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Title: The Mystery of the Lost Dauphin - Louis XVII
Author: Pardo Bazán, Emilia, condesa de, 1852-1921
Language: English
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THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST DAUPHIN

(Louis XVII)

by

EMILIA PARDO BAZÁN

Translated from the Spanish by Annabel Hord Seeger

Frontispiece Illustration by Raphael Bodé



Funk & Wagnalls Company
New York and London
1906



[Illustration: "When the world salutes me King, I will admit I am your
brother."]



EMILIA PARDO BAZÁN


While Provençal literature blossomed in chivalric splendor along the
northern shore of the Mediterranean and rare pastoral music in madrigals
and roundelays rang through France and Italy, there sounded from the
sea-girt province of Galicia wonderful songs which rivalled the sweetest
strains of the troubadours, making kings to weep and warriors to smile,
thrilling, by their wit and pathos and lyrical beauty, the brilliant
courts of Castile and Leon.

It is an ethnographical phenomenon that, in Great Britain, France and
Spain, the Celt has been pushed to the northwest. Galicia corresponds in
position to Brittany and her people are characterized by the powerful
imagination, infinite delicacy, concentration of feeling and devotion to
nature which are the salient attributes of Gaelic and Cymric genius.

The Modern Literary Renaissance of Galicia, a superb outburst of
Gallegan exuberance, has a noble and eloquent exponent in Emilia Pardo
Bazán, gifted child of this poetic soil.

Senora Pardo Bazán has been called the creator and protagonist of
Spanish Realism. It has been claimed that she bears to Spain such a
relation as Turgénieff to Russia and Zola to France. She herself says
somewhere that she is skeptical regarding the existence of Realistic,
Idealistic and Romantic writers, averring, in her trenchant style, that
authors constitute but two classes, _good_ and _poor_. "Certain critics
would affirm," she remarks, "that, as simple as the cleaving in twain of
an orange is the operation of separating writers into Realistic and
Idealistic camps."

One biographer claims that our author sacrifices sex to art and that the
result warrants the sacrifice. I would insist that 'tis a lady's hand
wielding the mailed gauntlet and that reading Pardo Bazán helps one to
understand why Great Brahm is described as partaking of the feminine
principle.

Castelar has remarked that: "In Belles Lettres we have the illustrious
Celt, Emilia Pardo Bazán, whom, living, we count among the immortals,
and whose works, though of yesterday, are already denominated Spanish
classics." Garcia, in his History of Spanish Literature, calls her the
Spanish de Staël. Rollo Ogden writes: "No masculine pen promises more
than that of Pardo Bazán. Her equipment is admirable; it is based on
exhaustive historical and philosophical studies, from which she passed
on to the novel. In this transition does she resemble George Eliot,
whom, however, she surpasses in many respects."

G. Cunninghame Graham remarks: "We have not in England, no, nor in
Europe, so illustrious a woman in letters as Pardo Bazán." Goran
Bjorkman declares that "Among Spanish writers, Pardo Bazán most resemble
Turgénieff, excelling him, however, in the sane gayety of her
temperament."

Senora Pardo Bazán is descended from a noble and illustrious family, in
whose genealogy Victor Hugo sought the characters of his Ruy Blas. An
only daughter, her childhood was passed amid her father's extensive
library. When scarcely sixteen she was married to the scholarly
gentleman, Don José Quiroga. Several subsequent years were occupied in
European travels and study, at the conclusion of which she consecrated
herself to the literary labors which have yielded so rich a harvest. To
enumerate these masterpieces of contemporaneous Spanish letters would be
superfluous. They have been translated into every European tongue.

Doña Emilia, as she is affectionately called by the Spanish people,
passes her winters in Madrid, her salon being the rendezvous of the
literary, political and diplomatic world. The author smacks not of the
bas bleu; she is a simple woman in the truest sense of the word, and a
regal grande dame as well.

Annabel Hord Seeger.



A GREAT GRANDSON OF LOUIS XVI


Over one hundred and thirteen years ago, in Paris, at ten in the morning
of the twenty-first day of January, seventeen hundred and ninety-three,
Louis Seize bowed his head beneath the guillotine's blade, as the Abbé
Edgeworth called aloud, "Son of Saint Louis, ascend into heaven!" and as
the surging multitude sent up the wild shout, "Vive la République!"

A few months ago, in Paris, at ten in the morning of the twenty-first
day of January, nineteen hundred and six, two automobiles drew up before
the parish church, Saint-Denis de la Chapelle, whose historic walls,
fifteen centuries since, enclosed during life the intrepid and holy
patroness of France, Geneviève de Nanterre; before whose shrine, five
centuries since, the glorious virgin Savior of the realm, Jeanne d'Arc,
passed an entire day in prayer; whose sacred aisles were ever the
avenues for the royal feet in ancient times, on the termination of the
coronation ceremony.

From these automobiles alights a party headed by a slender grave-looking
young man of simple charming manners whose light grey eyes smile often.
He is accompanied by a graceful young matron leading by the hand a
handsome little fellow of some six years who wears a Louis Dix-Sept
coiffure and long auburn curls on his shoulders.

An elderly lady of patrician countenance stands near me. I turn
inquiring eyes into hers. With the grace and courtesy of a salon dame,
she beckons me closer, whispering in my ear:

"His Majesty Jean III, Her Majesty Marie Madelaine and His Royal
Highness the Dauphin, Henri-Charles-Louis."

My companion reverently and profoundly inclines her body, as the
procession rushes past us. I do likewise, albeit with an unpleasant
consciousness of an absence of the grace which envelops this member of
the "Survivance" at my side.

As we raise our heads, a man of distinguished appearance and of a
pronounced Bourbon type hurries past us, to join the advancing party.

"'Tis Monsieur," observes the lady. "'Tis the Prince Charles-Louis. He
is the soul of the cause."

We follow his elegant person past the kneeling congregation which fills
the central nave. The royal family approach the chancel until reaching
the group of crimson prie-Dieus and velvet cushions. The sanctuary is
crimson-draped; the white-haired venerable prelate is crimson-robed; the
altar blazes with the crimson tongues of wax tapers: for 'tis a _Messe
Rouge_ that is to be celebrated today, in honor of the royal victim of
one hundred and thirteen years ago.

"Explain to me the genealogy," I say to my guide, when we have taken
seats.

"The slender dark-haired gentleman and Monsieur are the great grandsons
of Louis Seize."

"In what manner are they descended?"

"Their father was Charles-Edmond Naundorff, fifth child of Charles
William Naundorff, the Prussian watch-maker, who claimed the French
crown during the reign of his uncle, known in history as Louis XVIII."

"Tell me more of these gentlemen."

"Jean III, whose entire name is Auguste-Jean-Charles-Emmanuel de
Bourbon, was born in Maestricht, Holland, in 1872. He and Monsieur were
adopted in early childhood by their father's sister, Amélie, the wife of
Monsieur Laprade of Poictiers--the beautiful, imperious Amélie whose
face was the reincarnation in feature and expression of the ill-fated
martyr queen, Marie Antoinette."

"Was not that resemblance accepted as corroborating evidence of her
father's integrity?"

"Madame," said my aristocratic companion, turning upon me wonderful
glowing eyes that seemed to reflect a throne transformed into a
scaffold, "Madame, the face of Amélie Naundorff convulsed the government
of the Restoration to such an extent that even the palsied limbs of the
man called Louis XVIII, grew rigid in terror. During one crucial moment
the usurper summoned the strength to stand upon his bandaged feet and
shatter with one blow the ascendancy of his nephew, Charles William
Naundorff."

"What arm did he employ?"

"That arm which the iniquitous ever use against the upright; the
rectitude and tenderness of a noble nature."

"Explain."

"Naundorff's despoilers turned upon him the only effectual weapon at
their disposal: they turned, rather they bade him turn upon himself, the
greatness and simplicity of his own heart."

I cast my eyes upon the group before the altar, upon the dark grave man,
all simplicity, candor and earnestness; upon the gentle comely lady
beside him, and the little fellow in the Louis Dix-Sept coiffure....
Just then Monsieur turned his superb head and the fine Bourbon features
irradiated the old charm which history and tradition have sought to
transmit, but which only the blood of Henri de Navarre can make glowing
with life.

The lady placed her elegantly gloved hand upon my arm.

"From their earliest years, the boys were cautioned not to reveal their
real name. Under the appellation of Lisbois they were successively
placed in several schools. Their identity was more than once discovered,
whereupon they were removed. On leaving college, they spent several
years in Brittany and Paris, completing their education. Jean III lived
on the estate of Monsieur Gabaudan from 1893 to 1898. Monsieur Gabaudan
manages an extensive wine business. Jean III, with the shrewd common
sense of his grandfather and with the mechanical instinct of his
great-grandfather, mastered the details of this business. Only one road
seemed to lie before him. He resolutely followed it. In 1900 he removed
to Paris. Under the name of De Lisbois, he was connected with a
petroleum house. During the last two years, he has, under his true
name, been the director of a drilling and sounding company in the
interest of which he has made several voyages to Algeria."

"What are Monseigneur's ideas with regards to royal pretensions and
claims?"

"Jean III has declared that he will never conspire to be placed upon a
throne. 'Circumstances,' says he, 'will decide my destiny.'"

"Has he adherents among the nobility?"

"His following is from all classes. The grandfathers of the present
nobility well knew that Jean de Bourbon's grandfather was the rightful
King of France."

"What of men of letters?"

"Many eloquent pens are consecrated to his cause. Eloquence, however, is
no requisite in the presentations of his claim. The Naundorffists demand
only to tell the plain truth."

"What is the official organ of the party?"

"La Légitimité, edited in Bordeaux, now in its twenty-third year."

"I have never seen a copy."

"C'est bien facile, Madame. You tell me you are leaving for New York.
The Salmagundi Club contains on file numbers of interesting books and
magazines having reference to Louis XVII. But, if you have the time
today, I will gladly accompany you to the official headquarters of the
party, namely, the office of Monsieur Daragon, the accomplished editor
of Le Revue Historique de la Question Louis XVII."

Monsieur Daragon is a true Frenchman, amiable, courteous, charming. His
office is the rendezvous of notable personages pertaining to the cause
and his bookshelves are laden with volumes of Louis XVII literature. I
purchased the scholarly memoirs of Otto Freidrichs entitled
"Correspondance de Louis XVII" and Osmond's "Fleur de Lys," a most
interesting and convincing work.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the February number of the Critic of New York, Mr. J. Sanford Saltus
asks:

"The next King of France--who will he be? A question often put by the
adherents of the Due d'Orleans, Don Carlos, Victor Napoleon and Jean de
Bourbon.

"Jean de Bourbon is the youngest of the 'Pretenders' and his claim is
based upon the assumption that his grandfather, Charles William
Naundorff was the Dauphin, the son of Louis XVI, who according to
popular rumor, died in prison June 8, 1795, and was buried at night in
an unmarked grave by the church yard of Sainte-Marguerite, in an obscure
Paris quarter. That the Dauphin did _not_ die in prison, but that, with
the assistance of friends, he escaped therefrom,--a sick child being
left in his stead,--is now the almost universally accepted belief of
historians. It is thought that his escape was known to Fouché and
Josephine Beaubarnais and that, beside the sick child, several other
children, whose names were respectively, Tardif Leminger, de Jarjages,
and Gornhaut, were used as blinds, while the real Louis XVII was being
helped out of the country by the Royalists."

Mr. Saltus continues further on:

"At Delft, Holland, August 10, 1845, ended the adventurous life of the
exile Charles William Naundorff. His grave, by official permission, bore
his true name. On June 8, 1904, the remains were exhumed and re-interred
in the new cemetery at Delft and once more, by official permission, the
same inscription appears.

"King William II, King William III and Queen Wilhelmina have allowed
this inscription to remain unmolested. Why? On the coming of age of the
Naundorffs, the Dutch government gives them permission to assume their
real name."

Annabel Hord Seeger.



Book I MARTIN, THE SEER



The Lost Dauphin



Chapter I

THE LOVERS


In a London quarter near the Thames, little frequented by day and almost
deserted by night, there is a house with a small garden facing an
extensive park from whose centre majestically rise groups of trees that
have stood for a century or more, those trees of the old English soil
which constant moisture nourishes and develops into colossal
proportions. The memories attaching to this modest structure would be
well worth exploitation by the historian, but Clio has chosen to avert
her face from this, the scene of the most dismal historical drama whose
narration was ever stifled into silence.

The tragedy which for a while was bounded by the walls of that pygmy
house will forever remain in shadow, for such has been the decree of
Destiny,--rather, such has been the will of certain powerful men in high
places.

On the evening when this narrative opens, the prolonged spring twilight
had lost every trace of the sunset afterglow when an aristocratic,
stalwart young man enveloped in a gray cloak which did not conceal the
symmetry of his form, approached the grating at the rear of the house
and knocked on the iron bars with his cane four times at regular
intervals. A moment later a white skirt gleamed amid the shrubbery and
the face of its young possessor shone back of the grating. A dainty hand
glided through the bars and the visitor clasped it ardently.
Affectionate greetings followed and anxious questionings, too, for these
plighted hearts could but claim Love's arrears after their long
separation.

"Did you arrive today?"

"I have but just come, not even taking time to change my clothes. The
letter which I sent preceded me but half an hour."

"Do _they_ know you are here?"

"No. They think I am hunting on my Picmort estate."

A brief silence followed. The woman--the girl, rather, for she was
scarcely more than sixteen--contracted the arch of her perfect brow.

"I do not understand the reason for the deception, René. Why should you
be ashamed of loving me?"

He seemed at a loss for an answer and then with an effort, said:

"Amélie, my own, I have taken this journey for the sole purpose of
giving you the reason. It is eight months since we were separated, and
during that time I have written you seldom because you warned me that
letters directed to your family either arrive unsealed or else fail to
arrive. Besides, Amélie, there is something I ought to say to you, but
I--give me both your adored hands, for only so can I speak. Courage,
courage, Amélie. Trust me; I shall be constant. Oh, my love," he
suddenly broke off, "do not ask me to speak, but believe that whatever I
should now attempt toward the realization of our union would fail
utterly--"

"Would fail utterly," she repeated scornfully. "You, a man, speak such
words! What, then, did your vows signify?"

Her beautiful face gleamed like a cameo against the darkness.

"In God's name, Amélie, listen and be not so harsh. I came from France
to ask you to believe in me and not force me to speak. May I not be
silent for the present?"

"No. I demand the truth, be that what it may."

René's attitude revealed the struggle through which he was passing, and
when his words came, it was as if they were hammered out of him.

"Amélie, since we were together at the mill of Adhemar, I have thought
only of you. I had been a madcap; I became serious and high-minded. I
had cared only for Parisian follies and wild hunts in the forests; these
I renounced, for they ceased to charm me. My mother had arranged for me
a brilliant marriage. You know of Germaine de Marigny whose lineage
includes crusader knights. Well, I broke the troth, regardless of
consequences. I asked you not whence you came nor whither you went. You
had said that your father was a mechanic in London and that your life
had been passed almost in indigence. When I thought of my rank and
estates, 'twas to reflect with pride that I should surround my wife with
every luxury. I knew that my mother would execrate and my uncle
disinherit me. Nevertheless, I was determined to overleap all barriers
and disregard almost everything that claimed my allegiance."

"But having had time for reflection," Amélie remarked coldly, "you have
concluded that you had almost committed a signal folly. I admit that
you have decided wisely, and bid you now consider yourself free."

She half turned from the grating, but he seized one of her hands, then
her soft white wrist and passionately kissed it.

"No, no! You are unjust, Amélie. You force me now to say what I would
withhold. Listen. When my mother vehemently declared that a de Brezé
should never give his name to a woman of humble origin, I replied that
the most illustrious ladies of France could not outrival you, and that
beauty and goodness are entitled to the very highest social
distinction."

"But your mother has at length convinced you that you uttered but the
enthusiastic hyperboles of a too ardent lover."

She felt him tremble as he grasped her hands tightly and continued:

"I know not what deity established the code of honor. We hold honor to
be even more sacredly binding than religion. A gentleman may sin a
hundred times daily, but not once does he violate the obligations
bequeathed him by his fathers. Life and happiness are worth much less
than honor, Amélie."

"Well?" she asked, trying to speak calmly, but in vain.

"O my Love," cried the man, "forgive me, forgive me, for I am about to
wound you cruelly. My mother, who had of late refrained from opposing my
attachment to you, called me to her yesterday and shut the door upon us.
Then she said: 'René, after vainly striving for months to change your
purpose, I withdrew my opposition, fearing that I was unduly imposing my
maternal authority. You were free, in possession of your patrimony and
twenty-seven years of age. So I resigned myself to the mésalliance and
began to interest myself in the antecedents of your idol. I wrote to
Spandau, the sometime residence of her people, with the result--"

He could not continue, but Amélie haughtily commanded:

"Go on!"

Hurriedly, almost despairingly, he concluded: "With the result that I
have received the information, corroborated by these documents, that the
girl's father has served a twenty months' sentence at hard labor in
Alstadt, Silesia, having been convicted as a counterfeiter and
incendiary."

"What more?" demanded the girl.

"O Amélie, is not that enough?"

"Enough, indeed," she answered, wrenching away her hands. "Farewell,
Monsieur Marquis de Brezé. We have exchanged our last words." And she
sped into the house before he could detain her.



Chapter II

MEMORIES


The Marquis remained at the grating, hoping that Amélie would return.
When night closed in and she showed no signs of relenting, he wandered
aimlessly through the streets, walking slowly, abstractedly, his mind
absorbed with the beautiful imperious girl he so loved and between whom
and himself had been thrust the proofs of her father's felony. He became
oblivious of even the need of food, though he had eaten nothing since
reaching England and putting up at the Hotel Douglas, a fourth-class
tavern selected with the object of concealment from chance compatriots.

His wanderings conducted him back to the Thames, from whose turbid
surface towered the masts of many vessels as they rocked at their
moorings, His eyes rested vacantly on the waters, spangled with
reflections of the stars overhead, as he recalled the history of his
passion for this unknown woman and his first meeting with her in the
home of Elois Adhemar, the miller on the de Brezé estate.

René had been in the habit of stopping for a glass of beer or warm milk
at the mill, on returning from hunts on his fertile and extensive
domains, and sundry pretty gallantries did he whisper into the ear of
his host's winsome daughter, Geneviève--village beauty and rustic
coquette--with a deep bosom and gleaming teeth.

When during the Revolution the de Brezé castle was fired, a torch was
simultaneously applied to the Adhemar mill, for these loyal servitors
were stanch legitimists. The Marquis de Brezé and the Count de Lestrier,
father and uncle respectively to René, were at the time in exile with
the royal family. Elois Adhemar had fled to Switzerland, serving as a
hand at the great mill of Berne, from which city he returned as an
expert miller to France while the revolutionary ferment was quieting
down. He repaired the mill and awaited the arrival of the de Brezé
family, which was to regain possession of its estates with the advent of
the Restoration. René was the head of the family, for his father had
died in foreign lands. His mother, the Duchess de Rousillon, rebuilt the
castle with increased magnificence, and it was during her occupation of
it with her son that the latter contracted the habit of visiting the
faithful Adhemar.

One day he met at the miller's house a young girl whom the family
called Mademoiselle Amélie. She had come to renew her broken health in
the fresh country air. René, standing now by the river, recalled his
first vision of her, and fairylike memories flitted through his brain
like a swarm of golden butterflies. Was she more beautiful than
Geneviève? He could not answer, but he knew well that thoughts
associated with the personality of Geneviève were impossible in the
atmosphere of Amélie, for not only was she different from the miller's
daughter, but from all women he had known. Only on cameos, medallions,
rare miniatures and enamelled boxes had he beheld her patrician type of
beauty. Her eyes, tenderly imperious and her lips of regal sweetness
never failed to quicken in him an adoring mood.

So great was his infatuation that he did not seek to ascertain her
origin, for she seemed to have descended from heaven. One circumstance,
however, forced itself on his attention, namely that while the miller's
daughter treated Amélie as a companion, Adhemar himself evinced toward
her a deference which closely approached reverence.

"She is the daughter," he would say, "of persons who protected me during
my exile."

How sweet had been those days! He recalled the walks during the summer
along the river bank fringed with lilies and reeds and shaded by the
languid foliage of willows, her arm intertwined in his, their feet
moving rhythmically together; and then the return home in the moonlight
with the perfume of honey-suckle and wild mint in their faces. In his
ravishment he failed to note the satirical remarks and jealous glances
of Geneviève. His eyes were for Amélie only who, pale at first like a
wilted rose, rapidly recovered health and animation. What most
captivated him was her air of distinction, her native dignity, her
manners of a _grande dame_, so unaccountable in a girl of obscure
origin. He said to himself that, compared with Amélie, the arrogant
Duchess de Rousillon, his mother, was a woman most ordinary, almost
vulgar.

It was not long before the news spread throughout the district that the
Marquis de Brezé, the best match in the country, was to wed a young
foreign girl of low extraction who had, in charity, been given an asylum
at the mill. The Duchess de Rousillon was absent in Paris at the time,
for the purpose of securing from the government of the Restoration the
return of properties confiscated during the Reign of Terror.

One morning as the young Marquis was tranquilly sleeping, dreaming,
perhaps, of his fair Dulcinea, his arm was roughly shaken and he opened
his eyes upon the angry countenance of his mother, who held toward him
an open letter. There was no signature, but René recognized the coarse
scrawls and crude expressions of Geneviève. It was addressed to the
Duchess and announced the intended marriage of her son to an adventuress
who had found refuge at the mill.

"I suppose," said the lady disdainfully, "that this is only a
half-truth. Whether your gallantries relate to this girl or to some
other is a matter having no interest for me. What I demand to know is
this: Have you pledged your word?"

René raised himself on his elbow and answered: "If Amélie consents, we
shall be married."

The tempest following this announcement and the ensuing days of conflict
still lived vividly in the mind of the Marquis as the bitterest
experience of his life, especially that occasion when the Duchess
ordered her carriage for the purpose of interviewing Amélie. She took
this resolution after receiving from Court a letter which seemed to
throw her into a violent agitation. On reaching the mill, she demanded
to see Amélie, who appeared with a quiet air of unconcern. The Duchess
stared at her and seemed almost petrified, not mentioning her son. After
some incoherent phrases, she stammered that the object of her visit was
to look upon so beautiful a girl. On taking leave, she bowed
obsequiously, her customary aplomb having been transformed into
something very like the confusion of a raw peasant. The miller was
ordered to accompany her home and, on reaching the castle, they were
closeted together for over two hours. On leaving the apartment, Adhemar
staggered like one drunk with wine and the Duchess flung herself in rage
into a chair. That afternoon two journeys were begun; Adhemar
accompanied Amélie to Calais and the Duchess forced her son to go with
her to Paris.

O those first days of separation! The Marquis shut the door upon the
friends who had been his life-long associates. He wished only to be in
London, reunited to Amélie, but, not knowing her address, to find her
would be impossible. At last a letter from her, forwarded by Adhemar,
gave him the needed information. He was about to set out when a slow
fever fastened upon him and kept him in bed for three months. He did not
tell Amélie of his condition, fearing to alarm her. His letters were
brief, but they breathed an unswerving devotion. When returning health
sent the impetuous blood of youth through his veins, he declared to his
mother an unalterable determination to persist in his love for the
stranger girl. Then it was that, like a bomb exploding at his feet,
these ominous words fell from the lips of the Duchess:

"It would be insanity in the Marquis de Brezé to bestow his name on the
daughter of a mechanic by occupation, a vagabond without lineage, of
tainted blood, an adventurer who has roamed over Europe, supported in
his youth by a woman of middle age whom there is good reason to suppose
was his mistress. I knew well these particulars, dear son of mine, and
you may imagine how they harassed me, but I rebuked myself, saying that
dignity and morality might exist in the humblest rank. Still, as those
who are not blinded by love must ascertain facts, I investigated the
situation and obtained these corroborating documents. You will admit
that my course has not been one of capricious obstinacy. Listen. The
father of your idol, by name Naundorff, seems to be of Jewish
extraction. His past is sullied by grave felonies. Here is the
deposition of the burgomaster of Spandau and letters from other Prussian
authorities--a formal conviction, in fact. As an incendiary, he set fire
to the city theatre, as a counterfeiter, he manufactured sackfuls of
coins, which, when caught in the act, he flung into the river Spree. He
expiated his flagitious acts by serving in the penitentiary of Alstadt
the sentence imposed by a German court. Now you know the truth and if
you still desire to unite the Naundorff blazonry with the unblemished
arms of Brezé, glorious with crusader trophies, you are free to do so. I
cannot restrain you. If I could, I should. I have discharged my duty in
warning you. You cannot allege ignorance. And now, René, leave me. I
trust soon to know whether the heir of Rousillon lives or whether I must
mourn his passing."

This was the speech which the young Marquis had, earlier in the evening,
abridged and modified before Amélie. And now, living over again the
scene at the trellis, he felt that she would not forgive him and,
nevertheless, that he could not live without her. Knightly honor, family
pride, the obligations of nobility--all were impotent in combating his
love for the fascinating, imperious girl.



Chapter III

THE ASSAULT


Telling himself that he was reprehensively weak in failing to resist his
passion, René gazed out upon the river. He reflected that its dark
surface had closed over many human sorrows and perplexities which seemed
beyond alleviation. A chill crept over him, then a dizziness, as he
gazed into the glistening, alluring current of the Thames.

In such situations, the slightest whisper is enough to break the spell.
The Marquis started on beholding two men emerge from a noisome alley,
conversing in French. When abroad, our native tongue always claims our
attention, especially when one using it happens to pronounce a familiar
name. These men twice spoke the name of Amélie's father, whereupon René
stealthily followed the pair. He could not distinguish the topic of
their conversation but was quite close enough to study the physical type
of each of the suspicious characters, one of whom was close-shaven,
coarse and short of stature, the other tall, full-bearded, alert and
enveloped in a huge overcoat which concealed half his face. They walked
slowly, peering at intervals in all directions. On perceiving René, they
nudged each other, for the Marquis's fine clothes were out of keeping
with the place, which was the thoroughfare of dissolute and disorderly
sailors. They ceased talking and, a few moments later, suddenly turned a
corner and disappeared in the labyrinth of malodorous, ill-lighted
alleys. René realized that they had eluded him, but his hunter's scent
and nimble legs put him again upon their trail. Why this espionage? He
could scarcely have answered had he been questioned.

When he next perceived them, they were standing beneath the yellow
lantern of a tavern. He saw them enter the filthy place, order some
glasses of beer, which they gulped down like genuine Londoners and make
their exit. Guardedly he followed them into the wider and better-lighted
streets, through which rolled an occasional cab. Again they described a
capricious curve, descended towards the river and emerged upon the park
which faced the small house and garden--the scene of René's colloquy
with Amélie. On noting the coincidence, his heart beat fast and the
movement was quickened when he perceived that the wily couple were
ambuscading back of the great trees in the centre of the square.
Connecting the name he had twice heard spoken by the ruffians--for so he
classified them--with the place of their concealment, he conjectured
that an act was about to be perpetrated which would affect Amélie, an
act in which he must interpose, whether impelled by fate or chance. He
crept into the zone of shade cast by the dense foliage, his gray cloak
blending in color with the walls and making him almost invisible.

The park remained deserted. The night grew darker each moment and the
silence was broken only by the solemn striking of the church clock or
the impatient step of a laborer returning homeward. Just as the hour of
nine struck, a man appeared from that side of the park opposite the spot
where René was watching. As he entered, walking leisurely, the two
concealed men stepped forth and with a preconcerted movement placed
themselves, the one on the stranger's right, the other on his left. René
had scarcely realized what had occurred when the assault began. A few
vigorous leaps brought him quickly to the assistance of the victim just
as the assailants were about to deliver their blows. He seized the
uplifted arm of the more threatening one, the tall man with the great
coat, whose intended cudgel-blow was thereby made harmless.

The stranger, having no other weapon than a cane, rained blows upon the
enemy until he wrenched himself loose and fled. René then turned upon
the accomplice, seized him by the throat with both hands and gradually
tightened his hold until the man's face was purple from strangulation.
Then he released him, but, suddenly feeling a sharp sensation in his
shoulder, he renewed his grasp, maintaining the pressure until the
villain fell inert, dropping his weapon. The assaulted man quickly
seized the Marquis by the arm and dragged him toward the house, saying
in a voice full of emotion:

"Come, let us hasten. If the police detect us, we are lost."

He spoke in French with a German accent.

"I cannot," said René staggering. "I am wounded and too weak to walk."

Throwing his arms around René in order to sustain him, the stranger
conducted him to his home, rapping three times in a peculiar manner upon
the door, which was then opened by a woman of attractive form and
features and apparently about thirty-five years of age. She shrieked on
beholding the condition of the two men.

"'Tis a wounded gentleman, Jeanne--wounded in defending me," said the
stranger in an authoritative voice. "Close the door securely and help me
to examine his wounds."

The woman obeyed, leaving her lamp on a stand, and aided her husband in
placing René upon a lounge in the room next the entrance. Not till then
did she dare to whisper:

"And you, Charles Louis; has any ill befallen you?"

"Nothing but a slight scratch on the elbow. Quickly bring some water,
ether, balsam and court-plaster and linen. Call Amélie. She is
courageous."

While Jeanne hastened to execute these commands, Charles Louis
unfastened René's outer garments, also his close-fitting jacket,
removing the lace-trimmed shirt soaked in blood and disclosing a wound
near the left shoulder-blade, the ruffian's dagger having been aimed for
a dangerous lung thrust. His weakness was due entirely to loss of blood,
which, continuing to flow, had left a dark, clotted stain on his white
skin. When Jeanne returned with the restoratives, René was smiling
tranquilly. A girl in white entered the apartment, holding a wax taper
and, upon recognizing René, pale, blood-stained and nude to the waist,
she uttered a cry of terror and dropped the light.

"What is the matter, Amélie?" asked her father. "Do not be alarmed, my
daughter. Thank God that our unknown friend is no longer in danger. Come
nearer and hold the light still a moment. Now the bandage. Bring one of
my shirts, also my great-coat and a glass of cognac or a little coffee."

"Do not trouble yourselves further. I am doing well," declared the
wounded man. "At the Hotel Douglas I have changes of clothing."

René's eyes passionately sought those of Amélie, which, dilated with
terror, could not unfasten themselves from his face.

The host insisted: "It is too late to go to the Hotel. The streets, as
we have seen, are dangerous. Accept, then, for a little while the
clothes of a humble artisan, Monsieur--?"

"René de Giac, Marquis de Brezé."

"Charles Louis Naundorff," said the host introducing himself. "And these
are my wife and daughter. Will you believe me when I say that I knew you
were a Frenchman when you sprang to my defense?"

On hearing that René had protected her father, Amélie approached her
lover and gave him a look that was all radiance, an abandon of the soul,
an unconditional surrender. It lasted but a moment. Had it been
prolonged, it would have melted the heart of the man who, not long
before, meditated a leap into the Thames.

"To be a Frenchman and to be a hero from choice are mutual corollaries.
You did not know me. Why, then, should you risk your life? Thus is my
debt; of gratitude to you increased," said Naundorff, smiling.

Amélie had brought René a cup of coffee which, having the effect of a
cordial, made him talkative.

"A half hour since, the bandits and I were concealed in the park; an
hour since, I started on their trail."

"Is it possible?"

"It is indeed. Listen and judge. I wandered aimlessly along the river
bank and soon overheard two men speaking French. They were
suspicious-looking characters and they spoke your name twice. On
perceiving that I followed, they fled. I caught up with them and again
followed cautiously. On reaching the park, they ambuscaded. The rest you
know."

Naundorff gazed attentively at his guest who, having clothed himself in
the borrowed garments, was fast recovering his strength. He strove to
read René's face. At last he said:

"Why, then, you knew me?"

"Yes, Monsieur, I knew you by name, and now that I look at you closely,
I feel that I know your face also. You have one of those countenances
which always seem familiar and linger in the memory. I cannot say when
or where I have seen you, but I believe it has been not once but a
thousand times. When I opened my eyes and looked upon your face, it
seemed to me that long ago I had known you well."

On first beholding his fiancée's father, de Brezé had experienced a
feeling that now returned with renewed force. Although love confiscates
all sentiments, in order to focus them on the adored one, René gazed
beyond Amélie as he spoke, having eyes only for Charles Louis. The
father's age seemed near forty, his head was of spacious front with
arched brow and blond hair, somewhat silvered and curling naturally. An
infantile dimple marked his chin, his breast-bone was high and a slight
obesity marred his form which still, however, preserved graceful
outlines; his hands were finely patrician; his expression was a mingling
of dignity, bitterness and deep distrust. Great sorrows must have been
the lot of this man, for his face seemed furrowed by torrents of tears.
His likeness to Amélie seemed to consist more in what is usually called
family resemblance than in physical similitude. The father and daughter
were of distinct types and yet it seemed impossible to disjoin them
mentally. More and more perplexed, René said to himself, "Where have I
seen this man? Where have I seen him and Amélie together?"



Chapter IV

AMÉLIE


Naundorff, seated near the sofa where René rested, had become pensive.
René's eyes were fastened querulously upon him. The young man scarcely
knew what to say, yet his good breeding impelled him to end the enforced
visit.

"I have almost recovered. I therefore beg of my kind host permission to
depart. I shall take a cab near by in Wellington street and so reach my
hotel in twenty minutes. Tomorrow, unless fever seizes me, I shall give
myself the pleasure of calling upon you to learn how you fare after our
rough experience. There remains now only to inquire whether you deem it
advisable to report this assault, Monsieur Naundorff, in order that the
scoundrels may receive their just deserts."

This very natural query was disquieting to the host, and with contracted
lips, he objected:

"Make report? No, no. I would suffer everything rather than appeal to
human justice. Leave human justice to her caverns, her lairs. I prefer
to deal with the malefactors who all but made off with us. At least," he
added excitedly in a hoarse voice, "at least they strike blows and
dispatch their victims. Oh, deliver me from prolonged martyrdom, from
shredding of flesh fibre by fibre Let the end come speedily and
then--rest. The justice of God is retributive, infallible."

At this point Amélie arose and threw herself into her father's arms,
while Jeanne buried her face in her hands. René observed that the wife
was not really included in the demonstration and that Naundorff and
Amélie constituted a group of attuned souls. As she drew herself from
her father who kissed her fair forehead, she turned to René and said
serenely:

"Monsieur Marquis de Brezé, we have complied to the extent of our power
with the obligations of hospitality and gratitude. We owe you an eternal
debt. On leaving, you shall carry with you my father's pistols, which he
imprudently refuses to carry himself, notwithstanding numerous evidences
of treachery. But before you leave, I wish to hear my father vindicate
himself."

She made a significant gesture to Naundorff, who then said gently to his
wife:

"Jeanne, my own, go and see if the children are sleeping. Don't let
them know what has happened to-night."

Jeanne complied with a smile. Amélie then resumed the conversation with
her usual vivacity.

"Without detracting from our gratitude, Marquis, permit me to say that
friendship must be based upon esteem. If you do not esteem my father
according to his deserts; if, on saving his life through a noble
impulse, you fail to profess for him a respect which is his due, we
shall perpetuate our gratitude but withhold our hospitality in the
future, unless some day you call upon us, to demand the life to which
your conduct tonight entitles you. This is my attitude, Monsieur, and my
father's also."

"What do you mean, my daughter?" interposed Naundorff.

"The Marquis understands me," replied the girl, lowering her eyes. "He
will admit that I speak with warrant."

Naundorff, with unfeigned amazement gazed from one to the other. The
heightened color in both young faces revealed the truth.

"Monsieur le Marquis, have you had previous acquaintance with my
daughter?"

"I have had that honor, Monsieur Naundorff, at the house of Elois
Adhemar, miller on my patrimonial estate."

"What has been the nature of the friendship which you have entertained
for the Marquis?" asked Naundorff of Amélie. "I do not need to urge you
to speak the truth."

"Indeed you do not my father. René de Giac was my lover, pledged to be
my husband. He is," she observed, as though the detail were of extreme
importance, "a scion of the first nobility of France."

"Compose yourself, my daughter," said Naundorff, for her voice had
suddenly quavered with emotion. "To love is law. Your father has loved
intensely. Your lover is worthy of you."

"That is what remains to be proved," she replied haughtily. "That is
what Monsieur le Marquis will demonstrate without delay. We wait--"

René was amazed at her intrepidity and he answered with some vehemence:

"Mademoiselle wounds but does not offend. She will testify that I have
reverenced her honor, that it has been as sacred to me as that of a
beloved sister. And in vindication, I now improve the present occasion
to address my plea to her father. Monsieur Naundorff, the Marquis de
Brezé asks for the hand of your daughter."

Astounded, then thrilled with happiness, Naundorff turned to his
daughter, who interrupting, calmly said:

"Do not concede it, my father, until the Marquis retracts."

René understood. His fealty indicated his line of procedure. Turning to
Naundorff, he said:

"I retract, not because Amélie demands that I should but because my
conscience so dictates. In France I had been assured that you had been
imprisoned as an incendiary and counterfeiter and that you had served
your term in Silesia at hard labor. Two hours since, I said this to
Amélie. Since meeting you, I am convinced that the charge is false.
Forgive me and take my hand."

A melancholy cloud settled upon Naundorffs face and a spasm of pain
convulsed his features. From his eyes darted a lustre like that of
congealed tears. Losing all control of himself, he shrieked:

"Do not take my hand. What they told you in France is true. I have been
dragged before tribunals under the accusation of firing a theatre and
counterfeiting money. Yes, I have ground gypsum in the prison of
Alstadt. You have not been deceived, Monsieur le Marquis."

Amélie, sobbing and on her knees, caressed her father passionately. René
vacillated for a moment and then intuition vanquished reason.

"Your hand, Monsieur Naundorff," he said, extending his own. "If you
refuse, it is because you doubt me. I feel convinced that those
accusations are part of an iniquitous scheme. My heart so speaks and my
heart does not lie. The Marquis de Brezé, of immaculate honor, responds
for the honor of Naundorff."

Not his hand but both of his arms did Naundorff extend to this new
friend whom he embraced impetuously.

"Not only are you innocent of felony," said René, "but, moreover, a man
persecuted, calumniated, victimized. From today you have at your side an
unconditional friend. I will make your reputation to shine as the sun.
Trust yourself to me."

Naundorff shook his head sadly.

"'Tis not in you power to change my fate. Tired of long suffering, I
determined to leave everything to chance. Living obscurely, humbly,
poorly, I thought that, being forgotten, tranquillity was at last to be
permitted me. What evil had I done? Of what might I be accused? May I
not even enjoy the love of my family and the peace of the laborer's
hearth? No, they have decreed my assassination as they decreed my
dishonor. Today you have saved me, my friend, but you will not always be
near and if you dare to place yourself between me and my fate, alas for
you! A voice prophetic and awful pronounced to me, one day, these words
in the darkness of my dungeon: 'Your friends shall perish.'"

Amélie fell into an armchair, sobbing.

"Do not weep, rose of heaven," said Naundorff, leading her toward René.
"Divine providence permits at last that you shall be happy. My dream was
to see you the wife of a French nobleman. He whom you love is noble in
birth and noble in soul. Love one another. Charles Louis blesses you."

"No," protested René. "We shall not marry until you are rehabilitated.
Amélie would not consent." Amélie extended her hand in approval.

"Not until my father recovers his name and honor may we be happily
married, René."

"Do as you will," murmured Naundorff. "I will not again buffet Fate,
knowing in advance that I shall fall a victim."

He made a signal to the Marquis, who followed him into the basement of
the house. It was a species of work-shop, illumined by the dim light of
a lantern hanging from the smoky ceiling. On benches were scattered the
implements of a watch-maker--springs, pincers, bridges, wires, minute
tongs, unmounted watches, others in cases, machinery of various kinds
and firearms. Naundorff double-locked the door and then, removing one of
the tables, counted the bricks in the wall and, reaching the fifteenth
numbering from the floor, he pried it out. A secret compartment was now
revealed from which he took a yellow parchment and a small square box
with a gold key hanging from it.

"René de Giac," said Naundorff solemnly, "I confide this treasure to
your unblemished honor. Herein is contained the last gleam of hope for
me and my children. To no one have I delivered this manuscript and
casket because my misfortunes have driven away all my friends, a result
to be expected from the prediction heard within my prison walls. There
have been moments in which I have thought to throw these proofs into the
fire, for they seemed valueless, but tonight's episode has put an end to
such an inclination. As I do not attain peace by living obscurely; as a
dagger continues to be suspended over my head; as my sorrows flood the
life of Amélie, my best-loved child--the only being who knows my
secret; since, contrary to my desire, I am compelled to defend my
rights, I resume the struggle. I shall secretly go to France and if you
consider that the testimonials enclosed in that box constitute a solid
basis for my claims before a French tribunal, or even before a human
tribunal, then I shall proceed to my demands. No longer will I remain
silent. But listen to my warning. From the very moment you possess the
box and parchment, do not consider yourself safe on earth. Tremble, keep
vigils, start in your sleep, trust no man. Treachery will bristle on all
sides and spies will track you, to despoil you of the treasure. You look
at me amazed and, perhaps, doubt my sanity, but reflect on the assault
of this night. You will not wonder at my warnings when you read the
manuscript. It is a plea addressed to a woman, to her whom I have most
loved on earth, excepting my mother and daughter--a woman upon whom may
God have pity! After you have read it, judge whether or no it should be
placed in her hands and, if it should, be you the bearer, that the woman
may not say she sinned through ignorance.

"As for this casket containing the important documents," he added,
"conceal it in a crypt beneath French soil or in the bowels of the
earth. A time will come when we shall have need of it. Until then, let
not your right hand know where the left has hidden it."

"I swear!" said de Brezé, "that no man shall track me."

"Transform yourself, René. He who becomes my friend must adjust to his
face a mask, must envelop himself in mystery--for I am a mystery, an
abysmal mystery. Here are my pistols--they are loaded. And now farewell,
for you must find a place of safety for these things which in my hands
incur grave danger. I shall see you again in Calais where Amélie and I
shall be one week from today, if all goes satisfactorily, at the Red
Fish Inn. Let us not meet again in London, for we are watched."

"No divining rod shall indicate the cavity beneath French soil where I
conceal this treasure," said de Brezé. "Permit me now, on leaving, to
kiss my lady's hand."

"Go seek her. She is yours."

At eleven, René again crossed the solitary park. He approached the
square, curious to see if there still remained evidences of the
struggle. All was deserted, but a blade gleamed at the foot of a tree,
and he took it up in his hand. It was a short, wide knife such as
mariners use for cutting fish. As he stooped, the casket dropped from
his bosom and struck on the tree. Much alarmed, he replaced it inside
his jacket which he securely buttoned and, pressing his hand to the
treasure, he proceeded along Wellington street.

On passing a corner to call a cab, he caught sight of two men, those of
the assault, shadowed in a great doorway and watching his movements.

"There goes the throttler," said the thickset fellow, who still wheezed
from the pressure of René's fingers.

"He carries a box," said the other. "It has a metallic sound and cannot
be empty. Shall we fall on him and seize it?"

"Fool! he must be armed. If not, do you think I should let him pass?"

"He goes toward Wellington."

"Let's follow him now as he followed us. Let's find out who this young
aristocrat is that drops from the skies into other men's fights."

And the two ruffians, creeping along in the shadow of the walls, tracked
de Brezé until he leaped into a cab, giving directions which they
overheard. The listeners did not need to incur the expense of another
cab.

René had failed to heed the warning of Naundorff regarding
circumspection. Just from the arms of Amélie, he floated like one in a
trance; his thoughts were all of love.



Chapter V

THE FIRST THREADS OF THE NET


The office of the Superintendent of Police, Baron Lecazes, was an
apartment severely sumptuous and furnished in the purest Imperialistic
style. The power of the great Napoleon, laid low forever after the
ephemeral sway of the Hundred Days, lived still in art. How could the
suite of Lecazes be furnished otherwise, when it had been the official
headquarters of Fouché, Napoleon's chief minister, the "Great Second" in
power and, perhaps, behind the throne's draperies, the "Great First." He
had occupied it during the stirring period in which the power of the
police department attained its zenith,--Fouché, the only man who in
reality knew the history of the epoch.

Lecazes was said to have reaped the harvest of his predecessor's
ingenious policy--tangled labyrinths of tunnels, secret passages, back
stairways, hidden closets, dungeons wherein dangerous citizens kept
gloomy vigils while gagged and fettered, awaiting presentation before
the all-potent superintendent. There were chiffoniers and garde-robes
whose compartments held every variety of disguises. Smothered
voices, could they have become audible again, might have told of
torture-galleries consummately fitted up, containing indented wheels,
Austrian steel-blocks, English pricking-forks, Spanish weights and
cords, Prussian metal helmets and other devices no less terrifying. The
truth of these rumors cannot be vouched for but it is enough to say that
they were disseminated by the Carbonari, whose society was then
starting. It has also been said, perhaps rashly, that under the eye of
Fouché there existed a chemical laboratory in which a turbaned doctor
from the Orient, envoy from the Great Turk, concocted distillations of
herbs which induced stupor, insanity or death. However legendary some of
these statements may seem, however rash it may be to gainsay the erudite
historians who give credit only to what is found in the records, it is
well to recognize the fact that some of the most dramatic and highly
significant happenings are among those of which all trace has been
obliterated.

The private office of Lecazes was reached from the outside by an
antechamber with apparently but one entry, that of the rear, leading to
the hall and before which hung a green silk portière brocaded in
yellow palms. The walls of the office were covered with green silk laid
on in squares and retained in place by carved gilt-edged mahogany
strips. The floor was a mosaic of rare and variegated woods which in
their natural tints formed a Grecian fret encircling a serpent-locked
head of Medusa. There were swan-formed sofas and chairs and stools of
artistically wrought brass, depicting processions of nymphs with airy
coiffures, slender necks and beribboned sandals, or groups of cupids
bearing hymeneal torches. A splendid bronze railing surrounded the desk
on which stood an inkstand with the figure of Laocoön struggling in the
coils of serpents. The Laocoön and the Medusa, strongly suggestive of
martyrdom and despair, could not be more fittingly placed. Above the
baron's seat, a canopy overhung the portrait of the reigning king, Louis
XVIII. Lecazes was seated and although many papers lay before him, he
was not busy. His attitude was meditative, his head resting in the left
hand, while his right fingered a silver pen tipped with steel. It would
have been difficult to classify the quality of his meditation--to
determine whether it was artful or idle. His face was keenly intelligent
and in public it expressed an ingenious frankness, with an affability
too unremitting to be sincere, and a smile half abstracted and half
mellow, which, when in solitude was replaced by lines of astute and
tenacious determination. It was the expression of a man who travels
without deviation to his ends.

As superintendent of the restored monarch, he was impelled to display
greater vigor than as the superintendent of the great Corsican. In the
latter capacity he was guided by a superior genius; in the former he
stood back of the throne to guard the government--including himself.

"What would become of them without me?" Lecazes asked himself, on the
successful termination of a coup. "It is often necessary to act without
consulting. There are questions which must not be asked. I am the
contriver. I direct the play and they are the audience. Much cause for
congratulation is it if I can prevent them and their vengeful partisans
of the south from spoiling the plot."

The baron's reflections were not those of one who seeks a path amid
thorns and thistles. They had, rather, to do with the balancing of
probabilities and the best way to carry out his purpose. Suddenly he
began to arrange the documents, some of which he tied together. After
extracting and reading a letter over and over, he placed that important
paper in his pocket-book.

A project of much consequence agitated his mind, for his hand shook
nervously as he took up his pen, and deep furrows lined his brow. Two
clocks, standing upon artistic brackets at his right and left
respectively, joined their crystalline voices in musical precision. It
was two o'clock in the afternoon--time to stop reflecting and go to
acting. He struck the bell and inquired of the attendant, who
immediately appeared:

"What person waits?"

"Professor Beauliège is in the anteroom."

"Show him in."

A moment later there appeared a man who was a type of the
literary-scientific proletariat, such as may always be found in Parisian
bookstores, lingering before shelves containing antique works marked at
extravagant prices. A greasy looking hat, uncombed hair, coat collar
soiled with dandruff, tattered gloves pierced by dirty fingernails, a
faded portfolio (apparently full of manuscripts) beneath his arm; a
shaven face with a peaked nose and myopic eyes which seemed to peer
through a dusty web--such were the unpleasing features of Monsieur
Beauliège's exterior.

The baron, scarcely looking up, motioned him to a seat. Active and
practical himself, he professed for litterateurs a disdain which he made
no effort to conceal.

"How does the book come on?" he asked.

"Monsieur le Baron," faltered the poor old fellow, "I make little
advance because, as you are well aware, I absolutely lack basis. I have
no corroborating documents for establishing the boy's demise. I am in
ignorance of what transpired during the latter part of his imprisonment
and my labor is most arduous since, thanks to the spirit of the age,
history seems to be taking on new methods and insisting on indisputable
evidences. When I received your summons, I jumped for joy, for I thought
you had important documents to entrust to me."

"Monsieur Beauliège" replied Lecazes, in slightly repressed irony, "if
we possessed the papers that you wish, we should have no need of you. Le
diable! In that case I should transfer them to the columns of Le
Moniteur. What I expect of your genius and erudite pen is a
compilation--do you follow me?--a compilation of, well, of materials
conjectural and plausible, tender, affecting, poetic, descriptive of the
unhappy prince's life in prison. The theme is pregnant. You have a
virgin field and an ample horizon. You are not asked for a romance.
Beware! You must bring forth a historic revelation to serve as a beacon
for the future. 'Tis an enterprise which, above all, if believed to have
been spontaneously undertaken, will redound to your literary glory. A
seat in the Academy shall not be deemed too lofty an honor by way of
reward for your distinguished merit."

The word "Academy" caused the savant to leap from his seat and grasp the
railing. Lecazes eyed him astutely. This man was not purchasable in
money. He had wisely held to him the bait of literary eminence.

"A book of your writing, Monsieur Professeur, does not require much help
from documentary evidence, since your personal authority is sufficient.
It might, if you were one of those fools who invent narratives having
neither head nor tail, but the fact of your being a scholar and a
collector of historical manuscripts imparts the strength of credibility
to your productions. The test of your ability shall consist in imparting
stability to a monument without a pedestal. We have unfortunately lost
the pedestal."

"I am told," said the professor, "that there exists in the Hospital for
Incurables a woman capable of throwing light on this chapter of
history. She is the widow of the shoemaker who tortured the wretched
little prince. I have decided to interview this woman."

The baron's fist dealt the table a fearful blow.

"With what instrument must I inject into your brain the idea that you
are to interview nobody except the person or persons to whom I direct
you? Is your book to be the recital of old women's garrulities or a
dignified exposition?"

The savant drooped his head. The magic charm of membership in the
Academy constrained him into a meek submission. Nevertheless, he timidly
stammered:

"If only I might possess the death certificate! Resting upon that
solitary document, the book would have a basis of adamant. It would
suffice to refute conclusively those vile impostors, the cobbler of
Rouen, the lackey of Versailles, and the mechanic of Prussia."

Lecazes again assumed his habitual smile in order to restrain himself
from flinging the Laocoön inkstand at the savant's head,--the old
imbecile, seeking Jerusalem artichokes in the depths of the sea! Then he
amiably remonstrated:

"Refrain, my dear Professor, from desiring such evidence, or--renounce
your seat in the Academy. You must convince yourself that the aforesaid
death certificate has not yet been unearthed, and that it is not yet
expedient to record the facsimile. But what does this matter to a sage
like yourself?"

Gliding his hand into his pocket, the superintendent extracted a roll of
banknotes.

"This insignificant sum is not intended as payment for your labor but
only as a reimbursement for expenses incidental to the mechanical part
of your task. In two weeks I shall expect the manuscript, may I not?"

An authoritative gesture dismissed the Professor, who retired in an
absorbed mental condition, for already he had begun framing his
initiatory address on entering the Academy. Lecazes glanced, at the
clock. The hands indicated twenty-five minutes of three.

"Volpetti has doubtless arrived," he said to himself and then rising, he
took up the package of papers which had recently been collected and
pressed a finger upon a hidden spring back of his chair, whereupon one
of the panels swung open, revealing a dark, narrow passageway, at the
farther end of which there was an iron shutter. Entering, he touched
this lightly with his knuckles and no sooner had it rolled upward than a
man's voice hoarsely whispered from the opened room:

"I am here, Excellency."

The chamber which the baron entered was furnished in mahogany, the walls
painted to match, and the floor was covered with a cheap carpet. It
lacked windows and was ventilated only by the stovepipe. A lantern was
suspended from the ceiling and he quickly turned it upon the individual
who had announced himself.

"Lower the shutter," ordered the baron, and the man obeyed, closing the
chamber's only exit.

"Now bring cup and salver."

The man took from the cupboard a deep bronze cup with handles
representing two sirens of protruding bosom. Unstopping a bottle, he
emptied its contents into the cup and then, striking a flint, ignited a
taper which he applied to the liquid. He then placed the cup on the
stove. A blue flame arose, and in it the baron lighted, one by one, the
documents he had just been handling at his desk. He watched the burning
sheets as they turned to black crumpled shapes and then to shapeless
ashes upon the metal salver. The odor from the burning seals was wafted
to his face and a slight shiver came over him. He was enjoying his power
of obliterating history, cunningly causing past happenings to seem as
though they had not been. Feeling relieved at the destruction of the
papers, he said amiably to Volpetti:

"When you are again here, 'twill be because _that_ has been
accomplished."



Chapter VI

THE BAILIFF


The man to whom those significant words A were addressed, and whom the
baron called Volpetti, appeared to have just arrived after a long
journey. Much dust whitened his clothes, his shoes and his abundant dark
hair, which last was in a disorderly condition. He seemed somewhat over
thirty, of a southern type, having tanned skin and a heavy beard which
extended almost to his eyes. His answer was formal:

"_That_ shall be accomplished tonight."

"Are you certain?"

"Infallibly so. The fool is in clever hands. I am just from London,
bringing two boxes of steel implements, scissors and knives, which have
served to corroborate my commercial character. Beyond the Channel I was
Albert Serra, a Catalan, making purchases in London to smuggle through
Gibraltar. Not the devil himself could have spotted me."

"Come to the point," commanded the superintendent. "You are skillful in
disguises. I myself hardly recognize you in that beard and mop of hair."

"I have taken these precautions, Excellency, because the Carbonari and
the police are on my scent. They are making shrewd guesses and 'twould
be very awkward for me to enter London in handcuffs, on the charge of
being party to an assault upon that puzzling personage. One must be on
the qui vive. I picked out two hardy fellows and gave them only such
information as was required for the performance of their parts. Besides,
the plan was as simple as sucking eggs. The personage lives in an
obscure quarter and opposite his house is a park which is always
deserted after nightfall. A Methodist church stands on one side of this
park and a college on another. In the centre is a group of big trees
which cast a deep shade; indeed, everything was arranged to suit us. The
personage takes an evening stroll after his day's work, for he has been
warned that failure to take the air will be bad for his eyes which he
uses hard all day, looking at the fine mechanism of the watches and
machines which he repairs. How have I found all this out? Therein lies
my genius, Excellency. I can answer every question concerning that
house. The personage, after wandering through certain streets, and
visiting his friends, the Prussian mechanic, Hartzenbaume, returns home
regularly at a given hour. He is very punctual in his habits and whoever
passes through the square at that time is almost sure to meet him."

The superintendent shook his head. The faint creases upon his brow
deepened.

"And if they are captured?"

"If they are captured? but they will _not_ be captured. They know just
what to do. If they are arrested, 'twill be for assault with intent to
rob, something that occurs every day. And even though Albert Serra is
named as accomplice, what of that? The English police will look for a
Catalan smuggler--not for me. The fellows know only half the story and
you may be certain that the net is well laid. Has your Excellency
further orders for me?"

"Await me here and arrange a new make-up. I shall return."

The bailiff bowed and, at a signal, raised the iron shutter through
which the autocrat passed back to his private office. On reaching it, he
felt in his pocket for the letter which he had placed there not long
since, and said to the usher:

"Has not her Grace, the Duchess de Rousillon, arrived?"

"She has been waiting some time for your Excellency."

"Ask her to be good enough to enter."

The baron gallantly advanced to place a chair for the lady. She
approached boldly, trying to smile, but her pale face and the reddened
semi-circles beneath her blue eyes revealed acute suffering. The duchess
must have been beautiful in her prime and her style of dressing showed
that she had not given up her claim to attractiveness. Her skirt was of
taffeta silk ornamented with narrow lace ruffles. She wore an exquisite
dulleta of rare green velvet, bordered with white embroidery mingled
with gold and chenille, a large silk English bonnet of such shape as to
permit the escape on each side of clusters of curls still golden. A
parasol like that which had been last graced by the hand of the Duchess
de Barri, of white satin embroidered in violets, completed her outfit.
From her left wrist hung a reticule of pearls over satin with a jeweled
clasp. She made a court bow to Lecazes and seated herself in the
proffered chair with somewhat more than her usual aristocratic manner.

"In what can I serve your Grace?"

"If you but knew what has happened," she began in an agonized voice. To
his querulous look, she resumed: "You had appointed today for the
conference which we were to hold regarding the Montereux mines, which
form part of the ducal estate of Rousillon. The possession of this
property is disputed by the municipality of Montereux on the pretext of
prior occupation, and I desire to place my claim in your hands for
enforcement, even though it be a matter that does not concern you
officially. But if it were not for this engagement with you, I should
have come today to earnestly solicit an audience."

The baron noted her agitation from the trembling of the rich jewels on
her bosom.

"Compose yourself," he said almost affectionately, taking in his own one
of her gloved hands "Your trouble may not be as serious as you imagine."

"You consider me capable of being afflicted over a trifle!" she
exclaimed. "Listen; my son has escaped to England."

"To England!" ejaculated Lecazes, starting in his seat.

"Ah! so you see my distraction is not over a small matter. Yes, to
London and slyly, too, for he told me that he was going hunting on
Picmort. But as I have eyes, I discovered that the clothes which he had
taken were hardly appropriate to the chase and that the guns and bags
which were left behind satirically grinned at each other. I then hurried
to our bankers and indifferently inquired whether René had ordered money
to be sent to him. On being told that a large credit had been placed for
him in London, I concluded that my presentiments were well founded."

"When did the Marquis leave?"

"Four days ago. He should reach London tonight."

The baron was not in the habit of showing his feelings, and only a
slight contraction of the mouth could be detected as the effect of his
chagrin.

"You know well," proceeded the lady, "that the girl is there. When I
revealed the truth to him and proved it by the documents which you
kindly procured for me--showing her father's criminal record--René
seemed overwhelmed with sadness. After some grieving over his ruined
hopes, he appeared to be cured of his absurd passion. But now I realize
that the chains are not broken."

The superintendent brusquely inquired:

"Why did you not notify me the moment that your son started on his
trip?"

"I blundered," she mournfully admitted. "I did not realize that
precautions are unavailing when one contends with intrigants of low
breed. Why do you not have that monstrous impostor put in prison? He
should be deprived of his mischief-making power. I trust to you, Baron,
to dispel from his Majesty's mind any notion that I am implicated in
this conspiracy. Assure him of my loyalty, of my condemnation of René's
perversity. How iniquitous so to exploit a resemblance, a freak of
Nature! 'Tis truly an amazing likeness. On seeing the girl I was almost
petrified. She has the air, the face, the eyes, the mouth and even the
gait of the martyr-queen. Mountebanks of that stripe always attract
followers. Adhemar, for one, believes in him to the death. I shall
banish him from the mill for his treason! O Baron, rescue René! If my
son were to become a partisan of this impostor, I could not endure his
Majesty's displeasure. Were I treated coldly at court, I should die of
mortification. Reverence for my liege is my chief sentiment. My beloved
husband used often to say to me, 'Matilde, let your first care be to
please the king!'"

"That is not the question at present," drily rejoined the
superintendent. "Your fidelity is evident to me. But what a mistake you
made in not keeping me better posted."

"Do you fear, as do I, a clandestine marriage--one of those
entanglements--?"

"Like that of his Highness, Duke Ferdinand, with the sentimental Amy
Brown?" interposed Lecazes.

"Mon Dieu, no!" protested the duchess. "That was a vicious calumny."

"Well, your Grace, I shall try to nullify your mistakes. Compose
yourself and depart. Pardon my abruptness. I require time to formulate
plans and to prevent further trouble. Trust to me. The Marquis de Brezé
will not rush headlong into marriage with a culprit's daughter. Such
acts are not perpetrated in real life, impromptu, as in Cimarosa's
operas. We shall find preventives for such an awkward faux pas."

The lady rose, drawing across her eyes a perfumed lace handkerchief.

"You are my protector," she said, clasping the baron's hand. To herself
she said, "Trickster! Newly manufactured noble! Renegade Bonapartist!"

As soon as the duchess had departed, Lecazes clenched his fist and shook
it vigorously in her direction. Then again placing a finger on the
secret spring, he glided through the paneled door and passageway into
the room where he had burned the documents. He called, in a low voice,
to Volpetti.

Some moments later, the bailiff appeared in immaculate dress of the
correct style, blue coat with gilded buttons, nankeen breeches,
riding-boots and in his hand a fancy whip with carnelian handle. He wore
a white muslin cravat which with his pale face made a pleasing contrast
with the dark brown whiskers. His head was fringed with chestnut
ringlets, amid which rose, on the left, the romantic tupé, the
Chateaubriand coiffure. And Volpetti did strikingly resemble the author
of the Genius of Christianity.

"You certainly have an amazing facility in transforming yourself," said
the superintendent. "There now remains only a cloak for the road. Take
two passports and make use of that which is the more appropriate. Spare
no expense and reach London without losing a moment."

"Will your Excellency be so good as to give me definite instructions? Am
I sent to spy upon my agents?"

"Your business is to dog the steps of the Marquis de Brezé and to
discover his lodging, his acts, his thoughts and even the frequency of
his heart-beats. This young gentleman is enamored of Naundorff's
daughter and he reaches London this evening. He will doubtless, on
arriving, take the road leading to his mistress. He may be Naundorff's
ally, yes, he may be his rescuer this very night. We did not count on
his presence and, to say the least, it complicates matters. Volpetti,
there is no need to give you further instructions."

The bailiff bowed and departed, while the superintendent unfastened his
coat, took out the letter which he had withheld from the flames,
leisurely unfolded it and again lost himself in its perusal as though he
were committing it to memory.



Chapter VII

THE EPICUREAN


Were the superintendent's office compared with the monarch's sanctum,
the former would appear to be more ostentatious, but on deliberately
examining the latter, much that was admirable, indicating the cultured
tastes of the occupant, would be found. The windows opened toward the
royal gardens which spread before the eye, like a rich tapestry, its
beds of rare flowers and shrubbery, among which could be seen alabaster
statues of Grecian deities glistening in the sunlight. Within, the walls
were covered with paintings both modern and antique, and splendid
armorial trophies from the East. Among the paintings were a nude in
pearly tints by Titian, a Bacchante by Rubens, an Odalisque by
Delacroix, and a Jupiter and Ganymede by Prudhon. There were fancy
china-pieces of Saxon ware encased in glass, Grecian statuettes, bas
reliefs in which consummate skill triumphed over crudity of subject,
silver-plate ornately engraved, medallions, coins, pottery and jewels,
many of these rarities being the treasures of an antiquarian
connoisseur.

Back of the armchair and desk, which were superb specimens of Louis
Quinze furniture, stood a book-case richly paneled and containing among
its choicest volumes, editions of Plantin and Manuce, bound in morocco
and Spanish-American calf. On the right, back of the screen, which
concealed it was a costly piano awaiting the touch of fingers that were
wont to interpret its enchanting secrets.

Before the desk and at the feet of the armchair was spread--a present
from the Countess Cayla--a white bearskin, upon which lay a diminutive
dog with black mouth and silken hair, one of those cunning miniatures
which today are a fad in France, but at that time were rarely seen.

It was near five o'clock when a side door opened and the king entered,
supported, almost carried, by two attendants. The dog leaped for joy and
covered the monarch's feet with caresses. Sighing deeply, his Majesty
dropped into an easy-chair near a window. He suffered from a life-long
malady, in spite of which an active spirit stirred within him. To look
upon him made one quickly see the force of Marquis de Semonville's
remark: "How could one expect his Majesty to forgive his brother for
walking?"

Having settled himself in the easy-chair, his bandaged legs and swollen
feet propped with cushions, he took a pinch of snuff from a jeweled case
and said: "Summon Baron Lecazes."

Awaiting the execution of his order, the king cast his eyes over the
enchanting view from the open window. The western sky was like molten
gold and, against this brilliant background the sombre trees took on the
look of bronze bas reliefs. The spraying fountains tossed up in dazzling
glee myriads of fantastic aquiform flower-petals, charming the eye and
cooling the atmosphere. A sweet, voluptuous peace pervaded the
apartment, the garden perfume mingling with that of unfolding
narcissuses and springtide hyacinths in jardinieres. It was with
unfeigned delight that the royal personage sated his esthetic nature
amidst these rich and varied offerings to the senses, and on such
occasions he was given to saying to himself, as though he might never
enjoy its like again:

"'Tis an elysian hour. Let us lose none of its nectar."

Always lurking behind this sentiment was the conviction: "Life is brief,
whatever the number of its days. A breathing, a striving, a sighing,
and then--who can tell? Eternal mystery."

Giving himself up to the play of his imagination, the king seemed to
hear the onrushing and receding of the tides of human destiny through
the centuries, now holding high, then sweeping to their fall, the
splendors of earth's thrones and dynasties. Was he also to be soon
submerged in those merciless tides and dashed about like a straw? O,
before sinking into the deeps, how he wished to live and feel the
complete man!--to have health and a day--and laugh to scorn all the
fears of frail humanity.

"Were I but strong!" he at times exclaimed in rage. "Might I but love,
suffer, weave into my life the thread of a romantic adventure. But this
despicable body!--this diseased and impotent flesh!--"

His eyes wandered from the garden view to the objects of art around him.
He enjoyed in them the fruition of artistic beauty rescued from
voracious Time. They seemed to smile to him like the choicest friends.
In these and such as these he found more real contentment than in aught
else.

"I am very like an Athenian, or a Roman contemporary of Horace," he
assured himself complacently. Correct lines and classic symmetry
transported him so much that the vision was at times inspired within him
of his own person restored to health, with rich and virile blood
coursing through his veins.

Suddenly his face grew haggard and his head fell on the back of the
chair, a shadow obscuring his Bourbonic countenance, so like that of his
decapitated brother, though it lacked the placid benevolence of that
unfortunate monarch's face encircled in curls which terminated in a cue.
In the reigning Louis's face that benevolent look was replaced by an
expression of sordid indifference or of caustic irony.

The king's collapse had been caused by the sight of a man standing in
the garden opposite the window, near the statue: "A wrestler preparing
for the Combat." The man's keen eye was fixed upon the monarch. He was
of a weazened type and might be of any age between eighty and ninety,
for there is a limit beyond which the passage of time is not apparent in
the human form. His head shone like burnished silver, his bristly
eye-brows surmounted prophetic eyes and his knotty hands, upon which his
chin was leaning, rested on a rough staff. His garb was that of the
provinces--where tradition and superstition held sway and druids still
sharpened the ax beneath the trees--loose gaskins, wooden shoes, woolen
scarf and embroidered jacket over a white vest. As a whole the attire
was picturesque and the passers-by turned to gaze attentively at the old
man, an ideal model for a painter wishing to personify the past.

The king, attracted by the strange figure, prolonged his stare, then
suddenly turned his eyes upon the pompous usher and the Superintendent
of Police, who advanced making a profound salutation.

After taking the seat designated by the monarch, Lecazes inquired
solicitously:

"Does your Majesty improve in health?"

"The vulture does not tire of preying upon me. Believe me, Baron, the
lives of all men make up equal totals. To reign, having disabled limbs,
or to break stone, having nimble ones--'tis a balance. No, I am in
error. To break stone, under such conditions, is preferable. After all,
the breakers of stone can make love and be merry, while an invalid like
me--Poor Zoe! poor Countess! 'Tis true that she and I adore genius and
beauty. Who can deprive us of those joys?"

The baron's facial muscles assented.

"What of the English doctor?" he asked.

"Bah! the English doctor? Another instance of the Anglomania enslaving
us! Have you ever witnessed inanity so grotesque as this servile
imitation? And the claim that 'tis the English who have imparted to the
world the ideas of cleanliness and hygiene! The reign of the water,
indeed! Have we forgotten the ablutions of the Greeks and Romans, their
cult of health, their purifying hot baths? And the fad of eating meat
raw bloody! I tell you it was the eating of beefsteak that set my gout
rampant. The only commendable thing about the English is that they
kicked the Corsican off the throne. But what is the news, Monsieur
Superintendent?"

"The news is good, your Majesty. We have succeeded in collecting the
rest of the dispersed documents pertaining to the creole. All of these
we have burned, in compliance with your Majesty's instructions. And a
wise precaution it was, for they contained much that should be
suppressed, such as letters from the Russian emperor and from Barras
relating to the impostor--noxious papers, all of them."

"And what writing, except good poetry, is not noxious?" disdainfully
inquired the king. "A perpetual conflagration should exist for the
consuming of all private letters and documents. Continue the
destruction. My desire is well known to you, namely, that only purely
official documents remain after me. Spare not a page of confidences,
intrigues or anything calculated to embroil historians or encourage
romanticists. To ashes with the whole! While the verses of the great
poets, the Latins especially, exist, what matters it about other
writing? Here is a Petrarch in antique vignettes which I secured
yesterday. Crude, is it? Why, the devil, Excellency! There was no mock
modesty in those days."

Lecazes smiled, remembering Talleyrand's epigram: "The King reads Horace
in public and yellow-backs when alone."

"Your Majesty," said he, "ever discourses on the intellectual and the
artistic--"

"Ever, ever," rejoined the flattered monarch. "It is this diversion
alone that buoys me up in supporting the weight of the crown, for 'tis
heavy, so heavy! Lecazes, I do not lie on roses. If 'twere not for
madrigals--eh? The prettiest madrigal ever written to my sister-in-law,
Marie Antoinette, was from my pen. Do you remember it? 'Twas of the
zephyr and love. Not even Voltaire surpassed it. I ought to have devoted
my life to the art of verse and not been obliged to desert the Muse in
order to treat with those devilish emigrants who return from exile as
they left, having learned nothing, forgotten nothing. The importunate
creatures wish to obliterate the Red Terror with the White. They would
return to '86, and the guillotine, hang, drown, seeking only a fierce
revenge. Such imbecility! One may take vengeance on an individual, but
never on a nation. Do you follow me, Lecazes? The fools! They would be
better royalists than the King himself."

The Superintendent was pleased at this apt epigram, heard then for the
first time.

"They must be restrained," he said. "Between them and the Carbonari the
throne totters."

The King turned his face with a look half quizzical, half contemptuous.

"Lecazes, you talk inanities. Do you think we are to last long enough
for that? Do you believe in a future for us? Better that I repeat with
my great-grandfather and Pompadour, 'After us, the deluge.' Had I
ambition--You well know how foreign 'tis to my nature--"

Again Lecazes assumed the mellow expression, and again came to his mind
words of Talleyrand, uttered many years earlier before Revolutions were
dreamed of: "A king loves his crown."

"Were I ambitious," resumed the monarch, "I should now be contented. But
ambition is puerile. I was not born for the throne but for art--highest
art! Beauty sways my soul. Poetic art rather than the prerogatives of
supreme rank should have filled my life. You, who are also an artist,
can understand how I am starved in my exalted station, not filled.
Happiness is found in the refined pleasures of the imagination rather
than in state-craft and pomp. What memory is my reign to perpetuate? I
have been despoiled of the nation's conquests. I have acquired the crown
by giving up thirty-six strong-holds and ten thousand cannon. Glory has
turned her face and fled from me. Is the fault my own?"

The baron failed to reply and the King resumed:

"I do not know--not even _you_ know--how great is my joy in discovering
an antique cameo, a rare edition or an Italo-Grecian vase to add to my
Iliad collection. But the exercise of power does not permit me to enjoy
such pleasures tranquilly. Perhaps some day I shall enjoy reigning, but
at the present time I long to seclude myself in the country, surrounded
by my art collections and a few witty, erudite friends--above all,
writers of verse. Those melodious youths adoring the moon from Our
Lady's tower would be most entertaining if they were more deferential to
the classics. I should indeed be happy in such a retreat. O how the
pastoral life, eclogues and idyls allure me! I was born for the society
of pagan philosophers beneath a Grecian sky and mine is a plain case of
the error of Destiny. Baron, commiserate me. I am most unfortunate."

"Is Your Majesty greatly tormented by your ailments?" inquired Lecazes
with aptly simulated solicitude.

"Greatly so. I suffer the pains of one condemned to torture. How I am
racked! As I said before, Baron, to break stone is preferable."

Lowering his voice, he added:

"You know that one of the calumnies floating here and there for my
discomfiture is that I am satirical and given to discharging arrows of
cynicism, quite indiscriminately, too. They say this because I am an
appreciator of Voltaire and his expose of the hypocrites of his day. I a
cynic!--an unbeliever! Would that they could know what depths of faith
and of tenderness are in my heart! It is not easy to be a pagan. Modern
life stultifies the attempt. Behold in me an instance--"

The King suddenly ceased talking and motioned to the aged peasant
outside who had not averted his piercing gaze.

"That man--"

"Yes, Your Majesty, what of that man?" answered Lecazes, with a frown.
"That beggar? Does Your Majesty wish alms given him?"

"No, Baron. How does it happen that you, from whom nothing is hidden, do
not know who that man is and what he wants?"

The superintendent's shoulders shrugged indifferently.

"Your Majesty, I _do_ know. That man has been watched from the moment he
set foot in Paris. It has been found that he is inoffensive and probably
idiotic. He prays much and aloud. In times past he was a partisan of the
good cause and he now prophecies strangely concerning Your Majesty. Such
visionaries are plentiful during this tumultuous time. Are we to heed
them all? He doubtless has some favor to ask."

"No, Baron, your sagacity is not up to the mark in this case. That man
is not to be despised. I must see and hear him. Perhaps my fears are
groundless, but they are so persistent that only reality can dissipate
them. How persevering he is! Daily, almost hourly, he fixes his greenish
eyes upon the palace. I see him from whatever window I look. He
mesmerizes me. Call it caprice if you will, but I wish you to send for
this man. I _must_ see him. He has stood there for a fortnight. Perhaps
he is a poor unfortunate wishing to have a word with the king."

"Does Your Majesty ask my advice in the matter or am I receiving a
command?"

"A command."

"Then I leave Your Majesty, in order to execute the command."

"No, remain. I shall send for him myself. You are to listen to our
interview and give me your opinion. If he be really daft, 'twill amuse
us. He is sure to be interesting."

"He will no doubt wish to be left alone with Your Majesty."

"Perhaps so. Well, place yourself back of that screen. The dear Countess
de Cayla often listens from there to fatuities which greatly amuse her.
Do not reveal yourself, unless I call or foul play be attempted."



Chapter VIII

THE SEER


A few minutes later, the door opened to admit the imposing figure of the
octogenarian, Martin. The king graciously motioned him to advance. He
approached diffidently, a pale ray from the setting sun shining upon his
face and lighting up a flaming mark across his breast. This was the red
flannel scapula of the Heart of Jesus stamped with the words: "I shall
reign."

"Come forward, my friend. Ask what you wish. We have seen you so often
opposite the palace that we decided to attend to your request. Take a
seat and do not be timid."

The monarch pointed to a tabouret, but the peasant did not heed the
invitation. Glancing around the apartment, he suddenly noticed the
voluptuous Pompeian lamp and then turned indignantly, almost
threateningly, upon the king who, somewhat disconcerted--though he
scarcely knew why--repeated:

"Ask what you wish."

"I ask for nothing," said the old man with emphasis. "I come not to
implore from the king either honors or riches. I am sent by God to speak
to your Royal Highness certain truths, to remind you of the past and to
reveal to you the future. I come not of myself. I am the obscurest
laborer in France, by name Martin. I live in a village of but twelve
cottages. I am a Christian. I believe in our holy religion and our holy
monarchy. When evil men rebelled against God and His earthly agent, my
sword remained sheathed because to shed blood is forbidden. But I placed
on my breast this Heart, that men might know that with my life I would
maintain my faith."

"Good man, be seated," insisted the monarch.

"I have too great a reverence for your person to remain otherwise than
standing. I should be kneeling, for so should I choose to honor the
uncle and heir of my king."

"What do you mean? Am I not the king, himself?" And Louis XVIII smiled
indulgently.

"Your Royal Highness well knows that I am of no importance," Martin
calmly replied. "My custom has been to hold my tongue, work my team and
pay my rent. My life has been passed in hard and constant labor, and I
have wronged no man. My arms are still strong and my head steady, so I
plow my own fields. But a month since I stopped working and left home
and family to expose myself to the raillery of the foolish and the
contempt of the powerful. The people jest at me in the streets and your
Royal Highness probably considers me demented."

"My good fellow," said the king, "we always overlook much in the aged--"

"Your Royal Highness, if I offend, it is because I know not the usages
of courts. Consign me to punishment if I deserve it, but let me first
deliver my message."

"Say what you will, Martin. We listen."

"'Tis not Martin who speaks. Of himself, Martin would not dare. My words
are from heaven."

"From heaven!" mockingly echoed, in refined irony, the admirer of
Voltaire. "Perchance from God himself."

"Praised ever be his name!" reverently exclaimed the peasant, upon whom
the sarcasm was lost. "Let me now begin. Be it known to your Royal
Highness that on the sixteenth of January while ploughing in my field, I
noted that the oxen were seized with fright. I marveled and asked myself
the reason of it. Turning, I beheld at my side a beautiful boy in
court-dress, with long curls falling upon his shoulders. A chill seized
me while I was wondering how he came there. The boy laid his hand upon
me, saying: 'Martin, go to him who sits upon the throne' and, without
further words, he vanished. All this occurred so rapidly that I regarded
the apparition as due to my advanced age. 'Bah!' said I to myself, ''tis
because of the fog. One sees all sorts of strange things in a fog.' Two
days later, in the twilight, while returning home, I saw the boy again
at the cross-roads. He said: 'Martin, go to him' and again he vanished.
I then fell kneeling. On the following day I saw him amid the willows,
near the edge of the river. Finally, on the twenty-first of January I
saw him on the border of the woods, leaning upon the trunk of an oak
which we call the witch's tree. He said many things that I could not
understand, some of which I have forgotten. Others are in my mind now
but just as though they were shut in a box. When I open the lid and
speak them, they will fly away like released birds and I shall no longer
remember them. But until I speak them, they are in here as though red
branded," and he motioned toward his forehead.

The date _January twenty-first_ made the monarch shudder.

"Describe the boy's appearance and do not be afraid to tell me all."

"I do not fear," declared the peasant. "What could be done to me? Might
my life be taken? I am over eighty-five, a dry trunk awaiting the ax. An
open grave already yawns for me. The apparition, your Royal Highness,
was a beautiful creature and, excepting the dress, like the figure of
the archangel Raphael in the parish church. For this reason and in order
to set my conscience at rest, I consulted our priest, but he, not daring
to give advice, sent me to the bishop, by whom I was told that I related
only delusions. I then resolved to keep silent, but the spectre came
again, pale, terrible, saying, 'Martin! Martin!' 'Twas night and I in my
cot, but, in spite of the late hour, I seized my pouch and staff and,
begging my bread along the roadside, journeyed to Paris."

"Go on, go on--The king awaits Martin's revelations."

"Martin's revelations? Here is one, your Royal Highness: _The throne is
usurped_."

"I do not follow your line of reason. Do you mean that there are two
kings?" inquired the Bourbon, laughing and remembering Lecazes back of
the screen. "Did not my brother die and his son also? Am I not,
therefore, the heir to the throne?"

"Your Royal Highness, the apparition giving warning that you should say
these words to me, bade me reply: '_All the dead are not in their
tombs_.'"

The effect of these words upon the king was like a blow from an
invisible power and he would have started from his chair had his
bandaged legs permitted. But disabled as he was, he half raised himself,
his hands cleaved the air and his pupils dilated while his face grew
crimson.

"Does your Royal Highness require proofs of what I say?" exclaimed the
old man, his green eyes darting fire. "Well, then, listen. I will reveal
to you a secret thought which you have never imparted to man. Does your
Royal Highness remember the morning when you accompanied his late
Majesty to the chase and the fearful temptation which assailed you in
the woods of Saint Humbert? The king was a dozen steps ahead of you.
Your finger was already on the trigger. A branch impeded your arm--"

The alarmed monarch held his throbbing head in his hands while the
merciless indictment grew more and more ominous.

"From your earliest years you coveted the throne. The ill-fated king
was the obstacle and you sought to remove him. Unremitting were your
fratricidal schemes. You scrupled not to encourage the discontented and
to instigate the seditious. What obloquy to have made pacts with the
violators of the crown and compromises with the destroyers of churches!
Providence permitting, the monarchy would perish. It _shall_ perish! I
am chosen to announce its fall. Not through the sword of an enemy but by
its own hand shall it come to its end."

The screen seemed to move and a rushing was audible, but the king
remained silent, terrified and incapable of speech or motion.

"Your cousin, the Duke of Orleans, interposed between your Royal
Highness and your partisans. Another crime,--was it? You continued to
plot the destruction of your brother and the dishonor of the queen. Does
your Royal Highness remember who wrote those scurrilous verses and the
words dropped at the baptism of the king's daughter? What ferocious joy
the first Dauphin's death caused you! Who notified the Convention that
the royal family might be detained on the frontier--the mission of
Valory? To what end was Favras sacrificed? Who burned the documents?
Those ashes appeal! Blood, blood has been spilled! but only the first
blood. More is to follow!"

As Martin paused, the only sound to be heard in the apartment was the
chattering of the king's teeth. The screen creaked repeatedly as though
to suggest and to warn, but the king remained speechless and the
implacable peasant resumed:

"Your Royal Highness was not brave enough to head the Revolution which
you had incited. You fled, notwithstanding your offer to your august
brother to share his fate. While abroad, you disregarded his orders and
intrigued for the foreign invasion of your country and for the erection
of your brother's scaffold. Have you forgotten the king's letter to the
Prince of Condé? He disclaimed all responsibility for the invasion. 'Let
there be no war!' he entreated 'Behead me rather.' But there _was_ war
and his head fell besides. Oh the blood!--in pools, in puddles, in the
air, on the guillotine! a deluge of blood,--reeking, sickening,
revolting! Do you not see it now? Look! It trickles from the ceiling and
stains these walls!"

With frenzied indignation the old man continued to gaze at a vision that
no other eyes beheld. His arm was thrust forward and his forefinger
almost touched the king's forehead.

"The wretched queen, bleeding and headless, speaks through me. Listen
to her, shrieking 'Cain, Cain!'"

The screen creaked as though animated by furious protests and the king
remonstrated with what strength he could muster, while the affrighted
dog barked timidly and hid himself in the bearskin under his master's
bandaged feet.

"For a time the crime was sterile and the Corsican star lighted the
French sky. During that period the innocent boy lived concealed,
unknown. Your Royal Highness was the hope of many who were ignorant of
the boy's existence. I placed faith in you. We believed that the feet of
the Corsican colossus were of clay and must soon sink into the earth.
And they did sink. Your Royal Highness seized the crown. But why do you
even today contrive pitfalls for the orphaned heir and place arms in the
hands of the iniquitous?"

The king, with folded and almost supplicating hands, seemed like a
criminal imploring clemency, while tremors shook his head and convulsive
breathing agitated his breast. Martin suddenly changed his attitude of
pitiless accuser and dropped on his knees, saying gently:

"The archangel declares that it is not yet too late for repentance, but
that the time is brief and fleeting. Oh, your Highness, I adjure you to
refrain from being anointed. Let not the oil from the holy vials be
poured sacrilegiously upon your head. Dare not desecrate the sacred
altars by requiem masses for those who have not yet died! No crime is so
great as profanation. The tree is accursed, and it shall be uprooted!"

In a prophetic frenzy, he continued:

"It shall be swept away! It shall perish! Uprooted in Italy, uprooted in
Spain, uprooted shall it be in France and everywhere!--The canker
spreads, rises from limbs to heart--The corroded flesh--Pray God for
mercy!"

The king no longer listened. His head fell upon the back of his chair,
his face became purple and foam covered his lips as he lay a victim to
syncope, which at times overcame him. Martin turned and addressed the
screen.

"Concealed fox, come to your master's aid." And slowly he walked toward
the door while the baron, in a panic ran to unfasten the monarch's
neckpiece and fan him with a music sheet. Louis XVIII opened his
terror-stricken eyes and stammered:

"Let the man go in peace. See that no harm is done him."



Book II


THE CASKET



Chapter I

THE MINIATURE


In the long colloquy which Amélie and her father held with their
unexpected guest, they planned a voyage to France which should be a
tentative effort to master the paths and places leading to their
proposed goal. As a matter of precaution, they arranged to have no
further meetings in London and to join one another in Dover on a day
which should be previously designated.

Before leaving, the young Marquis said to his host:

"If you wish to make a generous return for a trifling service--give me
this picture."

His eyes were riveted upon a medallion displaying the face of a lady of
patrician beauty, which, with other miniatures, was set in a framing of
diminutive chrysolites, stones much used during the eighteenth century
and which imitate in a marvelous manner the brilliancy of diamonds. The
lady's hair rose in curls above a splendid forehead, enclosed her cheeks
and fell upon her shoulders. Roses and feathers surmounted the graceful
coiffure and white laces opened at the neck to reveal a perfect throat.

"Which of the pictures?"

"Amélie's," said René.

Naundorff gravely removed the image and pressed it reverently to his
lips. Then he handed it to de Brezé, saying in a broken voice:

"'Tis not Amélie, but my unhappy, my adored mother."

As René, through delicacy, made a movement of refusal, the mechanic
said:

"To only the Marquis de Brezé would I give this medallion. Farewell,
loved image, that has so often rested on my heart. I am almost glad to
part with you, for who knows how soon my house will for the hundredth
time be rifled and I deprived of the last evidences of my personality,
my dearest memories, my real life. I am more tranquil when other hands
than mine guard my treasures. Watch over them, René, and over all that I
have confided to your keeping. This face will bring Amélie to your eyes,
for the resemblance is so remarkable, in spite of the difference in
dress, that I do not wonder at your mistake."

On reaching the Hotel Douglas, René's first act was to take the
miniature from his breast and cover it with kisses. Then, as he gazed
upon the face of the dame of 1780, he murmured:

"How, in heaven's name, have I taken this face for Amélie! Why 'tis the
wretched queen, Marie Antoinette, whom it resembles amazingly."

He became thoughtful, and then suddenly felt himself growing weak,
almost fainting. The loss of blood began to have effect and he hastened
to his bed. Even his curiosity ebbed away. He had not the strength to
turn the leaves of the manuscript. Instinct moved him to place it and
the casket beneath the mattress.

Hardly had he stretched his limbs, when a fever overcame him. A
disturbed sleep, in which incoherent and fantastic ideas surged,
oppressed his brain. The extraordinary events of the previous night were
grotesquely reproduced. Amélie, in her white dress, broke through the
garden trellis and threw herself into his arms, imploring him to carry
her away from London; the Duchess de Rousillon, erect and haughty,
barred the passage to Naundorff's door; Naundorff, himself, lay upon the
pavement of the square, gashed and bloody; the streets were red torrents
rushing toward the Thames, and he, René, battled for his life in the
river of blood.

With parched throat and tongue, he tossed through the night, to
welcome, at last, the dawn gleaming through his window curtains. He
vainly tried to raise himself and so lay helplessly until the entry of a
servant, whom he immediately dispatched for a doctor. The doctor
prescribed quiet and rest, forbidding his patient to leave his bed
during four days. On the fifth, with clearer head and diminished thirst,
René closed his eyes in a sweet sleep.

During the morning a travelling coach drew up before the Hotel upon
whose front seat valises and handsome wallets bore a count's heraldric
blazonry. A valet de chambre, thickset and awkward, preceded an elegant
gentleman whose dress harmonized with the sumptuous equipage. His cloak
and gray felt hat eminently merited the adjective _fashionable_ which
was an English term then beginning to be applied in France to whatever
was distinguished by good taste.

"Attend the gentleman! Bring in his baggage!" called out the host, whose
patrons consisted usually of impecunious Scotch lairds and shabby
Glasgow tradesmen, and rarely numbered such distinguished guests as the
invalid French marquis and this newly arrived nobleman so showy and
immaculate, bearing no marks of his recent journey. The irreproachable
traveler ordered a suite. The valet superintended the conveying of the
baggage, his purple face and red whiskers gleaming above the folds of an
ample cravat. As soon as the master and servant were alone in the
count's sleeping chamber, they drew close together and the valet
whispered:

"We have caught the bird in his cage. What are we to do now?"

"Find out all that has happened to the precious Marquis. Show some
brains in this business since you played the fool in the square." And,
as he concluded this speech, Volpetti removed his hat, arranged his
Chateaubriand tuft of hair, viewed himself in the mirror and extracted
from his pockets a variety of toilet appurtenances,--files, pincers,
scissors, etc., which doubtless pertained to the collection which
Alberto Serra was to pass through Gibraltar.

The valet was absent about twenty minutes, during which he introduced
himself in the kitchen by the name of Brosseur and began a chat with the
cook. He was holding in one hand a steaming jug when his master called
out in an infuriated tone:

"Well, rascal, how long am I to wait? Do you want your head broken?"

Brosseur hurried to Volpetti's chamber, locked the door, set down the
jug and gleefully rubbed his hands together, saying:

"Wonderful news! Just what I expected! I did not play such a great fool
after all. The Marquis has been ill in bed four days from his wounds and
has seen only his physician."

"Are you telling the truth?"

"The gospel truth."

"Have letters come to him?"

"Not one. I played the greenhorn, asking questions. I stumbled on a
steward whose tongue is a jewel."

"Is the wound serious?"

"I believe not. It has produced a fever. The knife missed the lung by
half a centimeter,--cursed be the devil! Why, we saw him leave
Naundorff's house afoot and take a cab for Wellington street."

"Very well! Now, repeat to me in detail all that occurred after the
Marquis left the house."

"After remaining within a long time, he came forth, lighted to the door
by a woman. Then he started off alone and, on reaching the centre of the
square, picked up the knife which we had there forgotten. In doing so,
he dropped an object which he carried beneath his arm. This he quickly
recovered. It looked rectangular in shape and had a metallic sound on
striking the trunk of the tree."

"Did he have the box during the scuffle in the square?"

"I swear he did not, for his movements were most free. No; he received
that box in Naundorff's house."

On hearing these words, Volpetti could not restrain an exclamation of
joy, and passing his patrician hand over his Chateaubriand tuft, he
said, motioning toward the baggage and the bath:

"Make arrangements for the changing of my clothes. I wish an embroidered
shirt, silk stockings, violet coat and grey breeches. And, using the
greatest caution, find out the number of the Marquis's chamber and
sketch me a plan of the hotel. Remember well the entrances and exits.
Secure for yourself, if possible, a room next that of the Marquis, and
'twould be most fortunate that it have a fireplace. Well, later, I shall
give you further instructions. Be diligent and discreet."

The valet, with malignant flashing eyes, hastened away to carry out
these instructions.



Chapter II

THE DAUPHIN'S SISTER


René, on feeling stronger, resolved to read the manuscript which
awakened his interest more and more deeply. The enigma of Naundorff's
obscure life, the cause of the attack in the square, Amélie's startling
resemblance to the medallion--all would be explained by that roll of
paper in the cylindrical case.

He rose and breakfasted on tea and toast, after which, fortified and
resolute, he examined his pistols and placed them within reach. Then he
stretched himself upon a lounge near the table and broke the seal, which
represented a tuberose and sarcophagus,--a symbolic emblem causing him
to start. His eyes next fell upon the dedicatory words at the head of
the manuscript: TO HER.

"Is this a love history?" he asked himself, recalling Naundorff's
beautiful countenance and indefinable charm. With feverish anxiety, he
turned the leaf and read:

"This is the recital of my misfortunes which you alone can assuage.
Remember that you must at last stand before God."

Then the text continued:

Since my tireless enemies and malevolent fate are combined for the
purpose of forcing me to die beneath a spurious name and destitute of
the rights to which my birth entitles me; since you, yourself (in whom I
had faith because it seemed monstrous to doubt you), have discredited my
claim: I hold up to you a mirror reflecting the insistent memories of
which you are so great a part, that your remorse may hereafter be the
greater, if this appeal I make softens not your heart and if the
impositions of royalty outweigh the supplications of blood.

A day shall come, Thérèse, when posterity, marveling at my abandoned
condition, will indignantly ask why the powers of Europe made no protest
at the iniquity practised upon me. But that posterity should consider
the fate of our parents,--yours and mine, Thérèse,--the fate of the
ignominious journey to the guillotine as well as the indifference before
that spectacle of those who should have burned their last cartridge in
defence of the victims! Ah, Thérèse! In vain do you seek to restore THE
PRINCIPLE,--to use the expression you of the Court employ--in vain do
you seek to restore THE PRINCIPLE which is the basis of our national
glory. Our country's weakness at the present time consists in the
repudiation of that PRINCIPLE.

Perhaps I seem a dreamer or a lunatic, but, nevertheless, 'tis by the
light of my unparalleled misfortunes that I perceive the impending
cataclysm. The PRINCIPLE has suicided and the INSTITUTION has received
its death blow. What life remains to it will be puerile and despicable.
Trampled by its enemies, humiliated, scourged, manacled, crowned in
mockery, buffeted, its purple mantle in shreds, it shall at last be
crucified, not to await a glorious resurrection but to crumble to dust
in a fleur de lis cemetery.

Fools are those who build above a raging torrent. Lay not the flattering
unction to your soul, Thérèse, that you have saved the dynasty by
sacrificing your brother. God is no Moloch to be propitiated by such
holocausts. Sterile has been your womb as a warning to you, and other
lessons, tremendous and desolating, have you yet to learn. As for me, my
descendants will toil and sweat over labors as arduous as my own, and so
shall the ages expiate.

How dreadful is my fate, Thérèse! I live, I breathe, but _I_, as _I_, do
not exist; that _I_ has been buried in an empty coffin, in the angle of
two walls of a cemetery. At times I doubt my very senses and all that I
am about to relate to you seems the very fabric of a dream,--but then no
dream has ever been so long and fearful. 'Tis only my anguish that
convinces me of reality. I co-ordinate my memories and perceive that I
am _not_ a deluded fool. Once I described my misgivings to a physician
in Germany, saying that in believing myself to be another I feared at
times that I was demented. He said he had known similar cases and
advised me to summon all my mental strength and hold a powerful light to
the mirror of my consciousness.

"Impostors have there been who were not liars," said the doctor fixing
upon me a penetrating look. "Those impostors have believed their
asseverations." Thérèse, I appeal to you to rescue me from this
appalling phenomenon.

And as I am opening my heart to you,--the heart which throbs, not the
inert heart which was offered you with the assurance that it had been
taken from my dead body and which you refused to accept,--since I
conceal nothing from you, Thérèse, O listen! I implore you to convince
me that I am a wretched dupe of the Revolution, for perhaps 'twould be
best that I should be persuaded that my reason is diseased. Be pitiful,
Thérèse, even tho you refuse me love.

And now, whether I rave or speak truth, I summon my life's memories even
from infancy. I stand in that incomparable summer palace in which we
lived before the bursting forth of the Revolution. I walk through the
magnificent salons adorned by rare artists, and amid those marvelous
gardens wherein the skill of Le Nôtre surpassed itself. But more vivid
still than the memories of these splendors is the image of the charming
villa of diminutive blue lakes and rustic kiosks and the verdant farm
where our mother in simple muslin (how beautiful she was, Thérèse!)
delighted to drink fresh milk, gather wild flowers and scatter grain to
the birds. How gay we were, you and I, participating in these innocent
amusements, in our straw hats and cool white dresses. One day an artist
painted us so, and, as I grew restive and troublesome during the
sitting, my mother said gently, "Charles Louis, I shall soon know
whether or not you love me." This sweet remonstrance quieted me. I so
loved my mother that the sound of her voice in singing always brought
tears to my eyes.

But the roaring tempest broke,--the Revolution. Our father did not
realize the peril; he _could_ not believe that he was hated; he
expected daily a reconciliation with his people. But our mother's virile
spirit perceived from the first that not only the throne but the royal
heads as well were in danger. I was too young to understand causes but I
realized that the atmosphere was transformed into something strained and
dolorous. Accustomed as I was to all manner of attentions, to hear
laughing applause after my youthful sallies, to behold only approving
and smiling countenances, I suddenly realized that no one had the time
or the inclination to caress me and that grave anxiety seemed the reason
for my neglect. Rumors of contentions, abrupt alarms, hurried changing
of apartments, enforced awakenings in the early morning, terrorized
prayers dictated by our good aunt, our father's sister, who, joining our
hands, would bid us kneel and beg God for mercy--all this filled even my
child-mind with the consciousness of impending danger. One night a
furious multitude surrounded the palace. Some one snatched me from bed
and carried me away to concealment, and my mother, _our_ mother,
stripped herself of a lace gown and flung it around me, that I should be
somewhat protected. You were near, Thérèse, sobbing affrightedly and
waiting to be carried away to a place of security.

Do you remember the morning on which the inebriated multitude forced us
to return to Paris? Our carriage was advancing slowly; the heat and dust
almost asphyxiated us; our throats were parched with thirst, but none of
us dared ask for a drop of water. Brawny fellows rode ahead of us,
howling and brandishing pikes surmounted by bleeding human heads. One of
these men, whose wide-open mouth in the midst of a long matted beard
resembled a cavern, came to the window. Terror-stricken, I buried my
face in our mother's bosom and so remained during the entire journey.

After this journey,--how long after, I know not--we made that other
journey, ill-timed and inauspicious, which sealed our fate. And now
appeared my uncle's form, our father's brother, whom, of late, we had
scarcely seen, for since our misfortunes he had frequented the camps of
the disaffected and abetted our parents' calumniators. But on this
occasion he seemed solicitous for our deliverance and co-operated in our
arrangements for escape. Against our mother's judgment, had our father
confided the project to his brother, who advised that the iniquitous
Valory, a creature possessed body and soul by the Count of Provence,
should be entrusted with the details of the flight.

A program was mapped out whose happy exit seemed assured. To what
purpose all the minute precautions? Why was I disguised as a girl and
told I should say my name was 'Amélie,' were I asked: Amélie, a name to
me eternal and which I have given to the daughter of my soul. Reflect,
Thérèse, upon that sinister journey, and decide who profited thereby.
There is a sentence in Hamlet running thus: The serpent that did sting
my father's life now wears his crown.

I shall always believe that our mother suspected the hand that detained
us. Valory, who preceded us, was but the agent of those who with the
kiss of betrayal delivered us shackled. The ambush was prepared with
infernal adroitness. The detention occurred when we had almost reached
the frontier that greater obloquy might be heaped upon the royal family
than if it had been surprised near Paris.

Valory rode mounted ahead of our carriage and took so little pains to
dissemble as to disappear near the last change of horses, causing our
mother mortal terror. She made her suspicions known to our father, who,
displeased and pained, rejected them. Our father's faith in his brother
was implicit. Our mother never succeeded in combating it, not even after
the farce accomplished by the notorious Drouet, who today enjoys the
favor and protection of the usurper.

You, Thérèse, have accepted his protection, also. 'Tis we who make
history and not revolutions caused by currents of ideas. Believe,
rather, in human passions, in the ambitions of the mighty which carry in
their train the faith of a confiding and bewildered multitude. And
believe, also, in a Nemesis of expiation, though 'tis at times the
innocent who wash away the stains of the guilty.

You remember the termination of that flight. On our return I was
exceedingly fatigued and ill at ease. My girl's dress added to my
discomfort and I was at last relieved of it by our faithful valet, who
put me to bed, on this first night in Paris after our capture.

Several officers of the National Guard remained near my bed and
affectionately bade me sleep tranquilly. While I dozed, they smoked and
chatted and their voices soothed me; even the clanking of their spurs
was pleasant reassurance. I sank into a lethargy, of what length I know
not. Suddenly my eyes seemed opening on a startling spectacle. The Guard
surrounded me. They laughed and spoke words which I could not
understand. By degrees their human outlines became blurred and they were
covered with hair. Their hands grew into long grey paws terminating in
sharp nails, their faces projected into snouts, their eyes glowed as
live coals and their voices howled fearfully. Wolves! wolves! famishing,
frantic wolves. Their hot breathing was stifling as they leaned to
devour me--

I must have screamed, for I waked in my mother's arms, as she snatched
me from bed, covering my face with kisses. Those kisses are still on my
face, Thérèse, and I feel now the passionate embrace with which she
clasped me to her, and I see the terrible dread on her beautiful pale
face.



Chapter III

THE EMPTY COFFIN


Thérèse, do you remember how we were taken to the Assembly, there to
pass the day within a grated tribunal and led thence to prison? How from
that prison we were afterwards transferred to another more gloomy still?
O the tower, the tower! The impressions of sorrow are deeper than those
of happiness. Tell me, Thérèse, my companion in that captivity, has
greater suffering ever been endured than in that tower? If those walls,
so soon after demolished, (for all traces of my history have been
obliterated), if those stones that once were walls had a voice, that
voice would be a sob. If they might writhe, they would wring out tears.
Even their name is a wail. There is no elegy so sad as the towers.

The agonies of our family,--you know them as well as I, for they are
your own. But what you do _not_ know are mine,--a child torn from his
mother's arms as she was led to the guillotine. And though you seek to
drive them from your knowledge, you _shall_ hear them.

Let me describe this prison to you, that you may realize 'tis your
brother who speaks. What detail could I forget of that damp tower
flanked by four smaller ones of arched roofs? The roof of the first was
sustained in the centre by a heavy pillar and its doors were of strong
boards fastened together by nails and guarded by heavy bolts; the
interior door was of cast iron; the walls were grey and black, in
imitation of a tomb; the white border was garnished with the tricolor on
which were traced the words: RIGHTS OF MAN. This was the only decoration
of the filthy apartment wherein vulgar and malevolent people constantly
watched us.

On first entering the tower, I believed myself to be dreaming and that
soon I should be rescued from the nightmare, as my mother had snatched
me from the wolves. This conviction was doubtless due to the contrast
between my past and present condition. My childhood had glided by so
sweetly and placidly; my senses had been stimulated by such great beauty
and elegance; the epoch upon which my mother stamped her refinement was
so poetic and artistic; the gardens in which I had played were so
beautiful; my material wants anticipated with so much adulation, that I
had grown to comprehend only smiles and beauty. It was considered an
honor to touch me, to be near me. No wonder, then, that the transition
from palace to prison affected my nervous system to the extent of
causing the obsession to possess me that I was two persons in one.

I might describe our incarceration to the minutest particular; I might
tell you the exact position of your bed and mine and the armchair of
white-painted wood in which our father dozed before dinner. Only listen
to me, Thérèse, and you will open your arms.

You will remember that I was taken away from our father and mother after
their condemnation to death, and delivered to two creatures who scarcely
seemed to pertain to the human species,--a pair of brutes who had
doubtless received instructions to render me idiotic through vile
treatment. But I must tell the truth. My guardians were indeed cruel,
but not to the extent which is usually believed. The inhumanity of that
cobbler and his wife has been greatly exaggerated, possibly with the
object of establishing my supposed death. Were the account true which
has obtained currency, I should not have survived. No child could have
withstood an unremitting martyrdom of hunger, blows, nakedness, and
deprivation of sleep. These hardships, indeed, I endured, but with
intervals of respite. Husband and wife were not equally brutal; he was
crafty and cruel, she gross and stupid, but possessing a heart of some
tenderness. Unhappy woman! I caused her ruin among that of many others.
For maintaining that I was not dead, she was declared insane and placed
in confinement. In her clumsy manner, she had protected me and often
smuggled into my couch candy and cheap toys.

On being taken from the custody of this couple, I was placed in the cell
in which our father's valet had been imprisoned. Here my condition was
worse than ever before. The windows, always closed, shut out light and
air. The doors opened only to those who, in silence, brought me food.
The furniture consisted of a table, a jug of water and the bed,--shelf,
rather,--on which I slept. Noxious odors slowly poisoned my blood.

While I here languished, the Revolution continued to rage fiercely,
though the period of delirium had passed and a species of authority
obtained. You and I, the hapless remnants of an ill-starred dynasty,
seemed relegated to oblivion, but there were some who thought of us with
pity. The friends who had futilely sought to save our parents' lives
formed plans for rescuing me. She who was my most zealous champion and
spent much money in my behalf was the charming creole, native of the
island of Martinique, and wife of a Revolutionary general. Of this lady
a negress in her native land had predicted that she should be Empress
and experience glory and sorrow without limit. She was at heart a
legitimist. Anarchy prevailed in all departments of governments,
skeptics had succeeded fanatics and the public voice denounced the
Directory. The first indication which reached me of the termination of
this era of tigers and hyenas was the receiving of clean clothes, the
entry of fresh air through the windows which were opened at last, and
the replacing of my daily mess of lentils by decent food.

My friends did not find it a simple task to accomplish my rescue. A new
wave of public ferocity seemed imminent. To bribe my custodians,
themselves under unceasing surveillance, was most difficult. The
Municipal Council had agents stationed at the entrance and exit of the
tower. Had it been a question of heroic sacrifice only, there would have
lacked not noble partisans of our House to dash themselves against even
invincible obstacles.

Would that I had died within those walls, permeated with the atmosphere
of our immolated mother. I should have perished, as you have expressed
my supposed fate, 'like a blighted flower.' For my greater sorrow,
generous abnegation and political malevolence combined to remove me from
this living tomb. The account of my flight is an incoherent one. I
myself can scarcely co-ordinate its episodes, for I was too feeble to
comprehend them clearly. My true history will never be historically
known, for an oligarchy, such as once existed in Venice, suppressed what
suited its purpose. No corroborating documents exist to verify even my
fragmentary recital.

The Revolution smouldered and the fall of the government was predicted.
Astute ambitions of various kinds combined to effect my freedom.
Unbridled lust for power grew rank. Our uncle, your present protector,
Thérèse, rallied around him, by employing my name as a summons, the
elements of the Restoration, meanwhile secretly paralyzing the efforts
directed toward my liberation. This he accomplished by procrastination
and discouragement. He was trusting to my prison life to attain the
desired consummation. But notwithstanding his efforts to double-bar my
cell, and even tho he would have thrown the weight of his body against
the door to insure its security, he was thwarted by a man who had
temporarily seized the reins of authority,--a voluptuary, destitute of
genuine energy--who realized that the possession of my person would
constitute an imposing arm. He planned to place me in concealment from
which to produce me when it should suit him to declare me among the
living. By this subtlety he might dominate even our uncle with whom he
maintained (as did other revolutionists who were deemed incorruptible) a
secret intercourse, avowedly with the end of establishing a moderate
Restoration,--which should concede what had been already acquired by the
Revolution. I, kept in hiding, would be a double-edged sword, a menace
to the arrogance of my uncle in his claim to the regency and a guarantee
to the loyal troops who were giving battle in the far East. Behold the
stratagem forced by the ingenious and base-born Barras. As instruments,
he selected the charming creole (wife of the adventurer who later
subjugated Europe) and two military men attached to the royal cause.

Thus it happened that men, who in the midst of anarchy and
administrative chaos, held the reins of power, wove, by their audacity
and wit, the complicated plot of my rescue and made current the report
of my death. Tho it was impossible to remove me bodily from my cell, a
simple matter it proved to thrust me into the loft above my bed. A boy
who had been smuggled in a basket of clean clothes replaced me. This
substitute was a deaf-mute and so the imitation was perfect, for I had
during my imprisonment maintained a constant silence.

I do not remember how the transition was effected. I had been given a
dose of drugged sweetened water. During my stupor I was placed in the
loft. As I awoke, the voices of my two deliverers implored me to remain
perfectly still. Shivering with cold and almost fainting from hunger,
never did I attempt approaching the door. Food was brought me with the
greatest irregularity, which I would devour and then huddle into a
corner. While I lay in this stifling hole, the rumor of my escape was
disseminated; spies were set on the frontier to watch for me by
governmental officers not in the plot.

Meanwhile, Barras gleefully rubbed his hands and in order to further
mystify the public he doubled the guard about my prison, while I
groveled, shuddering, in my filthy covert.

Barras realized that my mock death and burial would alone complete the
strategy; he visited the cell and gave instructions for the replacing of
the deaf-mute by a dying boy to be procured at a hospital. This hapless
child succumbed in my name and poets sang dirges over him, queens and
princesses robed themselves in crepe, priests held aloft thousands of
times the sacred host in sacrifice. That boy dead in rags and squalor,
Thérèse, is often in my mind as I reflect on the vanity of royalty.

Physicians who had never beheld me testified to the Dauphin's demise,
after witnessing the death of my substitute,--the death which was the
signal for my release. When the autopsy was completed, a surgeon
extracted the boy's heart and sent it to you, the Dauphin's sister,
Thérèse. You rejected that heart. Why?

And now I listen to the culminating horror! The body of that boy was
taken from the coffin at night and buried in the tower's garden, whence,
years later, the skeleton was exhumed, and that coffin was the sinister
vehicle which bore me from my prison. In that coffin I was taken along
the road leading to the cemetery. During the journey I was removed and
weights placed within. And these weights were found to be the contents
when subsequently an attempt was made to recover my body. The coffin was
buried with suspicious dispatch after the manner of deeds which fear the
light. The public voice clamored that an imposture had been practised,
whereupon the Government speedily dispatched a commission which
disinterred the coffin, fastened the lid on more securely and placed it
in another cemetery. This incident is so well known that I shall call it
history.



Chapter IV

MARIE


I was placed in the home of a lady, who was the widow of a Swiss officer
who had been beheaded on the memorable tenth of August. In her country
place I was screened from curious eyes. Being overcome by a languid
illness, I remained indoors for eight months. My hostess dared not call
in a physician, for strange children awakened suspicion, inasmuch as the
lost Dauphin was being eagerly sought by spies. She fed me on milk and
arranged that I should have unlimited repose and fresh air. These simple
restoratives at length effected a cure. On leaving my bed, I was again
overpowered by the consciousness of a dual personality. I at times felt
convinced that I had always lived in that fair green villa and that my
insistent past was a delusion. My guardian spoke French brokenly, and
we, therefore, conversed in German, which had been my mother's native
tongue. I had therefore become habituated to its use. Later in life I
was obliged to employ it constantly.

During my convalescence, and while walking one morning in the fields, I
was captured by the police and dragged back to prison. What prison? I
know not. With equal swiftness was I snatched thither by deputies of my
vigilant protectress, the gentle creole, and placed in the home of a
noble family who received me with respect, almost reverence. The head of
the family was the Marquis de Bray, a partisan of our House. There it
was that I formed the first friendship of my life, that with the Count
of Montmorin, a youth older than I and who, like myself, was in
concealment, being disguised as a hunter. Montmorin's life had been
miraculously saved during one of the ferocious tides that swept our
country, and that life he generously consecrated to me. Subterfuges,
manoeuvres, almost witch-craft did he employ for the deluding of my
persecutors, and to that end valued not his own security and happiness.

Under the protection of de Bray and Montmorin, I lived tranquilly and
the spectre of political ambition seemed no longer to haunt me. But my
friends feared, owing to the waxing power of Napoleon, that France was
no appropriate refuge for me and we removed for a season to Venice,
thence to Trieste and finally to Rome, where I enjoyed the gentle
protection of Pope Pius VI. My former hostess and nurse, the Swiss lady,
had in the interval married a compatriot of her own, who was an expert
watch-maker. It chanced that they became our neighbors and so gave me
the opportunity to learn the craft of which my father was so fond. The
minute and prolix labor enchanted me and, following the advice of Jean
Jacques, I mastered it.

A friend of the Pontiff offered me for residence a villa near Rome. How
beautiful were the lemon and fig groves! In the garden's centre was a
marble pillar surmounted by a nymph which had stood there since the
Roman Empire. Amid the fragrance of those flowers were passed the
dearest days of my youth. Marie, daughter of Bray and fiancée of
Montmorin, a gentle girl, five years my senior--a trifle it seemed to
me--accompanied me often with affectionate solicitude.

Her white hands smoothed my golden curls, fastened my lace collar and
rested on my shoulder, during our rambles. Montmorin, on seeing us
together, would turn away and re-enter the house. My head, resting upon
Marie's breast, seemed again to repose in the sweet nest from which the
Revolution had torn me. Once when Marie flung a flower in my face, the
image of my mother rose so vividly to my eyes, as she appeared when
romping with us in the royal gardens, that my emotion overcame me and I
threw myself into the arms of Montmorin's fiancée. I kissed her lips and
asked: "Marie, what have they done to my mother?"--for since the
terrible day when I was separated from her, I had never spoken her name,
nor received intelligence of her fate. I pictured her still as a pale,
worn prisoner and my duty seemed to be to deliver her. This sudden
tempest of passion transformed me from boy to man. Marie wept softly in
my arms.

"My mother,--where is she?" I insisted.

"She is dead," said Marie gently.

"O my mother!" I cried out, falling senseless to the ground.

On regaining consciousness, I saw Marie at my pillow.

"O die with me," I said. "Let us be with my mother."

When I was strong enough to leave my bed, I noticed that Marie, under
numerous pretexts, absented herself from me. Our rambles ceased and she
was often with Montmorin. This at first enraptured her lover but he soon
discovered that she was preoccupied and sad, while I, jealous and
melancholy, walked alone in the woods. I wandered near the margins of
pestilential lakes, in the hope that, being overcome by malaria, Marie
would again sit by my bed.

Montmorin's generous heart divined the cause of my sadness and of
Marie's enforced fidelity to him. He said:

"Marie, our first duty is to make Augustus" (for so he called me)
"happy. I shall go to France in his interests."

And he left us. Consider Montmorin's action, Thérèse, and realize to
what a generous and absurd height a loyal soul is raised by the
principle symbolized in royalty. Montmorin renounced his plighted wife
as later on he renounced his life in devotion to the PRINCIPLE. And
Marie, beholding in me not a hapless castaway but the incarnation of the
PRINCIPLE, erected like a second Lavallière an altar whereon she
radiantly idealized me, after having vainly sought to idealize her
betrothed.

On the day after Montmorin's departure, we walked through the fields
scarcely touching the ground. Reaching the border of the pestilential
lake, we seated ourselves near the verdant fringe of delicate flowers.
My head rested on her breast and our eyes promised what our lips could
not utter, for very happiness.

On returning home, Marie complained of feeling cold. The next day she
lay shivering in bed. The malaria was having its effect. Her clear eyes
grew clouded and after some days her dear form became emaciated.
Montmorin was summoned, but she could scarcely greet him. The bells from
the Capuchin convent near by were pealing out into the air and we knelt
by her bed as she said:

"Eugene, brother of my soul, forgive me."

For answer, Montmorin took my hand in his.

"Watch over him, Eugene."

Montmorin, shedding hot streaming tears, promised. Together we watched
beside her until she died.



Chapter V

A COURTEOUS MAN


So far had René read. The revelations were so startling that he could
but ask himself if he were the victim of a madman's delusion.

"Am I reading a romance or a sincere autobiography? Before going
further, I should look at the documents within the box. I must not
espouse this man's cause while a shadow of doubt disturbs me. And
Amélie? If these pages speak the truth, who am I to look upon Amélie?"

The daylight was fading and a servant appeared bearing a candelabrum
which he placed upon a stand, saying:

"Monsieur, a French gentleman asks to be admitted to you."

René placed the manuscript beneath the sofa pillow and said:

"How did the French gentleman learn that I am here? What is his name?"

The man handed him a card bearing these words: The Count de Keller.

"Who may this be?" murmured René to himself.

Then aloud:

"Bid him enter."

When alone, the Marquis concealed the manuscript in his traveling bag
which also contained the casket or box. He awaited the visitor,
remembering Naundorff's words: You have trusted men; in future beware of
them. You have been frank; in future be astute and reticent.

Then an elegantly appareled gentleman entered in a coat of violet cloth
ornamented with gold buttons and a close-fitting pair of grey cashmere
breeches. The many folds in his white cravat made him hold his head high
indeed. On his finely shaped thigh dangled resplendently the chain and
ornaments of the Sullivan, the latest fad. His appearance was
prepossessing and he recalled vividly the famous Chateaubriand type.

"I arrived here but this morning, Marquis de Brezé, and permit me to
confide to you that I find the hotel execrable," and the Count inclined
his body gracefully before René. "I cannot forgive my friend, Captain
MacGreagor for recommending such a hole to me. When my valet complained
of the service, he was told that another French gentleman in the hotel
was well satisfied with the accommodations. I asked your name and, as
it is one so well known, I hastened to comply with the pleasing duty of
compatriots when in foreign parts. I regret to learn that you have been
wounded."

René, motioning his visitor to a seat, replied with reserve:

"A thousand thanks. I am almost entirely restored. Monsieur, permit me
to observe that your title is unknown to me."

"Not all of us may proudly trace descent from Crusader knights, like the
Marquis de Brezé. My father's brother, a resident of Munich, received
his title from the King of Bavaria, to whom he rendered a service,"
obsequiously replied the Count de Keller.

"What is this fool trying to say?" René asked himself, mentally, while
the other continued:

"What detestable lodgings have fallen to your lot, Marquis." And his
keen eyes swept the chamber. "Why, they have given you no desk! not even
a bureau or closet; only that miserable bed and this sofa--Confound
their impertinence! Were you not ill--though you do not appear so--was
it an attack, Marquis?"

"I scarcely know," replied René indifferently. "Some rogues sought to
relieve me of my pocket-book and I played the fool in attempting to
resist them. One of them scratched my shoulder; the police interfered
and prevented further injury."

"London is a dangerous place, indeed!" ejaculated the Count. "One is at
the mercy of pickpockets. I have been here before and should have known
better than to be ensnared into putting up at the Hotel Douglas. But I
rejoice that my presence here has enabled me to pay my compliments to
your lordship. Do you contemplate changing your lodgings? If so, permit
me to recommend The Crown, to which I am about to remove. That hotel is
patronized by the aristocracy and we shall there be in our element."

"I have no plans," replied René indifferently. "I am here in the
interest of my mother, the Duchess de Rousillon. It is possible I shall
soon return to France. I thank you for the information. I crave your
pardon for my seeming lack of courtesy in failing to return your visit,
but I am pressed for time." And he bowed his visitor out of the door and
again threw himself upon his couch.

Volpetti--for it was he--returned to Brosseur whom he found inspecting
the fireplace, in which a bright coke fire was burning. The valet drew a
paper from his pocket on which was a diagram in pencil, saying:

"This is the plan of the house. Here is No. 23, which is our bird's
cage. Your apartments are 13 and 15, so that four rooms intervene
between yours and his. I have engaged 21 for myself. I had hard work
getting it, for these people have a mighty reverence for the aristocracy
and were loathe to place me so near the Marquis. I therefore protested
that my master the Count would be furious at my being placed at a great
distance from him."

"Has your chamber a fireplace?' asked Volpetti.

"Do you think I should otherwise have taken it?" demanded Brosseur.

"Well, I am just from the Marquis's chamber and there is no object there
beneath which he could conceal even a key. The box must be in either his
traveling bags or underneath his mattress. If once you enter the room,
'twill be a moment's work to find it. If the bags are unlocked, take out
the box; if locked, carry them off. And beware of blundering. I don't
want the English police to mix up into what is none of their business.
You must play the role of an ordinary thief who has stolen from even his
master. If you are caught, I will rescue you, but beware how you
implicate me. And now I leave under pretence of going to the Hotel
Crown, while you remain behind apparently to arrange the baggage, but in
reality to get the box. Use prudence and cunning. You will then come to
me. We have already arranged our place of meeting."

Volpetti threw on an elegant grey traveling cloak which reached almost
to his feet, drew on gloves and carefully placed a hat upon his handsome
head. René, meanwhile, relieved of his unwelcome visitor, continued
reading the manuscript, as reproduced in the following chapter.



Chapter VI

TORTURE


Marie's death brought me such sorrow that another great misfortune was
necessary to rouse me from my apathy and desolation. During Napoleon's
invasion of Italy our villa was sacked and fired. Montmorin and I
managed to escape, carrying with us a small quantity of money and
certain documents which we deposited in a place of security. We reached
Rome and passed on to Civita Vecchia, from which we embarked on a
merchant brig for England. We boarded the vessel during threatening
weather. Hardly had we put to sea when the waves and wind rose high,
sweeping the deck and breaking one of the masts. Then we were driven
pitilessly toward the French coast and seemed about to break upon the
reefs. Montmorin and I were dismayed at the prospect of landing in
France. The captain perceived our terror and observed that we must have
an ugly secret. We disembarked at Dieppe and were examined by the
Marine and Quarantine Commissions, to which the captain communicated his
suspicions regarding us. We were, nevertheless, dismissed, and hastened
to conceal ourselves in an obscure inn, with the intention of seizing
the first opportunity of leaving for Spain or England. But the police
followed us. I was alone when the officers entered. I hastily pressed
some money into a servant-maid's hand, bidding her stand at the street
corner and warn Montmorin of the danger on his return. I was conducted
to what was known as the Delegation and subjected to a series of
questions. Being inexperienced, I compromised myself. I was placed,
during the night, on a coasting barge. We landed at a little port whose
name I never learned, and entered a carriage there in waiting. We
started on a journey which lasted four days, at the end of which I was
placed in a Paris prison, where I remained six days. On the seventh a
young man of affable manners, whom I later learned went by the name of
Volpetti, entered my cell. He spoke German. I was almost too weak to
reply.

"Friend," he said, "I know your history. You are playing a role which
providence has not assigned you. Your friends have inoculated you with
the virus of royal ambition. I come to offer you salvation from this
induced mania. Swear to me by the memory of your mother that you will
not seek to escape from the monastery to which I shall conduct you. In
return, you will be promised that not a hand shall be raised against
you. Buried beneath a religious name in Belgium or Italy, your life will
pass serenely."

Thérèse, the blood that courses through your body and mine, the blood of
the Hapsburgs and Bourbons, rose imperious against the indignity of the
proposition.

"I fling your offer in your teeth, Monsieur!" I cried.

Volpetti looked disappointed. He disliked violent measures. In choicest
German and softest voice he sought to persuade me. My head turned to the
wall, I made no further answer. Then, slowly approaching the door, he
gave an order, whereupon two muscular brutes entered. Supposing they
were my murderers, I delivered my soul to God and spoke three names--my
mother's, Marie's and--O Thérèse, yours!

The ruffians dragged me from my wretched bed, bound me with cords which
cut into my flesh and tied me in a rough chair. I thought they were
preparing to torture me and in terror I shrieked:

"Unbind me! I consent."

Volpetti approached, saying:

"Do you wish to be released?"

My pride flared up and I disdained to answer.

Then they gagged me and passed over my face an instrument which seemed
to riddle the flesh with sharp needles. I tried to cry out and break the
cords, whereupon one of the fellows thrust his iron fingers, like
pincers, into my side. The violent pressure caused a swoon. When I
recovered consciousness, a great heat overpowered me, for my torturers
were moistening my face with a liquid which stung fiercely. I swooned
again from the intense pain.

On awakening, I carried my hand to my eyes but failed to find them. I
touched, instead, two lumps of swollen, throbbing flesh. I lay on a
filthy bed, freed from the cords. Some one gave me a plate of broth
which I managed to swallow. I asked my jailor if it was dawn.

"The noon sun shines brightly," he answered.

"I am blind!" I wailed. At that moment the concept of Expiation broke
upon my mind,--the heinous sins which my suffering was effacing.

"Bring me some warm water," I entreated. The man brought it and, after
applying it to my face, I fell asleep.



Chapter VII

THE BLACK HOLE


I lived in darkness for two weeks. Then the inflammation began to
subside and a ray of light penetrated my eyes and heart and I wept in
gratitude for the joy of looking upon the filthy walls of my dungeon. I
started in horror upon beholding in one of the window panes the image of
my distorted and swollen face. I realized that an attempt had been made
to efface all vestige of lineage from my countenance. But with the
passing of time much of the disfigurement disappeared.

One morning soldiers entered my cell and carried me into a close
carriage, which, after several hours of travel, stopped before that grim
fortress whose very name freezes the blood,--Vincennes.

It had been decreed by my captors that I should here end my days. But
what of the creole, my protectress? She was living her days of
brilliancy. The Empire--such an Empire!--was being hatched amid the
folds of the Consulate. The creole was absorbed by one great fear,--the
fear of failing to furnish an heir to that adumbrating Empire. Thérèse,
let us smile together at the endurance of thrones. Why, a crown scarcely
seems worth the commission of a crime. It cannot even bring sleep to
eyes that stare widely during whole nights.

Europe resounded with the blare of trumpets and clarions, the
reverberations of cannon and the clashing of swords, while skilful
needle-women embroidered a purple mantle for the creole's graceful
shoulders.

On descending the carriage opposite the embattled tower, I was conducted
beneath an armored postern, through three gates, along a circuitous
route which lay between damp gray walls, down two stairways, reaching at
length an iron door through which I was pushed into a windowless
dungeon, known as The Black Hole and destined as a vestibule to my
grave.

I dared not move, fearing to fall into a pit. The only sound I heard was
the loud beating of my heart. At last my jailer,--a man having but one
eye,--entered the cell. A lantern hung about his neck beneath a sullen
countenance. With his rough hand he thrust at me a plate of repulsive
food. The light of his lantern illumined the floor. Speedily glancing
around, I ascertained that it was free of pitfalls. My enclosure was a
damp, moldy, black tomb. In one corner was some straw and a tattered
blanket; in another a bench and jug.

The next day my keeper brought me a loaf of hard bread and a jug of
water. I ate part of the bread and went to sleep. On awaking, I failed
to find the remainder. I shuddered. Who was with me? Who had stolen my
bread? I was wrought up to a state of frenzy which the entrance of my
jailer subdued. I asked him who had taken my bread. He did not answer.
Leaving more bread and water, he departed. I ate half my bread and went
to sleep. I awoke hungry and sought the remainder. It was gone. The next
day I put some bread underneath the straw and lay upon it pretending
sleep. A light pattering of feet and shrill attenuated noises seemed to
indicate a troop of tiny creatures in the darkness. A hairy coat swept
my cheek and O the sickening horror of it!--the sharp teeth of a rat
pierced my fingers. With staring sightless eyes, I understood. Rats
raced over my body pushed beneath me in search for food, swept their
cold tails over my sore face and grunted contentedly while eating the
crumbs. I was often roused from the sleep of exhaustion by their shrill
disputes or their nibbling my ears and fingers.



Chapter VIII

THE EXECUTION


It has been said that our family were the martyrs of the Revolution. Our
parents suffered but they had previously known happiness. But I? What
earthly fruit of good had passed my lips? What wrong had I, an innocent
boy, committed? As I daily sat in darkness awaiting my bread and water,
what a world was revealed to me, Thérèse! Retributive justice demanding
an eye for an eye stood in my dungeon. I was called upon to balance the
accounts of my delinquent ancestry.

Man is a creature of habit. My senses daily grew more accustomed to the
pestilential cavern. I began to distinguish the objects in my dungeon.
Light seemed to gleam faintly through the joinings of the stones. My
pupils dilated like those of nocturnal birds. My hearing grew more acute
and recognized the jailer's footfall long before he reached my door. I
could dimly hear the call of the sentinels and the tramping of the
guard.

One night in spring I distinguished voices in the ditch outside my cell
and the dull sound of spades. Some one said, "Make it deeper and wider
that it may hold the body." A platoon of soldiers halted and struck the
breeches of their guns upon the ground. They were arranging an
execution!

Only the wall separated us as a voice which was harsh yet timid, almost
apologetic, pronounced a death sentence. The name of the condemned made
me start: Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Conte. Our family blood was
about to spatter those walls erected by our ancestors. A sweet sonorous
voice penetrated the stones. The Count was asking an officer to be the
bearer of a death memento.

"For the Princesse de Rohan," he said, placing in his hands a letter, a
ring and a lock of hair.

"Hang a lantern around his neck," was the brutal order that interrupted
the prisoner. "No aim can be taken in this darkness."

Then followed a cruel fateful moment; then the order; then the
rebounding of the balls from the outer wall of my dungeon; then the thud
of the falling body; then suppressed oaths and stern commands; then the
noise of spades. As the platoon of soldiers marched away, I said to
myself, "My cousin, the Duke d'Enghien has been keeping me company, and
now he lies very close."

No clothes had been given me during my imprisonment and I was in
tatters. I shivered, wrapped in my filthy blanket. My hair hung on my
shoulders in long matted curls; my face--beardless on entering the
tower--was half covered with a tangled crop, my nails so long that they
tore off in great shreds unless I gnawed them close with my teeth. I
could not calculate the duration of my captivity. I seemed losing the
power of thought. I lived over and over my cousin's execution until it
seemed to have been my own. I assured myself that I was awakening after
death and I felt the bullet wounds in my head. I refused nourishment,
saying feebly that dead men required no food. On the third day of my
self-imposed starvation the hinges of my door creaked at an unaccustomed
hour and my jailer was communicative for the first time.

"Get up and follow me," he said.

I remained motionless, for was I not a corpse? The man raised me roughly
and placed an arm around my shoulders. Then I comprehended that I lived
and concluded that execution was about to take place. A great peace
followed this conviction. When we reached daylight, the air asphyxiated
me like a powerful gas and when my guide opened a door, saying, "Here!"
I fell on the floor in a swoon.



Chapter IX

THE ESCAPE


I regained consciousness upon a real bed. Some people were near me. My
jailer, with a softened expression, was handing me a cup of soup. I
closed my eyes and realized that some one raised the sheet covering me
and searched over my almost nude body for a birthmark. A voice said,
"Thank God, it is he!" and human lips pressed my cadaverous hands.

The tower's warden said affably as he took his leave:

"Assure the Empress that he shall be well cared for."

A man near me murmured "Courage, courage, your Majesty."

My eyes opened and I clasped Montmorin in my arms.

"Your Majesty,"--he began, and I interrupted:

"Do not address me so, Eugene. Do not apply titles to a wretched
outcast. I wish to strip myself of the personality which has caused my
martyrdom."

"Well, then, Charles," said Montmorin "I have sought you for four
years."

"Four years!" I exclaimed. "Did I remain four years in the Black Hole?"

"I had no clue," said my friend. "I believed you dead, and through
indifference concerning my own life, I enlisted in Napoleon's army. The
execution of the Due d'Enghien and the conspiracy of Cadouval (of which
I shall presently tell you) filled me with such indignation that I
resolved to present my resignation. Just then the Empress sent for me.
In a secret interview she informed me that you were in Vincennes dungeon
and commissioned me to rescue you. Her hand pushed aside the obstacles
between us."

"Blessed be the creole!" I cried.

"Not so fast, Charles. She seeks only her security. Her lord, who is
also the lord of Europe, seems to be considering the advisability of
relegating her to some corner of his Babylonic Empire, because of her
barrenness. She looks upon you as a fine card to play at the opportune
moment. Napoleon has forgotten your existence. He is too busy with his
conquests to even think of you. Here in prison, your name is No. 86.
Josephine pretends that you are the nephew of a Martinique woman with
whom she has a friendship. She does not desire your liberty because it
is preferable that you should be where she may at any time lay a hand
upon you. But I shall free you, though that must be postponed, as you
are now so weak."

I was bathed and cleanly clad. Nourishing and abundant food was given me
daily and I was gently tended by Armande, the jailer's excellent
daughter. Montmorin cut off my long hair and tangled beard, and, on
viewing myself in the mirror, I realized that the cruel operation, whose
object had been to disfigure me, had been frustrated by the darkness of
the dungeon. I should, otherwise, have been marked as with the pits of
that dreadful malady, the smallpox, and been changed past all
recognition.

I was born again. The pure blood of Austria and Lorraine had
successfully combated what appeared invincible obstacles. Montmorin, who
through motives of caution, visited me only twice during my
convalescence, was one day overjoyed on seeing my hard rounded flesh and
observed that it was time to discuss our flight. I was on the second
floor of one of the four towers which flank the historic castle. The
windows facing toward the fort were not very high from the ground. If
the grating were filed, 'twould be a simple matter to swing down to the
bridge spanning the ditch over which the soldiers walked in leaving the
fortress. This route of exit was chosen by the soldiers in order to
avoid the trouble of raising the portcullis, and it existed through the
culpable negligence of the chief; otherwise, I should never have been
able to have accomplished my escape. The only necessary precaution was
that of selecting an auspicious hour of the night in which to swing down
to the ditch, cross the narrow plank and join Montmorin in the woods
beyond, awaiting me with a pair of good horses. I had an English file
for the severing of my iron bars, also a rope and a dagger. All these I
kept upon my body during the day and in my bed at night. I anxiously
counted the hours that must pass before my escape and constantly
developed my muscles by gymnastic exercises. Each night I cut through
one bar of the grating. I feared that Armande, who was as kind to me as
her father was indifferent, might suspect my intention. I therefore
adopted toward her the most affectionate demeanor. I praised her beauty
and then I realized that she was indeed beautiful. The wine of youth
rose in me like a splendid springtide and when Armande trembled in my
arms I regretted that I must so soon leave her.

Thérèse, I know that your austere virtue makes no capitulation to what
you would call the sentimental delinquencies of the heart. But to me a
woman's breast is more necessary than bread or water. That simple girl
loved me in the abandonment of her feminine pity, which is, my chaste
sister, the holiest passion of humanity.

One day she responded to my caresses with the words:

"I know you are preparing to escape. I will help you, and if a cannon
were to announce your flight, I should crawl into its mouth to retard
the explosion."

When at last arrived the moment, preconcerted with Montmorin, she clung
to me affectionately until the whistle of our accomplice sounded across
the ditch. Then, securing the rope securely, she watched me descend, her
low sweet voice bidding me Godspeed. I ran in a frenzy to Montmorin. We
sprang into our saddles and sped away.



Chapter X

PRUSSIA


René was here seized with a fit of coughing.

He looked toward the windows; they were closed; at the fireplace; the
coke burned brightly. Putting down the manuscript, he soliloquized:

"I ought to examine the documents in the box and find out whether
Naundorff is a martyr or a visionary."

But the narrative fascinated him and he resumed:

The aggregate terms of my prison life amount to seventeen years.

I said to Montmorin, as we slackened our speed, in order to find a path
which led to an obscure hut wherein we were to pass the night:

"O that I might live among men, daring to breathe! That I might no
longer be hunted down as a criminal. Let me cast away the fatal name and
obliterate the race forever. Montmorin, renounce political schemes and
help me only in this,--to forget the dungeons that have been my
dwelling places."

My friend put his arms around me and said: "I promise."

We slept soundly and started the next morning for Prussia, which we
safely entered, under passports held by Montmorin. We put up at a small
inn, exhausted from our rapid traveling. Just as we were dropping off to
sleep, an officer entered, roughly ordering us from bed. He brought
orders to arrest us as spies. He delivered us to a detachment of troops
pertaining to the division under the command of the Duke of Brunswick.

When we had journeyed a short distance, we were surrounded by a body of
French, treble our number, and I viewed a battle, for the first time in
my life; by the irony of fate, I stood in ranks opposing my countrymen.
Montmorin and I were ordered to fight and we had no choice but that of
obeying. Our detachment was overpowered. The enemy cried, "No quarter!"
Montmorin's horse was better than mine.

"Change with me!" he cried. I could not reply, for we all fell back
together. My noble friend placed himself before me and sought to ward
off the sabre-strokes. My horse fell pierced by a bullet and I could not
extricate myself. Montmorin stooped to disentangle my foot and a French
soldier with a tremendous blow cut his head in twain. Another sabre
descended on my neck and I lost consciousness.

I awoke in a hospital, amid the fearful groans of the other wounded.
Thérèse, does not my narrative seem destitute of those shades of gay and
grave intermingled which constitute the charm of a personal history? Do
you not long for a comic foil to this interminable tragedy? I shall
abridge and hurry on.

I was carried in a straw-loaded wagon to the fortress Wessel and there
placed with other prisoners destined to imprisonment in Toulon. I
protested unavailingly, declaring that I was a Frenchman. I marched with
bleeding feet into France. But falling on the ground in my inability to
continue, I was abandoned by the guard and should have died but for the
care of a peasant woman who carried me to a hospital. In a fellow
patient, I recognized a former companion in arms, by name Fritz. Later
on, we made our way back into Germany. To sustain life during our
journey, we became common thieves and stole fruit, bread,
chickens,--anything we could lay our hands on. Do you hear, Thérèse?
Your brother has been a common thief. Fritz remarked: "We do on a small
scale what kings do on a great one." One day, leaving me his coat as
hostage, he started off on a foraging expedition. He was captured by the
German league known as the Strickreiter. An old peasant with whom we had
become associated, advised that I should go to Saxony where the
Strickreiter were not powerful. He gave me what food and money he could
spare, and, carrying Fritz's coat, in which I found six hundred francs,
I resolved to join the Prussian army, it seeming my only choice. I
started for Berlin. On the journey a fellow traveller evinced great
cordiality, to the extent of lending me his passport, bearing the name
"William Naundorff." He declared he did not require it, being well
known. I looked at this new friend intently. I had seen his face
before.



Chapter XI

NAUNDORFF


What was this new mystery? Why should this man give me his name, for I
was forced to retain it? When we reached Weimar, my benefactor
disappeared. The freedom I breathed inebriated me and I ceased
wondering. On reaching Berlin, I put up at an inn, where I was soon
visited by the police who asked how long I intended to remain in the
capital. I referred them to the passport which I had delivered to the
city's authorities and thus did I imbue myself forever with the
personality of my fellow passenger. On filing an application for
admission into the army, I was coldly informed that His Majesty did not
receive foreigners into the Prussian ranks.

Discouraged and almost destitute, I bethought me of my knowledge of
watchmaking and so it came to pass that I established myself in this
humble business. Thérèse, this is the sign I displayed outside my door:
Schutzenstrasse, 52. I was well patronized and lived contentedly until
an officer called to see my license. He asked me many questions,
demanded to be shown my baptismal certificate and a testimonial of good
conduct from the last parish in which I had lived. Having no such
documents, I was in great perplexity. At this juncture, a woman who
called herself Naundorff's sister, advised me to apply to Monsieur Le
Coq, Superintendent of the Prussian Police and a Frenchman by birth.
Before proceeding, I must explain that this woman, whose devotion to me
was as genuine as it was unremitting, had some time previous come from
some mysterious quarter to live in my house. Her industry made my
slender income yield me some comfort. Following her advice, I wrote to
Le Coq, revealing to him my entire history. He came to visit me and
demanded to see the proofs of my identity. I showed him some of my
documents,--those which had been sewed by Montmorin in the collar of the
ragged coat which I had worn during my vagrancy. They included letters
belonging to our mother and our father's seal. Le Coq was amazed and
remarked that he could give me no advice until after consulting with the
King. On the following day, he came to say that I must relinquish the
documents. I was forced to obey, saving only a portion of the seal.
From that moment, I was dogged by the police and finally driven out of
Berlin.

"You are in danger here," said Le Coq. "The magistracy has not forgotten
that no corroborating documents rendered your passport valid. Go to some
little town and be there known by the name of Naundorff."

A guard was furnished for my protection. I was admonished to observe the
strictest reserve, for the eye of Napoleon was keen. Prussia dared not
incur his enmity.

"When you are asked for your papers," said Le Coq, as I was departing,
"answer that they are with the Court."

I went to Spandau in the search of peace, there to live in a coffin more
effectual than the one which had enclosed me as I left the Tower, that
is to say, the name "Naundorff." This spurious term was entered on the
village registers. There is not another instance in Prussian annals of
the right of citizenship being conferred upon a man in consequence of
the arbitrary adjustment of an official, in the absence of documentary
evidence.

I put out my sign. The faithful woman--the so-called sister of
Naundorff--was with me still. However the arrangement had originated,
whether or not she acted as an instrument of my enemies, her devotion
was genuine. To silence malicious tongues, I called her sister.

Europe was convulsed with war. "Is the Corsican's power to be broken?" I
would ask myself. And then a wild hope of recovering my name and rank
would take possession of me, in spite of the injunctions regarding
caution from Le Coq, who visited me about this period. Then came the
news of Napoleon's overthrow, followed by our uncle's ascending the
throne and of your marriage, Thérèse, to our cousin, the Duke of
Orleans. Thus did you become an accomplice in the usurpation. From many
sources you and our uncle had tidings of my misfortunes, and these
rumors were corroborated by documents found in the belongings of
Josephine, Barras, Pichegru and even Napoleon. I at the time wrote
letters to you both, letters which I know reached your hands. You, whose
lips so often speak the name of God, dare not deny that you read my
messages.



Chapter XII

THE DAUPHIN'S WIFE


About this time my companion and reputed sister died. Poor woman! She
was no grande dame, not even a spotless matron. In her past there had
been hours of anguish, despair and shame. An unremitting train of
misfortunes had dried the sources of her tears. It was misfortune which
had united our lives and welded my youth to her maturity. Despised by
the world, she found an asylum in me, and I, in my isolation, found pity
and kindness only in her. And I solemnly declare that she was gold
hidden beneath mire, for she gave me the shelter and warmth of a human
heart, without which I cannot live.

When she died in my arms, blessing me for my ministrations, I regretted
that I had written to you, for it seemed the most fitting consummation
of my life to pass the remainder of it as a Spandau watch-maker. In my
loneliness, I married a beautiful girl, daughter of a mechanic as
obscure as I. Having failed to receive an answer from you, I thought to
accomplish the extinction of a royal race by an alliance with this woman
of the people. A frenzy of vengeance and shame mastered me as I cemented
what I considered the pollution of your race and mine, by marrying this
pure, gentle girl.

To-day I realize my sin in refusing to thank God for the finding in my
path of the sweet blossom of love. Jeanne's affection should have been
more grateful than Marie's for it came in consequence of the sublime law
that merges one life into another and contained no element of reverence
for royalty. But I trampled on the tender fragrance of her devotion
during the beginning of our married life, in the arrogance of what I
considered my fallen state in being her companion. For hours would I sit
in gloomy silence. I could not smother the puerile vanity of earthly
grandeur which even in the Black Hole inflated me. Between me and the
gentle girl rose the high wall of ancestry, that destroyer of happiness,
which seeks to make us unlike other men. I kept from her the gloomy
secret of my origin and she shrank from me, almost seeking to ask my
forgiveness for being my wife.

When I knew the joy which you will never experience, Thérèse--that of
parenthood,--I called my daughter by the name which I had borne during
that ill-fated journey which cost our parents their crown and
life,--"Amélie." My mother seemed to live again in the child, and I
assured myself that the blood of Austria and Lorraine rose, asserting
its purity and protesting against admixture with a plebeian strain.



Chapter XIII

THE INCENDIARY


Here René raised his head and realized that his chamber was full of
smoke. The atmosphere was growing dense, insufferable. The mirror over
the mantel broke into pieces with a sharp explosion and great tongues of
flame licked the sides of the chimney. A stout man with red whiskers put
his head in the door, shouting "Fire!"

Thrusting the manuscript into his bosom, René ran out, amid the
bewildered servants and guests. Pails of water were brought from the
kitchen and uproar reigned.

"Keep your wits!" he shouted. "Shut the windows and wet the blankets
from the beds."

He turned to some one near and asked how the fire had started. The man
replied that Count Keller's valet was to blame. Brosseur standing in the
passage way seemed inconsolable.

"I shall lose my place!" he almost sobbed. "My master will discharge me
for this carelessness."

René was everywhere at once, encouraging, urging, advising. Brosseur,
meanwhile ran into the Marquis's room, returning with the bed blankets.
At last the fire was extinguished and the proprietor grasped René's
hand, thanking him for his services. The guests pressed near with
praises for his conduct. Even the cook brandished his colossal fists in
fury at the stupidity of the fellow who had caused the mischief.

"I shall find him and break that heavy head of his!" he roared, darting
toward Brosseur's chamber. A moment later he returned in a rage,
exclaiming: "The rascal has escaped, leaving his baggage behind."

René shuddered, scarcely knowing why. He ran to his room in search for
his wallet. It was broken open and the box gone.

"The villain has robbed me," he muttered, as the plot became clear to
him. "I felt that I had seen his face before. Ah, Count Keller,--better
said, Count Scoundrel--I know now whence you came. Have I indeed undone
Amélie's father? Naundorff, watch-maker, I am henceforth your staunch
partisan! This piece of villainy confirms your claim."

He placed his hand in his breast in search for the manuscript and
breathed more easily on feeling it.



Book III THE KNIGHTS OF LIBERTY



Chapter I

LYING IN WAIT


Opposite the Dover wharf was an inn bearing the sign: The Red Fish. The
frequenters of this inn were usually sailors, wharf-hands, etc....
Sometimes passengers from a recently arrived vessel stayed over a short
while for the purpose of recovering from seasickness. At eleven in the
forenoon of a day following soon after that described at the close of
Book II, Kate, niece of the proprietor, displayed her rounded arms to
the admiring eyes of the guests seated in the dingy dining hall, as she
deposited on the tables bottles of beer and dishes of smoked salmon
stewed with potatoes. One of the young men was so absorbed in gazing
through a window out toward the wharf that he scarcely knew what he ate.
He seemed waiting for some one and in so doing attracted the attention
of two others seated in an obscure corner of the apartment, one of whom
was apparently of some thirty years of age, of contracted lips, keen
eyes and a nervous attitude. His general make-up was that of a man who
vibrates to the suggestions of an idea. He scarcely ate and his glass of
ale stood untasted. His companion had a very good appetite--a handsome
young man somewhat coarse in type, of splendid proportions, ruddy
cheeks, black whiskers, gleaming teeth and gay alert eyes full of
directness and candor.

The two men conversed in low tones. The younger always interrupted the
talk on the approach of Kate, for the purpose of making sweet speeches
in her ear.

"Indeed I recognize him," declared the elder. "I have seen him in Paris
and his title is Marquis de Brezé. His family is ultramonarchical and
its loyalty has been paid in gold, for its confiscated property has been
restored."

"I wonder why he is here."

"I cannot guess, Giacinto. Men in our position must always expect the
worst. Many Frenchmen, await their vessels in this inn, but the
Marquis's attitude arouses suspicion. He awaits some one. The fact that
he comes from _There_ should put us on our guard."

"Bah!" exclaimed Giacinto, with a flash of his perfect teeth, "'tis some
piece of gallantry--a question of petticoats."

"Or of politics. We must not lose sight of him, for holding on to the
end of a thread sometimes leads to a bobbin. This inn, in which _our_
Volpetti is in the habit of stopping, is so suspicious a place that even
the air is infected. If the Marquis awaits a lady, luck to him! But if
not--"

"I swear 'tis love," asserted Giacinto, failing to comprehend the
other's indifference to the romantic.

"Well, now let us get to business. If our brother knights have correctly
informed us, Volpetti will reach the inn today. Are you sure you will
recognize him? You know the fox is clever in disguises."

"Do you think he can escape me?" cried Giacinto, his face distorted with
a spasm of hatred. "Not even if he comes as the devil, his brother. Why
we are both Sicilians from Catania. I remember him when he walked
barefoot recruiting victims for the gambling houses. Later on he entered
the novitiate of a monastery. Then, I witnessed his initiation as
spy--under the direction--well in reality, in the employ of Queen
Caroline. O he is an adept, a born spy and happy only when exercising
his profession. He was Fouché's most dangerous agent and now performs
the same office to Lecazes. But to every man his hour! There are many
accounts pending between Volpetti and me! First, my brother Raphael's
long imprisonment; secondly, the ill treatment of Grazia, that
unfortunate girl; thirdly, the splendid Romeldi's death on the gibbet;
fourthly, the conspiracy of the 19th of August. Why has this mission
been assigned me? Because the Knights know well that Volpetti will not
escape me."

"Contain yourself" said the other. "To accomplish your purpose, calmness
is essential."

"Fear nothing," answered Giacinto, "I shall seem ice."

"Does Volpetti know you by sight?"

"As well as he does his own shirt, and his claws must have fastened into
me at Trieste, if the Knights had not protected me. Set a thief to catch
a thief. But here in England he and I are man to man."

"Even in England spies are aided by other spies. Change your tactics,
Giacinto. The devil! Lecazes snaps his fingers at scruples. The League
must learn that the enemy is full of insidious perfidy. We no longer
fight on the open as in the times of Napoleon. But the duel between
Revolution and Reaction is raging none the less fiercely. The hour is
ripe for blows and are we, the Knights of Liberty, to content ourselves
with Platonic phrases? Are we not to wreak vengeance at last? We are so
numerous as scarcely to know one another and yet so little is
accomplished. 'Tis a competent leader that we need."

"Platonism is dead," cried Giacinto. "Our business is to grapple with
the police. Volpetti's fate will soon be a warning to Lecazes and those
who are his masters. Every English Carbonaro will soon see that events
are at last shaping themselves--"

"What do you know?" eagerly demanded the other.

"I scent the critical moment approaching. I read men's thoughts upon
their foreheads. My friend, societies do much, but at times one man
arises who by a swift stroke accomplishes what societies are only
meditating."

"You assume the air of a prophet."

"Well, time will tell. Now to our work. Volpetti will soon arrive,
either alone or with a companion. He is to embark from Dover. When he
reaches this inn, you and I shall enter his room and dispatch him before
he has time to say 'Amen.' The Polipheme awaits us in the harbor. The
captain is our brother and confederate. I trust Volpetti will come
alone for so he will fall to me; but if he be accompanied, both of us
shall be implicated."

"And why not both of us even if he come alone? Should one waste honor on
dogs?"

Here Giacinto interrupted, saying:

"Did I not tell you it was a love affair? Behold the lady!"

The Marquis de Brezé had just hurried to meet two new comers, a man of
middle age and a young girl. Both wore shabby traveling garments and had
the appearance of Irish peasants. But in spite of her clothes, the
beautiful imperious face of the girl immediately excited admiration
while the man's grace and dignity revealed the aristocrat.

Giacinto grasped his friend's hand, and the other whispered:

"How remarkable!"

"What?" asked Giacinto.

"The resemblance."

"What resemblance?"

"Why the man and girl are reproductions of the guillotined king and
queen."

"I have seen them only in pictures; but by the devil! they are indeed
before us."

The Carbonari gazed at each other in amazement.



Chapter II

THE TRAPPED FOX


Naundorff and Amélie followed de Brezé toward the stairway and, in so
doing, passed the two Carbonari, who, pretending absorption in their ale
and salmon, did not raise their eyes.

René led his friends to the chambers he had engaged for them and when
the doors were closed, he threw himself upon his knees before the father
exclaiming:

"Forgive me!"

"What is it, René?"

"I have been robbed of your papers."

Naundorff turned pale and fell against the wall. But quickly recovering
himself, he said:

"René, you have lost my name, but you first saved my life," and with
simple dignity he drew the Marquis to his breast while Amélie trembled
and dropped tears from her beautiful eyes.

"And the manuscript?"

"I have it with me."

"How were you robbed of the box?"

René explained.

"That Count de Keller is my evil genius. He is none other than the
Volpetti who under the alias 'Naundorff' bestowed that name upon me in
Prussia. He represents the police who like a web envelop me. 'Twas the
police that directed the blows from which you rescued me in London. And
that police will now pursue you, René. I regret that we have undertaken
this voyage, for how are we to succeed in this difficult undertaking,
having lost my certificates of identity? Let us renounce the project and
return, I to exile and you to your country. I am not safe in England;
therefore I shall remove to Holland. In that land of liberty and
justice, I may find the happiness I seek, the simple happiness of family
life. René, I seem to hear again the words spoken to me in my dungeon:
_Your friends shall perish_."

René looked at Amélie. Her tears were dry and her lofty countenance
expressed only resolution. His discouragement was swept away and he
turned to the father, saying:

"I shall never give up the fight. And what of the knave who robbed me?
Is he to laugh in my face? Listen. Volpetti will soon be here. I also
have become a spy. I have tracked him by pouring out torrents of money."

"Bravo, my René!" said Amélie, giving him her hand.

"Girl," sighed Naundorff, "you have inherited the intrepidity of your
grandmother, Marie Antoinette and great-grandmother, Marie Thérèse,
combined; I, the stoicism and passivity of my father. While I am with
you, my blood rises and I believe in the impossible; my fears vanish, my
dual personality merges into one and I assure myself that I am not a
self-duped fool--God bless you!"

"Father," she exclaimed, "you have not the right to surrender claims
which your children inherit. Do you think that the iniquitous regime on
the French throne will last indefinitely? Has not that wonderful
colossus, Napoleon, rolled on the ground from his pedestal? Another
usurper today rules our country. Is his hour never to come?"

She was a picture of splendid anger and sublime indignation.

"Amélie, you frighten me," said Naundorff.

"Cast away your fears," she cried. "René will save us. Defenders will
spring out of the earth. Courage, my father; calmness, my husband," and
she gave a hand to each of the men. "We are a council of war. Let us
plan our course of action."

Naundorff kissed her forehead, saying: "I follow you," fascinated by her
spirit.

"Our two aims," she proceeded, "are to recover the papers and enter
France secretly."

"Regarding the first," said René, "trust to me. The spy shall not return
to France enriched by his spoils."

"Beware of the spilling of blood!" said Naundorff. "Our cause is else
lost."

René and Amélie made no rejoinder.

"Concerning the voyage to France," continued the Marquis, "we must first
dispose of Volpetti. Were he to precede us, our fate should be
imprisonment. In the meanwhile, Mr. and Miss O'Ranleigh," and he made
his companions a mock bow, "must not forget their role of musicians
journeying across the channel in search of employment. A happy
circumstance favors our project. A French merchant vessel, the
Polipheme, lies in the harbor. The captain is indebted to me for favors.
I met him on the wharf this morning and observed that I might have need
of him later. I can count upon his loyalty."

"Father, the sky grows clear!" cried Amélie.

"God grant it may!" said Naundorff.

"See!" exclaimed René. "There is the Polipheme."

He drew his companions toward the window, and as they looked out, his
face grew dark and he stammered:

"There--he--comes!"

Volpetti, alias the Count de Keller, in elegant traveling dress which
accentuated his aristocratic Chateaubriand air, approached the Red Fish,
followed by Brosseur.

"They are coming here!" exclaimed René, and he dragged Amélie and
Naundorff into concealment, returning himself to continue his scrutiny.
"The devil turns him over to me at last."



Chapter III

RENÉ WAITS


The Marquis's elation was equalled by that of the Carbonari below on
beholding the entry of Volpetti and his servant.

"We have him," whispered Giacinto.

"And his confederate, also," answered Louis Pierre, which was the name
of the other.

"He seems quite a muscular fellow."

"Leave him to me."

Kate was selecting chambers for the newly arrived. Giacinto, continuing
the rude gallantry he had begun at the table, followed her from room to
room, whispering love speeches and pinching her round arms. Volpetti and
Brosseur were drinking Malaga below.

"Leave me alone!" cried Kate, pretending anger.

"Darling, don't be so hard on me."

"But I have work to do. These rooms must be got ready, and I have not
been able to find them yet for the house is as full as an egg."

"Let me walk with you until we find them, then."

She could not resist this gallant offer, and together they promenaded
through corridors and apartments. At last she said:

"Well, I must give No. 10 to the master and 39 to the valet. They are
not close together, but 'tis not my fault."

"Who is in No. 8?" asked Giacinto, idly.

"'Tis a double apartment, occupied by two Irish people who look like
beggars. But a French Monsieur here has his eye on the girl. He spent a
long time with them today."

"Let them love each other. So do you and I."

As the pair descended the stairway, Volpetti and his valet were coming
up to their chambers. Giacinto kept well in the shade and hastened to
join Louis Pierre beside whom a pleasant-faced man stood, dispatching a
glass of rum.

This was the captain of the Polipheme.

"Do you wish to leave tonight?" asked the captain.

"Or at dawn," replied Louis Pierre. "Be prepared to draw in anchor and
have the sloop in readiness guarded by but one sailor."

The captain hesitated. He drew his fingers through his hair as if about
to object.

"Well--" he began.

"Captain Soliviac, do you realize that you _cannot_ refuse?"

"Refuse? Impossible! I was about to say that there are some people in
this inn wishing also to go to France. Do you object to their presence?"

"Who are these people for whom you have so high a regard, Captain?"

"Well one of them is the Marquis de Brezé."

The Carbonari started.

"What bond unites you to that sympathizer of the government?"

"No political bond. My father was befriended by the elder Marquis and
the young man has been my protector. Important matters urge his return
to France."

"Indeed! Well, the son of the Duchess de Rousillon is a strange
companion for you, Captain."

"Pshaw!" answered Soliviac. "He does not meddle with politics. His time
is occupied in hunting and love making. He is doubtless hurrying to
France to be reunited with some fair friend; or more likely still, the
lady accompanies him now, for he said that two Irish travelers, an uncle
and niece, were with him."

The Carbonari exchanged a look; then Giacinto said:

"Well, tell the Marquis he and his party may come."

"I have received another application for passage," said the captain,
"which I have refused."

"From whom?"

"From a gentleman bearing a marvelous resemblance to our countryman, the
Viscount Chateaubriand. He has a stout fellow with him who must be his
valet."

The Carbonari flashed a look at one another.

"How long since did he ask you?"

"Not five minutes ago; I was jumping from my sloop. He wears a long
traveling cloak and a broad winged hat."

"Well, run up to number 10," said Giacinto. "He is there. Call out
roughly, saying that two passengers have failed you at the eleventh hour
and that you may now carry him and his servant. Demand a high price and
simulate avarice. Be cautious. The man is a reader of faces."

"Suppose he asks which is to be the first landing place?"

"Say Dieppe, adding that he may be put off at Calais, Havre or Cherbourg
if he prefer and pay well for the privilege. Act as tho your object
were to exploit him." And Giacinto's face glowed with hatred. "And if
he asks the hour of departure, say midnight and that he must be at the
wharf by eleven, where the sloop will await him."

"I shall do as you say. Is that all?"

"I think not, indeed. Is your crew to be trusted?"

"In what sense?" asked the astonished captain.

"Will they keep mum about whatever takes place on board?"

"My men are absolutely to be trusted."

"Very well," said Louis Pierre, "I shall board the sloop at dusk and
remain upon her until the gentleman and his servant arrive. You must
have a sailor's dress ready for me, for I shall help run the sloop. You
must be there also, Captain."

"Very well," said Soliviac.

"Are you ready to go all lengths?" asked Giacinto.

The captain's frank, genial countenance became clouded. Corsair as he
was and accustomed to bloody adventures, he hesitated before the
executive justice of the Knights of Liberty, for he knew their vengeance
to be terrible. But raising his head, he said:

"All lengths."

"Captain," said Giacinto, "the man we track is worse than a wolf. He
merits a thousand deaths and we shall give him only one. If you desert
us, we shall consider that you cease to be a Knight. Nevertheless, we
shall take the matter into our own hands and trust you not to betray
us."

"Do you think I have joined the Knights to play the coward at the first
test? I unconditionally agree to your proposition. And now, what of the
other passengers?"

"Arrange that they board before or after Volpetti."

Soliviac bowed.

Meanwhile, the Marquis's eye was applied to the keyhole of Volpetti's
chamber, and watched that gentleman arrange his belongings. His wallet
and toilet case lay near. René reflected that his treasure might be in
either. Soon he was undeceived for he heard Volpetti say to Brosseur:

"Where is it?"

"Around my neck," and the valet pointed to a cord just visible above his
collar. René could scarcely contain himself as a prospect of swift
vengeance seemed near and he clutched Amélie's hand as she stood back of
him, erect and self-possessed.



Chapter IV

MINE AND COUNTERMINE


A more circumspect man than René would have retired from the keyhole
after ascertaining this information, but he was transported into
remaining. Just then Soliviac entered by the main door offering to take
the Count and his valet to France on the Polipheme. His intention was to
land at Dieppe, he remarked, unless Monsieur preferred some other port,
in which case--

He played his part well. Volpetti fell into the snare and requested to
be put off at Havre, offering a good sum for the privilege.

"Providence has delivered this man into my hands," exclaimed René,
overjoyed.

Volpetti agreed to be aboard by midnight, and on the departure of
Soliviac, continued his preparations for the journey. He instructed
Brosseur to have supper brought up to him, adding:

"Keep your ears open to what is said in the kitchen."

Soliviac was, meanwhile, being instructed by the Carbonari to take the
Marquis and his friends aboard at an early hour. The captain accordingly
sought René, informing him of what time he was expected. The Marquis
answered:

"The Irish gentleman and lady will be at the ship by that hour,
Soliviac. But I am not certain of going. If I do, I shall get to your
vessel by means of a small skiff."

The Carbonari frowned when Soliviac repeated these words to them. Louis
Pierre remarked:

"Deeper springs than love move the Marquis."

"I warned him," said Soliviac, "that he must be on time, else the
Polipheme would sail without him, and he answered that he did not
imagine that the vessel would leave before midnight."

The Carbonari exchanged a keen glance, and Giacinto said:

"Let him do as he is minded, but keep your eyes open. This is to be our
program: I remain ashore to track Volpetti and his servant. You,
Captain, and Louis Pierre will be aboard the sloop. If Brezé happens to
see us and asks to be taken aboard, he must be refused, on pretext of
lack of room. Now, each man to his business."

A half hour later, René descended the stairway accompanied by Miss
O'Ranleigh, her face hidden by a large bonnet. Mr. O'Ranleigh followed,
his hat pulled well over his forehead, and his coat collar high over his
neck. But the keen eyes of Louis Pierre again perceived the resemblance
and he muttered:

"Accursed race!--Race which has brought reproach and invasion to
France!--But who is this pair? And why does that young aristocrat pay
them court?"

As the two Carbonari walked down the wharf later in the evening, Louis
Pierre said:

"I am more strongly convinced that this is no love adventure. Be
cautious, Giacinto. You stay behind to strike the blow."

Following them came the Marquis and the two Irish passengers. René bade
his friends farewell for a brief while, saying to the girl in a low
voice:

"Fear nothing. I shall succeed."

"I wonder if this is a countermine, a cord set to entangle our own net,"
meditated Giacinto.

He followed the Marquis to the inn, which reached, the latter ran
immediately to his own room. Giacinto concluded to await René's exit
before carrying out his own plan, namely to hide in the apartment next
to Volpetti's and which had been that of the Irish guests. Just as he
was about to realize this scheme, the Marquis stepped in before him. For
fifteen years he had awaited this moment of revenge. He had entered the
ranks of the Knights of Liberty, the nucleus of the Carbonari, for the
sole purpose of wreaking vengeance on his countryman. A formidable power
was back of him, transforming him from an ordinary homicide into the
avenger of a cause. And now he was being cheated out of his due by this
unforeseen complication. He stood in the passage a half hour waiting for
the Marquis to come forth. At last he went down to supper and Kate
hurried to wait upon him. She marveled at his abstraction and tried
coquettishly to rouse him.

"Have you seen a black cat's shadow?" she asked, alluding to a local
superstition.

Giacinto abstractedly caressed her coarse hand.

"Tell me," he said, "does the French gentleman leave tonight? I mean the
one who first arrived."

"What business is that of yours?" she asked, annoyed at her lover's
coldness.

"Because," said the Sicilian in a passionate tone, "if he goes I must
leave you, my darling, for we sail together."

"He leaves tonight and the other also, No. 10. But, if you prefer to
stay, other vessels will leave tomorrow."

Giacinto gazed into her eyes with promise. Then, dashing off the
Chianti, he ran to his room, smiling at the credulity of servant maids.
He threw on his cloak, tied a sash around his waist, into which he
thrust a pair of pistols, grasped a thick stick, glided out of the hotel
and was soon lost in the mist.



Chapter V

THE CREAKING BOOTS


The night grew darker, and the mist denser. At half past eleven,
Volpetti, followed by Brosseur, took the road leading to the wharf, the
latter carrying the traveling bags and other baggage. Volpetti had the
box of documents and Brosseur grumbled at the heaviness of his own load,
which prevented his keeping up with his master. Being scarcely able to
see him, he followed by listening to the creaking of his boots. But he
was obliged to walk so slowly that the creaking became fainter and
fainter, seeming finally to die out altogether. Suddenly, he heard boots
again and hurried on, succeeding at last in overtaking the owner of
them; just then this owner turned and, with no warning, dealt Brosseur a
blow on the head so effective that the valet rolled over into the mud,
emitting only a smothered bellow. René leaned over his victim, turning
on the light from his lantern. A stream of blood tricked down his face
and he seemed insensible. Thrusting his hand into Brosseur's breast and
pockets, he extracted a bunch of keys. With these he opened the wallets,
but no box did he find. Then, shaking the fellow, to convince himself
that he was still unconscious, René hurried after Volpetti. A moment
later Giacinto stumbled upon the wounded man.

"The Marquis knows how to strike!" he exclaimed. "But he has yet to
learn how to remove his victims." And the Sicilian flung the baggage out
into the sea. Then, with the greatest difficulty, he pushed the half
living body of his enemy over the embankment into the water.

"Santa Maria be praised! The danger is over," and, crossing himself, he
hurried on.

When Volpetti heard, instead of Brosseur's heavy tread, light feet very
near him, he instinctively clasped the box to his breast and clutched
his dagger. Then he turned, calling out:

"Brosseur! Rascal! Where are you?"

For answer, a heavy blow descended on his head. Volpetti grasped his
pistol and turned, but his adversary flung his strong arms around him,
seized the pistol, which he pressed to the other's head, saying:

"Give me the box or I shall blow your brains out."

Volpetti struggled and tried to reach his dagger, but René twisted the
refractory arm until it snapped in the socket, making its owner roar
with pain. Louis Pierre had just leaped ashore, and, guided by the
commotion of the struggle, he ran to the group, which he expected to
consist of the two Italians.

Just then Giacinto ran up, crying gleefully:

"Aha! Do you recognize Giacinto Palli? Let us throw him into the sea."

"Not here," said Louis Pierre, binding his hands and feet. "He might
save himself."

"We can hang weights to him."

"Where is the servant?"

"The fat fellow? He is saying his prayers with the fish."

"Are you two men the enemies of this spy?" asked René.

"To the death," replied Giacinto, gagging his enemy with a pocket
handkerchief.

"Mine also. He has robbed me like a dog. I must leave Dover tonight for
this deed."

"Do you promise to maintain absolute secrecy concerning what occurs
aboard the Polipheme tonight?"

"I give you a gentleman's word," replied René.

The three men lifted the never so helpless, but still lucky, Volpetti
down the stairway aboard the sloop in waiting.



Chapter VI

THE PARDON


Naundorff and Amélie, from the Polipheme's deck, watched the men
carrying Volpetti to the sloop. They trembled and clasped hands. The
vessel was anchored in deep water and the waves rocked her from side to
side. The night was cold and damp. Amélie shivered, chilled by the
spray. Just then the guard announced the arrival of the sloop and René's
voice triumphantly called across the waters:

"Amélie! Amélie!"

She ran to the vessel's side as the rope ladder was thrown down and saw
what seemed to be a dead body, borne by her lover and his companion. On
reaching deck, René rapturously kissed Amélie's hand and then
triumphantly handed Naundorff the box.

"Drop anchor!" called out the captain, and the Polipheme rode away from
the English coast. Meanwhile Amélie, Naundorff, René, the captain, and
the two Carbonari gathered in the cabin. Punch was ordered, for they
were all soaking wet and had need of a stimulant. The liquor sparkled
with the tossing of the vessel and a sense of good fellowship diffused
itself among the ship's company, some of whom a few hours earlier were
unknown to one, another. With her customary resolution, Amélie took the
initiative:

"Gentlemen, we must understand each other. My father and I are not Irish
travelers seeking employment in France. We are French outlaws, the
police on our trail, and a mighty party seeking to exterminate us. The
man lying bound on deck is a villain who robbed us of our certificates,
the documents entitling us to our inheritance. The Marquis de Brezé, my
affianced lover, has recovered these papers. Am I correct in inferring
that you have aided him?"

"Mademoiselle," replied Giacinto, "the veriest coincidence has united
our projects. The Marquis has a strong arm but lacks caution. I cast his
first victim into the sea or we should not now be securely riding away
from Dover. O royal punch!" he cried, draining his glass.

"The second victim," remarked Louis Pierre, "will also sleep in the
water, but we are first to extract his secrets. What think you,
Captain?"

"'Tis the only solution, my friend," replied Soliviac gravely.

"'Tis a lamentable necessity," added René.

"Say, rather, a mild retaliation," insisted Giacinto.

Amélie's glance was of an avenging archangel.

Naundorff rose to his feet and towered above them all. His voice rose in
an appeal, a supplication: "No blood! No blood! Let us forgive!"

"Forgive that unscrupulous creature?--that instrument of tyrants?"
exclaimed Louis Pierre.

"He has betrayed and tortured the innocent," said Soliviac solemnly.

"He brought my brother to the scaffold" cried Giacinto.

"He sought the death of my father," said Amélie.

Then, in chorus, they cried:

"He must die!"

Silence followed. The captain poured out another glass of punch. Amélie
and René drew apart from the group and engaged in a lover's colloquy.
The three Carbonari talked animatedly of the accomplishment of their
plans. When, later, Amélie turned her eyes in search of her father and
failed to find him, she concluded he had gone to rest or that he chose
to protest by his absence against the general sentiment regarding
Volpetti.

Meanwhile, Naundorff was staggering along the vessel's deck, as she
tossed roughly, in the direction of the bound spy, who lay near a heap
of cordage where he had been deposited by his captors. His handsome face
was contracted with rage, which increased as he saw the watch-maker
approach. He believed that his last hour had arrived. Naundorff bent
over him, saying in a low voice:

"I have come to set you free."

Volpetti's eyes flashed amazement.

"Listen!" said his liberator, cutting the cords with his pen knife. "I
forgive you that God may forgive me. Your life has been a series of
iniquities. You have made me suffer so greatly that I have almost
doubted the existence of God. When you are free, change your mode of
life. Here you will surely be killed. Cast yourself overboard, for you
may be rescued by some other vessel. Do not stir yet. Be very quiet."

He had already freed Volpetti's hands. He now cut the cords binding his
legs and feet. The spy muttered:

"Harebrained imbecile!"

During this critical moment his past life rose before him. _He_ change?
Impossible! He was a spy by nature. When a school boy, he had spied
upon and delivered up his playfellows. While a novice in the monastery,
he had spied upon his brothers. Turned out of the monastery by the
Revolution, he had spied upon the revolutionists. His education and
inclinations fitted him for the life, and the present atmosphere was
auspicious, or 'twas the golden age of the secret police. The true
history of that epoch will never be written because certain knaves
carried it with them to the grave. When Volpetti entered the ranks of
the secret police, he displayed signal talent. According to a remark
made at the time by a prominent official, he was not only the eyes and
ears but also the arm of the government. The swift eye of Vidocq early
discerned the wonderful gifts of this king among spies: his art in
ingratiating himself into the good graces of his employers; his genius
at disguises and every species of simulation; his alertness in forming
intimacies with the familiars of those who were his predestined victims.
In short, he was a born spy and his machinations were labors of love. He
was furnished money, agents and whatever other auxiliaries he demanded.
His astuteness had discovered countless plots, effected the capture of a
multitude of conspirators, among these General Doyenne, who suicided in
prison, rather than submit to the ignominy of picket torture.

No need to say that in the heart of Volpetti there was no room for
gratitude or remorse. He held goodness to be weakness, and forgiveness
imbecility. That Naundorff should forgive the many years of persecution
suffered at his hands, was to him incomprehensible. Why, the tracking of
Naundorff had been his specialty for half a lifetime, his supreme title
to glory. He viewed him now with Satanic disdain as he loosed his bonds.

Volpetti's only gods were Destiny and Fatality. Since leaving London,
Fatality had seemed to be in the atmosphere. When earlier he was carried
on deck, bound and gagged, he had in a rage called himself a fool for
being trapped. But now Fatality seemed to be on the side of Naundorff
and Volpetti reflected:

"This man has been overtaken a thousand times. He is a bright mark for
the arrows of Fate."

Naundorff, meanwhile, repeated the regal formula of pardon;

"_I forgive you that God, who is over you and me and all men, may extend
to me his mercy,--God who sees us and to whom your evil deeds are known
as well as the moment in which his hand will reduce you to naught_. I
forgive you because it is my destiny to forgive and to expiate, and I am
ready to fulfil it; but I warn you to tempt Providence no longer."

Volpetti felt his limbs free and his blood resume its normal
circulation. He commenced to remove his clothes, Naundorff, meanwhile,
concealing him. Crawling to the edge of the vessel, he leaped into the
water and the deck guard sang out, "Man overboard!"



Chapter VII

THE REVELATION


This cry always throws crew and passengers into wild excitement, all of
whom now appeared as if by magic on deck. The fog was beginning to break
but the water still dashed madly against the sides of the vessel. In the
general confusion no one asked how the accident had occurred, but the
mate beckoned the captain aside and whispered:

"'Tis the prisoner who is overboard and that passenger," pointing toward
Naundorff, "unloosed him. I did not interfere because I did not realize
what he was about."

Muttering a curse, Soliviac approached Naundorff.

"What do you mean, Monsieur? In the devil's name, how have you dared to
set the prisoner free? Pernies, are you sure that this gentleman--Well,
however that be, bind him securely. Now, cock your guns, and if that
scoundrel swims near us, send him to the bottom with a bullet through
his head."

The sailors leaned over the edge, seeking to distinguish the floating
body among the waves which rose more and more furiously. The wind,
increasing with the fury of the waves, swept away the clouds and the
surface of the sea gleamed almost white. One of the Breton sailors, a
kind of wild-cat fellow, with green eyes which saw by night, cried out
that a man was floating near the vessel, whereupon four bullets were
sent in that direction. Two youths, by name Yvon and Hoel, lowered a
canoe and were after the fugitive within ten minutes.

Naundorff, guarded, almost a prisoner, calmly awaited results. René and
Amélie stood near him for the purpose of defending him, were it
necessary, but they could not conceal their terror and anger at the
spy's escape.

"You have undone us, father," said Amélie.

"We struggle vainly," said René. "If that man saves his life, may the
sea swallow the rest of us, for we should have a fate more terrible than
death. No country of earth could afford a refuge. To what end have I
recovered the documents? I, a de Brezé, a Giac, performing the office of
a common murderer!"

Naundorff remained silent. Just then there rang out from the watchman a
cry: "Ship to the larboard."

The encounter with another vessel is always an important occurrence at
sea. At that period the memory was fresh of combats with corsairs,
English, French, and Spanish. But the proximity of this ship was a
consideration of greater than ordinary gravity, for it signified the
probable salvation of the fugitive, whose body now gleamed on the
surface.

Soliviac growled:

"I wager that the rascal will be picked up."

Then the ship hove in sight like a black bird, now skimming, now flying,
now keeling. She was a schooner somewhat larger than the Polipheme. She
could be perfectly discerned, for the night had become clear. The
floating man cried out and she slackened speed and flung out a cable.
The sailors were about to fire. Soliviac restrained them saying, that
they would surely miss their aim and alarm the other vessel. Impotent
and raging, the Knights of Liberty beheld the spy's salvation as his
nude body gleamed against the schooner's dark side.

"He is saved!" they almost wailed.

"He is receiving a welcome!" growled the sailors as they turned
menacingly upon Naundorff, Soliviac the most infuriated of the group.
Clutching the watch-maker by the collar, he roared:

"Who are you to liberate prisoners aboard my vessel? Are you that
villain's accomplice? Well, by God, you shall suffer the fate reserved
for him."

"He deserves it," cried Giacinto. "This man, a stranger to us has been
entrusted with our secret. This serves us right for letting others
meddle in our business."

Amélie flung herself before her father and de Brezé stood beside her.
Soliviac motioned to certain sailors and they immediately overpowered
René, tho he struggled hard to free himself.

Up to this time Naundorff had remained silent, but, fearing the
consequences to his friend, he advanced, saying:

"Captain, release the Marquis. I shall explain my action. I beg to be
heard in the cabin, with only these gentlemen as witnesses," motioning
towards the Carbonari. The captain ordered René's release and the party
descended the stairway, Soliviac following Naundorff. On reaching the
cabin, Louis Pierre and Giacinto stood on each side of the captain, as
tho forming a court.

"You are," said Soliviac, addressing Naundorff, "a culprit. On my
vessel, I administer justice and hold myself accountable only to God.
You have constituted yourself the accomplice of a man condemned to
death. As you have set him free, 'tis only justice that you should take
his place, for his freedom means the death of the rest of us. But before
passing sentence, I shall listen to your defence."

"Permit me to say--" interposed René, but Soliviac interrupted with
firmness:

"It is the prisoner who must answer."

Naundorff raised his head and replied: "I neither explain my conduct nor
excuse myself, I liberated Volpetti because I had the right to do so."

"The right!" exclaimed the astounded Carbonari, thinking they heard a
lunatic.

"Yes, the right," insisted Naundorff. "The right to forgive belongs to
the most grievously offended and to none of you has that man brought
such evil as to me. Were I to describe what he has made me suffer, you
would comprehend the extent of human baseness. But there are no words in
which to describe that suffering. He buried me in a dungeon during the
best years of my youth; he took my name from me and almost my life; only
a few days since he directed the arms of assassins upon me. 'Tis I have
the right to forgive him,--I and none other. Be it known to you, Captain
Soliviac, that were forgiveness banished from the earth, it should find
asylum in my breast. My mission is to forgive; my duty, to prevent, even
at the loss of my life, the spilling of a drop of blood. I have
finished. Do with me as you will."

The Carbonari exchanged looks; in spite of their resentment, Naundorff
awed them. At last, Soliviac, somewhat nonplussed exclaimed:

"The devil, Monsieur! That speech is very fine, but there are times when
forgiveness of one man is condemnation to many others. That man's life
costs our death."

"And mine also," said Naundorff, tears trickling down his face, "and
that of my children."

"He raves!" exclaimed Giacinto. "Have we not listened sufficiently long
to the drivelings of a madman? I am sorry for this fine young lady, but
our business must be dispatched."

Soliviac assented and then addressed Naundorff:

"We shall believe your story, Monsieur, through an excess of credulity,
tho who will assure us that you are not a spy yourself, ingeniously
disguised? The case is this: that scoundrel owes you his liberty. How
are you to explain that?"

Naundorff moved back, and, with deliberate, majestic dignity, removed
his hat, cast off his cloak and stepped into the full light of the
cabin's lamp. The three Carbonari, completely taken back, uttered a cry
of amazement and uncovered in deference to royalty.



Chapter VIII

THE CAPTAIN


An hour later Naundorff sat surrounded by the three Carbonari, to whom
he had related his entire history. Pity and amazement were upon their
faces; Louis Pierre seemed stirred out of his taciturnity. On the table
lay the open box from which had been taken the documents corroborating
the recital. But these papers had scarcely been necessary, for the
Carbonari believed Naundorff blindly.

"What a blow is tyranny to receive!" exclaimed Louis Pierre. "'Tis the
man who sits upon the throne today that invited foreign troops into our
country. Now shall we brand his forehead with the blister of usurpation
and fraud. When I longed to inflict upon the House a terrible
punishment, I little dreamed that God reserved one so complete, and that
I--_we_ should be the instruments."

Then Giacinto spoke:

"_We_, who are an invincible force, make the cause of Naundorff our own
cause. We shall be its defenders even against himself, if he should
again seek to overthrow it. What say you, Soliviac? I answer for it that
our brothers shall as one stand by him. Ah, we carry on the Polipheme a
revelation to our country. To the believing we carry faith; to the
incredulous proofs," and he motioned toward the documents.

Amélie's clear voice interposed:

"Gentlemen, formulate no plans, foster no hopes. Are you counting on
disembarking on French soil? That spy living and free, there is not a
safe spot in Europe."

"Mademoiselle speaks the truth," assented Giacinto, who gazed fascinated
upon her imperious beauty and splendid poise. "Our danger is great."

"Until now," she continued, "no one has suspected the existence of these
papers, which are of a nature to turn the tide of history. My father had
no intention of making use of them. He wished to owe his success to the
generosity of his sister, and he still trusts to that generosity. But
Volpetti knows our secret and he will set forces in motion to wrest this
last guarantee from us. He will not scruple as to means, even though our
lives be the price. Instead, therefore, of dreaming of splendid
victories and dashing revenges, let us think of a refuge. Captain
Soliviac, head the vessel toward Dunkirk, for any other spot of France
would be our sepulchre. Not even in Holland should we be safe."

Naundorff buried his face in his hands. The reproach implied in Amélie's
words cut him deeply. Tho his heart approved his extravagant
magnanimity, he realized that in freeing Volpetti he shut in his own
face the doors of France and lost the opportunity of an interview with
the sister whom he was so anxious to convince.

"Our fate is in God's hands, Amélie," he said with an imposing gesture,
"Volpetti is under superhuman control."

"That superhuman control," observed Giacinto sarcastically, "sent a
vessel to rescue him. That vessel at this moment carries him to France.
Heart of the Madonna! we require genius now to escape with our lives. Am
I not right, brothers?" and he turned solemnly toward the other
Carbonari.

"Gentlemen," said Amélie, "a secret merits a secret. Of what force do
you speak?"

"Mademoiselle," replied the Italian, "we are not permitted to reveal the
key of our society. But this much may I say: We are the mines which, in
annihilating the present, shall become the basis of the future. Though
having the appearance of pygmies, we are loosening the foundations of
the columns which support giants. Our aim is to protect the weak."

René listened with knitted brow and uneasy expression.

Louis Pierre added:

"We are vital reaction manifesting itself through convulsions. We are
creating by destroying. Our program is to undo the done."

"The program of Satan," murmured Naundorff involuntarily.

"No one can speak those words with so little reason as you,
Monseigneur," replied the other. "Did you not say just now that justice
is realized in violence? Did you not speak of expiation? and of the
iniquities of the past?"

"Yes," answered Naundorff. "I am effacing the sins of a dynasty--its
abuses, cruelties and indifference to human suffering."

"Father," said Amélie, "we are effacing also its frailties and
apostasies. Therefore, we must not temporize nor vacillate in critical
moments. O, can you not comprehend that justice would be on our side at
this moment if we might deal the usurpation a deadly blow?" "We are
ready to serve your cause," said Giacinto. "Naundorff and his daughter
may count upon our loyalty and we are those who walk by night through
the bowels of the earth. The soles of our shoes are cork that our
footsteps may not reach men's ears. Captain Soliviac," he concluded,
suddenly turning toward the seaman, "you are commanding aboard this
vessel. What route are we to take?"

Soliviac's green Celtic eyes flashed. So far he had taken no part in the
discussion, but now resolution stamped itself upon his face and his
voice vibrated with authority, that authority of supreme moments when
the ship ran great danger.

"We are to take the route which the other ship has taken; we are to
overtake her before she reaches France and capture her. She shall not
touch French soil while Camille Soliviac is Captain of the Polipheme."

The others were silent, comprehending the danger. No war raged on the
seas; corsairs and pirates were restrained severely.

"What other suggestion can you offer?" asked Soliviac.

"None," replied Giacinto and Louis Pierre.

"Such being the case--," and he turned to descend the stairway.

"Captain," interrupted Louis Pierre, "the schooner is lighter and
swifter than our brig. She has an enormous advantage."

"No," replied Soliviac. "She is going at ordinary speed and is
unconscious of our intention. Besides, she seems to be traveling
backward while we have increased speed since the lulling of the storm.
As soon as she is within reach of our cannon, we will salute and watch
the effect. Therefore, let us drink each other good luck in another
punch, after which Mademoiselle may retire to her state-room and pray
for us."

"I to my state-room?" demanded Amélie, her eyes flashing. "How little
you know me, Captain."

Naundorff clutched Soliviac by the sleeve, and, almost kneeling,
entreated:

"Renounce force, for in that renunciation is the secret of life. It has
been written: I took your cause in my hands and your grievance have I
avenged. O forbear to spill blood, forbear to destroy life."

The Captain, respectfully but with evident displeasure, moved away,
saying:

"There is no alternative."

"But what right have you, Captain, to attack that vessel for performing
a charitable deed?"

"What right?" retorted the Breton. "Tell me first by what right the
innocent boy-king was tortured, imprisoned, buried? When that schooner
and its crew sleep on the floor of ocean, no man will arise to speak to
me about rights. Ho there! to business." And he ran down the stairs,
followed by René and the Carbonari. Amélie flung her arms around her
father's neck as he fell on his knees in prayer. The pale blue morning
light filtered through the cabin windows and gleamed over the water.



Chapter IX

THE SCHOONER


The Polipheme with outstretched sails sped swiftly after the schooner.
Soliviac turned the telescope upon her, remarking to the mate:

"She seems to be lying to."

The mate took the instrument and looked also.

"Not only lying to," he said, "but she is also drawing in sails."

"What can that mean?" mused the captain.

"It means good luck to us, for within another quarter of an hour she
will be within our reach. Then we may send her a salute. There is no
necessity of announcing our intentions to the high seas: therefore,
lower the French flag and hoist the Dutch, in case there be witnesses to
our fray."

These orders were silently executed. The crew never commented upon the
captain's acts. Besides, having been habituated by their long campaigns
against England to piracy and lust for booty, they chafed at the
restrictions of a normally organized commerce and enthusiastically
welcomed the approaching struggle. The schooner's graceful form,
floating the English flag, was easily discernible. Her crew appeared
like ants, moving to and fro.

"Captain," exclaimed the pilot, "do you not see them signal? They have
just fired off a sky rocket."

"Let us give them a sample of _our_ rockets!" answered Soliviac.

"Let us demand the spy," whispered Giacinto.

"Are you crazy?" asked Louis Pierre. "What if the fellow leave them a
letter for the government? No. The vessel that has rescued Volpetti must
perish. Are you trembling? Have you contracted the scruples of the man
who is praying on his knees in the cabin? I also believe in divine
justice. I believe that 'tis we who accomplish it."

"Captain," called out the mate, "do you see that thin column of smoke
rising from her right side?"

Soliviac dropped the telescope, for his eyes served him better at that
distance than the instrument. He saw that the vessel was burning.

"She is afire!" he called out.

"Fire!" shouted the three Carbonari.

"The divine justice of which Naundorff spoke," said René.

"Nevertheless, inasmuch as a few buckets of water may extinguish that
justice, let us send a salute to the English flag, Captain," ironically
remarked Louis Pierre.

Soliviac gave the order and four little cannon, with a simultaneous
precision which revealed practice, sent their load into the schooner's
side.

"Load again!" shouted Soliviac. "At the masts and spars!"

Aboard the schooner, the unexpected attack produced panic. The crew ran
back and forth in consternation and the smoke grew denser.

"Louis Pierre!" called out Giacinto in ferocious joy, "I see Volpetti
aboard."

The Polipheme's second discharge broke the mizzen mast, which, falling,
caught beneath it two of the sailors. The smoke rose in great columns
and 'twas impossible to see what further happened.

"Where are we?" asked Soliviac of the pilot.

"Opposite the isle of Jersey, but nearer the shore than they. Those who
count on swimming ashore have slim chance."

"Keep an eye on the skiffs," called the captain. "Now they are trying to
save themselves."

Red tongues of flame shot out amid the smoke. The captain commanded.

"Another salute! Let water in to quench their fire."

Again the cannons' load was poured into the schooner's side. She
attempted no defence, for all her energy was directed to fighting the
fire aboard. One of the Polipheme's balls went into her bow, and the
water roared through the aperture.

"Now she goes to the bottom!" shouted Giacinto, wild with joy.

Just then the crew lowered a skiff. The tiny craft dropped to the water
and floated like a shell, and several persons cast themselves therein.
Two seized the oars and, to the astonishment of the spectators, started
toward the Polipheme, whose sailors would gladly have fired upon them
had not Louis Pierre interposed. The skiff came within hailing distance.
Two men, a woman and a child of some five years were visible.

"Save us!" they entreated wildly. "We have not harmed you!"

Amélie shudderingly grasped the captain's arm.

"Have mercy on them!" she said.

"It cannot be," he answered.

"At least the child," she insisted.

"Hello there!" he called to a sailor. "Cast them a cable and hoist up
the boy."

"And the others?"

A look and gesture from Soliviac answered the I question. The skiff drew
nearer and some moments later the child, almost dead with fright, was
drawn up to the deck. Amélie gathered him in her arms and covered his
face with kisses.

"Mamma! mamma!" wailed the little fellow in English.

Notwithstanding her natural courage, Amélie took refuge in a heap of
cables and clasped the child tightly to her breast. She did not wish to
see or hear, but the shrieks of the skiff's inmates sounded on her ears
even tho she covered them close.

She clasped the child tightly. Suddenly she I screamed aloud, for she
felt the vessel beneath her tremble amid a deafening explosion. The
child ceased sobbing through fright. The schooner's magazine had
exploded, casting her into the air. The detonation was followed by a
terrible silence while pieces of broken timber and mutilated bodies
floated on the surface of the water.

Naundorff raised the almost inanimate form of his daughter from the
deck, and then exclaimed in broken tones that seemed to presage naught
but a hopeless future:

"Blood has been spilled for our cause; God is against us!"



Book IV


PICMORT



Chapter I

THE CASTLE


At the foot of a mountain-chain which crosses Brittany, continues
through Normandy and terminates in Cherbourg, stands the castle of
Picmort. It pertains to the de Brezé patrimony, through the Guyornarch
fief, which was the avenue through which the illustrious family claimed
descent from the royal house of Brittany. Notwithstanding political
vicissitudes and the invasion of new ideas, the de Brezés continued to
exercise a veritable sovereignty in that corner of France. There lived
not in the valley a shepherd nor a long-haired peasant who failed to
acknowledge the dominion of the House de Brezé and render the tribute of
a reverence approaching divine honors. René during his hunting journeys
to Picmort received proofs of the extraordinary attachment which the
Bretons evinced to their master.

One evening as the setting sun gilded the lichens on the rough Celtic
rocks, there traveled toward the thicket a woman and a man,--the latter
carrying a child in his arms. They journeyed laboriously, as tho greatly
fatigued, especially the woman, who with the greatest difficulty lifted
her small feet, clad in rude sabots, which were in keeping with her
peasant's dress and the white coif covering her blond hair. At last,
heaving a sigh, she sank upon the ground. The man came to her saying
warningly and gently:

"Mademoiselle, it will soon be night and if we do not hurry, we shall
have to sleep here with the child. Can you not make an effort?"

"The sabots have bruised my feet," she complained, her beautiful young
face full of pain. "But no matter, I shall start again."

She tried to walk, but failed, saying:

"O I cannot, I cannot! What will become of us?"

Louis Pierre did not dare to insist further. He placed the sleeping
child on the ground and wiped his wet forehead with a nervous hand.
Suddenly, the barking of a dog came to them, followed by the appearance
of a great mastiff, springing through the thicket. The child awoke and
began to cry, and the woman,--girl, rather--half rose. Then the
approaching tread of a horse was heard and a splendid voice called to
the dog:

"Here Silvano!" and the horseman sprang lightly to earth. Turning to the
travelers, he said:

"A good and holy evening to you."

He was a tall, young, finely proportioned peasant of beautiful beardless
face and abundant hair.

"Are you the people we await at Picmort?"

"We are," answered Louis Pierre. "Are you Jean Vilon?"

"My name is Jean Vilon, servant of God and my master, the Marquis de
Brezé. My letter of instruction reads that there will arrive a woman, a
child and two men."

"Our companion remained on the coast," replied Louis Pierre evasively.
"He will be here later."

"He shall be welcome when he arrives," replied Jean Vilon with grave
courtesy. "In the meantime I shall carry out my master's orders. He
wishes that no one in the village know of your presence. Prepare then to
follow my instructions."

"We shall obey you, Jean Vilon. I know you are a valued and trusted
servant of the Marquis."

The Breton made no rejoinder to the praise. He stooped and raised the
tired girl to the saddle, caressed the child and seated him on his
shoulder. Then, taking the reins in his hands, he led the horse into
the thicket. Night was almost upon them and the darkness was rapidly
increasing. The horse, had he not been preceded by Silvano and led by
Vilon, would have many times stumbled upon the stumps of trees hidden
beneath the grass and leaves. The child clung confidingly to Vilon,
asking incessantly, "Are we almost there?" After a three hours' journey,
they halted in an open which led to a species of natural bower. Here
Vilon aided Amélie to descend. He placed the child on the earth, tied
the horse to a tree and took from his pocket a small lantern which he
lighted from a flint. Then turning its beams full upon Louis Pierre's
face, he asked in the cautious tone of a peasant-warrior:

"The watch-word?"

"Giac and Saint Ann," Amélie hastened to answer.

"Correct," answered the young Breton. "Henceforth we are friends. My
master has written a letter of instructions, which he commands me to
burn after reading. Bear witness that I comply," and he took from his
belt a folded paper which he lighted with a flint. When it had crumbled
to ashes, he followed the mastiff for some distance. On reaching a great
stone, he halted, the removal of which disclosed an aperture which
resembled the opening of a wild beast's cave. He signaled the others to
follow, entering first himself, bearing the child in his arms. The
little fellow commenced to cry, whereupon Amélie drew near, whispering:

"Baby Dick, do you want to live with me or away from me?"

"With you, with you!" he cried.

"Well then," and she smiled sweetly into Jean Vilon's face, "go with
this good man, and he will take you where you will always be with me."

The peasant stared at her transported. Amélie took off her sabots and
followed him into the tunnel, Louis Pierre accompanying them. At first
they had almost to crawl, for the passage was so narrow, but soon they
were able to walk upright. After a while they reached a circular
apartment whose roof was sustained by granite pillars and whose floor
was strewn with dry herbs. Here Jean Vilon presented his charges with a
basket of provisions there awaiting them. Bread, wine, cheese and milk
constituted the refreshment, and their hunger made these seem delicious.
Their guide was silent during the meal, tho his eyes of changeful hue
were fixed from time to time on Amélie, in wonder and admiration. The
white Breton coif on her head intensified the girl's great beauty.

When the frugal repast was over, Jean Vilon cast the lantern's light
upon the wall; a rusty grating appeared, which he unfastened with a
rusty key. Back of the grating they beheld another passageway, narrower
still, high, inclined upward, and winding to the right, after ascending
which they passed through several galleries, reaching at last an oaken
door barred with iron. Jean applied a key to this, and it swung upon its
hinges. They entered an octagonal salon, through which they passed on to
another apartment wherein began a stairway which seemed interminable.
Amélie, notwithstanding her exhaustion, resolutely moved on; but there
came a moment when she tottered, for the lack of fresh air almost
asphyxiated her. Jean hastened to support her and with the gentlest
reverence, completed the ascent, his arm around her shoulders.

At the landing a current of fresh air revived her. They stood on the
floor of an empty cistern. Stars shone overhead. Amélie realized that
the arrangement was a military precaution for enabling the besieged to
escape. Jean explained that there existed a tunnel from the cistern to a
mine. They walked for a while along a subterranean passage. Suddenly
Jean seemed to pass through the wall. He had but leaned heavily against
it and thus disclosed a lane, so narrow that they had to push themselves
sidewise through it. At length they stood in a large yard, near the foot
of several tall gray towers overgrown with ivy. Amélie and Louis Pierre
looked back for a last sight of the passageway which had conducted them
thither. It had disappeared. No exit was visible and Jean smiled
demurely at their amazement.

Then he placed a finger on his lips and, bidding Louis Pierre go ahead
with the lantern, he approached one of the towers and pushed against the
postern, which yielded. Then, with the air of a host, he preceded them
up a winding stairway, across an antechamber and into a sumptuously
furnished salon, brilliantly lighted with wax tapers in porcelain
candelabra of crystal pendants. The apartment was an example of highly
refined Louis Quinze taste; the caprice of a Marquise de Brezé, removed
by a wildly jealous husband from court and incarcerated in the gloomy
towers of Picmort. This most capricious Marquise had adorned her prison
walls with the refinements and exquisite fantasies of Versailles, until
death came at last to her amid flowers, satins and laces. The boudoir
remained ever after untenanted, with its mythological paintings, gilded
screens, voluptuous couches, blue celadon jars, silver, ivory and
enameled ornaments. Even the Marquise's lace handkerchief remained where
the dying lady's feverish hand had crushed it.

"My master has written that this apartment is to be occupied by you,
Mademoiselle," said Jean. "It is called the Boudoir of the Marquise and
the windows are always closed. There is a belief among the peasants to
the effect that death should visit the castle if the windows be opened.
You had best, therefore, in order to avoid comment, remain during the
daytime in the rooms above. If you are seen from below, 'twill be
thought that you are a servant-maid or my sister from Saint Brieuc."

"You are a prudent man, Jean Vilon," said Louis Pierre.

"A prudent and faithful man," said Amélie, smiling sweetly upon the
Breton, as with the gentle dignity that so well became her, she seated
herself in an armchair.

"And now, Jean," she said, "provide my fellow-traveler with a bed and
room. I see my own here. Have a little mattress brought for the boy, as
he does not wish to leave me," and she caressed Baby Dick's blond head
as she added an assurance that she would be very comfortable.

As the two men retired, the light of dawn silvered the stern turrets of
Picmort.



Chapter II


BAD NEWS


On the following day, Amélie and Louis Pierre had a serious talk.

"I do not consider," remarked the girl, "that René has reason to complain
of my compliance with his instructions. I have obeyed him blindly, and
that is not so easy a thing for me to do. But now I demand to know why,
instead of accompanying my father to Paris and of hearing our faithful
adherents acclaim him King, I am banished as tho I were a prisoner and
enjoined to remain in a peasant's dress behind closed windows. In order
to breathe fresh air, I must ascend the dizzy heights of a tower."

Louis Pierre did not at once reply. He sat for a few moments in that
gloomy attitude which he so often assumed.

"Mademoiselle," he said after a few moments, "courage!"

"Speak the truth," demanded Amélie imperiously. "I am no weakling."

And her face was so gloriously brave that the Knight of Liberty spoke
with more than his accustomed frankness.

"Your father did not go immediately to Paris, for we are watched and
caution is necessary. Our original plan has been abandoned, namely, that
your father intercede with his sister and the Marquis reunite the
families attached to the cause. Were that program in progress, your
presence in Paris would be of inestimable value. The father and daughter
together would present a picture calculated to quiet all lingering
doubt. The impression you both produced upon Giacinto and me in the Red
Fish would be repeated upon all beholders. But as matters stand today,
your very faces would be your condemnation."

Amélie fixed her brave eyes on the knight's dark face.

"You mean," she said, "that Volpetti has been saved."

"He has, that is to say some of the sailors reached the shore. How they
survived fire, explosion, cannon, bullets and shipwreck I cannot say--"

Amélie buried her face in her hands, but the springs of her wonderful
iron will soon recovered their tension.

"And how has this been discovered?" she asked. "I mean that some have
been saved?"

"You know, that on reaching French soil, we arranged to travel
separately and by circuitous routes until we should reach some
neighboring port, from which each on a different day should take the
diligence. At Dinan, we spent our first night.

"Yes," said Amélie.

"At Dinan, Giacinto visited inns and taverns, conversed with sailors and
fishermen and from them learned the story he too well knew, the tragedy
in which he had played so prominent a part. He was told that two or
three sailors had floated ashore at Pleneuf, been given shelter by
fishermen and were now recovering."

"If that be all," said the girl, with a look of relief, "why conjecture
the worst? Volpetti was not in the best condition for swimming."

"God grant your wish."

"When René left me after our landing, he assured me that an inviolable
asylum awaited me here and a faithful guardian in Jean Vilon. 'From
father to son have the Vilons served the de Brazes,' he said. The
present steward's father was executed for his adhesion to the throne and
altar. The castle contains places of concealment known only to Jean and
myself. If the attempt were made to seize you, 'twould be impossible
while breath remains in Jean's body. He thinks that you are an unhappy
girl, distantly related to me whom I have rescued from enforced entry
into a convent."

"Louis Pierre, I know that you and Giacinto stand for ideas widely at
variance with those of which my father is a symbol; nevertheless, my
faith in you is absolute. You are now my guardian angel," and she
extended her hand to him.

He did not dare touch, much less to kiss it. His face was transfigured,
beautified, as he solemnly said:

"The daughter of France may trust the sons of the Revolution. She may
place faith in the enemy of the institutions which the Bourbon
symbolizes. No man more than I hates the dynasty which, in committing
treason against the country, became the cause of that country's woes,
the woes of a foreign invasion. Mortal, eternal, inextinguishable hatred
has Louis Pierre sworn against the House. This hate has guided his feet
and been the spring of his actions until a few days since. Now I give
the Bourbons a chance to prove that they have profited by adversity,
that they are capable of being animated by an impulse of justice, that
they repent them of their iniquities. I give the usurper a chance to
voluntarily abdicate the throne and acknowledge the union of royalty
with the strong, pure blood of the people. If this miracle be performed,
if the sister open her arms to the brother, Louis Pierre will retract
his malediction and forgive the House of Bourbon."

These extravagant words caused Amélie's expression to become graver and
loftier.

"Who doubts, Louis Pierre," she said in almost affectionate effusion, as
from a queen to a subject, "that my father will accomplish his mission?
The recital of his unparalleled suffering, his atrocious martyrdom, the
refuge he sought and obtained among the people, his children born of a
daughter of those people; all this will speak for him eloquently.
Humanity has suffered too greatly to remain unmoved before such woes. To
my father is reserved the sublime office of reconciling the people and
royalty."

Her eyes and cheeks glowed and the Carbonaro ejaculated:

"Blessed be the day when that light shines in France."

"It will shine!" she cried. "Victory is almost ours. My father is secure
beneath René's protection. He possesses proofs which, were it necessary
to appeal to a tribunal, would win the cause instantly. O even tho
Volpetti be risen from hell, what harm could he do?"

"What could he do?" repeated the Carbonaro. "He can do everything to
accomplish our ruin. Do not deceive yourself, Mademoiselle. If that man
lives, we are lost. He holds the strings of our enterprise, he knows the
entire history of the mechanic Naundorff. 'Tis he enveloped him in that
name as in a winding sheet. If Volpetti be living, woe to your father,
woe to you, woe to us all and to Soliviac, who has been of so great
service. 'Tis a question of life and death, and we are not sleeping upon
the danger, Mademoiselle," he concluded sombrely.

"What do you mean?" she demanded almost sternly.

"I mean that Giacinto is with Soliviac, and that they are exploring
every shoal, creek and cape, interviewing every fisherman. Their
destination is Pleneuf. Their project may have a startling effect," and
Louis Pierre's voice rang out almost stridently.



Chapter III

GIACINTO'S RETURN


Amélie was forced to resign herself patiently to await the news. Life
tends to normalize itself, whatever the given conditions, and she wisely
accommodated herself to the inevitable. During the mornings she roamed
over the great castle, in company with Vilon and Baby Dick. They would
ascend towers and descend into subterranean passages, rearranging the
salons and adorning the altars. The only inmates of the lofty feudal
edifice, besides Vilon, Amélie, Louis Pierre and the child were two
maid-servants, one of whom was in charge of the kitchen. At dawn both
maids went into the fields for fruit and vegetables or to take the cows
to pasture, so that Amélie, free from importunate eyes, walked about
freely. They were curious to see the Marquis's relative, she who slept
in the Marquise's boudoir, but they made no impertinent inquiries
through fear of Jean Vilon, who alone waited upon the guest. During the
afternoon, Louis Pierre would come up from his room and play dominoes
or discuss the future with her. The Carbonaro had read many books. His
brain had received certain ideas as though they had been graven thereon
with a corrosive. He was visionary, mystical and a dreamer, and
pertained to the sect known as Theophilanthropists; he believed himself
destined by Providence to accomplish some high mission requiring great
valor and abnegation. His chief characteristic was a contempt for life,
and this secured him Amélie's esteem.

With Jean Vilon, Amélie conversed less than with Louis Pierre and her
treatment always displayed an air of affectionate patronage. She was a
woman, very much of a woman, and fully conscious of her effect upon men.
She used no coquetry toward the fine peasant for in no particular did
her feminine artifices approach familiarity. The homage she loved to
receive was that of the soul, the adoration of chivalry; she longed for
the devotion which illustrious unhappy queens had inspired, such as Mary
Stuart, or Marie Antoinette. The attachment of Jean Vilon, each day more
apparent, was such as a youth of medieval ages paid the holy relics. He
divined and filled her every wish. On warm nights he escorted her
through the woods that she might breathe the fresh, pure air. They took
long walks which brought the roses back to her cheeks and the litheness
to her limbs. These clandestine rambles, which seemed at first so risky,
soon became a custom.

But her chief delight was the child, the unfortunate waif, torn from the
arms of his drowning mother and cast into hers. When asked his name, he
would answer "Baby, baby!"

"Only Baby?" Amélie would ask.

One day the little fellow fixed his blue eyes, full of candor, on her
face, and added:

"Baby Dick."

"His name is Richard, then," said Amélie. "This is some information
gained," and with that much she had to content herself. The child had
either forgotten or did not know his family name. Of his father he
remembered nothing; of his mother he knew that she lived in a cottage
near the beach, amid many flowers and with a large dog, as large as
Silvano. Amélie began to think that he was a child born out of wedlock
and she felt for him a greater attachment than ever. From the first
moment of being with her, he had called her "Mamma." Her eyes would fill
with tears as she placed him at night in his little bed and clasped his
tiny hands in prayer. "He has no mother but me," she would say with
trembling lips.

One afternoon Louis Pierre read aloud to her from Rousseau's Emile while
she held Baby Dick on her knees. Suddenly Jean Vilon appeared.

"A man has just arrived," he said "bringing my master's watch-word. He
came by the road of Saint Brieuc. Shall I open to him?"

Louis exchanged a lightning glance with Amélie.

"Is he dark, handsome, with curly black hair and in sailor's clothes?"
she asked.

"Yes, and he seems very tired."

"Bring him through the subterranean passage, no matter how great is his
fatigue. The servants must not see a stranger enter."

Jean Vilon withdrew, and it was night when, almost fainting with
exhaustion, and covered with dust, Giacinto appeared before them. Amélie
ordered Vilon to retire. There was no need to ask questions. The
Italian's face, with terrible eloquence, revealed the truth.
Nevertheless Louis Pierre inquired:

"Bad news?"

"The worst."

"Volpetti is saved?"

"Saved and on the road to Paris."

Louis Pierre's voice uttered an inarticulate growl, but the girl
recovered sufficient courage to say:

"Come, take heart! How did he save himself?"

"He and three others swam ashore. The waves dashed them against the
rocks, wounding and bruising them seriously. One of the men died from
the effects; two others are lying on their backs in a fisherman's
hut, and the only other of the party--was ever misfortune equal to
this?--the only other,--he whose bruises amounted only to pinches
and who speedily recovered sufficient strength to write a number of
letters,--each of which is a dagger thrust in our sides--is that--cursed
dog,--that--fiend--Volpetti!"

Giacinto clutched his fine black hair and tore a handful from his head.

"Fate is against us," said Louis Pierre gloomily. "And Soliviac?"

"Aboard the Polipheme, on the sea, coasting toward Cherbourg. He would
gladly sail away to Hamburg, out of danger's way, were he not a knight.
He stays because we may have need of him."

"So you have accomplished nothing?"

"Nothing. After Volpetti communicated with the prefect, a guard of
soldiers surrounded the hut in which he was recovering. 'Tis a wonder
that I was not captured for I have been chased like a wild beast. A
bullet pierced my cap and I have reached you by miracle."

Louis Pierre interrupted:

"You and I must leave for Paris at once. If one of us be killed, the
other may reach the city and warn Naundorff. We shall take separate
routes."

"Very well, but we need horses and money."

"Mademoiselle," said Louis Pierre, "you will be safe, here. Danger
cannot reach you with Vilon as a guard. Otherwise, I should not leave
you. You know the secret passages and are safe from all the spies and
European cabinets in existence. As for us, we are burning our last
cartridge in going to Paris. Volpetti has unlimited resources:
gendarmerie, regular troops, magistrates, spies and those fellows who go
by the name of 'Partisans of the Order.' What a tremendous mistake it
was to let Volpetti go. If we today considered our own safety, we should
immediately board the Polipheme and depart forever from the coasts of
France."

Amélie rose and stretched a hand to each Carbonaro:

"Defenders of a cause you espoused through generosity, friends,
brothers, you shall live always in my heart. If my father's act in
freeing Volpetti bring evil to you, O forgive him! I implore you on my
knees." And the beautiful girl was sinking to the floor, when the
Knights interposed and raised her. They pressed their lips upon her
white hands, as though she were a queen. They left without a word, for
their voices were full of tears. From a window, she watched them leave
and her brave spirit sank within her.

After their departure, she seemed to fall into a lethargy. She missed
the long colloquies with Louis Pierre. Alone in the sumptuous apartments
whose dust-covered portraits of ladies and paladins seemed to look upon
her with cold disdain, she suffered the inevitable effect of isolation.
No letters reached her, for René trusted nothing to the mails. She
tortured herself with surmises; she seemed to see her father in the
hands of the police or in a dungeon; René the victim of some political
snare, and the Carbonari prisoners on an indictment of piracy. And she
told herself over and over that her father's absurd magnanimity had
caused all the trouble.

Her only consolation was the companionship of Baby Dick, and the little
fellow was never separated from her. Hours and hours they would sit
together at the window which looked over the deep entrenchments, Amélie
sewing, but with frequent interruptions, for she could not refrain from
stroking Baby's soft curls or taking him on her knees. He, meanwhile,
asked questions incessantly and, when she failed to reply promptly,
covered her face with kisses. Silvano would lay his splendid head in her
lap and look into her face with his great intelligent eyes.



Chapter IV

NIGHT


In the midst of her anxiety, a new trouble broke upon her,--the
transformation taking place in her guardian, Jean. Not that the Breton
permitted himself liberties; the deference he paid her was daily more
marked and his attitude--that of devoté before an image--was more
intensified; but the devoté had eyes and the eyes would light up on
beholding his mistress; he had hands and those hands would tremble in
placing food on the table. She felt that he loved her with a wild, deep
love which only his iron will controlled.

She instinctively accentuated the difference in their ranks; she no
longer walked with him through the woods. Her fear of him increased
daily until she entered none of the castle's apartments, remaining
constantly in the boudoir or in Baby's little chamber which adjoined her
own.

"This misfortune," she soliloquized, for as such she designated Vilon's
passion, "has its cause in my disguise. Had I appeared to him in my
proper character he would never have dared. My God, help me! At the
mercy of a man whose eyes dart lightning, and from whom I must conceal
my fears, I have need of all my self-possession. If I falter, this
splendid animal will grip me."

One night she lay awake listening to Vilon's furtive footfalls in the
antechamber where, in his impassioned fidelity, he kept guard. Such
vigilance, far from tranquilizing the girl, filled her with ever
increasing terror. She tossed upon the gilded Pompadour bed, whose
woodwork was carved in capricious and elegant mythological designs. The
Marquise's pale shade seemed to be near. The child's tranquil breathing
came to her from his little low bed, back of the embroidered Chinese
screen. A tiny lamp, whose light was softened by a green glass globe,
projected unsteady rays, which magnified shadows and increased her
terror. She was fast becoming a victim to insomnia. Her lids closed but
the light shining through them wrought figures of fantastic dragons and
pale oblique-eyed damsels and mandarins with drooping mustaches who
first became animated and then disappeared. When these grotesque visions
vanished, there glowed on the silken background goddesses and nymphs of
Watteau pattern, who, descending from amid the bed carvings, danced
gayly on with clattering satin shoes and gleaming bosoms. Their laughs
rang shrill as they too vanished and there arose from the depths of the
tangled forest the tanned countenance and blond hair of Jean Vilon. He
seized one of the nymphs around the waist; the nymph was herself; she
struggled vainly; he clasped his rude hands around her delicate neck and
compressed it with gradually increasing force, almost extinguishing
life. In order to assure herself that all was delusion she opened wide
her eyes just as the brass enameled clock pealed forth midnight.

In an effort to sleep, she turned on her side and drew the pillow over
her face, but she continued to hear inexplicable noises. People seemed
to be walking through the castle. Suddenly a wild hope filled her.
Perhaps her father, having triumphed, had summoned her to join him.
Perhaps René was the bearer of the good tidings. She raised herself on
her elbow. No longer was there any question. Footsteps sounded through
the vestibules, the antechambers, the salons; light gleamed under the
door. Suddenly the lock was noisily forced and a lady in traveling
costume, followed by two servants wearing the de Brezé livery, walked
swiftly toward the bed.

Amélie became speechless with amazement. Seated upright, she stared at
the lady with wide eyes, who, in turn, fastened on the girl a hostile,
terrible look. The two recognized each other. Amélie beheld again the
arrogant faded beauty of the face so wonderfully like René's in feature
and so different in expression. And the lady gazed again awestruck upon
the facsimile of the countenance which in miniatures, pastels,
oil-paintings, engravings, lithographs, snuff boxes, etc., was the
object of compassionate adoration. The resemblance was at that moment so
striking that the Duchess de Rousillon remained motionless, dominated by
an involuntary reverence. Quickly recovering her sang froid, she said:

"Leave the bed!"

"Why are you here?" demanded Amélie. "Why have you forced an entrance
into my room at such an hour?"

The girl's indignation momentarily disconcerted the lady, but very soon
she laughed disdainfully:

"I might ask with what shadow of a right you have taken up quarters in
my castle?"

"This castle, madam, appertains to René de Giac, Marquis de Brezé."

"I am his mother. I come in his name and with full authority from him.
Rise at once if you have a sense of decency that we may talk in a
suitable manner."

"René has given you no authority," protested the girl.

"My authority will soon be manifest," replied the Duchess.

"Jean Vilon! Jean Vilon!" called Amélie.

"Jean Vilon will not come. He is my slave. Do not become hysterical. And
rise, I repeat. 'Twill be a pleasanter method than having my servants
pull you out of bed."

"In order that I should rise, madam, these servants must retire. I am
not accustomed to dressing in the presence of men."

The Duchess was constrained into making a signal. The liveried
attendants placed the wax tapers on the mantel and left the apartment
and Amélie deftly and modestly made a hasty toilet. Then she turned to
the Duchess, saying:

"Will you now be good enough to explain your conduct?"

The Duchess advanced upon her in fury.

"I dare say," she hissed, "that you can guess I have come to break the
cords by which you hold my son,--you and that imposter, your father. The
scales have at last dropped from René's eyes; he is disillusioned and
repentant. He revealed to me your hiding place. In his name I come."

"You lie, madam. May my soul be banished forever from God if René knows
you are here. Did he know it, he would stand before me now and shield me
from you."

"Impertinent, intriguing adventuress! I tear away your mask. Believe
what you choose regarding my son, but prepare to obey my orders."

"And I remind you that I am your son's betrothed wife."

"That pretence is the most amusing proof of your ingenuity. The wife of
my son! So great an honor, Mademoiselle Naundorff, would overwhelm our
family. The de Brezé contract an alliance with the daughter of the
convict Prussian watch-maker!--Let us talk rationally; you are the
sweetheart of a good man who loves you devotedly. My steward, Jean
Vilon, is ready to marry you at this moment."

"What!" shrieked Amélie. "What do you say of Jean Vilon?"

"That he is to be your excellent husband. The dear fellow is wild with
joy in knowing that I have brought the chaplain in my chaise to bless
the couple. You have made him lose his head about you. Ah, do not play
the innocent. You have understood each other very well for some time. I
shall stand sponsor and bestow a dot upon you. As for Jean? I shall give
him the Plouret farm. In short you shall be consoled for not being the
Marquise de Brezé. The wife of an honest man is a more suitable position
for your station--"

"Is this a nightmare?" cried Amélie. Then with supreme disdain, she
added, "Not even René, himself, could obtain from me what you propose.
My life is in your hands, the life of the woman whom your son loves. But
my will you cannot conquer. Drag me to the altar I will say no with my
last breath."

The Duchess seemed taken aback at the emphasis with which the refusal
was spoken. She revealed her true character, that of a pompous
impertinent woman, performing awkwardly an assigned role. With an angry
gesture, she passed into the adjoining apartment, and held for ten
minutes or more a whispered conference with others. She' returned
accompanied by her two attendants, one of whom looked at Amélie in a
peculiar manner. Both approached the bed whereon Baby was lying and
lifted him up. The frightened child commenced to cry and Amélie ran to
him, but they snatched him from her arms and disappeared.

"If you love the child so greatly," observed the Duchess, "you may have
the happiness of his company by consenting to marry Jean Vilon. He is
pretty badly spoilt, owing to the manner in which you have brought him
up. Jean is willing to adopt him. Is he really your own? Well, we shall
soon be able to judge of that."

The Duchess retired and the doors were barred and bolted after her.
Amélie realized that she was indeed a prisoner.



Chapter V

THE CHILD


Imprisonment could not subdue her. She would have died rather than
yield. Her father's fate, her lover's fate and the fate of dear little
Dick, weighed each moment more heavily on her heart. The Duchess's visit
to Picmort signified much; it indicated that the police had discovered
their plans.

"If my father," she thought during the long sleepless hours, "had been
received by his sister, if his rights had been recognized, the Duchess
would not have dared to outrage me with this proposition. Can René be
imprisoned? He must be living, or his mother would not seek to marry me
to Jean Vilon. In this plot, I see the hand of Volpetti. I wonder if the
spy was not one of the servants. I think I recognized him. O they would
be rid of me, and, not daring to kill me, they think to marry me basely.
For so could the Duchess free her son and they have one more pretext for
disclaiming my father's pretensions--But Baby Dick? What is to become
of him?"

Terror stricken she walked the floor. She began to comprehend how great
was the love which bound her to the frail being to whom she had been
playing the role of mother. She reproached herself cruelly for having
contributed to orphan the little fellow. His beauty, his grief at being
separated from her, his caresses, his cunning little ways, all these
surged to her mind and seemed to obliterate her other griefs.

"What does this mean? I know not my father's whereabouts; René is likely
in grave danger; but my thoughts are absorbed with this child who is
joined to me by no tie, whom chance placed in my arms and violence
removed."

Morning dawned and she had not closed her eyes. The birth of day brought
calmness as it does to all human souls. She had no longer need of
concealment, so, running to the windows, she flung them wide open,
heedless of the warning that death would ensue, which Vilon had given
her when she arrived in the Castle. The light streamed into the
Marquise's boudoir. The capricious antiquated draperies became
illuminated like a stage setting, contrasting with the desolate
magnificence of the exterior and the sombre massiveness of the towers
which the sun began to brighten. Amélie looked out through those windows
for the first time.

"What will they do to Baby?" she asked herself. "What can they do?
Nothing more than separate him from me I suppose. But he has become so
dear to me--Still that shall not break my will. _I_ the wife of Jean
Vilon?--What is the meaning of this? How has he dared lend himself to
the scheme? Why has he let the Duchess in? O his passion explains it
all. How repellent!--Better death a thousand times."

She gazed vacantly upon the faded silken hangings, the sumptuous
furniture and elegant old laces; she caught her image in the mirrors of
magnificent frames wherein the Marquise had so often beheld her pallid
wasted features. Suddenly, she started, listening affrightedly to Baby
Dick's cry in the next room.

"Mamma 'Mélie! Mamma 'Mélie!" he called. "Come! Give me breakfast. It is
very late."

With passion of which she had not deemed herself capable, she ran to the
door and shook it violently, crying:

"My little heart, I can't come to you. Wait. Be very patient."

"My pretty mamma, I am alone. That bad lady shut me in. O break the
door, mamma."

"I can't Baby," she answered, pushing with all her strength against the
panels. And giving way to her grief, she dropped into a chair and
sobbed. For the first time, despair seized her. Woman's tenderest
attribute--the maternal instinct--vanquished her strong heart, even tho
her attachment was for another woman's child. Perhaps, on that very
account, 'twas more highly idealized.

Baby Dick continued to call to her in his sweet, pleading tones and she
hid her face in the satin cushions, in a longing to drown his voice. But
though she heard his wails more faintly, they seemed on that account
more plaintive. She jumped into bed, drew the clothes over her head and
sobbed in time to his moaning.

"O if I might break down that door and clasp his little body in my arms,
I should fling away every ambitious project, even happiness with René.
My love and pity outweigh every other consideration."

At eight o'clock breakfast was brought her by the two men who had come
with the Duchess during the night. She asked several questions, to which
no answer whatever was given. The morning seemed interminable. At noon
the same attendants brought a lunch which, like the others, passed in
silence. Amélie could not eat more than a morsel of bread, for the
child's cries were incessant. She refrained from talking to him, for
doing so seemed to increase his suffering; but at length she could
contain herself no longer, and tapping on the panels, she called
affectionately:

"Baby! Baby! This is your Mamma 'Mélie."

"I am hungry, mamma!" he cried.

"Hungry, darling?" she exclaimed, a frightful suspicion crossing her
mind. "Have they given you nothing to eat? Have you had no broth? Even
tho you are not in my arms, eat everything they give you, Baby; I am
close by. It is just as though I were with you."

"But Mamma 'Mélie, they give me nothing, no broth, no milk. O give me
something, mamma!"

A chill of horror ran through her veins. O were they capable of such
cruelty? It must be that they had forgotten to take food to little Dick.
Who would deliberately starve a child? But to think that he had been a
whole day unfed! She wrung her hands and threw herself against the
walls. With difficulty she repressed herself from screaming aloud. She
shook the door with all her strength, though she well knew that that
strength was impotent. Her temples seemed bursting. She felt on the
verge of dementia. She recalled her father's imprisonment and the
numerous historical crimes related. But O to starve a child! This too
was possible. Depravity is boundless when it possesses a human heart.

When evening at last came and the same speechless attendant brought her
supper, she darted a withering look at him, saying:

"Order food taken to the child at once! If you are not tigers, have pity
on him. Starve me if you will. What has he to do with this miserable
plot?"

The man made no answer, whatever. He fixed his eyes upon her and she
knew that he was Volpetti indeed.

The night was terrible. During the first part Baby sobbed incessantly,
tho his voice grew fainter and fainter. At last it died out altogether.
She grew frantic and running to the windows, called aloud:

"Jean Vilon! Jean Vilon! Wretch! Is it thus you obey your master?"

Then, as silence followed:

"René! René!"

Then:

"Silvano! Silvano!"

But no answer came. Picmort, the grim giant, was silent. Again she ran
to the door separating her from Dick. He was speaking to her but in a
voice so faint that it was scarcely more than a murmur.

"He will die! he will die!" she wailed. "No child can resist such
treatment. God have mercy on us both. What have I done to bring such
suffering on this baby?--But I might save him; yes, if I renounce René
forever. No, no! Rather perish the entire world. These fiends would
defeat me through my sense of pity. Well, they shall not. I shall be
stone. What is this child to me? Have I not once saved his
life?--Perhaps my father was right. We have spilt blood--O no, no! My
father you were weak and that weakness is my undoing--And now my pity
for this child is making me also a weakling."

She broke into bitter weeping. Dick was calling:

"Mamma! Mamma!"

She crept to the door and whispered:

"My heaven, be patient. Very soon you shall have food and be with me."

With an air of a somnambulist did Amélie comb out her long blond hair
and arrange it in its accustomed style. Then she performed her entire
toilet, laughing stridently from time to time. Sometimes tears would
trickle fast down her beautiful face, so pale and worn with its great
anxiety. When at noon the silent attendant brought the meal, she said
to him:

"Tell the Duchess de Rousillon that I shall comply with her wishes,
provided she has the door opened immediately which separates me from the
child."



Chapter VI

THE MARRIAGE


An hour later, Baby sat in Amélie's lap. She had given him milk and soup
and he was covering her face with kisses,--this child whom she loved
more than ever since renouncing for him what was dearer to her than
life. Suddenly the doors were thrown wide open and the Duchess entered
accompanied by the two liveried attendants, bearing handsome clothes,
jewels and laces. Amélie did not raise her eyes. Two girls, the
maid-servants who had been so curious to see her, approached eagerly and
began to deck the bride. They fastened a velvet petticoat beneath an
embroidered silk jacket and pinned the veil and flowers in her beautiful
hair. Soon she was transformed into a lovely Breton bride. Then the
Duchess summoned Jean Vilon, who, in gala costume, a spray of wild
flowers on his breast tied with many colored ribbons, made a brilliant
handsome picture. He was pale, ecstatic, scarcely sensible of what was
in preparation. Things had happened in so bewildering a manner that he
could not co-ordinate his thoughts; he remembered that the Duchess had
unexpectedly arrived and imposed her authority as René's mother to force
entrance into the castle; then she had ordered him in her son's name to
prepare to marry the girl above, who was under the family's special
protection, adding that her misfortunes were the consequence of being
abandoned by a man who had betrayed her. Jean, tho wild with joy,
hesitated and the Duchess added that Amélie came from his class and was
unconnected with the de Brezé family.

"Be a good husband to her, Jean, and you will lack nothing. Be a good
father to the child, and I will give you the Plouret farm."

O what did the farm matter to him! He trembled in a rapture of love. The
husband of Amélie! He enveloped her now in a glance that was a wave of
flame and then, intimidated by the prize he longed to grasp, he turned
interrogating eyes upon the Duchess.

At length they went into the chapel. Two tenants of the de Brezés served
as witnesses. The altar was adorned with gorgeous pots, holding paper
flowers, and the chaplain stood ready to perform the ceremony. The two
serving-maids pressed near the bride, according to the custom of Breton
girls, in eagerness to touch her so as to hasten their own marriage.
Amélie seemed more a statue than an animate body. She recalled René's
words: "In Picmort are the tombs of my ancestors, the ashes of my
fathers; in Picmort I was baptized; in Picmort we shall receive heaven's
blessing on our union." Since living in the castle she had often
pictured their marriage in that chapel. She gazed on the long row of
sepulchral arches to right and left and on the tombs with slabs
supporting the prone forms of Crusader-paladins, hands crossed on
breast; on the superb crucifix surmounting the altar; on the colored
oblong windows. This was the chapel in which she was to have been united
to René de Giac, but there stood now at her side a peasant, a rustic, a
servant of the House of Brezé.

"But I must keep my word," she told herself. "I have promised this for
the child's life."

When she realized that no miracle was forthcoming to liberate her, she
was near screaming:

"Help! help! Violence is being enacted. I do not wish to marry."

But she knew that such appeal would be futile. She would be called
hysterical and the child's martyrdom recommenced. Her story was so
extraordinary, her claims so pretentious, that the witnesses would think
she raved. Raising her eyes to the face of the crucified, she seemed to
hear these words:

"Suffer now, for the hour of your expiation has arrived."

The chaplain put the questions to which the groom replied in a
passionate tremor; Amélie's well-nigh inarticulate assent made her the
wife of Jean Vilon. Almost swooning, she left the chapel. As the bridal
pair reached the salon, the Duchess approached with an affectionate
greeting and holding a diamond brooch which she sought to place in the
girl's bosom. Amélie drew back, as from the sting of a venomous reptile,
refusing the Judas kiss which the lady would have sounded upon her
cheek. But the Duchess continued to smile in insolent triumph. At last
did an insuperable obstacle exist between her son and this impertinent
girl. This union to a peasant made the pretentions of Naundorff seem
more extravagant than ever. The liveried attendants smiled also in joy
at the diabolical victory. Then the Duchess addressed this speech to the
groom:

"Jean, you are a faithful servant and it has made me happy to divine
your wishes and give you the wife you desired. She is suitable to you,
being of your class. Her father is a watch-maker and her mother a
seamstress. May God give you long life. The castle of Picmort remains in
your custody, it being the property of my son, the powerful Marquis de
Brezé, whom I on this occasion represent. The farm of Plouret is yours
and thither may you retire when you are minded to do so."

Amélie heard the words and thought she must be dreaming; such duplicity
bewildered her. Indignant protests rose to her lips but her helplessness
and disdain smothered the words. Casting upon the Duchess a look of
regal scorn, she left the salon and re-entered the Marquise's boudoir.

Very soon after, the Duchess with her two liveried attendants and the
chaplain was driven away from the castle. Jean Vilon carried the lady's
belongings to the chaise and bowed in profound respect and gratitude as
she departed. Amélie, having locked herself in, wept bitterly, the child
clasped to her breast. Was all this true, great God? Was she indeed the
wife of Jean Vilon? Absurd! Heaven would yet guide her out of this
dilemma. O rather than submit, she would fling herself from that window
into the pit below.

Baby covered her with kisses and childish coaxings which seemed in a
measure to console her for what she had endured on his account, and he
was dearer to her than ever. No real mother, she reflected, could love
more deeply than she this child. Evening fell upon the grim castle and
shadows darkened the Marquise's boudoir. Amélie, folding Baby's hands
bade him pray, after which she placed him in bed. She barricaded the
doors by drawing pieces of furniture against them and prepared to pass
the night in vigil.

Suddenly a slight noise filled her with terror. It came from the
mythologically wrought panels adorning the walls. It sounded like the
gnawing of a mouse. The gnawing grew louder, the panel moved, revealing
a door whose edges were the gilded framing, and Jean Vilon in his bridal
clothes, the nuptial flowers in his breast, stood before her. He was a
handsome man, the finest "gars" in that part of Brittany. Happiness made
his dark face beautiful. She repelled her husband with a look of scorn
which made him stand motionless.

"How dare you enter, Jean?" she demanded advancing upon him with a
threatening look. "How dare you enter without my permission? Did you
not see that I had locked myself in? You come like a thief through a
secret entrance which only you know. Wretch! Leave me this instant and
never return. Do you hear? _Never!_"

Jean advanced in his turn, stammering:

"Mademoiselle, what do you mean? Are we not husband and wife? I have
known the secret of that door since I was a boy, but I have never used
it. You were safe under my protection. But now! By God and Saint
Anne!--the priest has joined us!--"

Amélie, taking courage at his moderation, said still more scornfully:

"You say we are joined together? Idiot! Do you consider that service
valid? Are you pretending innocence? Are you a fool or a knave? Are you
the Duchess's creature or her victim? Do you not know how they have
wrested from me my consent? Has no one told you that I married you to
save the child's life?"

Jean stared at her in speechless amazement, and Amélie perceiving his
ignorance, breathed more freely.

"Mademoiselle," he said at last, "I am neither a murderer nor a
hypocrite."

"Then why have you married me, wretch?" His eyes changed hue, resembling
the sea water which beats against the Coast of Brittany emitting at
night phosphoric light.

"Because I love you, because I love you!" he cried, coming close to her,
so close that she felt his breath. "Because my mistress told me that you
were not as I had been told, a relative of the family. She said you were
a peasant like myself, who had suffered misfortune and been abandoned by
a scoundrel. Even knowing this," he concluded affectionately, "I loved
you and was wild with happiness when she offered to marry us."

"Vile calumniator!" hissed Amélie with flaming cheeks.

"My mistress also said that your father had rendered a service to her
husband, the late Marquis, during the exile, giving that as the motive
for your having been received in the castle. 'I wish now to further
befriend the girl,' said she, 'by giving her a good husband. Are you
ready to marry her? I will give her a dot of 75,000 francs,' But
Mademoiselle, I agreed not because of the dot or the farm,--God confound
me if I lie--but because I love you. Since you came, I have not slept a
single night. If I closed my eyes I dreamed of you. I was like one
bewitched." And he knelt at her feet, sobbing like a little child.

She was moved to pity and said:

"Jean, I see that you are a victim of the serpent also. Listen to the
truth. I have married you because I was forced to, brutally forced. They
were starving,--_starving_ to death--do you hear?--that little child,
who is no child of mine.' Our marriage is a sacrilege in the eyes of
God. By considering yourself my husband, you damn your own soul. Jean,
beware of what you do!"

He rose and folded his arms across his breast.

"What you say may be true, Mademoiselle, and it hurts me to believe my
mistress guilty of such conduct. But be the cause what it may, we are
married. I am your husband; you are my wife; no power in heaven or earth
can separate us. Whether the child is yours or not, matters little to
me. Your life before I knew you concerns me not; I ask no questions.
From today you are mine. Today you have been born anew, purer than water
that falls from the clouds. I should defend you and the child to the
death--I love you so much. You shall never again suffer, for now you
belong to me. O if my mistress had not come to marry us, I should have
killed you. You are holy to me, but my love is terrible. At last you are
mine! O happiness!"

The Breton flung his arms around her.



Chapter VII

DEATH


Amélie sprang back, preparing for the struggle which the strength of the
bridegroom would have rendered futile. The enameled clock rang out the
hour of seven. The mythologically wrought panel opened again and a man
entered.

Jean loosed his hold and stood petrified. The man advanced and asked in
a terrible voice:

"What does this mean? What is going on in my house?"

"René!" cried Amélie, running to her lover who clasped her in his arms,
regardless of the fire in Jean's eyes.

"Jean Vilon," said the master, "render an account of yourself. What has
taken place in this castle? Unfaithful servant, how have you guarded
this trust?"

Vilon trembled and knelt before René.

"Your lordship," he stammered, "your mother--the orders she brought
me--from you."

"Orders? Were they not to refuse entrance to anyone not giving the
watch-word? Did my mother speak it, imbecile? Do I call you imbecile? I
mean scoundrel. How have you treated this woman,--this woman who should
be as holy to you as the Virgin?"

"Your lordship, it was the Duchess, the wife of my late master whose
ashes rest in the chapel"--incoherently articulated Vilon. "Should I
refuse her?--close the door in her face?"

"Certainly, beast!" cried René, losing all control of himself. "You owe
obedience to me and to me only, though you die for it."

He clenched his fists and advanced upon Vilon, who, making no
resistance, prepared to receive the blow. But Amélie, with the
generosity of her upright character, interposed.

"René, do not debase yourself. Jean Vilon is in no wise to blame. He has
believed your mother, thinking he honored you. When you sent him
instructions, you could not foresee this possibility. Fate brought her.
Jean is upright and faithful."

Her persuasive voice brought calmness to René, but a monstrous doubt
seemed to find lodgment in his mind.

"Very well; now let us come to the point. What has happened here? Under
what pretext has my mother come with pretended messages from me? She
surely has not foregone three days of frivolous court life for the
pleasure of viewing country scenery. When I (for I have transformed
myself into a professional spy) learned in Paris that she had taken the
road to Brittany, I hastened after her, feeling sure that she was coming
to Picmort. I met her just now on the road, unperceived by her party. I
have entered the castle with my secret key and chosen this method of
surprising you,--the same employed by the jealous Marquis who imprisoned
his wife in this salon. Now, tell me what has happened. Come! the
truth!"

Amélie remained silent, for not until that moment had she realized the
extremity of the case, the nature of the confession she must make to her
lover. Her customary valor forsook her.

"René," she faltered, "do not reproach me; forgive me, rather. Why have
you delayed so long in coming? Why have you left me here defenceless?
Why have you abandoned me?"

"Defenceless? Abandoned? And that fellow? Has he not protected you? He
has orders to die for you. Tell me quickly what has been done. Answer,
each of you. What does this mean?"

Amélie covered her face with her hands and turning to the wall, burst
into bitter weeping. René seized Vilon by the collar, shaking him
violently and saying:

"Traitor, what have you done? Answer or I will choke you."

The Breton freed himself with so lithe a movement that the superiority
of his physical strength was evident. Folding his arms on his breast, he
said quietly:

"The Duchess arrived in a post chaise accompanied by the chaplain and
two attendants. I opened wide the gate through which the lords of
Picmort have always entered. I kissed her hand in respect. She spent
three days here, giving orders and being obeyed. On the third, she
decreed that I should marry this young lady--"

René leaped in rage.

"And--you married--her?" he shrieked.

"Yes."

"When--when?"

"Today, at four o'clock in the Picmort chapel."

"Devil!" roared René. "And you, Amélie, have you consented?"

"Yes," she wailed.

"This is superb!" and he laughed in fury. "Explain yourself, that I may
then kill you. Did you fall in love with this fellow?"

"René!" she implored, sinking to his feet, "Have pity on me. I consented
because your mother was starving to death before my eyes that little
child we saved from the ship. O René, never call her mother again."

"Is that what she did?" stammered the Marquis, clasping his hands.

"Yes," she replied. "René, my father was right; the crimes of the mighty
are expiated by the innocent. How can one hear a little child cry for
bread and not save him? Yes, I have taken vows at the altar. I am the
wife of your steward."

"Why did you marry her?" demanded René, turning furiously on Vilon.

"Because your mother said you wished it."

"Did you know of the child's starvation?"

"By the cross, I did not."

"And you dared to love her?"

"From the moment I saw her," he cried with impetuous sincerity.

"Aha! I find the motive. Obedience to the devil! So you loved her?"

"Your lordship, that was not the motive. I could never have dreamed of
marriage had it not been for the Duchess--"

"Dog, only _I_ am your master. Only _I_--"

"True, but here we are not accustomed to distinguish between the orders
of your lordship and his mother. Parents represent God on earth."

"Jean is innocent. Another in his place would have acted likewise. Be
just, René," said Amélie.

The steward looked on her in deep gratitude.

"René, your mother is the only culprit,--she and that fatality which
dogs all who aid our cause. We carry misfortune with us. We should have
told Jean our secret to begin with; we should have treated him as a
friend, not as a menial. Then our enemies could not have deceived him.
But how could we suspect that your mother had a suspicion of my presence
here? René, a vicious womb has borne you--the womb of a hyena."

"Amélie," he groaned, "I do not attempt to defend my mother's conduct.
She has acted like a fiend. But she is mentally incapable of planning
the villainy. She was the instrument of the police. O Amélie, 'tis our
parents who accomplish our ruin. Your father sets Volpetti free and my
mother delivers you to another man. O I rave! You are mine, mine! No
other man exists."

He clasped her hands and she gazed passionately up into his face,
forgetful of Vilon, who frowningly beheld his honor as bridegroom
affronted. At length René remembered the importunate presence, and
sternly said:

"Begone!"

"You bid me go!" said the Breton, roused at length. "If I go my wife
comes with me."

"Your wife!" laughed René scornfully. "This woman is not your wife,
fool."

"The priest has joined us," insisted the peasant.

"Through a fraud,--a crime."

"That matters not. She has said 'Yes' at the altar. We are husband and
wife before God."

René turned threateningly upon him and Vilon lowered his head. The idea
of resistance never entered his brain, but neither could he entertain
the idea of resigning Amélie. In body and soul he belonged to his
master, the Marquis de Brezé; in body and soul she belonged to him, Jean
Vilon.

Amélie placed herself beside her husband.

"Jean is right," she said. "He is indeed, my master. Happiness has died
and love also. Like you, I sought at first to break this bond--but I
cannot,--we cannot. I expiate."

Tears flowed fast over her cheeks. Wild passion shot from Vilon's eyes.
He longed to kneel before her and clasp her in his arms. He dug his
nails into the palms to restrain himself. He hoarsely asked:

"Is this the woman your lordship has loved?"

"She was my promised wife. You have undone me by one act, Jean Vilon,"
answered René in a voice of deep sadness.

Jean's mouth contracted. He suffered terribly, but he did not yield. He
kept assuring himself that Amélie was his, his treasure. Only death
could separate them.

René clutched the Breton's wrist and pressed it till the bones almost
cracked.

"I repeat, Jean, you are the undoing of my life. But you shall not save
your soul, if you persist, for a dreadful crime would follow. You refuse
to give her up? Well, let me tell you who the woman is that you continue
to call your wife. She is sacred, poor fool, and as inaccessible to you
as the saints. Listen, dust of the earth. _She is of the race of
kings_--do you hear?--you must never forget this fact--_of our kings_!"

Terror and wonder contorted the peasant's face. He transfixed Amélie
with a look of superstitious, reverence. The revelation exceeded his
power of comprehension.

"The blood of the king martyred by the revolutionists is in her
body,--the king for whom your father bore arms and fought hand to hand
so often,--the king for whom he lay concealed in the woods and for
whom,--do you remember, Jean?--he was shot, his body lying unburied
during seven days. If your father should now awake he would behold his
son attempting to profane the daughter of that king! This is the crime
to which you have lent yourself."

"Is this true?" asked Jean, turning upon Amélie a face contorted with
fear and pain.

"Yes, Jean," she answered, her voice full of compassion. "I swear by my
soul it is true."

"And the honor of Brezé confirms the oath," added René. "Retain the
fruit of your iniquity. I leave you your wife. You no longer have a
master. I shall go away forever."

"No," entreated Jean. "Rather I, rather I."

He crossed himself and grasped the amulets which hung around his neck.
Then, swiftly approaching Amélie, he kissed her on the forehead. His
lips burned and she shrieked in horror. He walked rapidly out of the
boudoir. His heavy feet sounded for a moment in the antechamber, then on
the stairway, the narrow winding stairway leading to the tower's highest
story. René and Amélie listened. Suddenly divining his intention, they
ran after him. The tiny room was dark when they reached it, the window
was curtained by a heavy obstruction which they realized was Jean. They
darted to clutch him, but he rolled out before their eyes. Deeply
affected, they looked down and beheld at the base of the tower the
lifeless body of the grief-crazed Breton, with face upturned to the sky
and glassy eyes gleaming amid the heavy blond hair. Silvano, the
faithful mastiff, sat beside him, howling despairingly.



Book V


THE SISTER



Chapter I

PORTENTS


The apartments of the royal palace which we now enter are those farthest
removed from the stir and distractions of the court. The perennial
austerity of their august occupant seems to have imparted to them a
religious gloom. Owners bestow themselves upon their belongings. The
human soul leaves back of itself its peculiar track, either luminous or
sombre.

The first impression made upon one entering the salons is of absolute
silence. Noise would seem there a trespasser, a deep breath an
infringing of etiquette. Servants and courtiers smother their voices and
footfalls, suppress smiles and even dim the brightness of their eyes on
addressing the Duchess,--the sad Duchess, who daily resembles more and
more those rigid supplicating forms which guard sepulchres. After
passing through a succession of reception rooms, screened from the
sunlight by heavy draperies, and of appointments so symmetrically and
solemnly arranged that it seems impossible they should ever be moved
from their places, we come to the Duchess's boudoir. Passing the
dormitory and visitors' room, we lift a tapestry portière and enter the
small apartment which is her oratory.

A richly wrought silver lamp is the only ornament, wherein float two
burning wicks in perfumed oil. By the pale rays is discernible against a
black velvet screen, a large marble figure of the Christ. He is
represented at the moment of expiring, just when his head falls on his
shoulder and he cries: "It is finished!" At the foot of the altar kneels
a woman in fervent prayer. She rests on a crimson prie-Dieu and her eyes
are raised to the Christ. The light falls full on her face and we see it
is the Duchess.

Beautiful had that face been in youth, but suffering has obliterated all
trace of beauty. The hair once pale yellow,--the family color,--and so
abundant that it was whispered she wore a wig, has now an ashen, almost
a cobwebby look; the skin is yellow and marked with wrinkles; the dry
eyes are inflamed with tears that do not flow. The lips are drawn
tight,--the lips that neither laugh nor kiss. The clasped hands are
emaciated and of waxen whiteness. Bitter thoughts seem to hover around
the pale forehead,--cruel doubt and insistent remorse. An expression of
appalling incertitude, the terror of faith stripped of celestial
consolation are there. Incoherent, rebellious words come from the lips.

At last, heaving a deep sigh, she arose, unclasped her hands and passed
the right one over her forehead as though in an effort to banish her
thoughts. Approaching the lamp, she unfastened two buttons of her waist
and took from her bosom a roll of paper,--a letter. She glanced around,
as if to assure herself that she was alone, and then began to read:

"My sister, well beloved: I live, I live; the hand of your brother
directs these words; disregarding court etiquette, I assure you of my
love--"

Here two timid raps sounded on the door and a gentle voice called: "Your
Grace!"

The lady hastily replaced the paper and buttoned her bodice with an
unsteady hand. By a strong effort of the will, she assumed the
impenetrable mask she put on habitually and opened the door, with a look
of cold surprise on her face. The attendant apologized profusely for the
interruption.

"His--his--Royal Highness wishes urgently to speak with you. He has
ordered me to--"

Without moving a muscle of her face, the Duchess bowed in assent and,
with the gait of an automaton, passed on to meet her husband, who
awaited her in the visitors' room, a small apartment, containing a desk,
some books of devotion and a few classics.

On her entry, the Duke saluted gravely as tho at an official ceremony.
She seated herself, but he continued standing. He was tall and of
patrician and martial bearing. She addressed him a mute interrogatory.
The absence of cordiality between them was at once apparent.

"Thérèse, I come to trouble you and this I regret infinitely. But 'tis
indispensable. I come to talk of state matters, that is of matters
closely related to the state. Some time ago we banished this topic from
our conversation, Thérèse, because--we happen to differ in our views.
You find me somewhat--what phrase shall I use?--well, liberal. I find
you obstinate,--opposed to making concessions and blind to the
exigencies of the times. I am inclined to adopt the opinion of the King
and Ferdinand; you, like our good father--but Thérèse, think as we
individually may, we both desire the same accomplishment. At bottom
there is harmony between us. I could not bear to believe otherwise."

"At bottom there is indeed harmony," she answered. "Neither could I
bear to believe otherwise. We are united, as is the entire family, in
the faith that the Restoration is genuine--a victory over the dragon of
the Revolution. You employ hidden weapons; I am less astute; I fight
unarmed, or, as better said, I do not fight. I resist the foe, arms
folded on my breast, and I should not retreat. I should face him to the
last tho he advanced upon me with an overpowering host."

"The Corsican did not err when he said you were the only man of the
family."

"Do not repeat that absurd speech. Each prince of the House is a man, a
paladin, worthy of the race. Neither you nor your brother Ferdinand,
notwithstanding his delinquencies respecting women, has given the lie to
the proud blood which flows through your veins. I am a weak woman, whose
only refuge, in hours of trial, is religion--the religion which has
taught me to suffer resignedly, but never to yield. Much have I
suffered; much am I yet to suffer."

A trembling convulsed her bosom and passed over her entire body,
rustling the violet silk gown which she wore in half mourning. The Duke
suppressed his annoyance. His wife's gloomy disposition had, from the
first days of their marriage de convenance been a killjoy--that
marriage, consummated for political reasons and in compliance with the
dying request of her parents. Somewhat of warmth, somewhat of human
tenderness would have mingled those two souls, had not constraint been
characteristic of both.

"Thérèse," he replied, "in every life there is a cup of bitterness. Each
thinks that his chalice contains the most gall. Each knows but his own
sorrow. God has tried us indeed, but have courage! I come with another
sorrow to your heart already bleeding. Your strength must sustain you."

"Of what do you speak?" she asked, endeavoring to seem calm.

"Of the impostors, who have, in succession, exploited favorable
circumstances in personating the unhappy prince who perished in
captivity."

A deathlike pallor spread over her face.

"This is the reason you have come?" she murmured.

"Yes, this is the reason. The iniquitous farce grows of sufficient
consequence to threaten the throne."

"Be explicit," she said, recovering command of herself.

"I am come for that purpose," he replied. "The king has entrusted me
with messages for you. He is fearful lest these spurious pretensions
leave an ill effect upon you."

The Duchess drew a handkerchief across her eyes. Her husband and cousin
continued:

"The fate of the young prince has brought sorrow to many. It has also
been the cause of numerous schemes, and served as basis for ambitious
delirium. An Austrian drummer declares before a council of war that he
is your brother; another, whose brain has become addled from a bullet
wound, is so insistent in his claims that it has been found necessary to
incarcerate him in Bicetre; a servant in this asylum disputes with him
the honor, by name Fontolive; a hunch-back assistant to a notary follows
suit and he will likely end his career in Bicetre; there is a Dufresne
who displays on his right calf a fleur de lis. There are others too
numerous to mention, including one who dresses like a woman. To
enumerate them all would be to number the sands of the seashore. I shall
speak only of the most audacious among them, of those who have succeeded
in investing their ridiculous pretensions with the semblance of truth,
namely a certain Fruchard, a man of brains and resolution; Hervagault,
the son of a tailor who plays his cards well indeed; Maturino Bruneau
of Vezins, a most popular impostor; Baron Richemont, the most dangerous
of them all, for he is a man of education, a profound student of
history, and of irreproachable morals. Several gentlemen, formerly
staunch royalists, have placed themselves in his ranks--"

The Duchess listened with attention, fixing upon her husband her
inquisitorial eyes which cut like a keen knife. The Duke hesitated and
she asked coldly:

"And what more? Is the list of farceurs ended?"

"No," he replied, making a visible effort to compose himself.

"There is another, Thérèse--He is seconded--O 'tis incredible!--by such
men as René de Giac, whom we considered so devoted to the throne. His
mother is inconsolable and no longer permits him to visit her. Besides
René, there are La Rochefoucauld, Madame de Rambeau, who was the
Dauphin's guardian during infancy, the family Saint Hilaire, the Marquis
Feuillade, the Marquis de Broglio Solari--a legion, indeed."

"But you do not tell me this impostor's name," she asked in a bitter
voice. "Whence comes he?"

"His name is William Naundorff and he comes from England, though he has
been brought up in Prussia."

The Duchess seemed about to swoon. Her head dropped upon the chair back
and swayed from side to side. The Duke hastened to revive her by holding
to her nose a flask of English smelling salts.



Chapter II

THE QUESTION


More through an effort of her strong will than because of the
efficaciousness of the smelling salts, the Duchess sat upright and fixed
upon the Duke her keen eyes.

"Why," she asked, "does the King desire that; I should be so minutely
informed? Why not settle the matter in those departments wherein the
governmental thunderbolts are forged, since it is a question pertaining
to statecraft? Can I not be left in peace, I the desolate survivor of
the shipwreck?--I who ask only for solitude in which to pray."

"It is natural that we should consult you when THE PRINCIPLE is
involved. Moreover, we depend upon your firmness and energy. You can
offer us valuable suggestions, for no one has so imposing a conception
of the royal dignity."

"That is because no one else has endured so much for the royal cause. I
am the unhappiest woman on earth--" and her tears fell. "I wrote so
upon the walls of my prison and it is still the truth."

"Thérèse, what memories! What a tragedy!"

"In that prison," she exclaimed, "in that horrible prison, while we
underwent the Via Crucis of outrages, there arose like a beautiful star,
illuminating even the prisons and scaffolds,--there arose the PRINCIPLE.
Only the PRINCIPLE is of moment; individuals are as nothing. What matter
our sufferings or the blood that was spilled, or all the heads that fell
if the principle remain the centre of life? But one head fell which
incarnated the PRINCIPLE and it has cried for vengeance to God."

A fire glowed in her faded eyes, her heart beat so rapidly that the
paper beneath the dress rustled. The Duke drew closer but made no effort
to touch even her hands. No sweet transport had united these souls.

"I rejoice to see you thus, Thérèse," he murmured. "What has made the
King fear your attitude on this question?"

"As the King has not suffered, he has no comprehension of the PRINCIPLE.
I pray much for the King. He is a weakling."

"Not so today, Thérèse," the Duke interposed. "His Majesty's tastes
differ, perhaps, from yours, from ours; but when he beholds the ship of
state in danger, then does he recover his spirit, rather then does he
seem to, for in reality he never loses it. Because of his artistic and
philosophical pre-occupations and of his adherence to certain
doctrines--which, to be frank, are not to my liking,--because of these,
he regards at times indifferently what he eventually realizes to be of
supreme importance. There are times when his imagination dominates him,
but he has too great a mind to permit such impressions to be more than
transitory. Do you remember the recent episode of the visionary Martin?
Well, for a while the King was greatly troubled. He believed his end to
be near."

"It is," she observed with no trace of emotion. "His infirmities
increase rapidly."

"All the more reason," he rejoined, "that we should live cautiously. His
Majesty's ill health may cause complications."

"And how does that fear affect your attitude with regard to--imposters?"

"Very closely. Old Martin insisted that one of the imposters was in
reality your brother. May God preserve us from beholding the King a
victim to that illusion. All imposters shall be rebuffed if we stand our
ground. Their multitude and diverse origins destroy whatever advantage
any one of them may have gained. Tho human credulity is infinite, it
seems to me impossible that they should make a lasting impression on the
public or cause any of the European Cabinets to lose confidence in the
government. This last consideration is of the greatest importance.
Europe is at enmity with France, but the Holy Alliance has sustained us,
teas steadied the tottering throne, because we are the principle.
Insidious rumors regarding your brother are being carried to the ears of
European sovereigns. It is insistently claimed that he lives. The
intervention of some foreign cabinet is imminent, which would carry in
train disastrous results. Can we contemplate another invasion of France?
How avoid it if the stigma of usurpers be attached to us?"

The Duchess's eyes were riveted on the carpet.

"Let us thank God," continued the Duke, "that amid the cohort of
adventurers, charlatans and self-deluded fools which is recruited from
all quarters, there is not one whose ability and certificates
differentiate him sufficiently from the others to claim the attention of
Europe. Should such a one arise and triumph over us, the Revolution
which we have crushed would break forth with redoubled fury. Thérèse,
to outward appearance, we lie on a bed of roses; in reality, a volcano
rumbles beneath our feet. We have to act with the greatest
circumspection. We are watched, we are hounded. We, the men and women of
the House Regnant of France, must be wise as the serpent and gentle as
the dove; we must even make compromises. That is why I spoke (in my
proclamation of Saint Jean de Lumière) of crushing tyranny and breaking
chains. That is why I have through the columns of the Meridien prescribed
limits to the zeal of our partizans, who demand blood in the celebration
of our triumph. The King, therefore, would warn you that a false step,
an impulse of generosity from your noble heart might--"

"Do I constitute so great a peril?" she sardonically asked.

"An immense peril,--that of your generous nature, your excessive,--no, I
should not say excessive,--conscientiousness; but, Thérèse, it is so
easy to be misled by our rectitude. Will you believe that my brother
Ferdinand, in whom our hopes of succession lie, (here the Duchess
winced)--for although his children have been girls, a boy may be born to
him,--I repeat that Ferdinand inclines favorably toward the
impostors--that is to say, not all of them, but one in particular."

She revealed her displeasure. Nothing so much irritated her as allusion
to her sterility.

"Ferdinand," she began aimlessly.

"Yes, Ferdinand, following the generous impulses of his heart--or--for
some reason--which--Well, Ferdinand cannot think and act as we
do--because he has lived--has been the slave of his passions. Indeed,
his life resembles, in certain respects that of the impostor whom he
supports. He also lived for a period obscurely and in London, forming
there ties with a woman of the people. You remember Amy Brown and the
children she bore him. When one's antecedents have not been of a licit
character, one is predisposed to make extraordinary excuses for others.
You and I are not of that kind, Thérèse. We may proudly hold up our
heads. Ferdinand has decided to believe that your brother lives, and, in
consequence, places faith in whatever impostor raises his head, saying
that one among them is Charles Louis."

The Duchess trembled, notwithstanding her attempted impassivity.

"My father," resumed the Duke, "alarmed at his attitude, has
remonstrated with him but to no purpose other than that of prevailing
upon him to cease making public display of his opinions. He therefore
no longer proclaims them from the house-top. You, Thérèse, employing the
influence with which your virtues invest you, must caution Ferdinand and
his wife, Caroline, against indiscretions. Insist that the members of
the royal family must act in harmony. What would be the consequence of
the slightest admission?" And, as she remained silent, he added, "You do
not answer."

"Yes, yes, I am about to answer. For three nights I have not slept and
for three days I have prayed continually. O, if among those who assume
my brother's name, there be one who presents proofs,--do you
hear?--irrefutable proofs, to such a one we have no right to apply the
epithet impostor. If he bear incontestable documentary evidence, should
we longer doubt? You know well that Charles Louis's death certificate
has never been found. The copy which exists is not authentic."

Lowering her voice still more, even though aware that they could not be
overheard, she continued:

"You know also that I went incognito to the Hospital of Incurables and
interviewed the cobbler's wife. Notwithstanding my disguise, the
unfortunate woman knew me and said: 'I am not insane. They have placed
me here to silence me. The boy lives.'"

The Duke paced feverishly up and down.

"There are a thousand testimonials and asseverations by conscientious
persons who have recognized this claimant. He says things which only my
brother can say. And as the time has come to speak the whole truth, I
shall tell you that he has written to me. His letter has rested here
three days; it burns like a live coal. It burns my fingers and my
heart."

She pulled the paper from her bosom and placed it before him.

"I had thought myself incapable of tears. I had wept so much that it
seemed impossible to weep always. But this letter has unsealed my tear
ducts. This man knows only what my brother would know. He entreats an
interview. He wishes me to decide his claim. He asks that my heart be
judge, though he offers to bring documentary proofs which any court
would sustain. Why do we refuse to hear him?"

The Duke's perturbation increased.

"Thérèse," he said at length, "your affection for your dead brother is
so well known that these pretenders seek to exploit that affection.
Beware! An imprudent act may blight the dynasty and France; be the ruin
of us all. It rests with you to avert this impending disaster."

"With me? Why with me?"

"Yes, with you," he said almost harshly. "Why did you refuse the
embalmed heart sent you by the physician who performed the autopsy on
the dead boy in the tower? It was a mistake,--a terrible mistake. The
public got wind of it--"

"You say I should have received that offering?--that heart which never
beat in my brother's breast? You dare reproach me with that refusal?
Answer me this: why has the King refused up to this day to be anointed?
Why has the Pope forbidden us to celebrate Charles Louis's funeral
rites? Have you forgotten the singular proceeding of suspending the
mortuary ceremony after the church has been draped in black and the
clergy vested? Have you forgotten the Nuncio's announcement: 'The Church
offers up requiem masses only for the dead?'"

The Duke was dumb.

"Listen," she continued. "Last night as I lay awake the voice of my
mother came to me softly and full of tears. She said only: 'Marie
Thérèse! Marie Thérèse!'"

Losing control of herself, the Duchess sobbed aloud, her face in her
hands.

"We must restore the stolen crown, descend from the usurper's throne.
Ferdinand is right. Why fight an unworthy battle? There are proofs
before which we must recede. You say I am the only man of the family.
'Tis that I am the only member of the family who looks the situation in
the face. Tell the King that there is but one way of demonstrating his
courage; to deliver up his ill gotten goods and make restitution."

The Duke unable to find his voice, mutely rose. Saluting his wife with
the same reverential air he had employed on entering, he passed out of
the door.



Chapter III

REASONS OF STATE


The interior of the King's cabinet contrasted strikingly with the
apartment we have just left. Here we find a veritable museum arranged by
an intelligent hand which has collected something of the most beautiful
in each esthetic epoch.

The Monarch stretched upon his invalid's couch, surrounded by cushions,
his limbs bandaged, converses with his Minister of Police. A fire glows
on the hearth, notwithstanding the warmth of the apartment, all the
windows and doors being closed. 'Tis the loving heart of the young
Countess Cayla that has designed the arrangement of furniture, etc.,
with the effect of securing the greatest comfort.

Disease makes noticeable ravages in the royal countenance, which, though
still expressing a keen intellectual and reflective penetration, even a
repressed enthusiasm, begins to become bloated by an insidious edema.
The eyes, back of their swollen lids, betray blood decomposition. When
the King changes his position, a medicinal odor floats through the
elegant apartment, notwithstanding the profusion of rare flowers in
alabaster Pompeian vases,--prodigies of antique art,--flowers, brought
by the Countess to her invalid friend.

The King economized his conversational forces, replying only when
necessity compelled: his words were always affluent and opportune. He
listened attentively to the Minister, who was saying:

"Greater danger has never threatened the monarchy. I have long foreseen
the evil. 'Tis of many years' standing. My predecessors--I must do them
justice--took every precaution to obviate the result. Le Coq in Berlin
endeavored to prevent what today seems imminent."

Lecazes took a pinch of snuff, and resumed:

"Your Majesty cannot doubt my zeal and activity. My devotion to the
cause has been demonstrated. I have never vacillated in critical
moments, never weakly yielded to circumstances. But in spite of my
efforts and circumspection, a catastrophe stares us in the face."

The King listened attentively and the Minister went on.

"I have endeavored to spare your Majesty the annoyance of listening to
these alarms. I come now to appeal for your help, for only you may avert
the danger.

"One of my deputies, the most resourceful of all, my right hand, indeed,
by name Volpetti, who for a time was in the service of Caroline, Queen
of Sicily;--this Volpetti has for years tracked that--that dangerous
creature. So far he has subjected him to living in a position in which
mischief was impossible of accomplishment. He has been incapacitated for
the attaining of any real advantage--This Volpetti was bequeathed me by
Fouché. He was employed in the surveillance of the individual in
question when I became Minister. During Napoleon's ascendancy, Volpetti
kept this individual well concealed in a Vincennes dungeon; but the
Empress Josephine, with the end of employing him as a weapon in view of
the contingent divorce, adopted the policy of befriending and, finally
of liberating him. After leaving Vincennes, our individual turns up in
Prussia. As he had no civil status, he could give no trouble. He was
nobody. At that time, Volpetti conceived a brilliant idea, that of
playing the friend. He lent him a passport bearing a fictitious name and
authorizing him to reside in Spandau. The individual has never been able
to shuffle off his name. O there is no prison so secure as a name."

"Nevertheless," interposed the King, "when one possesses documents
proving one's identity--"

"I am coming to that," said the Minister, waving his hand in order to
dispel apprehension.

"The preservation of those documents, thro all these years of
vicissitudes is the knot which I cannot unravel. Whence come they? I
conjecture they procede from Barras (with his mania for collections),
and that he gave them to Josephine. She in turn placed them with
Montmorin, who planned his escape and who was subsequently killed in a
skirmish. Those papers constituted an infernal magazine which threatened
to explode at any moment. Volpetti rested not in his search for them,
but they were skilfully concealed. As a last resort, he insinuated into
the life of the individual a woman, excellent hearted and who was
persuaded that she rendered a veritable service by advising him to
deliver the papers to Le Coq."

"And did he?" inquired the King in graceful irony. "I wager that the
woman attained her ends."

"Yes, your Majesty, he delivered certain papers, but the most important
ones he kept--the devil knows where. He preserves them to this day in a
casket."

"Next to woman, the gravest perils to man are documents," murmured the
King in persistent irony.

"Realizing the impossibility of recovering the papers from Le Coq, the
individual subsided. He is of a pacific temperament, tending to inaction
and retirement. He married and devoted himself to his trade of
watch-making--"

"'Tis a family proclivity," observed the King.

"I was saying he is devoted to watch-making and the care of his several
children, among whom there is a daughter, who as a contrast to her
father's impassivity, is action and energy incarnate. It was his ill
fortune to be indicted as an incendiary and counterfeiter and to serve
sentence at hard labor in Silesia--"

"Did this ill fortune come to him in consequence of the cautious policy
of my astute friend and Minister, Lecazes? Let us have no figures of
rhetoric here."

"Your Majesty, when matters arrange themselves in favorable
combinations, a wise man loses no time in hesitation. The sentence
passed was so favorable to our cause, was so strong a card to reserve,
should the individual carry his claims before a tribunal. Think of it!
Counterfeiter, incendiary!--sufficient, I should think, to deter members
of the nobility from advocating his cause, should they be inclined to do
so. Should we complain if hams be rained into our mouths? Shall we
bewail the great number of impostors and dupes who have appeared from
all quarters, finally occasioning so much skepticism among the people
that one more or less makes no difference to them?"

Again the King smiled.

"Come," said he, delighting to pierce the diplomatic artifices of his
minister, "I agree that we have no reason to complain; above all when it
appears that among the horde of spurious Dauphins there is one bearing
marks not unknown to us. Let us talk as men who have learned to vanquish
their conscience; surely we shall not display such bad taste as to
become pedantic moralists."

Lecazes smiled in his turn.

"I do not think," continued the royal invalid in whimsical banter, "that
you class me among the abettors of my nephew; Ferdinand's ardent wish is
to embrace his recovered cousin. Lecazes, prepare to hand in your
resignation on the day of my death."

"Happily for us, your Majesty is much stronger than you yourself
believe. Long life and long reign have you in prospect."

Having delivered himself of this flattery, he resumed:

"It is stated in the court records that the chief cause of the
individual's condemnation was the indignation produced by his absurd
pretensions. He was not proved guilty. He stated that he had been born a
prince and this lost him the respect of the court. My complaint of the
proceedings is that the sentence was for so brief a term. To imprison a
man for a season is only to make him more set in his convictions. When
liberated he is more dangerous than ever. If your Majesty were to ask my
opinion of this man, I should say he was less knave than visionary.
Owing to the stupidity of the Prussian police, it has been impossible to
discover a trace of his ancestry or place of birth. He claims that this
failure to produce confuting evidence proves his claim, and he speaks
logically there."

"He does indeed."

"Well, our--maniac left prison more than ever determined to sustain his
pretensions. To the children that were successively born to him he gave
such names as Amélie (in memory of the flight); Marie Antoinette,
Charles, Edward. This may seem inoffensive, but 'tis far from being so.
Persistency in this fixed idea has continued to envelop him more and
more in a tattered purple mantle. His sceptre is a reed in truth, but it
gives him, nevertheless, the appearance of a persecuted martyr. Your
Majesty will agree that our individual is not to be placed in the same
category as the multitude whom, after disproving, we have endeavored to
construct into a parapet serving as a blockade to effectually shut out
possible pretenders bearing credentials having the appearance of
genuiness."

"I agree with you that this is a grave matter."

"That aureole of martyrdom elicits faith and devotion. For example, when
the individual on leaving prison established himself in Crossen, with
not a sou in his purse, he found there a magistrate who gave him a large
sum of money and became a champion of his cause. His enthusiasm became
so pronounced that the prince of Coralath's secretary was obliged to
observe to the fellow that Prussia contained dungeons for the reception
of those who meddle in what does not concern them. The remark having no
effect, the magistrate soon received in heaven the reward for his
devotion to the cause."

"Did he die?" inquired the King.

"He did, your Majesty, from a sudden illness. We have reason to believe
that he and no other was the guardian of the cursed documents, those
explosives. When dying, he spoke incoherently of the prince's papers."

"Why was the opportunity not improved?"

"Unfortunately I was not on hand. The police got wind of the death and
confiscated what papers they could lay their hands on, but those desired
were evidently well concealed. The German police have leaden feet and
heads of straw. Was it not childish to search for evidences in the house
of the suspected man? A fool indeed would he have been to hide them
there. Not less than ten times has the impostor's house been raided,
under pretext of fire or burglary or what not, but to no purpose. They
have not been near him. But lately since his residence in England he has
kept them, for in England we have not so free a field--"

"He has lived in England?"

"Yes, your Majesty, he moved there from Prussia, realizing that a
country whose cabinet was not on friendly terms with ours and in which
respect for the home is carried to great lengths, was a more appropriate
habitat for him than Prussia. In England our individual, ceasing to
write letters to influential personages of Europe and failing to
receive the desired recognition, devoted himself to watch-making and
chemistry. He is said to have invented a new explosive."

"Why then has he been molested? When a man lives inoffensively--"

"Your Majesty, he was not disturbed, tho we continued to watch him. Our
suspicions were aroused when we learned that he had sent his eldest
daughter to France. This girl is an able strategist, a second edition of
La Mothe. She caught in her net no less a nobleman than the Marquis de
Brezé."

"Eve enters the garden," piquantly observed the King.

"Matters became complicated indeed. The girl sought nothing less than
the undermining of the throne. I tried to sever the cords by making the
Duchess of Rousillon--"

"That inflated hen? Competent agent indeed!"

"I commissioned her to reveal the antecedents of the girl's father to
the infatuated Marquis. But Love was blind as usual, and the Marquis
slipped through our hands and arrived in England just in time to save
his prospective father-in-law's life."

"His life? Who threatened his life?"

"Oh, pickpockets! one of those nocturnal encounters so common in London
streets. That is an unimportant detail in our narrative. We are
reaching the heart of the matter. The girl had captured the Marquis with
the aim of establishing in the very camp of French aristocracy a
following for her father. The precious documents were confided to René
and a journey to France arranged, the three to meet in Dover."

"And how have you ascertained these particulars, Baron?"

"Should I be doing my duty, did I not gather every particular? My
business is to know all things regarding this infernal plot. Volpetti no
sooner learned where the confederates were to meet than he arranged to
put up at the same inn. He possessed himself of the papers by the
cleverest strategy--"

The King, unmindful of his disabled limbs, half jumped from the couch.

"Then we are saved!" he cried. "For Volpetti surely destroyed them at
once."

"Your Majesty, I never trust my agents implicitly. I spy upon my spies.
Fruits of research I require to be always delivered into my hands.
Otherwise, they might report to me that damning testimony has been
destroyed, and meanwhile retain the deadly weapon, to turn it at any
moment against me. No, they have express orders to destroy nothing."

"You were saying that Volpetti obtained possession of the papers."

"Yes; now the imbroglio becomes more complicated. A new power intervenes
in the individual's behalf. Can your Majesty guess whom I mean?"

"The Carbonari."

"Precisely; the Carbonari,--the association which plants mines under our
feet, and which carries on the Revolution beneath the earth. They have
written on their statutes: 'The Bourbons have been brought back by
foreigners; the Carbonari will restore to France freedom of choice.'
Your Majesty, this society has members in every department of
government; they are numerous in the army; they exist even in the Royal
Council. They make it impossible for us to obliterate devotion to
Napoleon; they constitute an incessant protest against the established
régime."

"How the devil did the Carbonari become the champions of this
pretender?"

"A countermine, your Majesty. It happened that in Dover at the same inn
were two members of the order having unsettled scores from old Italian
days against Jacome Volpetti."

"My friend, the spy who was set upon the individual should have had no
unsettled scores pending with members of the Carbonari."

Lecazes winced, tho he was well aware that the words had for their sole
object giving annoyance to him. He continued:

"Well, the Carbonari succeeded in murdering the police agent who
accompanied our spy. They then despoiled Volpetti of the papers, after
which they carried him, tied and gagged, aboard a French vessel, whose
captain was also a member of the association. He would have been
murdered also, had he not succeeded in freeing himself and leaping into
the sea, from which he was rescued by an English schooner. The French
vessel gave chase and so riddled the other by cannon balls, that, unable
to defend herself, and being moreover the victim of a fire which--"

"Bravo, Lecazes, redoubtable romancer!" exclaimed the King mockingly.

"Your Majesty, I relate history, beside which romancing is a tame art.
Weil, to resume: in spite of piracy and conflagration, Volpetti reached
the coast near Pleneuf. At the same time, unaware of their enemy's
salvation, the two Carbonari, de Brezé, Naundorff and his daughter
disembarked also on French soil."

"How do you explain the coalition of the Carbonari and the pretender?"

"Your Majesty is well aware that, provided they work against the present
administration, the association has carte blanche to make such
combinations as are considered best. In that branch of the Carbonari
known as Knights of Liberty, each member is free to follow his own
judgment, to take risks and accept consequences. The Knights of Liberty
constitute the germinating centre of crime. Notwithstanding the dispatch
with which Volpetti issued warnings that the party be denied entry into
Paris, he was outwitted. They arrived. The individual is _here_, beneath
the powerful shelter of the association. The documents are doubtless
well guarded. All efforts to obtain them by violence would be in vain. I
have not the slightest clue to their place of concealment."

"Is de Brezé with the pretender?"

"Yes, and one of the Carbonari, an Italian."

"Where is the girl?"

"She has been placed for security in the Castle of Picmort. She was
guarded by one of the Carbonari, but this man has started on one of
those journeys which are characteristic of the society."

"Do you not consider it possible that the girl carries the documents?"

"I do not think so. In the first place, de Brezé through chivalry,--and
he is a Paladin--would never give her a charge of grave peril; besides,
the place for those papers is Paris."

"Then peace and happiness to the maiden in her Picmort refuge!" sighed
the King.

"The Duchess informs me that the steward of the castle may prove a
formidable rival to the Marquis in the affections of the fascinating
intriguante."

"My blessing on the sylvan pair! An eclogue, indeed! A peasant lover!"
remarked the King with a Voltairian laugh, after which he hummed:

    "In the lap of Phillis
    Damon streweth flowers
    Wet with dews of morning."

Lecazes, not heeding the poetical interruption, continued:

"With regard to the documents, your Majesty, a subject which seems to
bore you, I affirm that they are in Paris, because, among other reasons,
the individual would have need of them in order to convince Madame the
Duchess, whom it is his intention of addressing--"

"Also Ferdinand, I suppose--"

"Ferdinand is already convinced. Is your Majesty, perchance, ignorant
that he recognizes the pretender? But his action is of no moment
compared to that of Madame, the Dauphin's prison companion. Madame
should be warned."

"What plan do you propose, Lecazes? As for me, I confess myself
incompetent to forge methods of outwitting a woman."

"Listen, then. If we might arrange that Madame shall receive the
individual--"

"What!" exclaimed the King.

"If she will grant him this secret interview and exact that he deliver
to her the documents, in order that she may become convinced of his
identity--"

The King applauded, cordially, sonorously, as tho he were a spectator at
a theatrical representation,--the only character, he used to say, that
suited him. He rendered homage to his Minister's genius.

"Enough!" he exclaimed. "I comprehend."

"Your Majesty divines the rest?"

"I divine, my friend, but--"

Lecazes radiantly took a pinch of aromatic snuff, and asked:

"But what?"

"But who is to tie the bell on the cat's neck? Who is to persuade my
niece--"

"Her husband may convince her."

"Her husband? Lecazes, you and I are not children. My good nephew Louis
is unacquainted with the art of influencing his wife. He treats her with
such profound respect that--well, they fail utterly to understand each
other. Whence comes this awkwardness in the second generation in dealing
with women? Louis is my reproach, though I must admit that Ferdinand
does me honor. Besides, Lecazes, you know well that I have instructed
Louis to advise his wife to act as tho no such impostor exists."

Steps sounded in the adjoining apartment.

"Silence!" said the King. "Tis Ferdinand or Louis."

A moment later, the elegant martial figure of the Duke appeared in the
door.

"You arrive opportunely, nephew," said Louis XVIII, as the Duke
respectfully kissed his hand. "Be seated and give us news. What says
Marie Thérèse?"

"Sire, I do not bring you pleasant news. Madame is strangely exalted.
She has received a letter from that--man, which she carries over her
heart."

"Repress your jealousy," replied the King in banter.

"I experience only sadness," replied the Duke with sincerity, "She
suffers greatly and I suffer with her. She has not slept for three
nights nor eaten for three days. She passes hours in prayer--"

"That is your fault!"

"Mine, sire?" exclaimed the Duke.

"Emphatically so, my little Louis. When a woman, such as is your wife, a
woman who would die rather than even look at another man,--when she
becomes fad, 'tis that her husband is indifferent. Listen; the time has
come when I must speak the truth: you have behaved like a simpleton. You
have never won her heart. You have treated her with a veneration such as
the devote evinces toward the marble statues of saints."

"Sire, you know well that I am more in my element at the head of a
regiment than with women. I do not understand them."

"The devil! This cursed generation seems to have been born blasé,
destitute even of a sense of beauty. The reason that I love your brother
Ferdinand is that he is the living reproduction of our ancestor, Henry
of Navarre. The 'ultras' are scandalized at his romance with the English
girl. Well, we must beautify our life with illusion or we should become
stone. I have kept my heart in its place always, even though I have
been a wretched invalid. Not that I have given myself up to material
joys. We become divine through that exaltation evoked by the presence of
woman. The Countess is the intermediary between soul and faith,--faith
in the beautiful. You know that here there is no possibility of descent
into matter--An old man in ruined health!"

The Duke frowned, struggling between respect for his uncle and
repugnance towards his theories.

"In short, Louis, my aching limbs are already in the grave. I have done
ail in my power to protect the institutions in my charge. I have
subjugated my convictions, my reason, my skepticism, in order to be true
to the trust confided to me. With my right hand I have restrained the
Revolution; with my left the excesses of an imbecile and sanguinary
Reaction. Lecazes has aided me and aids me. But Louis, my heir, if you
falter, I shall contend no longer, even tho the monarchy perish. In vain
will you have combatted at the pass of Ivon, at Ravenheim and
afterwards, beside the unfortunate Eugene. Bah! The hardest battles are
these of state, my son."

The Duke was moved. When the King discarded his habitual raillery, he
evinced genuine majesty. Almost subjugated, he knelt at his uncle's
feet, saying:

"What can I do for the monarchy, for God? I am willing to give my life,
if necessary."

"Much less than that is required," replied the King, affectionately.
"All that I ask is that you act the part of an affectionate husband,
which you are; that you treat your wife tenderly, passionately--"

"To what end, Sire?"

"Lecazes will inform you, for I am greatly fatigued. I must be careful
of my forces, as tomorrow will be Wednesday and the Countess Cayla will
be here to make some hours heaven to me."



Chapter IV

CONJUGAL LOVE


That evening at the customary hour for lighting the lamps in the various
apartments of the royal palace, the ladies in waiting to Madame the
Duchess were surprised to see her accompanied by her husband on leaving
the table. As the august pair entered the Duchess's apartments, the
attendants discreetly withdrew and the lady motioned the Duke to a seat;
but he, with unaccustomed gallantry, hastened to place himself beside
her on the sofa and with the precipitation characteristic of a limited
experience in conjugal affectionate demonstration, seized both her hands
and effusively began:

"Thérèse, do you remember what anniversary it is tomorrow? The tenth of
June, our marriage day?"

"Indeed?" she replied. "How slowly time passes."

"To me it seems as tho we had been married yesterday. 'Twas in the
little chapel of Mittau. Listen, Thérèse: I fear at times that I have
not made you happy. Am I mistaken? You treat me so distantly."

"I have been--happy," she stammered. "You know that it is not in my
nature to be violently so."

"The time of mourning has passed," he said, kissing her slender
patrician hands. "Look back no longer. Those who have suffered as much
as we have a right to happiness."

Her face flushed as his warmth increased.

"To live and rejoice!" she sighed. "That is not my destiny, nor yours,
Louis. We have greater trials in store. I feel their approach. I told
you this morning that we have not sufficiently expiated."

"My Thérèse, you who are so good a Christian should not impugn the
justice of God. Have you not suffered sufficiently to appease Him? Have
you not even the right to breathe? Do you experience no emotion now that
your husband is at your side? Were the reasons of state which prescribed
our marriage not in accord with your sentiment? Would you choose me
again if you were free? Can you not love?"

She blushed to hear these extraordinary words. His transformation was
wonderful and seemed to be changing her, the austere Duchess, into a
girl of twenty.

"Louis," she answered with noble simplicity, "since the death of my
parents, I have loved only you. I fear at times that God will punish
this excessive devotion to a creature."

"Cousin, wife," he ardently exclaimed, "'tis God's will that we love
each other. You know well that tho at times I seem absorbed and cold, I
am never even in thought unfaithful. Have you any complaint, any
accusation?"

"I have believed," she replied, "that you did not love me. But I have
never doubted you. That would have been unendurable."

He clasped her to his breast.

"Since you are so well convinced of my love," he whispered, "you will
grant a request, you will permit me to influence that upright
conscience, that noble heart."

She drew herself away instinctively, but he clasped her more closely,
and she remained a happy prisoner.

"My wife," he pursued, "you are under the domination of a great sorrow.
This morning you were almost hysterical. I suffered in seeing you so
troubled. Now, we must be absolutely frank with one another. I fear for
your reason if you continue to torment yourself about an ambitious fool.
Listen to me and listen tranquilly. Your clear intelligence has become
temporarily clouded. Your mind will soon recover its lucidity. You are
now of the opinion that the man is being victimized, whereas he is
nothing more than a keen-witted impostor, bolder and armed with more
formidable documents than his predecessors."

"Do you really believe that the writer of this letter is an impostor?"

"Well: not precisely an impostor, Thérèse,--a dupe, rather, believing
himself to be the prince. 'Tis a frequent phenomenon. Our reason is
subject to such fluctuations that one is capable of confusing even his
own individuality with that of another. You doubtless remember the case
of the Spanish pie-vender who believed himself King Sebastian; or
Pougatchef of Russia who under the name of Demetrius claimed the
throne."

"What of the documents mentioned in the letter which he maintains would
confirm his claim before any French tribunal?"

"Little by little. To begin with, we are not certain that they exist.
Have you seen them? Doubt, then, of their existence, until you have them
in your hands for examination. Let us suppose that the documents are
genuine, does it therefore follow that the possessor is the prince? So
great has been the confusion caused by the Revolution, unscrupulous
persons have acquired such unrestricted power, our family secrets have
been so profanely exploited, that 'twould be no wonder indeed that the
papers should be in the hands of the veriest adventurer."

She remained silent, but the voice she loved so well opened an ever
widening breach in her faith.

"Reflect," he continued, "how the Revolution has scattered important
papers. Great frauds have stood upon stolen or spurious documents. But
in this instance 'tis evident that the entire plot has for its object
the exploitation of your credulity and tender memories. In order to
prove whether his claim be true or false, subject your correspondent to
a test."

"Louis," she said, clasping her hands, "on listening to you, my reason
vacillates. My God, what shall I do?"

"Bid the man come to you."

"Did you not this morning express disapproval of my receiving him?"

"I have changed my mind. You must grant him a secret interview. You must
discover the nature of those documents. Require him to bring them to
you. You surely do not intend to take his word for it that they exist.
Get possession of his proofs and then we shall be able to judge.--Now,
let me tell you something of this man's past life. You know nothing of
his history, tho he is proposing to throw himself into your arms. He
belongs to the lowest class of Prussian people. His father was a
mechanic, son of a kettle-mender. Until very recently he has been a
watch-maker. He has been convicted of two grave crimes,--counterfeiting
and arson. He has served a sentence at hard labor in a Silesia prison.
What say you, Thérèse, to the seating upon the throne of Saint Louis a
felon whose wrists and ankles have borne infamous manacles?"

She looked affrightedly at her husband.

"You are horrified? Well, you have heard but the beginning. This man was
the victim of misery owing, in all probability, to his vices. He was
rescued by a woman. This woman, many years his senior, was for a long
period his--Thérèse I dare not explain the relation to you. I respect
you too highly to pronounce the revolting words. But what do you say to
the artifice of calling this woman his sister? Can you longer believe it
probable that his body holds the royal blood?"

The blow was well aimed. The color mounted to the Duchess's face and she
assumed an indignant attitude. The Duke caressed her consolingly:

"After that unsavory episode, he contracted matrimony. His wife is a
woman of the lowest origin, vulgar, insignificant. But, in compensation,
he has an ambitious daughter, a veritable phenomenon indeed. 'Tis not an
ordinary spectacle, that of a girl of eighteen or nineteen occupying
herself with vaulting schemes--"

"Perhaps not with vaulting schemes," rejoined the Duchess meditatively.
"Nevertheless at eighteen there exists a clear comprehension of duty and
expediency--"

"O Thérèse, _you_, you were early matured through suffering."

"And perhaps this young girl also."

The Duke was silent. He regretted the turn their conversation had taken.
He sought not to awaken pity, so he suddenly faced his battery in
another direction.

"Your would-be brother, the Prussian mechanic, seeks to found a new
religion. He is therefore a heretic, which is reason sufficient for
excommunication and deprivation of the Church's sacraments."

These words produced an extraordinary effect upon the Duchess. She was a
fervent Catholic devotee, intensified by the Revolution. Her cheeks
burned and her eyes shot anger.

"Not only does he profess heresy," resumed the Duke, "but he proclaims
and propagates his doctrines. He has written a book entitled 'The
Heavenly Doctrine.' It contains an arraignment of the Church and
interprets arbitrarily the Holy Scriptures. 'Tis clear that his motive
in attacking Catholicity is retaliation, the Pope having refused to
indorse his absurd pretensions. His marriage was according to Protestant
rites. It is claimed that he reckons as a saint that old Martin who
pretends revelations from the archangel Raphael."

"The King has received that old man," remarked the Duchess. "It is said
that he spoke dreadful prophecies. The hand of God weighs heavily upon
us!"

"Thérèse, it is unworthy a strong intelligence to attach importance to
such nonsense. The old idiot would today be in a mad-house but for the
indulgence of the King."

"Well," said she, making a great effort, "am I to grant this interview,
then?"

"Certainly, that your mind may be at rest. Light drives away phantoms.
The King desires you to receive the man. Make it a condition that he
bring the documents. Arrange that the conference be secret, for 'tis
necessary to proceed with the greatest caution. Our enemies are
vigilant. Thérèse, I hold forth both arms to sustain the tottering
throne, but shall be powerless unless you help me. Have I in you an
ally? You and I must not work at cross purposes."

He clasped his wife in his arms, uttering endearing words which seemed a
promise of new days, full of happiness, and of a perfect union. The
Duchess listened rapturously to the husband whom the state and church
had given her. Her smothered youth rose in a strong tide. She realized
that the grief which had really oppressed her through so many years was
the glacial attitude which she and the Duke had maintained towards; each
other. Closing her eyes, she leaned upon his; breast. He folded her in
his arms and led her into the adjoining apartment, her dormitory,
through which they passed into the oratory. They walked to the crimson
prie-Dieu and knelt together upon; the velvet cushion. Holding her hand
tightly, he solemnly said:

"Before God, who hears us, Thérèse,--sole woman that exists on earth for
me,--and He knows I speak the truth,--promise me that you will save the
royal House of France from perishing, that you will not permit the
impious to rejoice nor the enemies of the cause to triumph, that you
will prevent the sacred oil from being poured upon the head of this
counterfeiter, this incendiary, this heretic. If he be an impostor,
'twould be sacrilegious; if he be not an impostor (to state an
impossible case) his accession to the throne would let loose again
license and unbridled passions which would precipitate a second
Revolution. Promise, Thérèse. Swear!"

She raised her eyes to the crucifix. The thorn-crowned face against the
dark background seemed, in a sublime melancholy, to murmur: "Father
forgive them--" The oath died on her lips.

"Swear, Thérèse, my love, my wife!" repeated the Duke.

Tears coursed down her face as she groaned: "I swear, my God, I swear,"
and sank in a nervous paroxysm into her husband's arms. He had
triumphed. Sustaining her, he led the Duchess from the oratory.



Chapter V

THE SISTER


In the sitting-room of a small inn whose sign reads "Hotel d'Orleans"
sat the five persons whom the Polipheme brought to France. Amélie, no
longer a fresh radiant girl, and in deep mourning for her husband, Jean
Vilon, sits beside René who whispers:

"When shall I see you light-hearted, Amélie? I am jealous of the dead.
He robs me of you."

"What else may I do than wear black? He was a great heart. Do not wonder
at my grief, René."

Naundorff's face was almost transfigured. He looked twenty years
younger. He seemed to have lost consciousness of his past sufferings.
Joy obliterated sorrow and his lips were wreathed in smiles.

"My friends," he was saying, "I reproach myself for having doubted of
human justice. Early or late, the human heart turns to good as the body
to earth. This is the happiest moment of my unhappy life. I am about to
receive a great consolation and greatly did I require it, for on
reaching Paris, my old wounds were re-opened. To return here after so
many years and with such a record fastened to my name! I have visited my
parents' prison. Yes, I have had the courage to do so. I am a man of
memories. The tower has already been demolished. What haste to
obliterate my past! In the remainder of the building a convent has been
established, to which I have been refused admittance. I was brave enough
to walk on the bloody ground whereon my mother--"

Amélie rose and threw her arms around her father's neck.

"Why do I dwell on this theme?" he asked, resuming his radiant
expression. "Has not my destiny changed aspect? In spite of what we have
suffered on the voyage, in spite of what you, my loved Amélie, have
suffered, I say: 'Blessed be the hour in which I left London! Blessed
the inspiration whereby I saved that wretch! These things have been
registered to my credit. Blessed the faith I had in the one person who
can save me and whose heart throbs at the sound of my name!'"

He fervently crossed his hands in an attitude of prayer.

"It is my duty to announce to you the secret of my happiness. You have
cast your lives into my cause and braved even death. But danger has at
last ceased; and the sun has chased away the clouds. I am happy, happy.
O how strange that word sounds on my lips!"

Louis Pierre fixed on Naundorff a penetrating look and said:

"Monseigneur, we are waiting to know in what that happiness consists--"

"Listen, listen. This morning at about eleven o'clock a most affable
gentleman brought me a message in answer to a letter I had written,--can
you guess to whom?"

Then with his heart in his voice, he added:

"My sister, my sister!"

There was a moment of silence. Then Amélie asked almost sharply:

"Are we to infer that Madame does not Know how to write?"

"My dear child, what more can she do than send me word she will receive
me--"

"Receive _us_?" asked the girl.

"No, myself only. Amélie, consider that you are a stranger to her,
whereas I am the companion of her childhood, the boy who wept and
suffered with her during captivity. She consents to see me. Do you
think this little? I asked only that much, for I know that once
together, she will run to embrace me. O that embrace!"

"Does she summon you to the Palace?"

"No--not to the palace--"

"Aha! the meeting is to be clandestine!"

"My God!" groaned Naundorff. "How you poison the first happiness I have
tasted! Can you not read the state of my soul? Ambition! 'Tis an
illusive folly. I long only for those arms to be opened to me in which
as a little child I slept. What are a crown and sceptre worth? Such
baubles do not allure me. I wish above all things to recover my name and
to feel my sister's kisses. Those kisses will banish the spectre back of
my forehead. Am I mad? Have I dreamed my past life? _She_, _she_ will
tell me the truth."

"But father," remonstrated Amélie, "why do you permit such doubts to
overpower you? Do you not possess proofs? Have you not cited many
corroborating circumstances? Have you not been recognized by your
father's faithful servitors? By Madame Rambaud who rocked you in your
cradle? Did you not remind her that the blue velvet dress you were to
wear to Versailles was tight in the sleeves and that it was in
consequence removed? Did she not exclaim on hearing you: 'This is my
prince and my king?"

"Well, Amélie, in spite of these testimonials, I, myself falter in
faith. My past seems too extraordinary to fit within the bounds of the
possible. Perhaps I _am_ a visionary, one of the many in the ranks of
spurious Dauphins who have emerged from every corner of France. 'Tis
true that I possess genuine documentary proof; of that I am certain. But
these papers may have been placed in my hands for an end
incomprehensible to me. Montmorin, himself, that hero of loyalty, may
have been duped. This is the terrible suspicion which seizes me always
at the moment when I most require confidence and courage."

Amélie sent René a look almost of anguish. Naundorff continued:

"_She_ is the only cure for this unbearable incertitude. _She_ is all
that remains of my past. Her voice calling me 'Brother' will sweep the
cobwebs from my brain and restore my faith forever."

"Are we to understand, Monseigneur," asked René, "that you may not enter
the Palace? Is Madame to visit you here?"

"No; we have agreed to meet in Versailles park, the place where as
children we so often played together. My sister is accustomed to visit
Versailles occasionally that she may be undisturbed in her religious
devotions and perform works of charity among the poor. Ah! my sister is
an angel. In the midst of the brilliant court life, she is an angel.
They have sought to harden her and weaken her clear judgment, but such
effort has been futile. Yes, 'tis Versailles where we shall meet in six
days, next Thursday. I am to be just without the garden. We are to meet
in the grove of Apollo, from which the public is excluded; she visits
the park only on festival days. All these details have been
explained.--I know so well that our first act will be to cast ourselves
into each other's arms and mingle our tears. We have not yet mourned our
mother together!"

Louis Pierre contracted his thin lips in a bitter smile and caustically
remarked:

"So this is to be all, Monseigneur? Only a fraternal embrace?"

"No, indeed. She wishes to see the documents. I shall therefore take
them to her and also the manuscript--"

If a bomb had exploded in their midst, not more consternation could have
been evinced. They exclaimed in chorus:

"The papers!"

"Never!" protested Amélie.

"'Tis an infernal trap!" exclaimed Louis Pierre.

"Bandits! The snare is well laid," added Giacinto.

"Monseigneur!" implored de Brezé. "Those papers are of inestimable value
to us; they should be exhibited only before a court of justice. Our
enemies seek to obtain possession of these papers, and, if they succeed,
our cause is lost. The watch-maker Naundorff will be without proofs of
his identity."

Naundorff became tremulous with anger.

"Dare not impute such infamy to my sister or I shall attribute villainy
to yourselves. In this matter, I accept suggestions from no one. 'Tis an
affair between God and myself. This is not a question for man to settle,
for what value have the misleading judgments of earth? _I_ alone decide.
_I_ am the State! _I_ am the King. These papers pertain to myself only,
even as my life is my exclusive property. If my sister, on seeing me,
shall waive material proofs, how happy I shall be! But if she doubt or
repulse me, what a joy, what a Satanic joy 'twill be to fling these
testimonials in her face and say, 'Farewell forever. Our mother curses
you!'"

He broke into a mocking laugh, such a laugh as terminates in nervous
hysteria, while the others with saddened faces remained silent. Then he
rose to leave, saying to de Brezé:

"René, I trust to you to bring me the papers Thursday morning. If you do
not accede to this request, you will force me to violence."

As he passed out, Amélie said entreatingly to her lover:

"Save him in spite of himself. Keep them in their place of concealment,
for there they are secure."

"Most secure," replied de Brezé. "They are with a friend, Gontran de
Lome. He thinks them a compromising love correspondence of mine. Who
would suspect that amiable Lovelace? Nevertheless, in spite of his
dissipations, he is a man of honor and discretion. I guarantee the
security of the papers while they remain with Gontran. But should your
father demand them, Amélie, I cannot refuse. He is the arbiter of his
fate and of our own as well."

The Carbonari meanwhile conversed in low tones. After a while Louis
Pierre advanced saying:

"There lives in Versailles a sister of mine, who terminated her vagrant
peddling existence by the establishment of a little shop. Giacinto and I
have formulated a plan which we shall explain to you. We cannot fold
our arms in the moment of danger."

"Noble friends!" said Amélie, extending her hands to the two men.

"No, Mademoiselle; you are entitled to our lives. You were made in
heaven and the mourning you wear for that unfortunate peasant testifies
to the greatness of your soul. I would let myself be torn to pieces for
you. Our danger is grave. From the moment the papers are delivered to
our enemies, our necks will be in danger. Louis Pierre and I are
endeavoring to counteract the blunder which--pardon me,--was committed
in consequence of your father's generosity. I take an oath that 'tis the
man whom I have vowed to kill that has woven the net which has caught
your father. Has not your father suffered enough to destroy the
impression that all men are to be trusted?"

"My opinion," said Louis Pierre, "is that the hands that have woven the
snare are whiter and more patrician than the spy's, however much he love
and care for them. An iniquitous plot has been hatched at the Duchess's
shoulders, for the securing of the papers. If we find it impossible to
prevent the catastrophe, why vengeance remains," he concluded, his face
taking on a tragic grandeur.



Chapter VI

LOUIS PIERRE'S SISTER


Those to whom the gardens and parks of Versailles are not familiar can
form no idea of the manner in which aristocratic dignity imparts
elegance to rural, sites. The impression is not that of sweet melancholy
so often produced by country scenes but rather of a lofty magnificence,
which weighs upon the soul and becomes even a solemn ennui, which
proceeds from the very regularity and grandeur of the royal domain,
wherein one still involuntarily looks for powder-headed dames and
cavaliers in embroidered waist-coats.

On Sundays it was permitted the public to enjoy the park, which during
the week was deserted save for the gardeners and guard, who, wearing
bandoliers and holding rifles, watched over the safety of whatever
members of the royal family happened to be in the Palace.

Nazario Patin, sergeant of the guard, was quite taken aback on receiving
orders to retire the soldiers on Thursday from the avenue leading to
the Great lawn, from the Latona pond, the Columnata wood and the Apollo
grove. A second order, no less explicit, followed to the effect that he
was to hold these guards in waiting in the assembly hall, in case they
should be needed.

On Wednesday evening the Duchess arrived at the Palace. Patin
soliloquized:

"She wishes to promenade tomorrow and look on no human countenance, so
greatly is she given to prayer and meditation. But that the guard should
be retired! Hum! I can't understand."

On Thursday four men wearing the simple uniform of the ordinary guard,
bearing rifles and in their belts hunting knives, arrived in the
deserted park from the Ville d'Avray road and approached one of the
little gates opening towards les Trianones which Marie Antoinette,
discarding pompous ceremonial, used to frequent. Cautiously they opened
the gate, using a key carried by him who seemed the leader. They held a
conference in low tones, as tho fearful of disturbing the birds in the
trees. The leader's southern type revived recollections of the Catalan
smuggler, Albert Serra, a gentleman whom we met in the apartments of
Baron Lecazes, just returned from London and professing to have
successfully lightered a ship of a cargo of cutlery. This was
Volpetti's disguise when he wished to represent a man of the lower
classes.

"Beware!" he was saying to the others. "Listen well and execute even
better. A false step will be fatal to our object. You, Lestrade, are to
guide him into the garden. He comes by the route we have taken and will
travel on foot from this side Le Chesnay. As for you, Sec and La Grive,
remain without, near the gate. I only shall remain inside the park. When
he leaves the garden, I shall follow him; and if I signal you by raising
my arm, throw yourselves upon him, gagging and binding him. Whatever you
find upon his person is to be taken to my superior, the Minister of
Police. No matter what happens save the booty. Your lives, my life, are
worth nothing in comparison. Whoever carries the prize to the Minister
will be a lucky man, I pledge my word."

Making motions of assent, the party dispersed. A deep quiet spread over
the park, along whose paths the Duchess was even now walking. Her dress
of violet silk embroidered in passementerie, betokened mourning. She
held her hand on her heart to still its beating. At about the same time,
Patin, sergeant of the guard, his services not being required, turned
his steps in the direction of a lady friend, a certain laundress, in
whose kitchen, so gossip had it, there was never lack of savory dishes
and pleasant chitchat for the handsome sergeant. On ascending the
stairway, he met a girl whose face seemed glorified by the splendor
light of yellow hair, arranged in curls, according to the style of the
period. As he drew back to make room for her, he muttered to himself:

"The picture of the beheaded Queen!"

Some moments later he was asking the laundress, as she stood at her
table ironing a dainty garment:

"Who is that young girl in mourning that has just left your neighbor's
apartment?"

"I do not know. I have never spoken with her but I scent a mystery.
There is a cat in a bag, several cats, rather. You know my neighbor
well."

"I should say I did. I have known her and her brother Louis Pierre
Louvel a lifetime. Such a sullen silent fellow! I wonder where he is
now. No one seems to have heard of him since the banishment of his
beloved Emperor."

"Why he is here, my boy. He has been here for three days. He brought
with him to his sister's house that young girl and a handsome young man.
They came stealthily and they have all kept as quiet as mice. I have not
seen even Louis Pierre's sister. She must however go out at night to
buy provisions. But through a window I have seen the f aces of Louis
Pierre and the handsome gentleman."

"Has he been casting eyes at you?" jealously inquired Patin, whereupon
his mistress boxed his ears, and so diverted his thoughts from this
trend of suspicion regarding the new comers.

"I could swear that these people are conspiring," remarked the
laundress.

"You are dreaming, my dear. I have but just met the girl on the stairs.
Why should you become suspicious because a brother visits his sister?"

"That a brother should visit a sister causes me no surprise, but there
are queer kinds of brothers and queer ways of paying visits. Will you
believe that the sister denied to me yesterday that her brother was with
her?"

"Rosa, that is indeed strange," remarked the sergeant pensively.

"I do not like Louis Pierre. He is capable of anything."

"Well, my little Rosa, stop your gossip. I don't suppose danger is being
plotted. Neither the King nor Princes are in the castle; as for the
Duchess, she is a saint whom no one would harm. What amazes me is the
resemblance of the girl to the dead Queen."

"She is a live bird, I'll warrant," answered the woman.

While this dialogue was in progress, the blond girl in black rapidly
crossed several streets and reached a deserted square shaded by elm
trees. She was almost immediately joined by a man with whom she walked
for some distance, entering at last the beginning of a park by a path
which skirted the wall. The man consulted from time to time a paper plan
which he carried in his hands. He stopped suddenly and examined a breach
in the wall.

"Louis Pierre was right," he said.

He vaulted the fence and held forth his arms for the girl, who, crawling
along the ruins, came within his reach. Taking her by the waist, he held
her for a moment against his breast and spoke passionate words of love.

"Amélie!" he whispered, "when will you become mine for all time? I adore
you more than ever."

"René, I long for it as much as you. But O the saddest of presentiments
weighs upon me. My father's mind seems giving way beneath the weight of
his sorrows. His reason is clouded and confused. If his sister does not
open her arms today, alas for him, alas for us! And she will not; this
interview is part of an infernal plot--"

"Amélie, you express my fears also. But none of your father's friends
are sleeping on their oars. Louis Pierre knows every inch of ground on
this place. We are here to defend the cause, he, Giacinto and I. 'Twould
have been better had you not come."

"Perhaps so, René, but I wanted so much to be near you. Do not heed my
seeming coldness of the last few days. How could I fail in mourning for
that innocent, noble man,--victim of low intrigues and his own loyalty?
He typifies the people, the people sacrificed to the classes."

"I have been jealous of your devotion, your gratitude. I have longed to
be the dead. Had I died, what should you have done?"

"Died with you, René."

He stooped and kissed her eyes, holding her close in his arms.



Chapter VII

THE INTERVIEW


On reaching the appointed place, the Duchess fell upon a garden seat,
seemingly very tired. Taking a lace handkerchief from the reticule which
hung at her wrist, she wiped the perspiration from her forehead. She
consulted the watch at her belt and found it lacked ten minutes of the
time set. She sighed, resigning herself to wait.

At last she heard the approach of footsteps; some moments later a man
with uncovered head stood before her. Marie Thérèse de Bourbon uttered
no cry. She was stricken dumb. After so many years, she beheld standing
before her against the crimson background of the sky, which looked like
a nimbus of blood, the Past, the terrible, tragic Past. It surged again
to overwhelm her, that Past, the sorrows of which seemed to have been
calmed by time; the terrors of the prison; the flaring up of frail hopes
destined to be dashed to earth; the incertitude of the fate of loved
ones; ardent prayers to heaven to work miracles; entreaties; outrages;
infinite despair: all these rose again out of that terrible Past and
stood before her.

She could not speak; she could scarcely see; but she felt hot tears
through her silk skirt and trembling arms clasp her knees while a
heart-rending voice cried:

"Marie Thérèse! Marie Thérèse!"

"Rise," she said at last, almost inaudibly. "Be seated."

He staggered to the stone bench beside her. She averted her head in
order to avoid seeing his grief-stricken face. A silence followed which
the lady at last broke:

"You perceive, Sir, that I have complied with your request. What do you
wish?"

"To remind you that I am your brother, the brother whom your mother
bore."

"My brother--died," she faltered.

"He lives and speaks to you. Dare you look upon me and deny it? I carry
on my face the marks of royal baptism and of prison torture."

"My God!" she groaned.

"Why do you not acknowledge me?" he cried with waxing indignation. "I
believed that on receiving me you would take me to your heart. I thought
you felt the great thirst that devours me. I thought that you and I
should mourn our mother in each other's arms. Why did you receive me, if
you had already decided to treat me as an impostor? Are you about to
turn me out of your palace gates along with the dogs and beggars? After
all that I have suffered?"

Making a terrible effort, she said:

"You have spoken of proofs, irrefutable proofs."

"Miserable woman, until today I thought that the wall which separates us
should be demolished on our meeting. But I see it is of iron. Listen,
then. You ask me for the documents. Well, those documents shall be
presented at a French tribunal, and you with the others shall be brushed
off the usurped throne. You refuse to acknowledge me; well, when the
world salutes me King, you will admit I am your brother. Europe will
proclaim what no court can deny. Until then, farewell."

She trembled and softly spoke his name:

"Charles Louis!"

Her voice seemed to come from an immense distance. He cried out almost
in delirium:

"Thérèse, Thérèse, my adored sister!"

He caught the Duchess in his arms almost strangling her. He wept and
laughed together for at last his overmastering desire was filled. He
felt a wild longing to dance. Scarcely realizing the craftiness of her
thoughts, she assured herself with feminine complacency that she should
now do with him as she chose.

"You know me at last,--do you, Thérèse? You no longer repulse me? O how
happy I am! Only thro you do I believe in myself, for tho I told you
with so much assurance just now that I was your brother, I doubted my
own words. Are you surprised that much suffering seems to have clouded
my brain? On leaving prison, you found friends and shelter and affection
and at last a throne; you returned to our father's palace amid
acclamations and festivities. How can you divine my suffering? See, I
have written them that you may read."

He took from his pocket an oblong case of yellow calf.

"I intended that the Marquis de Brezé, whom I regard as my son should
bring you this. But perhaps 'tis better that you receive it from me.
When you read my via crucis, you will not marvel that my past life seems
to me a dream, a forgery of a madman's delirium. Only you can relieve me
of this intolerable fear and restore me to faith in myself. You have
called me Charles Louis, my name in infancy and early childhood. Those
who now call me Louis do not know this. Ah, Thérèse, God bless you!"

Again he embraced her and together they recalled incidents of the past.

"Do you remember," he asked, "how in prison a wall separated us and we
were never permitted to speak together? Well, I used to place my ear to
the wall and listen for your footsteps."

"Charles Louis," she said with a great effort, "if love of your sister
has caused you to seek me, prove that love by granting a request."

"Ask my life if you will."

"What I ask may be more difficult to give. I am going to beg
you,--listen!--to renounce what you have so long desired. Be very calm.
The Revolution submerged the throne, the altar and whatever our family
represented and supported. Providence has replaced us on the throne; the
great days of the monarchy have returned; the churches have been
re-opened; our country has been reconciled to its monarchs and its
God,--the God who has placed the crown upon our uncle's head rather than
upon yours. God has perhaps selected you as the victim, innocent tho you
be. He has required your sacrifice and he continues to require it. To
what do you aspire today? Are you thinking of placing arms in the hands
of our father's executioners? Have you come, Charles Louis, to win the
applause of hell?"

He could not answer for gazing upon her.

"Your duty is to retire to peace and quietude. Whatever be your rights,
your duty is to stifle your pretensions. I assure you this is true."

"And my children, Thérèse? My sons? I have the sons which have been
denied to both you and Ferdinand. No one but me can present an heir. My
seed has fallen upon blessed ground in being mingled with the people."

The Duchess experienced great anger, as she always did at any allusion
to her sterility, and she retorted harshly:

"The heir whom you present is from a woman of low extraction, the fruit
of a union unsanctioned by the Catholic Church. And you dare aspire to
the throne? Remember the Corsican! He also sought to improvise a
dynasty. All that survives of that farce is the daughter of a real
emperor and the son of the adventurer, sheltered by that emperor's
throne. If you believed yourself a king, why did you marry a plebeian?
Why did you not restrain your passions? And you complain of your fate?
As for your heart, you have followed its impulses. I married my cousin
because the state required the union--Ferdinand separated from his
loved Amy Brown and abandoned his children, one of them a son, in order
to marry Caroline. Are you willing to do likewise? I know well you are
not. Believe me, believe me, Charles Louis, life is not what we would
wish but as God ordains it to be. Your fate has been to live far from
the throne--Resign yourself to the decree. Do not violate the most holy
PRINCIPLE, the PRINCIPLE for which our father died. He adjures you from
the tomb to accept your lot."

Her eloquence subjugated him, for she spoke from her heart's conviction.

"God was God, yet he lived and died a man," she continued. "Live then
and die a man, my brother. Will you?--a man of the people."

In a transport of abnegation, he kissed her cheeks and said:

"I will."

In confirmation of his promise, he drew the casket of documents from his
breast and held them toward her.

"Here they are," he said. "Here are the papers which sustain my claims.
They are of such a nature, especially the testimony of the unhappy
Pichegru, Charette, Hoche and Josephine that I could demand the throne
by presenting them in a court. I despoil myself of my personality, of
my strength. I become again Naundorff, the obscure mechanic, the
impostor, the convict, the outlaw! Take the papers, Marie Thérèse, I
give them to you. The sacrifice is accomplished. Have you more to ask of
me? And now, sister, holy love of my life, all that remains to me of my
mother,--call me once more Charles Louis--let me rest my forehead on
your breast."

She was scarcely able to control herself. He attracted and repelled her
by turns. She was about to extend her hand for the papers when, by the
light of the setting sun, intense and red, he so greatly resembled her
father that she dared not accomplish her purpose. With involuntary
reverence, she said:

"No, Charles Louis, the papers are yours. Keep them. Promise me, only,
that you will not misuse them. I shall be satisfied with your word. I
ask this of you because I must. Accept your fate, as I accept mine.
Accept it as you would a cross. O Charles Louis, the Past is
irrevocable, your Past and mine, and who knows which of us has suffered
the more greatly? Farewell, farewell, my brother. Do not forget your
oath."

"I shall remember it, my sister. God bless you! I have received all that
I expected from you. I count this day happy. I shall remove with my
family to Holland. May my children never suffer the pangs of poverty! I
trust that no further assaults will be made upon my life. And now, for
one moment--"

He laid his head upon the lady's shoulder and wept.



Chapter VIII

THE AMBUSH


As Naundorff left the garden, a man, hidden amid the shrubbery advanced
cautiously and reached the little gate holding there a short
conversation with one of the spies, La Grive.

"He carries a casket which must be captured. I reiterate my previous
instructions. That casket must be seized. Where are Sec and Lestrade?"

"Within two steps. Shall I call them?"

"Keep very quiet. Remember to make no use of firearms. If he make no
resistance, do not harm him. Run. Find the others. He is almost here."

"Very well."

The two spies, disguised as guards, separated. Volpetti waited back of
the gate and on Naundorff's arrival, he solicitously held it open.
Naundorff did not look toward the other, but even had he, the black hair
and beard of Albert Serra would have misled him completely. He was
surrounded by the party of spies, who were in turn surrounded by de
Brezé and the Carbonari. The latter were concealed by the foliage, from
a height dominating the path. Like the spies, they had planned to use
firearms only in case of an extremity.

Naundorff passed through the gate, deep in thought. His sister's voice
was in his ears; he felt again her caresses. His mind was at peace and
the incertitude regarding his individuality set at rest. Had she not
called him brother? Now he was tranquil, free from tormenting doubts.
Despoiled of his rights, perhaps, but impostor or maniac never! He
thought of Amélie, dreading to tell her the result of the interview.
Suddenly a hand was placed over his mouth, his arms were pinned to his
sides and he could neither cry nor defend himself. Volpetti searched him
and possessed himself of the case of papers with a triumphant laugh.
There was no need to employ force; nevertheless, through an excess of
precaution the spies gagged their victim and tied his hands.

All this was accomplished with the utmost celerity. Naundorff had been
reduced to immobility when de Brezé and the two Carbonari ran up. Using
cudgels, they stunned Lestrade and disabled La Grive. De Brezé then
devoted himself to Sec, and Giacinto turned, infuriated, on Volpetti.
This king of spies held the papers, determined to keep them at the cost
of his life, and was for this reason unable to handle his hunting knife
with his accustomed dexterity. The Sicilian dealt him a vigorous blow on
the collar bone which caused him to drop the case of papers. Lights
danced in his eyes and he felt as tho about to swoon. With a great
effort he recovered his senses sufficiently to aim a blow at Giacinto's
neck, as the Sicilian stooped to grasp the case. The wound would have
been fatal had not Giacinto evaded it by a rapid movement which
resembled the spring of a tiger. All the evil which his family had
suffered from Volpetti flashed thro lis mind and outweighed Naundorffs
interests; he forgot the papers for his own grievances, especially his
brother's body hanging from the gibbet. Clinching his white teeth, he
dashed upon the enemy, knocked the knife out of his hand and jerked the
false beard from his face. Volpetti lacked neither courage nor coolness,
but he was a constructive intelligence rather than a physical force.
Giacinto was much the younger and just now impelled by a homicidal
vertigo. Volpetti sought to rise, but Giacinto pushed his head back and
knelt with one knee upon his breast. In an access of savage joy, he cut
through his neck, accompanying the action with dreadful oaths and
invocations to the Madonna.

While the Sicilian satiated his thirst for vengeance, one of the other
spies, La Grive, regained his footing and fought desperately with Louis
Pierre, whom he quickly so battered with fist blows that the Knight of
Liberty lay prone upon the grass. La Grive next turned his attention
upon Giacinto and Volpetti. The latter lay dead in a pool of blood. The
case of papers was near. He remembered the leader's injunction: 'The
casket must be saved, at all costs.' Seizing his opportunity, while
Giacinto feasted his eyes upon his dead enemy, he grasped the papers and
ran off, soon being lost among the trees. So vanished the last proofs of
Naundorff's identity.

The defeat was complete. It was the culmination of the lengthy drama
initiated in prison and developed in London, Dover, Picmort and Paris.
While La Grive possessed himself of the papers René was engaged in
combat with the brutal and athletic Sec. At length he dispossessed him
of his hunting knife and threw him senseless, as he thought, to the
ground. Then he ran swiftly to Naundorff and cut his cords. Sec watched
his opportunity. Gliding noiselessly toward his vanquisher, he aimed a
bullet which made René spin around and fall lifeless to the ground. It
had pierced his heart.

Meanwhile, the Duchess, motionless on her garden seat, was powerless to
summon the courage to return to the castle. Scarcely could she restrain
herself from running after Naundorff, calling, "Brother, brother!" The
sun no longer reddened the sky. The evening was chill. Suddenly a shot
rang out. She shuddered but remained paralyzed, in the throes of
conflicting emotions. The branches rustled and swift footsteps hurried
along the path. Was this an apparition? A young girl in black, her face
framed in a glory of golden hair, her hands raised menacingly and
dropping blood! It was the image of her mother, her eyes gleaming, her
mouth livid and mutely pronouncing maledictions and her forefinger held
prophetically and accusingly in the Duchess's face.

Marie Thérèse de Bourbon fell upon the ground, writhing and groaning:
"Mother, mother!"



Chapter IX

GIACINTO'S FATE


Soliviac nimbly leaped to the wharf from a skiff and held out his hands
to Louis Pierre and Giacinto. He uncovered respectfully to Naundorff and
Amélie and caressed Baby Dick's head, as the little fellow clung to his
adoptive mother's hand.

Amélie, in deep mourning, was the shadow of her former self. Wasted
away, almost blue in her pallor, her sunken eyes surrounded by red
circles, and of an agonized expression, she was indeed the picture of
the unhappy queen; not the queen in faces and crowned with roses, but
the queen of the prison and the guillotine. Like unto Marie Antoinette,
sorrow only augmented her grace and dignity. When she held her hand to
Soliviac to be kissed, no court might show so regal a movement.

Naundorff opened his arms to Soliviac, both shedding tears.

"When do we start?" the former asked, as though longing to be off.

"At once, if Monseigneur wishes."

"Do not call me 'Monseigneur.' That is over, Captain. I am only
Naundorff, the mechanic, the chemist. You are taking me from a land
where I have known only sorrow to a country of peace and liberty. In
Holland my good wife and little children await me. There shall I forget
my insensate dreams, the cause of my ills. Because of my refusal to
accept the decrees of fate, I have been punished in whom I most love,
this daughter. A widow twice, never having been a wife, her life is
blighted forever. The prison walls did not lie in speaking to me the
terrible words: 'Your friends shall perish.'"

Amélie laid her hand on her father's shoulder. Her eyes were dry. She
seemed to forgive him all that she had suffered.

"My friends," added Naundorff, turning to the Carbonari, "let us give
the lie to the prison prophecy. Since I am given respite and my
persecutors seem to be satiated from having rifled me of my
certificates; since they ignore my interview with the woman--whom I have
forgiven (may my mother in heaven forgive her also)--; friends, return
to a quiet life and cease to combat, cease to conspire, cease to avenge!
A clear light illumines my mind and heart. I see what I would impart to
you. Listen: Resist not evil; rather return good for evil. He who
uproots the hedge will be bitten by the serpent, say the words of
eternal wisdom. Forgive that you may be forgiven."

Louis Pierre turned his face away that Naundorff might not see the keen
light in his eyes.

"Farewell, farewell!" repeated the outlaw. "I am a simple man,
henceforth. My only title is that of Man. I go to earn my bread by the
sweat of my brow. I go to die obscurely. Embrace me again."

The two Carbonari folded their arms around him, Giacinto shedding tears.
Naundorff said gently:

"Thanks, thanks! Peace descend upon you both. Cease to struggle, claim
not your dues. And you, Giacinto, do penance. Your hands are stained
with blood."

The Sicilian involuntarily looked upon those members. Just then they
were seized by Amélie, who whispered in his ear:

"O Giacinto, do not reproach yourself! 'Twas simple justice. Listen. She
who prepared the ambuscade shall herself leave France in banishment, or
else there is no God."

Some moments later the sloop glided out of port. Erect and majestic,
like unto a dethroned queen, Amélie waved an adieu to the Knights of
Liberty.

Giacinto and Louis Pierre stood motionless on the wharf which now began
to be covered with fishermen, sailors and venders. Their eyes were
riveted upon the sloop as she reached the schooner Polipheme. They could
still distinguish the black form of Amélie and her father's grave
outlines. The Polipheme weighed anchor, spread sails and gracefully
cleaved the waves red with the morning sun.

The gay voices of the crowd ashore awaiting the arrival of the fishing
smacks constituted so brilliant a tout ensemble that Giacinto,
notwithstanding the sad parting from his friends, felt new life rushing
through his veins and joy tugging at his heart strings. He looked at
Louis Pierre. That face wore an expression recalling vengeance and the
scaffold. Shuddering, the Sicilian returned to reality.

"They are gone, Louis Pierre," said he, in order to break the silence.
"They are gone,--those royal personages whom history will fail to
enumerate."

"Giacinto, you should have gone to Holland with them. I advise you as a
friend, for in Versailles you have a mistress whom you have filched from
a guard,--a dangerous experiment. O, I know all about it; she lives on
our floor. Do you think the bird worth the risking of your neck? Yes,
it was best for our friends to go. The police pretend to have forgotten
us. 'Tis a trap. They will not forget to square accounts with the man
who sent Volpetti to his brother Satan.--You are a child, Giacinto, and
may be led to any pasture by a petticoat string--"

"Bah!" interrupted the other. "Were it not for petticoats, what savor
would remain to life? My dear little laundress has set me quite crazy
with love and the sergeant is dying with jealousy. Will you believe that
here also I have discovered a jewel of a woman?--the daughter of a
tinker. And I am either a fool or this night--"

"So you remain? You are indeed a fool, Giacinto. I shall work out my
ends, henceforth, without your aid. Tho I be sought, I shall not be
found; even tho I be found, I shall not be caught, and even tho I be
caught, I shall not be retained. In this enigma I speak the truth."

Giacinto's superstitious nature was aroused.

"Why do you say these words, friend?" he asked.

"Because no man is overcome until he has performed his assigned task,"
serenely replied the Knight of Liberty. "Was the Other One overcome
before he had subjugated Europe? Today he is chained to Saint Helena,
but he first demonstrated the might of the Revolution. Before he could
demonstrate the might of Despotism, he was overpowered, for this the
Fates would not permit."

"We are not the Other One."

"Each man is the Other One. Each man may change the world if he acts of
himself."

"Bah!" retorted Giacinto. "We are pawns on a chess-board. Poor devils,
we but play our part. What matters it to me that it be primary or
secondary? I have sent to hell the devil who killed my brother. For the
rest, a fig!--I feel his warm blood on my hands now!"

His nostrils dilated at the ghastly memory, his lips smacked with savage
joy, his handsome face glowed with exultation.

"Yes," answered Louis Pierre in a solemn voice. "Your work is
accomplished. Fear, Giacinto, for you are now a hollow shell. Remember
how the dastardly Volpetti was given life only to accomplish his
mission. Volpetti was delivered to you when he had secured the documents
for Lecazes. But my work is as yet unfulfilled. For that reason I am
secure. My history is as yet unwritten."

"And it shall remain unwritten, my friend. What have two poor devils
such as you and I to do with history, especially since we no longer
accompany royalty?"

"I am a man," retorted Louis Pierre Louvel. "Have you measured the power
of a man? Giacinto, the birth of an individual is of transcendent
importance. Remember Him who was born in Judea. Consider the
significance of a male child to the House of France! This rotten dynasty
which the Cossack has forced us to again endure may yet sprout forth
fresh and green, and all because of a child's birth."

By this time the two Carbonari had reached their lodgings. They ascended
to their humble apartments. Louis Pierre took up his knapsack and,
according to the French custom, kissed his companion on the cheek.

"Are we not to breakfast together?" asked Giacinto.

"By breakfast time, I shall be far away from this place. You should be
also," replied Louis Pierre.

"What would the tinker's daughter think of her sweetheart? She has this
morning peeped from her window five times. She has thrown me a flower
and waved her hand--"

The fatalist remonstrated no further. Carrying his light equipage, he
descended the rickety stairs. Naundorff had paid the bills. He might,
therefore, depart, without seeking the host. His rickety form took the
direction of the woods and was soon lost to view.

An hour later Giacinto sat before a succulent repast of stewed fish. A
girl held to his lips a glass of foamy beer. Just then steps and the
clanking of muskets sounded on the stairway. The officer heading the
soldiers laid a hand on the Sicilian's shoulder, saying:

"Manacle his hands."



Chapter X

A DESCENDANT OF HENRI OF NAVARRE


In a human existence there may be a culminating moment,--a moment in
which ambitions are realized and reality adapts itself to the dreamed-of
ideal. The maneuvers of a subterranean state-craft during that epoch of
incessant conspiracy had raised Lecazes to the pinnacle of glory. The
Police was in its apogee, holding triumphantly in its hands the warp
whose reverse side was espionage, provocation, indictment, torture, and
whose obverse consisted of brilliant court ceremonials, stormy
discussions in Councils and diplomatic strife in the royal coterie,
wherein conservative and reactionary parties contended bitterly.
Dominating the maneuvers from his cabinet, the genial Minister
reigned,--the arbiter of the nation. He was the real master. He held the
reins and guided the King with well dissembled strategy, as well as the
other members of the royal family and the courtiers and officials,--all
of whom complacently obeyed him, in their solicitude for the
maintenance of the legitimate government.

Nevertheless, to use his own expression, "his life flowed between two
walls of paper." He was accustomed to say that Paper was his worst
enemy, adding, "You may rid yourself of a man but not of a piece of
written paper." Excepting those retained as future shields, he tore all
such sheets into bits, and compromising documents he burned.

It was the month of February. Lecazes sat in the same closet in which he
had received the Duchess de Rousillon. A cloud was upon his face and an
expression at once stealthy and rapacious, such as characterizes the
countenances of all selfishly ambitious men, when alone. The cause of
his preoccupation was a letter just received. It was anonymous and
contained only these brief clauses:

"Naundorff is despoiled, de Brezé murdered, Giacinto executed. They
shall be avenged. Guard the trunk; as for the limbs they are
despicable."

Such communications seldom troubled the Minister, accustomed as he was
to the language of charlatans. He usually destroyed the epistles,
smiling a Machiavellian smile. But this letter troubled him, for it was
not the first of the series; others had periodically preceded it,
giving no clue to the writer and seeming to have for object a warning to
the intended victim.

"There is not a thread of the net which I may not snap at will," he
soliloquized. "They are not indeed thinking of avenging de Brezé or
Naundorff--nor even that insignificant Carbonaro whom I have had to
execute. I did not do so as retaliation for Volpetti's death. However
much I miss him, I can not replace him. He was my hands and feet. But
pshaw! in state-craft we waive vengeance and travel direct to our
ends,--the Carbonari to the demolishing of the throne, I to the
sustaining of it. To sustain it I have wrought miracles. Had I not
obtained the papers which have cost me Volpetti, alas for the dynasty!
The happy exit must console me for the loss of my best man."

Re-reading the anonymous sheet, his attention was arrested by the phrase
"Guard the trunk."

"Who is the trunk?" he asked himself. "I should overestimate even my own
importance to suppose they mean me. Can it be the King? Poor decayed
trunk, soon to fall beneath the great woodman's ax! Can it be his
brother? Impossible!--that hollow reactionary, incorrigible trunk. He is
the Carbonari's best ally. I know not what will be the outcome of the
King's succumbing to gout. Can it be the Duke Louis? Sterile trunk! No,
if any one in particular is signified, 'tis Ferdinand,--the destined
perpetuator of the race. Let us see! Lecazes, imagine yourself a
conspirator. Whom would you attack? Why Ferdinand! Ferdinand the
debonnaire, the well-loved, the generator of heirs. May this writing be
the effusion of some fool? Or is it a conspirator's dash of romantic
honor in warning the intended victim? However that be, I must warn the
Prince. He is as unsuspicious and gay and heroic as his ancestor, Henry
of Navarre. Flatterers assure him that he is that great monarch's
prototype. He and his wife go about so freely and to every kind of
diversion. During one of these sky-larkings--Ah! kings may not live as
other men. Naundorff little realizes the good turn I did him and his
family by barring his approach to the throne, nor she either, the
audacious little intriguante. She has ample opportunity now to devote
her energies to the weaving of Flemish laces."

These thoughts still occupied him when he that afternoon entered the
royal cabinet. Before the monarch stood a table whose draperies were
arranged to conceal the swollen feet, for the gout grew daily worse.
Nevertheless, in frequent carriage rides and an incessant sortie of fine
classic raillery from his patrician lips, Louis XVIII demonstrated an
increased activity.

When Lecazes entered, the valetudinarian smiled piquantly, as one might
in slipping manacles on the wrists of an astute diplomat. Handing the
Minister a threatening letter, he vehemently asked:

"What does this mean, Baron? I am asked for an audience. I am told that
some one possesses knowledge of impending evil to the royal family. I am
warned that the refusing of this interview will be the cause of disaster
to those dearest to me. It follows that some one is better informed than
I concerning our interests. Is not this a humiliating position for a
King?"

As Lecazes was about to answer, there entered unannounced a man in the
prime of life. He had a prepossessing nonchalant impetuous manner. This
was Prince Ferdinand, second son of the King's brother Charles, sole
hope of the race's continuation. He was not handsome but he possessed in
a high manner the simple frankness and graceful address characteristic
of certain members of the Bourbon family, which was so captivating as to
create around them, even in times of popular discontent, an atmosphere
of loyalty. Ferdinand was short of stature and irregular in feature, but
his bright glance and irradiating vitality acted always as a great
jubilant wave enveloping all near him. A generous and cordial nature,
rising spontaneously to heroism, was revealed in his face, mingled with
a noble energy.

"Sire," he said, kissing his uncle's hand, "I pray you to pardon my
intrusion. I have an urgent communication which must not be delayed a
moment."

Lecazes made a discreet movement of withdrawal.

"No, no, Baron," interposed Ferdinand. "I pray you to remain. I expected
to find you here. I know, besides, that His Majesty has no secrets from
you. Indeed, I suppose you are better informed concerning this tangle
than I, for your fingers it is that have woven the mesh."

"To what does your Royal Highness allude?" asked Lecazes guardedly.

"To letters which I constantly receive," replied Ferdinand sharply.
"Letters which have kept me awake more than one night."

"Love letters?" ironically inquired Lecazes. "Your Royal Highness
inspires innumerable passions. 'Tis no marvel that these letters rain
upon you. What I find amusing is your simplicity in taking them
seriously."

The Prince's frank countenance darkened. His brow contracted and his
lips curled disdainfully as he replied:

"Baron, I am not accustomed to discuss such questions with
others,--least of all with the police! The matter concerns,--bah! why
should I relate this to you?--the matter concerns a member of our family
who has been rifled of personal documents and forced into exile, in
order to avoid even more barbarous treatment."

"Will Your Royal Highness be good enough to mention the name
of--this--member of the royal House?"

"You know his name better than I, since 'twas you who prepared the
villainous ambuscade and the other iniquities which I shall not
enumerate."

"Who is Your Royal Highness's informant?" asked Lecazes, turning livid.

"One who knows whereof he speaks," replied the Prince producing a packet
of letters.

"But Ferdinand, my son, why do you credit such calumniators?" interposed
the King.

"Sire, these are not calumnies. If you consider them such, why not turn
upon them the light of day? To me they have ample confirmation in the
face of Monsieur the Superintendent of Police, or in your own, Sire, or
in that of Madame my cousin and sister-in-law. I have seen her swoon on
hearing the name of the man whose personal history contains the tragic
episodes enacted last summer in Versailles park. The life of that true
knight and gentleman, my dear friend, René de Giac, there paid the
penalty for his loyalty--he, the son of one of the most valiant of
Condé's officers--"

"Ferdinand," stammered the King, his face growing paler and paler, "your
words are audacious and unwarranted. From any other than you, I should
pronounce them the ravings of a madman. What inference is to be drawn
from your asseverations? None other than that we are a usurper, that the
Restoration was a robbery and that as restitution, we must deliver up
the throne, after having played the role of thief, and retire into
private life amid the jeers of the spectators. What would follow then,
think you? Nothing less than an armed intervention of Europe to restore
order in France a second time and clear the bandit caves of their
booty."

"We are not speaking of an impostor," insisted Ferdinand bravely.

"Dare you call us usurper, then?" shrieked the King.

The smile on Lecazes's lips was a discharge of gall and the gleam in his
eyes was Satanic.

"For my part, Sire," retorted the nephew, "I believe you to be such. I
refuse--O more than the glory of thrones and crowns do I cherish honor
and the religion of Knighthood. I may or may not have a right to the
tide Royal Highness, but beyond question I am a soldier, and
notwithstanding certain gallantries, a Christian. I do not proclaim my
virtue as does my brother Louis, but neither do I ravish another man of
his rights. I will not longer live this life. I have tried to make light
of these letters. Does Your Majesty know why? Because in all of them
breathes a threat, and no man shall think me coward. If God gives me
life and France wars,'twill be demonstrated whether or not I am such. My
coming to you now has for object that of declaring to your Majesty that
if this matter be not adjudicated according to law and justice and in a
manner befitting our family dignity, I shall be forced to the
alternative of going to Holland and offering my services to my cousin,
as a partial reparation for the iniquity practised upon him."

"And I should not be surprised at your extravagance, my dear nephew,"
replied the King, irate and sarcastic. "Your action would be in keeping
with the conduct of a man who never considers the consequences of his
acts, a man who married a London woman of base extraction,--the plebeian
Amy Brown, a man who disregards court etiquette so far as to imitate the
Corsican in his policy of acquiring popularity with the army, a man
whose language in public is such as to undermine the established regime.
You would be more satisfactory nephew, were you to fulfill your office,
of furnishing France with a male heir of whom we stand in so great
need."

Ferdinand, far from evincing annoyance at the burst of wrath, answered
serenely:

"Sire, I scarcely think you hold me accountable for failing to
counteract the decrees of Providence regarding the birth of an heir. As
for the matter which brings me here, I declare that my regard for Your
Majesty cannot prevent my speaking my mind. I have considered that it
was due you to make you a party to the knowledge of the iniquity, that
you might have the opportunity of seconding my resolution. But if our
strength is to have its foundation in infamy, a sad future has the
House! I ask for but my commission in the army or to be a soldier in the
ranks. Your Majesty accuses me of imitating the Corsican. I reply that
the only glory I seek is the glory of arms and of a fearless heart."

"Is this all you would say, nephew?" asked the King, white with rage.

"Your Majesty is offended? Your Majesty dismisses me?"

"His Majesty's strength is unequal to such shocks," interposed Lecazes.

"My Lord Baron," said the Prince, "you are right. I retire. Henceforth,
Ferdinand de Bourbon has no guide but his conscience."

Saluting the monarch gravely and the Minister with mock respect, he
departed.

Lecazes followed him with a smile. As his footsteps died away, the Baron
shrugged his shoulders.

"What do you think of this Lecazes?" inquired the King.

"That we must let the Prince continue the road he has chosen. Place no
obstacles in his way--and do not trouble your mind about him.--Many
important historical events have just such origins as this.--I shall not
meddle in the affairs of His Royal Highness."

In the minister's mind there was formed the picture of a young vigorous
tree felled at a blow.



Chapter XI

FERDINAND'S FATE


Two days later a tumultuous carnival animated Paris. Crowds jostled each
other in the streets and gazed upon the procession of the Bull crowned
with flowers and the triumphal car freighted with maidens in gala
clothes and singing their applause. One of these maidens, a Versailles
laundress, was a shining mark, by reason of the brilliancy of her
complexion and the gleaming of her hair. On passing the Gate of
Saint-Denis, seeing a small man of puny frame and bilious skin she
called merrily out to him:

"Hello, Louis Pierre, old owl, de profundis face, don't you want to sup
tonight with some happy people at the Inn Mariscale?"

The masks and students near laughed to split their throats, and the
interrogated man hastened to conceal himself amid the crowd. He took
refuge in his lodgings and devoured his dinner with an almost savage
hunger, a strange action, for he was usually abstemious. Then he went
out again and mingled with the crowd. He leaned against the glass
windows of the royal theatre and watched the brilliant concourse within.
A great festival was in progress. The program announced the "Carnival of
Venice" and "The Marriage of Camacho." Carriages rolled, torches
gleamed, the crowd surged. The Court was arriving. Louis Pierre felt his
head swim. "Now, now!" a voice seemed mockingly to whisper. But in spite
of the mandate, he remained inert. Action refused to travel from brain
to hands.

"What ails me?" he asked himself. "Is it fear? Is it that I should not?
Am I about to perpetrate an act of justice or a crime? Have not my
warnings remained unheeded? I could do no more than I have done, unless,
indeed, I should deliver myself into their hands--"

While thus he vacillated, Prince Ferdinand and his wife the Princess
Caroline descended from their carriage and entered the theatre.

"Another opportunity lost! Vacillations, scruples, absurd perplexities,
culpable weaknesses! Have not these people given entrance to the
Cossacks and oppressed and rifled the innocent Naundorff? De Brezé's
blood cries for vengeance. This besotted city steeped in a Carnival
orgie! What is the Association doing? The Knights seem to sleep on
their arms. But Brutus keeps vigil--. Notwithstanding my numerous
letters, they have set no watch on me. 'Tis that Destiny protects me. I
was born to put my project into execution.--Let us wait, and then--the
ax to the trunk."

He walked away objectless through the royal gardens, stumbling at every
moment upon groups who sang bacchanalian refrains and prurient couplets
from Beranger. Women, with painted faces wearing flowers and greens,
flung cynical jests in his face. A drunkard insulted him. He heeded
nothing, thirsting only for the fresh night air, which in his feverish
condition he inhaled voraciously. Incoherent words rumbling through his
brain seemed to urge him to the deed.

"I must obey, I must obey!" he kept saying. "Then I shall find rest.
Indecision and torture will be over."

He computed the moments with burning anxiety.

"It must be tonight. When again shall I have the opportunity? Tomorrow I
must return to Versailles."

He walked stealthily back and forth, between the garden and the theatre.
The night advanced and the streets were growing deserted; the taverns
were being emptied of their occupants; the great clock sounded two, then
the half hour; the royal carriages drew up. The Carbonaro glided along
the solitary street of Louvois and made his way amid a group of lackeys.
His insignificant stature enabled him to remain there unmolested. He was
supposed to be some hackney coachman or an assistant placed there for
the purpose of guarding horses. Louis Pierre stood motionless close to
the wall.

He had not long to wait. Prince Ferdinand descended the steps,
accompanying his wife, who was leaving early, being fatigued from a ball
which she had attended the previous night. The Prince intended remaining
longer,--perchance to hover around some fair face. But, in order to
forestall any jealous pangs, he whispered to her gallantly and
affectionately, according to his winning nature:

"I shall be with you very soon."

The suspicious, ardent Italian wife and the impulsive, gallant husband
were a happy devoted pair. Caroline had warned him, as they left the
box, not to remain late.

"Don't wait for the sun to chase you home," she had said, half
playfully, half seriously. "I must go now, myself, in order to--be
careful of--our secret--the heir we are to give to France."

He reassured her tenderly, solicitously, pressing her arm to his side.
On reaching the carriage, he spoke the words we have already reproduced
and which are recorded in history as the last words of Ferdinand: "I
shall be with you very soon."

She stepped lightly into the carriage and turned her head at the window
to have a last look at her husband as he started towards the theatre. He
was walking along the pavement of Rameau street, beneath the gay
buntings. Louis Pierre stood among the lackeys and sentinels. When
later, in the solitude of the dungeon, he lived again the tragic moments
of his deed,--he could not understand how he accomplished with such
admirable dexterity that which a half hour earlier seemed so difficult
of execution. An invisible hand seemed to have guided him and sent his
own hand unflinchingly to its task. That powerful man, surrounded by
courtiers, friends and sentinels, who, drawn up on each side, presented
arms; that man whose splendid physique was revealed through his elegant
dress and who with one hand could have hurled to earth the puny creature
inflicting death:--that man, Louis Pierre assured himself, had been
delivered helpless and unsuspicious into his hands by Fate. He was no
longer overpowered by the consciousness of his insignificance; no longer
did he regard himself a despicable atom; within him was a species of
lucid inebriation, a glorious wave of pride and confidence. His moment
shone. The obscure plebeian had written his page of history.

"Before that moment, my life had amounted to naught. My latent self
suddenly sprang into being. To be satisfied with killing a spy! What
puerility! So little sufficed the inferior nature of Giacinto."

Thus communed Pierre Louis, as the imperious face of Amélie, her mouth
drawn in bitter disdain, with a terrible frown as of an avenging
archangel, came to his mind's eye. She stood for the feminine suggestion
there is in all tragedy. Great souls are lonely. They so love their
ideals that they cannot compromise nor forgive. It seemed to him that
the splendid eyes of Naundorff's daughter had fearlessly and
unhesitatingly shown him the way to the Prince. As a somnambulist moves,
he had accomplished the deed. With his small dagger, he had dealt a
marvelously dexterous blow, rapid and to the spot. Ferdinand felt no
wound, not even the coldness of the blade; he thought some one chanced
to strike against him; suddenly he realized he was about to fall. None
of the others suspected the truth. Meanwhile the assailant disappeared.
On reaching the corner of Richelieu street, Louis Pierre nonchalantly
slackened his speed and started toward the dark arcades, today in ruins,
opposite the stupendous edifice of the library. He was safe from
pursuit. None of those near whom he had stood before the theatre knew
him. He told himself that his life had trembled on the edge of a blade.

Just then he passed an inn wherein coffee was being served. Fate
ordained that a waiter carrying a tray upon which the fragrant beverage
steamed should step out of the door and stumble against him, an accident
occasioning the breaking of the dishes. The waiter turned infuriated
upon the causer of the damage, and, chasing him into the darkness of an
alley, caught him by the collar and shook him soundly. The Carbonaro was
such a weakling! He seemed to hear an interior voice saying:

"You have wrought. Now 'tis this man's turn."

When Ferdinand reached the vestibule, he involuntarily put his hand to
his side, over the unsuspected wound. He felt the projecting hilt of the
dagger. The entire blade was buried in his body. He cried out in pain as
the fine triangular weapon was extracted. The Princess Caroline hurried
back from her carriage and threw her arms around him and those bare
round arms were bathed in blood. Then followed tender heart-rending
adieux. The dying Prince poured out his soul during his last hours even
as his body delivered up its life. He spoke of glory, of patriotism, of
Christian faith, of love, of past faults; but more insistently than
ought else, did he plead for the assassin's pardon. As the King bent
over him, his lips, livid with the approach of death, implored:

"Forgive him, forgive him! We are all sinners, having need of
forgiveness. Sire and uncle, say yes!"

As the King maintained silence, he groaned:

"O my God, do you deny me this dying consolation?"

In his agony, as fever consumed his ebbing life, this descendant of
Henry of Navarre, so like that glorious ancestor, even in the manner of
his death, murmured:

"Forgive him, forgive him!"

Lecazes, meanwhile, amazed at the swiftness with which the trunk had
fallen, approached Louis Pierre, who was a prisoner in one of the lower
apartments, and whispered, as he drew him aside:

"Did you do this for money? Have you accomplices"

The Carbonaro cast upon the Minister a look of scorn, saying:

"Do men do these things for money? I am the avenger of my country and of
Naundorff and his daughter. The race perishes. There will be no heir."

"Fool," replied the Minister, gloating over that somber soul's
discomfiture, "the Princess is promised an heir."

Louis Pierre turned pale as the futility of the crime overwhelmed him.

"No matter," said he. "I did the deed and I would repeat it a thousand
times."

Again he assumed the stoical air and supreme command of self which
characterized him in such a high degree both during his trial and upon
the scaffold.

The whispered dialogue between Lecazes and the assassin was remarked by
the other occupants in the apartment and became the basis of the charge
of complicity brought against the Baron, and was the cause of his
removal and fall. It was said of him that:

"He slipped in the puddle of blood and fell."


FINIS.


     CONTENTS

     EMILIA PARDO BAZÁN

     A GREAT GRANDSON OF LOUIS XVI

     Book I MARTIN, THE SEER
     Chapter I--THE LOVERS
     Chapter II--MEMORIES
     Chapter III--THE EMPTY COFFIN
     Chapter IV--AMÉLIE
     Chapter V--THE FIRST THREADS OF THE NET
     Chapter VI--THE BAILIFF
     Chapter VII--THE EPICUREAN
     Chapter VIII--THE SEER

     Book II--THE CASKET
     Chapter I--THE MINIATURE
     Chapter II--THE DAUPHIN'S SISTER
     Chapter III--THE EMPTY COFFIN
     Chapter IV--MARIE
     Chapter V--A COURTEOUS MAN
     Chapter VI--TORTURE
     Chapter VII--THE BLACK HOLE
     Chapter VIII--THE EXECUTION
     Chapter IX--THE ESCAPE
     Chapter X--PRUSSIA
     Chapter XI--NAUNDORFF
     Chapter XII--THE DAUPHIN'S WIFE
     Chapter XIII--THE INCENDIARY

     Book III THE KNIGHTS OF LIBERTY
     Chapter I--LYING IN WAIT
     Chapter II--THE TRAPPED FOX
     Chapter III--RENÉ WAITS
     Chapter IV--MINE AND COUNTERMINE
     Chapter V--THE CREAKING BOOTS
     Chapter VI--THE PARDON
     Chapter VII--THE REVELATION
     Chapter VIII--THE CAPTAIN
     Chapter IX--THE SCHOONER

     Book IV PICMORT
     Chapter I--THE CASTLE
     Chapter II--BAD NEWS
     Chapter III--GIACINTO'S RETURN
     Chapter IV--NIGHT
     Chapter V--THE CHILD
     Chapter VI--THE MARRIAGE
     Chapter VII--DEATH

     Book V THE SISTER
     Chapter I--PORTENTS
     Chapter II--THE QUESTION
     Chapter III--REASONS OF STATE
     Chapter IV--CONJUGAL LOVE
     Chapter V--THE SISTER
     Chapter VI--LOUIS PIERRE'S SISTER
     Chapter VII--THE INTERVIEW
     Chapter VIII--THE AMBUSH
     Chapter IX--GIACINTO'S FATE
     Chapter X--A DESCENDANT OF HENRI OF NAVARRE
     Chapter XI--FERDINAND'S FATE





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