure of Jack Jaikes,
dancing and vapouring under the splendours of the moonlight.

"Come back and fecht!" he yelled. "Come back and fecht for the sowl o'
Allerdyce! On'y ten o' ye. I tell ye I'll slay ye for the sake o'
Allerdyce! Ye made what's no human o' him. Come back and I will choke ye
wi' my bare hands. We were chums, Allerdyce and me, at the Clydebank
yaird. God curdle your blood for what ye did to Allerdyce. Come back and
fecht, ye hounds o' hell, come back and fecht!"



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE PASSING OF KELLER BEY


We were hard put to it before we got the madman in, and then it was
worse than ever. For he, our master, the bravest man that I ever saw or
think to see, sat down beside his friend and wept like a child. He did
not even look at us when we took up Allerdyce and buried him in a long
trench with the others who had fallen--five in all, a heavy loss for us
who were so few.

"I never want to see Greenock again!" wailed Jack Jaikes, "we were that
pack, Allerdyce and me----"

"Go and fetch your father, Rhoda Polly," said I, "this will never do. It
would be no use to telegraph. He would never believe the like of Jack
Jaikes."

"May God grant he can come!" said Rhoda Polly, and darted off. I went
into the outhouse where Keller Bey lay. Harold Wilson was bending over
him, a steel probe in his hand. He stood up as I came in, looking
narrowly at the point.

"I think we shall pull him through, but so long as we have that young
lady"--he pointed at Alida, who was exhausting herself in a long
outburst of Oriental sorrow--"I fear we can do nothing radical."

"Wait till Rhoda Polly comes back," I said, "she will get her friend
away."

"I do not think so," he said, "she has been trying for some time."

"Could he be moved?"

"Far?" queried the doctor.

"Well, across the river in a boat, and up the hill to my father's
house."

Wilson winced. "That is rather a responsibility," he said dubiously;
"still, the man is unconscious and will probably remain so for many
hours. It certainly would be a good thing if we could be rid of him and
of that young woman--though in ordinary circumstances we should not be
in such a hurry to send her off."

He grinned pleasantly, and asked how I proposed to set about the
business. I told him it would be easy to get Keller Bey down to the
nursery gardens by the waterside. Here I would rout out my friend the
patron Arcadius, who would do as much for three or four of his
gardeners--Italians all, and not touched with local politics. My boat
was there, and the gardener lads would carry the stretcher up the hill.
They did harder tasks every day of their lives.

"Well, but you see I can't leave all these--where's your doctor?"

I told him I could bring down the resident from the college hospital.

"Oh, I know him, Vallier, a very decent fellow for an _interne_. He'll
do. Well, off with you. I will give you a note for him."

"We must wait till we get this stopped." I pointed to Jack Jaikes. "You
can't do anything I suppose?"

He shook his head. "No, it needs moral authority for that. He would care
as little for me as for you--less perhaps. But here comes Mr. Deventer!"

"Thank God!" I gasped.

"Jaikes," commanded Dennis Deventer, "bring the guns forward."

Jack Jaikes staggered to his feet and looked irresolutely about him. Was
he going to obey? Did he even understand? For a moment it seemed
doubtful. But whether his mind grasped the situation or not he answered
the voice of Dennis Deventer.

"What guns, sir?"

"Allerdyce's, Brown's, and your own!" said Dennis firmly. "Take command.
Forward with them into the breach," and the machine guns moved forward,
the remnant of their crews being reinforced by men from other posts.

"Hold yourself ready there, Jack Jaikes," said Dennis, "this is your
business. So far you have done well. We had to fight hard all along our
wall, but you have beaten us!"

"But you scourged them too?" demanded Jack Jaikes, lowering and
truculent.

Dennis drew a sigh of relief. His lieutenant was himself again.

"Yes, Jack Jaikes, we scourged them!"

For answer Jack Jaikes swept his index finger round the half-circle of
the Cours of Aramon, dotted with black bodies lying still.

"It's a pity ye can't see them all," he said, "they are lying in heaps
up in the corner yonder, where we cut the scaling ladders from beneath
them!"

       *     *     *     *     *

Though our gallant little Dr. Wilson permitted the removal of Keller
Bey, the task before me was one to tax me to the utmost. I think I
should have given it up and let Keller Bey lie, but for Rhoda Polly. She
came out from a long consultation with Alida, and at once took charge of
the situation, much as her father might have done.

I don't know in the least what the girls said to one another, or what
reason Alida gave Rhoda Polly for her presence in Aramon or for her
dislike of me, but whatever these might have been, they must at least
have been sufficient.

As I say, Rhoda Polly took hold. She commandeered an improvised carrying
stretcher, which had been prepared at the orchard end of the Château
policies. She prevailed on her father to lend her a carrying party as
far as the river.

The thought of letting any fraction of his few defenders go outside even
for such a purpose made Dennis Deventer frown.

"It will not take ten poor minutes," pleaded Rhoda Polly. "I will see
that they get safe back. Let me, Dennis!"

It was not often that she called him by his Christian name save in the
heat of wordy strife, and perhaps the very unexpectedness of it touched
him.

"Have it your own way then, but be quick--don't forget I am risking the
whole defence. I do not see in the least why Wilson could not have
attended to him here."

She stepped up and whispered in his ear. He looked first doubtful, then
incredulous, and a smile flickered a moment on his face.

"Ah, so!" he exclaimed, "I did not know you were so fanciful, my lady."

But he made no further objection, and we lifted up Keller Bey and put
him in the stretcher, where he lay without speech or knowledge. Wilson
tried his pulse and listened to his respiration.

"Get him away," he commanded, "the quicker the better!"

Rhoda Polly, Hugh and I helped the men over the wall with him, and held
the _brancard_ in place till they could get over to our assistance. We
did not try to go straight to the landing place through the bull ring,
but instead cast a wide circuit about the town, and finally came out
upon the little house of gardener Arcadius buried among its trees.

Him I awakened with care, first a hail of pebbles on his window panes,
followed the scratching teeth of a garden rake to indicate a friend, and
lastly my own voice calling softly his name. He looked sleepily out, for
he cared nothing about the town and its ongoings, if the early blossoms
were not frosted and his young trees were not eaten by predatory goats.

He made me a sign that he would be down immediately, and he was buckling
an equatorial waistbelt even as he opened the door.

He started back at the sight of the _brancard_. "What! A dead man?"

I explained the desperate need of Keller Bey and his daughter--how they
must cross the river and how we counted on him to give us porters. For
the boat Rhoda Polly and I would be sufficient, but for the carrying of
the stretcher up the hill we had need of four stout fellows.

"I have my Italians," he said, "that is, if none of them have decamped;
I locked them in, but the lads from the Peninsula are very handy with a
crooked nail."

As we went, Arcadius, lurching in front like a huge sea-lion doing
tricks, waved a lantern and spoke of the prospects of his garden. The
hard winter had done no harm. It had broken the clods and killed the
grubs. The war, the Commune, the black terror of Aramon did not exist
for Arcadius. Barrès would not come to expropriate his cauliflowers and
early potatoes. He asked no questions about Keller Bey and genially cut
short any offer of explanation. His business was the soil, the fruit
trees, planting and transplanting, and the sale of young vegetables.
Beyond these he desired to know nothing.

His four Italians were there, big, good-looking lads from the north, who
found gardening more to their taste than making roads or piling up
railway embankments. Arcadius addressed them in a kind of _lingua
franca_ which included much gesticulation and even foot-stamping.

The men appeared to understand, and I put in a few words as to
remuneration in their own tongue. For the son of the historian of
Italian Art had, of course, been bred to the language. They started and
turned upon me eager eyes, and then broke into a torrent of Tuscan which
took me instantly to the scented bean-fields and beautiful hills about
Siena. Of course they would be proud to carry my friend up the hill. I
was the son of the Wise Man of the Many Books. I had been with
Garibaldi. Ah, then, that said all. One had a brother who had died
following the Little Father. Another had even been told to get out of
the way by hasty Menotti. He laughed at the oath which accompanied the
command. Of course they were all ready. They could find the boat. It was
quite safe. They knew where. They had emptied it once when a squall had
overturned it, so that it lay on its side facing the rain.

So with Hugh, Rhoda Polly, one of the Tuscans and myself at the oars we
were soon letting ourselves slip away from the shore on which stood
Arcadius and his lantern, urging us to bring the lads safe back, because
there was a big job with the sweet peas on the morrow.

We went slantingly, not fighting the current too hard, but gliding
easily, and avoiding the shallows where we could hear the current roar
over the sand and pebbles.

Presently we grounded in the shadow of woods. I knew the place well. The
path led almost directly up past Rameau's hut to the little door of the
Lycée St. André. We could not have fallen better. We would escape the
town altogether, and along a _clairière_ or open vista of cleared forest
land we could easily gain the garden gate of Gobelet.

Keller Bey lay still, the wound on his head keeping him in a state of
unconsciousness, which was very helpful to our project. The bullet had
glanced from the bone and was now imbedded in the muscles of the neck.

During the transit Alida clove to Rhoda Polly when she could, and when
she could not (because of that young person's surprising activity), she
fell back on Hugh Deventer. Not once did she look at me, and if I
approached she would slip away to the other side.

The four Italians lifted the stretcher and began the ascent. Morn was
just beginning to break, so there was not much time. The Tuscans marched
to a kind of grunting chorus, as if they were counting numbers slowly.
They arranged their own work and rested when they had enough. Once the
cleared alley-way of the forest was reached the work became easy. Now
the march was on the level. We found the garden gate locked on the
inside, but Hugh gave me a hoist up, and in a moment I had it open.

My father, ever a light sleeper, was easily awakened, indeed his
student's lamp still burned in his room, and he took it up when he went
to warn Linn. She came out sternly composed, listened silently to my
report of what Dr. Wilson had said, and what still remained to be done.
Then she nodded, still without words, and with a decided air she moved
towards their bedroom.

At first sight of Linn, Alida had sprung forward and caught her
foster-mother in her arms. Linn gently kissed her, but immediately
released herself, that she might be able to give all her attention to
her husband.

The leave-takings were of the scantiest. The Italians were on fire to be
off before the morning broke. I repeated the directions about the
_interne_ Vallier up at the hospital to my father. Then we struck
riverward through the pines, racing the sun. Rhoda Polly arrived far in
front, and in a few minutes we were on the water again.

It was not till we landed on the little greensward above the backwater
where I hid the boat that we asked one another, "Where is Hugh?"

As we did so the sun rose and lighted up the world and all its problems
with the terrible clarity of morn, and by it we saw clearly that Hugh
Deventer had stayed behind.

Rhoda Polly and I looked at one another till we could look no longer,
and then, in spite of the danger, we burst into a peal of the gayest
laughter.



CHAPTER XXXV

A CAPTAIN OF BRIGANDS


The beaten wolves had slunk back to their lairs, but the fierceness of
their hate may be guessed from the fact that they would neither bury
their dead nor permit us to do it. Thrice was a burying party fired
upon, and it was only in the dead of night that Jack Jaikes and Brown
succeeded in cleaning the wide square in front of the main gate of the
factory.

Dennis Deventer had the iron gate new clamped and strengthened. On the
second night it was swung into place by the aid of an improvised crane,
which Dennis made, if not like the Creator "out of nothing," yet out of
the first things which came handy.

Our messes were now rather smaller. Between the Orchard and the Main
Gate attacks we had lost so many that the posts had to be strung out
wider to cover the long mileage of wall which had to be guarded.

The elated feeling of the earlier siege had departed. But in its place
we were conscious of a kind of proven and almost apathetic courage. We
might be called upon by any peril, and we knew now that we could do what
should be required of us.

I lived altogether with the gang now, only occasionally (by Jack Jaikes'
permission) running in to take a meal with the Deventers and to sun
myself in the approval of Rhoda Polly. Of course, I saw her often. She
had taken strongly to Allerdyce's gang, and, I think, cherished a hope
that Jack Jaikes might one day allow her to command it.

But, fond of Rhoda Polly as he was, Jack Jaikes had no idea of the
equality of the sexes when it came to a battery of machine guns. So he
gave the captaincy to Penman, a tall, thoughtful fellow of a dusky skin,
from the south, a good mechanician and a man dependable on all
occasions.

Rhoda Polly sulked a little and confided in me.

I pointed out to her that nothing more delicate than a mitrailleuse had
yet been invented. They jammed. They jibbed. They refused to fire when
they ought, but let go a shot or two without the least excuse, when they
might place those who served them in the greatest danger. What could
she, Rhoda Polly, do to remedy these ills? Nothing--whereas Penman had
been reared in the factory where they were made, and had long been a
foreman "assembler."

"Yes, but," she said, "I could tell him to do all that, and I am sure
that I could direct the fighting better. I have been a lot with my
father and I have kept my eyes open."

I told her to take her complaints to Jack Jaikes, but she knew better
than that. This is how she explained the apparent contempt of the second
in command.

"He has seen us sitting sleeping on the roof, hand in hand, when the
sunlight was two hours old, and you will see that neither you nor I will
ever get farther than we are at present under the consulship of Jack
Jaikes. He considers us in the light of a good joke, all because of that
unhappy rencontre!"

I was not ambitious like Rhoda Polly, and my position as confidential
lieutenant to Jack Jaikes suited me exactly. I do not mean that he ever
consulted me, or asked for my opinion on matters of business. But he
liked a listener and he loved to thresh out every question immediately
and to put down the contradictor. I must have been an immense comfort to
him, for I contradicted regularly, with or without conviction, and as
regularly allowed myself to be beaten down. That was what I was there
_for_!

Dennis Deventer had placed Jack Jaikes over the whole of the Works, as
distinct from the defences of the Château--which, as the less defensible
and the more likely to be attacked, he kept in his own hand. He
strengthened the wall of the orchard with palisades, and established
posts at either end with a machine gun to sweep its length. In spite of
all, the Old Orchard remained the weak spot in our defences, and the
sight of it with the enemy's posts so near put an idea into my head.

I went directly to Dennis Deventer. He was sitting placidly watching the
"assembling" of a new machine gun, the parts of which had been all ready
before the stoppage of the Works. He looked on critically, but without
needing to put in a word. Penman, Brown, and the rest were far too good
engineers to need even a suggestion. All the same they doubtless knew
themselves to be under the eye of the master.

"Chief," said I, "we took Keller Bey and Alida across the water for
safety, and I saw them into my father's care at Gobelet, where Hugh
remains as a guard. Now the real weakness of our position here is the
presence in our midst of Mrs. Deventer and your two daughters!"

"Two daughters--I have three!" said he, but I thought somewhat
quizzically and as if comprehending very well.

"Oh, I do not include Rhoda Polly," I answered, "she is as good a
soldier as any of us, and could be trusted in all circumstances, even if
she were rushed----"

"Rushed?" he said sharply. "How that? How trusted?" I spoke and I saw
him wince. Then, in a moment, he answered me, "You are quite right--ten
times right. And you mean that the others--could not!"

"I am speaking of what I pray God may never happen, but yet--the odds
against us are great. If it were as I suggested--with the other three
women--that would be your duty!"

He drew in his breath, hissing, between his teeth, like one who feels
the first sharp incision of the knife. His hands clenched and something
like a groan came from the strong man. I pursued my advantage.

"You might not be there, Mr. Deventer--you might be lying as I saw
Allerdyce along the top of your gun. So might I--so might anyone you
dared delegate."

"God forgive you--you put water into my veins. How could any man
'delegate' such a thing!"

"No," said I, "I feel as you do, and for that reason I beg of you to let
me escort your wife and daughters to the care of my father."

"And suppose," he said, "that our friends the enemy, finding us a hard
nut to crack and probably with little kernel when cracked, should take
it into their heads to cross the bridge and plunder the houses on the
hill of St. André?"

"I think not, sir," I answered steadily. "There are Government troops in
Aramon le Vieux. The National Guard there is all against the
revolutionists. In the old town the tricolour has never been in the
least danger. The whole department would move upon them if they
attempted such a thing."

"Well argued, my Cicero," said he, "you are your father's son. But these
black-a-vised rogues of ours defy reasoning. They may do the very thing
all wisdom shows that they ought not to do. And a visit to Gobelet on
the hill is one of these temptations which may prove too much for the
gaol birds who shelter themselves under the black flag of anarchy. I do
not see that the danger would be much lessened, considering the devil's
crew with whom we have to deal. A raid across the water, made by night,
would be an exploit worthy of them."

So my proposition was for the time rejected, but I did not despair. For
I knew, or thought I knew, that the absence of the women would relieve
us who were fighting the lines of the Château and Factory from an almost
intolerable fear. In this respect I now think I was wrong. For the idea
of the girls and their mother being entrusted to them to defend, made
every man behind the defences hate the enemy with a deep steady hatred.
Each became in his own eyes charged with the care of Liz or Hannah, of
Rhoda Polly or their mother, according to where, or in what relation of
life--sweetheart, sister, or mother--their hearts were tenderest.

Outside the situation changed but slowly. The Committee of Public Safety
had taken possession of the Mairie after Keller Bey had been abandoned
by his colleagues--and when with Alida he had come forth to make a last
effort at conciliation. Except the desperate Chanot, none of the leaders
of the Revolt-against-the-Revolt had taken any part in the fighting.
Barrès, Chardon, even Bonnot had sat and directed operations from the
safe shelter of the Hôtel de Ville.

It was not cowardice, the scoundrels were brave enough, as they showed
afterwards--but they had reached what seemed a haven of peace, and the
share of the plunder which had been claimed by the "administration"
assured them of good restaurant meals and such joyous company as was to
be found in Aramon.

Speaking to Chardon, his lieutenant Chanot treated the whole business
lightly.

"Why should we not take the best of life we can? It may not be for
long," he said, referring to this period. "You people of the Château had
taken toll of our numbers. Well, I do not complain. There was the more
left for the rest. We had appropriated, and who had a better right to
spend? There was no more cant of liberty and individualism among us, and
each man being a law and a religion to himself, we stole from one
another when we could. That is, if we found a friend's cash-box in a
place where a hand might grasp it, we thought how much good it would do
him to drink of his own brewing. So we 'individually expropriated' him.
That is why Lasalle of St. Gilles was killed by Auroy. Auroy found him
mixed up with a roll of bank-notes he had hidden in his mattress. There
had been a new election for the Quartier St. Marthe, and as nobody
thought of voting, we nominated Eusèbe le Plan who had lost an arm in
the fighting and would be a long time in hospital. This made the plums
go still farther round."

"The old 'reds'? Oh, they were in the town mostly, hidden in garrets,
passing their time like Troppman in reading 'The Picturesque Magazine'"
(here he laughed), "and listening for our footsteps and the grounding of
our rifle-butts before their doors. They thought we wanted them. What in
the devil's name should we want with such feeble, broken, bellowing
cattle? They had brought nothing to the office. They had been content
with their fifteen pence a day. Not one of them had a sou to rub against
another, and their wives hardly knew where the next day's soup was to
come from. Oh, yes, I know now, that which had I known then, some blood
would have splashed the garden walls--that Dennis Deventer had his own
folk among them who distributed money and food. They were his best
workmen and it was an agreed thing that when all this had blown over and
when we who had turned them out were all shot or beheaded, he should
enlist them again, and they would go back in the 'shops' to speak with
deference and sobriety as becomes an inferior to his superior!"

       *     *     *     *     *

I do not mean that there was any regular truce--rather a kind of
inaction and exhaustion. The first ardours of the political brigands had
been cooled by machine gun practice--Napoleon's old prescription of "the
whiff of grapeshot." A good many of this miscellaneous collection of
rascals, especially those who had done well in the earlier work of
incendiarism among the villas along the riverside, tailed off without
crying a warning. They made their way, some to Marseilles, where the
troops were just putting down the rule of Gaston Cremieux, some to
Narbonne, which was still in the wildest revolt, while others scattered
over the country, committing crimes in lonely places, hiding in the
forests by day and tramping by night, till for the most part they
managed to get themselves out of the country into Germany, Switzerland,
or Spain--wherever, indeed, they were least known.

But those who were left behind at Aramon waxed all the more deadly and
desperate because of these desertions. If only they had guessed how
severe our losses had been, they would have attacked with more vigour
than they did, but I think they judged that the "scourging" inflicted
upon them by Jack Jaikes had been almost without loss to ourselves.
Alas, besides the mound in the Orchard, the double row of graves in the
beaten earth of the courtyard told another tale! I do not think anyone
ever passed the spot without lifting his hat to Allerdyce and his troop
of gallant men, to whom the noble May days and the starry nights of the
last days of our siege mattered so little.



CHAPTER XXXVI

LEFT-HANDED MATTHEW


It was about this time that Matteo le Gaucher--Matteo the
Left-handed--began to interest himself in our concerns. At first sight
nothing was more unlikely than that Matteo could ever make the slightest
difference to the fate of any human soul. Yet great and even final
events hung upon Matteo le Gaucher. He was an Italian from Arquà, and,
as was said by his comrades, a "spiteful toad." He was deformed in body,
and of course carried with him the repute of a _jettatore_. The evil eye
certainly looked out from under his low brows, but it was with his evil
tongue that he could actually do the most mischief.

He had been employed by Arcadius in his garden. He was not a bad
workman. "The ground," as he said, "was not too far off for him." He
could work when he chose, better than anyone at the task of the day. But
he was a born fault-finder, a born idler, insolent and quarrelsome. The
four who were his room-mates and who worked with him bore longer with
him because of his bodily infirmity and also because of the Evil Eye,
which they mocked at but devoutly believed in. At last he aroused
Arcadius, across whose path he had always been loath to come.

Arcadius found a fault. Matteo found a knife. All men knew the light
gardening hoe which seldom left the hand of Arcadius. Well, the master's
eye was accurate, and Matteo went to the town hospital with a broken
wrist and a right hand almost hagged off. Let no one for a moment be
sorry for Matteo. In that comprehensive interval he began to plot many
things rendered natural by years of vendetta practice.

Directly, he could not hurt Arcadius. He had tried that and Chanot had
only laughed at him. No, even to please him, the Committee of Public
Safety would not shoot the man who sent them their finest, indeed their
only, early fruits. Arcadius had no store of gold hid in his chimney. He
had spent it all with Chanot's uncle the notary, buying new land, ever
more and more--and some still not paid for--but all regularly being
covered instalment and interest. This Chanot knew, because in his days
of (oh, so dull) respectability, Chanot had had to make out the
receipts. And how he hated the thought of the long days of deskwork.

Matteo mourned over his broken wrist, which hurt the more abominably
whenever he hated anyone and could in no wise wreck his hatred. He must
think out something else. He retired into his pillows, turned his face
to the wall, and for a day and a night thought by what means he could
best hurt Arcadius or the friends of the master-gardener.

He had been in the corner of the hangar-dormitory that night when the
four Tuscans had been called up to follow the lantern of Arcadius. The
Toad, with the venom attributed to him for centuries, had risen quietly
and from behind the great arbutus, had seen the boat with Keller Bey
lying stark on his stretcher, and the beautiful girl watching over him,
push out into the night.

On their return the Tuscans had exhibited their newly earned gold, and
all innocently had striven to set his cupidity wild by tales of the
wonderful paradise of fertility and riches under the brow of the hill of
Mont St. André.

Matteo le Gaucher snarled at them, denying that the coins were good, or,
if good, that they had been won (as they asserted) by merely carrying a
sick man up a hill.

Not for such service did men give gold Napoleons. They lied, Carlo,
Beppo, Lorenzo, and the oaf from San Ghomigniano of the Seven Towers.
They all lied, and Matteo, who was certainly in most evil humour that
day, tried to knock up the hand in which the Tuscan was jingling them.
He of the City of the Seven Towers felled Matteo, who would never have
forgiven him, if the bone-splintering blow of the mattock in the hand of
Arcadius had not come to fill the hater with the hope of a greater
vengeance.

Nevertheless the thought of the rich man who dwelt on the slopes of Mont
St. André, with sacks of golden Napoleons on either side of every room,
kept haunting him. Matteo could neither eat nor sleep till he had seen.
So he took a half-holiday without asking permission (the beginning of
his quarrel with the huge Arcadius) and, stealing a skiff from a
neighbouring landing, scrambled up the steep face of Mont St. André.

Fortune willed that he should meet the junior _lycéens_ out for a walk,
two and two, with only a weak _pion_ to restrain them. Naturally Matteo
was mocked and mobbed. Matteo drew a knife, and grinned like a wild cat,
but recognised his error in time, accepted the situation, and with the
hate of hell in his heart, began to show the juniors knife tricks--how
to let it fall always with the point down, how to send it whizzing like
a gleam of light deep into the heart of a tree, which might just as well
have been the heart of a man.

At last he got clear of them, smiling and bowing, till the sober-coated
little rascals were lost to sight on the high path. Then he brandished
his knife in fury, and vowed that if he could he would cut the throat of
every wretched imp among them.

But at the sound of voices he subdued his anger, and, humbly asking his
way from this passer-by and that other, he at last made his way to
Gobelet. He knocked long for admission at the porter's lodge, but the
porteress seeing such a calumny on God's handiwork outside, and scenting
appeals for charity, eyed him disfavourably through the little
cross-barred spy-window and let him knock.

A little farther down the road, he was quite as unsuccessful at the
tower port of the Garden Cottage, over which the Tessiers had been wont
to sleep.

There was no one in the house at all, yet Matteo le Gaucher quickly
running to the top of the bank opposite, imagined he saw faces mocking
him at every window.

It chanced that for his sins (whatever they may have been) my father was
at that moment coming leisurely down the hill, his hands behind his
back. He had been up to call upon his friend Renard before his siesta,
and they two had argued over-long as to the purport of the fourteenth
chapter of the Koran.

Suddenly full in his path he found Matteo grovelling before him, his
hands and knees covered with blood, foam from his lips, and to all
appearance in a state of extreme exhaustion. Now my father, Gordon
Cawdor, was a man of very simple and direct mind, so far as the actions
of those about him went. He believed that what he saw was the reality.
Indeed, so transparent was his honesty that men took fright at it,
counting it as the last achievement of duplicity, so that on an average
he was as seldom deceived as any other man in the country.

Now he cried out for help, and after one or two shouts Saunders McKie
and Hugh Deventer came through the gate and took up the seeming
epileptic.

Saunders was wholly sceptical and when ordered by his master to wash the
froth from the sufferer's mouth prospected with such good will for soap
within that Matteo, had he dared, would gladly have bitten the finger
off. He was compelled to swallow what might have served him another
time.

"Dowse him wi' a bucket o' water, and let him gang his ways. I like not
the look o' the speldron. He is like the Brownie that my Uncle Jock
yince saw on the Lang Hill o' Lowden--a fearsome taed it was, juist like
this Eytalian."

"Hold your peace, Saunders," commented my father. "You, he, and I are as
God made us, and little that matters. What is written of us in the Book,
_that_ alone shall praise or condemn us!"

"Lord's sake, Maister Cawdor," said Saunders, who always wilted before
my father in his moments of spiritual reproof, "I was sayin' and
thinkin' no different. The Book and What is Written Therein! That's the
rub, an' no to be spoken o' lichtly. And after a' the craitur's a
craitur, though I will say----"

"Say nothing, Saunders, till you have given the unfortunate to eat and
drink. Then when he is recovered I shall speak with him a moment."

"Weel, Maister Cawdor, let your speech be silver, and no gowden."

"You mean, Saunders?"

"I juist mean that the buckie has a gallow's look aboot him, and if ye
are so ill-advised and--aye, I will say it--sae wicked as to gie him
gold, we shall a' hae our throats cuttit in our beds yin o' thae
nichts!"

Whereupon my father reproved his old servant for narrow-mindedness and
evil thinking, but Saunders held his own.

"Narrow-mindedness here and ill-thinkin' there," he said, "blessed are
they that think no evil, I ken, and that blessing ye are sure o',
Maister Cawdor. But ye pay me a wage to keep watch and ward for ye over
all evil-doers, and may I never taste porridge mair if this lad doesna
smell the reek o' the deil's peats a mile away."

Saunders prevailed in the matter of the gold, and it was only a
five-franc piece that Matteo carried away from the gate of Gobelet. Hugh
Deventer and Alida came out to see off the man who had caused such a
disturbance in the peace of the quiet villa. Matteo gazed at Alida with
the look of a wild beast before whose cage passes a fine-skinned plump
gazelle.

He was full to the lips with rage, bitterness, and all uncharitableness.
Gobelet he had seen, but owing to the machinations of that enemy of
mankind, Saunders, only the great paved kitchen in which the menservants
and maidservants passed to and fro, all gazing at him with inquisitive
and contemptuous eyes. Ah, if only he could make them smart for that,
those full-fed minions whose broken meats had been set down to him,
Matteo of Arquà. Not but that these were good, yes, and the wine was
excellent. It might be worth while, when he should decide to turn
honest, to find some such place, perhaps as porter or lodge-keeper
against his old age.

So after ringing the piece of a hundred sous on a stone, Matteo gave
himself to meditation as he descended to his boat. The house was rich.
There were many servants, and access to the money-bags along the wall
would be impossible to him.

But there were others who would think but little of the task. If only he
were at Arquà, he knew of as pretty a gang as ever donned masks--honest,
too, in their way, men who would not cheat the indicator of good
business out of his lawful share.

But here Matteo le Gaucher must think things over. It was vain for him
to give away a valuable secret without some guarantee of gain. So Matteo
crept back and took to his bed, where he turned the matter over and
turned it over, till he began to despair of ever finding a way of
bettering his condition without having to work. The touch of the
five-franc piece in his pocket, gained by a little dissimulation, had
disgusted him with the culture of cauliflower and early potato.

Next morning he scamped his work, fell athwart the bluff bows of
Arcadius, and so found himself with a broken bone and a wounded wrist in
the hospital of La Grâce at Aramon.

Here he fell in the way of ex-notary's clerk Chanot, whose practice in
his uncle's office soon wormed Matteo's whole confidence from him--that
is, save on one point which he kept obstinately to himself.

It had long been a question with the Committee of Public Safety where
Keller had disappeared to. It was not believed that he had remained long
in the Château. A boat had been seen in mid-stream--the sound of voices
heard by watchers on the bridge. He might have been less seriously
wounded than they supposed, and at Arles, Aix, or even Marseilles he
might be seeking help from old-fashioned revolutionaries like himself.

The Committee of Public Safety had for some time abandoned all pretence
of government. The little red newspaper had stopped. The shops were put
under weekly contributions in return for permission to open their doors.
No maids or wives came any more to the Aramon markets, and though
provisions continued to arrive, they were brought in by farmers who came
in bands and well armed.

The "government" sat no more in the seats of the mighty, but lounged and
swung their legs from the tables, openly and shamelessly discussing the
next _coup à faire_, houses to dismantle, or rich men to hold to ransom
or doom to death. They smoked and deliberated, an oath at every word.

Men who had worked at the Small Arms Factory were now few, though there
were still several who had dug the foundations of the big-gun annex--a
professional bully or two from the city, deprived by the war of his
hareem and his means of livelihood, one or two well-educated youths,
_lycée_-bred even, who had "turned out badly," a few clever apprentice
workmen from the town, locksmiths and plumbers chiefly, who appreciated
idleness and a share in the profits of their skill in opening locks more
than the lash of the patron's tongue and the long day's toil from six to
six, year in and year out.

But all were less martial and more cautious now. They did not think any
more of attacking the strong, entrenched position behind which Dennis
Deventer and Jack Jaikes kept watch and ward, night and day.

They had courage--no man could truthfully say that they lacked that.
They had given their proofs. But they knew that the men within the Works
were growing stronger. There were rumours that Dennis Deventer had only
to hold up his hand and that he would have all the men he wanted within
the Château walls.

The men who had fought the troops, cleared the town, and set up the
"Tatter of Scarlet," the "Old Reds of the Midi," were no longer with the
rabble who used the black flag as an excuse for plunder and massacre.

The original Commune of Aramon (like that of Paris) had always been
meticulously careful as to the rights of private property. No
Communalist in Paris enriched himself one sou, at a time when the wealth
of all the banks and shops lay within the push of a gun-butt or the
explosion of a dynamite cartridge.

The men of the Old Commune had come to Dennis, Père Félix at their head,
as Nicodemus came to Another long ago, secretly by night. Their chief
prayer had been to be allowed, though late, to take part in the defence.
Père Félix appealed to Dennis not to discourage these willing hearts.
They were all approved Republicans and would fight for their opinion if
necessary, but they were no robbers nor murderers--nor would they have
any dealings with such.

But Dennis had enough men and desired no more. He had kept his own
bounds and let any attack him at their peril. Still, there was much they
could do. They could send him word of any new scheme of devilry. A
written word wrapped about a stone and tossed over the wall at a
convenient corner, where a watch was kept, would be sufficient. Or, if
proper notice were given, they could come, as to-night, to the Orchard
port. But this only upon matters of serious import which could not be
put off.

Moreover, since Père Félix had all the country of Vaucluse open to him,
he could collect provisions from Orange to the Durance. For anything
fresh and portable good prices would be given. Yes, they could be
delivered at the Orchard gate. Three times a week, on such nights as
Père Félix would appoint, he would have a guard put there to receive and
transport. Jack Jaikes would settle the bills. They all knew Jack
Jaikes.

The men looked from one to the other and smiled. Yes, they all knew
Monsieur Jack. There was never a man nor a boy in all the Ateliers but
knew Monsieur Jack. He had a way with him. He asked for what he wanted,
did Monsieur Jack. And he could do more with his bare hands and booted
feet when it came to a mêlée (what Jack Jaikes would have called a
scrap) than half a dozen ordinary men armed to the teeth. Oh yes, a
well-known figure in the Works, Monsieur Jack. In fact, quite a
favourite!

And they winked at one another, being quite aware that, without the
quiver of an eyelash, Dennis Deventer was winking too.

       *     *     *     *     *

Matteo lay on his couch in the Hôpital de Grâce nursing his arm. The
wound had healed and they were treating the bone by friction
now--reducing and suppling it, but causing Matteo a good deal of
incidental pain, which the hospital doctors in their careless way took
very much as a matter of course. If Matteo had had the long Arquà knife
which had been taken away from him, the two _internes_ might have been
surprised by a sudden revelation of the sentiments of the patient under
treatment.

Matteo had privileges, however. The house surgeons only tortured him
once a day, and generally about four Chanot came to bring him a screw of
tobacco, a little brandy, and the news of the town, adroitly seasoned to
suit Matteo's taste in publicity.

"Ah, my good Matteo," he would say, as he came in with that nonchalant
ease in his gait and that devilish glitter in his eye which made Matteo
at once envy and adore him. "Matteo of the left hand, how goes the other
to-day? Have you had dreams of the beautiful lady you saw--or imagined
you saw--at the house on the hill?"

"It was no dream, Master," said the Gaucher, "I saw her. She had brown
hair, a wilderness of it, and her lips were redder than the grenadine
flower."

"The house was a rich one?"

"Wonderfully rich. I did not see much of it myself, being only on the
ground floor with the servants, but I have four comrades who saw the
bags of golden coins heaped up like corn sacks against the wall, and the
master is an old man, very wise and learned, who speaks my speech only
with a southern accent. He dips his hands into the gold and draws out
the Napoleons, jingling and glittering. They run over his palms, set
close together like a cup, and slip through his fingers upon the floor,
where they lie, for it is not worth while among so much to pick them up.
The sweeper has them for his pains in stooping. It is true Master, as
God is in heaven. My comrades saw all this and swore on the bones of the
blessed Saint Catherine of Siena, whose servant I am, that they spoke no
lie."

Then would Chanot rise and go his way meditating. There might be some
truth at the bottom of this fairy tale. It was worth while thinking
over. But there were points to study. Should he take the whole gang into
his confidence or only a few? That would depend on the number and
courage of the servants--their dispositions to fight for their
master--and then the girl--that also was a point to be weighed most
carefully. Yet Chanot could by no means put off too long, for the hill
of St. André was not far away, and the wind of the rich trover might be
wafted down on any breeze.

Chanot had no need of temptations to plot or to do evil. These came
natural to him. He was better acquainted with the evil he had done than
with that which he was going to do. His future was not, if one might say
so, on the knees of his gods, but on those of his devils. Anton Chanot
had been bred good, but up till now he had never thought, desired, or
done aught but evil. Evil, indeed, was his good, and if on occasion he
showed himself a little kind, as in the bringing of Matteo's tobacco, it
was only that he might obtain the secrets of some man's heart.

But Matteo was an Italian, and an Italian of Arquà. He was full of ruse
and as little trustful as a Norman peasant. He saw through Chanot's
little luxuries. He weighed the news gossip as in a balance, and even
the tobacco he smelt curiously, and found of second quality. One person
he meant at all hazards to benefit, and that person was Matteo le
Gaucher.

He was a shrewd schemer, and if it had not been for one thing his
conclusions would have been sound. He had forgotten that Anton Chanot
would just as lief kill him as any other, without thought or remorse,
smiling all the while as when he handed him over the daily paper of
tobacco in the hospital of Aramon.



CHAPTER XXXVII

LOOT


I now enter on the final struggle, but before doing so I must
recapitulate if only to remind myself of where stands the tale and how
much yet remains to be told.

It was on the 21st of May and a Sunday. In Paris the lucky Ducatel of
the Roads and Bridges was guiding into the city the first division of
Vinoy's army under the astonished eyes of Thiers and Mac-Mahon who were
looking down from Mont Valerien.

There were in Paris in the Tuileries garden thousands who had come to
listen to a concert for the wounded of the Commune. Disarray, and a
muddling purblindness, kept the Commune talking and talking in the Hôtel
de Ville. But the men there at least were honest as other men, and when
they became exiles and prisoners they had brought no spoil away with
them. Men there were among them who, in the midst of the wholesale
slaughter of the Versailles troops, were ready to shoot hostages as did
Rigaut and Ferré, or to burn public buildings when driven out, as the
Russians did at Moscow--but no thieves.

But nowhere, save in one or two towns in the Midi, had the inhabitants
to taste the rule of cosmopolitan rascaldom. The Chanot gang made hardly
any pretext now, even before the people. The band which ruled Aramon
still called itself the Committee of Public Safety, and still met daily
at the town house. But all the men knew that they might just as well
have been named "The Black Band" or the "Gang of Cartouche."

A few belonged to the town and its bordering hamlets--Chanot, Auroy,
Grau. But the great majority were adventurers of all grades and nations,
come from far, and eager to secure and carry away as much booty as
possible from the turmoil. From amongst these, Chanot, quietly ripening
his plans, picked out his attacking force. Each had his price, and
Chanot chose those younger men, almost lads, who being still apprentices
would be content with less, and at the critical moment would not be so
likely to get out of hand.

The Château and the Factories were held as before, but now more
strongly, being strengthened by the steady flood-tide of a public
opinion which of all things desired peace. Dennis held to his
determination to allow none but his English, Scots, Irish, and Americans
within the walls. But even this self-denying prohibition strengthened
him and brought other men to his side. The Committee of Public Safety
arrested one or two who were over free with their tongues in the public
debates of the _cafés_. But the prisoners were soon released, the
measure being as useless as unpopular. Besides, they had something else
to think about, these patriots of the loot-bag and the
_pince-monseigneur_.

For all that Chanot made speeches and signed manifestos which were duly
posted. A collection of these is under my eyes as I write, and forms one
of the most amazing monuments of human impudence it is possible to
conceive.

    "The work of Social equalisation continues." (Such was the
    edict promulgated on this fateful Sunday.) "The ill-gotten
    gains of the robbers of the proletariat are slowly being
    added to the sums held in trust for the people. The Quartier
    St. Jacques began to be visited last week and the results
    were so excellent that further perquisitions will be made by
    our admirable expropriation brigade.

    "The citizens of Aramon are therefore freed from all taxes
    of every sort, and the public service of every kind will be
    carried on with the suborned wealth restored to its proper
    owners.

    "During the strike at Creusot, that great oppressor of the
    people, Schneider, declared that the stoppage of work was
    costing him eight hundred thousand francs a day!--We may
    make ourselves happy that the present strike for which we
    are responsible is costing at least as much to Deventer and
    the bloodthirsty Company which he represents. Let him not
    flatter himself because he has escaped so long. His time is
    near at hand and his doom terrible and sure.

                  "A. CHANOT,
                  "P. CHARDON, &c.
         "For the Committee of Public Safety.

  "The Mairie, Aramon-les-Ateliers.
    "May 21st, 1871."

But on the Monday the proclamation of Thiers to the Mayors of Communes
throughout France, sent on the Sunday night of the entry, reached
Aramon. The text may be given, since the effect was so tremendous and,
indeed, cataclysmic.

                   "_Versailles, 21st May, 7.30, evening._

    "_The gate of St. Cloud has been forced by the fire of our
    batteries. General Douai precipitated his command into the
    breach. At this moment he is occupying Paris with his
    troops. Ladmirault and Clinchant are moving in support._

                   "A. THIERS."

The message was false in detail, though true in the main fact. A full
week's hard fighting in the streets of Paris lay between the army of
Versailles and the end of the revolt.

But none of those who in the Mairie of Aramon-les-Ateliers bent their
heads over the flimsy message doubted for a moment that the day of their
own doom was at hand. They began to think of the best means of reaching
the most convenient frontier--Italy, Switzerland, or Spain. Some were
limited in their choice, owing to previous troubles with the justice of
otherwise eligible countries. But all, without exception, knew that the
game was up and resolved on flight. Unfortunately the receipts of the
Quartier St. Jacques had not come up to expectation, and a general
blankness overspread the company till Anton Chanot hinted at a final
scheme which would make them rich enough to live years in the safe
seclusion of Barcelona or Genoa. He did not tell all he had planned at
once. He wished to take only a chosen few into his inner secrets, but he
could not make a raid which would involve an armed attack upon the soil
of a hostile department without the whole force at this disposal.

Chanot therefore flashed before the eyes of the committee promises of
boundless loot to be attained by attacking the rich foundation of St.
André on the hill over Aramon le Vieux. The church was an ancient one
and the treasury had long been one of the sights of the
neighbourhood--gold cups, patens, _ciboires_, boxes of inlaid
thirteenth-century work, and the jewelled pastoral staff of the saint
himself, ablaze with precious stones--all were there, and of a value
which would make them rich men, and render their exile, so long as they
chose to remain, agreeable and easy.

They must refrain, Chanot added, from any disturbance or looting in the
town itself. If the monks fought, care must be taken of the school, and
the safes in the _économe's_ office, and the treasure of the golden
vessels in the church must alone be touched.

Marseilles was under military law and had been declared in a state of
siege. The troops of General Espivent de la Villeboisnet occupied the
city and constituted a barrier not to be passed. No rogue's paradise
could be found in Marseilles under martial law.

The expedition into the department of Deux Rives, and the attack upon
St. André, was therefore their last chance, and it was a great one, of a
comfortable exile.

Chanot and Chardon counted their adherents who could be trusted, who
numbered about thirty, all proven men--not an old "Red," a theoretic
Communard or a National Guard among them. They were chary even of any
whose families were connected with the Small Arms Factory, for the
business must be gone about with the most perfect secrecy.

Meantime Chanot took Chardon more fully into his confidence.

"We will let these fools thresh away at the walls of the _lycée_. I know
a professor there who has a good knowledge of defence. That business
will keep them busy all night. Renard is the man's name. He was in the
Algerian wars--grand high priest he was, or something like that. But
they say that he kilted his petticoats and charged with the regiment. He
will be a hard nut to crack if they get out of bed quick enough to man
the walls."

"But," suggested Chardon, "our business is to take the place before the
man is awake. They will keep no watch."

"Monks and priests are always about at night in a place like St. André.
They have midnight Masses, and they take turns to play the spy on the
boys and ushers. Besides" (he beckoned Chardon closer to him and spoke
in his ear) "we do not want them to finish the business too soon!"

"How so?" cried Chardon, much astonished; "the sooner we get our
treasure back the sooner we can divide it and scatter out of Aramon. The
game is up."

"Up, indeed--I believe you," said Chanot; "but what are some fragments
of gold plate? How will they divide those? There will be a battle royal
if it comes to that. Do you want to be there and go running
helter-skelter over the fields with that rabble? No, you and I have
something better on hand. I know where Keller Bey is, his treasure and
his daughter!"

Chardon looked his amazement, but he did not interrupt. Chanot was a
kind of god to him, and it had always been his chief pride to be chosen
as his confidant.

"No," said the Expropriator-in-Chief, "we will choose two other fellows
as determined as ourselves, only more stupid. We will attack the house
where Keller Bey lies. I do not know exactly where it is, but I have a
guide ready--Matteo le Gaucher, you know him? Well, that does not
matter. He has been in hospital but is able for his task now. I have
been cooking him with talk and tobacco all through his illness, and I
wormed the secret out of him. He was not unwilling. I think he was glad
of somebody to confide in, or else he had some vengeance on hand. He is
a little twisted atomy and thinks himself at war with all the world."

"Can you trust him?" demanded Chardon.

"Yes, with a pistol at his ear and a hand on his arm. Otherwise I should
as soon think of trusting him as a Protestant pastor!"

Chardon grinned delightedly and they began to lay out their plans. They
chose the pair who were to share the secret with them.

"We want men of action, not gabblers like Barrès. I have a boat ready at
Les Saintes to take us off, we must get fellows who can ride, for if we
are pursued we must borrow horses and make straight across the
Camargue."

"Leduc is of that country," said Chardon, "he could guide us, and Violet
was a rough-rider in the eleventh hussars."

"But are they men to trust?" demanded Chanot, with a sharp suspicion. A
man of the country and an ex-cavalryman might account for Chardon and
himself in that wild country and no one be any the wiser. Besides, who
would trouble themselves about the fate of a couple of fleeing outlaws?

"They are as good as you will get," said Chardon, "and we shall be more
than their match in any case. They cannot get the boat without you, and
without a boat on the coast of Les Saintes a man is like an eel in a
trap. He can get in but he cannot get out."



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE BLACK BAND


The last hours of the Black Band in Aramon were marked by many exploits
still remembered in the town. Citizens, even men marked for their former
devotion to the cause of the workmen, were stopped in the streets and
relieved of all they had about them, to their very watches and chains.

Shopkeepers were given the alternative of executing an immediate forced
loan or having their premises burnt over their heads. Some, running too
complacently to the hiding-places of their wealth, found themselves
despoiled of all. The two banks were threatened and squeezed
alternately. A poll-tax was levied on the population and exacted at the
point of the bayonet.

Underground reaction growled and raged in Aramon, and if the Committee
of Public Safety had remained a few days more, it is likely that they
would have found themselves hunted and shot like mad dogs.

But they had no such intentions. They acted precisely as does a
fraudulent bankrupt who lays his hand on every shilling in preparation
for an immediate flight. They did not intend ever to set eyes on Aramon
again, and they cared nothing for the dissatisfaction caused by their
last measures of rapacity.

But the favour accorded to Matteo le Gaucher by the chief of the band at
the Mairie had not escaped the notice of his compatriots. The little
hunchback one day appeared sunning himself on the bridge wall, with his
wrist displaying a gold bangle, which everyone recognised as that which
had been worn by Chanot. Instantly the quick Italian suspicions were
aroused--and in all Italy none are so silent and shrewd as the men of
Tuscany. But though they tried this way and that for a good clue, they
were beaten. All they could learn was that Le Gaucher was in the pay of
the Bad Men, and that boded no good to their master. So, because they
were fond of the big, slow-moving, kindly man, they went back and told
him. Arcadius served out a litre of wine apiece to mark his sense of
their good-will, but as for any danger from Matteo, he merely shrugged
his shoulders.

But Arcadius, as he moved in his garden with his dainty mattock in his
hand, and in his pocket his garden-scissors, which were strong enough to
cut through a branch the thickness of his own thumb, had a vast deal of
time for thinking. And generally Arcadius thought to some purpose.

He was persuaded that neither Chanot nor any other would trouble their
heads about him. They would leave him with his flower seeds, his tree
plants, and his brussels-sprouts in peace between the great gate of the
cemetery and the rush of the river waters to the sea.

But for what, then, would so selfish and insolent a dog as Chanot not
only be willing to be openly on good terms with an impossible reptile
like Matteo, but actually present him with the gold bangle which he was
supposed to wear in memory of an ancient love affair?

Arcadius delved and thought. He pruned and snipped and thought, and
finally he finished by coming to a conclusion. A wise man was Arcadius,
and like all who cultivate the ground his thoughts were longer and wiser
than his speech--though that was wise, too, when the slow sluices were
raised and Arcadius, under the influence of friendship or wine, let his
talk run free.

The night of the 24th May, when at Paris the whole city seemed to be
burning, was one of great quiet in Aramon. The Band at the Mairie seemed
to have tired of their house searchings and the town had rest behind the
bolted doors and barred windows which garnished every house, yet in
spite of which no man felt safe.

With many doubts the burgesses drew on their night-caps, and before
climbing into bed, looked out back and front to see if the horizon were
lit by the torches of burning houses in the suburbs, and to listen if
the gun-butts were not beating some neighbour's door in, trembling all
the while lest their time should come next.

But for that night the grocer and the wineseller, the grain merchant and
the locksmith might sleep in peace beside their coiffed and bonneted
spouses. The Black Band had left the Mairie empty and resonant. A part
had passed the river in boats. Others had stolen one by one across the
bridge, but instead of continuing down the main street of Aramon le
Vieux, had twisted sharply round to the left, passed under the railway
embankment, threaded a beautiful but difficult pathway overlooking the
river, and so at length, a mile below the town, found the
boating-parties waiting for them.

The four of the inner circle, Chanot, Chardon, Leduc, and Violet, with
the necessary Matteo, kept together and avoided any conspicuous part in
the arrangements.

But Barrès did the talking for everybody. He was most anxious to
distinguish himself. He had been taunted with his careful inaction, and
now against schoolboys and their professors, mostly men of the peaceful
robe, he had suddenly grown very brave indeed.

Chanot had his reasons for thinking otherwise. He was playing a game so
quaintly double and triple to-night that he smiled as he thought it
over, and admired the intricate subtlety of his own brain as compared
with the simple criminal instincts of his coadjutors.

All the way he kept a hand on the collar of Matteo. The hunchback of
Arquà did not fill him with confidence. Indeed, he trusted only Chardon,
whose innocent admiration he had long proven sincere. Leduc and Violet
were better than the rest, but taken because strictly necessary for the
business in hand. After that he, Chanot, would attend to their case.
They could not expect to share equally with him. He had discovered
Matteo. He had wormed his secret out of him. His was the idea of the
masking attack on the Lycée St. André, which would make a noise and
occupy the attention of the National Guard of Aramon le Vieux. He had
thought of the boat at Les Saintes, and had arranged for it to be in
time to meet them there. What had Leduc and Violet to do with these
things? Nothing whatever, they were simply privates called from the
ranks, and he would see to it that they did not interfere with the
perquisites of the Commander-in-Chief.

He had even permitted himself to drop a hint of the proposed attack upon
Mont St. André in quarters which would ensure a prompt transmission of
the news to Dennis Deventer.

Chanot only waited the proper moment to disassociate himself from the
brigands whom he despised for their ignorance and almost (but not quite)
pitied for their simplicity.

The scaling party would have lost itself among the trees if it had not
been for Chanot. He had been born in the neighbourhood and, if he had
chosen, could have led them blindfold. But for his own purposes he
allowed them to stumble on, bruising and buffeting themselves against
the rocks and trees, losing nerve and temper. Then, just when they were
worn out, he found the well-trodden path by the boat-hirer's house,
guided them along it, and with encouraging words adjured them to greater
silence and caution. In fact, he behaved in every way like the model
leader of an expedition. If any had doubted him before, he had repented
in dust and ashes when Anton the wise, Anton Chanot, turned over the
leadership to Barrès, who, as his manner was, grasped it eagerly,
without thanks, and simply as a right too long withheld.

The attack had been timed for midnight, when the ditches of the old
fortress were to be crossed, the scaling-ladders which they had carried
applied to the walls, and they would find themselves inside.

The treasure was in the chapel, at least the bulk of it. The rest was in
the safes of the _économe_, who had his bureaux opposite. That wing,
therefore, of the college must be held against all comers, while with
chisel and file, jemmy and dynamite the "expropriators" were busy with
their task. So little did these men trust each other that one man from
each company was nominated to see the enumeration of the plate and to
watch the opening of the safes.

One man they trusted, Chanot, and their respect was heightened by his
declaration that he desired no part of the spoil for himself. They had
followed him faithfully, and if he could reward those who had stood by
him when the majority drew back to save their skins, he was content.

A base of simplicity and even sentimentality underlies the brutality of
many criminals. One has only to note the songs which are applauded at a
penitentiary or reformatory concert. These men believed Chanot, and
preferred his self-abnegation to the rhodomontades of Barrès, who
repeatedly declared that he, and he alone, would lead them to victory.

The black half-hour of waiting was horribly trying to the nerves. They
were quite on the top of things, and though the night was so dark, they
could see the walls of St. André cutting the sky and shutting out the
stars. The woods through which they had come were now retired farther
back--or at least so it seemed. The plateau stretched out behind,
mysteriously grey, gradually descending towards Nîmes and St. Gilles,
but almost imperceptibly. Indeed, to the eyes of those town birds of
prey, it seemed a plain. That was their path of safety. By it they would
make good their retreat, laden with a golden spoil.

The signal was to be the striking of the Mairie clock, the golden,
illuminated dial of which, almost beneath their feet, testified in the
tranquillity which had not ceased to reign in Aramon le Vieux. The old
conservative and Protestant town had known how to keep its gates closed,
its inhabitants safe (if not very prosperous), and always behind the
dial of its Mairie clock was to be seen the equal shining of the
mellowest and gentlest light in the world.

During ten minutes the hand of Chanot pushed Matteo steadily before him
into the dusky covert of the wood. At the same moment three men at
different parts of the attacking line glided away unnoticed. The hands
of the clock moved on. Though the figuring of the dial was too distant
to be made out, the black lines of the minutes and hour hands could be
seen approaching one another.

It was time for Chanot to be elsewhere. He had other work and Matteo
must guide him. They slipped in Indian file through the wood, Chanot
still with his hand upon the Left Handed man's shoulder. For an instant
Matteo seemed to hesitate. He had ascended from the other side and
Gobelet was hard to find, but at last he struck the main road between
the town and the _lycée_ above. It appeared to be perfectly empty, but
Chanot whispered angrily in his guide's ear. They must get back into
shelter. Here they were exposed to any passers-by--nay, to the first
faint-hearted deserter from the attack above.

A thrill passed through Matteo's heart. He gave thanks to his patron
saint and promised candles for his altar when he should be rich. Before
him was the bombed forehead of the gatehouse of Gobelet. The gate itself
was padlocked securely, and the top adorned with spikes, but Chanot made
no attempt there. He only skirted the wall till he found a place which
pleased him. Then he ordered Leduc and Violet to make a ladder up which
the light Chardon climbed. Then came Matteo and Chanot himself. Lastly
the ladder was dissolved into its elements and all found themselves on
the inner side of the garden wall of Gobelet.

Matteo now advanced with more certainty. Yes, the house lay there
through this gate, along this path. There was the well-shelter he had
seen, and above them rose the dark side of the house, where was the
kitchen entrance and all the apartments of service.

"BONG--BONG--BONG!" Solemnly, and with an air of detachment from merely
worldly affairs, the big hammer gave out the twelve strokes of midnight.
Just so had it once called holy nuns to prayer in the Convent of the
Visitation, and it tolled just the same to let loose a pack of the worst
ruffians on earth upon the chapel of St. André.

Anton Chanot listened carefully. He knew that now the _fossés_ would be
crossed and the scaling-ladders laid against the walls. But sudden and
startling there came down the hill a wild yell, mingled of pain and
anger. Rifles ripped and crashed. A light filtered through the
tree-tops, which faintly illuminated the covered well-stoop under which
the five were hiding.

"What fools!" said Chanot, cursing his late companions. "They have begun
firing too soon! And the light? Can they have already set fire to the
chapel?"

He did not know that fate and a message from Dennis Deventer had served
him well--that is, so far as his immediate purpose was concerned. The
missive which Hugh Deventer received at Gobelet contained these words in
his father's hand: "St. André to be attacked to-night. Go up and see
what you can do. I send you some arms--also Brown with an electric-light
plant which you may find useful."

Hugh was compelled to go, and though he hated to leave Gobelet and
Alida, he dared not disobey his father. Besides, hidden among its woods
and showing no façade to tempt plunderers, he did not believe that my
father's house was in any great danger.

In this he was right so far as the Band of the Mairie was concerned, but
he had not taken into account the vendetta of Matteo, the ambitions of
Chanot, and the plot against the person of Alida.

The noise on the hill-top seemed rather to increase than to diminish,
volley responded to volley, and to the yells of the brigands another
cry, shriller and more piercing, replied.

Chanot had altered his plans and taken his cue while he stood listening.
He had some remarkable qualities and this readiness was one of them. He
had intended to break his way into Gobelet before the noise of the
assault brought up the swarming town or the National Guard of Aramon le
Vieux. But this (he saw now) would not do. Already on the Place Beauvais
they were beating to arms. Well, he must make the more haste. So without
an alteration of his determined bearing he walked round the house and
knocked loudly at the main door.

My father, who as usual was not yet in bed, threw open a first-floor
window (for those on the ground floor had been closed and strengthened
by the hand of Hugh Deventer). "What can I do for you?" my father
inquired courteously.

"Let us in for God's sake, they are killing everyone up at the _lycée_.
We have escaped--my friends and I, _pions_, and the others, three honest
fellows from the gardens, whom we picked up on our way."

"Wait a moment, gentlemen," my father called out, "and if you will
pardon the delay, you shall have all the shelter and succour my house
can give you!"

"What a lamb!" murmured Chanot, "he presents us with his fleece. Are all
foreigners fools?"

"All English are," snarled Matteo. "In my country we give them to our
children to cheat--to prove their teeth upon."

The door opened, and there before them, a lamp in his hand, stood the
gentle scholar, Gordon Cawdor, with a smile of welcome on his face. The
less instructed four would have leaped upon him immediately, but Chanot
held them back. I can see my father standing there before his potential
butchers, inviting them to enter with a single large movement of the
hand, infinitely noble and touching to me to think of to-day. He
precedes them with an apology. They tramp after him, treading on one
another's heels in haste to see the sacks of coin reported by Matteo.
That worthy has drawn his knife from its sheath. The others have made
ready their revolvers. Only Chanot has the education and the strength of
will to keep a hold upon himself--which in turn gives him a hold upon
his comrades.

A stern gesture bade them put up their arms. They must play out their
parts and follow his lead. In the study they found lights, a fire, and
tier upon tier of books climbing to the ceiling--a marvellous place,
undreamed of by any of them. But where were the bags of coin, the
wallets stuffed with bank-notes with which they were to flee across the
wilderness of the Camargue?

"Seat yourselves, gentlemen, a welcome to you," said the host. "You are
well out of the trouble and safe with me."

And he set before them meat and drink, such as he could find in the
cupboards of Saunders McKie.

"I do not disturb my servants for what I can do myself," he added
smilingly, "but you are welcome and--here is Madame Keller and her
daughter Alida--which means that our dear invalid goes better. Madame,
Mademoiselle, let me introduce to you some new friends who have taken
refuge with us. The _lycée_ has been beset by brigands and these
gentlemen have come to claim, what Gobelet has never refused, the right
of asylum."

At sight of Alida in her white, gauzy robes, standing in the doorway, a
thrill ran through the blood of Chanot. Never had he looked on such
beauty. His heart beat thick, and instinctively he glanced sideways at
his followers. Matteo sat bent forward, almost crouched as for a spring,
his eyes small and glowing red like those of a wild boar before he
charges. Chardon was open-mouthed, but watchful of his leader. Leduc and
Violet showed their teeth and fingered the hilts of their revolvers.

A kind of revulsion of feeling passed over Chanot, perhaps as much akin
to what we in Scotland would call conversion as can be imagined of a
trained and thorough-paced French scoundrel.

Under his breath he bade Leduc and his companion to keep their seats,
and kept his own hand hard on the shoulder of Matteo.

"We thank you, ladies, for your presence," he said, with his pleasantest
manner. "We had not expected so great an honour."

But Alida, glad of new faces and eager for news of Hugh Deventer, whose
desertion had left her companionless, asked many questions, to some of
which it took all Chanot's readiness to answer. She was, however, called
off by Linn, who presently issued from the kitchen with a dish of eggs
hastily cooked.

"There is bread on the sideboard, cut it for these gentlemen!" said
Linn. And Alida hastened to serve each in turn, with a smile that was an
accomplishment in flattery.

Then followed a strange hour. The sound of shouting and continuous
firing could be heard from above. On the road outside the hoofs of
horses clattered, and more than once Chanot thought that he heard the
jingle of harness.

But with my father at the head of the table talking gently and equably,
and Alida at the foot with her chin on her clasped hands, the men sat
and listened. Chardon answered when he was spoken to, but he kept
looking at his chief for guidance. Leduc and Violet drank steadily,
though Chanot tried to kick them under the table. Matteo alone could not
be still. His breath whistled between his teeth. He leaned over to
Chanot and whispered, "Kill, kill--if you do not, I shall!"

But even for him the influence of these peaceful surroundings had its
power. The richly carpeted floor, the table with many flowers, the rows
on rows of beautifully bound books, were so much powerful necromancy to
the Man from Arquà. But it could not last. The wolf must spring, and
Chanot watched him with an anxious eye.

"_Kill--kill!_"

The words came like the hiss of a poison snake. They had come to the end
of the meal now and were trifling with their wineglasses--that is,
Chanot and Chardon did so. Leduc and Violet looked on stupidly, but not
yet ready for any movement against their chief. Only Matteo had become
intractable. He at least would not be done out of his prize by a handful
of fine words. So Chanot should know. Matteo was in the house of the
treasure, and he meant to have his fingers among the clinking pieces.

"_Kill, man, kill, or I shall kill!_"

Chanot looked about apprehensively. Surely this time they must have
heard. But my father continued his talk upon the early art of Provence
and from her end of the table Alida placidly listened, all her thoughts
intent on the speaker.

Matteo rose unsteadily and stumbled towards her. She sat back in her
chair with a gesture of fear. For the big hairy hands of the Arquàn were
groping to seize her.

"Oh, take him away," she cried, turning to Chanot as the leader, perhaps
also because of the human qualities she had seen in his eyes--not
exactly good, but with the capacity for good.

"I shall take the _donzella_!" cried Matteo, and caught her about the
neck. Linn was beside her in a moment, but even her powerful hands could
not disengage that hairy clutch. The fierce visage frothing at the lips
was close to Alida's face. She moved her head this way and that.

"Save me--save me!" she cried out in an agony of fear.

"_Kill--kill--lay out the others--take your gold--the gold I found for
you--the girl for me!_"

All were now on their feet. Chardon was watching his chief. Chanot's
face was pale as wood ash, but there was on it a kind of joy--the
strength of a new resolve.

"To the door--Leduc, and you, Violet," he ordered, "wait for me outside.
I have something which will satisfy you!"

The men moved uncertainly away. Things were turning out strangely. Was
Chanot turning traitor? If so--they would see. But the power of the
stronger will was upon them, and they were soon in the garden. They came
out on a dark, shadowy world, in which all things seemed of the same
colour, but scented of flowers and the full bloom of the _tilleul_, the
bee-haunted lime tree of the south.

Above them they heard the irregular rattle of musketry, and the din of
combat. A fierce light beat upon the tree-tops at intervals. No fire
could pierce like that. The gleam was far too steady. It looked like the
beam of an electric arc-lamp, but how could the Jesuit professors of St.
André have come into possession of such a thing?

Within the house of Gobelet they heard the voice of Matteo uplifted.

"_Kill--kill--you have turned soft, I shall kill you, Chanot. Matteo of
Arquà is not to be cheated!_"

Leduc and Violet looked back through the door out of which they had
come. The hall was dusk, but a light was burning somewhere out of sight.
They could see a couple emerge out of the passage which led to the
study--Chanot pushed the Arquàn in front of him. The face of the chief
was calm, but of a ghastly pallor--his lips almost disappearing, so
firmly were they set. His blue eyes had the dull glitter of lapis
lazuli, or rather of malachite--green rather than blue. But they were
not good to see. Death looked out of them, and chilled the marrow of
Leduc and Violet. Not for the world would they have crossed the will of
Chanot at that moment.

They could see Chardon shutting the door of the study from within, and
guessed that he was left there on guard, but they could not hear
Chanot's courteous last words of excuse for Matteo, "I fear this
gentleman is ill. He is from Italy and troubled with fever. He will be
better outside. I will conduct him."

"Shut the door and let no one pass," he added to Chardon, in a rapid
whisper, "talk as if nothing had happened till I come back!" And the
next moment he was pushing his prisoner along the corridor. Leduc and
Violet saw them come, and made ready to fall in behind, but they were
not prepared for what followed so swiftly.

Matteo le Gaucher suddenly dropped to the floor, pulling his collar out
of the grasp of his captor. Then, quick as thought, he drew a long knife
from his belt and struck the deadly forward blow at Chanot--the Arquàn
blow below the belt for which there is no parry. But Chanot had not for
nothing been President of the Athletic and Sportive Association of the
Midi. He was in admirable training and his eye forestalled the Gaucher's
movement. It was a fine thrust, delivered with the broad-cutting edge
upward. No man, even in Arquà, could have saved himself. But Chanot had
leaped aside, nimble as a cat. And the next moment the knife was
stricken from the Arquàn's hand.

There was a wild, fierce struggle there on the threshold, the movements
of the combatants being so quick that Leduc and Violet dared not
interfere lest they should harm the wrong man. Biting, kicking, and
scratching, Matteo le Gaucher was shoved out across the gravel, over the
lawn and into a little _clairière_ upon which shone directly the beam of
Hugh Deventer's electric installation up on the heights of Mont St.
André.

Leduc and Violet had followed marvelling, their eyes starting from their
heads, eager to see the end like children at a play. They knew that this
was the chief's business and that he must finish it for himself. In the
middle of the green cleared space was a rustic bench, and the ground was
thickly strewn with pine-cones and needles. Chanot thrust his prisoner's
head down till he lay across the back of the seat, and then, without
haste and calmly as a man who consults his watch, he drew from his
pocket a revolver and fired once behind Matteo's ear. There was no
struggle. That had gone before. Chanot was very calm, and as for Matteo
he only shuddered and sank in a heap, his body swinging arms down over
the rustic bench. The fierce light of the arc-lamp lay on the
_clairière_ and Matteo's shadow made a strange toad-like patch on the
grey-green sward. That was all.

"Now, Leduc, and you, Violet, take up this carrion and carry him near
enough to the fighting up yonder to be clear of all connection with this
house. There is no treasure here. He deceived us, like the Italian he
was. But I shall not deceive you."

He opened his pocket-book and took out small notes for two thousand
francs. One thousand he gave to Leduc and the other to Violet.

"I shall meet you in Spain," he said, "and there I shall expect to
receive from you an account of this night's mission. I am not to be
trifled with as you see. I warn you to be very faithful. Take up the
Arquàn, and I will see you safe outside the wall."

He unlocked the gate which opened from the grounds of the Garden Cottage
into the road, and stood watching them, as they toiled painfully up the
hill, Violet leading with the dead man's legs over his shoulders, and
Leduc supporting his head, the long, hairy arms which had wrought so
much evil trailing in the dust.

"_Missa est! Amen!!_" said Chanot, who had served Mass in his time, and
turning on his heel he strode back towards the house of Gobelet.



CHAPTER XXXIX

THE CONVERSION OF CHANOT


"The gentleman has perfectly recovered," he announced with sympathetic
gravity in answer to Alida's questions. "Matteo of Arquà has long been
subject to such attacks, but the best medical advice agrees that they
have lost force of late, and, in fact, are not likely again to recur. As
for Messieurs, the gentlemen who have taken him for an airing, they have
business which calls them away before the morning, so they will not be
able to return. I make their apologies. They came with us--yes--for
safety, but they were not quite of our world, Chardon's and mine--eh,
Chardon?"

Chardon mutely acquiesced, and Chanot sat down beside Alida, who, with a
gesture of gratitude, gave him her hand.

"He frightened me," she said, smiling gratefully, "that man from Arquà.
He has the Evil Eye. Thank you for taking him away. Ugh!--I can feel his
hands upon me still."

Chanot kept the little hand with the silver ring upon it in both of his.
He bent and kissed it reverently. As he did so the door opened and there
stood in the dark passage-way a startling figure. It was Keller Bey, his
head wrapped about with bandages like cere cloths, his reddish white
beard shaggy and unkempt, his arm bandaged, and his dressing-gown frayed
and tarnished. But in his eyes the fire of fever burned like the braise
of a Yule log, dull and ominous.

With one lean finger he pointed to Chanot as he sat by the table. He
called him by name.

"What do you here, bandit and traitor?" he demanded. "But for you there
would have been peace in Aramon, the best of governments, and--you broke
it all up. Touch not the hand of the daughter of kings! There is blood
upon your own, sower of the wind, assassin, wild ass of the desert!"

Here he leaped into Arabic, understood only by Alida and Gordon Cawdor.

"Go--get hence, hound!" he thundered. "You have done enough evil--would
you pursue me even to this quiet place?"

"Hush, father!" said Alida, going hastily to his side; "he has saved my
life--perhaps all our lives."

"He is my enemy!"

"He is my friend!"

As Alida said this, she turned and smiled upon Chanot. The young man
repressed a groan.

"If I had known," he muttered, "ah, if I had known. But it is too late."

Linn had been watching her time, and now, by a swift intervention, got
Keller Bey out of the library and back to his own room. He had in fact
missed her presence and wandered out in search. Then, at sight of the
arch-enemy of his ideal rule, memory had returned to him.

After the departure of Keller Bey my father left the room to assure
himself that all was well in the sick man's chamber, and that Linn
wanted for nothing. Chanot and Alida were left practically alone, for
Chardon, obedient to his chief's eye, had withdrawn into an alcove
where, with a book in his hand, he slept or pretended to sleep.

"My father is wandering in his mind," she said, letting the light of her
young eyes dwell upon his. "He had a bullet which grazed the brain----"

"I fired that bullet," said Chanot, with bent head.

"But not in anger--not to do him any hurt?" The voice of Alida was
almost pleading now. She wanted to think well of this young man.

"Not more than any other," he answered, after a look at her. "We did not
wish--we could not permit--I will not weary you with politics, but I
want you to know that I put down Keller Bey. I fired the River Quarter.
I was the chief of the plunderers. I deserve death a score of times. I
came here to rob and if necessary to kill----"

"No--no!" cried Alida, reaching out her hand a second time. "I saw you
with the little Italian. He had a knife. I saw him reaching for it, and
that made me feel for mine. You see, I am from Algeria and go armed. He
came to kill, if you like. But not you--you are a gentleman!"

"Thank you," said Chanot quickly, but still not taking her hand, "it
will help--that which you have said--when it comes to the pinch. I am--I
was a gentleman!"

"A brave one and true," said the girl, and then, something she had heard
or read working in her head, she added, "gentle and a gentleman."

The day was coming up over the river, and soon the lamps in the room
burned faint and yellow. Chardon, waking, opened the window by which he
sat and the fresh air of the May morning fanned out the heated
atmosphere. The coolness brought a faint flush to Alida's cheek and her
lips grew redder.

Chanot rose to his feet and held out his hand.

"Good-bye, dear lady--I have met you too late. Yet do not think quite
unkindly of me, of whom much evil will be spoken."

"Chardon," he said, "I leave you here on guard. I commit these ladies to
you--should--should any of our people--you understand."

Chardon stood without bareheaded, watching his leader go. Chanot reached
the Garden Cottage in time to find himself face to face with a company
of soldiers--red-breeched infantry men they were, of the 131st of the
line. These were under the command of a very young officer in a
tremendous haste. He held a piece of paper in one hand and with the
other he knocked loudly, with the hilt of his recently acquired sword,
on the door of the Garden Cottage.

"I have a warrant for the instant arrest of the chief of the Aramon
insurrection. I am advised that he lives here. His name is Keller,
Charles Keller."

"I am the chief of the Aramon insurrection," said Chanot calmly, "I am
Keller!"

The rattle of the _peloton_ fire came irregularly from above, among the
rocks of St. André. Chanot heard it and knew his fate. No lingering
trial for him, no stupid military commanders murmuring sleepily over a
foregone verdict.

"There against the wall--we must cross the river--there is no time to
lose. Form a firing party." The young officer, in a hurry, fairly jetted
out his orders.

"_Mon lieutenant_," said Chanot coolly, "there are ladies within the
Château of Gobelet--the house you see yonder through the trees. It
belongs to a great English scholar, who is a friend of Monsieur Thiers,
and a historian like him. I have no objections to being shot, but you
will have the goodness to let me march with you till we turn the corner
of the policies. Then we will have a steep cliff and the river below,
which will be convenient."

The lieutenant nodded. His men were ordered in that direction, and so it
chanced that twenty of the defenders of our Château Schneider witnessed
the end of the Black Insurrection of Aramon.

Jack Jaikes and the others of the old machine-gun gang greeted the
appearance of Chanot guarded and marching to execution with a yell of
triumph.

"Allerdyce--Allerdyce!" they shouted, and turned aside that they might
see. I also went with them, not knowing aught of the history of the
night. We came out on a plain sward overlooking the river. A path ran
along and there was a low wall, with lizards darting everyway in the
sun.

The _peloton_ formed up with the readiness of practice, and the officer
raised his sword. Chanot stepped briskly to the wall, and as he drew up
his tall figure and stood facing us with squared shoulders, I think I
never saw anyone so transfigured. The sullen wolfishness was all gone.
His eyes shone like those of a boy engaged in some innocent frolic. But
his mien was grave as befitted the circumstances. He had been smoking a
cigarette when the officer accosted him. He threw away the remainder
with a smile.

"Have you anything to say?" demanded the officer.

"Only good-bye!"

"Anything to leave?"

"Only life!"

"Then you are ready?"

"I am ready!"

The officer let his sword drop and as from a great distance I seemed to
hear his voice commanding "Fire!" The volley rang out, and Chanot,
taking a step backwards as if driven by the impact of the bullets,
toppled over into the deep and rapid Rhône and was seen no more.

The young officer was methodical. He drew out of his breast a note-book,
and into this he entered several lines which, perhaps that we might bear
witness, he read aloud.

"May 25th, 1871. Upon the hill called St. André, immediately above the
Rhône, I caused to be executed one Charles Keller, upon his own
confession, as being the chief of the revolt in Aramon-les-Ateliers."

"No, no!" cried Jack Jaikes and several others before they thought.

"Eh! what's that?" demanded the infantry lieutenant, wheeling upon us
with his note-book and pencil still in his hand. I had just time to
whisper one word to Jack Jaikes. That word was "Fool!" To the others I
conveyed as well as I could that they were to hold their tongues.

"Who are you, and what do you mean by 'No, no'?"

"I am Dennis Deventer's second-in-command," said Jack Jaikes. "I stood
the two sieges in command of the machine guns, which I had made myself,
and by saying 'No--no' I meant that there were other chiefs besides this
one whom you have sent to his account!"

"No doubt," said the officer drily; "the others are up yonder under the
walls. We surrounded them while they were blocked by young Deventer's
wire entanglements and dazzled by his electric light. But why have you
left your fortifications and why----"

He stopped his questions, for just then Rhoda Polly strolled
nonchalantly upon the sward. He stood staring at her. Rhoda Polly held
out her hand to the young man.

"I am Dennis Deventer's daughter," she said, English, smiling, and
frank, "not his only one, but the only one who counts on days like
these."

The lieutenant flushed and bowed. He wished the firing party would stand
a little closer about a certain square of the green turf. He need not
have troubled, Rhoda Polly's mind was a hundred miles from any idea of
minute observation at that moment.

"_Tiens!_ The 131st!" she exclaimed. "If you cross the river you must go
up and see my father. Your colonel is rather a pet of his!"

At the idea of their fire-eating bristling old colonel being anybody's
pet, a smile passed among the rank and file, but the lieutenant being
well-mannered remained grave.

"I shall immediately do myself the honour of waiting on your father!"

He marched his men down the hill. Jack Jaikes and his party stepped out
on the highway which led to St. André. Only Rhoda Polly and I lingered.



CHAPTER XL

THE LAST OF THE "TATTER OF SCARLET"


Rhoda Polly was on her way to see her friend Alida, and knowing well
that parental permission would be refused her in the troublous state of
the neighbourhood, she had taken it and followed unobtrusively in the
wake of Jack Jaikes and his party.

I had trouble even now to get her away from the scene of the execution.
She would have sat down on the very spot, save that I hastened her
departure, saying that I must go back and see her father. I had, I said,
both news and a message for him.

So we walked through the woods to Gobelet, very quietly and without much
talk between us. We reached there to find that Dennis Deventer had just
arrived from the Château, that Chardon had disappeared, and that Hugh
was in the full flush of his morning's triumph. His father nodded
approval. As for Alida she clung to his arm and looked up in his face. I
do not think she was conscious of my presence in the room, and even upon
Rhoda Polly she only bestowed a left-handed greeting without letting go
her hold upon Hugh Deventer. Verily the manners of the East are strange.

I knew very well that she would find her hero one day, but I never
supposed he would come to her in my poor Hugh's likeness.

I felt a sudden leap of loneliness in my heart and moved nearer to Rhoda
Polly. _She_ would never look at me like that. But instead she stood on
tiptoe till her lips were near my ear and whispered, "I have always
known it would be so--don't they look silly?"

It was a point of view, though at that moment hardly mine, but who was I
that I should grudge Hugh Deventer his one hour of triumph? He was
telling his story.

"I heard them all about us, and I knew they were getting ready for the
rush. There were about forty of us, professors, _pions_, and seniors, to
whom rifles could be served. I tell you I had a time finding out who
could shoot even a bit. I had to try each with a dummy gun to see how he
handled it. They lied so--yes, even the professors!

"But your old Renard was a brick. He spotted the sportsmen as if by
magic and remembered the boys whose fathers had shootings. He helped a
lot, I can tell you--and tucked up his black gown and hopped about on
his thin legs (which were black too) as lively as a cricket.

"Brown was attending to the electric lamp and barbed-wire obstacles
while I was doing the drill sergeant, and by ten we had the business in
pretty fair shape. I set the posts as you told me, sir, or as near as
possible. For, of course, having been a pupil, the old place was like my
bedroom to me, and I knew just where they would try to rush us."

His father nodded, and the smile which accompanied the nod encouraged
the hero to continue. Not that this was necessary, for at his elbow
Alida was behaving most foolishly.

("_You_ never looked at me like that, Rhoda Polly," I whispered, "the
night when we blew them back from the Big Gate, when Jack Jaikes and I
fought in the open."

"Hadn't time," retorted Rhoda Polly, "besides, I was in that business as
well as you. Did you think that I had been left behind in the Château
cellar?")

"Just when twelve struck," Hugh proceeded, "they dashed into the ditch
with a yell--just at the places you said, father, when I showed you the
plan I had made. But the wire and stakes brought them all up standing.
My black regiment fired all round the wall. I don't believe they hit
many, but the crackle of the rifle fire was a very disconcerting
circumstance, and at any rate Brown and I 'scourged' them well with your
repeaters, sir. Brown had switched on his big search-light and
everything was as bright as glory.

"'How many were there?' That I could not say, sir. They looked a lot
when they clumped together, which was not often. But the line was
thin-sown when they spread out to take cover. The professors swore to a
hundred, but I could not really make it more than fifty.

"They let fly at us, but we were all behind the big stone wall. The
bullets whizzed over us, and spotted the walls, but that was all. Then
they drew off to hold a council.

"Once they nearly got us. They had dynamite or some infernal stuff, and
they blew up the outer main gate. But then, as you know, that did not
much matter, for the really strong one is twenty yards farther on, and
those who ran in found themselves up Blind Alley. I tell you, sir, Brown
and I sacrificed them before they got out. But they kept it up, firing
at us till dawn without ever making a hit. They saw the uselessness of
this at last, and were just hopping off over the plateau on the road to
Spain, when the red breeches put in an appearance, and nabbed the
lot--that is very nearly all, for some got away by the woods.

"'After that?'--Well, sir. I shall tell you the rest to-night. I came
down here to see how Mr. Cawdor was getting on."

Hugh Deventer had so clearly the floor that I did not attempt to
interfere. Nor did I grudge him his glory. Had we not, Jack Jaikes,
Rhoda Polly, and I, seen a greater thing--the fight over Allerdyce's gun
before the main entrance?

"Come out on the terrace, Rhoda Polly," I said, for I really had had
enough of Hugh's strutting and Alida's languorous glances. We passed
through the tall window out upon the lawn, and went slowly to the
crescent sweep of the promenade, which made so beautiful a look-out
station over the river.

The morning smoke was rising over Aramon-les-Ateliers. Within the
factory some of the tall chimneys were already sending forth long trails
of vapour. Dennis Deventer's gangs were preparing for a return to normal
conditions.

The secret negotiations had been going on some time. The men were
wearying to get back. The tyranny of the Black Band was wholly
dissipated, and honest folks breathed freely. The women were more
anxious than the men. For if the city should be occupied by troops--if
military tribunals were set up, where would their husbands be so safe as
in the factory? Dennis Deventer had the long arm. Dennis Deventer could
protect his own.

I looked at Rhoda Polly, and she smiled.

"I suppose there is really nothing to say," I said, answering her
glance. "This is not proper love-making, but we simply can't do without
one another, can we, Rhoda Polly? So it has just got to be."

"I suppose so," said Rhoda Polly, looking far out across the flat lands
to the blue line of the Mediterranean. "But what are you going to do all
day--and I? We are busy people, Angus Cawdor, and in idleness we should
soon quarrel!"

She swung her legs engagingly, awaiting my answer.

"Well," I said, "I will let you into a secret. My father's next book, 'A
History of the Third Republic,' is to have both our names on the
title-page. Also I am to translate all his books into French. You have
got to help."

"I shall love it," cried Rhoda Polly, "but what else am I to do?"

"You will have this house of Gobelet to be sole mistress of, and,
besides, you and your mother must superintend the housekeeping of Linn
and Keller Bey in the Garden Cottage!"

"But, Angus, have you thought of Jeanne?"

"What Jeanne?"

"Jeanne Félix, sir!"

I was so stunned I could not answer, so great was my astonishment. Rhoda
Polly had not been so blind as I had supposed--or was it possible that
Jeanne herself----? No, I thanked Heaven that at least need not be
thought of.

Rhoda Polly laughed a ringing, joyous laugh, and gave my arm a little
playful clutch.

"Silly," she said, "I will put you out of any remorse you may feel for
any of your misdeeds. Jeanne is to be married to young Emile Bert, the
fruit-grower of Les Cabannes. She is at last going to reward his
constancy--as I am yours!"

She looked at me with gay, ironic eyes. The vixen!

I did not answer. It was indeed a difficult corner to turn with plain
lying, but most happily at that moment we saw a strange and memorable
thing.

Across the river, from the fort which dominated the town, and also from
the high tower of the Mairie, we saw the red flag of revolt flutter
down, and simultaneously, like a burst of sunlight, the tricolour was
broken out at each mast-head, gay and hopeful in that entrancing
Provençal air.

Instinctively Rhoda Polly's hand sought mine. We both stood silent and
bareheaded as in the presence of the dead, for both of us knew that we
had looked our last upon the "Tatter of Scarlet."


                   THE END


  WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD. PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH



  _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

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  THE DEW OF THEIR YOUTH
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  ROSE OF THE WILDERNESS
  Cloth, net, 2_s._ Popular Edition, 6_d._

  THE CHERRY RIBBAND
  New Cloth Edition, net, 1_s._

  LADS' LOVE
  Popular Edition, 6_d._

  DEEP MOAT GRANGE
  Popular Edition, 6_d._

  LOVE IN PERNICKETTY TOWN
  Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._ Popular Edition, 6_d._

  THE SMUGGLERS
  Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._ Cloth, net, 7_d._

  ANNE OF THE BARRICADES
  Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

  THE MOSS TROOPERS
  Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

  SWEETHEARTS AT HOME
  Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

  LONDON: HODDER & STOUGHTON



Transcriber's Notes:

Dialect was not altered. Alternate and obsolete spellings in English
were retained; French words with circonflex or that lack an accent aigu
were not altered. Remaining punctuation was standardized. The list of
books by the same author was moved from the beginning to the end of the
book. One footnote is indented and follows the paragraph in which the
anchor occurs.

Other alterations:

  changed "remoneur" to "ramoneur"
     ... the woodman, the _ramoneur_ or sweep,...
  changed "Guguss" to "Gugusse"
     ... garlic-smelling 'Gugusse' who ...
  changed "as" to "at"
     ... just at that moment ...
  changed "Préfeture" to "Préfecture"
     ... of the Sous-Préfecture....
  added a space between "after a"
     ... putting a boat to rights after a night's fishing ...
  changed "beng" to "being"
     ... roof being long perfected ...
  changed "wil" to "will"
     ... the beasts will slink back to their lairs ...
  removed hyphen from 'fairy-tale'
     ... at the bottom of this fairy tale....
  changed "Espivnet" to "Espivent"
     ... troops of General Espivent ...





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