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´╗┐Title: After Dark
Author: Collins, Wilkie, 1824-1889
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "After Dark" ***

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AFTER DARK

By Wilkie Collins



PREFACE TO "AFTER DARK."

I have taken some pains to string together the various stories contained
in this Volume on a single thread of interest, which, so far as I know,
has at least the merit of not having been used before.

The pages entitled "Leah's Diary" are, however, intended to fulfill
another purpose besides that of serving as the frame-work for my
collection of tales. In this part of the book, and subsequently in the
Prologues to the stories, it has been my object to give the reader one
more glimpse at that artist-life which circumstances have afforded me
peculiar opportunities of studying, and which I have already tried to
represent, under another aspect, in my fiction, "Hide-and-Seek." This
time I wish to ask some sympathy for the joys and sorrows of a poor
traveling portrait-painter--presented from his wife's point of view
in "Leah's Diary," and supposed to be briefly and simply narrated by
himself in the Prologues to the stories. I have purposely kept these
two portions of the book within certain limits; only giving, in the
one case, as much as the wife might naturally write in her diary at
intervals of household leisure; and, in the other, as much as a modest
and sensible man would be likely to say about himself and about the
characters he met with in his wanderings. If I have been so fortunate as
to make my idea intelligible by this brief and simple mode of treatment,
and if I have, at the same time, achieved the necessary object of
gathering several separate stories together as neatly-fitting parts of
one complete whole, I shall have succeeded in a design which I have for
some time past been very anxious creditably to fulfill.

Of the tales themselves, taken individually, I have only to say, by
way of necessary explanation, that "The Lady of Glenwith Grange" is now
offered to the reader for the first time; and that the other stories
have appeared in the columns of _Household Words_. My best thanks are
due to Mr. Charles Dickens for his kindness in allowing me to set them
in their present frame-work.

I must also gratefully acknowledge an obligation of another kind to the
accomplished artist, Mr. W. S. Herrick, to whom I am indebted for
the curious and interesting facts on which the tales of "The Terribly
Strange Bed" and "The Yellow Mask" are founded.

Although the statement may appear somewhat superfluous to those who know
me, it may not be out of place to add, in conclusion, that these stories
are entirely of my own imagining, constructing, and writing. The fact
that the events of some of my tales occur on foreign ground, and are
acted out by foreign personages, appears to have suggested in some
quarters the inference that the stories themselves might be of foreign
origin. Let me, once for all, assure any readers who may honor me with
their attention, that in this, and in all other cases, they may depend
on the genuineness of my literary offspring. The little children of my
brain may be weakly enough, and may be sadly in want of a helping hand
to aid them in their first attempts at walking on the stage of this
great world; but, at any rate, they are not borrowed children. The
members of my own literary family are indeed increasing so fast as to
render the very idea of borrowing quite out of the question, and to
suggest serious apprehension that I may not have done adding to the
large book-population, on my own sole responsibility, even yet.



AFTER DARK.



LEAVES FROM LEAH'S DIARY.

26th February, 1827.--The doctor has just called for the third time to
examine my husband's eyes. Thank God, there is no fear at present of my
poor William losing his sight, provided he can be prevailed on to
attend rigidly to the medical instructions for preserving it. These
instructions, which forbid him to exercise his profession for the next
six months at least, are, in our case, very hard to follow. They will
but too probably sentence us to poverty, perhaps to actual want; but
they must be borne resignedly, and even thankfully, seeing that my
husband's forced cessation from work will save him from the dreadful
affliction of loss of sight. I think I can answer for my own
cheerfulness and endurance, now that we know the worst. Can I answer for
our children also? Surely I can, when there are only two of them. It is
a sad confession to make, but now, for the first time since my marriage,
I feel thankful that we have no more.

17th.--A dread came over me last night, after I had comforted William as
well as I could about the future, and had heard him fall off to sleep,
that the doctor had not told us the worst. Medical men do sometimes
deceive their patients, from what has always seemed to me to be
misdirected kindness of heart. The mere suspicion that I had been
trifled with on the subject of my husband's illness, caused me such
uneasiness, that I made an excuse to get out, and went in secret to the
doctor. Fortunately, I found him at home, and in three words I confessed
to him the object of my visit.

He smiled, and said I might make myself easy; he had told us the worst.

"And that worst," I said, to make certain, "is, that for the next six
months my husband must allow his eyes to have the most perfect repose?"

"Exactly," the doctor answered. "Mind, I don't say that he may not
dispense with his green shade, indoors, for an hour or two at a time, as
the inflammation gets subdued. But I do most positively repeat that he
must not _employ_ his eyes. He must not touch a brush or pencil; he must
not think of taking another likeness, on any consideration whatever, for
the next six months. His persisting in finishing those two portraits,
at the time when his eyes first began to fail, was the real cause of all
the bad symptoms that we have had to combat ever since. I warned him
(if you remember, Mrs. Kerby?) when he first came to practice in our
neighborhood."

"I know you did, sir," I replied. "But what was a poor traveling
portrait-painter like my husband, who lives by taking likenesses first
in one place and then in another, to do? Our bread depended on his using
his eyes, at the very time when you warned him to let them have a rest."

"Have you no other resources? No money but the money Mr. Kerby can get
by portrait-painting?" asked the doctor.

"None," I answered, with a sinking at my heart as I thought of his bill
for medical attendance.

"Will you pardon me?" he said, coloring and looking a little uneasy,
"or, rather, will you ascribe it to the friendly interest I feel in you,
if I ask whether Mr. Kerby realizes a comfortable income by the
practice of his profession? Don't," he went on anxiously, before I
could reply--"pray don't think I make this inquiry from a motive of
impertinent curiosity!"

I felt quite satisfied that he could have no improper motive for asking
the question, and so answered it at once plainly and truly.

"My husband makes but a small income," I said. "Famous London
portrait-painters get great prices from their sitters; but poor unknown
artists, who only travel about the country, are obliged to work hard and
be contented with very small gains. After we have paid all that we owe
here, I am afraid we shall have little enough left to retire on, when we
take refuge in some cheaper place."

"In that case," said the good doctor (I am so glad and proud to remember
that I always liked him from the first!), "in that case, don't make
yourself anxious about my bill when you are thinking of clearing off
your debts here. I can afford to wait till Mr. Kerby's eyes are well
again, and I shall then ask him for a likeness of my little daughter.
By that arrangement we are sure to be both quits, and both perfectly
satisfied."

He considerately shook hands and bade me farewell before I could say
half the grateful words to him that were on my lips. Never, never shall
I forget that he relieved me of my two heaviest anxieties at the most
anxious time of my life. The merciful, warm-hearted man! I could almost
have knelt down and kissed his doorstep, as I crossed it on my way home.

18th.--If I had not resolved, after what happened yesterday, to look
only at the cheerful side of things for the future, the events of
to-day would have robbed me of all my courage, at the very outset of
our troubles. First, there was the casting up of our bills, and the
discovery, when the amount of them was balanced against all the money
we have saved up, that we shall only have between three and four pounds
left in the cash-box, after we have got out of debt. Then there was the
sad necessity of writing letters in my husband's name to the rich people
who were ready to employ him, telling them of the affliction that had
overtaken him, and of the impossibility of his executing their orders
for portraits for the next six months to come. And, lastly, there was
the heart-breaking business for me to go through of giving our landlord
warning, just as we had got comfortably settled in our new abode. If
William could only have gone on with his work, we might have stopped in
this town, and in these clean, comfortable lodgings for at least three
or four months. We have never had the use of a nice empty garret before,
for the children to play in; and I never met with any landlady so
pleasant to deal with in the kitchen as the landlady here. And now we
must leave all this comfort and happiness, and go--I hardly know where.
William, in his bitterness, says to the workhouse; but that shall never
be, if I have to go out to service to prevent it. The darkness is coming
on, and we must save in candles, or I could write much more. Ah, me!
what a day this has been. I have had but one pleasant moment since it
began; and that was in the morning, when I set my little Emily to work
on a bead purse for the kind doctor's daughter. My child, young as
she is, is wonderfully neat-handed at stringing beads; and even a poor
little empty purse as a token of our gratitude, is better than nothing
at all.

19th.--A visit from our best friend--our only friend here--the doctor.
After he had examined William's eyes, and had reported that they were
getting on as well as can be hoped at present, he asked where we thought
of going to live? I said in the cheapest place we could find, and added
that I was about to make inquiries in the by-streets of the town that
very day. "Put off those inquiries," he said, "till you hear from me
again. I am going now to see a patient at a farmhouse five miles
off. (You needn't look at the children, Mrs. Kerby, it's nothing
infectious--only a clumsy lad, who has broken his collarbone by a fall
from a horse.) They receive lodgers occasionally at the farmhouse, and
I know no reason why they should not be willing to receive you. If you
want to be well housed and well fed at a cheap rate, and if you like the
society of honest, hearty people, the farm of Appletreewick is the very
place for you. Don't thank me till you know whether I can get you
these new lodgings or not. And in the meantime settle all your business
affairs here, so as to be able to move at a moment's notice." With those
words the kind-hearted gentleman nodded and went out. Pray heaven he may
succeed at the farmhouse! We may be sure of the children's health, at
least, if we live in the country. Talking of the children, I must not
omit to record that Emily has nearly done one end of the bead purse
already.

20th.--A note from the doctor, who is too busy to call. Such good
news! They will give us two bedrooms, and board us with the family at
Appletreewick for seventeen shillings a week. By my calculations, we
shall have three pounds sixteen shillings left, after paying what we owe
here. That will be enough, at the outset, for four weeks' living at the
farmhouse, with eight shillings to spare besides. By embroidery-work I
can easily make nine shillings more to put to that, and there is a fifth
week provided for. Surely, in five weeks' time--considering the number
of things I can turn my hand to--we may hit on some plan for getting a
little money. This is what I am always telling my husband, and what,
by dint of constantly repeating it, I am getting to believe myself.
William, as is but natural, poor fellow, does not take so lighthearted
view of the future as I do. He says that the prospect of sitting
idle and being kept by his wife for months to come, is something more
wretched and hopeless than words can describe. I try to raise his
spirits by reminding him of his years of honest hard work for me and
the children, and of the doctor's assurance that his eyes will get the
better, in good time, of their present helpless state. But he still
sighs and murmurs--being one of the most independent and high spirited
of men--about living a burden on his wife. I can only answer, what in my
heart of hearts I feel, that I took him for Better and for Worse; that
I have had many years of the Better, and that, even in our present
trouble, the Worse shows no signs of coming yet!

The bead purse is getting on fast. Red and blue, in a pretty striped
pattern.

21st.--A busy day. We go to Appletreewick to-morrow. Paying bills and
packing up. All poor William's new canvases and painting-things huddled
together into a packing-case. He looked so sad, sitting silent with
his green shade on, while his old familiar working materials were
disappearing around him, as if he and they were never to come together
again, that the tears would start into my eyes, though I am sure I
am not one of the crying sort. Luckily, the green shade kept him from
seeing me: and I took good care, though the effort nearly choked me,
that he should not hear I was crying, at any rate.

The bead purse is done. How are we to get the steel rings and tassels
for it? I am not justified now in spending sixpence unnecessarily, even
for the best of purposes.

22d.-----

23d. _The Farm of Appletreewick._--Too tired, after our move yesterday,
to write a word in my diary about our journey to this delightful place.
But now that we are beginning to get settled, I can manage to make up
for past omissions.

My first occupation on the morning of the move had, oddly enough,
nothing to do with our departure for the farmhouse. The moment breakfast
was over I began the day by making Emily as smart and nice-looking as I
could, to go to the doctor's with the purse. She had her best silk frock
on, showing the mending a little in some places, I am afraid, and her
straw hat trimmed with my bonnet ribbon. Her father's neck-scarf, turned
and joined so that nobody could see it, made a nice mantilla for her;
and away she went to the doctor's, with her little, determined step,
and the purse in her hand (such a pretty hand that it is hardly to
be regretted I had no gloves for her). They were delighted with the
purse--which I ought to mention was finished with some white beads; we
found them in rummaging among our boxes, and they made beautiful rings
and tassels, contrasting charmingly with the blue and red of the rest
of the purse. The doctor and his little girl were, as I have said,
delighted with the present; and they gave Emily, in return, a workbox
for herself, and a box of sugar-plums for her baby sister. The child
came back all flushed with the pleasure of the visit, and quite helped
to keep up her father's spirits with talking to him about it. So much
for the highly interesting history of the bead purse.

Toward the afternoon the light cart from the farmhouse came to fetch us
and our things to Appletreewick. It was quite a warm spring day, and
I had another pang to bear as I saw poor William helped into the cart,
looking so sickly and sad, with his miserable green shade, in the
cheerful sunlight. "God only knows, Leah, how this will succeed with
us," he said, as we started; then sighed, and fell silent again.

Just outside the town the doctor met us. "Good luck go with you!" he
cried, swinging his stick in his usual hasty way; "I shall come and see
you as soon as you are all settled at the farmhouse." "Good-by, sir,"
says Emily, struggling up with all her might among the bundles in the
bottom of the cart; "good-by, and thank you again for the work-box and
the sugar-plums." That was my child all over! she never wants telling.
The doctor kissed his hand, and gave another flourish with his stick. So
we parted.

How I should have enjoyed the drive if William could only have looked,
as I did, at the young firs on the heath bending beneath the steady
breeze; at the shadows flying over the smooth fields; at the high
white clouds moving on and on, in their grand airy procession over the
gladsome blue sky! It was a hilly road, and I begged the lad who drove
us not to press the horse; so we were nearly an hour, at our slow rate
of going, before we drew up at the gate of Appletreewick.

24th February to 2d March.--We have now been here long enough to know
something of the place and the people. First, as to the place: Where
the farmhouse now is, there was once a famous priory. The tower is still
standing, and the great room where the monks ate and drank--used at
present as a granary. The house itself seems to have been tacked on to
the ruins anyhow. No two rooms in it are on the same level. The children
do nothing but tumble about the passages, because there always happens
to be a step up or down, just at the darkest part of every one of them.
As for staircases, there seems to me to be one for each bedroom. I do
nothing but lose my way--and the farmer says, drolling, that he must
have sign-posts put up for me in every corner of the house from top to
bottom. On the ground-floor, besides the usual domestic offices, we have
the best parlor--a dark, airless, expensively furnished solitude, never
invaded by anybody; the kitchen, and a kind of hall, with a fireplace as
big as the drawing-room at our town lodgings. Here we live and take our
meals; here the children can racket about to their hearts' content; here
the dogs come lumbering in, whenever they can get loose; here wages are
paid, visitors are received, bacon is cured, cheese is tasted, pipes
are smoked, and naps are taken every evening by the male members of the
family. Never was such a comfortable, friendly dwelling-place devised as
this hall; I feel already as if half my life had been passed in it.

Out-of-doors, looking beyond the flower-garden, lawn, back yards,
pigeon-houses, and kitchen-gardens, we are surrounded by a network of
smooth grazing-fields, each shut off from the other by its neat hedgerow
and its sturdy gate. Beyond the fields the hills seem to flow away
gently from us into the far blue distance, till they are lost in the
bright softness of the sky. At one point, which we can see from our
bedroom windows, they dip suddenly into the plain, and show, over
the rich marshy flat, a strip of distant sea--a strip sometimes
blue, sometimes gray; sometimes, when the sun sets, a streak of fire;
sometimes, on showery days, a flash of silver light.

The inhabitants of the farmhouse have one great and rare merit--they are
people whom you can make friends with at once. Between not knowing them
at all, and knowing them well enough to shake hands at first sight,
there is no ceremonious interval or formal gradation whatever. They
received us, on our arrival, exactly as if we were old friends returned
from some long traveling expedition. Before we had been ten minutes in
the hall, William had the easiest chair and the snuggest corner; the
children were eating bread-and-jam on the window-seat; and I was talking
to the farmer's wife, with the cat on my lap, of the time when Emily had
the measles.

The family numbers seven, exclusive of the indoor servants, of course.
First came the farmer and his wife--he is a tall, sturdy, loud-voiced,
active old man--she the easiest, plumpest and gayest woman of sixty I
ever met with. They have three sons and two daughters. The two eldest
of the young men are employed on the farm; the third is a sailor, and is
making holiday-time of it just now at Appletreewick. The daughters
are pictures of health and freshness. I have but one complaint to make
against them--they are beginning to spoil the children already.

In this tranquil place, and among these genial, natural people, how
happily my time might be passed, were it not for the saddening sight
of William's affliction, and the wearing uncertainty of how we are to
provide for future necessities! It is a hard thing for my husband and
me, after having had the day made pleasant by kind words and friendly
offices, to feel this one anxious thought always forcing itself on us at
night: Shall we have the means of stopping in our new home in a month's
time?

3d.--A rainy day; the children difficult to manage; William miserably
despondent. Perhaps he influenced me, or perhaps I felt my little
troubles with the children more than usual: but, however it was, I have
not been so heavy-hearted since the day when my husband first put on the
green shade. A listless, hopeless sensation would steal over me; but why
write about it? Better to try and forget it. There is always to-morrow
to look to when to-day is at the worst.

4th.--To-morrow has proved worthy of the faith I put in it. Sunshine
again out-of-doors; and as clear and true a reflection of it in my own
heart as I can hope to have just at this time. Oh! that month, that one
poor month of respite! What are we to do at the end of the month?

5th.--I made my short entry for yesterday in the afternoon just before
tea-time, little thinking of events destined to happen with the evening
that would be really worth chronicling, for the sake of the excellent
results to which they are sure to lead. My tendency is to be too
sanguine about everything, I know; but I am, nevertheless, firmly
persuaded that I can see a new way out of our present difficulties--a
way of getting money enough to keep us all in comfort at the farmhouse
until William's eyes are well again.

The new project which is to relieve us from all uncertainties for the
next six months actually originated with _me!_ It has raised me many
inches higher in my own estimation already. If the doctor only agrees
with my view of the case when he comes to-morrow, William will allow
himself to be persuaded, I know; and then let them say what they please,
I will answer for the rest.

This is how the new idea first found its way into my head:

We had just done tea. William, in much better spirits than usual, was
talking with the young sailor, who is jocosely called here by the very
ugly name of "Foul-weather Dick." The farmer and his two eldest sons
were composing themselves on the oaken settles for their usual nap. The
dame was knitting, the two girls were beginning to clear the tea-table,
and I was darning the children's socks. To all appearance, this was not
a very propitious state of things for the creation of new ideas, and yet
my idea grew out of it, for all that. Talking with my husband on various
subjects connected with life in ships, the young sailor began giving us
a description of his hammock; telling us how it was slung; how it was
impossible to get into it any other way than "stern foremost" (whatever
that may mean); how the rolling of the ship made it rock like a cradle;
and how, on rough nights, it sometimes swayed to and fro at such a
rate as to bump bodily against the ship's side and wake him up with the
sensation of having just received a punch on the head from a remarkably
hard fist. Hearing all this, I ventured to suggest that it must be an
immense relief to him to sleep on shore in a good, motionless, solid
four-post bed. But, to my surprise, he scoffed at the idea; said he
never slept comfortably out of his hammock; declared that he quite
missed his occasional punch on the head from the ship's side; and ended
by giving a most comical account of all the uncomfortable sensations
he felt when he slept in a four-post bed. The odd nature of one of the
young sailor's objections to sleeping on shore reminded my husband
(as indeed it did me too) of the terrible story of a bed in a French
gambling-house, which he once heard from a gentleman whose likeness he
took.

"You're laughing at me," says honest Foul-weather Dick, seeing William
turn toward me and smile.--"No, indeed," says my husband; "that last
objection of yours to the four-post beds on shore seems by no means
ridiculous to _me,_ at any rate. I once knew a gentleman, Dick, who
practically realized your objection."

"Excuse me, sir," says Dick, after a pause, and with an appearance
of great bewilderment and curiosity; "but could you put 'practically
realized' into plain English, so that a poor man like me might have a
chance of understanding you?"--"Certainly!" says my husband, laughing.
"I mean that I once knew a gentleman who actually saw and felt what you
say in jest you are afraid of seeing and feeling whenever you sleep in a
four-post bed. Do you understand that?" Foul-weather Dick understood it
perfectly, and begged with great eagerness to hear what the gentleman's
adventure really was. The dame, who had been listening to our talk,
backed her son's petition; the two girls sat down expectant at the
half-cleared tea-table; even the farmer and his drowsy sons roused
themselves lazily on the settle--my husband saw that he stood fairly
committed to the relation of the story, so he told it without more ado.

I have often heard him relate that strange adventure (William is the
best teller of a story I ever met with) to friends of all ranks in many
different parts of England, and I never yet knew it fail of producing an
effect. The farmhouse audience were, I may almost say, petrified by it.
I never before saw people look so long in the same direction, and sit
so long in the same attitude, as they did. Even the servants stole away
from their work in the kitchen, and, unrebuked by master or mistress,
stood quite spell-bound in the doorway to listen. Observing all this in
silence, while my husband was going on with his narrative, the thought
suddenly flashed across me, "Why should William not get a wider audience
for that story, as well as for others which he has heard from time
to time from his sitters, and which he has hitherto only repeated in
private among a few friends? People tell stories in books and get money
for them. What if we told our stories in a book? and what if the book
sold? Why freedom, surely, from the one great anxiety that is now
preying on us! Money enough to stop at the farmhouse till William's eyes
are fit for work again!" I almost jumped up from my chair as my thought
went on shaping itself in this manner. When great men make wonderful
discoveries, do they feel sensations like mine, I wonder? Was Sir Isaac
Newton within an ace of skipping into the air when he first found out
the law of gravitation? Did Friar Bacon long to dance when he lit the
match and heard the first charge of gunpowder in the world go off with a
bang?

I had to put a strong constraint on myself, or I should have
communicated all that was passing in my mind to William before our
friends at the farmhouse. But I knew it was best to wait until we were
alone, and I did wait. What a relief it was when we all got up at last
to say good-night!

The moment we were in our own room, I could not stop to take so much as
a pin out of my dress before I began. "My dear," said I, "I never heard
you tell that gambling-house adventure so well before. What an effect it
had upon our friends! what an effect, indeed, it always has wherever you
tell it!"

So far he did not seem to take much notice. He just nodded, and began to
pour out some of the lotion in which he always bathes his poor eyes the
last thing at night.

"And as for that, William," I went on, "all your stories seem to
interest people. What a number you have picked up, first and last,
from different sitters, in the fifteen years of your practice as a
portrait-painter! Have you any idea how many stories you really do
know?"

No: he could not undertake to say how many just then. He gave this
answer in a very indifferent tone, dabbing away all the time at his eyes
with the sponge and lotion. He did it so awkwardly and roughly, as it
seemed to me, that I took the sponge from him and applied the lotion
tenderly myself.

"Do you think," said I, "if you turned over one of your stories
carefully in your mind beforehand--say the one you told to-night,
for example--that you could repeat it all to me so perfectly and
deliberately that I should be able to take it down in writing from your
lips?"

Yes: of course he could. But why ask that question?

"Because I should like to have all the stories that you have been in the
habit of relating to our friends set down fairly in writing, by way of
preserving them from ever being forgotten."

Would I bathe his left eye now, because that felt the hottest to-night?
I began to forbode that his growing indifference to what I was saying
would soon end in his fairly going to sleep before I had developed
my new idea, unless I took some means forthwith of stimulating his
curiosity, or, in other words, of waking him into a proper state of
astonishment and attention. "William," said I, without another syllable
of preface, "I have got a new plan for finding all the money we want for
our expenses here."

He jerked his head up directly, and looked at me. What plan?

"This: The state of your eyes prevents you for the present from
following your profession as an artist, does it not? Very well. What are
you to do with your idle time, my dear? Turn author! And how are you to
get the money we want? By publishing a book!"

"Good gracious, Leah! are you out of your senses?" he exclaimed.

I put my arm round his neck and sat down on his knee (the course I
always take when I want to persuade him to anything with as few words as
possible).

"Now, William, listen patiently to me," I said. "An artist lies under
this great disadvantage in case of accidents--his talents are of no
service to him unless he can use his eyes and fingers. An author, on
the other hand, can turn his talents to account just as well by means of
other people's eyes and fingers as by means of his own. In your present
situation, therefore, you have nothing for it, as I said before, but
to turn author. Wait! and hear me out. The book I want you to make is a
book of all your stories. You shall repeat them, and I will write them
down from your dictation. Our manuscript shall be printed; we will sell
the book to the public, and so support ourselves honorably in adversity,
by doing the best we can to interest and amuse others."

While I was saying all this--I suppose in a very excitable manner--my
husband looked, as our young sailor-friend would phrase it, quite _taken
aback._ "You were always quick at contriving, Leah," he said; "but how
in the world came you to think of this plan?"

"I thought of it while you were telling them the gambling-house
adventure downstairs," I answered.

"It is an ingenious idea, and a bold idea," he went on, thoughtfully.
"But it is one thing to tell a story to a circle of friends, and another
thing to put it into a printed form for an audience of strangers.
Consider, my dear, that we are neither of us used to what is called
writing for the press."

"Very true," said I, "but nobody is used to it when they first begin,
and yet plenty of people have tried the hazardous literary experiment
successfully. Besides, in our case, we have the materials ready to our
hands; surely we can succeed in shaping them presentably if we aim at
nothing but the simple truth."

"Who is to do the eloquent descriptions and the striking reflections,
and all that part of it?" said William, perplexedly shaking his head.

"Nobody!" I replied. "The eloquent descriptions and the striking
reflections are just the parts of a story-book that people never read.
Whatever we do, let us not, if we can possibly help it, write so much
as a single sentence that can be conveniently skipped. Come! come!"
I continued, seeing him begin to shake his head again; "no more
objections, William, I am too certain of the success of my plan to
endure them. If you still doubt, let us refer the new project to a
competent arbitrator. The doctor is coming to see you to-morrow. I will
tell him all that I have told you; and if you will promise on your side,
I will engage on mine to be guided entirely by his opinion."

William smiled, and readily gave the promise. This was all I wanted to
send me to bed in the best spirits. For, of course, I should never have
thought of mentioning the doctor as an arbitrator, if I had not known
beforehand that he was sure to be on my side.

6th.--The arbitrator has shown that he deserved my confidence in him. He
ranked himself entirely on my side before I had half done explaining
to him what my new project really was. As to my husband's doubts
and difficulties, the dear good man would not so much as hear them
mentioned. "No objections," he cried, gayly; "set to work, Mr. Kerby,
and make your fortune. I always said your wife was worth her weight in
gold--and here she is now, all ready to get into the bookseller's scales
and prove it. Set to work! set to work!"

"With all my heart," said William, beginning at last to catch the
infection of our enthusiasm. "But when my part of the work and my wife's
has been completed, what are we to do with the produce of our labor?"

"Leave that to me," answered the doctor. "Finish your book and send
it to my house; I will show it at once to the editor of our country
newspaper. He has plenty of literary friends in London, and he will be
just the man to help you. By-the-by," added the doctor, addressing me,
"you think of everything, Mrs. Kerby; pray have you thought of a name
yet for the new book?"

At that question it was my turn to be "taken aback." The idea of naming
the book had never once entered my head.

"A good title is of vast importance," said the doctor, knitting his
brows thoughtfully. "We must all think about that. What shall it be? eh,
Mrs. Kerby, what shall it be?"

"Perhaps something may strike us after we have fairly set to work," my
husband suggested. "Talking of work," he continued, turning to me, "how
are you to find time, Leah, with your nursery occupations, for writing
down all the stories as I tell them?"

"I have been thinking of that this morning," said I, "and have come to
the conclusion that I shall have but little leisure to write from your
dictation in the day-time. What with dressing and washing the children,
teaching them, giving them their meals, taking them out to walk, and
keeping them amused at home--to say nothing of sitting sociably at work
with the dame and her two girls in the afternoon--I am afraid I shall
have few opportunities of doing my part of the book between breakfast
and tea-time. But when the children are in bed, and the farmer and his
family are reading or dozing, I should have at least three unoccupied
hours to spare. So, if you don't mind putting off our working-time till
after dark--"

"There's the title!" shouted the doctor, jumping out of his chair as if
he had been shot.

"Where?" cried I, looking all round me in the surprise of the moment,
as if I had expected to see the title magically inscribed for us on the
walls of the room.

"In your last words, to be sure!" rejoined the doctor. "You said just
now that you would not have leisure to write from Mr. Kerby's dictation
till _after dark._ What can we do better than name the book after the
time when the book is written? Call it boldly, _After dark._ Stop!
before anybody says a word for or against it, let us see how the name
looks on paper."

I opened my writing-desk in a great flutter. The doctor selected the
largest sheet of paper and the broadest-nibbed pen he could find, and
wrote in majestic round-text letters, with alternate thin and thick
strokes beautiful to see, the two cabalistic words

                     AFTER DARK.

We all three laid our heads together over the paper, and in breathless
silence studied the effect of the round-text: William raising his green
shade in the excitement of the moment, and actually disobeying the
doctor's orders about not using his eyes, in the doctor's own presence!
After a good long stare, we looked round solemnly in each other's faces
and nodded. There was no doubt whatever on the subject after seeing the
round-text. In one happy moment the doctor had hit on the right name.

"I have written the title-page," said our good friend, taking up his hat
to go. "And now I leave it to you two to write the book."

Since then I have mended four pens and bought a quire of letter-paper
at the village shop. William is to ponder well over his stories in the
daytime, so as to be quite ready for me "after dark." We are to commence
our new occupation this evening. My heart beats fast and my eyes moisten
when I think of it. How many of our dearest interests depend upon the
one little beginning that we are to make to-night!

PROLOGUE TO THE FIRST STORY.

Before I begin, by the aid of my wife's patient attention and ready pen,
to relate any of the stories which I have heard at various times from
persons whose likenesses I have been employed to take, it will not be
amiss if I try to secure the reader's interest in the following pages,
by briefly explaining how I became possessed of the narrative matter
which they contain.

Of myself I have nothing to say, but that I have followed the profession
of a traveling portrait-painter for the last fifteen years. The pursuit
of my calling has not only led me all through England, but has taken
me twice to Scotland, and once to Ireland. In moving from district to
district, I am never guided beforehand by any settled plan. Sometimes
the letters of recommendation which I get from persons who are satisfied
with the work I have done for them determine the direction in which
I travel. Sometimes I hear of a new neighborhood in which there is no
resident artist of ability, and remove thither on speculation. Sometimes
my friends among the picture-dealers say a good word on my behalf to
their rich customers, and so pave the way for me in the large towns.
Sometimes my prosperous and famous brother-artists, hearing of small
commissions which it is not worth their while to accept, mention my
name, and procure me introductions to pleasant country houses. Thus I
get on, now in one way and now in another, not winning a reputation or
making a fortune, but happier, perhaps, on the whole, than many men who
have got both the one and the other. So, at least, I try to think now,
though I started in my youth with as high an ambition as the best of
them. Thank God, it is not my business here to speak of past times and
their disappointments. A twinge of the old hopeless heartache comes over
me sometimes still, when I think of my student days.

One peculiarity of my present way of life is, that it brings me into
contact with all sorts of characters. I almost feel, by this time, as if
I had painted every civilized variety of the human race. Upon the whole,
my experience of the world, rough as it has been, has not taught me to
think unkindly of my fellow-creatures. I have certainly received such
treatment at the hands of some of my sitters as I could not describe
without saddening and shocking any kind-hearted reader; but, taking one
year and one place with another, I have cause to remember with gratitude
and respect--sometimes even with friendship and affection--a very large
proportion of the numerous persons who have employed me.

Some of the results of my experience are curious in a moral point of
view. For example, I have found women almost uniformly less delicate in
asking me about my terms, and less generous in remunerating me for my
services, than men. On the other hand, men, within my knowledge, are
decidedly vainer of their personal attractions, and more vexatiously
anxious to have them done full justice to on canvas, than women. Taking
both sexes together, I have found young people, for the most part, more
gentle, more reasonable, and more considerate than old. And, summing up,
in a general way, my experience of different ranks (which extends, let
me premise, all the way down from peers to publicans), I have met
with most of my formal and ungracious receptions among rich people of
uncertain social standing: the highest classes and the lowest among my
employers almost always contrive--in widely different ways, of course,
to make me feel at home as soon as I enter their houses.

The one great obstacle that I have to contend against in the practice
of my profession is not, as some persons may imagine, the difficulty
of making my sitters keep their heads still while I paint them, but
the difficulty of getting them to preserve the natural look and the
every-day peculiarities of dress and manner. People will assume
an expression, will brush up their hair, will correct any little
characteristic carelessness in their apparel--will, in short, when they
want to have their likenesses taken, look as if they were sitting for
their pictures. If I paint them, under these artificial circumstances,
I fail of course to present them in their habitual aspect; and my
portrait, as a necessary consequence, disappoints everybody, the sitter
always included. When we wish to judge of a man's character by his
handwriting, we want his customary scrawl dashed off with his common
workaday pen, not his best small-text, traced laboriously with the
finest procurable crow-quill point. So it is with portrait-painting,
which is, after all, nothing but a right reading of the externals of
character recognizably presented to the view of others.

Experience, after repeated trials, has proved to me that the only way
of getting sitters who persist in assuming a set look to resume their
habitual expression, is to lead them into talking about some subject
in which they are greatly interested. If I can only beguile them into
speaking earnestly, no matter on what topic, I am sure of recovering
their natural expression; sure of seeing all the little precious
everyday peculiarities of the man or woman peep out, one after another,
quite unawares. The long, maundering stories about nothing, the
wearisome recitals of petty grievances, the local anecdotes unrelieved
by the faintest suspicion of anything like general interest, which I
have been condemned to hear, as a consequence of thawing the ice off
the features of formal sitters by the method just described, would fill
hundreds of volumes, and promote the repose of thousands of readers. On
the other hand, if I have suffered under the tediousness of the many,
I have not been without my compensating gains from the wisdom and
experience of the few. To some of my sitters I have been indebted for
information which has enlarged my mind--to some for advice which has
lightened my heart--to some for narratives of strange adventure which
riveted my attention at the time, which have served to interest and
amuse my fireside circle for many years past, and which are now, I would
fain hope, destined to make kind friends for me among a wider audience
than any that I have yet addressed.

Singularly enough, almost all the best stories that I have heard from my
sitters have been told by accident. I only remember two cases in which
a story was volunteered to me, and, although I have often tried the
experiment, I cannot call to mind even a single instance in which
leading questions (as the lawyers call them) on my part, addressed to a
sitter, ever produced any result worth recording. Over and over again,
I have been disastrously successful in encouraging dull people to weary
me. But the clever people who have something interesting to say, seem,
so far as I have observed them, to acknowledge no other stimulant
than chance. For every story which I propose including in the present
collection, excepting one, I have been indebted, in the first instance,
to the capricious influence of the same chance. Something my sitter has
seen about me, something I have remarked in my sitter, or in the room in
which I take the likeness, or in the neighborhood through which I pass
on my way to work, has suggested the necessary association, or has
started the right train of recollections, and then the story appeared
to begin of its own accord. Occasionally the most casual notice, on
my part, of some very unpromising object has smoothed the way for the
relation of a long and interesting narrative. I first heard one of the
most dramatic of the stories that will be presented in this book, merely
through being carelessly inquisitive to know the history of a stuffed
poodle-dog.

It is thus not without reason that I lay some stress on the
desirableness of prefacing each one of the following narratives by a
brief account of the curious manner in which I became possessed of it.
As to my capacity for repeating these stories correctly, I can answer
for it that my memory may be trusted. I may claim it as a merit, because
it is after all a mechanical one, that I forget nothing, and that I can
call long-passed conversations and events as readily to my recollection
as if they had happened but a few weeks ago. Of two things at least I
feel tolerably certain beforehand, in meditating over the contents of
this book: First, that I can repeat correctly all that I have heard;
and, secondly, that I have never missed anything worth hearing when my
sitters were addressing me on an interesting subject. Although I cannot
take the lead in talking while I am engaged in painting, I can listen
while others speak, and work all the better for it.

So much in the way of general preface to the pages for which I am about
to ask the reader's attention. Let me now advance to particulars, and
describe how I came to hear the first story in the present collection. I
begin with it because it is the story that I have oftenest "rehearsed,"
to borrow a phrase from the stage. Wherever I go, I am sooner or later
sure to tell it. Only last night, I was persuaded into repeating it once
more by the inhabitants of the farmhouse in which I am now staying.



Not many years ago, on returning from a short holiday visit to a friend
settled in Paris, I found professional letters awaiting me at my agent's
in London, which required my immediate presence in Liverpool. Without
stopping to unpack, I proceeded by the first conveyance to my
new destination; and, calling at the picture-dealer's shop, where
portrait-painting engagements were received for me, found to my great
satisfaction that I had remunerative employment in prospect, in and
about Liverpool, for at least two months to come. I was putting up my
letters in high spirits, and was just leaving the picture-dealer's shop
to look out for comfortable lodgings, when I was met at the door by the
landlord of one of the largest hotels in Liverpool--an old acquaintance
whom I had known as manager of a tavern in London in my student days.

"Mr. Kerby!" he exclaimed, in great astonishment. "What an unexpected
meeting! the last man in the world whom I expected to see, and yet the
very man whose services I want to make use of!"

"What, more work for me?" said I; "are all the people in Liverpool going
to have their portraits painted?"

"I only know of one," replied the landlord, "a gentleman staying at my
hotel, who wants a chalk drawing done for him. I was on my way here to
inquire of any artist whom our picture-dealing friend could recommend.
How glad I am that I met you before I had committed myself to employing
a stranger!"

"Is this likeness wanted at once?" I asked, thinking of the number of
engagements that I had already got in my pocket.

"Immediately--to-day--this very hour, if possible," said the landlord.
"Mr. Faulkner, the gentleman I am speaking of, was to have sailed
yesterday for the Brazils from this place; but the wind shifted last
night to the wrong quarter, and he came ashore again this morning. He
may of course be detained here for some time; but he may also be called
on board ship at half an hour's notice, if the wind shifts back again
in the right direction. This uncertainty makes it a matter of importance
that the likeness should be begun immediately. Undertake it if you
possibly can, for Mr. Faulkner's a liberal gentleman, who is sure to
give you your own terms."

I reflected for a minute or two. The portrait was only wanted in chalk,
and would not take long; besides, I might finish it in the evening, if
my other engagements pressed hard upon me in the daytime. Why not leave
my luggage at the picture-dealer's, put off looking for lodgings till
night, and secure the new commission boldly by going back at once with
the landlord to the hotel? I decided on following this course almost as
soon as the idea occurred to me--put my chalks in my pocket, and a sheet
of drawing paper in the first of my portfolios that came to hand--and
so presented myself before Mr. Faulkner, ready to take his likeness,
literally at five minutes' notice.

I found him a very pleasant, intelligent man, young and handsome. He had
been a great traveler; had visited all the wonders of the East; and was
now about to explore the wilds of the vast South American Continent.
Thus much he told me good-humoredly and unconstrainedly while I was
preparing my drawing materials.

As soon as I had put him in the right light and position, and had seated
myself opposite to him, he changed the subject of conversation, and
asked me, a little confusedly as I thought, if it was not a customary
practice among portrait-painters to gloss over the faults in their
sitters' faces, and to make as much as possible of any good points which
their features might possess.

"Certainly," I answered. "You have described the whole art and mystery
of successful portrait-painting in a few words."

"May I beg, then," said he, "that you will depart from the usual
practice in my case, and draw me with all my defects, exactly as I am?
The fact is," he went on, after a moment's pause, "the likeness you are
now preparing to take is intended for my mother. My roving disposition
makes me a great anxiety to her, and she parted from me this last time
very sadly and unwillingly. I don't know how the idea came into my head,
but it struck me this morning that I could not better employ the time,
while I was delayed here on shore, than by getting my likeness done
to send to her as a keepsake. She has no portrait of me since I was a
child, and she is sure to value a drawing of me more than anything else
I could send to her. I only trouble you with this explanation to prove
that I am really sincere in my wish to be drawn unflatteringly, exactly
as I am."

Secretly respecting and admiring him for what he had just said, I
promised that his directions should be implicitly followed, and began
to work immediately. Before I had pursued my occupation for ten minutes,
the conversation began to flag, and the usual obstacle to my success
with a sitter gradually set itself up between us. Quite unconsciously,
of course, Mr. Faulkner stiffened his neck, shut his month, and
contracted his eyebrows--evidently under the impression that he was
facilitating the process of taking his portrait by making his face as
like a lifeless mask as possible. All traces of his natural animated
expression were fast disappearing, and he was beginning to change into a
heavy and rather melancholy-looking man.

This complete alteration was of no great consequence so long as I was
only engaged in drawing the outline of his face and the general form
of his features. I accordingly worked on doggedly for more than an
hour--then left off to point my chalks again, and to give my sitter a
few minutes' rest. Thus far the likeness had not suffered through
Mr. Faulkner's unfortunate notion of the right way of sitting for his
portrait; but the time of difficulty, as I well knew, was to come.
It was impossible for me to think of putting any expression into the
drawing unless I could contrive some means, when he resumed his chair,
of making him look like himself again. "I will talk to him about foreign
parts," thought I, "and try if I can't make him forget that he is
sitting for his picture in that way."

While I was pointing my chalks Mr. Faulkner was walking up and down
the room. He chanced to see the portfolio I had brought with me leaning
against the wall, and asked if there were any sketches in it. I told him
there were a few which I had made during my recent stay in Paris; "In
Paris?" he repeated, with a look of interest; "may I see them?"

I gave him the permission he asked as a matter of course. Sitting down,
he took the portfolio on his knee, and began to look through it. He
turned over the first five sketches rapidly enough; but when he came to
the sixth, I saw his face flush directly, and observed that he took the
drawing out of the portfolio, carried it to the window, and remained
silently absorbed in the contemplation of it for full five minutes.
After that, he turned round to me, and asked very anxiously if I had any
objection to part with that sketch.

It was the least interesting drawing of the collection--merely a view
in one of the streets running by the backs of the houses in the Palais
Royal. Some four or five of these houses were comprised in the view,
which was of no particular use to me in any way; and which was too
valueless, as a work of art, for me to think of selling it. I begged his
acceptance of it at once. He thanked me quite warmly; and then, seeing
that I looked a little surprised at the odd selection he had made from
my sketches, laughingly asked me if I could guess why he had been so
anxious to become possessed of the view which I had given him?

"Probably," I answered, "there is some remarkable historical association
connected with that street at the back of the Palais Royal, of which I
am ignorant."

"No," said Mr. Faulkner; "at least none that _I_ know of. The only
association connected with the place in _my_ mind is a purely personal
association. Look at this house in your drawing--the house with the
water-pipe running down it from top to bottom. I once passed a night
there--a night I shall never forget to the day of my death. I have had
some awkward traveling adventures in my time; but _that_ adventure--!
Well, never mind, suppose we begin the sitting. I make but a bad return
for your kindness in giving me the sketch by thus wasting your time in
mere talk."

"Come! come!" thought I, as he went back to the sitter's chair, "I shall
see your natural expression on your face if I can only get you to talk
about that adventure." It was easy enough to lead him in the right
direction. At the first hint from me, he returned to the subject of the
house in the back street. Without, I hope, showing any undue curiosity,
I contrived to let him see that I felt a deep interest in everything he
now said. After two or three preliminary hesitations, he at last, to
my great joy, fairly started on the narrative of his adventure. In the
interest of his subject he soon completely forgot that he was sitting
for his portrait--the very expression that I wanted came over his
face--and my drawing proceeded toward completion, in the right
direction, and to the best purpose. At every fresh touch I felt more and
more certain that I was now getting the better of my grand difficulty;
and I enjoyed the additional gratification of having my work lightened
by the recital of a true story, which possessed, in my estimation, all
the excitement of the most exciting romance.

This, as I recollect it, is how Mr. Faulkner told me his adventure:



THE TRAVELER'S STORY OF A TERRIBLY STRANGE BED.

Shortly after my education at college was finished, I happened to be
staying at Paris with an English friend. We were both young men then,
and lived, I am afraid, rather a wild life, in the delightful city of
our sojourn. One night we were idling about the neighborhood of
the Palais Royal, doubtful to what amusement we should next betake
ourselves. My friend proposed a visit to Frascati's; but his suggestion
was not to my taste. I knew Frascati's, as the French saying is, by
heart; had lost and won plenty of five-franc pieces there, merely for
amusement's sake, until it was amusement no longer, and was thoroughly
tired, in fact, of all the ghastly respectabilities of such a social
anomaly as a respectable gambling-house. "For Heaven's sake," said I
to my friend, "let us go somewhere where we can see a little genuine,
blackguard, poverty-stricken gaming with no false gingerbread glitter
thrown over it all. Let us get away from fashionable Frascati's, to a
house where they don't mind letting in a man with a ragged coat, or a
man with no coat, ragged or otherwise." "Very well," said my friend, "we
needn't go out of the Palais Royal to find the sort of company you want.
Here's the place just before us; as blackguard a place, by all report,
as you could possibly wish to see." In another minute we arrived at the
door, and entered the house, the back of which you have drawn in your
sketch.

When we got upstairs, and had left our hats and sticks with the
doorkeeper, we were admitted into the chief gambling-room. We did not
find many people assembled there. But, few as the men were who looked
up at us on our entrance, they were all types--lamentably true types--of
their respective classes.

We had come to see blackguards; but these men were something
worse. There is a comic side, more or less appreciable, in all
blackguardism--here there was nothing but tragedy--mute, weird tragedy.
The quiet in the room was horrible. The thin, haggard, long-haired young
man, whose sunken eyes fiercely watched the turning up of the cards,
never spoke; the flabby, fat-faced, pimply player, who pricked his piece
of pasteboard perseveringly, to register how often black won, and how
often red--never spoke; the dirty, wrinkled old man, with the vulture
eyes and the darned great-coat, who had lost his last _sou,_ and still
looked on desperately, after he could play no longer--never spoke. Even
the voice of the croupier sounded as if it were strangely dulled and
thickened in the atmosphere of the room. I had entered the place to
laugh, but the spectacle before me was something to weep over. I soon
found it necessary to take refuge in excitement from the depression
of spirits which was fast stealing on me. Unfortunately I sought the
nearest excitement, by going to the table and beginning to play. Still
more unfortunately, as the event will show, I won--won prodigiously;
won incredibly; won at such a rate that the regular players at the table
crowded round me; and staring at my stakes with hungry, superstitious
eyes, whispered to one another that the English stranger was going to
break the bank.

The game was _Rouge et Noir_. I had played at it in every city in
Europe, without, however, the care or the wish to study the Theory of
Chances--that philosopher's stone of all gamblers! And a gambler, in the
strict sense of the word, I had never been. I was heart-whole from the
corroding passion for play. My gaming was a mere idle amusement. I never
resorted to it by necessity, because I never knew what it was to want
money. I never practiced it so incessantly as to lose more than I could
afford, or to gain more than I could coolly pocket without being thrown
off my balance by my good luck. In short, I had hitherto
frequented gambling-tables--just as I frequented ball-rooms and
opera-houses--because they amused me, and because I had nothing better
to do with my leisure hours.

But on this occasion it was very different--now, for the first time in
my life, I felt what the passion for play really was. My success
first bewildered, and then, in the most literal meaning of the word,
intoxicated me. Incredible as it may appear, it is nevertheless true,
that I only lost when I attempted to estimate chances, and played
according to previous calculation. If I left everything to luck, and
staked without any care or consideration, I was sure to win--to win in
the face of every recognized probability in favor of the bank. At first
some of the men present ventured their money safely enough on my color;
but I speedily increased my stakes to sums which they dared not risk.
One after another they left off playing, and breathlessly looked on at
my game.

Still, time after time, I staked higher and higher, and still won. The
excitement in the room rose to fever pitch. The silence was interrupted
by a deep-muttered chorus of oaths and exclamations in different
languages, every time the gold was shoveled across to my side of the
table--even the imperturbable croupier dashed his rake on the floor in
a (French) fury of astonishment at my success. But one man present
preserved his self-possession, and that man was my friend. He came to my
side, and whispering in English, begged me to leave the place, satisfied
with what I had already gained. I must do him the justice to say that he
repeated his warnings and entreaties several times, and only left me
and went away after I had rejected his advice (I was to all intents and
purposes gambling drunk) in terms which rendered it impossible for him
to address me again that night.

Shortly after he had gone, a hoarse voice behind me cried: "Permit me,
my dear sir--permit me to restore to their proper place two napoleons
which you have dropped. Wonderful luck, sir! I pledge you my word of
honor, as an old soldier, in the course of my long experience in this
sort of thing, I never saw such luck as yours--never! Go on, sir--_Sacre
mille bombes!_ Go on boldly, and break the bank!"

I turned round and saw, nodding and smiling at me with inveterate
civility, a tall man, dressed in a frogged and braided surtout.

If I had been in my senses, I should have considered him, personally, as
being rather a suspicious specimen of an old soldier. He had goggling,
bloodshot eyes, mangy mustaches, and a broken nose. His voice betrayed a
barrack-room intonation of the worst order, and he had the dirtiest pair
of hands I ever saw--even in France. These little personal peculiarities
exercised, however, no repelling influence on me. In the mad excitement,
the reckless triumph of that moment, I was ready to "fraternize" with
anybody who encouraged me in my game. I accepted the old soldier's
offered pinch of snuff; clapped him on the back, and swore he was the
honestest fellow in the world--the most glorious relic of the Grand Army
that I had ever met with. "Go on!" cried my military friend, snapping
his fingers in ecstasy--"Go on, and win! Break the bank--_Mille
tonnerres!_ my gallant English comrade, break the bank!"

And I _did_ go on--went on at such a rate, that in another quarter of an
hour the croupier called out, "Gentlemen, the bank has discontinued for
to-night." All the notes, and all the gold in that "bank," now lay in
a heap under my hands; the whole floating capital of the gambling-house
was waiting to pour into my pockets!

"Tie up the money in your pocket-handkerchief, my worthy sir," said the
old soldier, as I wildly plunged my hands into my heap of gold. "Tie
it up, as we used to tie up a bit of dinner in the Grand Army; your
winnings are too heavy for any breeches-pockets that ever were sewed.
There! that's it--shovel them in, notes and all! _Credie!_ what luck!
Stop! another napoleon on the floor! _Ah! sacre petit polisson de
Napoleon!_ have I found thee at last? Now then, sir--two tight double
knots each way with your honorable permission, and the money's safe.
Feel it! feel it, fortunate sir! hard and round as a cannon-ball--_Ah,
bah!_ if they had only fired such cannon-balls at us at Austerlitz--_nom
d'une pipe!_ if they only had! And now, as an ancient grenadier, as
an ex-brave of the French army, what remains for me to do? I ask what?
Simply this: to entreat my valued English friend to drink a bottle of
Champagne with me, and toast the goddess Fortune in foaming goblets
before we part!"

Excellent ex-brave! Convivial ancient grenadier! Champagne by all means!
An English cheer for an old soldier! Hurrah! hurrah! Another English
cheer for the goddess Fortune! Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!

"Bravo! the Englishman; the amiable, gracious Englishman, in whose veins
circulates the vivacious blood of France! Another glass? _Ah, bah!_--the
bottle is empty! Never mind! _Vive le vin!_ I, the old soldier, order
another bottle, and half a pound of bonbons with it!"

"No, no, ex-brave; never--ancient grenadier! _Your_ bottle last time;
_my_ bottle this. Behold it! Toast away! The French Army! the great
Napoleon! the present company! the croupier! the honest croupier's wife
and daughters--if he has any! the Ladies generally! everybody in the
world!"

By the time the second bottle of Champagne was emptied, I felt as if I
had been drinking liquid fire--my brain seemed all aflame. No excess in
wine had ever had this effect on me before in my life. Was it the result
of a stimulant acting upon my system when I was in a highly excited
state? Was my stomach in a particularly disordered condition? Or was the
Champagne amazingly strong?

"Ex-brave of the French Army!" cried I, in a mad state of exhilaration,
"_I_ am on fire! how are _you?_ You have set me on fire! Do you hear, my
hero of Austerlitz? Let us have a third bottle of Champagne to put the
flame out!"

The old soldier wagged his head, rolled his goggle-eyes, until I
expected to see them slip out of their sockets; placed his dirty
forefinger by the side of his broken nose; solemnly ejaculated "Coffee!"
and immediately ran off into an inner room.

The word pronounced by the eccentric veteran seemed to have a magical
effect on the rest of the company present. With one accord they all rose
to depart. Probably they had expected to profit by my intoxication; but
finding that my new friend was benevolently bent on preventing me from
getting dead drunk, had now abandoned all hope of thriving pleasantly on
my winnings. Whatever their motive might be, at any rate they went away
in a body. When the old soldier returned, and sat down again opposite to
me at the table, we had the room to ourselves. I could see the croupier,
in a sort of vestibule which opened out of it, eating his supper in
solitude. The silence was now deeper than ever.

A sudden change, too, had come over the "ex-brave." He assumed a
portentously solemn look; and when he spoke to me again, his speech was
ornamented by no oaths, enforced by no finger-snapping, enlivened by no
apostrophes or exclamations.

"Listen, my dear sir," said he, in mysteriously confidential
tones--"listen to an old soldier's advice. I have been to the mistress
of the house (a very charming woman, with a genius for cookery!) to
impress on her the necessity of making us some particularly strong and
good coffee. You must drink this coffee in order to get rid of your
little amiable exaltation of spirits before you think of going home--you
_must,_ my good and gracious friend! With all that money to take home
to-night, it is a sacred duty to yourself to have your wits about you.
You are known to be a winner to an enormous extent by several gentlemen
present to-night, who, in a certain point of view, are very worthy and
excellent fellows; but they are mortal men, my dear sir, and they have
their amiable weaknesses. Need I say more? Ah, no, no! you understand
me! Now, this is what you must do--send for a cabriolet when you feel
quite well again--draw up all the windows when you get into it--and
tell the driver to take you home only through the large and well-lighted
thoroughfares. Do this; and you and your money will be safe. Do this;
and to-morrow you will thank an old soldier for giving you a word of
honest advice."

Just as the ex-brave ended his oration in very lachrymose tones, the
coffee came in, ready poured out in two cups. My attentive friend handed
me one of the cups with a bow. I was parched with thirst, and drank it
off at a draught. Almost instantly afterwards, I was seized with a fit
of giddiness, and felt more completely intoxicated than ever. The
room whirled round and round furiously; the old soldier seemed to
be regularly bobbing up and down before me like the piston of a
steam-engine. I was half deafened by a violent singing in my ears; a
feeling of utter bewilderment, helplessness, idiocy, overcame me. I rose
from my chair, holding on by the table to keep my balance; and stammered
out that I felt dreadfully unwell--so unwell that I did not know how I
was to get home.

"My dear friend," answered the old soldier--and even his voice seemed to
be bobbing up and down as he spoke--"my dear friend, it would be madness
to go home in _your_ state; you would be sure to lose your money; you
might be robbed and murdered with the greatest ease. _I_ am going to
sleep here; do _you_ sleep here, too--they make up capital beds in this
house--take one; sleep off the effects of the wine, and go home safely
with your winnings to-morrow--to-morrow, in broad daylight."

I had but two ideas left: one, that I must never let go hold of my
handkerchief full of money; the other, that I must lie down somewhere
immediately, and fall off into a comfortable sleep. So I agreed to the
proposal about the bed, and took the offered arm of the old soldier,
carrying my money with my disengaged hand. Preceded by the croupier, we
passed along some passages and up a flight of stairs into the bedroom
which I was to occupy. The ex-brave shook me warmly by the hand,
proposed that we should breakfast together, and then, followed by the
croupier, left me for the night.

I ran to the wash-hand stand; drank some of the water in my jug; poured
the rest out, and plunged my face into it; then sat down in a chair and
tried to compose myself. I soon felt better. The change for my lungs,
from the fetid atmosphere of the gambling-room to the cool air of the
apartment I now occupied, the almost equally refreshing change for
my eyes, from the glaring gaslights of the "salon" to the dim, quiet
flicker of one bedroom-candle, aided wonderfully the restorative effects
of cold water. The giddiness left me, and I began to feel a little like
a reasonable being again. My first thought was of the risk of sleeping
all night in a gambling-house; my second, of the still greater risk of
trying to get out after the house was closed, and of going home alone at
night through the streets of Paris with a large sum of money about me.
I had slept in worse places than this on my travels; so I determined
to lock, bolt, and barricade my door, and take my chance till the next
morning.

Accordingly, I secured myself against all intrusion; looked under the
bed, and into the cupboard; tried the fastening of the window; and then,
satisfied that I had taken every proper precaution, pulled off my upper
clothing, put my light, which was a dim one, on the hearth among a
feathery litter of wood-ashes, and got into bed, with the handkerchief
full of money under my pillow.

I soon felt not only that I could not go to sleep, but that I could not
even close my eyes. I was wide awake, and in a high fever. Every nerve
in my body trembled--every one of my senses seemed to be preternaturally
sharpened. I tossed and rolled, and tried every kind of position, and
perseveringly sought out the cold corners of the bed, and all to no
purpose. Now I thrust my arms over the clothes; now I poked them under
the clothes; now I violently shot my legs straight out down to the
bottom of the bed; now I convulsively coiled them up as near my chin
as they would go; now I shook out my crumpled pillow, changed it to
the cool side, patted it flat, and lay down quietly on my back; now
I fiercely doubled it in two, set it up on end, thrust it against the
board of the bed, and tried a sitting posture. Every effort was in vain;
I groaned with vexation as I felt that I was in for a sleepless night.

What could I do? I had no book to read. And yet, unless I found out some
method of diverting my mind, I felt certain that I was in the condition
to imagine all sorts of horrors; to rack my brain with forebodings of
every possible and impossible danger; in short, to pass the night in
suffering all conceivable varieties of nervous terror.

I raised myself on my elbow, and looked about the room--which was
brightened by a lovely moonlight pouring straight through the window--to
see if it contained any pictures or ornaments that I could at all
clearly distinguish. While my eyes wandered from wall to wall, a
remembrance of Le Maistre's delightful little book, "Voyage autour de ma
Chambre," occurred to me. I resolved to imitate the French author,
and find occupation and amusement enough to relieve the tedium of my
wakefulness, by making a mental inventory of every article of furniture
I could see, and by following up to their sources the multitude of
associations which even a chair, a table, or a wash-hand stand may be
made to call forth.

In the nervous unsettled state of my mind at that moment, I found
it much easier to make my inventory than to make my reflections, and
thereupon soon gave up all hope of thinking in Le Maistre's fanciful
track--or, indeed, of thinking at all. I looked about the room at the
different articles of furniture, and did nothing more.

There was, first, the bed I was lying in; a four-post bed, of all things
in the world to meet with in Paris--yes, a thorough clumsy British
four-poster, with the regular top lined with chintz--the regular fringed
valance all round--the regular stifling, unwholesome curtains, which
I remembered having mechanically drawn back against the posts without
particularly noticing the bed when I first got into the room. Then
there was the marble-topped wash-hand stand, from which the water I had
spilled, in my hurry to pour it out, was still dripping, slowly and
more slowly, on to the brick floor. Then two small chairs, with my coat,
waistcoat, and trousers flung on them. Then a large elbow-chair covered
with dirty-white dimity, with my cravat and shirt collar thrown over the
back. Then a chest of drawers with two of the brass handles off, and a
tawdry, broken china inkstand placed on it by way of ornament for the
top. Then the dressing-table, adorned by a very small looking-glass,
and a very large pincushion. Then the window--an unusually large window.
Then a dark old picture, which the feeble candle dimly showed me. It
was a picture of a fellow in a high Spanish hat, crowned with a plume of
towering feathers. A swarthy, sinister ruffian, looking upward, shading
his eyes with his hand, and looking intently upward--it might be at some
tall gallows at which he was going to be hanged. At any rate, he had the
appearance of thoroughly deserving it.

This picture put a kind of constraint upon me to look upward too--at
the top of the bed. It was a gloomy and not an interesting object, and
I looked back at the picture. I counted the feathers in the man's
hat--they stood out in relief--three white, two green. I observed the
crown of his hat, which was of conical shape, according to the fashion
supposed to have been favored by Guido Fawkes. I wondered what he was
looking up at. It couldn't be at the stars; such a desperado was neither
astrologer nor astronomer. It must be at the high gallows, and he was
going to be hanged presently. Would the executioner come into possession
of his conical crowned hat and plume of feathers? I counted the feathers
again--three white, two green.

While I still lingered over this very improving and intellectual
employment, my thoughts insensibly began to wander. The moonlight
shining into the room reminded me of a certain moonlight night in
England--the night after a picnic party in a Welsh valley. Every
incident of the drive homeward, through lovely scenery, which the
moonlight made lovelier than ever, came back to my remembrance, though I
had never given the picnic a thought for years; though, if I had _tried_
to recollect it, I could certainly have recalled little or nothing of
that scene long past. Of all the wonderful faculties that help to tell
us we are immortal, which speaks the sublime truth more eloquently than
memory? Here was I, in a strange house of the most suspicious character,
in a situation of uncertainty, and even of peril, which might seem to
make the cool exercise of my recollection almost out of the question;
nevertheless, remembering, quite involuntarily, places, people,
conversations, minute circumstances of every kind, which I had thought
forgotten forever; which I could not possibly have recalled at will,
even under the most favorable auspices. And what cause had produced in
a moment the whole of this strange, complicated, mysterious effect?
Nothing but some rays of moonlight shining in at my bedroom window.

I was still thinking of the picnic--of our merriment on the drive
home--of the sentimental young lady who _would_ quote "Childe Harold"
because it was moonlight. I was absorbed by these past scenes and past
amusements, when, in an instant, the thread on which my memories hung
snapped asunder; my attention immediately came back to present things
more vividly than ever, and I found myself, I neither knew why nor
wherefore, looking hard at the picture again.

Looking for what?

Good God! the man had pulled his hat down on his brows! No! the hat
itself was gone! Where was the conical crown? Where the feathers--three
white, two green? Not there! In place of the hat and feathers, what
dusky object was it that now hid his forehead, his eyes, his shading
hand?

Was the bed moving?

I turned on my back and looked up. Was I mad? drunk? dreaming? giddy
again? or was the top of the bed really moving down--sinking slowly,
regularly, silently, horribly, right down throughout the whole of its
length and breadth--right down upon me, as I lay underneath?

My blood seemed to stand still. A deadly paralysing coldness stole all
over me as I turned my head round on the pillow and determined to test
whether the bed-top was really moving or not, by keeping my eye on the
man in the picture.

The next look in that direction was enough. The dull, black, frowzy
outline of the valance above me was within an inch of being parallel
with his waist. I still looked breathlessly. And steadily and
slowly--very slowly--I saw the figure, and the line of frame below the
figure, vanish, as the valance moved down before it.

I am, constitutionally, anything but timid. I have been on more than one
occasion in peril of my life, and have not lost my self-possession for
an instant; but when the conviction first settled on my mind that the
bed-top was really moving, was steadily and continuously sinking down
upon me, I looked up shuddering, helpless, panic-stricken, beneath the
hideous machinery for murder, which was advancing closer and closer to
suffocate me where I lay.

I looked up, motionless, speechless, breathless. The candle, fully
spent, went out; but the moonlight still brightened the room. Down and
down, without pausing and without sounding, came the bed-top, and still
my panic-terror seemed to bind me faster and faster to the mattress on
which I lay--down and down it sank, till the dusty odor from the lining
of the canopy came stealing into my nostrils.

At that final moment the instinct of self-preservation startled me out
of my trance, and I moved at last. There was just room for me to roll
myself sidewise off the bed. As I dropped noiselessly to the floor, the
edge of the murderous canopy touched me on the shoulder.

Without stopping to draw my breath, without wiping the cold sweat
from my face, I rose instantly on my knees to watch the bed-top. I was
literally spellbound by it. If I had heard footsteps behind me, I
could not have turned round; if a means of escape had been miraculously
provided for me, I could not have moved to take advantage of it. The
whole life in me was, at that moment, concentrated in my eyes.

It descended--the whole canopy, with the fringe round it, came
down--down--close down; so close that there was not room now to squeeze
my finger between the bed-top and the bed. I felt at the sides, and
discovered that what had appeared to me from beneath to be the ordinary
light canopy of a four-post bed was in reality a thick, broad mattress,
the substance of which was concealed by the valance and its fringe. I
looked up and saw the four posts rising hideously bare. In the middle
of the bed-top was a huge wooden screw that had evidently worked it down
through a hole in the ceiling, just as ordinary presses are worked down
on the substance selected for compression. The frightful apparatus moved
without making the faintest noise. There had been no creaking as it came
down; there was now not the faintest sound from the room above. Amid a
dead and awful silence I beheld before me--in the nineteenth century,
and in the civilized capital of France--such a machine for secret
murder by suffocation as might have existed in the worst days of the
Inquisition, in the lonely inns among the Hartz Mountains, in the
mysterious tribunals of Westphalia! Still, as I looked on it, I could
not move, I could hardly breathe, but I began to recover the power of
thinking, and in a moment I discovered the murderous conspiracy framed
against me in all its horror.

My cup of coffee had been drugged, and drugged too strongly. I had been
saved from being smothered by having taken an overdose of some narcotic.
How I had chafed and fretted at the fever fit which had preserved my
life by keeping me awake! How recklessly I had confided myself to the
two wretches who had led me into this room, determined, for the sake
of my winnings, to kill me in my sleep by the surest and most horrible
contrivance for secretly accomplishing my destruction! How many men,
winners like me, had slept, as I had proposed to sleep, in that bed, and
had never been seen or heard of more! I shuddered at the bare idea of
it.

But, ere long, all thought was again suspended by the sight of the
murderous canopy moving once more. After it had remained on the bed--as
nearly as I could guess--about ten minutes, it began to move up again.
The villains who worked it from above evidently believed that their
purpose was now accomplished. Slowly and silently, as it had descended,
that horrible bed-top rose towards its former place. When it reached
the upper extremities of the four posts, it reached the ceiling, too.
Neither hole nor screw could be seen; the bed became in appearance an
ordinary bed again--the canopy an ordinary canopy--even to the most
suspicious eyes.

Now, for the first time, I was able to move--to rise from my knees--to
dress myself in my upper clothing--and to consider of how I should
escape. If I betrayed by the smallest noise that the attempt to
suffocate me had failed, I was certain to be murdered. Had I made any
noise already? I listened intently, looking towards the door.

No! no footsteps in the passage outside--no sound of a tread, light or
heavy, in the room above--absolute silence everywhere. Besides locking
and bolting my door, I had moved an old wooden chest against it, which
I had found under the bed. To remove this chest (my blood ran cold as
I thought of what its contents _might_ be!) without making some
disturbance was impossible; and, moreover, to think of escaping through
the house, now barred up for the night, was sheer insanity. Only one
chance was left me--the window. I stole to it on tiptoe.

My bedroom was on the first floor, above an _entresol,_ and looked into
a back street, which you have sketched in your view. I raised my hand
to open the window, knowing that on that action hung, by the merest
hair-breadth, my chance of safety. They keep vigilant watch in a House
of Murder. If any part of the frame cracked, if the hinge creaked, I was
a lost man! It must have occupied me at least five minutes, reckoning
by time--five _hours,_ reckoning by suspense--to open that window. I
succeeded in doing it silently--in doing it with all the dexterity of
a house-breaker--and then looked down into the street. To leap the
distance beneath me would be almost certain destruction! Next, I
looked round at the sides of the house. Down the left side ran a thick
water-pipe which you have drawn--it passed close by the outer edge of
the window. The moment I saw the pipe I knew I was saved. My breath came
and went freely for the first time since I had seen the canopy of the
bed moving down upon me!

To some men the means of escape which I had discovered might have seemed
difficult and dangerous enough--to _me_ the prospect of slipping down
the pipe into the street did not suggest even a thought of peril. I had
always been accustomed, by the practice of gymnastics, to keep up my
school-boy powers as a daring and expert climber; and knew that my head,
hands, and feet would serve me faithfully in any hazards of ascent
or descent. I had already got one leg over the window-sill, when I
remembered the handkerchief filled with money under my pillow. I
could well have afforded to leave it behind me, but I was revengefully
determined that the miscreants of the gambling-house should miss their
plunder as well as their victim. So I went back to the bed and tied the
heavy handkerchief at my back by my cravat.

Just as I had made it tight and fixed it in a comfortable place, I
thought I heard a sound of breathing outside the door. The chill feeling
of horror ran through me again as I listened. No! dead silence still
in the passage--I had only heard the night air blowing softly into the
room. The next moment I was on the window-sill--and the next I had a
firm grip on the water-pipe with my hands and knees.

I slid down into the street easily and quietly, as I thought I should,
and immediately set off at the top of my speed to a branch "Prefecture"
of Police, which I knew was situated in the immediate neighborhood. A
"Sub-prefect," and several picked men among his subordinates, happened
to be up, maturing, I believe, some scheme for discovering the
perpetrator of a mysterious murder which all Paris was talking of just
then. When I began my story, in a breathless hurry and in very bad
French, I could see that the Sub-prefect suspected me of being a drunken
Englishman who had robbed somebody; but he soon altered his opinion as
I went on, and before I had anything like concluded, he shoved all
the papers before him into a drawer, put on his hat, supplied me with
another (for I was bareheaded), ordered a file of soldiers, desired his
expert followers to get ready all sorts of tools for breaking open doors
and ripping up brick flooring, and took my arm, in the most friendly and
familiar manner possible, to lead me with him out of the house. I will
venture to say that when the Sub-prefect was a little boy, and was taken
for the first time to the play, he was not half as much pleased as he
was now at the job in prospect for him at the gambling-house!

Away we went through the streets, the Sub-prefect cross-examining and
congratulating me in the same breath as we marched at the head of our
formidable _posse comitatus._ Sentinels were placed at the back and
front of the house the moment we got to it; a tremendous battery of
knocks was directed against the door; a light appeared at a window; I
was told to conceal myself behind the police--then came more knocks and
a cry of "Open in the name of the law!" At that terrible summons bolts
and locks gave way before an invisible hand, and the moment after the
Sub-prefect was in the passage, confronting a waiter half-dressed and
ghastly pale. This was the short dialogue which immediately took place:

"We want to see the Englishman who is sleeping in this house?"

"He went away hours ago."

"He did no such thing. His friend went away; _he_ remained. Show us to
his bedroom!"

"I swear to you, Monsieur le Sous-prefect, he is not here! he--"

"I swear to you, Monsieur le Garcon, he is. He slept here--he didn't
find your bed comfortable--he came to us to complain of it--here he
is among my men--and here am I ready to look for a flea or two in his
bedstead. Renaudin! (calling to one of the subordinates, and pointing
to the waiter) collar that man and tie his hands behind him. Now, then,
gentlemen, let us walk upstairs!"

Every man and woman in the house was secured--the "Old Soldier" the
first. Then I identified the bed in which I had slept, and then we went
into the room above.

No object that was at all extraordinary appeared in any part of it. The
Sub-prefect looked round the place, commanded everybody to be silent,
stamped twice on the floor, called for a candle, looked attentively
at the spot he had stamped on, and ordered the flooring there to be
carefully taken up. This was done in no time. Lights were produced, and
we saw a deep raftered cavity between the floor of this room and
the ceiling of the room beneath. Through this cavity there ran
perpendicularly a sort of case of iron thickly greased; and inside the
case appeared the screw, which communicated with the bed-top below.
Extra lengths of screw, freshly oiled; levers covered with felt; all
the complete upper works of a heavy press--constructed with infernal
ingenuity so as to join the fixtures below, and when taken to pieces
again, to go into the smallest possible compass--were next discovered
and pulled out on the floor. After some little difficulty the
Sub-prefect succeeded in putting the machinery together, and, leaving
his men to work it, descended with me to the bedroom. The smothering
canopy was then lowered, but not so noiselessly as I had seen it
lowered. When I mentioned this to the Sub-prefect, his answer, simple
as it was, had a terrible significance. "My men," said he, "are working
down the bed-top for the first time--the men whose money you won were in
better practice."

We left the house in the sole possession of two police agents--every
one of the inmates being removed to prison on the spot. The Sub-prefect,
after taking down my _"proces verbal"_ in his office, returned with me
to my hotel to get my passport. "Do you think," I asked, as I gave it to
him, "that any men have really been smothered in that bed, as they tried
to smother _me?_"

"I have seen dozens of drowned men laid out at the Morgue," answered the
Sub-prefect, "in whose pocket-books were found letters stating that they
had committed suicide in the Seine, because they had lost everything
at the gaming table. Do I know how many of those men entered the same
gambling-house that _you_ entered? won as _you_ won? took that bed as
_you_ took it? slept in it? were smothered in it? and were privately
thrown into the river, with a letter of explanation written by the
murderers and placed in their pocket-books? No man can say how many or
how few have suffered the fate from which you have escaped. The people
of the gambling-house kept their bedstead machinery a secret from
_us_--even from the police! The dead kept the rest of the secret for
them. Good-night, or rather good-morning, Monsieur Faulkner! Be at my
office again at nine o'clock--in the meantime, _au revoir!_"

The rest of my story is soon told. I was examined and re-examined; the
gambling-house was strictly searched all through from top to bottom; the
prisoners were separately interrogated; and two of the less guilty among
them made a confession. I discovered that the Old Soldier was the master
of the gambling-house--_justice_ discovered that he had been drummed
out of the army as a vagabond years ago; that he had been guilty of all
sorts of villainies since; that he was in possession of stolen property,
which the owners identified; and that he, the croupier, another
accomplice, and the woman who had made my cup of coffee, were all in the
secret of the bedstead. There appeared some reason to doubt whether the
inferior persons attached to the house knew anything of the suffocating
machinery; and they received the benefit of that doubt, by being treated
simply as thieves and vagabonds. As for the Old Soldier and his two head
myrmidons, they went to the galleys; the woman who had drugged my coffee
was imprisoned for I forget how many years; the regular attendants
at the gambling-house were considered "suspicious" and placed under
"surveillance"; and I became, for one whole week (which is a long time)
the head "lion" in Parisian society. My adventure was dramatized by
three illustrious play-makers, but never saw theatrical daylight; for
the censorship forbade the introduction on the stage of a correct copy
of the gambling-house bedstead.

One good result was produced by my adventure, which any censorship must
have approved: it cured me of ever again trying _"Rouge et Noir"_ as an
amusement. The sight of a green cloth, with packs of cards and heaps of
money on it, will henceforth be forever associated in my mind with the
sight of a bed canopy descending to suffocate me in the silence and
darkness of the night.



Just as Mr. Faulkner pronounced these words he started in his chair, and
resumed his stiff, dignified position in a great hurry. "Bless my soul!"
cried he, with a comic look of astonishment and vexation, "while I have
been telling you what is the real secret of my interest in the sketch
you have so kindly given to me, I have altogether forgotten that I came
here to sit for my portrait. For the last hour or more I must have been
the worst model you ever had to draw from!"

"On the contrary, you have been the best," said I. "I have been
trying to catch your likeness; and, while telling your story, you have
unconsciously shown me the natural expression I wanted to insure my
success."

NOTE BY MRS. KERBY.

I cannot let this story end without mentioning what the chance saying
was which caused it to be told at the farmhouse the other night. Our
friend the young sailor, among his other quaint objections to sleeping
on shore, declared that he particularly hated four-post beds, because he
never slept in one without doubting whether the top might not come down
in the night and suffocate him. I thought this chance reference to the
distinguishing feature of William's narrative curious enough, and
my husband agreed with me. But he says it is scarcely worth while to
mention such a trifle in anything so important as a book. I cannot
venture, after this, to do more than slip these lines in modestly at
the end of the story. If the printer should notice my few last
words, perhaps he may not mind the trouble of putting them into some
out-of-the-way corner.

L. K.



PROLOGUE TO THE SECOND STORY.

The beginning of an excellent connection which I succeeded in
establishing in and around that respectable watering-place,
Tidbury-on-the-Marsh, was an order for a life-size oil portrait of a
great local celebrity--one Mr. Boxsious, a solicitor, who was understood
to do the most thriving business of any lawyer in the town.

The portrait was intended as a testimonial "expressive (to use the
language of the circular forwarded to me at the time) of the eminent
services of Mr. Boxsious in promoting and securing the prosperity of
the town." It had been subscribed for by the "Municipal Authorities
and Resident Inhabitants" of Tidbury-on-the-Marsh; and it was to
be presented, when done, to Mrs. Boxsious, "as a slight but sincere
token"--and so forth. A timely recommendation from one of my kindest
friends and patrons placed the commission for painting the likeness in
my lucky hands; and I was instructed to attend on a certain day at Mr.
Boxsious's private residence, with all my materials ready for taking a
first sitting.

On arriving at the house, I was shown into a very prettily furnished
morning-room. The bow-window looked out on a large inclosed meadow,
which represented the principal square in Tidbury. On the opposite side
of the meadow I could see the new hotel (with a wing lately added), and
close by, the old hotel obstinately unchanged since it had first been
built. Then, further down the street, the doctor's house, with a colored
lamp and a small door-plate, and the banker's office, with a plain lamp
and a big door-plate--then some dreary private lodging-houses--then,
at right angles to these, a street of shops; the cheese-monger's very
small, the chemist's very smart, the pastry-cook's very dowdy, and
the green-grocer's very dark, I was still looking out at the view thus
presented, when I was suddenly apostrophized by a glib, disputatious
voice behind me.

"Now, then, Mr. Artist," cried the voice, "do you call that getting
ready for work? Where are your paints and brushes, and all the rest of
it? My name's Boxsious, and I'm here to sit for my picture."

I turned round, and confronted a little man with his legs astraddle,
and his hands in his pockets. He had light-gray eyes, red all round the
lids, bristling pepper-colored hair, an unnaturally rosy complexion, and
an eager, impudent, clever look. I made two discoveries in one glance
at him: First, that he was a wretched subject for a portrait; secondly,
that, whatever he might do or say, it would not be of the least use for
me to stand on my dignity with him.

"I shall be ready directly, sir," said I.

"Ready directly?" repeated my new sitter. "What do you mean, Mr. Artist,
by ready directly? I'm ready now. What was your contract with the Town
Council, who have subscribed for this picture? To paint the portrait.
And what was my contract? To sit for it. Here am I ready to sit, and
there are you not ready to paint me. According to all the rules of law
and logic, you are committing a breach of contract already. Stop! let's
have a look at your paints. Are they the best quality? If not, I warn
you, sir, there's a second breach of contract! Brushes, too? Why,
they're old brushes, by the Lord Harry! The Town Council pays you well,
Mr. Artist; why don't you work for them with new brushes? What? you work
best with old? I contend, sir, that you can't. Does my housemaid clean
best with an old broom? Do my clerks write best with old pens? Don't
color up, and don't look as if you were going to quarrel with me! You
can't quarrel with me. If you were fifty times as irritable a man as
you look, you couldn't quarrel with me. I'm not young, and I'm not
touchy--I'm Boxsious, the lawyer; the only man in the world who can't be
insulted, try it how you like!"

He chuckled as he said this, and walked away to the window. It was quite
useless to take anything he said seriously, so I finished preparing
my palette for the morning's work with the utmost serenity of look and
manner that I could possibly assume.

"There!" he went on, looking out of the window; "do you see that fat
man slouching along the Parade, with a snuffy nose? That's my favorite
enemy, Dunball. He tried to quarrel with me ten years ago, and he has
done nothing but bring out the hidden benevolence of my character ever
since. Look at him! look how he frowns as he turns this way. And now
look at me! I can smile and nod to him. I make a point of always smiling
and nodding to him--it keeps my hand in for other enemies. Good-morning!
(I've cast him twice in heavy damages) good-morning, Mr. Dunball.
He bears malice, you see; he won't speak; he's short in the neck,
passionate, and four times as fat as he ought to be; he has fought
against my amiability for ten mortal years; when he can't fight any
longer, he'll die suddenly, and I shall be the innocent cause of it."

Mr. Boxsious uttered this fatal prophecy with extraordinary complacency,
nodding and smiling out of the window all the time at the unfortunate
man who had rashly tried to provoke him. When his favorite enemy was out
of sight, he turned away, and indulged himself in a brisk turn or two up
and down the room. Meanwhile I lifted my canvas on the easel, and was on
the point of asking him to sit down, when he assailed me again.

"Now, Mr. Artist," he cried, quickening his walk impatiently, "in the
interests of the Town Council, your employers, allow me to ask you for
the last time when you are going to begin?"

"And allow me, Mr. Boxsious, in the interest of the Town Council also,"
said I, "to ask you if your notion of the proper way of sitting for your
portrait is to walk about the room!"

"Aha! well put--devilish well put!" returned Mr. Boxsious; "that's the
only sensible thing you have said since you entered my house; I begin
to like you already." With these words he nodded at me approvingly, and
jumped into the high chair that I had placed for him with the alacrity
of a young man.

"I say, Mr. Artist," he went on, when I had put him into the right
position (he insisted on the front view of his face being taken, because
the Town Council would get the most for their money in that way), "you
don't have many such good jobs as this, do you?"

"Not many," I said. "I should not be a poor man if commissions for
life-size portraits often fell in my way."

"You poor!" exclaimed Mr. Boxsious, contemptuously. "I dispute that
point with you at the outset. Why, you've got a good cloth coat, a clean
shirt, and a smooth-shaved chin. You've got the sleek look of a man
who has slept between sheets and had his breakfast. You can't humbug
me about poverty, for I know what it is. Poverty means looking like
a scarecrow, feeling like a scarecrow, and getting treated like a
scarecrow. That was _my_ luck, let me tell you, when I first thought of
trying the law. Poverty, indeed! Do you shake in your shoes, Mr. Artist,
when you think what you were at twenty? I do, I can promise you."

He began to shift about so irritably in his chair, that, in the
interests of my work, I was obliged to make an effort to calm him.

"It must be a pleasant occupation for you in your present prosperity,"
said I, "to look back sometimes at the gradual processes by which you
passed from poverty to competence, and from that to the wealth you now
enjoy."

"Gradual, did you say?" cried Mr. Boxsious; "it wasn't gradual at all. I
was sharp--damned sharp, and I jumped at my first start in business slap
into five hundred pounds in one day."

"That was an extraordinary step in advance," I rejoined. "I suppose you
contrived to make some profitable investment--"

"Not a bit of it! I hadn't a spare sixpence to invest with. I won the
money by my brains, my hands, and my pluck; and, what's more, I'm proud
of having done it. That was rather a curious case, Mr. Artist. Some men
might be shy of mentioning it; I never was shy in my life and I mention
it right and left everywhere--the whole case, just as it happened,
except the names. Catch me ever committing myself to mentioning names!
Mum's the word, sir, with yours to command, Thomas Boxsious."

"As you mention 'the case' everywhere," said I, "perhaps you would not
be offended with me if I told you I should like to hear it?"

"Man alive! haven't I told you already that I can't be offended? And
didn't I say a moment ago that I was proud of the case? I'll tell you,
Mr. Artist--but stop! I've got the interests of the Town Council to look
after in this business. Can you paint as well when I'm talking as when
I'm not? Don't sneer, sir; you're not wanted to sneer--you're wanted to
give an answer--yes or no?"

"Yes, then," I replied, in his own sharp way. "I can always paint the
better when I am hearing an interesting story."

"What do you mean by talking about a story? I'm not going to tell you a
story; I'm going to make a statement. A statement is a matter of fact,
therefore the exact opposite of a story, which is a matter of fiction.
What I am now going to tell you really happened to me."

I was glad to see that he settled himself quietly in his chair before he
began. His odd manners and language made such an impression on me at
the time, that I think I can repeat his "statement" now, almost word for
word as he addressed it to me.



THE LAWYER'S STORY OF A STOLEN LETTER.

I served my time--never mind in whose office--and I started in business
for myself in one of our English country towns, I decline stating which.
I hadn't a farthing of capital, and my friends in the neighborhood were
poor and useless enough, with one exception. That exception was Mr.
Frank Gatliffe, son of Mr. Gatliffe, member for the county, the richest
man and the proudest for many a mile round about our parts. Stop a bit,
Mr. Artist, you needn't perk up and look knowing. You won't trace any
particulars by the name of Gatliffe. I'm not bound to commit myself or
anybody else by mentioning names. I have given you the first that came
into my head.

Well, Mr. Frank was a stanch friend of mine, and ready to recommend me
whenever he got the chance. I had contrived to get him a little timely
help--for a consideration, of course--in borrowing money at a fair
rate of interest; in fact, I had saved him from the Jews. The money was
borrowed while Mr. Frank was at college. He came back from college, and
stopped at home a little while, and then there got spread about all our
neighborhood a report that he had fallen in love, as the saying is, with
his young sister's governess, and that his mind was made up to marry
her. What! you're at it again, Mr. Artist! You want to know her name,
don't you? What do you think of Smith?

Speaking as a lawyer, I consider report, in a general way, to be a fool
and a liar. But in this case report turned out to be something very
different. Mr. Frank told me he was really in love, and said upon his
honor (an absurd expression which young chaps of his age are always
using) he was determined to marry Smith, the governess--the sweet,
darling girl, as _he_ called her; but I'm not sentimental, and _I_ call
her Smith, the governess. Well, Mr. Frank's father, being as proud as
Lucifer, said "No," as to marrying the governess, when Mr. Frank wanted
him to say "Yes." He was a man of business, was old Gatliffe, and he
took the proper business course. He sent the governess away with a
first-rate character and a spanking present, and then he, looked about
him to get something for Mr. Frank to do. While he was looking about,
Mr. Frank bolted to London after the governess, who had nobody alive
belonging to her to go to but an aunt--her father's sister. The aunt
refuses to let Mr. Frank in without the squire's permission. Mr. Frank
writes to his father, and says he will marry the girl as soon as he is
of age, or shoot himself. Up to town comes the squire and his wife and
his daughter, and a lot of sentimentality, not in the slightest degree
material to the present statement, takes places among them; and the
upshot of it is that old Gatliffe is forced into withdrawing the word
No, and substituting the word Yes.

I don't believe he would ever have done it, though, but for one lucky
peculiarity in the case. The governess's father was a man of good
family--pretty nigh as good as Gatliffe's own. He had been in the army;
had sold out; set up as a wine-merchant--failed--died; ditto his wife,
as to the dying part of it. No relation, in fact, left for the squire
to make inquiries about but the father's sister--who had behaved, as
old Gatliffe said, like a thorough-bred gentlewoman in shutting the door
against Mr. Frank in the first instance. So, to cut the matter short,
things were at last made up pleasant enough. The time was fixed for the
wedding, and an announcement about it--Marriage in High Life and all
that--put into the county paper. There was a regular biography, besides,
of the governess's father, so as to stop people from talking--a great
flourish about his pedigree, and a long account of his services in
the army; but not a word, mind ye, of his having turned wine-merchant
afterward. Oh, no--not a word about that!

I knew it, though, for Mr. Frank told me. He hadn't a bit of pride about
him. He introduced me to his future wife one day when I met him out
walking, and asked me if I did not think he was a lucky fellow. I don't
mind admitting that I did, and that I told him so. Ah! but she was one
of my sort, was that governess. Stood, to the best of my recollection,
five foot four. Good lissom figure, that looked as if it had never been
boxed up in a pair of stays. Eyes that made me feel as if I was under
a pretty stiff cross-examination the moment she looked at me. Fine red,
kiss-and-come-again sort of lips. Cheeks and complexion--No, Mr. Artist,
you wouldn't identify her by her cheeks and complexion, if I drew you a
picture of them this very moment. She has had a family of children since
the time I'm talking of; and her cheeks are a trifle fatter, and her
complexion is a shade or two redder now, than when I first met her out
walking with Mr. Frank.

The marriage was to take place on a Wednesday. I decline mentioning the
year or the month. I had started as an attorney on my own account--say
six weeks, more or less, and was sitting alone in my office on the
Monday morning before the wedding-day, trying to see my way clear before
me and not succeeding particularly well, when Mr. Frank suddenly bursts
in, as white as any ghost that ever was painted, and says he's got
the most dreadful case for me to advise on, and not an hour to lose in
acting on my advice.

"Is this in the way of business, Mr. Frank?" says I, stopping him just
as he was beginning to get sentimental. "Yes or no, Mr. Frank?" rapping
my new office paper-knife on the table, to pull him up short all the
sooner.

"My dear fellow"--he was always familiar with me--"it's in the way of
business, certainly; but friendship--"

I was obliged to pull him up short again, and regularly examine him as
if he had been in the witness-box, or he would have kept me talking to
no purpose half the day.

"Now, Mr. Frank," says I, "I can't have any sentimentality mixed up with
business matters. You please to stop talking, and let me ask questions.
Answer in the fewest words you can use. Nod when nodding will do instead
of words."

I fixed him with my eye for about three seconds, as he sat groaning and
wriggling in his chair. When I'd done fixing him, I gave another rap
with my paper-knife on the table to startle him up a bit. Then I went
on.

"From what you have been stating up to the present time," says I, "I
gather that you are in a scrape which is likely to interfere seriously
with your marriage on Wednesday?"

(He nodded, and I cut in again before he could say a word):

"The scrape affects your young lady, and goes back to the period of a
transaction in which her late father was engaged, doesn't it?"

(He nods, and I cut in once more):

"There is a party, who turned up after seeing the announcement of your
marriage in the paper, who is cognizant of what he oughtn't to know, and
who is prepared to use his knowledge of the same to the prejudice of the
young lady and of your marriage, unless he receives a sum of money to
quiet him? Very well. Now, first of all, Mr. Frank, state what you have
been told by the young lady herself about the transaction of her late
father. How did you first come to have any knowledge of it?"

"She was talking to me about her father one day so tenderly and
prettily, that she quite excited my interest about him," begins Mr.
Frank; "and I asked her, among other things, what had occasioned his
death. She said she believed it was distress of mind in the first
instance; and added that this distress was connected with a shocking
secret, which she and her mother had kept from everybody, but which she
could not keep from me, because she was determined to begin her married
life by having no secrets from her husband." Here Mr. Frank began to
get sentimental again, and I pulled him up short once more with the
paper-knife.

"She told me," Mr. Frank went on, "that the great mistake of her
father's life was his selling out of the army and taking to the wine
trade. He had no talent for business; things went wrong with him from
the first. His clerk, it was strongly suspected, cheated him--"

"Stop a bit," says I. "What was that suspected clerk's name?"

"Davager," says he.

"Davager," says I, making a note of it. "Go on, Mr. Frank."

"His affairs got more and more entangled," says Mr. Frank; "he was
pressed for money in all directions; bankruptcy, and consequent dishonor
(as he considered it) stared him in the face. His mind was so affected
by his troubles that both his wife and daughter, toward the last,
considered him to be hardly responsible for his own acts. In this state
of desperation and misery, he--" Here Mr. Frank began to hesitate.

We have two ways in the law of drawing evidence off nice and clear from
an unwilling client or witness. We give him a fright, or we treat him to
a joke. I treated Mr. Frank to a joke.

"Ah!" says I, "I know what he did. He had a signature to write; and, by
the most natural mistake in the world, he wrote another gentleman's name
instead of his own--eh?"

"It was to a bill," says Mr. Frank, looking very crestfallen, instead
of taking the joke. "His principal creditor wouldn't wait till he could
raise the money, or the greater part of it. But he was resolved, if he
sold off everything, to get the amount and repay--"

"Of course," says I, "drop that. The forgery was discovered. When?"

"Before even the first attempt was made to negotiate the bill. He had
done the whole thing in the most absurdly and innocently wrong way. The
person whose name he had used was a stanch friend of his, and a relation
of his wife's--a good man as well as a rich one. He had influence with
the chief creditor, and he used it nobly. He had a real affection for
the unfortunate man's wife, and he proved it generously."

"Come to the point," says I. "What did he do? In a business way, what
did he do?"

"He put the false bill into the fire, drew a bill of his own to replace
it, and then--only then--told my dear girl and her mother all that had
happened. Can you imagine anything nobler?" asks Mr. Frank.

"Speaking in my professional capacity, I can't imagine anything
greener," says I. "Where was the father? Off, I suppose?"

"Ill in bed," says Mr. Frank, coloring. "But he mustered strength enough
to write a contrite and grateful letter the same day, promising to prove
himself worthy of the noble moderation and forgiveness extended to him,
by selling off everything he possessed to repay his money debt. He
did sell off everything, down to some old family pictures that were
heirlooms; down to the little plate he had; down to the very tables and
chairs that furnished his drawing-room. Every farthing of the debt
was paid; and he was left to begin the world again, with the kindest
promises of help from the generous man who had forgiven him. It was
too late. His crime of one rash moment--atoned for though it had
been--preyed upon his mind. He became possessed with the idea that he
had lowered himself forever in the estimation of his wife and daughter,
and--"

"He died," I cut in. "Yes, yes, we know that. Let's go back for a minute
to the contrite and grateful letter that he wrote. My experience in
the law, Mr. Frank, has convinced me that if everybody burned everybody
else's letters, half the courts of justice in this country might shut
up shop. Do you happen to know whether the letter we are now speaking of
contained anything like an avowal or confession of the forgery?"

"Of course it did," says he. "Could the writer express his contrition
properly without making some such confession?"

"Quite easy, if he had been a lawyer," says I. "But never mind that; I'm
going to make a guess--a desperate guess, mind. Should I be altogether
in error if I thought that this letter had been stolen; and that the
fingers of Mr. Davager, of suspicious commercial celebrity, might
possibly be the fingers which took it?"

"That is exactly what I wanted to make you understand," cried Mr. Frank.

"How did he communicate the interesting fact of the theft to you?"

"He has not ventured into my presence. The scoundrel actually had the
audacity--"

"Aha!" says I. "The young lady herself! Sharp practitioner, Mr.
Davager."

"Early this morning, when she was walking alone in the shrubbery," Mr.
Frank goes on, "he had the assurance to approach her, and to say that
he had been watching his opportunity of getting a private interview
for days past. He then showed her--actually showed her--her unfortunate
father's letter; put into her hands another letter directed to me;
bowed, and walked off; leaving her half dead with astonishment and
terror. If I had only happened to be there at the time!" says Mr. Frank,
shaking his fist murderously in the air, by way of a finish.

"It's the greatest luck in the world that you were not," says I. "Have
you got that other letter?"

He handed it to me. It was so remarkably humorous and short, that I
remember every word of it at this distance of time. It began in this
way:

_"To Francis Gatliffe, Esq., Jun._

"SIR--I have an extremely curious autograph letter to sell. The price is
a five-hundred-pound note. The young lady to whom you are to be married
on Wednesday will inform you of the nature of the letter, and the
genuineness of the autograph. If you refuse to deal, I shall send a copy
to the local paper, and shall wait on your highly-respected father with
the original curiosity, on the afternoon of Tuesday next. Having come
down here on family business, I have put up at the family hotel--being
to be heard of at the Gatliffe Arms. Your very obedient servant, ALFRED
DAVAGER."

"A clever fellow that," says I, putting the letter into my private
drawer.

"Clever!" cries Mr. Frank, "he ought to be horsewhipped within an inch
of his life. I would have done it myself; but she made me promise,
before she told me a word of the matter, to come straight to you."

"That was one of the wisest promises you ever made," says I. "We can't
afford to bully this fellow, whatever else we may do with him. Do you
think I am saying anything libelous against your excellent father's
character when I assert that if he saw the letter he would certainly
insist on your marriage being put off, at the very least?"

"Feeling as my father does about my marriage, he would insist on its
being dropped altogether, if he saw this letter," says Mr. Frank, with
a groan. "But even that is not the worst of it. The generous, noble
girl herself says that if the letter appears in the paper, with all the
unanswerable comments this scoundrel would be sure to add to it, she
would rather die than hold me to my engagement, even if my father would
let me keep it."

As he said this his eyes began to water. He was a weak young fellow, and
ridiculously fond of her. I brought him back to business with another
rap of the paper-knife.

"Hold up, Mr. Frank," says I. "I have a question or two more. Did you
think of asking the young lady whether, to the best of her knowledge,
this infernal letter was the only written evidence of the forgery now in
existence?"

"Yes, I did think directly of asking her that," says he; "and she told
me she was quite certain that there was no written evidence of the
forgery except that one letter."

"Will you give Mr. Davager his price for it?" says I.

"Yes," says Mr. Frank, quite peevish with me for asking him such a
question. He was an easy young chap in money matters, and talked of
hundreds as most men talk of sixpences.

"Mr. Frank," says I, "you came here to get my help and advice in this
extremely ticklish business, and you are ready, as I know without
asking, to remunerate me for all and any of my services at the usual
professional rate. Now, I've made up my mind to act boldly--desperately,
if you like--on the hit or miss, win all or lose all principle--in
dealing with this matter. Here is my proposal. I'm going to try if
I can't do Mr. Davager out of his letter. If I don't succeed before
to-morrow afternoon, you hand him the money, and I charge you nothing
for professional services. If I do succeed, I hand you the letter
instead of Mr. Davager, and you give me the money instead of giving it
to him. It's a precious risk for me, but I'm ready to run it. You must
pay your five hundred any way. What do you say to my plan? Is it Yes,
Mr. Frank, or No?"

"Hang your questions!" cries Mr. Frank, jumping up; "you know it's Yes
ten thousand times over. Only you earn the money and--"

"And you will be too glad to give it to me. Very good. Now go home.
Comfort the young lady--don't let Mr. Davager so much as set eyes on
you--keep quiet--leave everything to me--and feel as certain as you
please that all the letters in the world can't stop your being married
on Wednesday." With these words I hustled him off out of the office, for
I wanted to be left alone to make my mind up about what I should do.

The first thing, of course, was to have a look at the enemy. I wrote to
Mr. Davager, telling him that I was privately appointed to arrange the
little business matter between himself and "another party" (no names!)
on friendly terms; and begging him to call on me at his earliest
convenience. At the very beginning of the case, Mr. Davager bothered
me. His answer was, that it would not be convenient to him to call till
between six and seven in the evening. In this way, you see, he contrived
to make me lose several precious hours, at a time when minutes almost
were of importance. I had nothing for it but to be patient, and to give
certain instructions, before Mr. Davager came, to my boy Tom.

There never was such a sharp boy of fourteen before, and there never
will be again, as my boy Tom. A spy to look after Mr. Davager was, of
course, the first requisite in a case of this kind; and Tom was the
smallest, quickest, quietest, sharpest, stealthiest little snake of a
chap that ever dogged a gentleman's steps and kept cleverly out of range
of a gentleman's eyes. I settled it with the boy that he was not to show
at all when Mr. Davager came; and that he was to wait to hear me ring
the bell when Mr. Davager left. If I rang twice, he was to show the
gentleman out. If I rang once, he was to keep out of the way, and follow
the gentleman whereever he went till he got back to the inn. Those were
the only preparations I could make to begin with; being obliged to wait,
and let myself be guided by what turned up.

About a quarter to seven my gentleman came.

In the profession of the law we get somehow quite remarkably mixed up
with ugly people, blackguard people, and dirty people. But far away the
ugliest and dirtiest blackguard I ever saw in my life was Mr. Alfred
Davager. He had greasy white hair and a mottled face. He was low in the
forehead, fat in the stomach, hoarse in the voice, and weak in the legs.
Both his eyes were bloodshot, and one was fixed in his head. He smelled
of spirits, and carried a toothpick in his mouth. "How are you? I've
just done dinner," says he; and he lights a cigar, sits down with his
legs crossed, and winks at me.

I tried at first to take the measure of him in a wheedling, confidential
way; but it was no good. I asked him, in a facetious, smiling manner,
how he had got hold of the letter. He only told me in answer that he had
been in the confidential employment of the writer of it, and that he had
always been famous since infancy for a sharp eye to his own interests.
I paid him some compliments; but he was not to be flattered. I tried to
make him lose his temper; but he kept it in spite of me. It ended in his
driving me to my last resource--I made an attempt to frighten him.

"Before we say a word about the money," I began, "let me put a case,
Mr. Davager. The pull you have on Mr. Francis Gatliffe is, that you can
hinder his marriage on Wednesday. Now, suppose I have got a magistrate's
warrant to apprehend you in my pocket? Suppose I have a constable to
execute it in the next room? Suppose I bring you up to-morrow--the day
before the marriage--charge you only generally with an attempt to extort
money, and apply for a day's remand to complete the case? Suppose, as a
suspicious stranger, you can't get bail in this town? Suppose--"

"Stop a bit," says Mr. Davager. "Suppose I should not be the greenest
fool that ever stood in shoes? Suppose I should not carry the letter
about me? Suppose I should have given a certain envelope to a certain
friend of mine in a certain place in this town? Suppose the letter
should be inside that envelope, directed to old Gatliffe, side by side
with a copy of the letter directed to the editor of the local paper?
Suppose my friend should be instructed to open the envelope, and take
the letters to their right address, if I don't appear to claim them
from him this evening? In short, my dear sir, suppose you were born
yesterday, and suppose I wasn't?" says Mr. Davager, and winks at me
again.

He didn't take me by surprise, for I never expected that he had the
letter about him. I made a pretense of being very much taken aback,
and of being quite ready to give in. We settled our business about
delivering the letter, and handing over the money, in no time. I was
to draw out a document, which he was to sign. He knew the document
was stuff and nonsense, just as well as I did, and told me I was only
proposing it to swell my client's bill. Sharp as he was, he was wrong
there. The document was not to be drawn out to gain money from Mr.
Frank, but to gain time from Mr. Davager. It served me as an excuse to
put off the payment of the five hundred pounds till three o'clock on the
Tuesday afternoon. The Tuesday morning Mr. Davager said he should
devote to his amusement, and asked me what sights were to be seen in the
neighborhood of the town. When I had told him, he pitched his toothpick
into my grate, yawned, and went out.

I rang the bell once--waited till he had passed the window--and then
looked after Tom. There was my jewel of a boy on the opposite side
of the street, just setting his top going in the most playful manner
possible. Mr. Davager walked away up the street toward the market-place.
Tom whipped his top up the street toward the market-place, too.

In a quarter of an hour he came back, with all his evidence collected
in a beautifully clear and compact state. Mr. Davager had walked to a
public-house just outside the town, in a lane leading to the highroad.
On a bench outside the public-house there sat a man smoking. He said
"All right?" and gave a letter to Mr. Davager, who answered "All right!"
and walked back to the inn. In the hall he ordered hot rum-and-water,
cigars, slippers, and a fire to be lit in his room. After that he went
upstairs, and Tom came away.

I now saw my road clear before me--not very far on, but still clear.
I had housed the letter, in all probability for that night, at the
Gatliffe Arms. After tipping Tom, I gave him directions to play about
the door of the inn, and refresh himself when he was tired at the
tart-shop opposite, eating as much as he pleased, on the understanding
that he crammed all the time with his eye on the window. If Mr. Davager
went out, or Mr. Davager's friend called on him, Tom was to let me know.
He was also to take a little note from me to the head chambermaid--an
old friend of mine--asking her to step over to my office, on a private
matter of business, as soon as her work was done for that night. After
settling these little matters, having half an hour to spare, I turned
to and did myself a bloater at the office fire, and had a drop of
gin-and-water hot, and felt comparatively happy.

When the head chambermaid came, it turned out, as good luck would have
it, that Mr. Davager had drawn her attention rather too closely to his
ugliness, by offering her a testimony of his regard in the shape of a
kiss. I no sooner mentioned him than she flew into a passion; and when I
added, by way of clinching the matter, that I was retained to defend
the interests of a very beautiful and deserving young lady (name not
referred to, of course) against the most cruel underhand treachery
on the part of Mr. Davager, the head chambermaid was ready to go any
lengths that she could safely to serve my cause. In a few words I
discovered that Boots was to call Mr. Davager at eight the next morning,
and was to take his clothes downstairs to brush as usual. If Mr. D------
had not emptied his own pockets overnight, we arranged that Boots was
to forget to empty them for him, and was to bring the clothes downstairs
just as he found them. If Mr. D------'s pockets were emptied, then, of
course, it would be necessary to transfer the searching process to
Mr. D------'s room. Under any circumstances, I was certain of the head
chambermaid; and under any circumstances, also, the head chambermaid was
certain of Boots.

I waited till Tom came home, looking very puffy and bilious about the
face; but as to his intellects, if anything, rather sharper than ever.
His report was uncommonly short and pleasant. The inn was shutting
up; Mr. Davager was going to bed in rather a drunken condition; Mr.
Davager's friend had never appeared. I sent Tom (properly instructed
about keeping our man in view all the next morning) to his shake-down
behind the office-desk, where I heard him hiccoughing half the night, as
even the best boys will, when over-excited and too full of tarts.

At half-past seven next morning, I slipped quietly into Boots's pantry.

Down came the clothes. No pockets in trousers. Waistcoat-pockets empty.
Coat-pockets with something in them. First, handkerchief; secondly,
bunch of keys; thirdly, cigar-case; fourthly, pocketbook. Of course I
wasn't such a fool as to expect to find the letter there, but I opened
the pocketbook with a certain curiosity, notwithstanding.

Nothing in the two pockets of the book but some old advertisements cut
out of newspapers, a lock of hair tied round with a dirty bit of ribbon,
a circular letter about a loan society, and some copies of verses not
likely to suit any company that was not of an extremely free-and-easy
description. On the leaves of the pocketbook, people's addresses
scrawled in pencil, and bets jotted down in red ink. On one leaf, by
itself, this queer inscription:

"MEM. 5 ALONG. 4 ACROSS."

I understood everything but those words and figures, so of course I
copied them out into my own book.

Then I waited in the pantry till Boots had brushed the clothes, and had
taken them upstairs. His report when he came down was, that Mr. D------
had asked if it was a fine morning. Being told that it was, he had
ordered breakfast at nine, and a saddle-horse to be at the door at ten,
to take him to Grimwith Abbey--one of the sights in our neighborhood
which I had told him of the evening before.

"I'll be here, coming in by the back way, at half-past ten," says I to
the head chambermaid.

"What for?" says she.

"To take the responsibility of making Mr. Davager's bed off your hands
for this morning only," says I.

"Any more orders?" says she.

"One more," says I. "I want to hire Sam for the morning. Put it down in
the order-book that he's to be brought round to my office at ten."

In case you should think Sam was a man, I'd better perhaps tell you he
was a pony. I'd made up my mind that it would be beneficial to Tom's
health, after the tarts, if he took a constitutional airing on a nice
hard saddle in the direction of Grimwith Abbey.

"Anything else?" says the head chambermaid.

"Only one more favor," says I. "Would my boy Tom be very much in the
way if he came, from now till ten, to help with the boots and shoes,
and stood at his work close by this window which looks out on the
staircase?"

"Not a bit," says the head chambermaid.

"Thank you," says I; and stepped back to my office directly.

When I had sent Tom off to help with the boots and shoes, I reviewed the
whole case exactly as it stood at that time.

There were three things Mr. Davager might do with the letter. He might
give it to his friend again before ten--in which case Tom would most
likely see the said friend on the stairs. He might take it to his
friend, or to some other friend, after ten--in which case Tom was ready
to follow him on Sam the pony. And, lastly, he might leave it hidden
somewhere in his room at the inn--in which case I was all ready for
him with a search-warrant of my own granting, under favor always of my
friend the head chambermaid. So far I had my business arrangements all
gathered up nice and compact in my own hands. Only two things bothered
me; the terrible shortness of the time at my disposal, in case I failed
in my first experiments, for getting hold of the letter, and that queer
inscription which I had copied out of the pocketbook:

"MEM. 5 ALONG. 4 ACROSS."

It was the measurement most likely of something, and he was afraid of
forgetting it; therefore it was something important. Query--something
about himself? Say "5" (inches) "along"--he doesn't wear a wig. Say "5"
(feet) "along"--it can't be coat, waistcoat, trousers, or underclothing.
Say "5" (yards) "along"--it can't be anything about himself, unless he
wears round his body the rope that he's sure to be hanged with one of
these days. Then it is _not_ something about himself. What do I know of
that is important to him besides? I know of nothing but the Letter. Can
the memorandum be connected with that? Say, yes. What do "5 along" and
"4 across" mean, then? The measurement of something he carries about
with him? or the measurement of something in his room? I could get
pretty satisfactorily to myself as far as that; but I could get no
further.

Tom came back to the office, and reported him mounted for his ride.
His friend had never appeared. I sent the boy off, with his proper
instructions, on Sam's back--wrote an encouraging letter to Mr. Frank
to keep him quiet--then slipped into the inn by the back way a little
before half-past ten. The head chambermaid gave me a signal when the
landing was clear. I got into his room without a soul but her seeing me,
and locked the door immediately.

The case was, to a certain extent, simplified now. Either Mr. Davager
had ridden out with the letter about him, or he had left it in some safe
hiding-place in his room. I suspected it to be in his room, for a reason
that will a little astonish you--his trunk, his dressing-case, and all
the drawers and cupboards, were left open. I knew my customer, and I
thought this extraordinary carelessness on his part rather suspicious.

Mr. Davager had taken one of the best bedrooms at the Gatliffe Arms.
Floor carpeted all over, walls beautifully papered, four-poster, and
general furniture first-rate. I searched, to begin with, on the usual
plan, examining everything in every possible way, and taking more than
an hour about it. No discovery. Then I pulled out a carpenter's
rule which I had brought with me. Was there anything in the room
which--either in inches, feet, or yards--answered to "5 along" and "4
across"? Nothing. I put the rule back in my pocket--measurement was no
good, evidently. Was there anything in the room that would count up to 5
one way and 4 another, seeing that nothing would measure up to it? I had
got obstinately persuaded by this time that the letter must be in the
room--principally because of the trouble I had had in looking after
it. And persuading myself of that, I took it into my head next, just
as obstinately, that "5 along" and "4 across" must be the right clew to
find the letter by--principally because I hadn't left myself, after all
my searching and thinking, even so much as the ghost of another guide
to go by. "Five along"--where could I count five along the room, in any
part of it?

Not on the paper. The pattern there was pillars of trellis-work and
flowers, inclosing a plain green ground--only four pillars along the
wall and only two across. The furniture? There were not five chairs
or five separate pieces of any furniture in the room altogether. The
fringes that hung from the cornice of the bed? Plenty of them, at any
rate! Up I jumped on the counterpane, with my pen-knife in my hand.
Every way that "5 along" and "4 across" could be reckoned on those
unlucky fringes I reckoned on them--probed with my penknife--scratched
with my nails--crunched with my fingers. No use; not a sign of a letter;
and the time was getting on--oh, Lord! how the time did get on in Mr.
Davager's room that morning.

I jumped down from the bed, so desperate at my ill luck that I hardly
cared whether anybody heard me or not. Quite a little cloud of dust rose
at my feet as they thumped on the carpet.

"Hullo!" thought I, "my friend the head chambermaid takes it easy here.
Nice state for a carpet to be in, in one of the best bedrooms at the
Gatliffe Arms." Carpet! I had been jumping up on the bed, and staring
up at the walls, but I had never so much as given a glance down at the
carpet. Think of me pretending to be a lawyer, and not knowing how to
look low enough!

The carpet! It had been a stout article in its time, had evidently began
in a drawing-room; then descended to a coffee-room; then gone upstairs
altogether to a bedroom. The ground was brown, and the pattern was
bunches of leaves and roses speckled over the ground at regular
distances. I reckoned up the bunches. Ten along the room--eight across
it. When I had stepped out five one way and four the other, and was down
on my knees on the center bunch, as true as I sit on this chair I could
hear my own heart beating so loud that it quite frightened me.

I looked narrowly all over the bunch, and I felt all over it with the
ends of my fingers, and nothing came of that. Then I scraped it over
slowly and gently with my nails. My second finger-nail stuck a little
at one place. I parted the pile of the carpet over that place, and saw
a thin slit which had been hidden by the pile being smoothed over it--a
slit about half an inch long, with a little end of brown thread, exactly
the color of the carpet ground, sticking out about a quarter of an inch
from the middle of it. Just as I laid hold of the thread gently, I heard
a footstep outside the door.

It was only the head chambermaid. "Haven't you done yet?" she whispers.

"Give me two minutes," says I, "and don't let anybody come near the
door--whatever you do, don't let anybody startle me again by coming near
the door."

I took a little pull at the thread, and heard something rustle. I took
a longer pull, and out came a piece of paper, rolled up tight like those
candle-lighters that the ladies make. I unrolled it--and, by George!
there was the letter!

The original letter! I knew it by the color of the ink. The letter that
was worth five hundred pounds to me! It was all that I could do to keep
myself at first from throwing my hat into the air, and hurrahing like
mad. I had to take a chair and sit quiet in it for a minute or two,
before I could cool myself down to my proper business level. I knew that
I was safely down again when I found myself pondering how to let Mr.
Davager know that he had been done by the innocent country attorney,
after all.

It was not long before a nice little irritating plan occurred to me.
I tore a blank leaf out of my pocketbook, wrote on it with my pencil,
"Change for a five-hundred-pound note," folded up the paper, tied the
thread to it, poked it back into the hiding-place, smoothed over the
pile of the carpet, and then bolted off to Mr. Frank. He in his turn
bolted off to show the letter to the young lady, who first certified
to its genuineness, then dropped it into the fire, and then took the
initiative for the first time since her marriage engagement, by flinging
her arms round his neck, kissing him with all her might, and going into
hysterics in his arms. So at least Mr. Frank told me, but that's not
evidence. It is evidence, however, that I saw them married with my
own eyes on the Wednesday; and that while they went off in a
carriage-and-four to spend the honeymoon, I went off on my own legs to
open a credit at the Town and County Bank with a five-hundred-pound note
in my pocket.

As to Mr. Davager, I can tell you nothing more about him, except what is
derived from hearsay evidence, which is always unsatisfactory evidence,
even in a lawyer's mouth.

My inestimable boy, Tom, although twice kicked off by Sam the pony,
never lost hold of the bridle, and kept his man in sight from first to
last. He had nothing particular to report except that on the way out to
the Abbey Mr. Davager had stopped at the public-house, had spoken a word
or two to his friend of the night before, and had handed him what looked
like a bit of paper. This was no doubt a clew to the thread that held
the letter, to be used in case of accidents. In every other respect Mr.
D. had ridden out and ridden in like an ordinary sightseer. Tom reported
him to me as having dismounted at the hotel about two. At half-past I
locked my office door, nailed a card under the knocker with "not at home
till to-morrow" written on it, and retired to a friend's house a mile or
so out of the town for the rest of the day.

Mr. Davager, I have been since given to understand, left the Gatliffe
Arms that same night with his best clothes on his back, and with all
the valuable contents of his dressing-case in his pockets. I am not in
a condition to state whether he ever went through the form of asking for
his bill or not; but I can positively testify that he never paid it, and
that the effects left in his bedroom did not pay it either. When I add
to these fragments of evidence that he and I have never met (luckily for
me, you will say) since I jockeyed him out of his banknote, I have about
fulfilled my implied contract as maker of a statement with you, sir, as
hearer of a statement. Observe the expression, will you? I said it was
a Statement before I began; and I say it's a Statement now I've done. I
defy you to prove it's a Story! How are you getting on with my portrait?
I like you very well, Mr. Artist; but if you have been taking advantage
of my talking to shirk your work, as sure as you're alive I'll split
upon you to the Town Council!


I attended a great many times at my queer sitter's house before his
likeness was completed. To the last he was dissatisfied with the
progress I made. Fortunately for me, the Town Council approved of the
portrait when it was done. Mr. Boxsious, however, objected to them as
being much too easy to please. He did not dispute the fidelity of the
likeness, but he asserted that I had not covered the canvas with half
paint enough for my money. To this day (for he is still alive), he
describes me to all inquiring friends as "The Painter-Man who jockeyed
the Town Council."



PROLOGUE TO THE THIRD STORY.

It was a sad day for me when Mr. Lanfray, of Rockleigh Place,
discovering that his youngest daughter's health required a warm climate,
removed from his English establishment to the South of France.
Roving from place to place, as I am obliged to do, though I make many
acquaintances, I keep but few friends. The nature of my calling is, I
am quite aware, mainly answerable for this. People cannot be blamed for
forgetting a man who, on leaving their houses, never can tell them for
certain when he is likely to be in their neighborhood again.

Mr. Lanfray was one of the few exceptional persons who always remembered
me. I have proofs of his friendly interest in my welfare in the shape
of letters which I treasure with grateful care. The last of these is an
invitation to his house in the South of France. There is little chance
at present of my being able to profit by his kindness; but I like to
read his invitation from time to time, for it makes me fancy, in my
happier moments, that I may one day really be able to accept it.

My introduction to this gentleman, in my capacity of portrait-painter,
did not promise much for me in a professional point of view. I was
invited to Rockleigh--or to "The Place," as it was more frequently
called among the people of the county--to take a likeness in
water-colors, on a small scale, of the French governess who lived with
Mr. Lanfray's daughters. My first idea on hearing of this was, that the
governess was about to leave her situation, and that her pupils wished
to have a memorial of her in the shape of a portrait. Subsequent
inquiry, however, informed me that I was in error. It was the eldest of
Mr. Lanfray's daughters, who was on the point of leaving the house to
accompany her husband to India; and it was for her that the portrait
had been ordered as a home remembrance of her best and dearest friend.
Besides these particulars, I discovered that the governess, though
still called "mademoiselle," was an old lady; that Mr. Lanfray had been
introduced to her many years since in France, after the death of his
wife; that she was absolute mistress in the house; and that her three
pupils had always looked up to her as a second mother, from the time
when their father first placed them under her charge.

These scraps of information made me rather anxious to see Mademoiselle
Clairfait, the governess.

On the day appointed for my attendance at the comfortable country house
of Rockleigh, I was detained on the road, and did not arrive at my
destination until late in the evening. The welcome accorded to me by
Mr. Lanfray gave an earnest of the unvarying kindness that I was to
experience at his hands in after-life. I was received at once on equal
terms, as if I had been a friend of the family, and was presented the
same evening to my host's daughters. They were not merely three elegant
and attractive young women, but--what means much more than that--three
admirable subjects for pictures, the bride particularly. Her young
husband did not strike me much at first sight; he seemed rather shy
and silent. After I had been introduced to him, I looked round for
Mademoiselle Clairfait, but she was not present; and I was soon
afterward informed by Mr. Lanfray that she always spent the latter part
of the evening in her own room.

At the breakfast-table the next morning, I again looked for my sitter,
and once more in vain. "Mamma, as we call her," said one of the ladies,
"is dressing expressly for her picture, Mr. Kerby. I hope you are
not above painting silk, lace, and jewelry. The dear old lady, who is
perfection in everything else, is perfection also in dress, and is bent
on being painted in all her splendor."

This explanation prepared me for something extraordinary; but I found
that my anticipations had fallen far below the reality when Mademoiselle
Clairfait at last made her appearance, and announced that she was ready
to sit for her portrait.

Never before or since have I seen such perfect dressing and such active
old age in combination. "Mademoiselle" was short and thin; her face
was perfectly white all over, the skin being puckered up in an infinite
variety of the smallest possible wrinkles. Her bright black eyes were
perfect marvels of youthfulness and vivacity. They sparkled, and beamed,
and ogled, and moved about over everybody and everything at such a rate,
that the plain gray hair above them looked unnaturally venerable, and
the wrinkles below an artful piece of masquerade to represent old age.
As for her dress, I remember few harder pieces of work than the painting
of it. She wore a silver-gray silk gown that seemed always flashing out
into some new light whenever she moved. It was as stiff as a board,
and rustled like the wind. Her head, neck, and bosom were enveloped in
clouds of the airiest-looking lace I ever saw, disposed about each part
of her with the most exquisite grace and propriety, and glistening at
all sorts of unexpected places with little fairy-like toys in gold and
precious stones. On her right wrist she wore three small bracelets,
with the hair of her three pupils worked into them; and on her left, one
large bracelet with a miniature let in over the clasp. She had a dark
crimson and gold scarf thrown coquettishly over her shoulders, and
held a lovely little feather-fan in her hand. When she first presented
herself before me in this costume, with a brisk courtesy and a bright
smile, filling the room with perfume, and gracefully flirting the
feather-fan, I lost all confidence in my powers as a portrait-painter
immediately. The brightest colors in my box looked dowdy and dim, and I
myself felt like an unwashed, unbrushed, unpresentable sloven.

"Tell me, my angels," said mademoiselle, apostrophizing her pupils
in the prettiest foreign English, "am I the cream of all creams this
morning? Do I carry my sixty years resplendently? Will the savages in
India, when my own love exhibits my picture among them, say, 'Ah! smart!
smart! this was a great dandy?' And the gentleman, the skillful artist,
whom it is even more an honor than a happiness to meet, does he approve
of me for a model? Does he find me pretty and paintable from top to
toe?" Here she dropped me another brisk courtesy, placed herself in
a languishing position in the sitter's chair, and asked us all if she
looked like a shepherdess in Dresden china.

The young ladies burst out laughing, and mademoiselle, as gay as any of
them and a great deal shriller, joined in the merriment. Never before
had I contended with any sitter half as restless as that wonderful
old lady. No sooner had I begun than she jumped out of the chair, and
exclaiming, "_Grand Dieu!_ I have forgotten to embrace my angels this
morning," ran up to her pupils, raised herself on tiptoe before them
in quick succession, put the two first fingers of each hand under their
ears, kissed them lightly on both cheeks, and was back again in the
chair before an English governess could have said, "Good-morning, my
dears, I hope you all slept well last night."

I began again. Up jumped mademoiselle for the second time, and tripped
across the room to a cheval-glass. "No!" I heard her say to herself, "I
have not discomposed my head in kissing my angels. I may come back and
pose for my picture."

Back she came. I worked from her for five minutes at the most. "Stop!"
cries mademoiselle, jumping up for the third time; "I must see how this
skillful artist is getting on. _Grand Dieu!_ why he has done nothing!"

For the fourth time I began, and for the fourth time the old lady
started out of her chair. "Now I must repose myself," said mademoiselle,
walking lightly from end to end of the room, and humming a French air,
by way of taking a rest.

I was at my wit's end, and the young ladies saw it. They all surrounded
my unmanageable sitter, and appealed to her compassion for me.
"Certainly!" said mademoiselle, expressing astonishment by flinging
up both her hands with all the fingers spread out in the air. "But why
apostrophize me thus? I am here, I am ready, I am at the service of this
skillful artist. Why apostrophize me?"

A fortunate chance question of mine steadied her for some time. I
inquired if I was expected to draw the whole of my sitter's figure as
well as her face. Mademoiselle replied by a comic scream of indignation.
If I was the brave and gifted man for whom she took me, I ought to be
ready to perish rather than leave out an inch of her anywhere. Dress was
her passion, and it would be an outrage on her sentiments if I did not
do full justice to everything she had on--to her robe, to her lace, to
her scarf, to her fan, to her rings, her jewels, and, above all, to her
bracelets. I groaned in spirit at the task before me, but made my best
bow of acquiescence. Mademoiselle was not to be satisfied by a mere bow;
she desired the pleasure of specially directing my attention, if I would
be so amiable as to get up and approach her, to one of her bracelets in
particular--the bracelet with the miniature, on her left wrist. It had
been the gift of the dearest friend she ever had, and the miniature
represented that friend's beloved and beautiful face. Could I make
a tiny, tiny copy of that likeness in my drawing! Would I only be so
obliging as to approach for one little moment, and see if such a thing
were possible?

I obeyed unwillingly enough, expecting, from mademoiselle's expression,
to see a commonplace portrait of some unfortunate admirer whom she
had treated with unmerited severity in the days of her youth. To my
astonishment, I found that the miniature, which was very beautifully
painted, represented a woman's face--a young woman with kind, sad eyes,
pale, delicate cheeks, light hair, and such a pure, tender, lovely
expressions that I thought of Raphael's Madonnas the moment I looked at
her portrait.

The old lady observed the impression which the miniature produced on me,
and nodded her head in silence. "What a beautiful, innocent, pure face!"
I said.

Mademoiselle Clairfait gently brushed a particle of dust from the
miniature with her handkerchief, and kissed it. "I have three angels
still left," she said, looking at her pupils. "They console me for the
fourth, who has gone to heaven."

She patted the face on the miniature gently with her little, withered,
white fingers, as if it had been a living thing. _"Sister Rose!"_ she
sighed to herself; then, looking up again at me, said, "I should like it
put into my portrait, sir, because I have always worn it since I was a
young woman, for 'Sister Rose's' sake."

The sudden change in her manner, from the extreme of flighty gayety to
the extreme of quiet sadness, would have looked theatrical in a woman of
any other nation. It seemed, however, perfectly natural and appropriate
in her. I went back to my drawing, rather perplexed. Who was "Sister
Rose"? Not one of the Lanfray family, apparently. The composure of the
young ladies when the name was mentioned showed plainly enough that the
original of the miniature had been no relation of theirs.

I tried to stifle my curiosity on the subject of Sister Rose, by giving
myself entirely to my work. For a full half-hour, Mademoiselle Clairfait
sat quietly before me, with her hands crossed on her lap, and her eyes
fixed on the bracelet. This happy alteration enabled me to do something
toward completing the outline of her face and figure. I might even,
under fortunate circumstances, have vanquished the preliminary
difficulties of my task at one effort; but the fates were against me
that day. While I was still working rapidly and to my satisfaction,
a servant knocked at the door to announce luncheon, and mademoiselle
lightly roused herself from her serious reflection and her quiet
position in a moment.

"Ah me!" she said, turning the miniature round on her wrist till it was
out of sight. "What animals we are, after all! The spiritual part of us
is at the mercy of the stomach. My heart is absorbed by tender thoughts,
yet I am not the less ready for luncheon! Come, my children and
fellow-mortals. _Allons cultiver notre jardin!"_

With this quotation from "Candide," plaintively delivered, the old lady
led the way out of the room, and was followed by her younger pupils.
The eldest sister remained behind for a moment, and reminded me that the
lunch was ready.

"I am afraid you have found the dear old soul rather an unruly sitter,"
she said, noticing the look of dissatisfaction with which I was
regarding my drawing. "But she will improve as you go on. She has done
better already for the last half-hour, has she not?"

"Much better," I answered. "My admiration of the miniature on the
bracelet seemed--I suppose, by calling up some old associations--to have
a strangely soothing effect on Mademoiselle Clairfait."

"Ah yes! only remind her of the original of that portrait, and you
change her directly, whatever she may have been saying or doing the
moment before. Sometimes she talks of _Sister Rose,_ and of all that she
went through in the time of the French Revolution, by the hour together.
It is wonderfully interesting--at least we all think so."

"I presume that the lady described as 'Sister Rose' was a relation of
Mademoiselle Clairfait's?"

"No, only a very dear friend. Mademoiselle Clairfait is the daughter
of a silk-mercer, once established at Chalons-sur-Marne. Her father
happened to give an asylum in his office to a lonely old man, to
whom 'Sister Rose' and her brother had been greatly indebted in the
revolutionary time; and out of a train of circumstances connected with
that, the first acquaintance between mademoiselle and the friend whose
portrait she wears, arose. After the time of her father's bankruptcy,
and for many years before we were placed under her charge, our good old
governess lived entirely with 'Sister Rose' and her brother. She must
then have heard all the interesting things that she has since often
repeated to my sisters and myself."

"Might I suggest," said I, after an instant's consideration, "that the
best way to give me a fair chance of studying Mademoiselle Clairfait's
face at the next sitting, would be to lead her thoughts again to that
quieting subject of the miniature, and to the events which the portrait
recalls? It is really the only plan, after what I have observed this
morning, that I can think of for enabling me to do myself and my sitter
justice."

"I am delighted to hear you say so," replied the lady; "for the
execution of your plan, by me or by my sisters, will be the easiest
thing in the world. A word from us at any time will set mademoiselle
thinking, and talking too, of the friend of her youthful days. Depend
on our assistance so far. And now let me show you the way to the
luncheon-table."



Two good results followed the ready rendering of the help I had asked
from my host's daughters. I succeeded with my portrait of Mademoiselle
Clairfait, and I heard the story which occupies the following pages.

In the case of the preceding narratives, I have repeated what was
related to me, as nearly as possible in the very words of my sitters.
In the case of this third story, it is impossible for me to proceed upon
the same plan. The circumstances of "Sister Rose's" eventful history
were narrated to me at different times, and in the most fragmentary and
discursive manner. Mademoiselle Clairfait characteristically mixed up
with the direct interest of her story, not only references to places and
people which had no recognizable connection with it, but outbursts of
passionate political declamation, on the extreme liberal side--to
say nothing of little tender apostrophes to her beloved friend, which
sounded very prettily as she spoke them, but which would lose
their effect altogether by being transferred to paper. Under these
circumstances, I have thought it best to tell the story in my own
way--rigidly adhering to the events of it exactly as they were related;
and never interfering on my own responsibility except to keep order
in the march of the incidents, and to present them, to the best of my
ability, variously as well as interestingly to the reader.



THE FRENCH GOVERNESS'S STORY OF SISTER ROSE.



PART FIRST.



CHAPTER I.

"Well, Monsieur Guillaume, what is the news this evening?"

"None that I know of, Monsieur Justin, except that Mademoiselle Rose is
to be married to-morrow."

"Much obliged, my respectable old friend, for so interesting and
unexpected a reply to my question. Considering that I am the valet of
Monsieur Danville, who plays the distinguished part of bridegroom in
the little wedding comedy to which you refer, I think I may assure you,
without offense, that your news is, so far as I am concerned, of the
stalest possible kind. Take a pinch of snuff, Monsieur Guillaume, and
excuse me if I inform you that my question referred to public news, and
not to the private affairs of the two families whose household interests
we have the pleasure of promoting."

"I don't understand what you mean by such a phrase as promoting
household interests, Monsieur Justin. I am the servant of Monsieur Louis
Trudaine, who lives here with his sister, Mademoiselle Rose. You are
the servant of Monsieur Danville, whose excellent mother has made up
the match for him with my young lady. As servants, both of us, the
pleasantest news we can have any concern with is news that is connected
with the happiness of our masters. I have nothing to do with public
affairs; and, being one of the old school, I make it my main object in
life to mind my own business. If our homely domestic politics have no
interests for you, allow me to express my regret, and to wish you a very
good-evening."

"Pardon me, my dear sir, I have not the slightest respect for the
old school, or the least sympathy with people who only mind their own
business. However, I accept your expressions of regret; I reciprocate
your 'Good-evening'; and I trust to find you improved in temper, dress,
manners, and appearance the next time I have the honor of meeting you.
Adieu, Monsieur Guillaume, and! _Vive la bagatelle!"_

These scraps of dialogue were interchanged on a lovely summer evening
in the year seventeen hundred and eighty-nine, before the back door of
a small house which stood on the banks of the Seine, about three miles
westward of the city of Rouen. The one speaker was lean, old, crabbed
and slovenly; the other was plump, young, oily-mannered and dressed in
the most gorgeous livery costume of the period. The last days of genuine
dandyism were then rapidly approaching all over the civilized world; and
Monsieur Justin was, in his own way, dressed to perfection, as a living
illustration of the expiring glories of his epoch.

After the old servant had left him, he occupied himself for a few
minutes in contemplating, superciliously enough, the back view of the
little house before which he stood. Judging by the windows, it did not
contain more than six or eight rooms in all. Instead of stables and
outhouses, there was a conservatory attached to the building on one
side, and a low, long room, built of wood, gayly painted, on the other.
One of the windows of this room was left uncurtained and through
it could be seen, on a sort of dresser inside, bottles filled with
strangely-colored liquids oddly-shaped utensils of brass and copper, one
end of a large furnace, and other objects, which plainly proclaimed that
the apartment was used as a chemical laboratory.

"Think of our bride's brother amusing himself in such a place as that
with cooking drugs in saucepans," muttered Monsieur Justin, peeping into
the room. "I am the least particular man in the universe, but I must
say I wish we were not going to be connected by marriage with an amateur
apothecary. Pah! I can smell the place through the window."

With these words Monsieur Justin turned his back on the laboratory in
disgust, and sauntered toward the cliffs overhanging the river.

Leaving the garden attached to the house, he ascended some gently rising
ground by a winding path. Arrived at the summit, the whole view of the
Seine, with its lovely green islands, its banks fringed with trees, its
gliding boats, and little scattered water-side cottages, opened before
him. Westward, where the level country appeared beyond the further
bank of the river, the landscape was all aglow with the crimson of the
setting sun. Eastward, the long shadows and mellow intervening lights,
the red glory that quivered on the rippling water, the steady ruby fire
glowing on cottage windows that reflected the level sunlight, led the
eye onward and onward, along the windings of the Seine, until it rested
upon the spires, towers, and broadly-massed houses of Rouen, with the
wooded hills rising beyond them for background. Lovely to look on at
any time, the view was almost supernaturally beautiful now under the
gorgeous evening light that glowed up in it. All its attractions,
however, were lost on the valet; he stood yawning with his hands in
his pockets, looking neither to the right nor to the left, but staring
straight before him at a little hollow, beyond which the ground sloped
away smoothly to the brink of the cliff. A bench was placed here, and
three persons--an old lady, a gentleman, and a young girl--were seated
on it, watching the sunset, and by consequence turning their backs on
Monsieur Justin. Near them stood two gentlemen, also looking toward the
river and the distant view. These five figures attracted the valet's
attention, to the exclusion of every other object around him.

"There they are still," he said to himself, discontentedly. "Madame
Danville in the same place on the seat; my master, the bridegroom,
dutifully next to her; Mademoiselle Rose, the bride, bashfully next to
him; Monsieur Trudaine, the amateur apothecary brother, affectionately
next to her; and Monsieur Lomaque, our queer land-steward, officially in
waiting on the whole party. There they all are indeed, incomprehensibly
wasting their time still in looking at nothing! Yes," continued Monsieur
Justin, lifting his eyes wearily, and staring hard, first up the river
at Rouen, then down the river at the setting sun; "yes, plague take
them! looking at nothing, absolutely and positively at nothing, all this
while."

Here Monsieur Justin yawned again, and, returning to the garden, sat
himself down in an arbor and resignedly went to sleep.

If the valet had ventured near the five persons whom he had been
apostrophizing from a distance, and if he had been possessed of some
little refinement of observation, he could hardly have failed to remark
that the bride and bridegroom of the morrow, and their companions on
either side, were all, in a greater or less degree, under the influence
of some secret restraint, which affected their conversation, their
gestures, and even the expression of their faces. Madame Danville--a
handsome, richly-dressed old lady, with very bright eyes, and a quick,
suspicious manner--looked composedly and happily enough, as long as her
attention was fixed on her son. But when she turned from him toward
the bride, a hardly perceptible uneasiness passed over her face--an
uneasiness which only deepened to positive distrust and dissatisfaction
whenever she looked toward Mademoiselle Trudaine's brother. In the same
way, her son, who was all smiles and happiness while he was speaking
with his future wife, altered visibly in manner and look exactly as his
mother altered, whenever the presence of Monsieur Trudaine specially
impressed itself on his attention. Then, again, Lomaque, the
land-steward--quiet, sharp, skinny Lomaque, with the submissive
manner, and the red-rimmed eyes--never looked up at his master's
future brother-in-law without looking away again rather uneasily, and
thoughtfully drilling holes in the grass with his long sharp-pointed
cane. Even the bride herself--the pretty, innocent girl, with her
childish shyness of manner--seemed to be affected like the others.
Doubt, if not distress, overshadowed her face from time to time, and the
hand which her lover held trembled a little, and grew restless, when she
accidentally caught her brother's eye.

Strangely enough there was nothing to repel, but, on the contrary,
everything to attract in the look and manner of the person whose mere
presence seemed to exercise such a curiously constraining influence over
the wedding-party. Louis Trudaine was a remarkably handsome man. His
expression was singularly kind and gentle; his manner irresistibly
winning in its frank, manly firmness and composure. His words, when he
occasionally spoke, seemed as unlikely to give offense as his looks;
for he only opened his lips in courteous reply to questions directly
addressed to him. Judging by a latent mournfulness in the tones of his
voice, and by the sorrowful tenderness which clouded his kind, earnest
eyes whenever they rested on his sister, his thoughts were certainly not
of the happy or the hopeful kind. But he gave them no direct expression;
he intruded his secret sadness, whatever it might be, on no one of his
companions. Nevertheless, modest and self-restrained as he was, there
was evidently some reproving or saddening influence in his presence
which affected the spirits of every one near him, and darkened the eve
of the wedding to bride and bridegroom alike.

As the sun slowly sank in the heavens, the conversation flagged more and
more. After a long silence, the bridegroom was the first to start a new
subject.

"Rose, love," he said, "that magnificent sunset is a good omen for our
marriage; it promises another lovely day to-morrow."

The bride laughed and blushed.

"Do you really believe in omens, Charles?" she said.

"My dear," interposed the old lady, before her son could answer, "if
Charles does believe in omens, it is nothing to laugh at. You will soon
know better, when you are his wife, than to confound him, even in the
slightest things, with the common herd of people. All his convictions
are well founded--so well, that if I thought he really did believe in
omens, I should most assuredly make up my mind to believe in them too."

"I beg your pardon, madame," Rose began, tremulously, "I only meant--"

"My dear child, have you so little knowledge of the world as to suppose
that I could be offended--"

"Let Rose speak," said the young man.

He turned round petulantly, almost with the air of a spoiled child,
to his mother, as he said those words. She had been looking fondly and
proudly on him the moment before. Now her eyes wandered disconcertedly
from his face; she hesitated an instant with a sudden confusion which
seemed quite foreign to her character, then whispered in his ear,

"Am I to blame, Charles, for trying to make her worthy of you?"

Her son took no notice of the question. He only reiterated sharply, "Let
Rose speak."

"I really had nothing to say," faltered the young girl, growing more and
more confused.

"Oh, but you had!"

There was such an ungracious sharpness in his voice, such an outburst of
petulance in his manner as he spoke, that his mother gave him a warning
touch on the arm, and whispered "Hush!"

Monsieur Lomaque, the land-steward, and Monsieur Trudaine, the
brother, both glanced searchingly at the bride, as the words passed the
bridegroom's lips. She seemed to be frightened and astonished, rather
than irritated or hurt. A curious smile puckered up Lomaque's lean face,
as he looked demurely down on the ground, and began drilling a fresh
hole in the turf with the sharp point of his cane. Trudaine turned aside
quickly, and, sighing, walked away a few paces; then came back, and
seemed about to speak, but Danville interrupted him.

"Pardon me, Rose," he said; "I am so jealous of even the appearance of
any want of attention toward you, that I was nearly allowing myself to
be irritated about nothing."

He kissed her hand very gracefully and tenderly as he made his excuse;
but there was a latent expression in his eye which was at variance
with the apparent spirit of his action. It was noticed by nobody but
observant and submissive Monsieur Lomaque, who smiled to himself again,
and drilled harder than ever at his hole in the grass.

"I think Monsieur Trudaine was about to speak," said Madame Danville.
"Perhaps he will have no objection to let us hear what he was going to
say."

"None, madame," replied Trudaine, politely. "I was about to take upon
myself the blame of Rose's want of respect for believers in omens, by
confessing that I have always encouraged her to laugh at superstitions
of every kind."

"You a ridiculer of superstitions?" said Danville, turning quickly
on him. "You, who have built a laboratory; you, who are an amateur
professor of the occult arts of chemistry--a seeker after the Elixir of
Life. On my word of honor, you astonish me!"

There was an ironical politeness in his voice, look, and manner as he
said this, which his mother and his land-steward, Monsieur Lomaque,
evidently knew how to interpret. The first touched his arm again and
whispered, "Be careful!" the second suddenly grew serious, and left off
drilling his hole in the grass. Rose neither heard the warning of Madame
Danville, nor noticed the alteration in Lomaque. She was looking round
at her brother, and was waiting with a bright, affectionate smile to
hear his answer. He nodded, as if to reassure her, before he spoke again
to Danville.

"You have rather romantic ideas about experiments in chemistry," he
said, quietly. "Mine have so little connection with what you call the
occult arts that all the world might see them, if all the world thought
it worth while. The only Elixirs of Life that I know of are a quiet
heart and a contented mind. Both those I found, years and years ago,
when Rose and I first came to live together in the house yonder."

He spoke with a quiet sadness in his voice, which meant far more to his
sister than the simple words he uttered. Her eyes filled with tears; she
turned for a moment from her lover, and took her brother's hand. "Don't
talk, Louis, as if you thought you were going to lose your sister,
because--" Her lips began to tremble, and she stopped suddenly.

"More jealous than ever of your taking her away from him!" whispered
Madame Danville in her son's ear. "Hush! don't, for God's sake, take any
notice of it," she added, hurriedly, as he rose from the seat and faced
Trudaine with undisguised irritation and impatience in his manner.
Before he could speak, the old servant Guillaume made his appearance,
and announced that coffee was ready. Madame Danville again said "Hush!"
and quickly took one of his arms, while he offered the other to Rose.
"Charles," said the young girl, amazedly, "how flushed your face is, and
how your arm trembles!"

He controlled himself in a moment, smiled, and said to her: "Can't you
guess why, Rose? I am thinking of to-morrow." While he was speaking, he
passed close by the land-steward, on his way back to the house with
the ladies. The smile returned to Monsieur Lomaque's lean face, and a
curious light twinkled in his red-rimmed eyes as he began a fresh hole
in the grass.

"Won't you go indoors, and take some coffee?" asked Trudaine, touching
the land-steward on the arm.

Monsieur Lomaque started a little and left his cane sticking in the
ground. "A thousand thanks, monsieur," he said; "may I be allowed to
follow you?"

"I confess the beauty of the evening makes me a little unwilling to
leave this place just yet."

"Ah! the beauties of Nature--I feel them with you, Monsieur Trudaine;
I feel them here." Saying this, Lomaque laid one hand on his heart,
and with the other pulled his stick out of the grass. He had looked as
little at the landscape or the setting sun as Monsieur Justin himself.

They sat down, side by side, on the empty bench; and then there followed
an awkward pause. Submissive Lomaque was too discreet to forget his
place, and venture on starting a new topic. Trudaine was preoccupied,
and disinclined to talk. It was necessary, however, in common
politeness, to say something. Hardly attending himself to his own words,
he began with a commonplace phrase: "I regret, Monsieur Lomaque, that we
have not had more opportunities of bettering our acquaintance."

"I feel deeply indebted," rejoined the land-steward, "to the admirable
Madame Danville for having chosen me as her escort hither from her son's
estate near Lyons, and having thereby procured for me the honor of this
introduction." Both Monsieur Lomaque's red-rimmed eyes were seized with
a sudden fit of winking, as he made this polite speech. His enemies
were accustomed to say that, whenever he was particularly insincere,
or particularly deceitful, he always took refuge in the weakness of his
eyes, and so evaded the trying ordeal of being obliged to look steadily
at the person whom he was speaking with.

"I was pleased to hear you mention my late father's name, at dinner, in
terms of high respect," continued Trudaine, resolutely keeping up the
conversation. "Did you know him?"

"I am indirectly indebted to your excellent father," answered the
land-steward, "for the very situation which I now hold. At a time when
the good word of a man of substance and reputation was needed to save me
from poverty and ruin, your father spoke that word. Since then I have,
in my own very small way, succeeded in life, until I have risen to the
honor of superintending the estate of Monsieur Danville."

"Excuse me, but your way of speaking of your present situation rather
surprises me. Your father, I believe, was a merchant, just as Danville's
father was a merchant; the only difference between them was that one
failed and the other realized a large fortune. Why should you speak of
yourself as honored by holding your present place?"

"Have you never heard?" exclaimed Lomaque, with an appearance of
great astonishment, "or can you have heard, and forgotten, that Madame
Danville is descended from one of the noble houses of France? Has she
never told you, as she has often told me, that she condescended when she
married her late husband; and that her great object in life is to get
the title of her family (years since extinct in the male line) settled
on her son?"

"Yes," replied Trudaine; "I remember to have heard something of this,
and to have paid no great attention to it at the time, having little
sympathy with such aspirations as you describe. You have lived many
years in Danville's service, Monsieur Lomaque; have you"--he hesitated
for a moment, then continued, looking the land-steward full in the
face--"have you found him a good and kind master?"

Lomaque's thin lips seemed to close instinctively at the question, as if
he were never going to speak again. He bowed--Trudaine waited--he only
bowed again. Trudaine waited a third time. Lomaque looked at his host
with perfect steadiness for an instant, then his eyes began to get weak
again. "You seem to have some special interest," he quietly remarked,
"if I may say so without offense, in asking me that question."

"I deal frankly, at all hazards, with every one," returned Trudaine;
"and stranger as you are, I will deal frankly with you. I acknowledge
that I have an interest in asking that question--the dearest, the
tenderest of all interests." At those last words, his voice trembled
for a moment, but he went on firmly; "from the beginning of my sister's
engagement with Danville, I made it my duty not to conceal my own
feelings; my conscience and my affection for Rose counseled me to be
candid to the last, even though my candor should distress or offend
others. When we first made the acquaintance of Madame Danville, and
when I first discovered that her son's attentions to Rose were not
unfavorably received, I felt astonished, and, though it cost me a hard
effort, I did not conceal that astonishment from my sister--"

Lomaque, who had hitherto been all attention, started here, and threw
up his hands in amazement. "Astonished, did I hear you say? Astonished,
Monsieur Trudaine, that the attentions of a young gentleman, possessed
of all the graces and accomplishments of a highly-bred Frenchman, should
be favorably received by a young lady! Astonished that such a dancer,
such a singer, such a talker, such a notoriously fascinating ladies' man
as Monsieur Danville, should, by dint of respectful assiduity, succeed
in making some impression on the heart of Mademoiselle Rose! Oh,
Monsieur Trudaine, venerated Monsieur Trudaine, this is almost too much
to credit!"

Lomaque's eyes grew weaker than ever, and winked incessantly as he
uttered this apostrophe. At the end, he threw up his hands again, and
blinked inquiringly all round him, in mute appeal to universal nature.

"When, in the course of time, matters were further advanced," continued
Trudaine, without paying any attention to the interruption; "when the
offer of marriage was made, and when I knew that Rose had in her own
heart accepted it, I objected, and I did not conceal my objections--"

"Heavens!" interposed Lomaque again, clasping his hands this time with
a look of bewilderment; "what objections, what possible objections to
a man young and well-bred, with an immense fortune and an uncompromised
character? I have heard of these objections; I know they have made bad
blood; and I ask myself again and again, what can they be?"

"God knows I have often tried to dismiss them from my mind as fanciful
and absurd," said Trudaine, "and I have always failed. It is impossible,
in your presence, that I can describe in detail what my own impressions
have been, from the first, of the master whom you serve. Let it be
enough if I confide to you that I cannot, even now, persuade myself of
the sincerity of his attachment to my sister, and that I feel--in
spite of myself, in spite of my earnest desire to put the most implicit
confidence in Rose's choice--a distrust of his character and temper,
which now, on the eve of the marriage, amounts to positive terror. Long
secret suffering, doubt, and suspense, wring this confession from me,
Monsieur Lomaque, almost unawares, in defiance of caution, in defiance
of all the conventionalities of society. You have lived for years under
the same roof with this man; you have seen him in his most unguarded and
private moments. I tempt you to betray no confidence--I only ask you if
you can make me happy by telling me that I have been doing your master
grievous injustice by my opinion of him? I ask you to take my hand,
and tell me if you can, in all honor, that my sister is not risking the
happiness of her whole life by giving herself in marriage to Danville
to-morrow!"

He held out his hand while he spoke. By some strange chance, Lomaque
happened just at that moment to be looking away toward those beauties of
Nature which he admired so greatly. "Really, Monsieur Trudaine, really
such an appeal from you, at such a time, amazes me." Having got so far,
he stopped and said no more.

"When we first sat down together here, I had no thought of making this
appeal, no idea of talking to you as I have talked," pursued the other.
"My words have escaped me, as I told you, almost unawares; you must
make allowances for them and for me. I cannot expect others, Monsieur
Lomaque, to appreciate and understand my feelings for Rose. We two have
lived alone in the world together; father, mother, kindred, they all
died years since, and left us. I am so much older than my sister that I
have learned to feel toward her more as a father than as a brother.
All my life, all my dearest hopes, all my highest expectations, have
centered in her. I was past the period of my boyhood when my mother put
my little child sister's hand in mine, and said to me on her death-bed:
'Louis, be all to her that I have been, for she has no one left to look
to but you.' Since then the loves and ambitions of other men have not
been my loves or my ambitions. Sister Rose--as we all used to call her
in those past days, as I love to call her still--Sister Rose has
been the one aim, the one happiness, the one precious trust, the one
treasured reward, of all my life. I have lived in this poor house,
in this dull retirement, as in a paradise, because Sister Rose--my
innocent, happy, bright-faced Eve--has lived here with me. Even if the
husband of her choice had been the husband of mine, the necessity of
parting with her would have been the hardest, the bitterest of trials.
As it is, thinking what I think, dreading what I dread, judge what my
feelings must be on the eve of her marriage; and know why, and with what
object, I made the appeal which surprised you a moment since, but which
cannot surprise you now. Speak if you will--I can say no more." He
sighed bitterly; his head dropped on his breast, and the hand which he
had extended to Lomaque trembled as he withdrew it and let it fall at
his side.

The land-steward was not a man accustomed to hesitate, but he hesitated
now. He was not usually at a loss for phrases in which to express
himself, but he stammered at the very outset of his reply. "Suppose I
answered," he began, slowly; "suppose I told you that you wronged him,
would my testimony really be strong enough to shake opinions, or rather
presumptions, which have been taking firmer and firmer hold of you for
months and months past? Suppose, on the other hand, that my master had
his little" (Lomaque hesitated before he pronounced the next word)--"his
little--infirmities, let me say; but only hypothetically, mind
that--infirmities; and suppose I had observed them, and was willing to
confide them to you, what purpose would such a confidence answer now,
at the eleventh hour, with Mademoiselle Rose's heart engaged, with the
marriage fixed for to-morrow? No! no! trust me--"

Trudaine looked up suddenly. "I thank you for reminding me, Monsieur
Lomaque, that it is too late now to make inquiries, and by consequence
too late also to trust in others. My sister has chosen; and on the
subject of that choice my lips shall be henceforth sealed. The events of
the future are with God; whatever they may be, I hope I am strong enough
to bear my part in them with the patience and the courage of a man! I
apologize, Monsieur Lomaque, for having thoughtlessly embarrassed you
by questions which I had no right to ask. Let us return to the house--I
will show you the way."

Lomaque's lips opened, then closed again; he bowed uneasily, and his
sallow complexion whitened for a moment.

Trudaine led the way in silence back to the house; the land-steward
following slowly at a distance of several paces, and talking in whispers
to himself. "His father was the saving of me," muttered Lomaque; "that
is truth, and there is no getting over it; his father was the saving of
me; and yet here am I--no! it's too late!--too late to speak--too late
to act--too late to do anything!"

Close to the house they were met by the old servant.

"My young lady has just sent me to call you in to coffee, monsieur,"
said Guillaume. "She has kept a cup hot for you, and another cup for
Monsieur Lomaque."

The land-steward started--this time with genuine astonishment. "For me!"
he exclaimed. "Mademoiselle Rose has troubled herself to keep a cup of
coffee hot for me?" The old servant stared; Trudaine stopped and looked
back.

"What is there so very surprising," he asked, "in such an ordinary act
of politeness on my sister's part?"

"Excuse me, Monsieur Trudaine," answered Lomaque; "you have not passed
such an existence as mine--you are not a friendless old man--you have
a settled position in the world, and are used to be treated with
consideration. I am not. This is the first occasion in my life on which
I find myself an object for the attention of a young lady, and it takes
me by surprise. I repeat my excuses; pray let us go in."

Trudaine made no reply to this curious explanation. He wondered at it
a little, however, and he wondered still more when, on entering
the drawing-room, he saw Lomaque walk straight up to his sister,
and--apparently not noticing that Danville was sitting at the
harpsichord and singing at the time--address her confusedly and
earnestly with a set speech of thanks for his hot cup of coffee. Rose
looked perplexed, and half inclined to laugh, as she listened to
him. Madame Danville, who sat by her side, frowned, and tapped the
land-steward contemptuously on the arm with her fan.

"Be so good as to keep silent until my son has done singing," she said.
Lomaque made a low bow, and retiring to a table in a corner, took up a
newspaper lying on it. If Madame Danville had seen the expression that
came over his face when he turned away from her, proud as she was, her
aristocratic composure might possibly have been a little ruffled.

Danville had finished his song, had quitted the harpsichord, and was
talking in whispers to his bride; Madame Danville was adding a word to
the conversation every now and then; Trudaine was seated apart at the
far end of the room, thoughtfully reading a letter which he had taken
from his pocket, when an exclamation from Lomaque, who was still engaged
with the newspaper, caused all the other occupants of the apartment to
suspend their employments and look up.

"What is it?" asked Danville, impatiently.

"Shall I be interrupting if I explain?" inquired Lomaque, getting very
weak in the eyes again, as he deferentially addressed himself to Madame
Danville.

"You have already interrupted us," said the old lady, sharply; "so you
may now just as well explain."

"It is a passage from the _Scientific Intelligence_ which has given me
great delight, and which will be joyful news for every one here." Saying
this, Lomaque looked significantly at Trudaine, and then read from the
newspaper these lines:



"ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, PARIS.--The vacant sub-professorship of chemistry
has been offered, we are rejoiced to hear, to a gentleman whose modesty
has hitherto prevented his scientific merits from becoming sufficiently
prominent in the world. To the members of the academy he has
been long since known as the originator of some of the most
remarkable improvements in chemistry which have been made of late
years--improvements, the credit of which he has, with rare, and we were
almost about to add, culpable moderation, allowed others to profit by
with impunity. No man in any profession is more thoroughly entitled to
have a position of trust and distinction conferred on him by the State
than the gentleman to whom we refer--M. Louis Trudaine."



Before Lomaque could look up from the paper to observe the impression
which his news produced, Rose had gained her brother's side and was
kissing him in a flutter of delight.

"Dear Louis," she cried, clapping her hands, "let me be the first to
congratulate you! How proud and glad I am! You accept the professorship,
of course?"

Trudaine, who had hastily and confusedly put his letter back in his
pocket the moment Lomaque began to read, seemed at a loss for an answer.
He patted his sister's hand rather absently, and said:

"I have not made up my mind; don't ask me why, Rose--at least not now,
not just now." An expression of perplexity and distress came over his
face, as he gently motioned her to resume her chair.

"Pray, is a sub-professor of chemistry supposed to hold the rank of a
gentleman?" asked Madame Danville, without the slightest appearance of
any special interest in Lomaque's news.

"Of course not," replied her son, with a sarcastic laugh; "he is
expected to work and make himself useful. What gentleman does that?"

"Charles!" exclaimed the old lady, reddening with anger.

"Bah!" cried Danville, turning his back on her, "enough of chemistry.
Lomaque, now you have begun reading the newspaper, try if you can't find
something interesting to read about. What are the last accounts from
Paris? Any more symptoms of a general revolt?"

Lomaque turned to another part of the paper. "Bad, very bad prospects
for the restoration of tranquillity," he said. "Necker, the people's
Minister, is dismissed. Placards against popular gatherings are posted
all over Paris. The Swiss Guards have been ordered to the Champs
Elysees, with four pieces of artillery. No more is yet known, but the
worst is dreaded. The breach between the aristocracy and the people is
widening fatally almost hour by hour."

Here he stopped and laid down the newspaper. Trudaine took it from him,
and shook his head forebodingly as he looked over the paragraph which
had just been read.

"Bah!" cried Madame Danville. "The People, indeed! Let those four pieces
of artillery be properly loaded, let the Swiss Guards do their duty, and
we shall hear no more of the People!"

"I advise you not to be sure of that," said her son, carelessly; "there
are rather too many people in Paris for the Swiss Guards to shoot
conveniently. Don't hold your head too aristocratically high, mother,
till we are quite certain which way the wind really does blow. Who knows
if I may not have to bow just as low one of these days to King Mob as
ever you courtesied in your youth to King Louis the Fifteenth?"

He laughed complacently as he ended, and opened his snuff-box. His
mother rose from her chair, her face crimson with indignation.

"I won't hear you talk so--it shocks, it horrifies me!" she exclaimed,
with vehement gesticulation. "No, no! I decline to hear another word. I
decline to sit by patiently while my son, whom I love, jests at the most
sacred principles, and sneers at the memory of an anointed king. This is
my reward, is it, for having yielded and having come here, against
all the laws of etiquette, the night before the marriage? I comply no
longer; I resume my own will and my own way. I order you, my son, to
accompany me back to Rouen. We are the bridegroom's party, and we have
no business overnight at the house of the bride. You meet no more till
you meet at the church. Justin, my coach! Lomaque, pick up my hood.
Monsieur Trudaine, thanks for your hospitality; I shall hope to
return it with interest the first time you are in our neighborhood.
Mademoiselle, put on your best looks to-morrow, along with your wedding
finery; remember that my son's bride must do honor to my son's taste.
Justin! my coach--drone, vagabond, idiot, where is my coach?"

"My mother looks handsome when she is in a passion, does she not, Rose?"
said Danville, quietly putting up his snuff-box as the old lady sailed
out of the room. "Why, you seem quite frightened, love," he added,
taking her hand with his easy, graceful air; "frightened, let me assure
you, without the least cause. My mother has but that one prejudice, and
that one weak point, Rose. You will find her a very dove for gentleness,
as long as you do not wound her pride of caste. Come, come, on this
night, of all others, you must not send me away with such a face as
that."

He bent down and whispered to her a bridegroom's compliment, which
brought the blood back to her cheek in an instant.

"Ah, how she loves him--how dearly she loves him!" thought her brother,
watching her from his solitary corner of the room, and seeing the smile
that brightened her blushing face when Danville kissed her hand at
parting.

Lomaque, who had remained imperturbably cool during the outbreak of
the old lady's anger--Lomaque, whose observant eyes had watched
sarcastically the effect of the scene between mother and son on Trudaine
and his sister, was the last to take leave. After he had bowed to Rose
with a certain gentleness in his manner, which contrasted strangely with
his wrinkled, haggard face, he held out his hand to her brother "I did
not take your hand when we sat together on the bench," he said; "may I
take it now?"

Trudaine met his advance courteously, but in silence. "You may alter
your opinion of me one of these days." Adding those words in a whisper,
Monsieur Lomaque bowed once more to the bride and went out.

For a few minutes after the door had closed the brother and sister kept
silence. "Our last night together at home!" That was the thought which
now filled the heart of each. Rose was the first to speak. Hesitating a
little as she approached her brother, she said to him, anxiously:

"I am sorry for what happened with Madame Danville, Louis. Does it make
you think the worse of Charles?"

"I can make allowance for Madame Danville's anger," returned Trudaine,
evasively, "because she spoke from honest conviction."

"Honest?" echoed Rose, sadly, "honest?--ah, Louis! I know you are
thinking disparagingly of Charles's convictions, when you speak so of
his mother's."

Trudaine smiled and shook his head; but she took no notice of the
gesture of denial--only stood looking earnestly and wistfully into his
face. Her eyes began to fill; she suddenly threw her arms round his
neck, and whispered to him: "Oh, Louis, Louis! how I wish I could teach
you to see Charles with my eyes!"

He felt her tears on his cheek as she spoke, and tried to reassure her.

"You shall teach me, Rose--you shall, indeed. Come, come, we must keep
up our spirits, or how are you to look your best to-morrow?"

He unclasped her arms, and led her gently to a chair. At the same moment
there was a knock at the door, and Rose's maid appeared, anxious
to consult her mistress on some of the preparations for the wedding
ceremony. No interruption could have been more welcome just at that
time. It obliged Rose to think of present trifles, and it gave her
brother an excuse for retiring to his study.

He sat down by his desk, doubting and heavy-hearted, and placed the
letter from the Academy of Sciences open before him.

Passing over all the complimentary expressions which it contained, his
eye rested only on these lines at the end: "During the first three years
of your professorship, you will be required to reside in or near Paris
nine months out of the year, for the purpose of delivering lectures and
superintending experiments from time to time in the laboratories." The
letter in which these lines occurred offered him such a position as
in his modest self-distrust he had never dreamed of before; the lines
themselves contained the promise of such vast facilities for carrying
on his favorite experiments as he could never hope to command in his
own little study, with his own limited means; and yet, there he now
sat doubting whether he should accept or reject the tempting honors and
advantages that were offered to him--doubting for his sister's sake!

"Nine months of the year in Paris," he said to himself, sadly; "and Rose
is to pass her married life at Lyons. Oh, if I could clear my heart of
its dread on her account--if I could free my mind of its forebodings for
her future--how gladly I would answer this letter by accepting the trust
it offers me!"

He paused for a few minutes, and reflected. The thoughts that were in
him marked their ominous course in the growing paleness of his cheek,
in the dimness that stole over his eyes. "If this cleaving distrust from
which I cannot free myself should be in very truth the mute prophecy of
evil to come--to come, I know not when--if it be so (which God forbid!),
how soon she may want a friend, a protector near at hand, a ready refuge
in the time of her trouble! Where shall she then find protection or
refuge? With that passionate woman? With her husband's kindred and
friends?"

He shuddered as the thought crossed his mind, and opening a blank sheet
of paper, dipped his pen in the ink. "Be all to her, Louis, that I have
been," he murmured to himself, repeating his mother's last words, and
beginning the letter while he uttered them. It was soon completed. It
expressed in the most respectful terms his gratitude for the offer
made to him, and his inability to accept it, in consequence of domestic
circumstances which it was needless to explain. The letter was directed,
sealed; it only remained for him to place it in the post-bag, lying near
at hand. At this last decisive act he hesitated. He had told Lomaque,
and he had firmly believed himself, that he had conquered all ambitions
for his sister's sake. He knew now, for the first time, that he had
only lulled them to rest--he knew that the letter from Paris had aroused
them. His answer was written, his hand was on the post-bag, and at that
moment the whole struggle had to be risked over again--risked when he
was most unfit for it! He was not a man under any ordinary circumstances
to procrastinate, but he procrastinated now.

"Night brings counsel; I will wait till to-morrow," he said to himself,
and put the letter of refusal in his pocket, and hastily quitted the
laboratory.



CHAPTER II.

Inexorably the important morrow came: irretrievably, for good or for
evil, the momentous marriage-vow was pronounced. Charles Danville and
Rose Trudaine were now man and wife. The prophecy of the magnificent
sunset overnight had not proved false. It was a cloudless day on
the marriage morning. The nuptial ceremonies had proceeded smoothly
throughout, and had even satisfied Madame Danville. She returned with
the wedding-party to Trudaine's house, all smiles and serenity. To
the bride she was graciousness itself. "Good girl," said the old lady,
following Rose into a corner, and patting her approvingly on the cheek
with her fan; "good girl, you have looked well this morning--you have
done credit to my son's taste. Indeed, you have pleased me, child! Now
go upstairs, and get on your traveling-dress, and count on my maternal
affection as long as you make Charles happy."

It had been arranged that the bride and bridegroom should pass their
honeymoon in Brittany, and then return to Danville's estate near Lyons.
The parting was hurried over, as all such partings should be. The
carriage had driven off; Trudaine, after lingering long to look after
it, had returned hastily to the house; the very dust of the whirling
wheels had all dispersed; there was absolutely nothing to see; and yet
there stood Monsieur Lomaque at the outer gate; idly, as if he was an
independent man--calmly, as if no such responsibilities as the calling
of Madame Danville's coach, and the escorting of Madame Danville back to
Lyons, could possibly rest on his shoulders.

Idly and calmly, slowly rubbing his hands one over the other, slowly
nodding his head in the direction by which the bride and bridegroom
had departed, stood the eccentric land-steward at the outer gate. On
a sudden the sound of footsteps approaching from the house seemed to
arouse him. Once more he looked out into the road, as if he expected
still to see the carriage of the newly-married couple. "Poor girl! ah,
poor girl!" said Monsieur Lomaque softly to himself, turning round to
ascertain who was coming from the house.

It was only the postman with a letter in his hand, and the post-bag
crumpled up under his arm.

"Any fresh news from Paris, friend?" asked Lomaque.

"Very bad, monsieur," answered the postman. "Camille Desmoulins has
appealed to the people in the Palais Royal; there are fears of a riot."

"Only a riot!" repeated Lomaque, sarcastically. "Oh, what a brave
Government not to be afraid of anything worse! Any letters?" he added,
hastily dropping the subject.

"None _to_ the house," said the postman, "only one _from_ it, given me
by Monsieur Trudaine. Hardly worth while," he added, twirling the letter
in his hand, "to put it into the bag, is it?"

Lomaque looked over his shoulder as he spoke, and saw that the letter
was directed to the President of the Academy of Sciences, Paris.

"I wonder whether he accepts the place or refuses it?" thought the
land-steward, nodding to the postman, and continuing on his way back to
the house.

At the door he met Trudaine, who said to him, rather hastily, "You are
going back to Lyons with Madame Danville, I suppose?"

"This very day," answered Lomaque.

"If you should hear of a convenient bachelor lodging, at Lyons, or near
it," continued the other, dropping his voice and speaking more rapidly
than before, "you would be doing me a favor if you would let me know
about it."

Lomaque assented; but before he could add a question which was on the
tip of his tongue, Trudaine had vanished in the interior of the house.

"A bachelor lodging!" repeated the land-steward, standing alone on the
doorstep. "At or near Lyons! Aha! Monsieur Trudaine, I put your bachelor
lodging and your talk to me last night together, and I make out a sum
total which is, I think, pretty near the mark. You have refused that
Paris appointment, my friend; and I fancy I can guess why."

He paused thoughtfully, and shook his head with ominous frowns and
bitings of his lips.

"All clear enough in that sky," he continued, after a while, looking up
at the lustrous midday heaven. "All clear enough there; but I think I
see a little cloud rising in a certain household firmament already--a
little cloud which hides much, and which I for one shall watch
carefully."



PART SECOND.



CHAPTER I.

Five years have elapsed since Monsieur Lomaque stood thoughtfully at the
gate of Trudaine's house, looking after the carriage of the bride and
bridegroom, and seriously reflecting on the events of the future.
Great changes have passed over that domestic firmament in which he
prophetically discerned the little warning cloud. Greater changes have
passed over the firmament of France.

What was revolt five years ago is Revolution now--revolution which
has ingulfed thrones, and principalities, and powers; which has set
up crownless, inhereditary kings and counselors of its own, and has
bloodily torn them down again by dozens; which has raged and raged on
unrestrainedly in fierce earnest, until but one king can still govern
and control it for a little while. That king is named Terror, and
seventeen hundred and ninety-four is the year of his reign.

Monsieur Lomaque, land-steward no longer, sits alone in an
official-looking room in one of the official buildings of Paris. It is
another July evening, as fine as that evening when he and Trudaine sat
talking together on the bench overlooking the Seine. The window of the
room is wide open, and a faint, pleasant breeze is beginning to flow
through it. But Lomaque breathes uneasily, as if still oppressed by the
sultry midday heat; and there are signs of perplexity and trouble in his
face as he looks down absently now and then into the street.

The times he lives in are enough of themselves to sadden any man's face.
In the Reign of Terror no living being in all the city of Paris can rise
in the morning and be certain of escaping the spy, the denunciation, the
arrest, or the guillotine, before night. Such times are trying enough to
oppress any man's spirits; but Lomaque is not thinking of them or caring
for them now. Out of a mass of papers which lie before him on his old
writing-table, he has just taken up and read one, which has carried his
thoughts back to the past, and to the changes which have taken place
since he stood alone on the doorstep of Trudaine's house, pondering on
what might happen.

More rapidly even than he had foreboded those changes had occurred.
In less time even than he had anticipated, the sad emergency for which
Rose's brother had prepared, as for a barely possible calamity,
overtook Trudaine, and called for all the patience, the courage, the
self-sacrifice which he had to give for his sister's sake. By slow
gradations downward, from bad to worse, her husband's character
manifested itself less and less disguisedly almost day by day.
Occasional slights, ending in habitual neglect; careless estrangement,
turning to cool enmity; small insults, which ripened evilly to great
injuries--these were the pitiless signs which showed her that she
had risked all and lost all while still a young woman--these were the
unmerited afflictions which found her helpless, and would have left her
helpless, but for the ever-present comfort and support of her brother's
self-denying love. From the first, Trudaine had devoted himself to meet
such trials as now assailed him; and like a man he met them, in defiance
alike of persecution from the mother and of insult from the son.

The hard task was only lightened when, as time advanced, public trouble
began to mingle itself with private grief. Then absorbing political
necessities came as a relief to domestic misery. Then it grew to be the
one purpose and pursuit of Danville's life cunningly to shape his course
so that he might move safely onward with the advancing revolutionary
tide--he cared not whither, as long as he kept his possessions safe and
his life out of danger. His mother, inflexibly true to her Old-World
convictions through all peril, might entreat and upbraid, might talk of
honor, and courage, and sincerity--he heeded her not, or heeded only to
laugh. As he had taken the false way with his wife, so he was now bent
on taking it with the world.

The years passed on; destroying changes swept hurricane-like over the
old governing system of France; and still Danville shifted successfully
with the shifting times. The first days of the Terror approached; in
public and in private--in high places and in low--each man now suspected
his brother. Crafty as Danville was, even he fell under suspicion at
last, at headquarters in Paris, principally on his mother's account.
This was his first political failure; and, in a moment of thoughtless
rage and disappointment, he wreaked the irritation caused by it on
Lomaque. Suspected himself, he in turn suspected the land-steward. His
mother fomented the suspicion--Lomaque was dismissed.

In the old times the victim would have been ruined, in the new times he
was simply rendered eligible for a political vocation in life. Lomaque
was poor, quick-witted, secret, not scrupulous. He was a good patriot;
he had good patriot friends, plenty of ambition, a subtle, cat-like
courage, nothing to dread--and he went to Paris. There were plenty of
small chances there for men of his caliber. He waited for one of them.
It came; he made the most of it; attracted favorably the notice of the
terrible Fouquier-Tinville; and won his way to a place in the office of
the Secret Police.

Meanwhile, Danville's anger cooled down; he recovered the use of that
cunning sense which had hitherto served him well, and sent to recall the
discarded servant. It was too late. Lomaque was already in a position to
set him at defiance--nay, to put his neck, perhaps, under the blade of
the guillotine. Worse than this, anonymous letters reached him, warning
him to lose no time in proving his patriotism by some indisputable
sacrifice, and in silencing his mother, whose imprudent sincerity was
likely ere long to cost her her life. Danville knew her well enough
to know that there was but one way of saving her, and thereby saving
himself. She had always refused to emigrate; but he now insisted that
she should seize the first opportunity he could procure for her of
quitting France until calmer times arrived.

Probably she would have risked her own life ten times over rather than
have obeyed him; but she had not the courage to risk her son's too;
and she yielded for his sake. Partly by secret influence, partly by
unblushing fraud, Danville procured for her such papers and permits as
would enable her to leave France by way of Marseilles. Even then she
refused to depart, until she knew what her son's plans were for the
future. He showed her a letter which he was about to dispatch to
Robespierre himself, vindicating his suspected patriotism, and
indignantly demanding to be allowed to prove it by filling some office,
no matter how small, under the redoubtable triumvirate which then
governed, or more properly terrified, France. The sight of this document
reassured Madame Danville. She bade her son farewell, and departed at
last, with one trusty servant, for Marseilles.

Danville's intention, in sending his letter to Paris, had been simply to
save himself by patriotic bluster. He was thunderstruck at receiving
a reply, taking him at his word, and summoning him to the capital to
accept employment there under the then existing Government. There was no
choice but to obey. So to Paris he journeyed, taking his wife with him
into the very jaws of danger. He was then at open enmity with Trudaine;
and the more anxious and alarmed he could make the brother feel on the
sister's account, the better he was pleased. True to his trust and his
love, through all dangers as through all persecutions, Trudaine followed
them; and the street of their sojourn at Paris, in the perilous days of
the Terror, was the street of his sojourn too.

Danville had been astonished at the acceptance of his proffered
services; he was still more amazed when he found that the post selected
for him was one of the superintendent's places in that very office of
Secret Police in which Lomaque was employed as agent. Robespierre and
his colleagues had taken the measure of their man--he had money enough,
and local importance enough to be worth studying. They knew where he was
to be distrusted, and how he might be made useful. The affairs of the
Secret Police were the sort of affairs which an unscrupulously cunning
man was fitted to help on; and the faithful exercise of that cunning in
the service of the State was insured by the presence of Lomaque in the
office. The discarded servant was just the right sort of spy to watch
the suspected master. Thus it happened that, in the office of the Secret
Police at Paris, and under the Reign of Terror, Lomaque's old master
was, nominally, his master still--the superintendent to whom he was
ceremonially accountable, in public--the suspected man, whose slightest
words and deeds he was officially set to watch, in private.

Ever sadder and darker grew the face of Lomaque as he now pondered alone
over the changes and misfortunes of the past five years. A neighboring
church-clock striking the hour of seven aroused him from his
meditations. He arranged the confused mass of papers before him--looked
toward the door, as if expecting some one to enter--then, finding
himself still alone, recurred to the one special paper which had first
suggested his long train of gloomy thoughts. The few lines it contained
were signed in cipher, and ran thus:



"You are aware that your superintendent, Danville, obtained leave of
absence last week to attend to some affairs of his at Lyons, and that he
is not expected back just yet for a day or two. While he is away, push
on the affair of Trudaine. Collect all the evidence, and hold yourself
in readiness to act on it at a moment's notice. Don't leave the office
till you have heard from me again. If you have a copy of the Private
Instructions respecting Danville, which you wrote for me, send it to my
house. I wish to refresh my memory. Your original letter is burned."



Here the note abruptly terminated. As he folded it up and put it in his
pocket, Lomaque sighed. This was a very rare expression of feeling with
him. He leaned back in his chair, and beat his nails impatiently on the
table. Suddenly there was a faint little tap at the room door, and eight
or ten men--evidently familiars of the new French Inquisition--quietly
entered, and ranged themselves against the wall.

Lomaque nodded to two of them. "Picard and Magloire, go and sit down
at that desk. I shall want you after the rest are gone." Saying this,
Lomaque handed certain sealed and docketed papers to the other men
waiting in the room, who received them in silence, bowed, and went
out. Innocent spectators might have thought them clerks taking bills
of lading from a merchant. Who could have imagined that the giving
and receiving of Denunciations, Arrest-orders, and Death-warrants--the
providing of its doomed human meal for the all-devouring
guillotine--could have been managed so coolly and quietly, with such
unruffled calmness of official routine?

"Now," said Lomaque, turning to the two men at the desk, as the door
closed, "have you got those notes about you?" (They answered in the
affirmative.) "Picard, you have the first particulars of this affair of
Trudaine; so you must begin reading. I have sent in the reports; but we
may as well go over the evidence again from the commencement, to make
sure that nothing has been left out. If any corrections are to be made,
now is the time to make them. Read, Picard, and lose as little time as
you possibly can."

Thus admonished, Picard drew some long slips of paper from his pocket,
and began reading from them as follows:



"Minutes of evidence collected concerning Louis Trudaine, suspected, on
the denunciation of Citizen Superintendent Danville, of hostility to the
sacred cause of liberty, and of disaffection to the sovereignty of the
people. (1.) The suspected person is placed under secret observation,
and these facts are elicited: He is twice seen passing at night from his
own house to a house in the Rue de Clery. On the first night he carries
with him money--on the second, papers. He returns without either.
These particulars have been obtained through a citizen engaged to help
Trudaine in housekeeping (one of the sort called Servants in the days
of the Tyrants). This man is a good patriot, who can be trusted to watch
Trudaine's actions. (2.) The inmates of the house in the Rue de Clery
are numerous, and in some cases not so well known to the Government as
could be wished. It is found difficult to gain certain information about
the person or persons visited by Trudaine without having recourse to an
arrest. (3.) An arrest is thought premature at this preliminary stage of
the proceedings, being likely to stop the development of conspiracy, and
give warning to the guilty to fly. Order thereupon given to watch and
wait for the present. (4.) Citizen Superintendent Danville quits Paris
for a short time. The office of watching Trudaine is then taken out
of the hands of the undersigned, and is confided to his comrade,
Magloire.--Signed, PICARD. Countersigned, LOMAQUE."



Having read so far, the police agent placed his papers on the
writing-table, waited a moment for orders, and, receiving none, went
out. No change came over the sadness and perplexity of Lomaque's face.
He still beat his nails anxiously on the writing-table, and did not
even look at the second agent as he ordered the man to read his report.
Magloire produced some slips of paper precisely similar to Picard's and
read from them in the same rapid, business-like, unmodulated tones:



"Affair of Trudaine. Minutes continued. Citizen Agent Magloire having
been appointed to continue the surveillance of Trudaine, reports the
discovery of additional facts of importance. (1.) Appearances make it
probable that Trudaine meditates a third secret visit to the house
in the Rue de Clery. The proper measures are taken for observing him
closely, and the result is the implication of another person discovered
to be connected with the supposed conspiracy. This person is the sister
of Trudaine, and the wife of Citizen Superintendent Danville."


"Poor, lost creature! ah, poor, lost creature!" muttered Lomaque to
himself, sighing again, and shifting uneasily from side to side, in his
mangy old leathern armchair. Apparently, Magloire was not accustomed
to sighs, interruptions, and expressions of regret from the usually
imperturbable chief agent. He looked up from his papers with a stare
of wonder. "Go on, Magloire!" cried Lomaque, with a sudden outburst of
irritability. "Why the devil don't you go on?"--"All ready, citizen,"
returned Magloire, submissively, and proceeded:


"(2.) It is at Trudaine's house that the woman Danville's connection
with her brother's secret designs is ascertained, through the vigilance
of the before-mentioned patriot citizen. The interview of the two
suspected persons is private; their conversation is carried on in
whispers. Little can be overheard; but that little suffices to prove
that Trudaine's sister is perfectly aware of his intention to proceed
for the third time to the house in the Rue de Clery. It is further
discovered that she awaits his return, and that she then goes back
privately to her own house. (3.) Meanwhile, the strictest measures are
taken for watching the house in the Rue de Clery. It is discovered that
Trudaine's visits are paid to a man and woman known to the landlord
and lodgers by the name of Dubois. They live on the fourth floor. It is
impossible, at the time of the discovery, to enter this room, or to
see the citizen and citoyenne Dubois, without producing an undesirable
disturbance in the house and neighborhood. A police agent is left to
watch the place, while search and arrest orders are applied for. The
granting of these is accidentally delayed. When they are ultimately
obtained, it is discovered that the man and the woman are both missing.
They have not hitherto been traced. (4.) The landlord of the house is
immediately arrested, as well as the police agent appointed to watch the
premises. The landlord protests that he knows nothing of his tenants.
It is suspected, however, that he has been tampered with, as also that
Trudaine's papers, delivered to the citizen and citoyenne Dubois, are
forged passports. With these and with money, it may not be impossible
that they have already succeeded in escaping from France. The proper
measures have been taken for stopping them, if they have not yet passed
the frontiers. No further report in relation to them has yet been
received (5.) Trudaine and his sister are under perpetual surveillance,
and the undersigned holds himself ready for further orders.--Signed,
MAGLOIRE. Countersigned, LOMAQUE."


Having finished reading his notes, Magloire placed them on the
writing-table. He was evidently a favored man in the office, and he
presumed upon his position; for he ventured to make a remark, instead of
leaving the room in silence, like his predecessor Picard.

"When Citizen Danville returns to Paris," he began, "he will be rather
astonished to find that in denouncing his wife's brother he had also
unconsciously denounced his wife."

Lomaque looked up quickly, with that old weakness in his eyes which
affected them in such a strangely irregular manner on certain occasions.
Magloire knew what this symptom meant, and would have become confused if
he had not been a police agent. As it was, he quietly backed a step or
two from the table, and held his tongue.

"Friend Magloire," said Lomaque, winking mildly, "your last remark looks
to me like a question in disguise. I put questions constantly to others;
I never answer questions myself. You want to know, citizen, what our
superintendent's secret motive is for denouncing his wife's brother?
Suppose you try and find that out for yourself. It will be famous
practice for you, friend Magloire--famous practice after office hours."

"Any further orders?" inquired Magloire, sulkily.

"None in relation to the reports," returned Lomaque. "I find nothing to
alter or add on a revised hearing. But I shall have a little note ready
for you immediately. Sit down at the other desk, friend Magloire; I am
very fond of you when you are not inquisitive; pray sit down."

While addressing this polite invitation to the agent in his softest
voice, Lomaque produced his pocketbook, and drew from it a little note,
which he opened and read through attentively. It was headed: "Private
Instructions relative to Superintendent Danville," and proceeded thus:

"The undersigned can confidently assert, from long domestic experience
in Danville's household that his motive for denouncing his wife's
brother is purely a personal one, and is not in the most remote degree
connected with politics. Briefly, the facts are these: Louis Trudaine,
from the first, opposed his sister's marriage with Danville, distrusting
the latter's temper and disposition. The marriage, however, took place,
and the brother resigned himself to await results--taking the precaution
of living in the same neighborhood as his sister, to interpose, if need
be, between the crimes which the husband might commit and the sufferings
which the wife might endure. The results soon exceeded his worst
anticipations, and called for the interposition for which he had
prepared himself. He is a man of inflexible firmness, patience, and
integrity, and he makes the protection and consolation of his sister the
business of his life. He gives his brother-in-law no pretext for openly
quarreling with him. He is neither to be deceived, irritated, nor tired
out, and he is Danville's superior every way--in conduct, temper, and
capacity. Under these circumstances, it is unnecessary to say that his
brother-in-law's enmity toward him is of the most implacable kind,
and equally unnecessary to hint at the perfectly plain motive of the
denunciation.

"As to the suspicious circumstances affecting not Trudaine only, but
his sister as well, the undersigned regrets his inability, thus far, to
offer either explanation or suggestion. At this preliminary stage, the
affair seems involved in impenetrable mystery."

Lomaque read these lines through, down to his own signature at the end.
They were the duplicate Secret Instructions demanded from him in the
paper which he had been looking over before the entrance of the two
police agents. Slowly, and, as it seemed, unwillingly, he folded the
note up in a fresh sheet of paper, and was preparing to seal it when a
tap at the door stopped him. "Come in," he cried, irritably; and a man
in traveling costume, covered with dust, entered, quietly whispered
a word or two in his ear, and then went out. Lomaque started at the
whisper, and, opening his note again, hastily wrote under his signature:
"I have just heard that Danville has hastened his return to Paris, and
may be expected back to-night." Having traced these lines, he closed,
sealed, and directed the letter, and gave it to Magloire. The police
agent looked at the address as he left the room; it was "To Citizen
Robespierre, Rue Saint-Honore."

Left alone again, Lomaque rose, and walked restlessly backward and
forward, biting his nails.

"Danville comes back to-night," he said to himself, "and the crisis
comes with him. Trudaine a conspirator! Bah! conspiracy can hardly be
the answer to the riddle this time. What is?"

He took a turn or two in silence--then stopped at the open window,
looking out on what little glimpse the street afforded him of the sunset
sky. "This time five years," he said, "Trudaine was talking to me on
that bench overlooking the river; and Sister Rose was keeping poor
hatchet-faced old Lomaque's cup of coffee hot for him! Now I am
officially bound to suspect them both; perhaps to arrest them;
perhaps--I wish this job had fallen into other hands. I don't want it--I
don't want it at any price!"

He returned to the writing-table and sat down to his papers, with the
dogged air of a man determined to drive away vexing thoughts by dint
of sheer hard work. For more than an hour he labored on resolutely,
munching a bit of dry bread from time to time. Then he paused a little,
and began to think again. Gradually the summer twilight faded, and the
room grew dark.

"Perhaps we shall tide over to-night, after all--who knows?" said
Lomaque, ringing his handbell for lights. They were brought in, and with
them ominously returned the police agent Magloire with a small sealed
packet. It contained an arrest-order and a tiny three-cornered note,
looking more like a love-letter, or a lady's invitation to a party,
than anything else. Lomaque opened the note eagerly and read these lines
neatly written, and signed with Robespierre's initials--M. R.--formed
elegantly in cipher:

"Arrest Trudaine and his sister to-night. On second thoughts, I am not
sure, if Danville comes back in time to be present, that it may not
be all the better. He is unprepared for his wife's arrest. Watch him
closely when it takes place, and report privately to me. I am afraid he
is a vicious man; and of all things I abhor Vice."

"Any more work for me to-night?" asked Magloire, with a yawn.

"Only an arrest," replied Lomaque. "Collect our men; and when you're
ready get a coach at the door."

"We were just going to supper," grumbled Magloire to himself, as he went
out. "The devil seize the Aristocrats! They're all in such a hurry to
get to the guillotine that they won't even give a man time to eat his
victuals in peace!"

"There's no choice now," muttered Lomaque, angrily thrusting the
arrest-order and the three-cornered note into his pocket. "His father
was the saving of me; he himself welcomed me like an equal; his sister
treated me like a gentleman, as the phrase went in those days; and
now--"

He stopped and wiped his forehead--then unlocked his desk, produced a
bottle of brandy, and poured himself out a glass of the liquor, which he
drank by sips, slowly.

"I wonder whether other men get softer-hearted as they grow older!" he
said. "I seem to do so, at any rate. Courage! courage! what must be,
must. If I risked my head to do it, I couldn't stop this arrest. Not a
man in the office but would be ready to execute it, if I wasn't."

Here the rumble of carriage-wheels sounded outside.

"There's the coach!" exclaimed Lomaque, locking up the brandy-bottle,
and taking his hat. "After all, as this arrest is to be made, it's as
well for them that I should make it."

Consoling himself as he best could with this reflection, Chief Police
Agent Lomaque blew out the candles, and quitted the room.



CHAPTER II.

Ignorant of the change in her husband's plans, which was to bring him
back to Paris a day before the time that had been fixed for his return,
Sister Rose had left her solitary home to spend the evening with her
brother. They had sat talking together long after sunset, and had let
the darkness steal on them insensibly, as people will who are only
occupied with quiet, familiar conversation. Thus it happened, by a
curious coincidence, that just as Lomaque was blowing out his candles at
the office Rose was lighting the reading-lamp at her brother's lodgings.

Five years of disappointment and sorrow had sadly changed her to outward
view. Her face looked thinner and longer; the once delicate red and
white of her complexion was gone; her figure had wasted under the
influence of some weakness, which had already made her stoop a little
when she walked. Her manner had lost its maiden shyness, only to become
unnaturally quiet and subdued. Of all the charms which had so fatally,
yet so innocently, allured her heartless husband, but one remained--the
winning gentleness of her voice. It might be touched now and then with a
note of sadness, but the soft attraction of its even, natural tone still
remained. In the marring of all other harmonies, this one harmony had
been preserved unchanged. Her brother, though his face was careworn, and
his manner sadder than of old, looked less altered from his former
self. It is the most fragile material which soonest shows the flaw. The
world's idol, Beauty, holds its frailest tenure of existence in the one
Temple where we most love to worship it.

"And so you think, Louis, that our perilous undertaking has really ended
well by this time?" said Rose, anxiously, as she lighted the lamp and
placed the glass shade over it. "What a relief it is only to hear you
say you think we have succeeded at last!"

"I said I hope, Rose," replied her brother.

"Well, even hoped is a great word from you, Louis--a great word from any
one in this fearful city, and in these days of Terror."

She stopped suddenly, seeing her brother raise his hand in warning. They
looked at each other in silence and listened. The sound of footsteps
going slowly past the house--ceasing for a moment just beyond it--then
going on again--came through the open window. There was nothing else,
out-of-doors or in, to disturb the silence of the night--the deadly
silence of Terror which, for months past, had hung over Paris. It was a
significant sign of the times, that even a passing footstep, sounding
a little strangely at night, was subject for suspicion, both to brother
and sister--so common a subject, that they suspended their conversation
as a matter of course, without exchanging a word of explanation, until
the tramp of the strange footsteps had died away.

"Louis," continued Rose, dropping her voice to a whisper, after nothing
more was audible, "when may I trust our secret to my husband?"

"Not yet!" rejoined Trudaine, earnestly. "Not a word, not a hint of it,
till I give you leave. Remember, Rose, you promised silence from the
first. Everything depends on your holding that promise sacred till I
release you from it."

"I will hold it sacred; I will indeed, at all hazards, under all
provocations," she answered.

"That is quite enough to reassure me--and now, love, let us change the
subject. Even these walls may have ears, and the closed door yonder
may be no protection." He looked toward it uneasily while he spoke.
"By-the-by, I have come round to your way of thinking, Rose, about that
new servant of mine--there is something false in his face. I wish I had
been as quick to detect it as you were."

Rose glanced at him affrightedly. "Has he done anything suspicious? Have
you caught him watching you? Tell me the worst, Louis."

"Hush! hush! my dear, not so loud. Don't alarm yourself; he has done
nothing suspicious."

"Turn him off--pray, pray turn him off, before it is too late!"

"And be denounced by him, in revenge, the first night he goes to his
Section. You forget that servants and masters are equal now. I am not
supposed to keep a servant at all. I have a citizen living with me
who lays me under domestic obligations, for which I make a pecuniary
acknowledgment. No! no! if I do anything, I must try if I can't entrap
him into giving me warning. But we have got to another unpleasant
subject already--suppose I change the topic again? You will find a
little book on that table there, in the corner--tell me what you think
of it."

The book was a copy of Corneille's "Cid," prettily bound in blue
morocco. Rose was enthusiastic in her praises. "I found it in a
bookseller's shop, yesterday," said her brother, "and bought it as a
present for you. Corneille is not an author to compromise any one, even
in these times. Don't you remember saying the other day that you
felt ashamed of knowing but little of our greatest dramatist?" Rose
remembered well, and smiled almost as happily as in the old times over
her present. "There are some good engravings at the beginning of each
act," continued Trudaine, directing her attention rather earnestly to
the illustrations, and then suddenly leaving her side when he saw that
she became interested in looking at them.

He went to the window--listened--then drew aside the curtain, and looked
up and down the street. No living soul was in sight. "I must have been
mistaken," he thought, returning hastily to his sister; "but I certainly
fancied I was followed in my walk to-day by a spy."

"I wonder," asked Rose, still busy over her book, "I wonder, Louis,
whether my husband would let me go with you to see 'Le Cid' the next
time it is acted."

"No!" cried a voice at the door; "not if you went on your knees to ask
him."

Rose turned round with a scream. There stood her husband on the
threshold, scowling at her, with his hat on, and his hands thrust
doggedly into his pockets. Trudaine's servant announced him, with an
insolent smile, during the pause that followed the discovery. "Citizen
Superintendent Danville, to visit the citoyenne, his wife," said the
fellow, making a mock bow to his master.

Rose looked at her brother, then advanced a few paces toward the door.
"This is a surprise," she said, faintly; "has anything happened?
We--we didn't expect you." Her voice failed her as she saw her husband
advancing, pale to his very lips with suppressed anger.

"How dare you come here, after what I told you?" he asked, in quick, low
tones.

She shrank at his voice almost as if he had struck her. The blood flew
into her brother's face as he noticed the action; but he controlled
himself, and, taking her hand, led her in silence to a chair.

"I forbid you to sit down in his house," said Danville, advancing still;
"I order you to come back with me! Do you hear? I order you."

He was approaching nearer to her, when he caught Trudaine's eye fixed on
him, and stopped. Rose started up, and placed herself between them.

"Oh, Charles, Charles!" she said to her husband, "be friends with Louis
to-night, and be kind again to me. I have a claim to ask that much of
you, though you may not think it!"

He turned away from her, and laughed contemptuously. She tried to speak
again, but Trudaine touched her on the arm, and gave her a warning look.

"Signals!" exclaimed Danville; "secret signals between you!"

His eye, as he glanced suspiciously at his wife, fell on Trudaine's
gift-book, which she still held unconsciously.

"What book is that?" he asked.

"Only a play of Corneille's," answered Rose; "Louis has just made me a
present of it."

At this avowal Danville's suppressed anger burst beyond all control.

"Give it him back!" he cried, in a voice of fury. "You shall take no
presents from him; the venom of the household spy soils everything he
touches. Give it him back!" She hesitated. "You won't?" He tore the book
from her with an oath, threw it on the floor, and set his foot on it.

"Oh, Louis! Louis! for God's sake, remember."

Trudaine was stepping forward as the book fell to the floor. At the same
moment his sister threw her arms round him. He stopped, turning from
fiery red to ghastly pale.

"No, no, Louis!" she said, clasping him closer; "not after five years'
patience. No--no!"

He gently detached her arms.

"You are right, love. Don't be afraid; it is all over now."

Saying that, he put her from him, and in silence took up the book from
the floor.

"Won't _that_ offend you even?" said Danville, with an insolent smile.
"You have a wonderful temper--any other man would have called me out!"

Trudaine looked back at him steadily; and taking out his handkerchief,
passed it over the soiled cover of the book.

"If I could wipe the stain of your blood off my conscience as easily as
I can wipe the stain of your boot off this book," he said quietly, "you
should not live another hour. Don't cry, Rose," he continued, turning
again to his sister: "I will take care of your book for you until you
can keep it yourself."

"You will do this! you will do that!" cried Danville, growing more
and more exasperated, and letting his anger got the better even of his
cunning now. "Talk less confidently of the future--you don't know what
it has in store for you. Govern your tongue when you are in my presence;
a day may come when you will want my help--my help; do you hear that?"

Trudaine turned his face from his sister, as if he feared to let her see
it when those words were spoken.

"The man who followed me to-day was a spy--Danville's spy!" That thought
flashed across his mind, but he gave it no utterance. There was an
instant's pause of silence; and through it there came heavily on the
still night air the rumbling of distant wheels. The sound advanced
nearer and nearer--advanced and ceased under the window.

Danville hurried to it, and looked out eagerly. "I have not hastened my
return without reason. I wouldn't have missed this arrest for anything!"
thought he, peering into the night.

The stars were out, but there was no moon. He could not recognize either
the coach or the persons who got out of it, and he turned again into the
interior of the room. His wife had sunk into a chair, her brother was
locking up in a cabinet the book which he had promised to take care of
for her. The dead silence made the noise of slowly ascending footsteps
on the stairs painfully audible. At last the door opened softly.

"Citizen Danville, health and fraternity!" said Lomaque, appearing
in the doorway, followed by his agents. "Citizen Louis Trudaine?" he
continued, beginning with the usual form.

Rose started out of her chair; but her brother's hand was on her lips
before she could speak.

"My name is Louis Trudaine," he answered.

"Charles!" cried his sister, breaking from him and appealing to her
husband, "who are these men? What are they here for?"

He gave her no answer.

"Louis Trudaine," said Lomaque, slowly, drawing the order from his
pocket, "in the name of the Republic, I arrest you."

"Rose, come back," cried Trudaine.

It was too late; she had broken from him, and in the recklessness of
terror, had seized her husband by the arm.

"Save him!" she cried. "Save him, by all you hold dearest in the world!
You are that man's superior, Charles--order him from the room!"

Danville roughly shook her hand off his arm.

"Lomaque is doing his duty. Yes," he added, with a glance of
malicious triumph at Trudaine, "yes, doing his duty. Look at me as you
please--your looks won't move me. I denounced you! I admit it--I glory
in it! I have rid myself of an enemy, and the State of a bad citizen.
Remember your secret visits to the house in the Rue de Clery!"

His wife uttered a cry of horror. She seized his arm again with both
hands--frail, trembling hands--that seemed suddenly nerved with all the
strength of a man's.

"Come here--come here! I must and will speak to you!"

She dragged him by main force a few paces back, toward an unoccupied
corner of the room. With deathly cheeks and wild eyes she raised herself
on tiptoe, and put her lips to her husband's ear. At that instant
Trudaine called to her:

"Rose, if you speak I am lost!"

She stopped at the sound of his voice, dropped her hold on her husband's
arm, and faced her brother, shuddering.

"Rose," he continued, "you have promised, and your promise is sacred.
If you prize your honor, if you love me, come here--come here, and be
silent."

He held out his hand. She ran to him; and, laying her head on his bosom,
burst into a passion of tears.

Danville turned uneasily toward the police agents. "Remove your
prisoner," he said. "You have done your duty here."

"Only half of it," retorted Lomaque, eying him attentively. "Rose
Danville--"

"My wife!" exclaimed the other. "What about my wife?"

"Rose Danville," continued Lomaque, impassibly, "you are included in the
arrest of Louis Trudaine."

Rose raised her head quickly from her brother's breast. His firmness
had deserted him--he was trembling. She heard him whispering to himself,
"Rose, too! Oh, my God! I was not prepared for that." She heard these
words, and dashed the tears from her eyes, and kissed him, saying:

"I am glad of it, Louis. We risked all together--we shall now suffer
together. I am glad of it!"

Danville looked incredulously at Lomaque, after the first shock of
astonishment was over.

"Impossible!" he exclaimed. "I never denounced my wife. There is some
mistake; you have exceeded your orders."

"Silence!" retorted Lomaque, imperiously. "Silence, citizen, and respect
to a decree of the Republic!"

"You blackguard! show me the arrest-order!" said Danville. "Who has
dared to denounce my wife?"

"You have!" said Lomaque, turning on him with a grin of contempt.
"You--and 'blackguard' back in your teeth! You, in denouncing her
brother! Aha! we work hard in our office; we don't waste time in
calling names--we make discoveries. If Trudaine is guilty, your wife is
implicated in his guilt. We know it; and we arrest her."

"I resist the arrest," cried Danville. "I am the authority here. Who
opposes me?"

The impassible chief agent made no answer. Some new noise in the street
struck his quick ear. He ran to the window and looked out eagerly.

"Who opposes me?" reiterated Danville.

"Hark!" exclaimed Lomaque, raising his hand. "Silence, and listen!"

The heavy, dull tramp of men marching together became audible as he
spoke. Voices humming low and in unison the Marseillaise hymn,
joined solemnly with the heavy, regular footfalls. Soon the flare of
torch-light began to glimmer redder and redder under the dim, starlight
sky.

"Do you hear that? Do you see the advancing torch-light?" cried Lomaque,
pointing exultingly into the street. "Respect to the national hymn,
and to the man who holds in the hollow of his hand the destinies of all
France! Hat off, Citizen Danville! Robespierre is in the street. His
bodyguard, the Hard-hitters, are lighting him on his way to the Jacobin
Club! Who shall oppose you, did you say? Your master and mine; the
man whose signature is at the bottom of this order--the man who with
a scratch of his pen can send both our heads rolling together into the
sack of the guillotine! Shall I call to him as he passes the house?
Shall I tell him that Superintendent Danville resists me in making an
arrest? Shall I? Shall I?" And in the immensity of his contempt, Lomaque
seemed absolutely to rise in stature, as he thrust the arrest order
under Danville's eyes and pointed to the signature with the head of his
stick.

Rose looked round in terror, as Lomaque spoke his last words--looked
round, and saw her husband recoil before the signature on the arrest
order, as if the guillotine itself had suddenly arisen before him.
Her brother felt her shrinking back in his arms, and trembled for the
preservation of her self-control if the terror and suspense of the
arrest lasted any longer.

"Courage, Rose, courage!" he said. "You have behaved nobly; you must not
fail now. No, no! Not a word more. Not a word till I am able to think
clearly again, and to decide what is best. Courage, love; our lives
depend on it. Citizen," he continued, addressing himself to Lomaque,
"proceed with your duty--we are ready."

The heavy marching footsteps outside were striking louder and louder on
the ground; the chanting voices were every moment swelling in volume;
the dark street was flaming again with the brightening torch-light, as
Lomaque, under pretext of giving Trudaine his hat, came close to him,
and, turning his back toward Danville, whispered: "I have not forgotten
the eve of the wedding and the bench on the river bank."

Before Trudaine could answer, he had taken Rose's cloak and hood from
one of his assistants, and was helping her on with it. Danville, still
pale and trembling, advanced a step when he saw these preparations for
departure, and addressed a word or two to his wife; but he spoke in
low tones, and the fast-advancing march of feet and sullen low roar of
singing outside drowned his voice. An oath burst from his lips, and he
struck his fist, in impotent fury, on a table near him.

"The seals are set on everything in this room and in the bedroom," said
Magloire, approaching Lomaque, who nodded and signed to him to bring up
the other police agents at the door.

"Ready," cried Magloire, coming forward immediately with his men, and
raising his voice to make himself heard. "Where to?"

Robespierre and his Hard-hitters were passing the house. The smoke of
the torch-light was rolling in at the window; the tramping footsteps
struck heavier and heavier on the ground; the low sullen roar of the
Marseillaise was swelling to its loudest, as Lomaque referred for a
moment to his arrest-order, and then answered:

"To the prison of St. Lazare!"



CHAPTER III.

The head jailer of St. Lazare stood in the outer hall of the prison, two
days after the arrest at Trudaine's lodgings, smoking his morning pipe.
Looking toward the courtyard gate, he saw the wicket opened, and a
privileged man let in, whom he soon recognized as the chief agent of
the second section of Secret Police. "Why, friend Lomaque," cried the
jailer, advancing toward the courtyard, "what brings you here this
morning, business or pleasure?"

"Pleasure, this time, citizen. I have an idle hour or two to spare for a
walk. I find myself passing the prison, and I can't resist calling in
to see how my friend the head jailer is getting on." Lomaque spoke in
a surprisingly brisk and airy manner. His eyes were suffering under a
violent fit of weakness and winking; but he smiled, notwithstanding,
with an air of the most inveterate cheerfulness. Those old enemies of
his, who always distrusted him most when his eyes were most affected,
would have certainly disbelieved every word of the friendly speech he
had just made, and would have assumed it as a matter of fact that his
visit to the head jailer had some specially underhand business at the
bottom of it.

"How am I getting on?" said the jailer, shaking his head. "Overworked,
friend--overworked. No idle hours in our department. Even the guillotine
is getting too slow for us!"

"Sent off your batch of prisoners for trial this morning?" asked
Lomaque, with an appearance of perfect unconcern.

"No; they're just going," answered the other. "Come and have a look at
them." He spoke as if the prisoners were a collection of pictures on
view, or a set of dresses just made up. Lomaque nodded his head, still
with his air of happy, holiday carelessness. The jailer led the way
to an inner hall; and, pointing lazily with his pipe-stem, said: "Our
morning batch, citizen, just ready for the baking."

In one corner of the hall were huddled together more than thirty men and
women of all ranks and ages; some staring round them with looks of blank
despair; some laughing and gossiping recklessly. Near them lounged
a guard of "Patriots," smoking, spitting, and swearing. Between the
patriots and the prisoners sat, on a rickety stool, the second jailer--a
humpbacked man, with an immense red mustache--finishing his breakfast of
broad beans, which he scooped out of a basin with his knife, and washed
down with copious draughts of wine from a bottle. Carelessly as Lomaque
looked at the shocking scene before him, his quick eyes contrived to
take note of every prisoner's face, and to descry in a few minutes
Trudaine and his sister standing together at the back of the group.

"Now then, Apollo!" cried the head jailer, addressing his subordinate
by a facetious prison nickname, "don't be all day starting that
trumpery batch of yours. And harkye, friend, I have leave of absence, on
business, at my Section this afternoon. So it will be your duty to read
the list for the guillotine, and chalk the prisoners' doors before the
cart comes to-morrow morning. 'Ware the bottle, Apollo, to-day; 'ware
the bottle, for fear of accidents with the death-list to-morrow."

"Thirsty July weather, this--eh, citizen?" said Lomaque, leaving the
head jailer, and patting the hunchback in the friendliest manner on the
shoulder. "Why, how you have got your batch huddled up together this
morning! Shall I help you to shove them into marching order? My time is
quite at your disposal. This is a holiday morning with me!"

"Ha, ha, ha! what a jolly dog he is on his holiday morning!" exclaimed
the head jailer, as Lomaque--apparently taking leave of his natural
character altogether in the exhilaration of an hour's unexpected
leisure--began pushing and pulling the prisoners into rank, with
humorous mock apologies, at which not the officials only, but many of
the victims themselves--reckless victims of a reckless tyranny--laughed
heartily. Persevering to the last in his practical jest, Lomaque
contrived to get close to Trudaine for a minute, and to give him one
significant look before he seized him by the shoulders, like the rest.
"Now, then, rear-guard," cried Lomaque, pushing Trudaine on, "close the
line of march, and mind you keep step with your young woman there. Pluck
up your spirits, citoyenne! one gets used to everything in this world,
even to the guillotine!"

While he was speaking and pushing at the same time, Trudaine felt a
piece of paper slip quickly between his neck and his cravat. "Courage!"
he whispered, pressing his sister's hand, as he saw her shuddering under
the assumed brutality of Lomaque's joke.

Surrounded by the guard of "Patriots," the procession of prisoners
moved slowly into the outer courtyard, on its way to the revolutionary
tribunal, the humpbacked jailer bringing up the rear. Lomaque was
about to follow at some little distance, but the head jailer hospitably
expostulated. "What a hurry you're in!" said he. "Now that incorrigible
drinker, my second in command, has gone off with his batch, I don't mind
asking you to step in and have a drop of wine."

"Thank you," answered Lomaque; "but I have rather a fancy for hearing
the trial this morning. Suppose I come back afterward? What time do you
go to your Section? At two o'clock, eh? Good! I shall try if I can't
get here soon after one." With these words he nodded and went out. The
brilliant sunlight in the courtyard made him wink faster than ever. Had
any of his old enemies been with him, they would have whispered within
themselves, "If you mean to come back at all, Citizen Lomaque, it will
not be soon after one!"

On his way through the streets, the chief agent met one or two police
office friends, who delayed his progress; so that when he arrived at the
revolutionary tribunal the trials of the day were just about to begin.

The principal article of furniture in the Hall of Justice was a long,
clumsy, deal table, covered with green baize. At the head of this
table sat the president and his court, with their hats on, backed by
a heterogeneous collection of patriots officially connected in various
ways with the proceedings that were to take place. Below the front of
the table, a railed-off space, with a gallery beyond, was appropriated
to the general public--mostly represented, as to the gallery, on
this occasion, by women, all sitting together on forms, knitting,
shirt-mending, and baby-linen-making, as coolly as if they were at home.
Parallel with the side of the table furthest from the great door
of entrance was a low platform railed off, on which the prisoners,
surrounded by their guard, were now assembled to await their trial. The
sun shone in brightly from a high window, and a hum of ceaseless talking
pervaded the hall cheerfully as Lomaque entered it. He was a privileged
man here, as at the prison; and he made his way in by a private door, so
as to pass to the prisoners' platform, and to walk round it, before he
got to a place behind the president's chair. Trudaine, standing with
his sister on the outermost limits of the group, nodded significantly as
Lomaque looked up at him for an instant. He had contrived, on his way to
the tribunal, to get an opportunity of reading the paper which the chief
agent had slipped into his cravat. It contained these lines:

"I have just discovered who the citizen and citoyenne Dubois are. There
is no chance for you but to confess everything. By that means you may
inculpate a certain citizen holding authority, and may make it his
interest, if he loves his own life, to save yours and your sister's."

Arrived at the back of the president's chair, Lomaque recognized his two
trusty subordinates, Magloire and Picard, waiting among the assembled
patriot officials, to give their evidence. Beyond them, leaning against
the wall, addressed by no one, and speaking to no one, stood the
superintendent, Danville. Doubt and suspense were written in every line
of his face; the fretfulness of an uneasy mind expressed itself in his
slightest gesture--even in his manner of passing a handkerchief from
time to time over his face, on which the perspiration was gathering
thick and fast already.

"Silence!" cried the usher of the court for the time being--a
hoarse-voiced man in top-boots with a huge saber buckled to his side,
and a bludgeon in his hand. "Silence for the Citizen President!" he
reiterated, striking his bludgeon on the table.

The president rose and proclaimed that the sitting for the day had
begun; then sat down again.

The momentary silence which followed was interrupted by a sudden
confusion among the prisoners on the platform. Two of the guards sprang
in among them. There was the thump of a heavy fall--a scream of terror
from some of the female prisoners--then another dead silence, broken by
one of the guards, who walked across the hall with a bloody knife in his
hand, and laid it on the table. "Citizen President," he said, "I have to
report that one of the prisoners has just stabbed himself." There was
a murmuring exclamation, "Is that all?" among the women spectators, as
they resumed their work. Suicide at the bar of justice was no uncommon
occurrence, under the Reign of Terror.

"Name?" asked the president, quietly taking up his pen and opening a
book.

"Martigne," answered the humpbacked jailer, coming forward to the table.

"Description?"

"Ex-royalist coach-maker to the tyrant Capet."

"Accusation?"

"Conspiracy in prison."

The president nodded, and entered in the book: "Martigne, coachmaker.
Accused of conspiring in prison. Anticipated course of law by suicide.
Action accepted as sufficient confession of guilt. Goods confiscated.
1st Thermidor, year two of the Republic."

"Silence!" cried the man with the bludgeon, as the president dropped a
little sand on the entry, and signing to the jailer that he might remove
the dead body, closed the book.

"Any special cases this morning?" resumed the president, looking round
at the group behind him.

"There is one," said Lomaque, making his way to the back of the official
chair. "Will it be convenient to you, citizen, to take the case of Louis
Trudaine and Rose Danville first? Two of my men are detained here as
witnesses, and their time is valuable to the Republic."

The president marked a list of names before him, and handed it to the
crier or usher, placing the figures one and two against Louis Trudaine
and Rose Danville.

While Lomaque was backing again to his former place behind the chair,
Danville approached and whispered to him, "There is a rumor that secret
information has reached you about the citizen and citoyenne Dubois. Is
it true? Do you know who they are?"

"Yes," answered Lomaque; "but I have superior orders to keep the
information to myself just at present."

The eagerness with which Danville put his question, and the
disappointment he showed on getting no satisfactory answer to it, were
of a nature to satisfy the observant chief agent that his superintendent
was really as ignorant as he appeared to be on the subject of the man
and woman Dubois. That one mystery, at any rate was still, for Danville,
a mystery unrevealed.

"Louis Trudaine! Rose Danville!" shouted the crier, with another rap of
his bludgeon.

The two came forward, at the appeal, to the front railing of the
platform. The first sight of her judges, the first shock on confronting
the pitiless curiosity of the audience, seemed to overwhelm Rose. She
turned from deadly pale to crimson, then to pale again, and hid her face
on her brother's shoulder. How fast she heard his heart throbbing! How
the tears filled her eyes as she felt that his fear was all for her!

"Now," said the president, writing down their names. "Denounced by
whom?"

Magloire and Picard stepped forward to the table. The first
answered--"By Citizen Superintendent Danville."

The reply made a great stir and sensation among both prisoners and
audience.

"Accused of what?" pursued the president.

"The male prisoner, of conspiracy against the Republic; the female
prisoner, of criminal knowledge of the same."

"Produce your proofs in answer to this order."

Picard and Magloire opened their minutes of evidence, and read to the
president the same particulars which they had formerly read to Lomaque
in the secret police office.

"Good," said the president, when they had done, "we need trouble
ourselves with nothing more than the identifying of the citizen and
citoyenne Dubois, which, of course, you are prepared for. Have you heard
the evidence?" he continued, turning to the prisoners; while Picard and
Magloire consulted together in whispers, looking perplexedly toward the
chief agent, who stood silent behind them. "Have you heard the evidence,
prisoners? Do you wish to say anything? If you do, remember that the
time of this tribunal is precious, and that you will not be suffered to
waste it."

"I demand permission to speak for myself and for my sister," answered
Trudaine. "My object is to save the time of the tribunal by making a
confession."

The faint whispering, audible among the women spectators a moment
before, ceased instantaneously as he pronounced the word confession. In
the breathless silence, his low, quiet tones penetrated to the remotest
corners of the hall; while, suppressing externally all evidences of the
death-agony of hope within him, he continued his address in these words:

"I confess my secret visits to the house in the Rue de Clery. I confess
that the persons whom I went to see are the persons pointed at in the
evidence. And, lastly, I confess that my object in communicating with
them as I did was to supply them with the means of leaving France. If
I had acted from political motives to the political prejudice of the
existing government, I admit that I should be guilty of that conspiracy
against the Republic with which I am charged. But no political purpose
animated, no political necessity urged me, in performing the action
which has brought me to the bar of this tribunal. The persons whom I
aided in leaving France were without political influence or political
connections. I acted solely from private motives of humanity toward them
and toward others--motives which a good republican may feel, and yet not
turn traitor to the welfare of his country."

"Are you ready to inform the court, next, who the man and woman Dubois
really are?" inquired the president, impatiently.

"I am ready," answered Trudaine. "But first I desire to say one word in
reference to my sister, charged here at the bar with me." His voice grew
less steady, and, for the first time, his color began to change, as
Rose lifted her face from his shoulder and looked up at him eagerly.
"I implore the tribunal to consider my sister as innocent of all active
participation in what is charged against me as a crime--" He went
on. "Having spoken with candor about myself, I have some claim to be
believed when I speak of her; when I assert that she neither did help me
nor could help me. If there be blame, it is mine only; if punishment, it
is I alone who should suffer."

He stopped suddenly, and grew confused. It was easy to guard himself
from the peril of looking at Rose, but he could not escape the hard
trial to his self-possession of hearing her, if she spoke. Just as
he pronounced the last sentence, she raised her face again from his
shoulder, and eagerly whispered to him:

"No, no, Louis! Not that sacrifice, after all the others--not that,
though you should force me into speaking to them myself!"

She abruptly quitted her hold of him, and fronted the whole court in
an instant. The railing in front of her shook with the quivering of
her arms and hands as she held by it to support herself! Her hair lay
tangled on her shoulders; her face had assumed a strange fixedness; her
gentle blue eyes, so soft and tender at all other times, were lit up
wildly. A low hum of murmured curiosity and admiration broke from the
women of the audience. Some rose eagerly from the benches; others cried:

"Listen, listen! she is going to speak!"

She did speak. Silvery and pure the sweet voice, sweeter than ever in
sadness, stole its way through the gross sounds--through the coarse
humming and the hissing whispers.

"My lord the president," began the poor girl firmly. Her next words were
drowned in a volley of hisses from the women.

"Ah! aristocrat, aristocrat! None of your accursed titles here!" was
their shrill cry at her. She fronted that cry, she fronted the fierce
gestures which accompanied it, with the steady light still in her eyes,
with the strange rigidity still fastened on her face. She would have
spoken again through the uproar and execration, but her brother's voice
overpowered her.

"Citizen president," he cried, "I have not concluded. I demand leave to
complete my confession. I implore the tribunal to attach no importance
to what my sister says. The trouble and terror of this day have shaken
her intellects. She is not responsible for her words--I assert it
solemnly, in the face of the whole court!"

The blood flew up into his white face as he made the asseveration. Even
at that supreme moment the great heart of the man reproached him for
yielding himself to a deception, though the motive of it was to save his
sister's life.

"Let her speak! let her speak!" exclaimed the women, as Rose, without
moving, without looking at her brother, without seeming even to have
heard what he said, made a second attempt to address her judges, in
spite of Trudaine's interposition.

"Silence!" shouted the man with the bludgeon. "Silence, you women! the
citizen president is going to speak."

"The prisoner Trudaine has the ear of the court," said the president,
"and may continue his confession. If the female prisoner wishes to
speak, she may be heard afterward. I enjoin both the accused persons
to make short work of it with their addresses to me, or they will
make their case worse instead of better. I command silence among the
audience, and if I am not obeyed, I will clear the hall. Now, prisoner
Trudaine, I invite you to proceed. No more about your sister; let her
speak for herself. Your business and ours is with the man and woman
Dubois. Are you, or are you not, ready to tell the court who they are?"

"I repeat that I am ready," answered Trudaine. "The citizen Dubois is
a servant. The woman Dubois is the mother of the man who denounces
me--Superintendent Danville."

A low, murmuring, rushing sound of hundreds of exclaiming voices, all
speaking, half-suppressedly, at the same moment, followed the delivery
of the answer. No officer of the court attempted to control the outburst
of astonishment. The infection of it spread to the persons on the
platform, to the crier himself, to the judges of the tribunal, lounging,
but the moment before, so carelessly silent in their chairs. When the
noise was at length quelled, it was subdued in the most instantaneous
manner by one man, who shouted from the throng behind the president's
chair:

"Clear the way there! Superintendent Danville is taken ill!"

A vehement whispering and contending of many voices interrupting each
other, followed; then a swaying among the assembly of official people;
then a great stillness; then the sudden appearance of Danville, alone,
at the table.

The look of him, as he turned his ghastly face toward the audience,
silenced and steadied them in an instant, just as they were on the point
of falling into fresh confusion. Every one stretched forward eagerly to
hear what he would say. His lips moved; but the few words that fell from
them were inaudible, except to the persons who happened to be close by
him. Having spoken, he left the table supported by a police agent,
who was seen to lead him toward the private door of the court, and,
consequently, also toward the prisoners' platform. He stopped, however,
halfway, quickly turned his face from the prisoners, and pointing toward
the public door at the opposite side of the hall, caused himself to be
led out into the air by that direction. When he had gone the president,
addressing himself partly to Trudaine and partly to the audience, said:

"The Citizen Superintendent Danville has been overcome by the heat
in the court. He has retired by my desire, under the care of a police
agent, to recover in the open air; pledging himself to me to come back
and throw a new light on the extraordinary and suspicious statement
which the prisoner has just made. Until the return of Citizen Danville,
I order the accused, Trudaine, to suspend any further acknowledgment
of complicity which he may have to address to me. This matter must be
cleared up before other matters are entered on. Meanwhile, in order
that the time of the tribunal may not be wasted, I authorize the female
prisoner to take this opportunity of making any statement concerning
herself which she may wish to address to the judges."

"Silence him!" "Remove him out of court!" "Gag him!" "Guillotine him!"
These cries rose from the audience the moment the president had done
speaking. They were all directed at Trudaine, who had made a last
desperate effort to persuade his sister to keep silence, and had been
detected in the attempt by the spectators.

"If the prisoner speaks another word to his sister, remove him," said
the president, addressing the guard round the platform.

"Good! we shall hear her at last. Silence! silence!" exclaimed the
women, settling themselves comfortably on their benches, and preparing
to resume their work.

"Rose Danville, the court is waiting to hear you," said the president,
crossing his legs and leaning back luxuriously in his large armchair.

Amid all the noise and confusion of the last few minutes, Rose had stood
ever in the same attitude, with that strangely fixed expression never
altering on her face but once. When her husband made his way to the
side of the table and stood there prominently alone, her lips trembled a
little, and a faint shade of color passed swiftly over her cheeks. Even
that slight change had vanished now--she was paler, stiller, more widely
altered from her former self than ever, as she faced the president and
said these words:

"I wish to follow my brother's example and make my confession, as he has
made his. I would rather he had spoken for me; but he is too generous
to say any words except such as he thinks may save me from sharing his
punishment. I refuse to be saved, unless he is saved with me. Where
he goes when he leaves this place, I will go; what he suffers, I will
suffer; if he is to die, I believe God will grant me the strength to die
resignedly with him!"

She paused for a moment, and half turned toward Trudaine--then checked
herself instantly and went on: "This is what I now wish to say, as to my
share in the offense charged against my brother. Some time ago, he told
me one day that he had seen my husband's mother in Paris, disguised as
a poor woman; that he had spoken to her, and forced her to acknowledge
herself. Up to this time we had all felt certain that she had left
France, because she held old-fashioned opinions which it is dangerous
for people to hold now--had left France before we came to Paris. She
told my brother that she had indeed gone (with an old, tried servant
of the family to help and protect her) as far as Marseilles; and that,
finding unforeseen difficulty there in getting further, she had taken it
as a warning from Providence not to desert her son, of whom she was very
passionately fond, and from whom she had been most unwilling to depart.
Instead of waiting in exile for quieter times, she determined to go and
hide herself in Paris, knowing her son was going there too. She assumed
the name of her old and faithful servant, who declined to the last to
leave her unprotected; and she proposed to live in the strictest secrecy
and retirement, watching, unknown, the career of her son, and ready at
a moment's notice to disclose herself to him, when the settlement of
public affairs might reunite her safely to her beloved child. My brother
thought this plan full of danger, both for herself, for her son, and for
the honest old man who was risking his head for his mistress's sake. I
thought so too; and in an evil hour I said to Louis: 'Will you try
in secret to get my husband's mother away, and see that her faithful
servant makes her really leave France this time?' I wrongly asked my
brother to do this for a selfish reason of my own--a reason connected
with my married life, which has not been a happy one. I had not
succeeded in gaining my husband's affection, and was not treated kindly
by him. My brother--who has always loved me far more dearly, I am
afraid, than I have ever deserved--my brother increased his kindness
to me, seeing me treated unkindly by my husband. This made ill-blood
between them. My thought, when I asked my brother to do for me what
I have said, was, that if we two in secret saved my husband's mother,
without danger to him, from imperiling herself and her son, we should,
when the time came for speaking of what we had done, appear to my
husband in a new and better light. I should have shown how well I
deserved his love, and Louis would have shown how well he deserved his
brother-in-law's gratitude; and so we should have made home happy at
last, and all three have lived together affectionately. This was my
thought; and when I told it to my brother, and asked him if there would
be much risk, out of his kindness and indulgence toward me, he said
'No.' He had so used me to accept sacrifices for my happiness that I let
him endanger himself to help me in my little household plan. I repent
this bitterly now; I ask his pardon with my whole heart. If he is
acquitted, I will try to show myself worthier of his love. If he is
found guilty, I, too, will go to the scaffold, and die with my brother,
who risked his life for my sake."

She ceased as quietly as she had begun, and turned once more to her
brother.

As she looked away from the court and looked at him, a few tears came
into her eyes, and something of the old softness of form and gentleness
of expression seemed to return to her face. He let her take his hand,
but he seemed purposely to avoid meeting the anxious gaze she fixed
on him. His head sunk on his breast; he drew his breath heavily, his
countenance darkened and grew distorted, as if he were suffering some
sharp pang of physical pain. He bent down a little, and, leaning his
elbow on the rail before him, covered his face with his hand; and so
quelled the rising agony, so forced back the scalding tears to his
heart. The audience had heard Rose in silence, and they preserved
the same tranquillity when she had done. This was a rare tribute to a
prisoner from the people of the Reign of Terror.

The president looked round at his colleagues, and shook his head
suspiciously.

"This statement of the female prisoner's complicates the matter very
seriously," said he. "Is there anybody in court," he added, looking
at the persons behind his chair, "who knows where the mother of
Superintendent Danville and the servant are now?"

Lomaque came forward at the appeal, and placed himself by the table.

"Why, citizen agent!" continued the president, looking hard at him, "are
you overcome by the heat, too?"

"The fit seemed to take him, citizen president, when the female prisoner
had made an end of her statement," exclaimed Magloire, pressing forward
officiously.

Lomaque gave his subordinate a look which sent the man back directly to
the shelter of the official group; then said, in lower tones than were
customary with him:

"I have received information relative to the mother of Superintendent
Danville and the servant, and am ready to answer any questions that may
be put to me."

"Where are they now?" asked the president.

"She and the servant are known to have crossed the frontier, and are
supposed to be on their way to Cologne. But, since they have entered
Germany, their whereabouts is necessarily a matter of uncertainty to the
republican authorities."

"Have you any information relative to the conduct of the old servant
while he was in Paris?"

"I have information enough to prove that he was not an object for
political suspicion. He seems to have been simply animated by servile
zeal for the woman's interests; to have performed for her all the menial
offices of a servant in private; and to have misled the neighbors by
affected equality with her in public."

"Have you any reason to believe that Superintendent Danville was privy
to his mother's first attempt at escaping from France?"

"I infer it from what the female prisoner has said, and for other
reasons which it would be irregular to detail before the tribunal. The
proofs can no doubt be obtained if I am allowed time to communicate with
the authorities at Lyons and Marseilles."

At this moment Danville re-entered the court; and, advancing to the
table, placed himself close by the chief agent's side. They looked each
other steadily in the face for an instant.

"He has recovered from the shock of Trudaine's answer," thought Lomaque,
retiring. "His hand trembles, his face is pale, but I can see regained
self-possession in his eye, and I dread the consequences already."

"Citizen president," began Danville, "I demand to know if anything has
transpired affecting my honor and patriotism in my absence?"

He spoke apparently with the most perfect calmness, but he looked nobody
in the face. His eyes were fixed steadily on the green baize of the
table beneath him.

"The female prisoner has made a statement, referring principally to
herself and her brother," answered the president, "but incidentally
mentioning a previous attempt on your mother's part to break existing
laws by emigrating from France. This portion of the confession contains
in it some elements of suspicion which seriously affect you--"

"They shall be suspicions no longer--at my own peril I will change them
to certainties!" exclaimed Danville, extending his arm theatrically, and
looking up for the first time. "Citizen president, I avow it with the
fearless frankness of a good patriot; I was privy to my mother's first
attempt at escaping from France."

Hisses and cries of execration followed this confession. He winced under
them at first; but recovered his self-possession before silence was
restored.

"Citizens, you have heard the confession of my fault," he resumed,
turning with desperate assurance toward the audience; "now hear the
atonement I have made for it at the altar of my country."

He waited at the end of that sentence, until the secretary to the
tribunal had done writing it down in the report book of the court.

"Transcribe faithfully to the letter!" cried Danville, pointing solemnly
to the open page of the volume. "Life and death hang on my words."

The secretary took a fresh dip of ink, and nodded to show that he was
ready. Danville went on:

"In these times of glory and trial for France," he proceeded, pitching
his voice to a tone of deep emotion, "what are all good citizens most
sacredly bound to do? To immolate their dearest private affections and
interests before their public duties! On the first attempt of my mother
to violate the laws against emigration, by escaping from France, I
failed in making the heroic sacrifice which inexorable patriotism
demanded of me. My situation was more terrible than the situation
of Brutus sitting in judgment on his own sons. I had not the Roman
fortitude to rise equal to it. I erred, citizens--erred as Coriolanus
did, when his august mother pleaded with him for the safety of Rome! For
that error I deserved to be purged out of the republican community;
but I escaped my merited punishment--nay, I even rose to the honor of
holding an office under the Government. Time passed; and again my mother
attempted an escape from France. Again, inevitable fate brought my civic
virtue to the test. How did I meet this second supremest trial? By an
atonement for past weakness, terrible as the trial itself. Citizens, you
will shudder; but you will applaud while you tremble. Citizens, look!
and while you look, remember well the evidence given at the opening of
this case. Yonder stands the enemy of his country, who intrigued to help
my mother to escape; here stands the patriot son, whose voice was the
first, the only voice, to denounce him for the crime!" As he spoke, he
pointed to Trudaine, then struck himself on the breast, then folded his
arms, and looked sternly at the benches occupied by the spectators.

"Do you assert," exclaimed the president, "that at the time when you
denounced Trudaine, you knew him to be intriguing to aid your mother's
escape?"

"I assert it," answered Danville.

The pen which the president held dropped from his hand at that reply;
his colleagues started, and looked at each other in blank silence.

A murmur of "Monster! monster!" began with the prisoners on the
platform, and spread instantly to the audience, who echoed and echoed it
again; the fiercest woman-republican on the benches joined cause at
last with the haughtiest woman-aristocrat on the platform. Even in that
sphere of direst discords, in that age of sharpest enmities, the
one touch of Nature preserved its old eternal virtue, and roused the
mother-instinct which makes the whole world kin.

Of the few persons in the court who at once foresaw the effect of
Danville's answer on the proceedings of the tribunal, Lomaque was one.
His sallow face whitened as he looked toward the prisoners' platform.

"They are lost," he murmured to himself, moving out of the group
in which he had hitherto stood. "Lost! The lie which has saved that
villain's head leaves them without the shadow of a hope. No need to stop
for the sentence--Danville's infamous presence of mind has given them up
to the guillotine!" Pronouncing these words, he went out hurriedly by a
door near the platform, which led to the prisoners' waiting-room.

Rose's head sank again on her brother's shoulder. She shuddered, and
leaned back faintly on the arm which he extended to support her. One of
the female prisoners tried to help Trudaine in speaking consolingly
to her; but the consummation of her husband's perfidy seemed to have
paralyzed her at heart. She murmured once in her brother's ear, "Louis!
I am resigned to die--nothing but death is left for me after the
degradation of having loved that man." She said those words and closed
her eyes wearily, and spoke no more.

"One other question, and you may retire," resumed the president,
addressing Danville. "Were you cognizant of your wife's connection with
her brother's conspiracy?"

Danville reflected for a moment, remembered that there were witnesses in
court who could speak to his language and behavior on the evening of his
wife's arrest, and resolved this time to tell the truth.

"I was not aware of it," he answered. "Testimony in my favor can be
called which will prove that when my wife's complicity was discovered I
was absent from Paris."

Heartlessly self-possessed as he was, the public reception of his last
reply had shaken his nerve. He now spoke in low tones, turning his back
on the spectators, and fixing his eyes again on the green baize of the
table at which he stood.

"Prisoners, have you any objection to make, any evidence to call,
invalidating the statement by which Citizen Danville has cleared himself
of suspicion?" inquired the president.

"He has cleared himself by the most execrable of all falsehoods,"
answered Trudaine. "If his mother could be traced and brought here, her
testimony would prove it."

"Can you produce any other evidence in support of your allegation?"
asked the president.

"I cannot."

"Citizen Superintendent Danville, you are at liberty to retire. Your
statement will be laid before the authority to whom you are officially
responsible. Either you merit a civic crown for more than Roman virtue,
or--" Having got thus far, the president stopped abruptly, as if
unwilling to commit himself too soon to an opinion, and merely repeated,
"You may retire."

Danville left the court immediately, going out again by the public door.
He was followed by murmurs from the women's benches, which soon ceased,
however, when the president was observed to close his note-book, and
turn round toward his colleagues. "The sentence!" was the general
whisper now. "Hush, hush--the sentence!"

After a consultation of a few minutes with the persons behind him, the
president rose, and spoke the momentous words:

"Louis Trudaine and Rose Danville, the revolutionary tribunal, having
heard the charge against you, and having weighed the value of what
you have said in answer to it, decides that you are both guilty, and
condemns you to the penalty of death."

Having delivered the sentence in those terms, he sat down again, and
placed a mark against the two first condemned names on the list of
prisoners. Immediately afterward the next case was called on, and the
curiosity of the audience was stimulated by a new trial.



CHAPTER IV.

The waiting-room of the revolutionary tribunal was a grim, bare place,
with a dirty stone floor, and benches running round the walls. The
windows were high and barred; and at the outer door, leading into the
street, two sentinels kept watch. On entering this comfortless retreat
from the court, Lomaque found it perfectly empty. Solitude was just then
welcome to him. He remained in the waiting-room, walking slowly from
end to end over the filthy pavement, talking eagerly and incessantly to
himself.

After a while, the door communicating with the tribunal opened, and the
humpbacked jailer made his appearance, leading in Trudaine and Rose.

"You will have to wait here," said the little man, "till the rest of
them have been tried and sentenced; and then you will all go back to
prison in a lump. Ha, citizen," he continued, observing Lomaque at the
other end of the hall, and bustling up to him. "Here still, eh? If you
were going to stop much longer, I should ask a favor of you."

"I am in no hurry," said Lomaque, with a glance at the two prisoners.

"Good!" cried the humpback, drawing his hand across his mouth; "I am
parched with thirst, and dying to moisten my throat at the wine-shop
over the way. Just mind that man and woman while I'm gone, will you?
It's the merest form--there's a guard outside, the windows are barred,
the tribunal is within hail. Do you mind obliging me?"

"On the contrary, I am glad of the opportunity."

"That's a good fellow--and, remember, if I am asked for, you must say
I was obliged to quit the court for a few minutes, and left you in
charge."

With these words, the humpbacked jailer ran off to the wine-shop.

He had scarcely disappeared before Trudaine crossed the room, and caught
Lomaque by the arm.

"Save her," he whispered; "there is an opportunity--save her!" His face
was flushed--his eyes wandered--his breath on the chief agent's cheek,
while he spoke, felt scorching hot. "Save her!" he repeated, shaking
Lomaque by the arm, and dragging him toward the door. "Remember all you
owe to my father--remember our talk on that bench by the river--remember
what you said to me yourself on the night of the arrest--don't wait to
think--save her, and leave me without a word! If I die alone, I can die
as a man should; if she goes to the scaffold by my side, my heart
will fail me--I shall die the death of a coward! I have lived for her
life--let me die for it, and I die happy!"

He tried to say more, but the violence of his agitation forbade it. He
could only shake the arm he held again and again, and point to the
bench on which Rose sat--her head sunk on her bosom, her hands crossed
listlessly on her lap.

"There are two armed sentinels outside--the windows are barred--you are
without weapons--and even if you had them, there is a guard-house within
hail on one side of you, and the tribunal on the other. Escape from this
room is impossible," answered Lomaque.

"Impossible!" repeated the other, furiously. "You traitor! you coward!
can you look at her sitting there helpless, her very life ebbing away
already with every minute that passes, and tell me coolly that escape is
impossible?"

In the frenzy of his grief and despair, he lifted his disengaged hand
threateningly while he spoke. Lomaque caught him by the wrist, and drew
him toward a window open at the top.

"You are not in your right senses," said the chief agent, firmly;
"anxiety and apprehension on your sister's account have shaken your
mind. Try to compose yourself, and listen to me. I have something
important to say--" (Trudaine looked at him incredulously.) "Important,"
continued Lomaque, "as affecting your sister's interests at this
terrible crisis."

That last appeal had an instantaneous effect. Trudaine's outstretched
hand dropped to his side, and a sudden change passed over his
expression.

"Give me a moment," he said, faintly; and turning away, leaned against
the wall and pressed his burning forehead on the chill, damp stone. He
did not raise his head again till he had mastered himself, and could say
quietly, "Speak; I am fit to hear you, and sufficiently in my senses to
ask your forgiveness for what I said just now."

"When I left the tribunal and entered this room," Lomaque began in a
whisper, "there was no thought in my mind that could be turned to good
account, either for your sister or for you. I was fit for nothing but
to deplore the failure of the confession which I came to St. Lazare to
suggest to you as your best plan of defense. Since then, an idea
has struck me, which may be useful--an idea so desperate, so
uncertain--involving a proposal so absolutely dependent, as to its
successful execution, on the merest chance, that I refuse to confide it
to you except on one condition."

"Mention the condition! I submit to it before hand."

"Give me your word of honor that you will not mention what I am about
to say to your sister until I grant you permission to speak. Promise me
that when you see her shrinking before the terrors of death to-night,
you will have self-restraint enough to abstain from breathing a word of
hope to her. I ask this, because there are ten--twenty--fifty chances to
one that there _is_ no hope."

"I have no choice but to promise," answered Trudaine.

Lomaque produced his pocket-book and pencil before he spoke again.

"I will enter into particulars as soon as I have asked a strange
question of you," he said. "You have been a great experimenter in
chemistry in your time--is your mind calm enough, at such a trying
moment as this, to answer a question which is connected with chemistry
in a very humble way? You seem astonished. Let me put the question at
once. Is there any liquid or powder, or combination of more than one
ingredient known, which will remove writing from paper, and leave no
stain behind?"

"Certainly! But is that all the question? Is there no greater
difficulty?"

"None. Write the prescription, whatever it may be, on that leaf,"
said the other, giving him the pocket-book. "Write it down, with
plain directions for use." Trudaine obeyed. "This is the first
step," continued Lomaque, putting the book in his pocket, "toward the
accomplishment of my purpose--my uncertain purpose, remember! Now,
listen; I am going to put my own head in danger for the chance of
saving yours and your sister's by tampering with the death-list. Don't
interrupt me! If I can save one, I can save the other. Not a word about
gratitude! Wait till you know the extent of your obligation. I tell
you plainly, at the outset, there is a motive of despair, as well as a
motive of pity, at the bottom of the action in which I am now about
to engage. Silence! I insist on it. Our time is short; it is for me to
speak, and for you to listen. The president of the tribunal has put the
deathmark against your names on the prison list of to-day. That list,
when the trials are over and it is marked to the end, will be called in
this room before you are taken to St. Lazare. It will then be sent to
Robespierre, who will keep it, having a copy made of it the moment it is
delivered, for circulation among his colleagues--St. Just, and the
rest. It is my business to make a duplicate of this copy in the first
instance. The duplicate will be compared with the original, and possibly
with the copy, too, either by Robespierre himself, or by some one in
whom he can place implicit trust, and will then be sent to St. Lazare
without passing through my hands again. It will be read in public the
moment it is received, at the grating of the prison, and will afterward
be kept by the jailer, who will refer to it, as he goes round in the
evening with a piece of chalk, to mark the cell doors of the prisoners
destined for the guillotine to-morrow. That duty happens, to-day, to
fall to the hunchback whom you saw speaking to me. He is a confirmed
drinker, and I mean to tempt him with such wine as he rarely tastes.
If--after the reading of the list in public, and before the marking of
the cell doors--I can get him to sit down to the bottle, I will answer
for making him drunk, for getting the list out of his pocket, and for
wiping your names out of it with the prescription you have just written
for me. I shall write all the names, one under another, just irregularly
enough in my duplicate to prevent the interval left by the erasure
from being easily observed. If I succeed in this, your door will not
be marked, and your names will not be called to-morrow morning when the
tumbrils come for the guillotine. In the present confusion of prisoners
pouring in every day for trial, and prisoners pouring out every day for
execution, you will have the best possible chance of security against
awkward inquiries, if you play your cards properly, for a good fortnight
or ten days at least. In that time--"

"Well! well!" cried Trudaine, eagerly.

Lomaque looked toward the tribunal door, and lowered his voice to a
fainter whisper before he continued, "In that time Robespierre's own
head may fall into the sack! France is beginning to sicken under the
Reign of Terror. Frenchmen of the Moderate faction, who have lain
hidden for months in cellars and lofts, are beginning to steal out
and deliberate by twos and threes together, under cover of the night.
Robespierre has not ventured for weeks past to face the Convention
Committee. He only speaks among his own friends at the Jacobins. There
are rumors of a terrible discovery made by Carnot, of a desperate
resolution taken by Tallien. Men watching behind the scenes see that
the last days of the Terror are at hand. If Robespierre is beaten in the
approaching struggle, you are saved--for the new reign must be a Reign
of Mercy. If he conquers, I have only put off the date of your death and
your sister's, and have laid my own neck under the axe. Those are your
chances--this is all I can do."

He paused, and Trudaine again endeavored to speak such words as might
show that he was not unworthy of the deadly risk which Lomaque was
prepared to encounter. But once more the chief agent peremptorily and
irritably interposed:

"I tell you, for the third time," he said, "I will listen to no
expressions of gratitude from you till I know when I deserve them. It is
true that I recollect your father's timely kindness to me--true that I
have not forgotten what passed, five years since at your house by the
river-side. I remember everything, down to what you would consider the
veriest trifle--that cup of coffee, for instance, which your sister kept
hot for me. I told you then that you would think better of me some day.
I know that you do now. But this is not all. You want to glorify me to
my face for risking my life for you. I won't hear you, because my risk
is of the paltriest kind. I am weary of my life. I can't look back to it
with pleasure. I am too old to look forward to what is left of it
with hope. There was something in that night at your house before the
wedding--something in what you said, in what your sister did--which
altered me. I have had my days of gloom and self-reproach, from time
to time, since then. I have sickened at my slavery, and subjection, and
duplicity, and cringing, first under one master then under another. I
have longed to look back at my life, and comfort myself with the sight
of some good action, just as a frugal man comforts himself with the
sight of his little savings laid by in an old drawer. I can't do
this, and I want to do it. The want takes me like a fit, at uncertain
intervals--suddenly, under the most incomprehensible influences. A
glance up at the blue sky--starlight over the houses of this great city,
when I look out at the night from my garret window--a child's voice
coming suddenly, I don't know where from--the piping of my neighbor's
linnet in his little cage--now one trifling thing, now another--wakes up
that want in me in a moment. Rascal as I am, those few simple words
your sister spoke to the judge went through and through me like a knife.
Strange, in a man like me, isn't it? I am amazed at it myself. _My_
life? Bah! I've let it out for hire to be kicked about by rascals from
one dirty place to another, like a football! It's my whim to give it
a last kick myself, and throw it away decently before it lodges on the
dunghill forever. Your sister kept a good cup of coffee hot for me, and
I give her a bad life in return for the compliment. You want to thank
me for it? What folly! Thank me when I have done something useful. Don't
thank me for that!"

He snapped his fingers contemptuously as he spoke, and walked away to
the outer door to receive the jailer, who returned at that moment.

"Well," inquired the hunchback, "has anybody asked for me?"

"No," answered Lomaque; "not a soul has entered the room. What sort of
wine did you get?"

"So-so! Good at a pinch, friend--good at a pinch."

"Ah! you should go to my shop and try a certain cask, filled with a
particular vintage."

"What shop? Which vintage?"

"I can't stop to tell you now; but we shall most likely meet again
to-day. I expect to be at the prison this afternoon. Shall I ask for
you? Good! I won't forget!" With those farewell words he went out, and
never so much as looked back at the prisoners before he closed the door.

Trudaine returned to his sister, fearful lest his face should betray
what had passed during the extraordinary interview between Lomaque and
himself. But, whatever change there might be in his expression, Rose
did not seem to notice it. She was still strangely inattentive to all
outward things. That spirit of resignation, which is the courage of
women in all great emergencies, seemed now to be the one animating
spirit that fed the flame of life within her.

When her brother sat down by her, she only took his hand gently and
said: "Let us stop together like this, Louis, till the time comes. I am
not afraid of it, for I have nothing but you to make me love life, and
you, too, are going to die. Do you remember the time when I used to
grieve that I had never had a child to be some comfort to me? I was
thinking, a moment ago, how terrible it would have been now, if my wish
had been granted. It is a blessing for me, in this great misery, that I
am childless. Let us talk of old days, Louis, as long as we can--not of
my husband; or my marriage--only of the old times, before I was a burden
and a trouble to you."



CHAPTER V.

The day wore on. By ones and twos and threes at a time, the condemned
prisoners came from the tribunal, and collected in the waiting-room. At
two o'clock all was ready for the calling over of the death-list. It was
read and verified by an officer of the court; and then the jailer took
his prisoners back to St. Lazare.

Evening came. The prisoners' meal had been served; the duplicate of the
death-list had been read in public at the grate; the cell doors were
all locked. From the day of their arrest, Rose and her brother, partly
through the influence of a bribe, partly through Lomaque's intercession,
had been confined together in one cell; and together they now awaited
the dread event of the morrow.

To Rose that event was death--death, to the thought of which, at least,
she was now resigned. To Trudaine the fast-nearing future was darkening
hour by hour, with the uncertainty which is worse than death; with the
faint, fearful, unpartaken suspense, which keeps the mind ever on the
rack, and wears away the heart slowly. Through the long unsolaced agony
of that dreadful night, but one relief came to him. The tension of every
nerve, the crushing weight of the one fatal oppression that clung to
every thought, relaxed a little when Rose's bodily powers began to sink
under her mental exhaustion--when her sad, dying talk of the happy times
that were passed ceased softly, and she laid her head on his shoulder,
and let the angel of slumber take her yet for a little while, even
though she lay already under the shadow of the angel of death.

The morning came, and the hot summer sunrise. What life was left in the
terror-struck city awoke for the day faintly; and still the suspense of
the long night remained unlightened. It was drawing near the hour when
the tumbrils were to come for the victims doomed on the day before.
Trudaine's ear could detect even the faintest sound in the echoing
prison region outside his cell. Soon, listening near the door, he heard
voices disputing on the other side of it. Suddenly, the bolts were drawn
back, the key turned in the lock, and he found himself standing face
to face with the hunchback and one of the subordinate attendants on the
prisoners.

"Look!" muttered this last man sulkily, "there they are, safe in their
cell, just as I said; but I tell you again they are not down in the
list. What do you mean by bullying me about not chalking their door,
last night, along with the rest? Catch me doing your work for you again,
when you're too drunk to do it yourself!"

"Hold your tongue, and let me have another look at the list!" returned
the hunchback, turning away from the cell door, and snatching a slip of
paper from the other's hand. "The devil take me if I can make head
or tail of it!" he exclaimed, scratching his head, after a careful
examination of the list. "I could swear that I read over their names at
the grate yesterday afternoon with my own lips; and yet, look as long as
I may, I certainly can't find them written down here. Give us a pinch,
friend. Am I awake, or dreaming? drunk or sober this morning?"

"Sober, I hope," said a quiet voice at his elbow. "I have just looked in
to see how you are after yesterday."

"How I am, Citizen Lomaque? Petrified with astonishment. You yourself
took charge of that man and woman for me, in the waiting-room, yesterday
morning; and as for myself, I could swear to having read their names at
the grate yesterday afternoon. Yet this morning here are no such things
as these said names to be found in the list! What do you think of that?"

"And what do you think," interrupted the aggrieved subordinate, "of
his having the impudence to bully me for being careless in chalking the
doors, when he was too drunk to do it himself? too drunk to know his
right hand from his left! If I wasn't the best-natured man in the world,
I should report him to the head jailer."

"Quite right of you to excuse him, and quite wrong of him to bully
you," said Lomaque, persuasively. "Take my advice," he continued,
confidentially, to the hunchback, "and don't trust too implicitly to
that slippery memory of yours, after our little drinking bout yesterday.
You could not really have read their names at the grate, you know, or
of course they would be down on the list. As for the waiting-room at
the tribunal, a word in your ear: chief agents of police know strange
secrets. The president of the court condemns and pardons in public; but
there is somebody else, with the power of ten thousand presidents, who
now and then condemns and pardons in private. You can guess who. I
say no more, except that I recommend you to keep your head on your
shoulders, by troubling it about nothing but the list there in your
hand. Stick to that literally, and nobody can blame you. Make a fuss
about mysteries that don't concern you, and--"

Lomaque stopped, and holding his hand edgewise, let it drop
significantly over the hunchback's head. That action and the hints which
preceded it seemed to bewilder the little man more than ever. He stared
perplexedly at Lomaque; uttered a word or two of rough apology to his
subordinate, and rolling his misshapen head portentously, walked away
with the death-list crumpled up nervously in his hand.

"I should like to have a sight of them, and see if they really are
the same man and woman whom I looked after yesterday morning in the
waiting-room," said Lomaque, putting his hand on the cell door, just as
the deputy-jailer was about to close it again.

"Look in, by all means," said the man. "No doubt you will find that
drunken booby as wrong in what he told you about them as he is about
everything else."

Lomaque made use of the privilege granted to him immediately. He saw
Trudaine sitting with his sister in the corner of the cell furthest from
the door, evidently for the purpose of preventing her from overhearing
the conversation outside. There was an unsettled look, however, in her
eyes, a slowly-heightening color in her cheeks, which showed her to be
at least vaguely aware that something unusual had been taking place in
the corridor.

Lomaque beckoned to Trudaine to leave her, and whispered to him: "The
prescription has worked well. You are safe for to-day. Break the news
to your sister as gently as you can. Danville--" He stopped and
listened till he satisfied himself, by the sound of the deputy-jailer's
footsteps, that the man was lounging toward the further end of the
corridor. "Danville," he resumed, "after having mixed with the people
outside the grate yesterday, and having heard your names read, was
arrested in the evening by secret order from Robespierre, and sent to
the Temple. What charge will be laid to him, or when he will be brought
to trial, it is impossible to say. I only know that he is arrested.
Hush! don't talk now; my friend outside is coming back. Keep quiet--hope
everything from the chances and changes of public affairs; and comfort
yourself with the thought that you are both safe for to-day."

"And to-morrow?" whispered Trudaine.

"Don't think of to-morrow," returned Lomaque, turning away hurriedly to
the door "Let to-morrow take care of itself."



PART THIRD.



CHAPTER 1.

On a spring morning, in the year seventeen hundred and ninety-eight, the
public conveyance then running between Chalons-sur-Marne and Paris sat
down one of its outside passengers at the first post-station beyond
Meaux. The traveler, an old man, after looking about him hesitatingly
for a moment or two, betook himself to a little inn opposite the
post-house, known by the sign of the Piebald Horse, and kept by the
Widow Duval--a woman who enjoyed and deserved the reputation of being
the fastest talker and the best maker of _gibelotte_ in the whole
locality.

Although the traveler was carelessly noticed by the village idlers,
and received without ceremony by the Widow Duval, he was by no means so
ordinary and uninteresting a stranger as the rustics of the place were
pleased to consider him. The time had been when this quiet, elderly,
unobtrusive applicant for refreshment at the Piebald House was trusted
with the darkest secrets of the Reign of Terror, and was admitted at
all times and seasons to speak face to face with Maximilian Robespierre
himself. The Widow Duval and the hangers-on in front of the post-house
would have been all astonished indeed if any well-informed personage
from the metropolis had been present to tell them that the modest old
traveler with the shabby little carpet-bag was an ex-chief agent of the
secret police of Paris!

Between three and four years had elapsed since Lomaque had exercised,
for the last time, his official functions under the Reign of Terror.
His shoulders had contracted an extra stoop, and his hair had all fallen
off, except at the sides and back of his head. In some other respects,
however, advancing age seemed to have improved rather than deteriorated
him in personal appearance. His complexion looked healthier, his
expression cheerfuller, his eyes brighter than they had ever been of
late years. He walked, too, with a brisker step than the step of old
times in the police office; and his dress, although it certainly did not
look like the costume of a man in affluent circumstances, was cleaner
and far more nearly worn than ever it had been in the past days of his
political employment at Paris.

He sat down alone in the inn parlor, and occupied the time, while his
hostess had gone to fetch the half-bottle of wine that he ordered, in
examining a dirty old card which he extricated from a mass of papers in
his pocket-book, and which bore, written on it, these lines:

"When the troubles are over, do not forget those who remember you with
eternal gratitude. Stop at the first post-station beyond Meaux, on the
high-road to Paris, and ask at the inn for Citizen Maurice, whenever you
wish to see us or to hear of us again."

"Pray," inquired Lomaque, putting the card in his pocket when the Widow
Duval brought in the wine, "can you inform me whether a person named
Maurice lives anywhere in this neighborhood?"

"Can I inform you?" repeated the voluble widow. "Of course I can!
Citizen Maurice, and the citoyenne, his amiable sister--who is not to be
passed over because you don't mention her, my honest man--lives within
ten minutes' walk of my house. A charming cottage, in a charming
situation, inhabited by two charming people--so quiet, so retiring,
such excellent pay. I supply them with everything--fowls, eggs, bread,
butter, vegetables (not that they eat much of anything), wine (which
they don't drink half enough of to do them good); in short, I victual
the dear little hermitage, and love the two amiable recluses with all
my heart. Ah! they have had their troubles, poor people, the sister
especially, though they never talk about them. When they first came to
live in our neighborhood--"

"I beg pardon, citoyenne, but if you would only be so kind as to direct
me--"

"Which is three--no, four--no, three years and a half ago--in short,
just after the time when that Satan of a man, Robespierre, had his head
cut off (and serve him right!), I said to my husband (who was on his
last legs then, poor man!) 'She'll die'--meaning the lady. She didn't
though. My fowls, eggs, bread, butter, vegetables, and wine carried her
through--always in combination with the anxious care of Citizen Maurice.
Yes, yes! let us be tenderly conscientious in giving credit where
credit is due; let us never forget that the citizen Maurice contributed
something to the cure of the interesting invalid, as well as the
victuals and drink from the Piebald Horse. There she is now, the
prettiest little woman in the prettiest little cottage--"

"Where? Will you be so obliging as to tell me where?"

"And in excellent health, except that she is subject now and then to
nervous attacks; having evidently, as I believe, been struck with some
dreadful fright--most likely during that accursed time of the Terror;
for they came from Paris--you don't drink, honest man! Why don't you
drink? Very, very pretty in a pale way; figure perhaps too thin--let me
pour it out for you--but an angel of gentleness, and attached in such a
touching way to the citizen Maurice--"

"Citizen hostess, will you, or will you not, tell me where they live?"

"You droll little man, why did you not ask me that before, if you wanted
to know? Finish your wine, and come to the door. There's your change,
and thank you for your custom, though it isn't much. Come to the door, I
say, and don't interrupt me! You're an old man--can you see forty yards
before you? Yes, you can! Don't be peevish--that never did anybody any
good yet. Now look back, along the road where I am pointing. You see
a large heap of stones? Good. On the other side of the heap of stones
there is a little path; you can't see that, but you can remember what I
tell you? Good. You go down the path till you get to a stream; down
the stream till you get to a bridge; down the other bank of the stream
(after crossing the bridge) till you get to an old water-mill--a jewel
of a water-mill, famous for miles round; artists from the four quarters
of the globe are always coming to sketch it. Ah! what, you are getting
peevish again? You won't wait? Impatient old man, what a life your wife
must lead, if you have got one! Remember the bridge. Ah! your poor wife
and children, I pity them; your daughters especially! Pst! pst! Remember
the bridge--peevish old man, remember the bridge!"

Walking as fast as he could out of hearing of the Widow Duval's tongue,
Lomaque took the path by the heap of stones which led out of the
high-road, crossed the stream, and arrived at the old water-mill. Close
by it stood a cottage--a rough, simple building, with a strip of garden
in front. Lomaque's observant eyes marked the graceful arrangement of
the flower-beds, and the delicate whiteness of the curtains that hung
behind the badly-glazed narrow windows. "This must be the place," he
said to himself, as he knocked at the door with his stick. "I can see
the traces of her hand before I cross the threshold."

The door was opened. "Pray, does the citizen Maurice--" Lomaque began,
not seeing clearly, for the first moment, in the dark little passage.

Before he could say any more his hand was grasped, his carpet-bag was
taken from him, and a well-known voice cried, "Welcome! a thousand
thousand times welcome, at last! Citizen Maurice is not at home; but
Louis Trudaine takes his place, and is overjoyed to see once more the
best and dearest of his friends!"

"I hardly know you again. How you are altered for the better!" exclaimed
Lomaque, as they entered the parlor of the cottage.

"Remember that you see me after a long freedom from anxiety. Since I
have lived here, I have gone to rest at night, and have not been afraid
of the morning," replied Trudaine. He went out into the passage while
he spoke, and called at the foot of the one flight of stairs which the
cottage possessed, "Rose! Rose! come down! The friend whom you most
wished to see has arrived at last."

She answered the summons immediately. The frank, friendly warmth of her
greeting; her resolute determination, after the first inquiries were
over, to help the guest to take off his upper coat with her own hands,
so confused and delighted Lomaque, that he hardly knew which way to
turn, or what to say.

"This is even more trying, in a pleasant way, to a lonely old fellow
like me," he was about to add, "than the unexpected civility of the hot
cup of coffee years ago"; but remembering what recollections even that
trifling circumstance might recall, he checked himself.

"More trying than what?" asked Rose, leading him to a chair.

"Ah! I forget. I am in my dotage already!" he answered, confusedly.
"I have not got used just yet to the pleasure of seeing your kind
face again." It was indeed a pleasure to look at that face now, after
Lomaque's last experience of it. Three years of repose, though they
had not restored to Rose those youthful attractions which she had lost
forever in the days of the Terror, had not passed without leaving kindly
outward traces of their healing progress. Though the girlish roundness
had not returned to her cheeks, or the girlish delicacy of color to her
complexion, her eyes had recovered much of their old softness, and her
expression all of its old winning charm. What was left of latent sadness
in her face, and of significant quietness in her manner, remained gently
and harmlessly--remained rather to show what had been once than what was
now.

When they were all seated, there was, however, something like a
momentary return to the suspense and anxiety of past days in their
faces, as Trudaine, looking earnestly at Lomaque, asked, "Do you bring
any news from Paris?"

"None," he replied; "but excellent news, instead, from Rouen. I have
heard, accidentally, through the employer whom I have been serving since
we parted, that your old house by the river-side is to let again."

Rose started from her chair. "Oh, Louis, if we could only live there
once more! My flower-garden?" she continued to Lomaque.

"Cultivated throughout," he answered, "by the late proprietor."

"And the laboratory?" added her brother.

"Left standing," said Lomaque. "Here is a letter with all the
particulars. You may depend upon them, for the writer is the person
charged with the letting of the house."

Trudaine looked over the letter eagerly.

"The price is not beyond our means," he said. "After our three years'
economy here, we can afford to give something for a great pleasure."

"Oh, what a day of happiness it will be when we go home again!" cried
Rose. "Pray write to your friend at once," she added, addressing
Lomaque, "and say we take the house, before any one else is beforehand
with us!"

He nodded, and folding up the letter mechanically in the old official
form, made a note on it in the old official manner. Trudaine observed
the action, and felt its association with past times of trouble and
terror. His face grew grave again as he said to Lomaque, "And is this
good news really all the news of importance you have to tell us?"

Lomaque hesitated, and fidgeted in his chair. "What other news I have
will bear keeping," he replied. "There are many questions I should like
to ask first, about your sister and yourself. Do you mind allowing me to
refer for a moment to the time when we last met?"

He addressed this inquiry to Rose, who answered in the negative; but her
voice seemed to falter, even in saying the one word "No." She turned her
head away when she spoke; and Lomaque noticed that her hands trembled
as she took up some work lying on a table near, and hurriedly occupied
herself with it.

"We speak as little about that time as possible," said Trudaine, looking
significantly toward his sister; "but we have some questions to ask you
in our turn; so the allusion, for this once, is inevitable. Your sudden
disappearance at the very crisis of that time of danger has not yet
been fully explained to us. The one short note which you left behind you
helped us to guess at what had happened rather than to understand it."

"I can easily explain it now," answered Lomaque. "The sudden overthrow
of the Reign of Terror, which was salvation to you, was destruction to
me. The new republican reign was a reign of mercy, except for the tail
of Robespierre, as the phrase ran then. Every man who had been so wicked
or so unfortunate as to be involved, even in the meanest capacity, with
the machinery of the government of Terror, was threatened, and justly,
with the fate of Robespierre. I, among others, fell under this menace
of death. I deserved to die, and should have resigned myself to the
guillotine but for you. From the course taken by public events, I
knew you would be saved; and although your safety was the work of
circumstances, still I had a hand in rendering it possible at the
outset; and a yearning came over me to behold you both free again with
my own eyes--a selfish yearning to see in you a living, breathing, real
result of the one good impulse of my heart, which I could look back
on with satisfaction. This desire gave me a new interest in life. I
resolved to escape death if it were possible. For ten days I lay hidden
in Paris. After that--thanks to certain scraps of useful knowledge which
my experience in the office of secret police had given me--I succeeded
in getting clear of Paris and in making my way safely to Switzerland.
The rest of my story is so short and so soon told that I may as well get
it over at once. The only relation I knew of in the world to apply to
was a cousin of mine (whom I had never seen before), established as a
silk-mercer at Berne. I threw myself on this man's mercy. He discovered
that I was likely, with my business habits, to be of some use to him,
and he took me into his house. I worked for what he pleased to give me,
traveled about for him in Switzerland, deserved his confidence, and won
it. Till within the last few months I remained with him; and only left
my employment to enter, by my master's own desire, the house of his
brother, established also as a silk-mercer, at Chalons-sur-Marne. In the
counting-house of this merchant I am corresponding clerk, and am only
able to come and see you now by offering to undertake a special business
mission for my employer at Paris. It is drudgery, at my time of life,
after all I have gone through--but my hard work is innocent work. I
am not obliged to cringe for every crown-piece I put in my pocket--not
bound to denounce, deceive, and dog to death other men, before I can
earn my bread, and scrape together money enough to bury me. I am ending
a bad, base life harmlessly at last. It is a poor thing to do, but it is
something done--and even that contents a man at my age. In short, I am
happier than I used to be, or at least less ashamed when I look people
like you in the face."

"Hush! hush!" interrupted Rose, laying her hand on his arm. "I cannot
allow you to talk of yourself in that way, even in jest."

"I was speaking in earnest," answered Lomaque, quietly; "but I won't
weary you with any more words about myself. My story is told."

"All?" asked Trudaine. He looked searchingly, almost suspiciously, at
Lomaque, as he put the question. "All?" he repeated. "Yours is a short
story, indeed, my good friend! Perhaps you have forgotten some of it?"

Again Lomaque fidgeted and hesitated.

"Is it not a little hard on an old man to be always asking questions
of him, and never answering one of his inquiries in return?" he said to
Rose, very gayly as to manner, but rather uneasily as to look.

"He will not speak out till we two are alone," thought Trudaine. "It is
best to risk nothing, and to humor him."

"Come, come," he said aloud; "no grumbling. I admit that it is your turn
to hear our story now; and I will do my best to gratify you. But before
I begin," he added, turning to his sister, "let me suggest, Rose, that
if you have any household matters to settle upstairs--"

"I know what you mean," she interrupted, hurriedly, taking up the work
which, during the last few minutes, she had allowed to drop into her
lap; "but I am stronger than you think; I can face the worst of our
recollections composedly. Go on, Louis; pray go on--I am quite fit to
stop and hear you."

"You know what we suffered in the first days of our suspense, after the
success of your stratagem," said Trudaine, turning to Lomaque. "I think
it was on the evening after we had seen you for the last time at St.
Lazare that strange, confused rumors of an impending convulsion in Paris
first penetrated within our prison walls. During the next few days the
faces of our jailers were enough to show us that those rumors were true,
and that the Reign of Terror was actually threatened with overthrow at
the hands of the Moderate Party. We had hardly time to hope everything
from this blessed change before the tremendous news of Robespierre's
attempted suicide, then of his condemnation and execution, reached us.
The confusion produced in the prison was beyond all description. The
accused who had been tried and the accused who had not been tried got
mingled together. From the day of Robespierre's arrest, no orders came
to the authorities, no death-lists reached the prison. The jailers,
terrified by rumors that the lowest accomplices of the tyrant would be
held responsible, and be condemned with him, made no attempt to maintain
order. Some of them--that hunchback man among the rest--deserted their
duties altogether. The disorganization was so complete, that when the
commissioners from the new Government came to St. Lazare, some of us
were actually half starving from want of the bare necessities of
life. To inquire separately into our cases was found to be impossible.
Sometimes the necessary papers were lost; sometimes what documents
remained were incomprehensible to the new commissioners. They were
obliged, at last, to make short work of it by calling us up before them
in dozens. Tried or not tried, we had all been arrested by the tyrant,
had all been accused of conspiracy against him, and were all ready to
hail the new Government as the salvation of France. In nine cases out
of ten, our best claim to be discharged was derived from these
circumstances. We were trusted by Tallien and the men of the Ninth
Thermidor, because we had been suspected by Robespierre, Couthon, and
St. Just. Arrested informally, we were now liberated informally. When
it came to my sister's turn and mine, we were not under examination
five minutes. No such thing as a searching question was asked of us; I
believe we might even have given our own names with perfect impunity.
But I had previously instructed Rose that we were to assume our mother's
maiden name--Maurice. As the citizen and citoyenne Maurice, accordingly,
we passed out of prison--under the same name we have lived ever since
in hiding here. Our past repose has depended, our future happiness will
depend, on our escape from death being kept the profoundest secret among
us three. For one all sufficient reason, which you can easily guess at,
the brother and sister Maurice must still know nothing of Louis Trudaine
and Rose Danville, except that they were two among the hundreds of
victims guillotined during the Reign of Terror."

He spoke the last sentence with a faint smile, and with the air of a man
trying, in spite of himself, to treat a grave subject lightly. His face
clouded again, however, in a moment, when he looked toward his sister,
as he ceased. Her work had once more dropped on her lap, her face was
turned away so that he could not see it; but he knew by the trembling
of her clasped hands, as they rested on her knee, and by the slight
swelling of the veins on her neck which she could not hide from him,
that her boasted strength of nerve had deserted her. Three years of
repose had not yet enabled her to hear her marriage name uttered, or to
be present when past times of deathly suffering and terror were referred
to, without betraying the shock in her face and manner. Trudaine looked
saddened, but in no way surprised by what he saw. Making a sign to
Lomaque to say nothing, he rose and took up his sister's hood, which lay
on a window-seat near him.

"Come, Rose," he said, "the sun is shining, the sweet spring air is
inviting us out. Let us have a quiet stroll along the banks of the
stream. Why should we keep our good friend here cooped up in this narrow
little room, when we have miles and miles of beautiful landscape to
show him on the other side of the threshold? Come, it is high treason to
Queen Nature to remain indoors on such a morning as this."

Without waiting for her to reply, he put on her hood, drew her arm
through his, and led the way out. Lomaque's face grew grave as he
followed them.

"I am glad I only showed the bright side of my budget of news in her
presence," thought he. "She is not well at heart yet. I might have hurt
her, poor thing! I might have hurt her again sadly, if I had not held my
tongue!"

They walked for a little while down the banks of the stream, talking of
indifferent matters; then returned to the cottage. By that time Rose had
recovered her spirits, and could listen with interest and amusement
to Lomaque's dryly-humorous description of his life as a clerk at
Chalons-sur-Marne. They parted for a little while at the cottage door.
Rose retired to the upstairs room from which she had been summoned by
her brother. Trudaine and Lomaque returned to wander again along the
banks of the stream.

With one accord, and without a word passing between them, they left the
neighborhood of the cottage hurriedly; then stopped on a sudden, and
attentively looked each other in the face--looked in silence for an
instant. Trudaine spoke first.

"I thank you for having spared her," he began, abruptly. "She is not
strong enough yet to bear hearing of a new misfortune, unless I break
the tidings to her first."

"You suspect me, then, of bringing bad news?" said Lomaque.

"I know you do. When I saw your first look at her, after we were all
seated in the cottage parlor, I knew it. Speak without fear, without
caution, without one useless word of preface. After three years of
repose, if it pleases God to afflict us again, I can bear the trial
calmly; and, if need be, can strengthen her to bear it calmly, too. I
say again, Lomaque, speak at once, and speak out! I know your news is
bad, for I know beforehand that it is news of Danville."

"You are right; my bad news is news of him."

"He has discovered the secret of our escape from the guillotine?"

"No--he has not a suspicion of it. He believes--as his mother, as every
one does--that you were both executed the day after the Revolutionary
Tribunal sentenced you to death."

"Lomaque, you speak positively of that belief of his--but you cannot be
certain of it."

"I can, on the most indisputable, the most startling evidence--on the
authority of Danville's own act. You have asked me to speak out--"

"I ask you again--I insist on it! Your news, Lomaque--your news, without
another word of preface!"

"You shall have it without another word of preface. Danville is on the
point of being married."

As the answer was given they both stopped by the bank of the stream, and
again looked each other in the face. There was a minute of dead silence
between them. During that minute, the water bubbling by happily over its
bed of pebbles seemed strangely loud, the singing of birds in a little
wood by the stream-side strangely near and shrill, in both their ears.
The light breeze, for all its midday warmth, touched their cheeks
coldly; and the spring sunlight pouring on their faces felt as if it
were glimmering on them through winter clouds.

"Let us walk on," said Trudaine, in a low voice. "I was prepared for bad
news, yet not for that. Are you certain of what you have just told me?"

"As certain as that the stream here is flowing by our side. Hear how
I made the discovery, and you will doubt no longer. Before last week
I knew nothing of Danville, except that his arrest on suspicion by
Robespierre's order was, as events turned out, the saving of his life.
He was imprisoned, as I told you, on the evening after he had heard
your names read from the death-list at the prison grate. He remained
in confinement at the Temple, unnoticed in the political confusion
out-of-doors, just as you remained unnoticed at St. Lazare, and he
profited precisely in the same manner that you profited by the timely
insurrection which overthrew the Reign of Terror. I knew this, and
I knew that he walked out of prison in the character of a persecuted
victim of Robespierre's--and, for better than three years past, I knew
no more. Now listen. Last week I happened to be waiting in the shop
of my employer, Citizen Clairfait, for some papers to take into the
counting-house, when an old man enters with a sealed parcel, which he
hands to one of the shopmen, saying:

"'Give that to Citizen Clairfait.'

"'Any name?' says the shopman.

"'The name is of no consequence,' answers the old man; 'but if you
please, you can give mine. Say the parcel came from Citizen Dubois;' and
then he goes out. His name, in connection with his elderly look, strikes
me directly.

"'Does that old fellow live at Chalons?' I ask.

"'No,' says the shopman. 'He is here in attendance on a customer of
ours--an old ex-aristocrat named Danville. She is on a visit in our
town.'

"I leave you to imagine how that reply startles and amazes me. The
shopman can answer none of the other questions I put to him; but the
next day I am asked to dinner by my employer (who, for his brother's
sake, shows me the utmost civility). On entering the room, I find his
daughter just putting away a lavender-colored silk scarf, on which she
has been embroidering in silver what looks to me very like a crest and
coat-of-arms.

"'I don't mind your seeing what I am about, Citizen Lomaque,' says she;
'for I know my father can trust you. That scarf is sent back to us by
the purchaser, an ex-emigrant lady of the old aristocratic school, to
have her family coat-of-arms embroidered on it.'

"'Rather a dangerous commission even in these mercifully democratic
times, is it not?' says I.

"'The old lady, you must know,' says she, 'is as proud as Lucifer;
and having got back safely to France in these days of moderate
republicanism, thinks she may now indulge with impunity in all her
old-fashioned notions. She has been an excellent customer of ours, so
my father thought it best to humor her, without, however, trusting her
commission to any of the workroom women to execute. We are not living
under the Reign of Terror now, certainly; still there is nothing like
being on the safe side.'

"'Nothing,' I answer. 'Pray what is this ex-emigrant's name?'

"'Danville,' replies the citoyenne Clairfait. 'She is going to appear
in that fine scarf at her son's marriage.'

"'Marriage!' I exclaim, perfectly thunderstruck.

"'Yes,' says she. 'What is there so amazing in that? By all accounts,
the son, poor man, deserves to make a lucky marriage this time. His
first wife was taken away from him in the Reign of Terror by the
guillotine.'

"'Who is he going to marry?' I inquire, still breathless.

"'The daughter of General Berthelin--an ex-aristocrat by family, like
the old lady; but by principle as good a republican as ever lived--a
hard-drinking, loud-swearing, big-whiskered old soldier, who snaps his
fingers at his ancestors and says we are all descended from Adam, the
first genuine sans-culotte in the world.'

"In this way the citoyenne Clairfait gossips on all dinner-time, but
says nothing more of any importance. I, with my old police-office
habits, set to the next day, and try to make some discoveries for
myself. The sum of what I find out is this: Danville's mother is staying
with General Berthelin's sister and daughter at Chalons, and Danville
himself is expected to arrive every day to escort them all three to
Paris, where the marriage-contract is to be signed at the general's
house. Discovering this, and seeing that prompt action is now of
the most vital importance, I undertake, as I told you, my employer's
commission for Paris, depart with all speed, and stop here on my way.
Wait! I have not done yet. All the haste I can make is not haste enough
to give me a good start of the wedding party. On my road here, the
diligence by which I travel is passed by a carriage, posting along
at full speed. I cannot see inside that carriage; but I look at the
box-seat, and recognize on it the old man Dubois. He whirls by in a
cloud of dust, but I am certain of him; and I say to myself what I now
say again to you, no time is to be lost!"

"No time _shall_ be lost," answers, Trudaine, firmly. "Three years have
passed," he continued, in a lower voice, speaking to himself rather than
to Lomaque; "three years since the day when I led my sister out of the
gates of the prison--three years since I said in my heart, 'I will be
patient, and will not seek to avenge myself. Our wrongs cry from earth
to heaven; from man who inflicts to God who redresses. When the day of
reckoning comes, let it be the day of his vengeance, not of mine.' In my
heart I said those words--I have been true to them--I have waited. The
day has come, and the duty it demands of me shall be fulfilled."

There was a moment's silence before Lomaque spoke again. "Your sister?"
he began, hesitatingly.

"It is there only that my purpose falters," said the other, earnestly.
"If it were but possible to spare her all knowledge of this last trial,
and to leave the accomplishment of the terrible task to me alone?"

"I think it is possible," interposed Lomaque. "Listen to what I advise.
We must depart for Paris by the diligence to-morrow morning, and we must
take your sister with us--to-morrow will be time enough; people don't
sign marriage-contracts on the evening after a long day's journey. We
must go then, and we must take your sister. Leave the care of her in
Paris, and the responsibility of keeping her in ignorance of what you
are doing, to me. Go to this General Berthelin's house at a time when
you know Danville is there (we can get that knowledge through the
servants); confront him without a moment's previous warning; confront
him as a man risen from the dead; confront him before every soul in the
room though the room should be full of people--and leave the rest to
the self-betrayal of a panic-stricken man. Say but three words, and your
duty will be done; you may return to your sister, and may depart with
her in safety to your old retreat at Rouen, or where else you please, on
the very day when you have put it out of her infamous husband's power to
add another to the list of his crimes."

"You forget the suddenness of the journey to Paris," said Trudaine.
"How are we to account for it without the risk of awakening my sister's
suspicions?"

"Trust that to me," answered Lomaque. "Let us return to the cottage at
once. No, not you," he added, suddenly, as they turned to retrace their
steps. "There is that in your face which would betray us. Leave me to
go back alone--I will say that you have gone to give some orders at
the inn. Let us separate immediately. You will recover your
self-possession--you will get to look yourself again sooner--if you are
left alone. I know enough of you to know that. We will not waste another
minute in explanations; even minutes are precious to us on such a day
as this. By the time you are fit to meet your sister again, I shall have
had time to say all I wish to her, and shall be waiting at the cottage
to tell you the result."

He looked at Trudaine, and his eyes seemed to brighten again with
something of the old energy and sudden decision of the days when he was
a man in office under the Reign of Terror. "Leave it to me," he said;
and, waving his hand, turned away quickly in the direction of the
cottage.

Nearly an hour passed before Trudaine ventured to follow him. When he at
length entered the path which led to the garden gate, he saw his sister
waiting at the cottage door. Her face looked unusually animated; and she
ran forward a step or two to meet him.

"Oh, Louis!" she said, "I have a confession to make, and I must beg you
to hear it patiently to the end. You must know that our good Lomaque,
though he came in tired from his walk, occupied himself the first thing,
at my request, in writing the letter which is to secure to us our dear
old home by the banks of the Seine. When he had done, he looked at me,
and said, 'I should like to be present at your happy return to the house
where I first saw you.' 'Oh, come, come with us!' I said directly. 'I am
not an independent man,' he answered; 'I have a margin of time allowed
me at Paris, certainly, but it is not long--if I were only my own
master--' and then he stopped. Louis, I remembered all we owed to him;
I remembered that there was no sacrifice we ought not to be too glad to
make for his sake; I felt the kindness of the wish he had expressed; and
perhaps I was a little influenced by my own impatience to see once more
my flower-garden and the rooms where we used to be so happy. So I said
to him, 'I am sure Louis will agree with me that our time is yours, and
that we shall be only too glad to advance our departure so as to make
traveling leisure enough for you to come with us to Rouen. We should be
worse than ungrateful--' He stopped me. 'You have always been good to
me,' he said. 'I must not impose on your kindness now. No, no, you have
formalities to settle before you can leave this place.' 'Not one,' I
said--for we have not, as you know, Louis? 'Why, here is your furniture
to begin with,' he said. 'A few chairs and tables hired from the inn,' I
answered; 'we have only to give the landlady our key, to leave a letter
for the owner of the cottage, and then--' He laughed. 'Why, to hear you
talk, one would think you were as ready to travel as I am!' 'So we are,'
I said, 'quite as ready, living in the way we do here.' He shook his
head; but you will not shake yours, Louis, I am sure, now you have heard
all my long story? You can't blame me can you?"

Before Trudaine could answer, Lomaque looked out of the cottage window.

"I have just been telling my brother every thing," said Rose, turning
round toward him.

"And what does he say?" asked Lomaque.

"He says what I say," replied Rose, answering for her brother; "that our
time is your time--the time of our best and dearest friend."

"Shall it be done, then?" asked Lomaque, with a meaning look at
Trudaine.

Rose glanced anxiously at her brother; his face was much graver than she
had expected to see it, but his answer relieved her from all suspense.

"You are quite right, love, to speak as you did," he said, gently. Then,
turning to Lomaque, he added, in a firmer voice, "It shall be done!"



CHAPTER II.

Two days after the traveling-carriage described by Lomaque had
passed the diligence on the road to Paris, Madame Danville sat in the
drawing-room of an apartment in the Rue de Grenelle, handsomely dressed
for driving out. After consulting a large gold watch that hung at
her side, and finding that it wanted a quarter of an hour only to
two o'clock, she rang her hand-bell, and said to the maid-servant who
answered the summons, "I have five minutes to spare. Send Dubois here
with my chocolate."

The old man made his appearance with great alacrity. After handing the
cup of chocolate to his mistress, he ventured to use the privilege of
talking, to which his long and faithful services entitled him, and paid
the old lady a compliment. "I am rejoiced to see madame looking so young
and in such good spirits this morning," he said, with a low bow and a
mild, deferential smile.

"I think I have some reason for being in good spirits on the day when my
son's marriage-contract is to be signed," said Madame Danville, with a
gracious nod of the head. "Ha, Dubois, I shall live yet to see him with
a patent of nobility in his hand. The mob has done its worst; the end
of this infamous revolution is not far off; our order will have its turn
again soon, and then who will have such a chance at court as my son? He
is noble already through his mother, he will then be noble also
through his wife. Yes, yes; let that coarse-mannered, passionate, old
soldier-father of hers be as unnaturally republican as he pleases, he
has inherited a name which will help my son to a peerage! The Vicomte
D'Anville (D with an apostrophe, Dubois, you understand?), the Vicomte
D'Anville--how prettily it sounds!"

"Charmingly, madame--charmingly. Ah! this second marriage of my young
master's begins under much better auspices than the first."

The remark was an unfortunate one. Madame Danville frowned portentously,
and rose in a great hurry from her chair.

"Are your wits failing you, you old fool?" she exclaimed, indignantly.
"What do you mean by referring to such a subject as that, on this day,
of all others? You are always harping on those two wretched people who
were guillotined, as if you thought I could have saved their lives. Were
you not present when my son and I met, after the time of the Terror? Did
you not hear my first words to him, when he told me of the catastrophe?
Were they not 'Charles, I love you; but if I thought you had let those
two unfortunates, who risked themselves to save me, die without risking
your life in return to save them, I would break my heart rather than
ever look at you or speak to you again!' Did I not say that? And did he
not answer, 'Mother, my life was risked for them. I proved my devotion
by exposing myself to arrest--I was imprisoned for my exertions--and
then I could do no more!' Did you not stand by and hear him give that
answer, overwhelmed while he spoke by generous emotion? Do you not know
that he really was imprisoned in the Temple? Do you dare to think that
we are to blame after that? I owe you much, Dubois, but if you are to
take liberties with me--"

"Oh, madame! I beg pardon a thousand times. I was thoughtless--only
thoughtless--"

"Silence! Is my coach at the door? Very well. Get ready to accompany me.
Your master will not have time to return here. He will meet me, for the
signing of the contract, at General Berthelin's house at two precisely.
Stop! Are there many people in the street? I can't be stared at by the
mob as I go to my carriage."

Dubois hobbled penitently to the window and looked out, while his
mistress walked to the door.

"The street is almost empty, madame," he said. "Only a man with a woman
on his arm, stopping and admiring your carriage. They seem like decent
people, as well as I can tell without my spectacles. Not mob, I should
say, madame; certainly not mob!"

"Very well. Attend me downstairs; and bring some loose silver with you,
in case those two decent people should be fit objects for charity.
No orders for the coachman, except that he is to go straight to the
general's house."

The party assembled at General Berthelin's to witness the signature
of the marriage-contract, comprised, besides the persons immediately
interested in the ceremony of the day, some young ladies, friends of the
bride, and a few officers, who had been comrades of her father's in past
years. The guests were distributed, rather unequally, in two handsome
apartments opening into each other--one called in the house the
drawing-room, and the other the library. In the drawing-room were
assembled the notary, with the contract ready, the bride, the young
ladies, and the majority of General Berthelin's friends. In the library,
the remainder of the military guests were amusing themselves at a
billiard-table until the signing of the contract should take place,
while Danville and his future father-in-law walked up and down the room
together, the first listening absently, the last talking with all
his accustomed energy, and with more than his accustomed allowance
of barrack-room expletives. The general had taken it into his head to
explain some of the clauses in the marriage-contract to the bridegroom,
who, though far better acquainted with their full scope and meaning than
his father-in-law, was obliged to listen for civility's sake. While the
old soldier was still in the midst of his long and confused harangue, a
clock struck on the library mantel-piece.

"Two o'clock!" exclaimed Danville, glad of any pretext for interrupting
the talk about the contract. "Two o'clock; and my mother not here yet!
What can be delaying her?"

"Nothing," cried the general. "When did you ever know a woman punctual,
my lad? If we wait for your mother--and she's such a rabid aristocrat
that she would never forgive us for not waiting--we shan't sign the
contract yet this half-hour. Never mind! let's go on with what we were
talking about. Where the devil was I when that cursed clock struck and
interrupted us? Now then, Black Eyes, what's the matter?"

This last question was addressed to Mademoiselle Berthelin, who at that
moment hastily entered the library from the drawing-room. She was a tall
and rather masculine-looking girl, with superb black eyes, dark hair
growing low on her forehead, and something of her father's decision and
bluntness in her manner of speaking.

"A stranger in the other room, papa, who wants to see you. I suppose the
servants showed him upstairs, thinking he was one of the guests. Ought I
to have had him shown down again?"

"A nice question! How should I know? Wait till I have seen him, miss,
and then I'll tell you!" With these words the general turned on his
heel, and went into the drawing-room.

His daughter would have followed him, but Danville caught her by the
hand.

"Can you be hard-hearted enough to leave me here alone?" he asked.

"What is to become of all my bosom friends in the next room, you selfish
man, if I stop here with you?" retorted mademoiselle, struggling to free
herself.

"Call them in here," said Danville gayly, making himself master of her
other hand.

She laughed, and drew him away toward the drawing-room.

"Come," she cried, "and let all the ladies see what a tyrant I am
going to marry. Come, and show them what an obstinate, unreasonable,
wearisome--"

Her voice suddenly failed her; she shuddered, and turned faint.
Danville's hand had in one instant grown cold as death in hers; the
momentary touch of his fingers, as she felt their grasp loosen, struck
some mysterious chill through her from head to foot. She glanced
round at him affrightedly, and saw his eyes looking straight into the
drawing-room. They were fixed in a strange, unwavering, awful stare,
while, from the rest of his face, all expression, all character, all
recognizable play and movement of feature, had utterly gone. It was
a breathless, lifeless mask--a white blank. With a cry of terror, she
looked where he seemed to be looking; and could see nothing but the
stranger standing in the middle of the drawing-room. Before she could
ask a question--before she could speak even a single word--her father
came to her, caught Danville by the arm, and pushed her roughly back
into the library.

"Go there, and take the women with you," he said, in a quick, fierce
whisper. "Into the library!" he continued, turning to the ladies,
and raising his voice. "Into the library, all of you, along with my
daughter."

The women, terrified by his manner, obeyed him in the greatest
confusion. As they hurried past him into the library, he signed to the
notary to follow; and then closed the door of communication between the
two rooms.

"Stop where you are!" he cried, addressing the old officers, who had
risen from their chairs. "Stay, I insist on it! Whatever happens,
Jacques Berthelin has done nothing to be ashamed of in the presence of
his old friends and companions. You have seen the beginning, now stay
and see the end."

While he spoke, he walked into the middle of the room. He had never
quitted his hold of Danville's arm; step by step they advanced together
to the place where Trudaine was standing.

"You have come into my house, and asked me for my daughter in
marriage--and I have given her to you," said the general, addressing
Danville, quietly. "You told me that your first wife and her brother
were guillotined three years ago in the time of the Terror--and I
believed you. Now look at that man--look him straight in the face. He
has announced himself to me as the brother of your wife, and he asserts
that his sister is alive at this moment. One of you two has deceived me.
Which is it?"

Danville tried to speak, but no sound passed his lips; tried to wrench
his arm from the grasp that was on it, but could not stir the old
soldier's steady hand.

"Are you afraid? are you a coward? Can't you look him in the face?"
asked the general, tightening his hold sternly.

"Stop! stop!" interposed one of the old officers, coming forward. "Give
him time. This may be a case of strange accidental resemblance, which
would be enough, under the circumstances, to discompose any man. You
will excuse me, citizen," he continued, turning to Trudaine; "but you
are a stranger. You have given us no proof of your identity."

"There is the proof," said Trudaine, pointing to Danville's face.

"Yes, yes," pursued the other; "he looks pale and startled enough,
certainly. But I say again, let us not be too hasty; there are strange
cases on record of accidental resemblances, and this may be one of
them!"

As he repeated those words, Danville looked at him with a faint,
cringing gratitude, stealing slowly over the blank terror of his face.
He bowed his head, murmured something, and gesticulated confusedly with
the hand that he was free to use.

"Look!" cried the old officer; "look, Berthelin; he denies the man's
identity."

"Do you hear that?" said the general, appealing to Trudaine. "Have you
proofs to confute him? If you have, produce them instantly."

Before the answer could be given the door leading into the drawing-room
from the staircase was violently flung open, and Madame Danville--her
hair in disorder, her face in its colorless terror looking like the very
counterpart of her son's--appeared on the threshold, with the old man
Dubois and a group of amazed and startled servants behind her.

"For God's sake, don't sign! for God's sake, come away!" she cried.
"I have seen your wife--in the spirit, or in the flesh, I know not
which--but I have seen her. Charles! Charles! as true as Heaven is above
us, I have seen your wife!"

"You have seen her in the flesh, living and breathing as you see her
brother yonder," said a firm, quiet voice, from among the servants on
the landing outside.

"Let that man enter, whoever he is!" cried the general.

Lomaque passed Madame Danville on the threshold. She trembled as he
brushed by her; then, supporting herself by the wall, followed him a
few paces into the room. She looked first at her son--after that, at
Trudaine--after that back again at her son. Something in her presence
silenced every one. There fell a sudden stillness over all the
assembly--a stillness so deep that the eager, frightened whispering, and
sharp rustling of dresses among the women in the library, became audible
from the other side of the closed door.

"Charles," she said, slowly advancing; "why do you look--" She stopped,
and fixed her eyes again on her son more earnestly than before; then
turned them suddenly on Trudaine. "You are looking at my son, sir," she
said, "and I see contempt in your face. By what right do you insult a
man whose grateful sense of his mother's obligations to you made him
risk his life for the saving of yours and your sister's? By what
right have you kept the escape of my son's wife from death by the
guillotine--an escape which, for all I know to the contrary, his
generous exertions were instrumental in effecting--a secret from my son?
By what right, I demand to know, has your treacherous secrecy placed us
in such a position as we now stand in before the master of this house?"

An expression of sorrow and pity passed over Trudaine's face while
she spoke. He retired a few steps, and gave her no answer. The general
looked at him with eager curiosity, and, dropping his hold of Danville's
arm, seemed about to speak; but Lomaque stepped forward at the same
time, and held up his hand to claim attention.

"I think I shall express the wishes of Citizen Trudaine," he said,
addressing Madame Danville, "if I recommend this lady not to press for
too public an answer to her questions."

"Pray who are you, sir, who take it on yourself to advise me?" she
retorted, haughtily. "I have nothing to say to you, except that I repeat
those questions, and that I insist on their being answered."

"Who is this man?" asked the general, addressing Trudaine, and pointing
to Lomaque.

"A man unworthy of credit," cried Danville, speaking audibly for the
first time, and darting a look of deadly hatred at Lomaque. "An agent of
police under Robespierre."

"And in that capacity capable of answering questions which refer to the
transactions of Robespierre's tribunals," remarked the ex-chief agent,
with his old official self-possession.

"True!" exclaimed the general; "the man is right--let him be heard."

"There is no help for it," said Lomaque, looking at Trudaine; "leave it
to me--it is fittest that I should speak. I was present," he continued,
in a louder voice, "at the trial of Citizen Trudaine and his sister.
They were brought to the bar through the denunciation of Citizen
Danville. Till the confession of the male prisoner exposed the fact,
I can answer for Danville's not being aware of the real nature of the
offenses charged against Trudaine and his sister. When it became known
that they had been secretly helping this lady to escape from France, and
when Danville's own head was consequently in danger, I myself heard
him save it by a false assertion that he had been aware of Trudaine's
conspiracy from the first--"

"Do you mean to say," interrupted the general, "that he proclaimed
himself in open court as having knowingly denounced the man who was on
trial for saving his mother?"

"I do," answered Lomaque. (A murmur of horror and indignation rose from
all the strangers present at that reply.) "The reports of the Tribunal
are existing to prove the truth of what I say," he went on. "As to the
escape of Citizen Trudaine and the wife of Danville from the guillotine,
it was the work of political circumstances, which there are persons
living to speak to if necessary; and of a little stratagem of mine,
which need not be referred to now. And, last, with reference to the
concealment which followed the escape, I beg to inform you that it was
abandoned the moment we knew of what was going on here; and that it was
only persevered in up to this time, as a natural measure of precaution
on the part of Citizen Trudaine. From a similar motive we now abstain
from exposing his sister to the shock and the peril of being present
here. What man with an atom of feeling would risk letting her even look
again on such a husband as that?"

He glanced round him, and pointed to Danville, as he put the question.
Before a word could be spoken by any one else in the room, a low wailing
cry of "My mistress! my dear, dear mistress!" directed all eyes first on
the old man Dubois, then on Madame Danville.

She had been leaning against the wall, before Lomaque began to speak;
but she stood perfectly upright now. She neither spoke nor moved. Not
one of the light gaudy ribbons flaunting on her disordered head-dress
so much as trembled. The old servant Dubois was crouched on his knees
at her side, kissing her cold right hand, chafing it in his, reiterating
his faint, mournful cry, "Oh! my mistress! my dear, dear mistress!" but
she did not appear to know that he was near her. It was only when her
son advanced a step or two toward her that she seemed to awaken suddenly
from that death-trance of mental pain. Then she slowly raised the hand
that was free, and waved him back from her. He stopped in obedience to
the gesture, and endeavored to speak. She waved her hand again, and the
deathly stillness of her face began to grow troubled. Her lips moved a
little--she spoke.

"Oblige me, sir, for the last time, by keeping silence. You and I have
henceforth nothing to say to each other. I am the daughter of a race of
nobles, and the widow of a man of honor. You are a traitor and a false
witness--a thing from which all true men and true women turn with
contempt. I renounce you! Publicly, in the presence of these gentlemen,
I say it--I have no son."

She turned her back on him; and, bowing to the other persons in the
room with the old formal courtesy of by-gone times, walked slowly and
steadily to the door. Stopping there, she looked back; and then the
artificial courage of the moment failed her. With a faint, suppressed
cry she clutched at the hand of the old servant, who still kept
faithfully at her side; he caught her in his arms, and her head sank on
his shoulder.

"Help him!" cried the general to the servants near the door. "Help him
to take her into the next room!"

The old man looked up suspiciously from his mistress to the persons who
were assisting him to support her. With a strange, sudden jealousy he
shook his hand at them. "Home," he cried; "she shall go home, and I will
take care of her. Away! you there--nobody holds her head but Dubois.
Downstairs! downstairs to her carriage! She has nobody but me now, and I
say that she shall be taken home."

As the door closed, General Berthelin approached Trudaine, who had
stood silent and apart, from the time when Lomaque first appeared in the
drawing-room.

"I wish to ask your pardon," said the old soldier, "because I have
wronged you by a moment of unjust suspicion. For my daughter's sake,
I bitterly regret that we did not see each other long ago; but I thank
you, nevertheless, for coming here, even at the eleventh hour."

While he was speaking, one of his friends came up, and touching him on
the shoulder, said: "Berthelin, is that scoundrel to be allowed to go?"

The general turned on his heel directly, and beckoned contemptuously to
Danville to follow him to the door. When they were well out of ear-shot,
he spoke these words:

"You have been exposed as a villain by your brother-in-law, and
renounced as a liar by your mother. They have done their duty by you,
and now it only remains for me to do mine. When a man enters the house
of another under false pretenses, and compromises the reputation of
his daughter, we old army men have a very expeditious way of making him
answer for it. It is just three o'clock now; at five you will find me
and one of my friends--"

He stopped, and looked round cautiously--then whispered the rest in
Danville's ear--threw open the door, and pointed downstairs.

"Our work here is done," said Lomaque, laying his hand on Trudaine's
arm. "Let us give Danville time to get clear of the house, and then
leave it too."

"My sister! where is she?" asked Trudaine, eagerly.

"Make your mind easy about her. I will tell you more when we get out."

"You will excuse me, I know," said General Berthelin, speaking to all
the persons present, with his hand on the library door, "if I leave you.
I have bad news to break to my daughter, and private business after that
to settle with a friend."

He saluted the company, with his usual bluff nod of the head, and
entered the library. A few minutes afterward, Trudaine and Lomaque left
the house.

"You will find your sister waiting for you in our apartment at the
hotel," said the latter. "She knows nothing, absolutely nothing, of what
has passed."

"But the recognition?" asked Trudaine, amazedly. "His mother saw her.
Surely she--"

"I managed it so that she should be seen, and should not see. Our former
experience of Danville suggested to me the propriety of making the
experiment, and my old police-office practice came in useful in carrying
it out. I saw the carriage standing at the door, and waited till the old
lady came down. I walked your sister away as she got in, and walked her
back again past the window as the carriage drove off. A moment did it,
and it turned out as useful as I thought it would. Enough of that! Go
back now to your sister. Keep indoors till the night mail starts for
Rouen. I have had two places taken for you on speculation. Go! resume
possession of your house, and leave me here to transact the business
which my employer has intrusted to me, and to see how matters end with
Danville and his mother. I will make time somehow to come and bid you
good-by at Rouen, though it should be only for a single day. Bah! no
thanks. Give us your hand. I was ashamed to take it eight years ago--I
can give it a hearty shake now! There is your way; here is mine. Leave
me to my business in silks and satins, and go you back to your sister,
and help her to pack up for the night mail."



CHAPTER III.

Three more days have passed. It is evening. Rose, Trudaine and Lomaque
are seated together on the bench that overlooks the windings of
the Seine. The old familiar scene spreads before them, beautiful as
ever--unchanged, as if it was but yesterday since they had all looked on
it for the last time.

They talk together seriously and in low voices. The same recollections
fill their hearts--recollections which they refrain from acknowledging,
but the influence of which each knows by instinct that the other
partakes. Sometimes one leads the conversation, sometimes another; but
whoever speaks, the topic chosen is always, as if by common consent, a
topic connected with the future.

The evening darkens in, and Rose is the first to rise from the bench. A
secret look of intelligence passes between her and her brother, and then
she speaks to Lomaque.

"Will you follow me into the house," she asks, "with as little delay as
possible? I have something that I very much wish to show you."

Her brother waits till she is out of hearing, then inquires anxiously
what has happened at Paris since the night when he and Rose left it.

"Your sister is free," Lomaque answers.

"The duel took place, then?"

"The same day. They were both to fire together. The second of his
adversary asserts that he was paralyzed with terror; his own second
declares that he was resolved, however he might have lived, to confront
death courageously by offering his life at the first fire to the man
whom he had injured. Which account is true, I know not. It is only
certain that he did not discharge his pistol, that he fell by his
antagonist's first bullet, and that he never spoke afterward."

"And his mother?"

"It is hard to gain information. Her doors are closed; the old servant
guards her with jealous care. A medical man is in constant attendance,
and there are reports in the house that the illness from which she is
suffering affects her mind more than her body. I could ascertain no
more."

After that answer they both remain silent for a little while, then rise
from the bench and walk toward the house.

"Have you thought yet about preparing your sister to hear of all that
has happened?" Lomaque asks, as he sees the lamp-light glimmering in the
parlor window.

"I shall wait to prepare her till we are settled again here--till
the first holiday pleasure of our return has worn off, and the quiet
realities of our every-day life of old have resumed their way," answers
Trudaine.

They enter the house. Rose beckons to Lomaque to sit down near her, and
places pen and ink and an open letter before him.

"I have a last favor to ask of you," she says, smiling.

"I hope it will not take long to grant," he rejoins; "for I have only
to-night to be with you. To-morrow morning, before you are up, I must be
on my way back to Chalons."

"Will you sign that letter?" she continues, still smiling, "and then
give it to me to send to the post? It was dictated by Louis, and written
by me, and it will be quite complete, if you will put your name at the
end of it."

"I suppose I may read it?"

She nods, and Lomaque reads these lines:


"CITIZEN--I beg respectfully to apprise you that the commission you
intrusted to me at Paris has been performed.

"I have also to beg that you will accept my resignation of the place
I hold in your counting-house. The kindness shown me by you and your
brother before you, emboldens me to hope that you will learn with
pleasure the motive of my withdrawal. Two friends of mine, who consider
that they are under some obligations to me, are anxious that I should
pass the rest of my days in the quiet and protection of their home.
Troubles of former years have knit us together as closely as if we were
all three members of one family. I need the repose of a happy fireside
as much as any man, after the life I have led; and my friends assure
me so earnestly that their whole hearts are set on establishing the old
man's easy-chair by their hearth, that I cannot summon resolution enough
to turn my back on them and their offer.

"Accept, then, I beg of you, the resignation which this letter contains,
and with it the assurance of my sincere gratitude and respect.

"To Citizen Clairfait, Silk-mercer,

"Chalons-sur-Marne."


After reading these lines, Lomaque turned round to Trudaine and
attempted to speak; but the words would not come at command. He looked
up at Rose, and tried to smile; but his lip only trembled. She dipped
the pen in the ink, and placed it in his hand. He bent his head down
quickly over the paper, so that she could not see his face; but still
he did not write his name. She put her hand caressingly on his shoulder,
and whispered to him:

"Come, come, humor 'Sister Rose.' She must have her own way now she is
back again at home."

He did not answer--his head sank lower--he hesitated for an
instant--then signed his name in faint, trembling characters, at the end
of the letter.

She drew it away from him gently. A few tear-drops lay on the paper. As
she dried them with her handkerchief she looked at her brother.

"They are the last he shall ever shed, Louis; you and I will take care
of that!"



EPILOGUE TO THE THIRD STORY.

I have now related all that is eventful in the history of SISTER ROSE.
To the last the three friends dwelt together happily in the cottage
on the river bank. Mademoiselle Clairfait was fortunate enough to know
them, before Death entered the little household and took away, in the
fullness of time, the eldest of its members. She describes Lomaque,
in her quaint foreign English, as "a brave, big heart"; generous,
affectionate, and admirably free from the small obstinacies and
prejudices of old age, except on one point: he could never be induced
to take his coffee, of an evening, from any other hand than the hand of
Sister Rose.

I linger over these final particulars with a strange unwillingness to
separate myself from them, and give my mind to other thoughts. Perhaps
the persons and events that have occupied my attention for so many
nights past have some peculiar interest for me that I cannot analyze.
Perhaps the labor and time which this story has cost me have especially
endeared it to my sympathies, now that I have succeeded in completing
it. However that may be, I have need of some resolution to part at last
with Sister Rose, and return, in the interests of my next and Fourth
Story, to English ground.

I have experienced so much difficulty, let me add, in deciding on the
choice of a new narrative out of my collection, that my wife has lost
all patience, and has undertaken, on her own responsibility, to relieve
me of my unreasonable perplexities. By her advice--given, as usual,
without a moment's hesitation--I cannot do better than tell the story of

THE LADY OF GLENWITH GRANGE.



PROLOGUE TO THE FOURTH STORY.

My practice in the art of portrait-painting, if it has done nothing
else, has at least fitted me to turn my talents (such as they are) to
a great variety of uses. I have not only taken the likenesses of men,
women, and children, but have also extended the range of my brush, under
stress of circumstances, to horses, dogs, houses, and in one case even
to a bull--the terror and glory of his parish, and the most truculent
sitter I ever had. The beast was appropriately named "Thunder and
Lightning," and was the property of a gentleman-farmer named Garthwaite,
a distant connection of my wife's family.

How it was that I escaped being gored to death before I had finished my
picture is more than I can explain to this day. "Thunder and Lightning"
resented the very sight of me and my color-box, as if he viewed the
taking of his likeness in the light of a personal insult. It required
two men to coax him, while a third held him by a ring in his nostrils,
before I could venture on beginning to work. Even then he always lashed
his tail, and jerked his huge head, and rolled his fiery eyes with a
devouring anxiety to have me on his horns for daring to sit down quietly
and look at him. Never, I can honestly say, did I feel more heartily
grateful for the blessings of soundness of limb and wholeness of skin,
than when I had completed the picture of the bull!

One morning, when I had but little more than half done my unwelcome
task, my friend and I were met on our way to the bull's stable by the
farm bailiff, who informed us gravely that "Thunder and Lightning" was
just then in such an especially surly state of temper as to render it
quite unsafe for me to think of painting him. I looked inquiringly at
Mr. Garthwaite, who smiled with an air of comic resignation, and said,
"Very well, then, we have nothing for it but to wait till to-morrow.
What do you say to a morning's fishing, Mr. Kerby, now that my bull's
bad temper has given us a holiday?"

I replied, with perfect truth, that I knew nothing about fishing. But
Mr. Garthwaite, who was as ardent an angler in his way as Izaak Walton
himself, was not to be appeased even by the best of excuses. "It is
never too late to learn," cried he. "I will make a fisherman of you in
no time, if you will only attend to my directions." It was impossible
for me to make any more apologies, without the risk of appealing
discourteous. So I thanked my host for his friendly intentions, and,
with some secret misgivings, accepted the first fishing-rod that he put
into my hands.

"We shall soon get there," said Mr. Garthwaite. "I am taking you to the
best mill-stream in the neighborhood." It was all one to me whether we
got there soon or late and whether the stream was good or bad. However,
I did my best to conceal my unsportsman-like apathy; and tried to look
quite happy and very impatient to begin, as we drew near to the mill,
and heard louder and louder the gushing of many waters all round it.

Leading the way immediately to a place beneath the falling stream, where
there was a deep, eddying pool, Mr. Garthwaite baited and threw in
his line before I had fixed the joints of my fishing-rod. This first
difficulty overcome, I involuntarily plunged into some excellent, but
rather embarrassing, sport with my line and hook. I caught every one
of my garments, from head to foot; I angled for my own clothes with
the dexterity and success of Izaak Walton himself. I caught my hat, my
jacket, my waistcoat, my trousers, my fingers, and my thumbs--some devil
possessed my hook; some more than eel-like vitality twirled and twisted
in every inch of my line. By the time my host arrived to assist me,
I had attached myself to my fishing-rod, apparently for life. All
difficulties yielded, however, to his patience and skill; my hook was
baited for me, and thrown in; my rod was put into my hand; my friend
went back to his place; and we began at last to angle in earnest.

We certainly caught a few fish (in _my_ case, I mean, of course, that
the fish caught themselves); but they were scanty in number and light
in weight. Whether it was the presence of the miller's foreman--a
gloomy personage, who stood staring disastrously upon us from a little
flower-garden on the opposite bank--that cast adverse influence over our
sport; or whether my want of faith and earnestness as an angler acted
retributively on my companion as well as myself, I know not; but it is
certain that he got almost as little reward for his skill as I got for
my patience. After nearly two hours of intense expectation on my part,
and intense angling on his, Mr. Garthwaite jerked his line out of the
water in a rage, and bade me follow him to another place, declaring that
the stream must have been netted by poachers in the night, who had taken
all the large fish away with them, and had thrown in the small ones
to grow until their next visit. We moved away, further down the bank,
leaving the imperturbable foreman still in the flower-garden, staring at
us speechlessly on our departure, exactly as he had already stared at us
on our approach.

"Stop a minute," said Mr. Garthwaite suddenly, after we had walked some
distance in silence by the side of the stream, "I have an idea. Now we
are out for a day's angling, we won't be balked. Instead of trying
the water here again, we will go where I know, by experience, that the
fishing is excellent. And what is more, you shall be introduced to a
lady whose appearance is sure to interest you, and whose history, I can
tell you beforehand, is a very remarkable one."

"Indeed," I said. "May I ask in what way?"

"She is connected," answered Mr. Garthwaite, "with an extraordinary
story, which relates to a family once settled in an old house in this
neighborhood. Her name is Miss Welwyn; but she is less formally known
an among the poor people about here, who love her dearly, and honor her
almost superstitiously, as the Lady of Glenwith Grange. Wait till you
have seen her before you ask me to say anything more. She lives in the
strictest retirement; I am almost the only visitor who is admitted.
Don't say you had rather not go in. Any friend of mine will be welcome
at the Grange (the scene of the story, remember), for my sake--the more
especially because I have never abused my privilege of introduction. The
place is not above two miles from here, and the stream (which we call,
in our county dialect, Glenwith Beck) runs through the ground."

As we walked on, Mr. Garthwaite's manner altered. He became unusually
silent and thoughtful. The mention of Miss Welwyn's name had evidently
called up some recollections which were not in harmony with his
every-day mood. Feeling that to talk to him on any indifferent subject
would be only to interrupt his thoughts to no purpose, I walked by his
side in perfect silence, looking out already with some curiosity and
impatience for a first view of Glenwith Grange. We stopped at last close
by an old church, standing on the outskirts of a pretty village. The low
wall of the churchyard was bounded on one side by a plantation, and was
joined by a park paling, in which I noticed a small wicket-gate. Mr.
Garthwaite opened it, and led me along a shrubbery path, which conducted
us circuitously to the dwelling-house.

We had evidently entered by a private way, for we approached the
building by the back. I looked up at it curiously, and saw standing at
one of the windows on the lower floor a little girl watching us as we
advanced. She seemed to be about nine or ten years old. I could not help
stopping a moment to look up at her, her clear complexion and her
long dark hair were so beautiful. And yet there was something in her
expression--a dimness and vacancy in her large eyes--a changeless,
unmeaning smile on her parted lips--which seemed to jar with all that
was naturally attractive in her face; which perplexed, disappointed, and
even shocked me, though I hardy knew why. Mr. Garthwaite, who had been
walking along thoughtfully, with his eyes on the ground, turned back
when he found me lingering behind him; looked up where I was looking;
started a little, I thought; then took my arm, whispered rather
impatiently, "Don't say anything about having seen that poor child when
you are introduced to Miss Welwyn; I'll tell you why afterward," and led
me round hastily to the front of the building.

It was a very dreary old house, with a lawn in front thickly sprinkled
with flower-beds, and creepers of all sorts climbing in profusion about
the heavy stone porch and the mullions of the lower windows. In spite
of these prettiest of all ornaments clustering brightly round the
building--in spite of the perfect repair in which it was kept from top
to bottom--there was something repellent to me in the aspect of the
whole place: a deathly stillness hung over it, which fell oppressively
on my spirits. When my companion rang the loud, deep-toned bell, the
sound startled me as if we had been committing a crime in disturbing the
silence. And when the door was opened by an old female servant (while
the hollow echo of the bell was still vibrating in the air), I could
hardly imagine it possible that we should be let in. We were admitted,
however, without the slightest demur. I remarked that there was the
same atmosphere of dreary repose inside the house which I had already
observed, or rather felt, outside it. No dogs barked at our approach--no
doors banged in the servants' offices--no heads peeped over the
banisters--not one of the ordinary domestic consequences of an
unexpected visit in the country met either eye or ear. The large
shadowy apartment, half library, half breakfast-room, into which we were
ushered, was as solitary as the hall of entrance; unless I except such
drowsy evidences of life as were here presented to us in the shape of
an Angola cat and a gray parrot--the first lying asleep in a chair, the
second sitting ancient, solemn, and voiceless, in a large cage.

Mr. Garthwaite walked to the window when we entered, without saying a
word. Determining to let his taciturn humor have its way, I asked him no
questions, but looked around the room to see what information it would
give me (and rooms often do give such information) about the character
and habits of the owner of the house.

Two tables covered with books were the first objects that attracted me.
On approaching them, I was surprised to find that the all-influencing
periodical literature of the present day--whose sphere is already almost
without limit; whose readers, even in our time, may be numbered by
millions--was entirely unrepresented on Miss Welwyn's table. Nothing
modern, nothing contemporary, in the world of books, presented itself.
Of all the volumes beneath my hand, not one bore the badge of the
circulating library, or wore the flaring modern livery of gilt cloth.
Every work that I took up had been written at least fifteen or twenty
years since. The prints hanging round the walls (toward which I next
looked) were all engraved from devotional subjects by the old masters;
the music-stand contained no music of later date than the compositions
of Haydn and Mozart. Whatever I examined besides, told me, with the same
consistency, the same strange tale. The owner of these possessions
lived in the by-gone time; lived among old recollections and old
associations--a voluntary recluse from all that was connected with the
passing day. In Miss Welwyn's house, the stir, the tumult, the "idle
business" of the world evidently appealed in vain to sympathies which
grew no longer with the growing hour.

As these thoughts were passing through my mind, the door opened and the
lady herself appeared.

She looked certainly past the prime of life; longer past it, as I
afterward discovered, than she really was. But I never remember, in any
other face, to have seen so much of the better part of the beauty of
early womanhood still remaining, as I saw in hers. Sorrow had evidently
passed over the fair, calm countenance before me, but had left
resignation there as its only trace. Her expression was still
youthful--youthful in its kindness and its candor especially. It was
only when I looked at her hair, that was now growing gray--at her
wan, thin hands--at the faint lines marked round her mouth--at the sad
serenity of her eyes, that I fairly detected the mark of age; and, more
than that, the token of some great grief, which had been conquered, but
not banished. Even from her voice alone--from the peculiar uncertainty
of its low, calm tones when she spoke--it was easy to conjecture that
she must have passed through sufferings, at some time of her life, which
had tried to the quick the noble nature that they could not subdue.

Mr. Garthwaite and she met each other almost like brother and sister; it
was plain that the friendly intimacy between them had been of very long
duration. Our visit was a short one. The conversation never advanced
beyond the commonplace topics suited to the occasion. It was, therefore,
from what I saw, and not from what I heard, that I was enabled to form
my judgment of Miss Welwyn. Deeply as she had interested me--far more
deeply than I at all know how to explain in fitting words--I cannot
say that I was unwilling to depart when we rose to take leave. Though
nothing could be more courteous and more kind than her manner toward me
during the whole interview, I could still perceive that it cost her some
effort to repress in my presence the shades of sadness and reserve which
seemed often ready to steal over her. And I must confess that when I
once or twice heard the half-sigh stifled, and saw the momentary
relapse into thoughtfulness suddenly restrained, I felt an indefinable
awkwardness in my position which made me ill at ease; which set me
doubting whether, as a perfect stranger, I had done right in suffering
myself to be introduced where no new faces could awaken either interest
or curiosity; where no new sympathies could ever be felt, no new
friendships ever be formed.

As soon as we had taken leave of Miss Welwyn, and were on our way to
the stream in her grounds, I more than satisfied Mr. Garthwaite that
the impression the lady had produced on me was of no transitory kind,
by overwhelming him with questions about her--not omitting one or two
incidental inquiries on the subject of the little girl whom I had seen
at the back window. He only rejoined that his story would answer all my
questions; and that he would begin to tell it as soon as we had arrived
at Glenwith Beck, and were comfortably settled to fishing.

Five minutes more of walking brought us to the bank of the stream, and
showed us the water running smoothly and slowly, tinged with the softest
green luster from the reflections of trees which almost entirely arched
it over. Leaving me to admire the view at my ease, Mr. Garthwaite
occupied himself with the necessary preparations for angling, baiting my
hook as well as his own. Then, desiring me to sit near him on the bank,
he at last satisfied my curiosity by beginning his story. I shall relate
it in his own manner, and, as nearly as possible, in his own words.



THE ANGLER'S STORY of THE LADY OF GLENWITH GRANGE.

I have known Miss Welwyn long enough to be able to bear personal
testimony to the truth of many of the particulars which I am now about
to relate. I knew her father, and her younger sister Rosamond; and I was
acquainted with the Frenchman who became Rosamond's husband. These are
the persons of whom it will be principally necessary for me to speak.
They are the only prominent characters in my story.

Miss Welwyn's father died some years since. I remember him very
well--though he never excited in me, or in any one else that I ever
heard of, the slightest feeling of interest. When I have said that he
inherited a very large fortune, amassed during his father's time, by
speculations of a very daring, very fortunate, but not always very
honorable kind, and that he bought this old house with the notion of
raising his social position, by making himself a member of our landed
aristocracy in these parts, I have told you as much about him, I
suspect, as you would care to hear. He was a thoroughly commonplace man,
with no great virtues and no great vices in him. He had a little heart,
a feeble mind, an amiable temper, a tall figure, and a handsome face.
More than this need not, and cannot, be said on the subject of Mr.
Welwyn's character.

I must have seen the late Mrs. Welwyn very often as a child; but I
cannot say that I remember anything more of her than that she was tall
and handsome, and very generous and sweet-tempered toward me when I
was in her company. She was her husband's superior in birth, as in
everything else; was a great reader of books in all languages; and
possessed such admirable talents as a musician, that her wonderful
playing on the organ is remembered and talked of to this day among the
old people in our country houses about here. All her friends, as I have
heard, were disappointed when she married Mr. Welwyn, rich as he was;
and were afterward astonished to find her preserving the appearance, at
least, of being perfectly happy with a husband who, neither in mind nor
heart, was worthy of her.

It was generally supposed (and I have no doubt correctly) that she
found her great happiness and her great consolation in her little girl
Ida--now the lady from whom we have just parted. The child took after
her mother from the first--inheriting her mother's fondness for books,
her mother's love of music, her mother's quick sensibilities, and, more
than all, her mother's quiet firmness, patience, and loving kindness of
disposition. From Ida's earliest years, Mrs. Welwyn undertook the whole
superintendence of her education. The two were hardly ever apart, within
doors or without. Neighbors and friends said that the little girl
was being brought up too fancifully, and was not enough among other
children, was sadly neglected as to all reasonable and practical
teaching, and was perilously encouraged in those dreamy and imaginative
tendencies of which she had naturally more than her due share. There
was, perhaps, some truth in this; and there might have been still more,
if Ida had possessed an ordinary character, or had been reserved for
an ordinary destiny. But she was a strange child from the first, and a
strange future was in store for her.

Little Ida reached her eleventh year without either brother or sister to
be her playfellow and companion at home. Immediately after that period,
however, her sister Rosamond was born. Though Mr. Welwyn's own desire
was to have had a son, there were, nevertheless, great rejoicings yonder
in the old house on the birth of this second daughter. But they were all
turned, only a few months afterward, to the bitterest grief and despair:
the Grange lost its mistress. While Rosamond was still an infant in
arms, her mother died.

Mrs. Welwyn had been afflicted with some disorder after the birth of
her second child, the name of which I am not learned enough in medical
science to be able to remember. I only know that she recovered from it,
to all appearance, in an unexpectedly short time; that she suffered a
fatal relapse, and that she died a lingering and a painful death. Mr.
Welwyn (who, in after years, had a habit of vaingloriously describing
his marriage as "a love-match on both sides") was really fond of his
wife in his own frivolous, feeble way, and suffered as acutely as such
a man could suffer, during the latter days of her illness, and at the
terrible time when the doctors, one and all, confessed that her life
was a thing to be despaired of. He burst into irrepressible passions
of tears, and was always obliged to leave the sick-room whenever Mrs.
Welwyn spoke of her approaching end. The last solemn words of the dying
woman, the tenderest messages that she could give, the dearest parting
wishes that she could express, the most earnest commands that she could
leave behind her, the gentlest reasons for consolation that she could
suggest to the survivors among those who loved her, were not poured into
her husband's ear, but into her child's. From the first period of
her illness, Ida had persisted in remaining in the sick-room, rarely
speaking, never showing outwardly any signs of terror or grief, except
when she was removed from it; and then bursting into hysterical passions
of weeping, which no expostulations, no arguments, no commands--nothing,
in short, but bringing her back to the bedside--ever availed to calm.
Her mother had been her playfellow, her companion her dearest and most
familiar friend; and there seemed something in the remembrance of this
which, instead of overwhelming the child with despair, strengthened her
to watch faithfully and bravely by her dying parent to the very last.

When the parting moment was over, and when Mr. Welwyn, unable to bear
the shock of being present in the house of death at the time of his
wife's funeral, left home and went to stay with one of his relations in
a distant part of England, Ida, whom it had been his wish to take away
with him, petitioned earnestly to be left behind. "I promised mamma
before she died that I would be as good to my little sister Rosamond as
she had been to me," said the child, simply; "and she told me in return
that I might wait here and see her laid in her grave." There happened
to be an aunt of Mrs. Welwyn, and an old servant of the family, in the
house at this time, who understood Ida much better than her father did,
and they persuaded him not to take her away. I have heard my mother say
that the effect of the child's appearance at the funeral on her, and
on all who went to see it, was something that she could never think of
without the tears coming into her eyes, and could never forget to the
last day of her life.

It must have been very shortly after this period that I saw Ida for the
first time.

I remember accompanying my mother on a visit to the old house we have
just left, in the summer, when I was at home for the holidays. It was
a lovely, sunshiny morning. There was nobody indoors, and we walked out
into the garden. As we approached that lawn yonder, on the other side
of the shrubbery, I saw, first, a young woman in mourning (apparently
a servant) sitting reading; then a little girl, dressed all in black,
moving toward us slowly over the bright turf, and holding up before her
a baby, whom she was trying to teach to walk. She looked, to my ideas,
so very young to be engaged in such an occupation as this, and her
gloomy black frock appeared to be such an unnaturally grave garment for
a mere child of her age, and looked so doubly dismal by contrast with
the brilliant sunny lawn on which she stood, that I quite started when
I first saw her, and eagerly asked my mother who she was. The answer
informed me of the sad family story, which I have been just relating to
you. Mrs. Welwyn had then been buried about three months; and Ida,
in her childish way, was trying, as she had promised, to supply her
mother's place to her infant sister Rosamond.

I only mention this simple incident, because it is necessary, before
I proceed to the eventful part of my narrative, that you should know
exactly in what relation the sisters stood toward one another from the
first. Of all the last parting words that Mrs. Welwyn had spoken to her
child, none had been oftener repeated, none more solemnly urged, than
those which had commended the little Rosamond to Ida's love and care.
To other persons, the full, the all-trusting dependence which the dying
mother was known to have placed in a child hardly eleven years old,
seemed merely a proof of that helpless desire to cling even to the
feeblest consolations, which the approach of death so often brings with
it. But the event showed that the trust so strangely placed had not been
ventured vainly when it was committed to young and tender hands. The
whole future existence of the child was one noble proof that she had
been worthy of her mother's dying confidence, when it was first reposed
in her. In that simple incident which I have just mentioned the new life
of the two motherless sisters was all foreshadowed.

Time passed. I left school--went to college--traveled in Germany, and
stayed there some time to learn the language. At every interval when I
came home, and asked about the Welwyns, the answer was, in substance,
almost always the same. Mr. Welwyn was giving his regular dinners,
performing his regular duties as a county magistrate, enjoying his
regular recreations as an a amateur farmer and an eager sportsman. His
two daughters were never separate. Ida was the same strange, quiet,
retiring girl, that she had always been; and was still (as the phrase
went) "spoiling" Rosamond in every way in which it was possible for an
elder sister to spoil a younger by too much kindness.

I myself went to the Grange occasionally, when I was in this
neighborhood, in holiday and vacation time; and was able to test the
correctness of the picture of life there which had been drawn for me. I
remember the two sisters, when Rosamond was four or five years old; and
when Ida seemed to me, even then, to be more like the child's mother
than her sister. She bore with her little caprices as sisters do not
bear with one another. She was so patient at lesson-time, so anxious to
conceal any weariness that might overcome her in play hours, so proud
when Rosamond's beauty was noticed, so grateful for Rosamond's kisses
when the child thought of bestowing them, so quick to notice all
that Rosamond did, and to attend to all that Rosamond said, even when
visitors were in the room, that she seemed, to my boyish observation,
altogether different from other elder sisters in other family circles
into which I was then received.

I remember then, again, when Rosamond was just growing to womanhood, and
was in high spirits at the prospect of spending a season in London,
and being presented at court. She was very beautiful at that time--much
handsomer than Ida. Her "accomplishments" were talked of far and near in
our country circles. Few, if any, of the people, however, who applauded
her playing and singing, who admired her water-color drawings, who were
delighted at her fluency when she spoke French, and amazed at her ready
comprehension when she read German, knew how little of all this elegant
mental cultivation and nimble manual dexterity she owed to her governess
and masters, and how much to her elder sister. It was Ida who really
found out the means of stimulating her when she was idle; Ida who helped
her through all her worst difficulties; Ida who gently conquered her
defects of memory over her books, her inaccuracies of ear at the piano,
her errors of taste when she took the brush and pencil in hand. It was
Ida alone who worked these marvels, and whose all-sufficient reward for
her hardest exertions was a chance word of kindness from her sister's
lips. Rosamond was not unaffectionate, and not ungrateful; but she
inherited much of her father's commonness and frivolity of character.
She became so accustomed to owe everything to her sister--to resign all
her most trifling difficulties to Ida's ever-ready care--to have all
her tastes consulted by Ida's ever-watchful kindness--that she never
appreciated, as it deserved, the deep, devoted love of which she was the
object. When Ida refused two good offers of marriage, Rosamond was as
much astonished as the veriest strangers, who wondered why the elder
Miss Welwyn seemed bent on remaining single all her life.

When the journey to London, to which I have already alluded, took place,
Ida accompanied her father and sister. If she had consulted her own
tastes, she would have remained in the country; but Rosamond declared
that she should feel quite lost and helpless twenty times a day, in
town, without her sister. It was in the nature of Ida to sacrifice
herself to any one whom she loved, on the smallest occasions as well
as the greatest. Her affection was as intuitively ready to sanctify
Rosamond's slightest caprices as to excuse Rosamond's most thoughtless
faults. So she went to London cheerfully, to witness with pride all the
little triumphs won by her sister's beauty; to hear, and never tire of
hearing, all that admiring friends could say in her sister's praise.

At the end of the season Mr. Welwyn and his daughters returned for a
short time to the country; then left home again to spend the latter part
of the autumn and the beginning of the winter in Paris.

They took with them excellent letters of introduction, and saw a great
deal of the best society in Paris, foreign as well as English. At one of
the first of the evening parties which they attended, the general topic
of conversation was the conduct of a certain French nobleman, the Baron
Franval, who had returned to his native country after a long absence,
and who was spoken of in terms of high eulogy by the majority of the
guests present. The history of who Franval was, and of what he had
done, was readily communicated to Mr. Welwyn and his daughters, and was
briefly this:

The baron inherited little from his ancestors besides his high rank
and his ancient pedigree. On the death of his parents, he and his
two unmarried sisters (their only surviving children) found the small
territorial property of the Franvals, in Normandy, barely productive
enough to afford a comfortable subsistence for the three. The baron,
then a young man of three-and-twenty endeavored to obtain such military
or civil employment as might become his rank; but, although the Bourbons
were at that time restored to the throne of France, his efforts were
ineffectual. Either his interest at court was bad, or secret enemies
were at work to oppose his advancement. He failed to obtain even the
slightest favor; and, irritated by undeserved neglect, resolved to leave
France, and seek occupation for his energies in foreign countries, where
his rank would be no bar to his bettering his fortunes, if he pleased,
by engaging in commercial pursuits.

An opportunity of the kind that he wanted unexpectedly offered itself.
He left his sisters in care of an old male relative of the family at
the chateau in Normandy, and sailed, in the first instance, to the West
Indies; afterward extending his wanderings to the continent of South
America, and there engaging in mining transactions on a very large
scale. After fifteen years of absence (during the latter part of which
time false reports of his death had reached Normandy), he had just
returned to France, having realized a handsome independence, with which
he proposed to widen the limits of his ancestral property, and to give
his sisters (who were still, like himself, unmarried) all the luxuries
and advantages that affluence could bestow. The baron's independent
spirit and generous devotion to the honor of his family and the
happiness of his surviving relatives were themes of general admiration
in most of the social circles of Paris. He was expected to arrive in
the capital every day; and it was naturally enough predicted that his
reception in society there could not fail to be of the most flattering
and most brilliant kind.

The Welwyns listened to this story with some little interest; Rosamond,
who was very romantic, being especially attracted by it, and openly
avowing to her father and sister, when they got back to their hotel,
that she felt as ardent a curiosity as anybody to see the adventurous
and generous baron. The desire was soon gratified. Franval came to
Paris, as had been anticipated--was introduced to the Welwyns--met them
constantly in society--made no favorable impression on Ida, but won the
good opinion of Rosamond from the first; and was regarded with such
high approval by their father, that when he mentioned his intentions of
visiting England in the spring of the new year, he was cordially invited
to spend the hunting season at Glenwith Grange.

I came back from Germany about the same time that the Welwyns returned
from Paris, and at once set myself to improve my neighborly intimacy
with the family. I was very fond of Ida; more fond, perhaps, than my
vanity will now allow me to--; but that is of no consequence. It is much
more to the purpose to tell you that I heard the whole of the baron's
story enthusiastically related by Mr. Welwyn and Rosamond; that he came
to the Grange at the appointed time; that I was introduced to him; and
that he produced as unfavorable an impression upon me as he had already
produced upon Ida.

It was whimsical enough; but I really could not tell why I disliked him,
though I could account very easily, according to my own notions, for
his winning the favor and approval of Rosamond and her father. He was
certainly a handsome man as far as features went; he had a winning
gentleness and graceful respect in his manner when he spoke to women;
and he sang remarkably well, with one of the sweetest tenor voices I
ever heard. These qualities alone were quite sufficient to attract any
girl of Rosamond's disposition; and I certainly never wondered why he
was a favorite of hers.

Then, as to her father, the baron was not only fitted to win his
sympathy and regard in the field, by proving himself an ardent sportsman
and an excellent rider; but was also, in virtue of some of his minor
personal peculiarities, just the man to gain the friendship of his host.
Mr. Welwyn was as ridiculously prejudiced as most weak-headed Englishmen
are, on the subject of foreigners in general. In spite of his visit to
Paris, the vulgar notion of a Frenchman continued to be _his_ notion,
both while he was in France and when he returned from it. Now, the baron
was as unlike the traditional "Mounseer" of English songs, plays, and
satires, as a man could well be; and it was on account of this very
dissimilarity that Mr. Welwyn first took a violent fancy to him, and
then invited him to his house. Franval spoke English remarkably well;
wore neither beard, mustache, nor whiskers; kept his hair cut almost
unbecomingly short; dressed in the extreme of plainness and modest good
taste; talked little in general society; uttered his words, when he did
speak, with singular calmness and deliberation; and, to crown all,
had the greater part of his acquired property invested in English
securities. In Mr. Welwyn's estimation, such a man as this was a perfect
miracle of a Frenchman, and he admired and encouraged him accordingly.

I have said that I disliked him, yet could not assign a reason for my
dislike; and I can only repeat it now. He was remarkably polite to me;
we often rode together in hunting, and sat near each other at the Grange
table; but I could never become familiar with him. He always gave me
the idea of a man who had some mental reservation in saying the most
trifling thing. There was a constant restraint, hardly perceptible to
most people, but plainly visible, nevertheless, to me, which seemed
to accompany his lightest words, and to hang about his most familiar
manner. This, however, was no just reason for my secretly disliking and
distrusting him as I did. Ida said as much to me, I remember, when
I confessed to her what my feelings toward him were, and tried (but
vainly) to induce her to be equally candid with me in return. She seemed
to shrink from the tacit condemnation of Rosamond's opinion which such
a confidence on her part would have implied. And yet she watched the
growth of that opinion--or, in other words, the growth of her sister's
liking for the baron--with an apprehension and sorrow which she tried
fruitlessly to conceal. Even her father began to notice that her spirits
were not so good as usual, and to suspect the cause of her melancholy.
I remember he jested, with all the dense insensibility of a stupid man,
about Ida having invariably been jealous, from a child, if Rosamond
looked kindly upon anybody except her elder sister.

The spring began to get far advanced toward summer. Franval paid a visit
to London; came back in the middle of the season to Glenwith Grange;
wrote to put off his departure for France; and at last (not at all to
the surprise of anybody who was intimate with the Welwyns) proposed to
Rosamond, and was accepted. He was candor and generosity itself when the
preliminaries of the marriage-settlement were under discussion. He quite
overpowered Mr. Welwyn and the lawyers with references, papers, and
statements of the distribution and extent of his property, which were
found to be perfectly correct. His sisters were written to, and returned
the most cordial answers; saying that the state of their health would
not allow them to come to England for the marriage; but adding a warm
invitation to Normandy for the bride and her family. Nothing, in
short, could be more straightforward and satisfactory than the baron's
behavior, and the testimonies to his worth and integrity which the news
of the approaching marriage produced from his relatives and his friends.

The only joyless face at the Grange now was Ida's. At any time it would
have been a hard trial to her to resign that first and foremost place
which she had held since childhood in her sister's heart, as she knew
she must resign it when Rosamond married. But, secretly disliking and
distrusting Franval as she did, the thought that he was soon to become
the husband of her beloved sister filled her with a vague sense of
terror which she could not explain to herself; which it was imperatively
necessary that she should conceal; and which, on those very accounts,
became a daily and hourly torment to her that was almost more than she
could bear.

One consolation alone supported her: Rosamond and she were not to be
separated. She knew that the baron secretly disliked her as much as she
disliked him; she knew that she must bid farewell to the brighter and
happier part of her life on the day when she went to live under the same
roof with her sister's husband; but, true to the promise made years and
years ago by her dying mother's bed--true to the affection which was the
ruling and beautiful feeling of her whole existence--she never
hesitated about indulging Rosamond's wish, when the girl, in her bright,
light-hearted way, said that she could never get on comfortably in the
marriage state unless she had Ida to live with her and help her just the
same as ever. The baron was too polite a man even to _look_ dissatisfied
when he heard of the proposed arrangement; and it was therefore settled
from the beginning that Ida was always to live with her sister.

The marriage took place in the summer, and the bride and bridegroom
went to spend their honeymoon in Cumberland. On their return to Glenwith
Grange, a visit to the baron's sisters, in Normandy, was talked of; but
the execution of this project was suddenly and disastrously suspended by
the death of Mr. Welwyn, from an attack of pleurisy.

In consequence of this calamity, the projected journey was of course
deferred; and when autumn and the shooting season came, the baron was
unwilling to leave the well-stocked preserves of the Grange. He seemed,
indeed, to grow less and less inclined, as time advanced, for the trip
to Normandy; and wrote excuse after excuse to his sisters, when
letters arrived from them urging him to pay the promised visit. In the
winter-time, he said he would not allow his wife to risk a long journey.
In the spring, his health was pronounced to be delicate. In the
genial summer-time, the accomplishment of the proposed visit would be
impossible, for at that period the baroness expected to become a mother.
Such were the apologies which Franval seemed almost glad to be able to
send to his sisters in France.

The marriage was, in the strictest sense of the term, a happy one. The
baron, though he never altogether lost the strange restraint and reserve
of his manner, was, in his quiet, peculiar way, the fondest and kindest
of husbands. He went to town occasionally on business, but always seemed
glad to return to the baroness; he never varied in the politeness of
his bearing toward his wife's sister; he behaved with the most courteous
hospitality toward all the friends of the Welwyns; in short, he
thoroughly justified the good opinion which Rosamond and her father had
formed of him when they first met at Paris. And yet no experience of
his character thoroughly re-assured Ida. Months passed on quietly
and pleasantly; and still that secret sadness, that indefinable,
unreasonable apprehension on Rosamond's account, hung heavily on her
sister's heart.

At the beginning of the first summer months, a little domestic
inconvenience happened, which showed the baroness, for the first time,
that her husband's temper could be seriously ruffled--and that by the
veriest trifle. He was in the habit of taking in two French provincial
newspapers--one published at Bordeaux and the other at Havre. He always
opened these journals the moment they came, looked at one particular
column of each with the deepest attention, for a few minutes, then
carelessly threw them aside into his waste-paper basket. His wife and
her sister were at first rather surprised at the manner in which he read
his two papers; but they thought no more of it when he explained that he
only took them in to consult them about French commercial intelligence,
which might be, occasionally, of importance to him.

These papers were published weekly. On the occasion to which I have just
referred, the Bordeaux paper came on the proper day, as usual; but the
Havre paper never made its appearance. This trifling circumstance seemed
to make the baron seriously uneasy. He wrote off directly to the country
post-office and to the newspaper agent in London. His wife, astonished
to see his tranquillity so completely overthrown by so slight a cause,
tried to restore his good humor by jesting with him about the missing
newspaper. He replied by the first angry and unfeeling words that she
had heard issue from his lips. She was then within about six weeks
of her confinement, and very unfit to bear harsh answers from
anybody--least of all from her husband.

On the second day no answer came. On the afternoon of the third, the
baron rode off to the post town to make inquiries. About an hour after
he had gone, a strange gentleman came to the Grange and asked to see
the baroness. On being informed that she was not well enough to receive
visitors, he sent up a message that his business was of great importance
and that he would wait downstairs for a second answer.

On receiving this message, Rosamond turned, as usual, to her elder
sister for advice. Ida went downstairs immediately to see the stranger.
What I am now about to tell you of the extraordinary interview which
took place between them, and of the shocking events that followed it, I
have heard from Miss Welwyn's own lips.

She felt unaccountably nervous when she entered the room. The stranger
bowed very politely, and asked, in a foreign accent, if she were the
Baroness Franval. She set him right on this point, and told him she
attended to all matters of business for the baroness; adding that, if
his errand at all concerned her sister's husband, the baron was not then
at home.

The stranger answered that he was aware of it when he called, and that
the unpleasant business on which he came could not be confided to the
baron--at least, in the first instance.

She asked why. He said he was there to explain; and expressed himself as
feeling greatly relieved at having to open his business to her, because
she would, doubtless, be best able to prepare her sister for the bad
news that he was, unfortunately, obliged to bring. The sudden faintness
which overcame her, as he spoke those words, prevented her from
addressing him in return. He poured out some water for her from a bottle
which happened to be standing on the table, and asked if he might depend
on her fortitude. She tried to say "Yes"; but the violent throbbing
of her heart seemed to choke her. He took a foreign newspaper from his
pocket, saying that he was a secret agent of the French police--that the
paper was the Havre _Journal_, for the past week, and that it had been
expressly kept from reaching the baron, as usual, through his (the
agent's) interference. He then opened the newspaper, and begged that she
would nerve herself sufficiently (for her sister's sake) to read certain
lines, which would give her some hint of the business that brought him
there. He pointed to the passage as he spoke. It was among the "Shipping
Entries," and was thus expressed:

"Arrived, the _Berenice_, from San Francisco, with a valuable cargo of
hides. She brings one passenger, the Baron Franval, of Chateau Franval,
in Normandy."

As Miss Welwyn read the entry, her heart, which had been throbbing
violently but the moment before, seemed suddenly to cease from all
action, and she began to shiver, though it was a warm June evening. The
agent held the tumbler to her lips, and made her drink a little of the
water, entreating her very earnestly to take courage and listen to him.
He then sat down, and referred again to the entry, every word he uttered
seeming to burn itself in forever (as she expressed it) on her memory
and her heart.

He said: "It has been ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt that
there is no mistake about the name in the lines you have just read. And
it is as certain as that we are here, that there is only _one_ Baron
Franval now alive. The question, therefore, is, whether the passenger by
the _Berenice_ is the true baron, or--I beg you most earnestly to bear
with me and to compose yourself--or the husband of your sister. The
person who arrived last week at Havre was scouted as an impostor by
the ladies at the chateau, the moment he presented himself there as
the brother, returning to them after sixteen years of absence. The
authorities were communicated with, and I and my assistants were
instantly sent for from Paris.

"We wasted no time in questioning the supposed impostor. He either was,
or affected to be, in a perfect frenzy of grief and indignation. We just
ascertained, from competent witnesses, that he bore an extraordinary
resemblance to the real baron, and that he was perfectly familiar with
places and persons in and about the chateau; we just ascertained that,
and then proceeded to confer with the local authorities, and to examine
their private entries of suspected persons in their jurisdiction,
ranging back over a past period of twenty years or more. One of the
entries thus consulted contained these particulars: 'Hector Auguste
Monbrun, son of a respectable proprietor in Normandy. Well educated;
gentleman-like manners. On bad terms with his family. Character: bold,
cunning, unscrupulous, self-possessed. Is a clever mimic. May be easily
recognized by his striking likeness to the Baron Franval. Imprisoned at
twenty for theft and assault.'"

Miss Welwyn saw the agent look up at her after he had read this extract
from the police-book, to ascertain if she was still able to listen to
him. He asked, with some appearance of alarm, as their eyes met, if
she would like some more water. She was just able to make a sign in the
negative. He took a second extract from his pocket-book, and went on.

He said: "The next entry under the same name was dated four years later,
and ran thus, 'H. A. Monbrun, condemned to the galleys for life, for
assassination, and other crimes not officially necessary to be
here specified. Escaped from custody at Toulon. Is known, since the
expiration of his first term of imprisonment, to have allowed his beard
to grow, and to have worn his hair long, with the intention of rendering
it impossible for those acquainted with him in his native province to
recognize him, as heretofore, by his likeness to the Baron Franval.'
There were more particulars added, not important enough for extract. We
immediately examined the supposed impostor; for, if he was Monbrun, we
knew that we should find on his shoulder the two letters of the convict
brand, 'T. F.,' standing for _Travaux Forces_. After the minutest
examination with the mechanical and chemical tests used on such
occasions, not the slightest trace of the brand was to be found. The
moment this astounding discovery was made, I started to lay an embargo
on the forthcoming numbers of the Havre _Journal_ for that week, which
were about to be sent to the English agent in London. I arrived at Havre
on Saturday (the morning of publication), in time to execute my design.
I waited there long enough to communicate by telegraph with my superiors
in Paris, then hastened to this place. What my errand here is, you
may--"

He might have gone on speaking for some moments longer; but Miss Welwyn
heard no more.

Her first sensation of returning consciousness was the feeling that
water was being sprinkled on her face. Then she saw that all the windows
in the room had been set wide open, to give her air; and that she and
the agent were still alone. At first she felt bewildered, and hardly
knew who he was; but he soon recalled to her mind the horrible realities
that had brought him there, by apologizing for not having summoned
assistance when she fainted. He said it was of the last importance, in
Franval's absence, that no one in the house should imagine that anything
unusual was taking place in it. Then, after giving her an interval of
a minute or two to collect what little strength she had left, he added
that he would not increase her sufferings by saying anything more, just
then, on the shocking subject of the investigation which it was his duty
to make--that he would leave her to recover herself, and to consider
what was the best course to be taken with the baroness in the present
terrible emergency--and that he would privately return to the house
between eight and nine o'clock that evening, ready to act as Miss Welwyn
wished, and to afford her and her sister any aid and protection of which
they might stand in need. With these words he bowed, and noiselessly
quitted the room.

For the first few awful minutes after she was left alone, Miss Welwyn
sat helpless and speechless; utterly numbed in heart, and mind, and
body--then a sort of instinct (she was incapable of thinking) seemed
to urge her to conceal the fearful news from her sister as long as
possible. She ran upstairs to Rosamond's sitting-room, and called
through the door (for she dared not trust herself in her sister's
presence) that the visitor had come on some troublesome business from
their late father's lawyers, and that she was going to shut herself up,
and write some long letters in connection with that business. After
she had got into her own room, she was never sensible of how time was
passing--never conscious of any feeling within her, except a baseless,
helpless hope that the French police might yet be proved to have made
some terrible mistake--until she heard a violent shower of rain come
on a little after sunset. The noise of the rain, and the freshness it
brought with it in the air, seemed to awaken her as if from a painful
and a fearful sleep. The power of reflection returned to her; her
heart heaved and bounded with an overwhelming terror, as the thought of
Rosamond came back vividly to it; her memory recurred despairingly to
the long-past day of her mother's death, and to the farewell promise she
had made by her mother's bedside. She burst into an hysterical passion
of weeping that seemed to be tearing her to pieces. In the midst of it
she heard the clatter of a horse's hoofs in the courtyard, and knew that
Rosamond's husband had come back.

Dipping her handkerchief in cold water, and passing it over her eyes as
she left the room, she instantly hastened to her sister.

Fortunately the daylight was fading in the old-fashioned chamber that
Rosamond occupied. Before they could say two words to each other,
Franval was in the room. He seemed violently irritated; said that he had
waited for the arrival of the mail--that the missing newspaper had not
come by it--that he had got wet through--that he felt a shivering fit
coming on--and that he believed he had caught a violent cold. His wife
anxiously suggested some simple remedies. He roughly interrupted her,
saying there was but one remedy, the remedy of going to bed; and so left
them without another word. She just put her handkerchief to her eyes,
and said softly to her sister, "How he is changed!" then spoke no more.
They sat silent for half an hour or longer. After that, Rosamond went
affectionately and forgivingly to see how her husband was. She returned,
saying that he was in bed, and in a deep, heavy sleep; and predicting
hopefully that he would wake up quite well the next morning. In a few
minutes more the clock stuck nine; and Ida heard the servant's step
ascending the stairs. She suspected what his errand was, and went out
to meet him. Her presentiment had not deceived her; the police agent had
arrived, and was waiting for her downstairs.

He asked her if she had said anything to her sister, or had thought of
any plan of action, the moment she entered the room; and, on receiving
a reply in the negative, inquired, further, if "the baron" had come home
yet. She answered that he had; that he was ill and tired, and vexed, and
that he had gone to bed. The agent asked in an eager whisper if she knew
that he was asleep, and alone in bed? and, when he received her reply,
said that he must go up into the bedroom directly.

She began to feel the faintness coming over her again, and with it
sensations of loathing and terror that she could neither express to
others nor define to herself. He said that if she hesitated to let him
avail himself of this unexpected opportunity, her scruples might lead
to fatal results. He reminded her that if "the baron" were really the
convict Monbrun, the claims of society and of justice demanded that he
should be discovered by the first available means; and that if he were
not--if some inconceivable mistake had really been committed--then such
a plan for getting immediately at the truth as was now proposed would
insure the delivery of an innocent man from suspicion; and at the same
time spare him the knowledge that he had ever been suspected. This last
argument had its effect on Miss Welwyn. The baseless, helpless hope that
the French authorities might yet be proved to be in error, which she
had already felt in her own room, returned to her now. She suffered the
agent to lead her upstairs.

He took the candle from her hand when she pointed to the door; opened it
softly; and, leaving it ajar, went into the room.

She looked through the gap with a feverish, horror-struck curiosity.
Franval was lying on his side in a profound sleep, with his back
turned toward the door. The agent softly placed the candle upon a small
reading-table between the door and the bedside, softly drew down the
bed-clothes a little away from the sleeper's back, then took a pair of
scissors from the toilet-table, and very gently and slowly began to cut
away, first the loose folds, then the intervening strips of linen, from
the part of Franval's night-gown that was over his shoulders. When the
upper part of his back had been bared in this way, the agent took the
candle and held it near the flesh. Miss Welwyn heard him ejaculate
some word under his breath, then saw him looking round to where she was
standing, and beckoning to her to come in.

Mechanically she obeyed; mechanically she looked down where his finger
was pointing. It was the convict Monbrun--there, just visible under the
bright light of the candle, were the fatal letters "T. F." branded on
the villain's shoulder!

Though she could neither move nor speak, the horror of this discovery
did not deprive her of her consciousness. She saw the agent softly
draw up the bed-clothes again into their proper position, replace
the scissors on the toilet-table, and take from it a bottle of
smelling-salts. She felt him removing her from the bedroom, and helping
her quickly downstairs, giving her the salts to smell to by the way.
When they were alone again, he said, with the first appearance of
agitation that he had yet exhibited, "Now, madam, for God's sake,
collect all your courage, and be guided by me. You and your sister
had better leave the house immediately. Have you any relatives in the
neighborhood with whom you could take refuge?" They had none. "What is
the name of the nearest town where you could get good accommodation for
the night?" Harleybrook (he wrote the name down on his tablets). "How
far off is it?" Twelve miles. "You had better have the carriage out at
once, to go there with as little delay as possible, leaving me to pass
the night here. I will communicate with you to-morrow at the principal
hotel. Can you compose yourself sufficiently to be able to tell the head
servant, if I ring for him, that he is to obey my orders till further
notice?" The servant was summoned, and received his instructions, the
agent going out with him to see that the carriage was got ready quietly
and quickly. Miss Welwyn went upstairs to her sister.

How the fearful news was first broken to Rosamond, I cannot relate
to you. Miss Welwyn has never confided to me, has never confided to
anybody, what happened at the interview between her sister and herself
that night. I can tell you nothing of the shock they both suffered,
except that the younger and the weaker died under it; that the elder and
the stronger has never recovered from it, and never will.

They went away the same night, with one attendant, to Harleybrook, as
the agent had advised. Before daybreak Rosamond was seized with the
pains of premature labor. She died three days after, unconscious of the
horror of her situation, wandering in her mind about past times, and
singing old tunes that Ida had taught her as she lay in her sister's
arms.

The child was born alive, and lives still. You saw her at the window as
we came in at the back way to the Grange. I surprised you, I dare say,
by asking you not to speak of her to Miss Welwyn. Perhaps you noticed
something vacant in the little girl's expression. I am sorry to say that
her mind is more vacant still. If "idiot" did not sound like a mocking
word, however tenderly and pityingly one may wish to utter it, I should
tell you that the poor thing had been an idiot from her birth.

You will, doubtless, want to hear now what happened at Glenwith Grange
after Miss Welwyn and her sister had left it. I have seen the letter
which the police agent sent the next morning to Harleybrook; and,
speaking from my recollection of that, I shall be able to relate all you
can desire to know.

First, as to the past history of the scoundrel Monbrun, I need only tell
you that he was identical with an escaped convict, who, for a long term
of years, had successfully eluded the vigilance of the authorities
all over Europe, and in America as well. In conjunction with two
accomplices, he had succeeded in possessing himself of large sums of
money by the most criminal means. He also acted secretly as the "banker"
of his convict brethren, whose dishonest gains were all confided to
his hands for safe-keeping. He would have been certainly captured, on
venturing back to France, along with his two associates, but for the
daring imposture in which he took refuge; and which, if the true
Baron Franval had really died abroad, as was reported, would, in all
probability, never have been found out.

Besides his extraordinary likeness to the baron, he had every other
requisite for carrying on his deception successfully. Though his parents
were not wealthy, he had received a good education. He was so notorious
for his gentleman-like manners among the villainous associates of his
crimes and excesses, that they nicknamed him "the Prince." All his early
life had been passed in the neighborhood of the Chateau Franval. He knew
what were the circumstances which had induced the baron to leave it. He
had been in the country to which the baron had emigrated. He was able
to refer familiarly to persons and localities, at home and abroad,
with which the baron was sure to be acquainted. And, lastly, he had an
expatriation of fifteen years to plead for him as his all-sufficient
excuse, if he made any slight mistakes before the baron's sisters,
in his assumed character of their long-absent brother. It will be, of
course, hardly necessary for me to tell you, in relation to this part
of the subject, that the true Franval was immediately and honorably
reinstated in the family rights of which the impostor had succeeded for
a time in depriving him.

According to Monbrun's own account, he had married poor Rosamond purely
for love; and the probabilities certainly are, that the pretty, innocent
English girl had really struck the villain's fancy for the time; and
that the easy, quiet life he was leading at the Grange pleased him, by
contrast with his perilous and vagabond existence of former days. What
might have happened if he had had time enough to grow wearied of his
ill-fated wife and his English home, it is now useless to inquire. What
really did happen on the morning when he awoke after the flight of Ida
and her sister can be briefly told.

As soon as his eyes opened they rested on the police agent, sitting
quietly by the bedside, with a loaded pistol in his hand. Monbrun knew
immediately that he was discovered; but he never for an instant lost the
self-possession for which he was famous. He said he wished to have five
minutes allowed him to deliberate quietly in bed, whether he should
resist the French authorities on English ground, and so gain time by
obliging the one Government to apply specially to have him delivered up
by the other--or whether he should accept the terms officially offered
to him by the agent, if he quietly allowed himself to be captured.
He chose the latter course--it was suspected, because he wished to
communicate personally with some of his convict associates in France,
whose fraudulent gains were in his keeping, and because he felt
boastfully confident of being able to escape again, whenever he pleased.
Be his secret motives, however, what they might, he allowed the agent to
conduct him peaceably from the Grange; first writing a farewell
letter to poor Rosamond, full of heartless French sentiment and glib
sophistries about Fate and Society. His own fate was not long in
overtaking him. He attempted to escape again, as it had been expected
he would, and was shot by the sentinel on duty at the time. I remember
hearing that the bullet entered his head and killed him on the spot.

My story is done. It is ten years now since Rosamond was buried in the
churchyard yonder; and it is ten years also since Miss Welwyn returned
to be the lonely inhabitant of Glenwith Grange. She now lives but in
the remembrances that it calls up before her of her happier existence of
former days. There is hardly an object in the old house which does not
tenderly and solemnly remind her of the mother, whose last wishes she
lived to obey; of the sister, whose happiness was once her dearest
earthly care. Those prints that you noticed on the library walls
Rosamond used to copy in the past time, when her pencil was often guided
by Ida's hand. Those music-books that you were looking over, she and her
mother have played from together through many a long and quiet summer's
evening. She has no ties now to bind her to the present but the poor
child whose affliction it is her constant effort to lighten, and the
little peasant population around her, whose humble cares and wants
and sorrows she is always ready to relieve. Far and near her modest
charities have penetrated among us; and far and near she is heartily
beloved and blessed in many a laborer's household. There is no poor
man's hearth, not in this village only, but for miles away from it as
well, at which you would not be received with the welcome given to an
old friend, if you only told the cottagers that you knew the Lady of
Glenwith Grange!

PROLOGUE TO THE FIFTH STORY.

The next piece of work which occupied my attention after taking leave
of Mr. Garthwaite, offered the strongest possible contrast to the task
which had last engaged me. Fresh from painting a bull at a farmhouse,
I set forth to copy a Holy Family, by Correggio, at a convent of nuns.
People who go to the Royal Academy Exhibition, and see pictures by
famous artists, painted year after year in the same marked style which
first made them celebrated, would be amazed indeed if they knew what
a Jack-of-all-trades a poor painter must become before he can gain his
daily bread.

The picture by Correggio which I was now commissioned to copy had been
lent to the nuns by a Catholic gentleman of fortune, who prized it as
the gem of his collection, and who had never before trusted it out of
his own hands. My copy, when completed, was to be placed over the high
altar of the convent chapel; and my work throughout its progress was
to be pursued entirely in the parlor of the nunnery, and always in the
watchful presence of one or other of the inmates of the house. It was
only on such conditions that the owner of the Correggio was willing to
trust his treasure out of his own hands, and to suffer it to be copied
by a stranger. The restrictions he imposed, which I thought sufficiently
absurd, and perhaps offensively suspicious as well, were communicated
to me politely enough before I was allowed to undertake the commission.
Unless I was inclined to submit to precautionary regulations which would
affect any other artist exactly as they affected me, I was told not
to think of offering to make the copy; and the nuns would then address
themselves to some other person in my profession. After a day's
consideration, I submitted to the restrictions, by my wife's advice,
and saved the nuns the trouble of making application for a copier of
Correggio in any other quarter.

I found the convent was charmingly situated in a quiet little valley
in the West of England. The parlor in which I was to paint was a large,
well-lighted apartment; and the village inn, about half a mile off,
afforded me cheap and excellent quarters for the night. Thus far,
therefore, there was nothing to complain of. As for the picture, which
was the next object of interest to me, I was surprised to find that
the copying of it would be by no means so difficult a task as I had
anticipated. I am rather of a revolutionary spirit in matters of art,
and am bold enough to think that the old masters have their faults
as well as their beauties. I can give my opinion, therefore, on the
Correggio at the convent independently at least. Looked at technically,
the picture was a fine specimen of coloring and execution; but looked
at for the higher merits of delicacy, elevation, and feeling for the
subject, it deserved copying as little as the most commonplace work that
any unlucky modern artist ever produced. The faces of the Holy
Family not only failed to display the right purity and tenderness of
expression, but absolutely failed to present any expression at all. It
is flat heresy to say so, but the valuable Correggio was nevertheless
emphatically, and, in so many words, a very uninteresting picture.

So much for the convent and the work that I was to do in it. My next
anxiety was to see how the restrictions imposed on me were to be carried
out. The first day, the Mother Superior herself mounted guard in the
parlor--a stern, silent, fanatical-looking woman, who seemed determined
to awe me and make me uncomfortable, and who succeeded thoroughly in
the execution of her purpose. The second day she was relieved by the
officiating priest of the convent--a mild, melancholy, gentleman-like
man, with whom I got on tolerably well. The third day, I had for
overlooker the portress of the house--a dirty, dismal, deaf, old woman,
who did nothing but knit stockings and chew orris-root. The fourth day,
a middle-aged nun, whom I heard addressed as Mother Martha, occupied the
post of guardian to the precious Correggio; and with her the number of
my overlookers terminated. She, and the portress, and the priest, and
the Mother Superior, relieved each other with military regularity, until
I had put the last touch to my copy. I found them ready for me every
morning on entering the parlor, and I left them in the chair of
observation every evening on quitting it. As for any young and beautiful
nuns who might have been in the building, I never so much as set eyes
on the ends of their veils. From the door to the parlor, and from the
parlor to the door, comprised the whole of my experience of the inside
of the convent.

The only one of my superintending companions with whom I established
anything like a familiar acquaintance was Mother Martha. She had no
outward attractions to recommend her; but she was simple, good-humored,
ready to gossip, and inquisitive to a perfectly incredible degree. Her
whole life had been passed in the nunnery; she was thoroughly accustomed
to her seclusion, thoroughly content with the monotonous round of her
occupations; not at all anxious to see the world for herself; but, on
the other hand, insatiably curious to know all about it from others.
There was no question connected with myself, my wife, my children, my
friends, my profession, my income, my travels, my favorite amusements,
and even my favorite sins, which a woman could ask a man, that Mother
Martha did not, in the smallest and softest of voices, ask of me. Though
an intelligent, well-informed person in all that related to her
own special vocation, she was a perfect child in everything else. I
constantly caught myself talking to her, just as I should have talked at
home to one of my own little girls.

I hope no one will think that, in expressing myself thus, I am writing
disparagingly of the poor nun. On two accounts, I shall always feel
compassionately and gratefully toward Mother Martha. She was the only
person in the convent who seemed sincerely anxious to make her presence
in the parlor as agreeable to me as possible; and she good-humoredly
told me the story which it is my object in these pages to introduce to
the reader. In both ways I am deeply indebted to her; and I hope always
to remember the obligation.

The circumstances under which the story came to be related to me may be
told in very few words.

The interior of a convent parlor being a complete novelty to me, I
looked around with some interest on first entering my painting-room at
the nunnery. There was but little in it to excite the curiosity of any
one. The floor was covered with common matting, and the ceiling with
plain whitewash. The furniture was of the simplest kind; a low
chair with a praying-desk fixed to the back, and a finely carved oak
book-case, studded all over with brass crosses, being the only useful
objects that I could discern which had any conventional character about
them. As for the ornaments of the room, they were entirely beyond my
appreciation. I could feel no interest in the colored prints of saints,
with gold platters at the backs of their heads, that hung on the wall;
and I could see nothing particularly impressive in the two plain little
alabaster pots for holy water, fastened, one near the door, the other
over the chimney-piece. The only object, indeed, in the whole room which
in the slightest degree attracted my curiosity was an old worm-eaten
wooden cross, made in the rudest manner, hanging by itself on a slip
of wall between two windows. It was so strangely rough and misshapen
a thing to exhibit prominently in a neat room, that I suspected some
history must be attached to it, and resolved to speak to my friend the
nun about it at the earliest opportunity.

"Mother Martha," said I, taking advantage of the first pause in the
succession of quaintly innocent questions which she was as usual
addressing to me, "I have been looking at that rough old cross
hanging between the windows, and fancying that it must surely be some
curiosity--"

"Hush! hush!" exclaimed the nun, "you must not speak of that as a
'curiosity'; the Mother Superior calls it a Relic."

"I beg your pardon," said I; "I ought to have chosen my expressions more
carefully--"

"Not," interposed Mother Martha, nodding to show me that my apology need
not be finished--"not that it is exactly a relic in the strict Catholic
sense of the word; but there were circumstances in the life of the
person who made it--" Here she stopped, and looked at me doubtfully.

"Circumstances, perhaps, which it is not considered advisable to
communicate to strangers," I suggested.

"Oh, no!" answered the nun, "I never heard that they were to be kept a
secret. They were not told as a secret to me."

"Then you know all about them?" I asked.

"Certainly. I could tell you the whole history of the wooden cross; but
it is all about Catholics, and you are a Protestant."

"That, Mother Martha, does not make it at all less interesting to me."

"Does it not, indeed?" exclaimed the nun, innocently. "What a strange
man you are! and what a remarkable religion yours must be! What do your
priests say about ours? Are they learned men, your priests?"

I felt that my chance of hearing Mother Martha's story would be a poor
one indeed, if I allowed her to begin a fresh string of questions.
Accordingly, I dismissed the inquiries about the clergy of the
Established Church with the most irreverent briefness, and recalled her
attention forthwith to the subject of the wooden cross.

"Yes, yes," said the good-natured nun; "surely you shall hear all I can
tell you about it; but--" she hesitated timidly, "but I must ask the
Mother Superior's leave first."

Saying these words, she summoned the portress, to my great amusement, to
keep guard over the inestimable Correggio in her absence, and left the
room. In less than five minutes she came back, looking quite happy and
important in her innocent way.

"The Mother Superior," she said, "has given me leave to tell all I know
about the wooden cross. She says it may do you good, and improve your
Protestant opinion of us Catholics."

I expressed myself as being both willing and anxious to profit by what I
heard; and the nun began her narrative immediately.

She related it in her own simple, earnest, minute way; dwelling as
long on small particulars as on important incidents; and making moral
reflections for my benefit at every place where it was possible to
introduce them. In spite, however, of these drawbacks in the telling of
it, the story interested and impressed me in no ordinary degree; and
I now purpose putting the events of it together as skillfully and
strikingly as I can, in the hope that this written version of the
narrative may appeal as strongly to the reader's sympathies as the
spoken version did to mine.



THE NUN'S STORY OF GABRIEL'S MARRIAGE



CHAPTER I.

One night, during the period of the first French Revolution, the family
of Francois Sarzeau, a fisherman of Brittany, were all waking and
watching at a late hour in their cottage on the peninsula of Quiberon.
Francois had gone out in his boat that evening, as usual, to fish.
Shortly after his departure, the wind had risen, the clouds had
gathered; and the storm, which had been threatening at intervals
throughout the whole day, burst forth furiously about nine o'clock.
It was now eleven; and the raging of the wind over the barren, heathy
peninsula still seemed to increase with each fresh blast that tore its
way out upon the open sea; the crashing of the waves on the beach was
awful to hear; the dreary blackness of the sky terrible to behold. The
longer they listened to the storm, the oftener they looked out at it,
the fainter grew the hopes which the fisherman's family still strove to
cherish for the safety of Francois Sarzeau and of his younger son who
had gone with him in the boat.

There was something impressive in the simplicity of the scene that was
now passing within the cottage.

On one side of the great, rugged, black fire-place crouched two little
girls; the younger half asleep, with her head in her sister's lap. These
were the daughters of the fisherman; and opposite to them sat their
eldest brother, Gabriel. His right arm had been badly wounded in a
recent encounter at the national game of the _Soule_, a sport resembling
our English foot-ball; but played on both sides in such savage earnest
by the people of Brittany as to end always in bloodshed, often in
mutilation, sometimes even in loss of life. On the same bench with
Gabriel sat his betrothed wife--a girl of eighteen--clothed in the
plain, almost monastic black-and-white costume of her native district.
She was the daughter of a small farmer living at some little distance
from the coast. Between the groups formed on either side of the
fire-place, the vacant space was occupied by the foot of a truckle-bed.
In this bed lay a very old man, the father of Francois Sarzeau. His
haggard face was covered with deep wrinkles; his long white hair flowed
over the coarse lump of sacking which served him for a pillow, and
his light gray eyes wandered incessantly, with a strange expression of
terror and suspicion, from person to person, and from object to object,
in all parts of the room. Whenever the wind and sea whistled and roared
at their loudest, he muttered to himself and tossed his hands fretfully
on his wretched coverlet. On these occasions his eyes always fixed
themselves intently on a little delf image of the Virgin placed in
a niche over the fire-place. Every time they saw him look in this
direction Gabriel and the young girls shuddered and crossed themselves;
and even the child, who still kept awake, imitated their example.
There was one bond of feeling at least between the old man and his
grandchildren, which connected his age and their youth unnaturally and
closely together. This feeling was reverence for the superstitions
which had been handed down to them by their ancestors from centuries
and centuries back, as far even as the age of the Druids. The spirit
warnings of disaster and death which the old man heard in the wailing
of the wind, in the crashing of the waves, in the dreary, monotonous
rattling of the casement, the young man and his affianced wife and the
little child who cowered by the fireside heard too. All differences in
sex, in temperament, in years, superstition was strong enough to strike
down to its own dread level, in the fisherman's cottage, on that stormy
night.

Besides the benches by the fireside and the bed, the only piece of
furniture in the room was a coarse wooden table, with a loaf of black
bread, a knife, and a pitcher of cider placed on it. Old nets, coils
of rope, tattered sails, hung, about the walls and over the wooden
partition which separated the room into two compartments. Wisps of straw
and ears of barley drooped down through the rotten rafters and gaping
boards that made the floor of the granary above.

These different objects, and the persons in the cottage, who composed
the only surviving members of the fisherman's family, were strangely and
wildly lit up by the blaze of the fire and by the still brighter glare
of a resin torch stuck into a block of wood in the chimney-corner. The
red and yellow light played full on the weird face of the old man as
he lay opposite to it, and glanced fitfully on the figures of the young
girl, Gabriel, and the two children; the great, gloomy shadows rose
and fell, and grew and lessened in bulk about the walls like visions
of darkness, animated by a supernatural specter-life, while the dense
obscurity outside spreading before the curtainless window seemed as a
wall of solid darkness that had closed in forever around the fisherman's
house. The night scene within the cottage was almost as wild and as
dreary to look upon as the night scene without.

For a long time the different persons in the room sat together without
speaking, even without looking at each other. At last the girl turned
and whispered something into Gabriel's ear:

"Perrine, what were you saying to Gabriel?" asked the child opposite,
seizing the first opportunity of breaking the desolate silence--doubly
desolate at her age--which was preserved by all around her.

"I was telling him," answered Perrine, simply, "that it was time to
change the bandages on his arm; and I also said to him, what I have
often said before, that he must never play at that terrible game of the
_Soule_ again."

The old man had been looking intently at Perrine and his grandchild as
they spoke. His harsh, hollow voice mingled with the last soft tones of
the young girl, repeating over and over again the same terrible words,
"Drowned! drowned! Son and grandson, both drowned! both drowned!"

"Hush, grandfather," said Gabriel, "we must not lose all hope for them
yet. God and the Blessed Virgin protect them!" He looked at the little
delf image, and crossed himself; the others imitated him, except the old
man. He still tossed his hands over the coverlet, and still repeated,
"Drowned! drowned!"

"Oh, that accursed _Soule!_" groaned the young man. "But for this wound
I should have been with my father. The poor boy's life might at least
have been saved; for we should then have left him here."

"Silence!" exclaimed the harsh voice from the bed. "The wail of dying
men rises louder than the loud sea; the devil's psalm-singing roars
higher than the roaring wind! Be silent, and listen! Francois drowned!
Pierre drowned! Hark! Hark!"

A terrific blast of wind burst over the house as he spoke, shaking it to
its center, overpowering all other sounds, even to the deafening crash
of the waves. The slumbering child awoke, and uttered a scream of
fear. Perrine, who had been kneeling before her lover binding the fresh
bandages on his wounded arm, paused in her occupation, trembling from
head to foot. Gabriel looked toward the window; his experience told him
what must be the hurricane fury of that blast of wind out at sea, and
he sighed bitterly as he murmured to himself, "God help them both--man's
help will be as nothing to them now!"

"Gabriel!" cried the voice from the bed in altered tones--very faint and
trembling.

He did not hear or did not attend to the old man. He was trying to
soothe and encourage the young girl at his feet.

"Don't be frightened, love," he said, kissing her very gently and
tenderly on the forehead. "You are as safe here as anywhere. Was I not
right in saying that it would be madness to attempt taking you back to
the farmhouse this evening? You can sleep in that room, Perrine, when
you are tired--you can sleep with the two girls."

"Gabriel! brother Gabriel!" cried one of the children. "Oh, look at
grandfather!"

Gabriel ran to the bedside. The old man had raised himself into a
sitting position; his eyes were dilated, his whole face was rigid with
terror, his hands were stretched out convulsively toward his grandson.
"The White Women!" he screamed. "The White Women; the grave-diggers of
the drowned are out on the sea!"

The children, with cries of terror, flung themselves into Perrine's
arms; even Gabriel uttered an exclamation of horror, and started back
from the bedside.

Still the old man reiterated, "The White Women! The White Women! Open
the door, Gabriel! look-out westward, where the ebb-tide has left the
sand dry. You'll see them bright as lightning in the darkness, mighty
as the angels in stature, sweeping like the wind over the sea, in their
long white garments, with their white hair trailing far behind them!
Open the door, Gabriel! You'll see them stop and hover over the place
where your father and your brother have been drowned; you'll see them
come on till they reach the sand, you'll see them dig in it with their
naked feet and beckon awfully to the raging sea to give up its dead.
Open the door, Gabriel--or, though it should be the death of me, I will
get up and open it myself!"

Gabriel's face whitened even to his lips, but he made a sign that he
would obey. It required the exertion of his whole strength to keep the
door open against the wind while he looked out.

"Do you see them, grandson Gabriel? Speak the truth, and tell me if you
see them," cried the old man.

"I see nothing but darkness--pitch darkness," answered Gabriel, letting
the door close again.

"Ah! woe! woe!" groaned his grandfather, sinking back exhausted on the
pillow. "Darkness to _you;_ but bright as lightning to the eyes that
are allowed to see them. Drowned! drowned! Pray for their souls,
Gabriel--_I_ see the White Women even where I lie, and dare not pray for
them. Son and grandson drowned! both drowned!"

The young man went back to Perrine and the children.

"Grandfather is very ill to-night," he whispered. "You had better all go
into the bedroom, and leave me alone to watch by him."

They rose as he spoke, crossed themselves before the image of the
Virgin, kissed him one by one, and, without uttering a word, softly
entered the little room on the other side of the partition. Gabriel
looked at his grandfather, and saw that he lay quiet now, with his eyes
closed as if he were already dropping asleep. The young man then heaped
some fresh logs on the fire, and sat down by it to watch till morning.

Very dreary was the moaning of the night storm; but it was not
more dreary than the thoughts which now occupied him in his
solitude--thoughts darkened and distorted by the terrible superstitions
of his country and his race. Ever since the period of his mother's death
he had been oppressed by the conviction that some curse hung over the
family. At first they had been prosperous, they had got money, a little
legacy had been left them. But this good fortune had availed only for
a time; disaster on disaster strangely and suddenly succeeded. Losses,
misfortunes, poverty, want itself had overwhelmed them; his father's
temper had become so soured, that the oldest friends of Francois Sarzeau
declared he was changed beyond recognition. And now, all this past
misfortune--the steady, withering, household blight of many years--had
ended in the last, worst misery of all--in death. The fate of his
father and his brother admitted no longer of a doubt; he knew it, as he
listened to the storm, as he reflected on his grandfather's words, as
he called to mind his own experience of the perils of the sea. And this
double bereavement had fallen on him just as the time was approaching
for his marriage with Perrine; just when misfortune was most ominous of
evil, just when it was hardest to bear! Forebodings, which he dared not
realize, began now to mingle with the bitterness of his grief, whenever
his thoughts wandered from the present to the future; and as he sat by
the lonely fireside, murmuring from time to time the Church prayer for
the repose of the dead, he almost involuntarily mingled with it another
prayer, expressed only in his own simple words, for the safety of the
living--for the young girl whose love was his sole earthly treasure; for
the motherless children who must now look for protection to him alone.

He had sat by the hearth a long, long time, absorbed in his thoughts,
not once looking round toward the bed, when he was startled by hearing
the sound of his grandfather's voice once more.

"Gabriel," whispered the old man, trembling and shrinking as he spoke,
"Gabriel, do you hear a dripping of water--now slow, now quick again--on
the floor at the foot of my bed?"

"I hear nothing, grandfather, but the crackling of the fire, and the
roaring of the storm outside."

"Drip, drip, drip! Faster and faster; plainer and plainer. Take the
torch, Gabriel; look down on the floor--look with all your eyes. Is the
place wet there? Is it the rain from heaven that is dropping through the
roof?"

Gabriel took the torch with trembling fingers and knelt down on the
floor to examine it closely. He started back from the place, as he saw
that it was quite dry--the torch dropped upon the hearth--he fell on his
knees before the statue of the Virgin and hid his face.

"Is the floor wet? Answer me, I command you--is the floor wet?" asked
the old man, quickly and breathlessly.

Gabriel rose, went back to the bedside, and whispered to him that no
drop of rain had fallen inside the cottage. As he spoke the words, he
saw a change pass over his grandfather's face--the sharp features
seemed to wither up on a sudden; the eager expression to grow vacant
and death-like in an instant. The voice, too, altered; it was harsh and
querulous no more; its tones became strangely soft, slow, and solemn,
when the old man spoke again.

"I hear it still," he said, "drip! drip! faster and plainer than ever.
That ghostly dropping of water is the last and the surest of the
fatal signs which have told of your father's and your brother's deaths
to-night, and I know from the place where I hear it--the foot of the
bed I lie on--that it is a warning to me of my own approaching end. I am
called where my son and my grandson have gone before me; my weary time
in this world is over at last. Don't let Perrine and the children come
in here, if they should awake--they are too young to look at death."

Gabriel's blood curdled when he heard these words--when he touched his
grandfather's hand, and felt the chill that it struck to his own--when
he listened to the raging wind, and knew that all help was miles and
miles away from the cottage. Still, in spite of the storm, the darkness,
and the distance, he thought not for a moment of neglecting the duty
that had been taught him from his childhood--the duty of summoning the
priest to the bedside of the dying. "I must call Perrine," he said, "to
watch by you while I am away."

"Stop!" cried the old man. "Stop, Gabriel; I implore, I command you not
to leave me!"

"The priest, grandfather--your confession--"

"It must be made to you. In this darkness and this hurricane no man can
keep the path across the heath. Gabriel, I am dying--I should be dead
before you got back. Gabriel, for the love of the Blessed Virgin, stop
here with me till I die--my time is short--I have a terrible secret that
I must tell to somebody before I draw my last breath! Your ear to my
mouth--quick! quick!"

As he spoke the last words, a slight noise was audible on the other
side of the partition, the door half opened, and Perrine appeared at
it, looking affrightedly into the room. The vigilant eyes of the old
man--suspicious even in death--caught sight of her directly.

"Go back!" he exclaimed faintly, before she could utter a word; "go
back--push her back, Gabriel, and nail down the latch in the door, if
she won't shut it of herself!"

"Dear Perrine! go in again," implored Gabriel. "Go in, and keep the
children from disturbing us. You will only make him worse--you can be of
no use here!"

She obeyed without speaking, and shut the door again.

While the old man clutched him by the arm, and repeated, "Quick! quick!
your ear close to my mouth," Gabriel heard her say to the children (who
were both awake), "Let us pray for grandfather." And as he knelt down
by the bedside, there stole on his ear the sweet, childish tones of his
little sisters, and the soft, subdued voice of the young girl who was
teaching them the prayer, mingling divinely with the solemn wailing
of wind and sea, rising in a still and awful purity over the hoarse,
gasping whispers of the dying man.

"I took an oath not to tell it, Gabriel--lean down closer! I'm weak, and
they mustn't hear a word in that room--I took an oath not to tell it;
but death is a warrant to all men for breaking such an oath as that.
Listen; don't lose a word I'm saying! Don't look away into the room: the
stain of blood-guilt has defiled it forever! Hush! hush! hush! Let me
speak. Now your father's dead, I can't carry the horrid secret with me
into the grave. Just remember, Gabriel--try if you can't remember the
time before I was bedridden, ten years ago and more--it was about six
weeks, you know, before your mother's death; you can remember it by
that. You and all the children were in that room with your mother; you
were asleep, I think; it was night, not very late--only nine o'clock.
Your father and I were standing at the door, looking out at the heath in
the moonlight. He was so poor at that time, he had been obliged to sell
his own boat, and none of the neighbors would take him out fishing with
them--your father wasn't liked by any of the neighbors. Well; we saw
a stranger coming toward us; a very young man, with a knapsack on his
back. He looked like a gentleman, though he was but poorly dressed. He
came up, and told us he was dead tired, and didn't think he could reach
the town that night and asked if we would give him shelter till morning.
And your father said yes, if he would make no noise, because the wife
was ill, and the children were asleep. So he said all he wanted was
to go to sleep himself before the fire. We had nothing to give him
but black bread. He had better food with him than that, and undid his
knapsack to get at it, and--and--Gabriel! I'm sinking--drink! something
to drink--I'm parched with thirst."

Silent and deadly pale, Gabriel poured some of the cider from the
pitcher on the table into a drinking-cup, and gave it to the old man.
Slight as the stimulant was, its effect on him was almost instantaneous.
His dull eyes brightened a little, and he went on in the same whispering
tones as before:

"He pulled the food out of his knapsack rather in a hurry, so that some
of the other small things in it fell on the floor. Among these was a
pocketbook, which your father picked up and gave him back; and he put
it in his coat-pocket--there was a tear in one of the sides of the book,
and through the hole some bank-notes bulged out. I saw them, and so did
your father (don't move away, Gabriel; keep close, there's nothing in me
to shrink from). Well, he shared his food, like an honest fellow,
with us; and then put his hand in his pocket, and gave me four or five
livres, and then lay down before the fire to go to sleep. As he shut
his eyes, your father looked at me in a way I didn't like. He'd been
behaving very bitterly and desperately toward us for some time past,
being soured about poverty, and your mother's illness, and the constant
crying out of you children for more to eat. So when he told me to go and
buy some wood, some bread, and some wine with money I had got, I
didn't like, somehow, to leave him alone with the stranger; and so made
excuses, saying (which was true) that it was too late to buy things in
the village that night. But he told me in a rage to go and do as he bid
me, and knock the people up if the shop was shut. So I went out,
being dreadfully afraid of your father--as indeed we all were at that
time--but I couldn't make up my mind to go far from the house; I was
afraid of something happening, though I didn't dare to think what. I
don't know how it was, but I stole back in about ten minutes on tiptoe
to the cottage; I looked in at the window, and saw--O God! forgive him!
O God! forgive me!--I saw--I--more to drink, Gabriel! I can't speak
again--more to drink!"

The voices in the next room had ceased; but in the minute of silence
which now ensued, Gabriel heard his sisters kissing Perrine, and wishing
her good-night. They were all three trying to go asleep again.

"Gabriel, pray yourself, and teach your children after you to pray,
that your father may find forgiveness where he is now gone. I saw him as
plainly as I now see you, kneeling with his knife in one hand over the
sleeping man. He was taking the little book with the notes in it out of
the stranger's pocket. He got the book into his possession, and held it
quite still in his hand for an instant, thinking. I believe--oh no! no!
I'm sure--he was repenting; I'm sure he was going to put the book back;
but just at that moment the stranger moved, and raised one of his arms,
as if he was waking up. Then the temptation of the devil grew too strong
for your father--I saw him lift the hand with the knife in it--but saw
nothing more. I couldn't look in at the window--I couldn't move
away--I couldn't cry out; I stood with my back turned toward the house,
shivering all over, though it was a warm summer-time, and hearing no
cries, no noises at all, from the room behind me. I was too frightened
to know how long it was before the opening of the cottage door made me
turn round; but when I did, I saw your father standing before me in the
yellow moonlight, carrying in his arms the bleeding body of the poor
lad who had shared his food with us and slept on our hearth. Hush! hush!
Don't groan and sob in that way! Stifle it with the bedclothes. Hush!
you'll wake them in the next room!"

"Gabriel--Gabriel!" exclaimed a voice from behind the partition. "What
has happened? Gabriel! let me come out and be with you!"

"No! no!" cried the old man, collecting the last remains of his strength
in the attempt to speak above the wind, which was just then howling at
the loudest; "stay where you are--don't speak, don't come out--I command
you! Gabriel" (his voice dropped to a faint whisper), "raise me up in
bed--you must hear the whole of it now; raise me; I'm choking so that
I can hardly speak. Keep close and listen--I can't say much more. Where
was I?--Ah, your father! He threatened to kill me if I didn't swear to
keep it secret; and in terror of my life I swore. He made me help him to
carry the body--we took it all across the heath--oh! horrible, horrible,
under the bright moon--(lift me higher, Gabriel). You know the great
stones yonder, set up by the heathens; you know the hollow place under
the stones they call 'The Merchant's Table'; we had plenty of room to
lay him in that, and hide him so; and then we ran back to the cottage. I
never dared to go near the place afterward; no, nor your father either!
(Higher, Gabriel! I'm choking again.) We burned the pocket-book and the
knapsack--never knew his name--we kept the money to spend. (You're not
lifting me; you're not listening close enough!) Your father said it was
a legacy, when you and your mother asked about the money. (You hurt me,
you shake me to pieces, Gabriel, when you sob like that.) It brought
a curse on us, the money; the curse has drowned your father and your
brother; the curse is killing me; but I've confessed--tell the priest I
confessed before I died. Stop her; stop Perrine! I hear her getting up.
Take his bones away from the Merchant's Table, and bury them for the
love of God! and tell the priest (lift me higher, lift me till I am
on my knees)--if your father was alive, he'd murder me; but tell the
priest--because of my guilty soul--to pray, and--remember the Merchant's
Table--to bury, and to pray--to pray always for--"

As long as Perrine heard faintly the whispering of the old man, though
no word that he said reached her ear, she shrank from opening the door
in the partition. But, when the whispering sounds, which terrified her
she knew not how or why, first faltered, then ceased altogether; when
she heard the sobs that followed them; and when her heart told her who
was weeping in the next room--then, she began to be influenced by a new
feeling which was stronger than the strongest fear, and she opened the
door without hesitation, almost without trembling.

The coverlet was drawn up over the old man; Gabriel was kneeling by
the bedside, with his face hidden. When she spoke to him, he neither
answered nor looked at her. After a while the sobs that shook him
ceased; but still he never moved, except once when she touched him, and
then he shuddered--shuddered under _her_ hand! She called in his little
sisters, and they spoke to him, and still he uttered no word in reply.
They wept. One by one, often and often, they entreated him with loving
words; but the stupor of grief which held him speechless and motionless
was beyond the power of human tears, stronger even than the strength of
human love.

It was near daybreak, and the storm was lulling, but still no change
occurred at the bedside. Once or twice, as Perrine knelt near Gabriel,
still vainly endeavoring to arouse him to a sense of her presence, she
thought she heard the old man breathing feebly, and stretched out her
hand toward the coverlet; but she could not summon courage to touch him
or to look at him. This was the first time she had ever been present at
a death-bed; the stillness in the room, the stupor of despair that had
seized on Gabriel, so horrified her, that she was almost as helpless as
the two children by her side. It was not till the dawn looked in at the
cottage window--so coldly, so drearily, and yet so re-assuringly--that
she began to recover her self-possession at all. Then she knew that her
best resource would be to summon assistance immediately from the nearest
house. While she was trying to persuade the two children to remain
alone in the cottage with Gabriel during her temporary absence, she was
startled by the sound of footsteps outside the door. It opened, and a
man appeared on the threshold, standing still there for a moment in the
dim, uncertain light.

She looked closer--looked intently at him. It was Francois Sarzeau
himself.



CHAPTER II.

The fisherman was dripping with wet; but his face, always pale and
inflexible, seemed to be but little altered in expression by the perils
through which he must have passed during the night. Young Pierre lay
almost insensible in his arms. In the astonishment and fright of the
first moment, Perrine screamed as she recognized him.

"There, there, there!" he said, peevishly, advancing straight to the
hearth with his burden; "don't make a noise. You never expected to
see us alive again, I dare say. We gave ourselves up as lost, and only
escaped after all by a miracle."

He laid the boy down where he could get the full warmth of the fire; and
then, turning round, took a wicker-covered bottle from his pocket,
and said, "If it hadn't been for the brandy--" He stopped
suddenly--started--put down the bottle on the bench near him--and
advanced quickly to the bedside.

Perrine looked after him as he went; and saw Gabriel, who had risen when
the door was opened, moving back from the bed as Francois approached.
The young man's face seemed to have been suddenly struck to stone--its
blank, ghastly whiteness was awful to look at. He moved slowly backward
and backward till he came to the cottage wall--then stood quite still,
staring on his father with wild, vacant eyes, moving his hands to and
fro before him, muttering, but never pronouncing one audible word.

Francois did not appear to notice his son; he had the coverlet of the
bed in his hand.

"Anything the matter here?" he asked, as he drew it down.

Still Gabriel could not speak. Perrine saw it, and answered for him.

"Gabriel is afraid that his poor grandfather is dead," she whispered,
nervously.

"Dead!" There was no sorrow in the tone as he echoed the word. "Was he
very bad in the night before his death happened? Did he wander in his
mind? He has been rather light-headed lately."

"He was very restless, and spoke of the ghostly warnings that we all
know of; he said he saw and heard many things which told him from
the other world that you and Pierre--Gabriel!" she screamed, suddenly
interrupting herself, "look at him! Look at his face! Your grandfather
is not dead!"

At this moment, Francois was raising his father's head to look closely
at him. A faint spasm had indeed passed over the deathly face; the lips
quivered, the jaw dropped. Francois shuddered as he looked, and moved
away hastily from the bed. At the same instant Gabriel started from the
wall; his expression altered, his pale cheeks flushed suddenly, as he
snatched up the wicker-cased bottle, and poured all the little brandy
that was left in it down his grandfather's throat.

The effect was nearly instantaneous; the sinking vital forces rallied
desperately. The old man's eyes opened again, wandered round the room,
then fixed themselves intently on Francois as he stood near the fire.
Trying and terrible as his position was at that moment, Gabriel still
retained self-possession enough to whisper a few words in Perrine's ear.
"Go back again into the bedroom, and take the children with you," he
said. "We may have something to speak about which you had better not
hear."

"Son Gabriel, your grandfather is trembling all over," said Francois.
"If he is dying at all, he is dying of cold; help me to lift him, bed
and all, to the hearth."

"No, no! don't let him touch me!" gasped the old man. "Don't let him
look at me in that way! Don't let him come near me, Gabriel! Is it his
ghost? or is it himself?"

As Gabriel answered he heard a knocking at the door. His father opened
it, and disclosed to view some people from the neighboring fishing
village, who had come--more out of curiosity than sympathy--to inquire
whether Francois and the boy Pierre had survived the night. Without
asking any one to enter, the fisherman surlily and shortly answered the
various questions addressed to him, standing in his own doorway. While
he was thus engaged, Gabriel heard his grandfather muttering vacantly to
himself, "Last night--how about last night, grandson? What was I talking
about last night? Did I say your father was drowned? Very foolish to say
he was drowned, and then see him come back alive again! But it wasn't
that--I'm so weak in my head, I can't remember. What was it, Gabriel?
Something too horrible to speak of? Is that what you're whispering and
trembling about? I said nothing horrible. A crime! Bloodshed! I know
nothing of any crime or bloodshed here--I must have been frightened out
of my wits to talk in that way! The Merchant's Table? Only a big heap
of old stones! What with the storm, and thinking I was going to die,
and being afraid about your father, I must have been light-headed. Don't
give another thought to that nonsense, Gabriel! I'm better now. We shall
all live to laugh at poor grandfather for talking nonsense about
crime and bloodshed in his sleep. Ah, poor old man--last
night--light-headed--fancies and nonsense of an old man--why don't you
laugh at it? I'm laughing--so light-headed, so light--"

He stopped suddenly. A low cry, partly of terror and partly of pain,
escaped him; the look of pining anxiety and imbecile cunning which had
distorted his face while he had been speaking, faded from it forever.
He shivered a little, breathed heavily once or twice, then became quite
still.

Had he died with a falsehood on his lips?

Gabriel looked round and saw that the cottage door was closed, and
that his father was standing against it. How long he had occupied that
position, how many of the old man's last words he had heard, it was
impossible to conjecture, but there was a lowering suspicion in his
harsh face as he now looked away from the corpse to his son, which made
Gabriel shudder; and the first question that he asked, on once more
approaching the bedside, was expressed in tones which, quiet as they
were, had a fearful meaning in them.

"What did your grandfather talk about last night?" he asked.

Gabriel did not answer. All that he had heard, all that he had seen, all
the misery and horror that might yet be to come, had stunned his mind.
The unspeakable dangers of his present position were too tremendous to
be realized. He could only feel them vaguely in the weary torpor that
oppressed his heart; while in every other direction the use of his
faculties, physical and mental, seemed to have suddenly and totally
abandoned him.

"Is your tongue wounded, son Gabriel, as well as your arm?" his father
went on, with a bitter laugh. "I come back to you, saved by a miracle;
and you never speak to me. Would you rather I had died than the old man
there? He can't hear you now--why shouldn't you tell me what nonsense
he was talking last night? You won't? I say you shall!" (He crossed
the room and put his back to the door.) "Before either of us leave this
place, you shall confess it! You know that my duty to the Church bids
me to go at once and tell the priest of your grandfather's death. If I
leave that duty unfulfilled, remember it is through your fault! _You_
keep me here--for here I stop till I'm obeyed. Do you hear that, idiot?
Speak! Speak instantly, or you shall repeat it to the day of your death!
I ask again--what did your grandfather say to you when he was wandering
in his mind last night?"

"He spoke of a crime committed by another, and guiltily kept secret by
him," answered Gabriel, slowly and sternly. "And this morning he denied
his own words with his last living breath. But last night, if he spoke
the truth--"

"The truth!" echoed Francois. "What truth?"

He stopped, his eyes fell, then turned toward the corpse. For a few
minutes he stood steadily contemplating it; breathing quickly, and
drawing his hand several times across his forehead. Then he faced
his son once more. In that short interval he had become in outward
appearance a changed man; expression, voice, and manner, all were
altered.

"Heaven forgive me!" he went on, "but I could almost laugh at myself, at
this solemn moment, for having spoken and acted just now so much like a
fool! Denied his words, did he? Poor old man! they say sense often comes
back to light-headed people just before death; and he is a proof of it.
The fact is, Gabriel, my own wits must have been a little shaken--and no
wonder--by what I went through last night, and what I have come home
to this morning. As if you, or anybody, could ever really give serious
credit to the wandering speeches of a dying old man! (Where is Perrine?
Why did you send her away?) I don't wonder at your still looking a
little startled, and feeling low in your mind, and all that--for you've
had a trying night of it, trying in every way. He must have been a good
deal shaken in his wits last night, between fears about himself and
fears about me. (To think of my being angry with you, Gabriel, for being
a little alarmed--very naturally--by an old man's queer fancies!) Come
out, Perrine--come out of the bedroom whenever you are tired of it:
you must learn sooner or later to look at death calmly. Shake hands,
Gabriel; and let us make it up, and say no more about what has passed.
You won't? Still angry with me for what I said to you just now? Ah!
you'll think better about it by the time I return. Come out, Perrine;
we've no secrets here."

"Where are you going to?" asked Gabriel, as he saw his father hastily
open the door.

"To tell the priest that one of his congregation is dead, and to have
the death registered," answered Francois. "These are _my_ duties, and
must be performed before I take any rest."

He went out hurriedly as he said these words. Gabriel almost trembled
at himself when he found that he breathed more freely, that he felt less
horribly oppressed both in mind and body, the moment his father's back
was turned. Fearful as thought was now, it was still a change for the
better to be capable of thinking at all. Was the behavior of his father
compatible with innocence? Could the old man's confused denial of his
own words in the morning, and in the presence of his son, be set for one
instant against the circumstantial confession that he had made during
the night alone with his grandson? These were the terrible questions
which Gabriel now asked himself, and which he shrank involuntarily from
answering. And yet that doubt, the solution of which would, one way or
the other, irrevocably affect the whole future of his life, must sooner
or later be solved at any hazard!

Was there any way of setting it at rest? Yes, one way--to go instantly,
while his father was absent, and examine the hollow place under the
Merchant's Table. If his grandfather's confession had really been made
while he was in possession of his senses, this place (which Gabriel knew
to be covered in from wind and weather) had never been visited since
the commission of the crime by the perpetrator, or by his unwilling
accomplice; though time had destroyed all besides, the hair and the
bones of the victim would still be left to bear witness to the truth--if
truth had indeed been spoken. As this conviction grew on him, the young
man's cheek paled; and he stopped irresolute half-way between the hearth
and the door. Then he looked down doubtfully at the corpse on the bed;
and then there came upon him suddenly a revulsion of feeling. A wild,
feverish impatience to know the worst without another instant of delay
possessed him. Only telling Perrine that he should be back soon, and
that she must watch by the dead in his absence, he left the cottage at
once, without waiting to hear her reply, even without looking back as he
closed the door behind him.

There were two tracks to the Merchant's Table. One, the longer of the
two, by the coast cliffs; the other across the heath. But this latter
path was also, for some little distance, the path which led to the
village and the church. He was afraid of attracting his father's
attention here, so he took the direction of the coast. At one spot the
track trended inland, winding round some of the many Druid monuments
scattered over the country. This place was on high ground, and commanded
a view, at no great distance, of the path leading to the village, just
where it branched off from the heathy ridge which ran in the direction
of the Merchant's Table. Here Gabriel descried the figure of a man
standing with his back toward the coast.

This figure was too far off to be identified with absolute certainty,
but it looked like, and might well be, Francois Sarzeau. Whoever he was,
the man was evidently uncertain which way he should proceed. When
he moved forward, it was first to advance several paces toward the
Merchant's Table; then he went back again toward the distant cottages
and the church. Twice he hesitated thus; the second time pausing long
before he appeared finally to take the way that led to the village.

Leaving the post of observation among the stones, at which he had
instinctively halted for some minutes past, Gabriel now proceeded on his
own path. Could this man really be his father? And if it were so, why
did Francois Sarzeau only determine to go to the village where his
business lay, after having twice vainly attempted to persevere in taking
the exactly opposite direction of the Merchant's Table? Did he really
desire to go there? Had he heard the name mentioned, when the old man
referred to it in his dying words? And had he failed to summon courage
enough to make all safe by removing--This last question was too horrible
to be pursued; Gabriel stifled it affrightedly in his own heart as he
went on.

He reached the great Druid monument without meeting a living soul on his
way. The sun was rising, and the mighty storm-clouds of the night were
parting asunder wildly over the whole eastward horizon. The waves still
leaped and foamed gloriously: but the gale had sunk to a keen, fresh
breeze. As Gabriel looked up, and saw how brightly the promise of a
lovely day was written in the heavens, he trembled as he thought of
the search which he was now about to make. The sight of the fair, fresh
sunrise jarred horribly with the suspicions of committed murder that
were rankling foully in his heart. But he knew that his errand must be
performed, and he nerved himself to go through with it; for he dared not
return to the cottage until the mystery had been cleared up at once and
forever.

The Merchant's Table was formed by two huge stones resting horizontally
on three others. In the troubled times of more than half a century ago,
regular tourists were unknown among the Druid monuments of Brittany; and
the entrance to the hollow place under the stones--since often visited
by strangers--was at this time nearly choked up by brambles and weeds.
Gabriel's first look at this tangled nook of briers convinced him that
the place had not been entered perhaps for years, by any living being.
Without allowing himself to hesitate (for he felt that the slightest
delay might be fatal to his resolution), he passed as gently as possible
through the brambles, and knelt down at the low, dusky, irregular
entrance of the hollow place under the stones.

His heart throbbed violently, his breath almost failed him; but he
forced himself to crawl a few feet into the cavity, and then groped with
his hand on the ground about him.

He touched something! Something which it made his flesh creep to handle;
something which he would fain have dropped, but which he grasped tight
in spite of himself. He drew back into the outer air and sunshine. Was
it a human bone? No! he had been the dupe of his own morbid terror--he
had only taken up a fragment of dried wood!

Feeling shame at such self-deception as this, he was about to throw the
wood from him before he re-entered the place, when another idea occurred
to him.

Though it was dimly lighted through one or two chinks in the stones, the
far part of the interior of the cavity was still too dusky to admit
of perfect examination by the eye, even on a bright sunshiny morning.
Observing this, he took out the tinder-box and matches, which, like the
other inhabitants of the district, he always carried about with him for
the purpose of lighting his pipe, determining to use the piece of wood
as a torch which might illuminate the darkest corner of the place when
he next entered it. Fortunately the wood had remained so long and had
been preserved so dry in its sheltered position, that it caught fire
almost as easily as a piece of paper. The moment it was fairly aflame
Gabriel went into the cavity, penetrating at once--this time--to its
furthest extremity.

He remained among the stones long enough for the wood to burn down
nearly to his hand. When he came out, and flung the burning fragment
from him, his face was flushed deeply, his eyes sparkled. He leaped
carelessly on to the heath, over the bushes through which he had
threaded his way so warily but a few minutes before, exclaiming, "I may
marry Perrine with a clear conscience now; I am the son of as honest a
man as there is in Brittany!"

He had closely examined the cavity in every corner, and not the
slightest sign that any dead body had ever been laid there was visible
in the hollow place under the Merchant's Table.



CHAPTER III.

"I may marry Perrine with a clear conscience now!"

There are some parts of the world where it would be drawing no natural
picture of human nature to represent a son as believing conscientiously
that an offense against life and the laws of hospitality, secretly
committed by his father, rendered him, though innocent of all
participation in it, unworthy to fulfill his engagement with his
affianced wife. Among the simple inhabitants of Gabriel's province,
however, such acuteness of conscientious sensibility as this was no
extraordinary exception to all general rules. Ignorant and superstitious
as they might be, the people of Brittany practiced the duties of
hospitality as devoutly as they practiced the duties of the national
religion. The presence of the stranger-guest, rich or poor, was a sacred
presence at their hearths. His safety was their especial charge, his
property their especial responsibility. They might be half starved, but
they were ready to share the last crust with him, nevertheless, as they
would share it with their own children.

Any outrage on the virtue of hospitality, thus born and bred in the
people, was viewed by them with universal disgust, and punished with
universal execration. This ignominy was uppermost in Gabriel's thoughts
by the side of his grandfather's bed; the dread of this worst dishonor,
which there was no wiping out, held him speechless before Perrine,
shamed and horrified him so that he felt unworthy to look her in the
face; and when the result of his search at the Merchant's Table proved
the absence there of all evidence of the crime spoken of by the old
man, the blessed relief, the absorbing triumph of that discovery, was
expressed entirely in the one thought which had prompted his first
joyful words: He could marry Perrine with a clear conscience, for he was
the son of an honest man!

When he returned to the cottage, Francois had not come back. Perrine
was astonished at the change in Gabriel's manner; even Pierre and the
children remarked it. Rest and warmth had by this time so far recovered
the younger brother, that he was able to give some account of the
perilous adventures of the night at sea. They were still listening to
the boy's narrative when Francois at last returned. It was now
Gabriel who held out his hand, and made the first advances toward
reconciliation.

To his utter amazement, his father recoiled from him. The variable
temper of Francois had evidently changed completely during his absence
at the village. A settled scowl of distrust darkened his face as he
looked at his son.

"I never shake hands with people who have once doubted me," he
exclaimed, loudly and irritably; "for I always doubt them forever after.
You are a bad son! You have suspected your father of some infamy that
you dare not openly charge him with, on no other testimony than the
rambling nonsense of a half-witted, dying old man. Don't speak to me!
I won't hear you! An innocent man and a spy are bad company. Go and
denounce me, you Judas in disguise! I don't care for your secret or for
you. What's that girl Perrine doing here still? Why hasn't she gone home
long ago? The priest's coming; we don't want strangers in the house of
death. Take her back to the farmhouse, and stop there with her, if you
like; nobody wants you here!"

There was something in the manner and look of the speaker as he uttered
these words, so strange, so sinister, so indescribably suggestive of his
meaning much more than he said, that Gabriel felt his heart sink within
him instantly; and almost at the same moment this fearful question
forced itself irresistibly on his mind: might not his father have
followed him to the Merchant's Table?

Even if he had been desired to speak, he could not have spoken now,
while that question and the suspicion that it brought with it were
utterly destroying all the re-assuring hopes and convictions of the
morning. The mental suffering produced by the sudden change from
pleasure to pain in all his thoughts, reacted on him physically. He felt
as if he were stifling in the air of the cottage, in the presence of his
father; and when Perrine hurried on her walking attire, and with a face
which alternately flushed and turned pale with every moment, approached
the door, he went out with her as hastily as if he had been flying
from his home. Never had the fresh air and the free daylight felt like
heavenly and guardian influences to him until now!

He could comfort Perrine under his father's harshness, he could assure
her of his own affection, which no earthly influence could change, while
they walked together toward the farmhouse; but he could do no more. He
durst not confide to her the subject that was uppermost in his mind; of
all human beings she was the last to whom he could reveal the terrible
secret that was festering at his heart. As soon as they got within sight
of the farmhouse, Gabriel stopped; and, promising to see her again soon,
took leave of Perrine with assumed ease in his manner and with real
despair in his heart. Whatever the poor girl might think of it, he felt,
at that moment, that he had not courage to face her father, and hear him
talk happily and pleasantly, as his custom was, of Perrine's approaching
marriage.

Left to himself, Gabriel wandered hither and thither over the open
heath, neither knowing nor caring in what direction he turned his steps.
The doubts about his father's innocence which had been dissipated by his
visit to the Merchant's Table, that father's own language and manner had
now revived--had even confirmed, though he dared not yet acknowledge so
much to himself. It was terrible enough to be obliged to admit that the
result of his morning's search was, after all, not conclusive--that
the mystery was, in very truth, not yet cleared up. The violence of his
father's last words of distrust; the extraordinary and indescribable
changes in his father's manner while uttering them--what did these
things mean? Guilt or innocence? Again, was it any longer reasonable to
doubt the death-bed confession made by his grandfather? Was it not, on
the contrary, far more probable that the old man's denial in the morning
of his own words at night had been made under the influence of a
panic terror, when his moral consciousness was bewildered, and his
intellectual faculties were sinking? The longer Gabriel thought of these
questions, the less competent--possibly also the less willing--he felt
to answer them. Should he seek advice from others wiser than he? No;
not while the thousandth part of a chance remained that his father was
innocent.

This thought was still in his mind, when he found himself once more in
sight of his home. He was still hesitating near the door, when he saw it
opened cautiously. His brother Pierre looked out, and then came running
toward him. "Come in, Gabriel; oh, do come in!" said the boy, earnestly.
"We are afraid to be alone with father. He's been beating us for talking
of you."

Gabriel went in. His father looked up from the hearth where he was
sitting, muttered the word "Spy!" and made a gesture of contempt but did
not address a word directly to his son. The hours passed on in silence;
afternoon waned into evening, and evening into night; and still he never
spoke to any of his children. Soon after it was dark, he went out, and
took his net with him, saying that it was better to be alone on the sea
than in the house with a spy.

When he returned the next morning there was no change in him. Days
passed--weeks, months, even elapsed, and still, though his manner
insensibly became what it used to be toward his other children, it never
altered toward his eldest son. At the rare periods when they now met,
except when absolutely obliged to speak, he preserved total silence in
his intercourse with Gabriel. He would never take Gabriel out with him
in the boat; he would never sit alone with Gabriel in the house; he
would never eat a meal with Gabriel; he would never let the other
children talk to him about Gabriel; and he would never hear a word in
expostulation, a word in reference to anything his dead father had said
or done on the night of the storm, from Gabriel himself.

The young man pined and changed, so that even Perrine hardly knew him
again, under this cruel system of domestic excommunication; under the
wearing influence of the one unchanging doubt which never left him; and,
more than all, under the incessant reproaches of his own conscience,
aroused by the sense that he was evading a responsibility which it was
his solemn, his immediate duty to undertake. But no sting of conscience,
no ill treatment at home, and no self-reproaches for failing in his
duty of confession as a good Catholic, were powerful enough in their
influence over Gabriel to make him disclose the secret, under the
oppression of which his very life was wasting away. He knew that if he
once revealed it, whether his father was ultimately proved to be guilty
or innocent, there would remain a slur and a suspicion on the family,
and on Perrine besides, from her approaching connection with it, which
in their time and in their generation could never be removed. The
reproach of the world is terrible even in the crowded city, where many
of the dwellers in our abiding-place are strangers to us--but it is far
more terrible in the country, where none near us are strangers, where
all talk of us and know of us, where nothing intervenes between us and
the tyranny of the evil tongue. Gabriel had not courage to face this,
and dare the fearful chance of life-long ignominy--no, not even to serve
the sacred interests of justice, of atonement, and of truth.



CHAPTER IV.

While Gabriel still remained prostrated under the affliction that was
wasting his energies of body and mind, Brittany was visited by a great
public calamity, in which all private misfortunes were overwhelmed for a
while.

It was now the time when the ever-gathering storm of the French
Revolution had risen to its hurricane climax. Those chiefs of the new
republic were in power whose last, worst madness it was to decree the
extinction of religion and the overthrow of everything that outwardly
symbolized it throughout the whole of the country that they governed.
Already this decree had been executed to the letter in and around Paris;
and now the soldiers of the Republic were on their way to Brittany,
headed by commanders whose commission was to root out the Christian
religion in the last and the surest of the strongholds still left to it
in France.

These men began their work in a spirit worthy of the worst of their
superiors who had sent them to do it. They gutted churches, they
demolished chapels, they overthrew road-side crosses wherever they found
them. The terrible guillotine devoured human lives in the villages of
Brittany as it had devoured them in the streets of Paris; the musket and
the sword, in highway and byway, wreaked havoc on the people--even
on women and children kneeling in the act of prayer; the priests were
tracked night and day from one hiding-place, where they still offered
up worship, to another, and were killed as soon as overtaken--every
atrocity was committed in every district; but the Christian religion
still spread wider than the widest bloodshed; still sprang up with
ever-renewed vitality from under the very feet of the men whose vain
fury was powerless to trample it down. Everywhere the people remained
true to their Faith; everywhere the priests stood firm by them in their
sorest need. The executioners of the Republic had been sent to make
Brittany a country of apostates; they did their worst, and left it a
country of martyrs.

One evening, while this frightful persecution was still raging, Gabriel
happened to be detained unusually late at the cottage of Perrine's
father. He had lately spent much of his time at the farm house; it was
his only refuge now from that place of suffering, of silence, and of
secret shame, which he had once called home! Just as he had taken leave
of Perrine for the night, and was about to open the farmhouse door, her
father stopped him, and pointed to a chair in the chimney-corner.

"Leave us alone, my dear," said the old man to his daughter; "I want to
speak to Gabriel. You can go to your mother in the next room."

The words which Pere Bonan--as he was called by the neighbors--had now
to say in private were destined to lead to very unexpected events. After
referring to the alteration which had appeared of late in Gabriel's
manner, the old man began by asking him, sorrowfully but not
suspiciously, whether he still preserved his old affection for Perrine.
On receiving an eager answer in the affirmative, Pere Bonan then
referred to the persecution still raging through the country, and to the
consequent possibility that he, like others of his countrymen, might yet
be called to suffer, and perhaps to die, for the cause of his religion.
If this last act of self-sacrifice were required of him, Perrine would
be left unprotected, unless her affianced husband performed his promise
to her, and assumed, without delay, the position of her lawful guardian.
"Let me know that you will do this," concluded the old man; "I shall be
resigned to all that may be required of me, if I can only know that
I shall not die leaving Perrine unprotected." Gabriel gave the
promise--gave it with his whole heart. As he took leave of Pere Bonan,
the old man said to him:

"Come here to-morrow; I shall know more then than I know now--I shall
be able to fix with certainty the day for the fulfillment of your
engagement with Perrine."

Why did Gabriel hesitate at the farmhouse door, looking back on Pere
Bonan as though he would fain say something, and yet not speaking a
word? Why, after he had gone out and had walked onward several paces,
did he suddenly stop, return quickly to the farmhouse, stand irresolute
before the gate, and then retrace his steps, sighing heavily as he went,
but never pausing again on his homeward way? Because the torment of his
horrible secret had grown harder to bear than ever, since he had given
the promise that had been required of him. Because, while a strong
impulse moved him frankly to lay bare his hidden dread and doubt to the
father whose beloved daughter was soon to be his wife, there was a yet
stronger passive influence which paralyzed on his lips the terrible
confession that he knew not whether he was the son of an honest man, or
the son of an assassin, and a robber. Made desperate by his situation,
he determined, while he hastened homeward, to risk the worst, and ask
that fatal question of his father in plain words. But this supreme
trial for parent and child was not to be. When he entered the cottage,
Francois was absent. He had told the younger children that he should not
be home again before noon on the next day.

Early in the morning Gabriel repaired to the farmhouse, as he had been
bidden. Influenced, by his love for Perrine, blindly confiding in the
faint hope (which, in despite of heart and conscience, he still forced
himself to cherish) that his father might be innocent, he now preserved
the appearance at least of perfect calmness. "If I tell my secret to
Perrine's father, I risk disturbing in him that confidence in the
future safety of his child for which I am his present and only warrant."
Something like this thought was in Gabriel's mind, as he took the hand
of Pere Bonan, and waited anxiously to hear what was required of him on
that day.

"We have a short respite from danger, Gabriel," said the old man. "News
has come to me that the spoilers of our churches and the murderers of
our congregations have been stopped on their way hitherward by tidings
which have reached them from another district. This interval of peace
and safety will be a short one--we must take advantage of it while it
is yet ours. My name is among the names on the list of the denounced. If
the soldiers of the Republic find me here--but we will say nothing more
of this; it is of Perrine and of you that I must now speak. On this very
evening your marriage may be solemnized with all the wonted rites of our
holy religion, and the blessing may be pronounced over you by the lips
of a priest. This evening, therefore, Gabriel, you must become the
husband and the protector of Perrine. Listen to me attentively, and I
will tell you how."

This was the substance of what Gabriel now heard from Pere Bonan:

Not very long before the persecutions broke out in Brittany, a priest,
known generally by the name of Father Paul, was appointed to a curacy
in one of the northern districts of the province. He fulfilled all the
duties of his station in such a manner as to win the confidence and
affection of every member of his congregation, and was often spoken of
with respect, even in parts of the country distant from the scene of
his labors. It was not, however, until the troubles broke out, and the
destruction and bloodshed began, that he became renowned far and wide,
from one end of Brittany to another. From the date of the very first
persecutions the name of Father Paul was a rallying-cry of the hunted
peasantry; he was their great encouragement under oppression, their
example in danger, their last and only consoler in the hour of death.
Wherever havoc and ruin raged most fiercely, wherever the pursuit was
hottest and the slaughter most cruel, there the intrepid priest was sure
to be seen pursuing his sacred duties in defiance of every peril. His
hair-breadth escapes from death; his extraordinary re-appearances in
parts of the country where no one ever expected to see him again, were
regarded by the poorer classes with superstitious awe. Wherever Father
Paul appeared, with his black dress, his calm face, and the ivory
crucifix which he always carried in his hand, the people reverenced him
as more than mortal; and grew at last to believe, that, single-handed,
he would successfully defend his religion against the armies of the
Republic. But their simple confidence in his powers of resistance was
soon destined to be shaken. Fresh re-enforcements arrived in Brittany,
and overran the whole province from one end to the other. One morning,
after celebrating service in a dismantled church, and after narrowly
escaping with his life from those who pursued him, the priest
disappeared. Secret inquiries were made after him in all directions; but
he was heard of no more.

Many weary days had passed, and the dispirited peasantry had already
mourned him as dead, when some fishermen on the northern coast observed
a ship of light burden in the offing, making signals to the shore. They
put off to her in their boats; and on reaching the deck saw standing
before them the well-remembered figure of Father Paul.

The priest had returned to his congregations, and had founded the new
altar that they were to worship at on the deck of the ship! Razed from
the face of the earth, their church had not been destroyed--for Father
Paul and the priests who acted with him had given that church a refuge
on the sea. Henceforth, their children could still be baptized, their
sons and daughters could still be married, the burial of their dead
could still be solemnized, under the sanction of the old religion for
which, not vainly, they had suffered so patiently and so long.

Throughout the remaining time of trouble the services were uninterrupted
on board the ship. A code of signals was established by which those on
shore were always enabled to direct their brethren at sea toward such
parts of the coast as happened to be uninfested by the enemies of
their worship. On the morning of Gabriel's visit to the farmhouse these
signals had shaped the course of the ship toward the extremity of the
peninsula of Quiberon. The people of the district were all prepared to
expect the appearance of the vessel some time in the evening, and
had their boats ready at a moment's notice to put off, and attend the
service. At the conclusion of this service Pere Bonan had arranged that
the marriage of his daughter and Gabriel was to take place.

They waited for evening at the farmhouse. A little before sunset
the ship was signaled as in sight; and then Pere Bonan and his wife,
followed by Gabriel and Perrine, set forth over the heath to the beach.
With the solitary exception of Francois Sarzeau, the whole population
of the neighborhood was already assembled there, Gabriel's brother and
sisters being among the number.

It was the calmest evening that had been known for months. There was not
a cloud in the lustrous sky--not a ripple on the still surface of the
sea. The smallest children were suffered by their mothers to stray down
on the beach as they pleased; for the waves of the great ocean slept as
tenderly and noiselessly on their sandy bed as if they had been changed
into the waters of an inland lake. Slow, almost imperceptible, was the
approach of the ship--there was hardly a breath of wind to carry her
on--she was just drifting gently with the landward set of the tide at
that hour, while her sails hung idly against the masts. Long after the
sun had gone down, the congregation still waited and watched on the
beach. The moon and stars were arrayed in their glory of the night
before the ship dropped anchor. Then the muffled tolling of a bell came
solemnly across the quiet waters; and then, from every creek along the
shore, as far as the eye could reach, the black forms of the fishermen's
boats shot out swift and stealthy into the shining sea.

By the time the boats had arrived alongside of the ship, the lamp had
been kindled before the altar, and its flame was gleaming red and dull
in the radiant moonlight. Two of the priests on board were clothed in
their robes of office, and were waiting in their appointed places to
begin the service. But there was a third, dressed only in the ordinary
attire of his calling, who mingled with the congregation, and spoke
a few words to each of the persons composing it, as, one by one, they
mounted the sides of the ship. Those who had never seen him before knew
by the famous ivory crucifix in his hand that the priest who received
them was Father Paul. Gabriel looked at this man, whom he now beheld for
the first time, with a mixture of astonishment and awe; for he saw that
the renowned chief of the Christians of Brittany was, to all appearance,
but little older than himself.

The expression on the pale, calm face of the priest was so gentle and
kind, that children just able to walk tottered up to him, and held
familiarly by the skirts of his black gown, whenever his clear blue eyes
rested on theirs, while he beckoned them to his side. No one would ever
have guessed from the countenance of Father Paul what deadly perils he
had confronted, but for the scar of a saber-wound, as yet hardly healed,
which ran across his forehead. That wound had been dealt while he was
kneeling before the altar in the last church in Brittany which had
escaped spoliation. He would have died where he knelt, but for the
peasants who were praying with him, and who, unarmed as they were, threw
themselves like tigers on the soldiery, and at awful sacrifice of their
own lives saved the life of their priest. There was not a man now on
board the ship who would have hesitated, had the occasion called for it
again, to have rescued him in the same way.

The service began. Since the days when the primitive Christians
worshiped amid the caverns of the earth, can any service be imagined
nobler in itself, or sublimer in the circumstances surrounding it, than
that which was now offered up? Here was no artificial pomp, no gaudy
profusion of ornament, no attendant grandeur of man's creation. All
around this church spread the hushed and awful majesty of the tranquil
sea. The roof of this cathedral was the immeasurable heaven, the pure
moon its one great light, the countless glories of the stars its only
adornment. Here were no hired singers or rich priest-princes; no curious
sight-seers, or careless lovers of sweet sounds. This congregation and
they who had gathered it together, were all poor alike, all persecuted
alike, all worshiping alike, to the overthrow of their worldly
interests, and at the imminent peril of their lives. How brightly and
tenderly the moonlight shone upon the altar and the people before
it! how solemnly and divinely the deep harmonies, as they chanted the
penitential Psalms, mingled with the hoarse singing of the freshening
night breeze in the rigging of the ship! how sweetly the still rushing
murmur of many voices, as they uttered the responses together, now died
away, and now rose again softly into the mysterious night!

Of all the members of the congregation--young or old--there was but one
over whom that impressive service exercised no influence of consolation
or of peace; that one was Gabriel. Often, throughout the day, his
reproaching conscience had spoken within him again and again. Often when
he joined the little assembly on the beach, he turned away his face in
secret shame and apprehension from Perrine and her father. Vainly, after
gaining the deck of the ship, did he try to meet the eye of Father Paul
as frankly, as readily, and as affectionately as others met it. The
burden of concealment seemed too heavy to be borne in the presence of
the priest--and yet, torment as it was, he still bore it! But when he
knelt with the rest of the congregation and saw Perrine kneeling by his
side--when he felt the calmness of the solemn night and the still sea
filling his heart--when the sounds of the first prayers spoke with a
dread spiritual language of their own to his soul--then the remembrance
of the confession which he had neglected, and the terror of receiving
unprepared the sacrament which he knew would be offered to him--grew too
vivid to be endured; the sense that he merited no longer, though once
worthy of it, the confidence in his perfect truth and candor placed
in him by the woman with whom he was soon to stand before the altar,
overwhelmed him with shame: the mere act of kneeling among that
congregation, the passive accomplice by his silence and secrecy, for
aught he knew to the contrary, of a crime which it was his bounden duty
to denounce, appalled him as if he had already committed sacrilege that
could never be forgiven. Tears flowed down his cheeks, though he strove
to repress them: sobs burst from him, though he tried to stifle them. He
knew that others besides Perrine were looking at him in astonishment
and alarm; but he could neither control himself, nor move to leave his
place, nor raise his eyes even--until suddenly he felt a hand laid on
his shoulder. That touch, slight as it was, ran through him instantly. He
looked up, and saw Father Paul standing by his side.

Beckoning him to follow, and signing to the congregation not to suspend
their devotions, he led Gabriel out of the assembly--then paused for a
moment, reflecting--then beckoning him again, took him into the cabin of
the ship, and closed the door carefully.

"You have something on your mind," he said, simply and quietly, taking
the young man by the hand. "I may be able to relieve you, if you tell me
what it is."

As Gabriel heard these gentle words, and saw, by the light of a lamp
which burned before a cross fixed against the wall, the sad kindness of
expression with which the priest was regarding him, the oppression that
had lain so long on his heart seemed to leave it in an instant. The
haunting fear of ever divulging his fatal suspicions and his fatal
secret had vanished, as it were, at the touch of Father Paul's hand. For
the first time he now repeated to another ear--the sounds of prayer
and praise rising grandly the while from the congregation above--his
grandfather's death-bed confession, word for word almost, as he had
heard it in the cottage on the night of the storm.

Once, and once only, did Father Paul interrupt the narrative, which in
whispers was addressed to him. Gabriel had hardly repeated the first two
or three sentences of his grandfather's confession, when the priest, in
quick, altered tones, abruptly asked him his name and place of abode.

As the question was answered, Father Paul's calm face became suddenly
agitated; but the next moment, resolutely resuming his self-possession,
he bowed his head as a sign that Gabriel was to continue; clasped his
trembling hands, and raising them as if in silent prayer, fixed his eyes
intently on the cross. He never looked away from it while the terrible
narrative proceeded. But when Gabriel described his search at the
Merchant's Table; and, referring to his father's behavior since that
time, appealed to the priest to know whether he might even yet, in
defiance of appearances, be still filially justified in doubting whether
the crime had been really perpetrated--then Father Paul moved near to
him once more, and spoke again.

"Compose yourself, and look at me," he said, with his former sad
kindness of voice and manner. "I can end your doubts forever. Gabriel,
your father was guilty in intention and in act; but the victim of his
crime still lives. I can prove it."

Gabriel's heart beat wildly; a deadly coldness crept over him as he saw
Father Paul loosen the fastening of his cassock round the throat.

At that instant the chanting of the congregation above ceased; and then
the sudden and awful stillness was deepened rather than interrupted by
the faint sound of one voice praying. Slowly and with trembling fingers
the priest removed the band round his neck--paused a little--sighed
heavily--and pointed to a scar which was now plainly visible on one side
of his throat. He said something at the same time; but the bell above
tolled while he spoke. It was the signal of the elevation of the Host.
Gabriel felt an arm passed round him, guiding him to his knees, and
sustaining him from sinking to the floor. For one moment longer he was
conscious that the bell had stopped, that there was dead silence, that
Father Paul was kneeling by him beneath the cross, with bowed head--then
all objects around vanished; and he saw and knew nothing more.

When he recovered his senses, he was still in the cabin; the man whose
life his father had attempted was bending over him, and sprinkling
water on his face; and the clear voices of the women and children of the
congregation were joining the voices of the men in singing the _Agnus
Dei._

"Look up at me without fear, Gabriel," said the priest. "I desire not to
avenge injuries: I visit not the sins of the father on the child. Look
up, and listen! I have strange things to speak of; and I have a sacred
mission to fulfill before the morning, in which you must be my guide."

Gabriel attempted to kneel and kiss his hand but Father Paul stopped
him, and said, pointing to the cross: "Kneel to that--not to me; not to
your fellow-mortal, and your friend--for I will be your friend, Gabriel;
believing that God's mercy has ordered it so. And now listen to me,"
he proceeded, with a brotherly tenderness in his manner which went to
Gabriel's heart. "The service is nearly ended. What I have to tell you
must be told at once; the errand on which you will guide me must be
performed before to-morrow dawns. Sit here near me, and attend to what I
now say!"

Gabriel obeyed; Father Paul then proceeded thus:

"I believe the confession made to you by your grandfather to have been
true in every particular. On the evening to which he referred you, I
approached your cottage, as he said, for the purpose of asking shelter
for the night. At that period I had been studying hard to qualify myself
for the holy calling which I now pursue; and, on the completion of
my studies, had indulged in the recreation of a tour on foot through
Brittany, by way of innocently and agreeably occupying the leisure time
then at my disposal, before I entered the priesthood. When I accosted
your father I had lost my way, had been walking for many hours, and was
glad of any rest that I could get for the night. It is unnecessary to
pain you now, by reference to the events which followed my entrance
under your father's roof. I remember nothing that happened from the
time when I lay down to sleep before the fire, until the time when I
recovered my senses at the place which you call the Merchant's Table. My
first sensation was that of being moved into the cold air; when I opened
my eyes I saw the great Druid stones rising close above me, and two men
on either side of me rifling my pockets. They found nothing valuable
there, and were about to leave me where I lay, when I gathered strength
enough to appeal to their mercy through their cupidity. Money was not
scarce with me then, and I was able to offer them a rich reward (which
they ultimately received as I had promised) if they would take me to
any place where I could get shelter and medical help. I supposed they
inferred by my language and accent--perhaps also by the linen I wore,
which they examined closely--that I belonged to the higher ranks of the
community, in spite of the plainness of my outer garments; and might,
therefore, be in a position to make good my promise to them. I heard one
say to the other, 'Let us risk it'; and then they took me in their arms,
carried me down to a boat on the beach, and rowed to a vessel in the
offing. The next day they disembarked me at Paimboeuf, where I got the
assistance which I so much needed. I learned, through the confidence
they were obliged to place in me in order to give me the means of
sending them their promised reward, that these men were smugglers, and
that they were in the habit of using the cavity in which I had been laid
as a place of concealment for goods, and for letters of advice to their
accomplices. This accounted for their finding me. As to my wound, I
was informed by the surgeon who attended me that it had missed being
inflicted in a mortal part by less than a quarter of an inch, and that,
as it was, nothing but the action of the night air in coagulating the
blood over the place, had, in the first instance, saved my life. To
be brief, I recovered after a long illness, returned to Paris, and was
called to the priesthood. The will of my superiors obliged me to perform
the first duties of my vocation in the great city; but my own wish was
to be appointed to a cure of souls in your province, Gabriel. Can you
imagine why?"

The answer to this question was in Gabriel's heart; but he was still too
deeply awed and affected by what he had heard to give it utterance.

"I must tell you, then, what my motive was," said Father Paul. "You must
know first that I uniformly abstained from disclosing to any one where
and by whom my life had been attempted. I kept this a secret from the
men who rescued me--from the surgeon--from my own friends even. My
reason for such a proceeding was, I would fain believe, a Christian
reason. I hope I had always felt a sincere and humble desire to prove
myself, by the help of God, worthy of the sacred vocation to which I was
destined. But my miraculous escape from death made an impression on
my mind, which gave me another and an infinitely higher view of this
vocation--the view which I have since striven, and shall always strive
for the future, to maintain. As I lay, during the first days of my
recovery, examining my own heart, and considering in what manner it
would be my duty to act toward your father when I was restored to
health, a thought came into my mind which calmed, comforted, and
resolved all my doubts. I said within myself, 'In a few months more I
shall be called to be one of the chosen ministers of God. If I am worthy
of my vocation, my first desire toward this man who has attempted to
take my life should be, not to know that human justice has overtaken
him, but to know that he has truly and religiously repented and made
atonement for his guilt. To such repentance and atonement let it be my
duty to call him; if he reject that appeal, and be hardened only the
more against me because I have forgiven him my injuries, then it will be
time enough to denounce him for his crimes to his fellow-men. Surely
it must be well for me, here and hereafter, if I begin my career in the
holy priesthood by helping to save from hell the soul of the man who,
of all others, has most cruelly wronged me.' It was for this reason,
Gabriel--it was because I desired to go straightway to your father's
cottage, and reclaim him after he had believed me to be dead--that I
kept the secret and entreated of my superiors that I might be sent to
Brittany. But this, as I have said, was not to be at first, and when
my desire was granted, my place was assigned me in a far district. The
persecution under which we still suffer broke out; the designs of my
life were changed; my own will became no longer mine to guide me. But,
through sorrow and suffering, and danger and bloodshed, I am now led,
after many days, to the execution of that first purpose which I formed
on entering the priesthood. Gabriel, when the service is over, and
the congregation are dispersed, you must guide me to the door of your
father's cottage."

He held up his hand, in sign of silence, as Gabriel was about to answer.
Just then the officiating priests above were pronouncing the final
benediction. When it was over, Father Paul opened the cabin door. As he
ascended the steps, followed by Gabriel, Pere Bonan met them. The old
man looked doubtfully and searchingly on his future son-in-law, as he
respectfully whispered a few words in the ear of the priest. Father Paul
listened attentively, answered in a whisper, and then turned to Gabriel,
first begging the few people near them to withdraw a little.

"I have been asked whether there is any impediment to your marriage,"
he said, "and have answered that there is none. What you have said to
me has been said in confession, and is a secret between us two. Remember
that; and forget not, at the same time, the service which I shall
require of you to-night, after the marriage-ceremony is over. Where
is Perrine Bonan?" he added, aloud, looking round him. Perrine came
forward. Father Paul took her hand and placed it in Gabriel's. "Lead her
to the altar steps," he said, "and wait there for me."

It was more than an hour later; the boats had left the ship's side; the
congregation had dispersed over the face of the country--but still the
vessel remained at anchor. Those who were left in her watched the land
more anxiously than usual; for they knew that Father Paul had risked
meeting the soldiers of the Republic by trusting himself on shore. A
boat was awaiting his return on the beach; half of the crew, armed,
being posted as scouts in various directions on the high land of the
heath. They would have followed and guarded the priest to the place of
his destination; but he forbade it; and, leaving them abruptly, walked
swiftly onward with one young man only for his companion.

Gabriel had committed his brother and his sisters to the charge
of Perrine. They were to go to the farmhouse that night with his
newly-married wife and her father and mother. Father Paul had desired
that this might be done. When Gabriel and he were left alone to follow
the path which led to the fisherman's cottage, the priest never spoke
while they walked on--never looked aside either to the right or the
left--always held his ivory crucifix clasped to his breast. They arrived
at the door.

"Knock," whispered Father Paul to Gabriel, "and then wait here with me."

The door was opened. On a lovely moonlight night Francois Sarzeau had
stood on that threshold, years since, with a bleeding body in his arms.
On a lovely moonlight night he now stood there again, confronting the
very man whose life he had attempted, and knowing him not.

Father Paul advanced a few paces, so that the moonlight fell fuller on
his features, and removed his hat.

Francois Sarzeau looked, started, moved one step back, then stood
motionless and perfectly silent, while all traces of expression of any
kind suddenly vanished from his face. Then the calm, clear tones of the
priest stole gently on the dead silence. "I bring a message of peace and
forgiveness from a guest of former years," he said; and pointed, as he
spoke, to the place where he had been wounded in the neck.

For one moment, Gabriel saw his father trembling violently from head to
foot--then his limbs steadied again--stiffened suddenly, as if struck by
catalepsy. His lips parted, but without quivering; his eyes glared, but
without moving in the orbits. The lovely moonlight itself looked ghastly
and horrible, shining on the supernatural panic deformity of that face!
Gabriel turned away his head in terror. He heard the voice of Father
Paul saying to him: "Wait here till I come back."

Then there was an instant of silence again--then a low groaning sound
that seemed to articulate the name of God; a sound unlike his father's
voice, unlike any human voice he had ever heard--and then the noise of
a closing door. He looked up, and saw that he was standing alone before
the cottage.

Once, after an interval, he approached the window.

He just saw through it the hand of the priest holding on high the ivory
crucifix; but stopped not to see more, for he heard such words, such
sounds, as drove him back to his former place. There he stayed, until
the noise of something falling heavily within the cottage struck on
his ear. Again he advanced toward the door; heard Father Paul praying;
listened for several minutes; then heard a moaning voice, now joining
itself to the voice of the priest, now choked in sobs and bitter
wailing. Once more he went back out of hearing, and stirred not again
from his place. He waited a long and a weary time there--so long that
one of the scouts on the lookout came toward him, evidently suspicious
of the delay in the priest's return. He waved the man back, and then
looked again toward the door. At last he saw it open--saw Father Paul
approach him, leading Francois Sarzeau by the hand.

The fisherman never raised his downcast eyes to his son's face; tears
trickled silently over his cheeks; he followed the hand that led him, as
a little child might have followed it, listened anxiously and humbly at
the priest's side to every word that he spoke.

"Gabriel," said Father Paul, in a voice which trembled a little for the
first time that night--"Gabriel, it has pleased God to grant the perfect
fulfillment of the purpose which brought me to this place; I tell you
this, as all that you need--as all, I believe, that you would wish--to
know of what has passed while you have been left waiting for me here.
Such words as I have now to speak to you are spoken by your father's
earnest desire. It is his own wish that I should communicate to you his
confession of having secretly followed you to the Merchant's Table, and
of having discovered (as you discovered) that no evidence of his guilt
remained there. This admission, he thinks, will be enough to account for
his conduct toward yourself from that time to this. I have next to tell
you (also at your father's desire) that he has promised in my presence,
and now promises again in yours, sincerity of repentance in this manner:
When the persecution of our religion has ceased--as cease it will, and
that speedily, be assured of it--he solemnly pledges himself henceforth
to devote his life, his strength and what worldly possessions he may
have, or may acquire, to the task of re-erecting and restoring the
road-side crosses which have been sacrilegiously overthrown and
destroyed in his native province, and to doing good, go where he may.
I have now said all that is required of me, and may bid you
farewell--bearing with me the happy remembrance that I have left a
father and son reconciled and restored to each other. May God bless
and prosper you, and those dear to you, Gabriel! May God accept your
father's repentance, and bless him also throughout his future life!"

He took their hands, pressed them long and warmly, then turned and
walked quickly down the path which led to the beach. Gabriel dared not
trust himself yet to speak; but he raised his arm, and put it gently
round his father's neck. The two stood together so, looking out dimly
through the tears that filled their eyes to the sea. They saw the boat
put off in the bright track of the moonlight, and reach the vessel's
side; they watched the spreading of the sails, and followed the slow
course of the ship till she disappeared past a distant headland from
sight.

After that, they went into the cottage together. They knew it not then,
but they had seen the last, in this world, of Father Paul.



CHAPTER V.

The events foretold by the good priest happened sooner even than he had
anticipated. A new government ruled the destinies of France, and the
persecution ceased in Brittany.

Among other propositions which were then submitted to the Parliament,
was one advocating the restoration of the road-side crosses throughout
the province. It was found, however, on inquiry, that these crosses were
to be counted by thousands, and that the mere cost of wood required to
re-erect them necessitated an expenditure of money which the bankrupt
nation could ill afford to spare. While this project was under
discussion, and before it was finally rejected, one man had undertaken
the task which the Government shrank from attempting. When Gabriel left
the cottage, taking his brother and sisters to live with his wife and
himself at the farmhouse, Francois Sarzeau left it also, to perform in
highway and byway his promise to Father Paul. For months and months he
labored without intermission at his task; still, always doing good, and
rendering help and kindness and true charity to any whom he could serve.
He walked many a weary mile, toiled through many a hard day's work,
humbled himself even to beg of others, to get wood enough to restore a
single cross. No one ever heard him complain, ever saw him impatient,
ever detected him in faltering at his task. The shelter in an outhouse,
the crust of bread and drink of water, which he could always get from
the peasantry, seemed to suffice him. Among the people who watched
his perseverance, a belief began to gain ground that his life would be
miraculously prolonged until he had completed his undertaking from one
end of Brittany to the other. But this was not to be.

He was seen one cold autumn evening, silently and steadily at work
as usual, setting up a new cross on the site of one which had been
shattered to splinters in the troubled times. In the morning he was
found lying dead beneath the sacred symbol which his own hands had
completed and erected in its place during the night. They buried him
where he lay; and the priest who consecrated the ground allowed Gabriel
to engrave his father's epitaph in the wood of the cross. It was
simply the initial letters of the dead man's name, followed by this
inscription: "Pray for the repose of his soul: he died penitent, and the
doer of good works."

Once, and once only, did Gabriel hear anything of Father Paul. The good
priest showed, by writing to the farmhouse, that he had not forgotten
the family so largely indebted to him for their happiness. The letter
was dated "Rome." Father Paul said that such services as he had been
permitted to render to the Church in Brittany had obtained for him a
new and a far more glorious trust than any he had yet held. He had been
recalled from his curacy, and appointed to be at the head of a mission
which was shortly to be dispatched to convert the inhabitants of a
savage and far distant land to the Christian faith. He now wrote, as his
brethren with him were writing, to take leave of all friends forever
in this world, before setting out--for it was well known to the chosen
persons intrusted with the new mission that they could only hope to
advance its object by cheerfully risking their own lives for the sake
of their religion. He gave his blessing to Francois Sarzeau, to Gabriel,
and to his family; and bade them affectionately farewell for the last
time.

There was a postscript to the letter, which was addressed to Perrine,
and which she often read afterward with tearful eyes. The writer begged
that, if she should have any children, she would show her friendly and
Christian remembrance of him by teaching them to pray (as he hoped she
herself would pray) that a blessing might attend Father Paul's labors in
the distant land.

The priest's loving petition was never forgotten. When Perrine taught
its first prayer to her first child, the little creature was instructed
to end the few simple words pronounced at its mother's knees, with, "God
bless Father Paul."


In those words the nun concluded her narrative. After it was ended, she
pointed to the old wooden cross, and said to me:

"That was one of the many that he made. It was found, a few years since,
to have suffered so much from exposure to the weather that it was unfit
to remain any longer in its old place. A priest in Brittany gave it
to one of the nuns in this convent. Do you wonder now that the Mother
Superior always calls it a Relic?"

"No," I answered. "And I should have small respect indeed for the
religious convictions of any one who could hear the story of that wooden
cross, and not feel that the Mother Superior's name for it is the very
best that could have been chosen."

PROLOGUE TO THE SIXTH STORY.

On the last occasion when I made a lengthened stay in London, my wife
and I were surprised and amused one morning by the receipt of the
following note, addressed to me in a small, crabbed, foreign-looking
handwriting.


"Professor Tizzi presents amiable compliments to Mr. Kerby, the artist,
and is desirous of having his portrait done, to be engraved from, and
placed at the beginning of the voluminous work on 'The Vital Principle;
or, Invisible Essence of Life,' which the Professor is now preparing for
the press--and posterity.

"The Professor will give five pounds; and will look upon his face with
satisfaction, as an object perpetuated for public contemplation at a
reasonable rate, if Mr. Kerby will accept the sum just mentioned.

"In regard to the Professor's ability to pay five pounds, as well as
to offer them, if Mr. Kerby should, from ignorance, entertain injurious
doubts, he is requested to apply to the Professor's honorable friend,
Mr. Lanfray, of Rockleigh Place."

But for the reference at the end of this strange note, I should
certainly have considered it as a mere trap set to make a fool of me by
some mischievous friend. As it was, I rather doubted the propriety
of taking any serious notice of Professor Tizzi's offer; and I might
probably have ended by putting the letter in the fire without further
thought about it, but for the arrival by the next post of a note from
Mr. Lanfray, which solved all my doubts, and sent me away at once to
make the acquaintance of the learned discoverer of the Essence of Life.

"Do not be surprised" (Mr. Lanfray wrote) "if you get a strange note
from a very eccentric Italian, one Professor Tizzi, formerly of the
University of Padua. I have known him for some years. Scientific inquiry
is his monomania, and vanity his ruling passion. He has written a book
on the principle of life, which nobody but himself will ever read;
but which he is determined to publish, with his own portrait for
frontispiece. If it is worth your while to accept the little he can
offer you, take it by all means, for he is a character worth knowing.
He was exiled, I should tell you, years ago, for some absurd political
reason, and has lived in England ever since. All the money he inherits
from his father, who was a mail contractor in the north of Italy, goes
in books and experiments; but I think I can answer for his solvency,
at any rate, for the large sum of five pounds. If you are not very much
occupied just now, go and see him. He is sure to amuse you."

Professor Tizzi lived in the northern suburb of London. On approaching
his house, I found it, so far as outward appearance went, excessively
dirty and neglected, but in no other respect different from the "villas"
in its neighborhood. The front garden door, after I had rang twice, was
opened by a yellow-faced, suspicious old foreigner, dressed in worn-out
clothes, and completely and consistently dirty all over, from top to
toe. On mentioning my name and business, this old man led me across a
weedy, neglected garden, and admitted me into the house. At the first
step into the passage, I was surrounded by books. Closely packed in
plain wooden shelves, they ran all along the wall on either side to the
back of the house; and when I looked up at the carpetless staircase, I
saw nothing but books again, running all the way up the wall, as far as
my eye could reach. "Here is the Artist Painter!" cried the old servant,
throwing open one of the parlor doors, before I had half done looking at
the books, and signing impatiently to me to walk into the room.

Books again! all round the walls, and all over the floor--among them a
plain deal table, with leaves of manuscript piled high on every part of
it--among the leaves a head of long, elfish white hair covered with a
black skull-cap, and bent down over a book--above the head a sallow,
withered hand shaking itself at me as a sign that I must not venture to
speak just at that moment--on the tops of the bookcases glass vases
full of spirits of some kind, with horrible objects floating in the
liquid--dirt on the window panes, cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, dust
springing up in clouds under my intruding feet. These were the things I
observed on first entering the study of Professor Tizzi.

After I had waited for a minute or so, the shaking hand stopped,
descended with a smack on the nearest pile of manuscript, seized the
book that the head had been bending over, and flung it contemptuously
to the other end of the room. "I've refuted _you,_ at any rate!" said
Professor Tizzi, looking with extreme complacency at the cloud of dust
raised by the fall of the rejected volume.

He turned next to me. What a grand face it was! What a broad, white
forehead---what fiercely brilliant black eyes--what perfect regularity
and refinement in the other features; with the long, venerable hair,
framing them in, as it were, on either side! Poor as I was, I felt
that I could have painted his portrait for nothing. Titian, Vandyke,
Valasquez--any of the three would have paid him to sit to them!

"Accept my humblest excuses, sir," said the old man, speaking English
with a singularly pure accent for a foreigner. "That absurd book plunged
me so deep down in the quagmires of sophistry and error, Mr. Kerby, that
I really could not get to the surface at once when you came into the
room. So you are willing to draw my likeness for such a small sum as
five pounds?" he continued, rising, and showing me that he wore a long
black velvet gown, instead of the paltry and senseless costume of modern
times.

I informed him that five pounds was as much as I generally got for a
drawing.

"It seems little," said the professor; "but if you want fame, I can make
it up to you in that way. There is my great work" (he pointed to the
piles of manuscript), "the portrait of my mind and the mirror of my
learning; put a likeness of my face on the first page, and posterity
will then be thoroughly acquainted with me, outside and in. Your
portrait will be engraved, Mr. Kerby, and your name shall be inscribed
under the print. You shall be associated, sir, in that way, with a work
which will form an epoch in the history of human science. The Vital
Principle--or, in other words, the essence of that mysterious Something
which we call Life, and which extends down from Man to the feeblest
insect and the smallest plant--has been an unguessed riddle from the
beginning of the world to the present time. I alone have found the
answer; and here it is!" He fixed his dazzling eyes on me in triumph,
and smacked the piles of manuscript fiercely with both his sallow hands.

I saw that he was waiting for me to say something; so I asked if his
great work had not cost a vast expenditure of time and pains.

"I am seventy, sir," said the Professor; "and I began preparing myself
for that book at twenty. After mature consideration, I have written it
in English (having three other foreign languages at my fingers' ends),
as a substantial proof of my gratitude to the nation that has given
me an asylum. Perhaps you think the work looks rather long in its
manuscript state? It will occupy twelve volumes, sir, and it is not half
long enough, even then, for the subject. I take two volumes (and no man
could do it in less) to examine the theories of all the philosophers in
the world, ancient and modern, on the Vital Principle. I take two more
(and little enough) to scatter every one of the theories, _seriatim_,
to the winds. I take two more (at the risk, for brevity's sake, of doing
things by halves) to explain the exact stuff, or vital compound, of
which the first man and woman in the world were made--calling them Adam
and Eve, out of deference to popular prejudices. I take two more--but
you are standing all this time, Mr. Kerby; and I am talking instead of
sitting for my portrait. Pray take any books you want, anywhere off the
floor, and make a seat of any height you please. Furniture would only be
in my way here, so I don't trouble myself with anything of the kind."

I obediently followed the Professor's directions, and had just heaped
up a pile of grimy quartos, when the old servant entered the room with a
shabby little tray in his hand. In the middle of the tray I saw a crust
of bread and a bit of garlic, encircled by a glass of water, a knife,
salt, pepper, a bottle of vinegar, and a flask of oil.

"With your permission, I am going to breakfast," said Professor Tizzi,
as the tray was set down before him on the part of his great work
relating to the vital compound of Adam and Eve. As he spoke, he took
up the piece of bread, and rubbed the crusty part of it with the bit of
garlic, till it looked as polished as a new dining-table. That done, he
turned the bread, crumb uppermost, and saturated it with oil, added a
few drops of vinegar, sprinkled with pepper and salt, and, with a gleam
of something very like greediness in his bright eyes, took up the knife
to cut himself a first mouthful of the horrible mess that he had just
concocted. "The best of breakfasts," said the Professor, seeing me look
amazed. "Not a cannibal meal of chicken-life in embryo (vulgarly called
an egg); not a dog's gorge of a dead animal's flesh, blood and bones,
warmed with fire (popularly known as a chop); not a breakfast, sir, that
lions, tigers, Caribbees, and costermongers could all partake of alike;
but an innocent, nutritive, simple, vegetable meal; a philosopher's
refection, a breakfast that a prize-fighter would turn from in disgust,
and that a Plato would share with relish."

I have no doubt that he was right, and that I was prejudiced; but as I
saw the first oily, vinegary, garlicky morsel slide noiselessly into his
mouth, I began to feel rather sick. My hands were dirty with moving the
books, and I asked if I could wash them before beginning to work at the
likeness, as a good excuse for getting out of the room, while Professor
Tizzi was unctuously disposing of his simple vegetable meal.

The philosopher looked a little astonished at my request, as if the
washing of hands at irregular times and seasons offered a comparatively
new subject of contemplation to him; but he rang a hand-bell on his
table immediately, and told the old servant to take me up into his
bedroom.

The interior of the parlor had astonished me; but a sight of the bedroom
was a new sensation--not of the most agreeable kind. The couch on which
the philosopher sought repose after his labors was a truckle-bed that
would not have fetched half a crown at a sale. On one side of it dangled
from the ceiling a complete male skeleton, looking like all that was
left of a man who might have hung himself about a century ago, and who
had never been disturbed since the moment of his suicide. On the other
side of the bed stood a long press, in which I observed hideous colored
preparations of the muscular system, and bottles with curious, twining,
thread-like substances inside them, which might have been remarkable
worms or dissections of nerves, scattered amicably side by side with
the Professor's hair-brush (three parts worn out), with remnants of
his beard on bits of shaving-paper, with a broken shoe-horn, and with
a traveling looking-glass of the sort usually sold at sixpence apiece.
Repetitions of the litter of books in the parlor lay all about over the
floor; colored anatomical prints were nailed anyhow against the walls;
rolled-up towels were scattered here, there, and everywhere in the
wildest confusion, as if the room had been bombarded with them; and
last, but by no means least remarkable among the other extraordinary
objects in the bed-chamber, the stuffed figure of a large unshaven
poodle-dog, stood on an old card-table, keeping perpetual watch over a
pair of the philosopher's black breeches twisted round his forepaws.

I had started, on entering the room, at the skeleton, and I started once
more at the dog. The old servant noticed me each time with a sardonic
grin. "Don't be afraid," he said; "one is as dead as the other." With
these words, he left me to wash my hands.

Finding little more than a pint of water at my disposal, and failing
altogether to discover where the soap was kept, I was not long in
performing my ablutions. Before leaving the room, I looked again at the
stuffed poodle. On the board to which he was fixed, I saw painted in
faded letters the word "Scarammuccia," evidently the comic Italian
name to which he had answered in his lifetime. There was no other
inscription; but I made up my mind that the dog must have been the
Professor's pet, and that he kept the animal stuffed in his bedroom as
a remembrance of past times. "Who would have suspected so great a
philosopher of having so much heart!" thought I, leaving the bedroom to
go downstairs again.

The Professor had done his breakfast, and was anxious to begin the
sitting; so I took out my chalks and paper, and set to work at once--I
seated on one pile of books and he on another.

"Fine anatomical preparations in my room, are there not, Mr. Kerby?"
said the old gentleman. "Did you notice a very interesting and perfect
arrangement of the intestinal ganglia? They form the subject of an
important chapter in my great work."

"I am afraid you will think me very ignorant," I replied. "But I really
do not know the intestinal ganglia when I see them. The object I noticed
with most curiosity in your room was something more on a level with my
own small capacity."

"And what was that?" asked the Professor.

"The figure of the stuffed poodle. I suppose he was a favorite of
yours?"

"Of mine? No, no; a young woman's favorite, sir, before I was born;
and a very remarkable dog, too. The vital principle in that poodle, Mr.
Kerby, must have been singularly intensified. He lived to a fabulous old
age, and he was clever enough to play an important part of his own
in what you English call a Romance of Real Life! If I could only have
dissected that poodle, I would have put him into my book; he should have
headed my chapter on the Vital Principle of Beasts."

"Here is a story in prospect," thought I, "if I can only keep his
attention up to the subject."

"He should have figured in my great work, sir," the Professor went on.
"Scarammuccia should have taken his place among the examples that prove
my new theory; but unfortunately he died before I was born. His mistress
gave him, stuffed, as you see upstairs, to my father to take care of
for her, and he has descended as an heirloom to me. Talking of dogs,
Mr. Kerby, I have ascertained, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the
brachial plexus in people who die of hydrophobia--but stop! I had better
show you how it is--the preparation is upstairs under my wash-hand
stand."

He left his seat as he spoke. In another minute he would have sent the
servant to fetch the "preparation," and I should have lost the story.
At the risk of his taking offense, I begged him not to move just then,
unless he wished me to spoil his likeness. This alarmed, but fortunately
did not irritate him. He returned to his seat, and I resumed the subject
of the stuffed poodle, asking him boldly to tell me the story with which
the dog was connected. The demand seemed to impress him with no very
favorable opinion of my intellectual tastes; but he complied with it,
and related, not without many a wearisome digression to the subject of
his great work, the narrative which I propose calling by the name of
"The Yellow Mask." After the slight specimens that I have given of his
character and style of conversation, it will be almost unnecessary
for me to premise that I tell this story as I have told the last, and
"Sister Rose," in my own language, and according to my own plan in the
disposition of the incidents--adding nothing, of course, to the facts,
but keeping them within the limits which my disposable space prescribes
to me.

I may perhaps be allowed to add in this place, that I have not yet seen
or heard of my portrait in an engraved state. Professor Tizzi is
still alive; but I look in vain through the publishers' lists for an
announcement of his learned work on the Vital Principle. Possibly he
may be adding a volume or two to the twelve already completed, by way
of increasing the debt which a deeply obliged posterity is, sooner or
later, sure of owing to him.



THE PROFESSOR'S STORY OF THE YELLOW MASK.



PART FIRST.



CHAPTER I.

About a century ago, there lived in the ancient city of Pisa a famous
Italian milliner, who, by way of vindicating to all customers her
familiarity with Paris fashions, adopted a French title, and called
herself the Demoiselle Grifoni. She was a wizen little woman with a
mischievous face, a quick tongue, a nimble foot, a talent for business,
and an uncertain disposition. Rumor hinted that she was immensely rich,
and scandal suggested that she would do anything for money.

The one undeniable good quality which raised Demoiselle Grifoni above
all her rivals in the trade was her inexhaustible fortitude. She was
never known to yield an inch under any pressure of adverse circumstances.
Thus the memorable occasion of her life on which she was threatened with
ruin was also the occasion on which she most triumphantly asserted the
energy and decision of her character. At the height of the demoiselle's
prosperity her skilled forewoman and cutter-out basely married and
started in business as her rival. Such a calamity as this would have
ruined an ordinary milliner; but the invincible Grifoni rose superior
to it almost without an effort, and proved incontestably that it was
impossible for hostile Fortune to catch her at the end of her resources.
While the minor milliners were prophesying that she would shut up shop,
she was quietly carrying on a private correspondence with an agent in
Paris. Nobody knew what these letters were about until a few weeks had
elapsed, and then circulars were received by all the ladies in Pisa,
announcing that the best French forewoman who could be got for money
was engaged to superintend the great Grifoni establishment. This
master-stroke decided the victory. All the demoiselle's customers
declined giving orders elsewhere until the forewoman from Paris had
exhibited to the natives of Pisa the latest fashions from the metropolis
of the world of dress.

The Frenchwoman arrived punctual to the appointed day--glib and curt,
smiling and flippant, tight of face and supple of figure. Her name was
Mademoiselle Virginie, and her family had inhumanly deserted her. She
was set to work the moment she was inside the doors of the Grifoni
establishment. A room was devoted to her own private use; magnificent
materials in velvet, silk, and satin, with due accompaniment of muslins,
laces, and ribbons were placed at her disposal; she was told to spare no
expense, and to produce, in the shortest possible time, the finest and
nearest specimen dresses for exhibition in the show-room. Mademoiselle
Virginie undertook to do everything required of her, produced her
portfolios of patterns and her book of colored designs, and asked for
one assistant who could speak French enough to interpret her orders to
the Italian girls in the work-room.

"I have the very person you want," cried Demoiselle Grifoni. "A
work-woman we call Brigida here--the idlest slut in Pisa, but as sharp
as a needle--has been in France, and speaks the language like a native.
I'll send her to you directly."

Mademoiselle Virginie was not left long alone with her patterns and
silks. A tall woman, with bold black eyes, a reckless manner, and a
step as firm as a man's, stalked into the room with the gait of a
tragedy-queen crossing the stage. The instant her eyes fell on the
French forewoman, she stopped, threw up her hands in astonishment, and
exclaimed, "Finette!"

"Teresa!" cried the Frenchwoman, casting her scissors on the table, and
advancing a few steps.

"Hush! call me Brigida."

"Hush! call me Virginie."

These two exclamations were uttered at the same moment, and then the
two women scrutinized each other in silence. The swarthy cheeks of
the Italian turned to a dull yellow, and the voice of the Frenchwoman
trembled a little when she spoke again.

"How, in the name of Heaven, have you dropped down in the world as low
as this?" she asked. "I thought you were provided for when--"

"Silence!" interrupted Brigida. "You see I was not provided for. I have
had my misfortunes; and you are the last woman alive who ought to refer
to them."

"Do you think I have not had my misfortunes, too, since we met?"
(Brigida's face brightened maliciously at those words.) "You have had
your revenge," continued Mademoiselle Virginie, coldly, turning away to
the table and taking up the scissors again.

Brigida followed her, threw one arm roughly round her neck, and kissed
her on the cheek. "Let us be friends again," she said. The Frenchwoman
laughed. "Tell me how I have had my revenge," pursued the other,
tightening her grasp. Mademoiselle Virginie signed to Brigida to stoop,
and whispered rapidly in her ear. The Italian listened eagerly, with
fierce, suspicious eyes fixed on the door. When the whispering ceased,
she loosened her hold, and, with a sigh of relief, pushed back her heavy
black hair from her temples. "Now we are friends," she said, and sat
down indolently in a chair placed by the worktable.

"Friends," repeated Mademoiselle Virginie, with another laugh. "And now
for business," she continued, getting a row of pins ready for use by
putting them between her teeth. "I am here, I believe, for the purpose
of ruining the late forewoman, who has set up in opposition to us? Good!
I _will_ ruin her. Spread out the yellow brocaded silk, my dear, and
pin that pattern on at your end, while I pin at mine. And what are your
plans, Brigida? (Mind you don't forget that Finette is dead, and that
Virginie has risen from her ashes.) You can't possibly intend to stop
here all your life? (Leave an inch outside the paper, all round.) You
must have projects? What are they?"

"Look at my figure," said Brigida, placing herself in an attitude in the
middle of the room.

"Ah," rejoined the other, "it's not what it was. There's too much of it.
You want diet, walking, and a French stay-maker," muttered Mademoiselle
Virginie through her chevaus-defrise of pins.

"Did the goddess Minerva walk, and employ a French stay-maker? I
thought she rode upon clouds, and lived at a period before waists were
invented."

"What do you mean?"

"This--that my present project is to try if I can't make my fortune by
sitting as a model for Minerva in the studio of the best sculptor in
Pisa."

"And who is he! (Unwind me a yard or two of that black lace.)"

"The master-sculptor, Luca Lomi--an old family, once noble, but down in
the world now. The master is obliged to make statues to get a living for
his daughter and himself."

"More of the lace--double it over the bosom of the dress. And how is
sitting to this needy sculptor to make your fortune?"

"Wait a minute. There are other sculptors besides him in the studio.
There is, first, his brother, the priest--Father Rocco, who passes all
his spare time with the master. He is a good sculptor in his way--has
cast statues and made a font for his church--a holy man, who devotes all
his work in the studio to the cause of piety."

"Ah, bah! we should think him a droll priest in France. (More pins.) You
don't expect _him_ to put money in your pocket, surely?"

"Wait, I say again. There is a third sculptor in the studio--actually
a nobleman! His name is Fabio d'Ascoli. He is rich, young, handsome,
an only child, and little better than a fool. Fancy his working at
sculpture, as if he had his bread to get by it--and thinking that an
amusement! Imagine a man belonging to one of the best families in Pisa
mad enough to want to make a reputation as an artist! Wait! wait!
the best is to come. His father and mother are dead--he has no near
relations in the world to exercise authority over him--he is a bachelor,
and his fortune is all at his own disposal; going a-begging, my friend;
absolutely going a-begging for want of a clever woman to hold out her
hand and take it from him."

"Yes, yes--now I understand. The goddess Minerva is a clever woman, and
she will hold out her hand and take his fortune from him with the utmost
docility."

"The first thing is to get him to offer it. I must tell you that I am
not going to sit to him, but to his master, Luca Lomi, who is doing the
statue of Minerva. The face is modeled from his daughter; and now he
wants somebody to sit for the bust and arms. Maddalena Lomi and I are
as nearly as possible the same height, I hear--the difference between us
being that I have a good figure and she has a bad one. I have offered
to sit, through a friend who is employed in the studio. If the master
accepts, I am sure of an introduction to our rich young gentleman; and
then leave it to my good looks, my various accomplishments, and my ready
tongue, to do the rest."

"Stop! I won't have the lace doubled, on second thoughts. I'll have it
single, and running all round the dress in curves--so. Well, and who is
this friend of yours employed in the studio? A fourth sculptor?"

"No, no; the strangest, simplest little creature--"

Just then a faint tap was audible at the door of the room.

Brigida laid her finger on her lips, and called impatiently to the
person outside to come in.

The door opened gently, and a young girl, poorly but very neatly
dressed, entered the room. She was rather thin and under the average
height; but her head and figure were in perfect proportion. Her hair was
of that gorgeous auburn color, her eyes of that deep violet-blue, which
the portraits of Giorgione and Titian have made famous as the type of
Venetian beauty. Her features possessed the definiteness and regularity,
the "good modeling" (to use an artist's term), which is the rarest of
all womanly charms, in Italy as elsewhere. The one serious defect of
her face was its paleness. Her cheeks, wanting nothing in form, wanted
everything in color. That look of health, which is the essential
crowning-point of beauty, was the one attraction which her face did not
possess.

She came into the room with a sad and weary expression in her
eyes, which changed, however, the moment she observed the
magnificently-dressed French forewoman, into a look of astonishment,
and almost of awe. Her manner became shy and embarrassed; and after an
instant of hesitation, she turned back silently to the door.

"Stop, stop, Nanina," said Brigida, in Italian. "Don't be afraid of that
lady. She is our new forewoman; and she has it in her power to do all
sorts of kind things for you. Look up, and tell us what you want. You
were sixteen last birthday, Nanina, and you behave like a baby of two
years old!"

"I only came to know if there was any work for me to-day," said the
girl, in a very sweet voice, that trembled a little as she tried to face
the fashionable French forewoman again.

"No work, child, that is easy enough for you to do," said Brigida. "Are
you going to the studio to-day?"

Some of the color that Nanina's cheeks wanted began to steal over them
as she answered "Yes."

"Don't forget my message, darling. And if Master Luca Lomi asks where I
live, answer that you are ready to deliver a letter to me; but that you
are forbidden to enter into any particulars at first about who I am, or
where I live."

"Why am I forbidden?" inquired Nanina, innocently.

"Don't ask questions, baby! Do as you are told. Bring me back a nice
note or message to-morrow from the studio, and I will intercede with
this lady to get you some work. You are a foolish child to want it, when
you might make more money here and at Florence, by sitting to painters
and sculptors; though what they can see to paint or model in you I never
could understand."

"I like working at home better than going abroad to sit," said Nanina,
looking very much abashed as she faltered out the answer, and escaping
from the room with a terrified farewell obeisance, which was an
eccentric compound of a start, a bow, and a courtesy.

"That awkward child would be pretty," said Mademoiselle Virginie, making
rapid progress with the cutting-out of her dress, "if she knew how to
give herself a complexion, and had a presentable gown on her back. Who
is she?"

"The friend who is to get me into Master Luca Lomi's studio," replied
Brigida, laughing. "Rather a curious ally for me to take up with, isn't
she?"

"Where did you meet with her?"

"Here, to be sure; she hangs about this place for any plain work she can
get to do, and takes it home to the oddest little room in a street near
the Campo Santo. I had the curiosity to follow her one day, and knocked
at her door soon after she had gone in, as if I was a visitor. She
answered my knock in a great flurry and fright, as you may imagine. I
made myself agreeable, affected immense interest in her affairs, and so
got into her room. Such a place! A mere corner of it curtained off to
make a bedroom. One chair, one stool, one saucepan on the fire. Before
the hearth the most grotesquely hideous unshaven poodle-dog you ever
saw; and on the stool a fair little girl plaiting dinner-mats. Such was
the household--furniture and all included. 'Where is your father?' I
asked. 'He ran away and left us years ago,' answers my awkward little
friend who has just left the room, speaking in that simple way of hers,
with all the composure in the world. 'And your mother?'--'Dead.' She
went up to the little mat-plaiting girl as she gave that answer, and
began playing with her long flaxen hair. 'Your sister, I suppose,' said
I. 'What is her name?'--'They call me La Biondella,' says the child,
looking up from her mat (La Biondella, Virginie, means The Fair). 'And
why do you let that great, shaggy, ill-looking brute lie before your
fireplace?' I asked. 'Oh!' cried the little mat-plaiter, 'that is our
dear old dog, Scarammuccia. He takes care of the house when Nanina is
not at home. He dances on his hind legs, and jumps through a hoop, and
tumbles down dead when I cry Bang! Scarammuccia followed us home one
night, years ago, and he has lived with us ever since. He goes out every
day by himself, we can't tell where, and generally returns licking his
chops, which makes us afraid that he is a thief; but nobody finds him
out, because he is the cleverest dog that ever lived!' The child ran on
in this way about the great beast by the fireplace, till I was obliged
to stop her; while that simpleton Nanina stood by, laughing and
encouraging her. I asked them a few more questions, which produced some
strange answers. They did not seem to know of any relations of theirs
in the world. The neighbors in the house had helped them, after their
father ran away, until they were old enough to help themselves; and
they did not seem to think there was anything in the least wretched or
pitiable in their way of living. The last thing I heard, when I left
them that day, was La Biondella crying 'Bang!'--then a bark, a thump
on the floor, and a scream of laughter. If it was not for their dog, I
should go and see them oftener. But the ill-conditioned beast has taken
a dislike to me, and growls and shows his teeth whenever I come near
him."

"The girl looked sickly when she came in here. Is she always like that?"

"No. She has altered within the last month. I suspect our interesting
young nobleman has produced an impression. The oftener the girl has sat
to him lately, the paler and more out of spirits she has become."

"Oh! she has sat to him, has she?"

"She is sitting to him now. He is doing a bust of some Pagan nymph or
other, and prevailed on Nanina to let him copy from her head and face.
According to her own account the little fool was frightened at first,
and gave him all the trouble in the world before she would consent."

"And now she has consented, don't you think it likely she may turn out
rather a dangerous rival? Men are such fools, and take such fancies into
their heads--"

"Ridiculous! A thread-paper of a girl like that, who has no manner, no
talk, no intelligence; who has nothing to recommend her but an awkward,
babyish prettiness! Dangerous to me? No, no! If there is danger at all,
I have to dread it from the sculptor's daughter. I don't mind confessing
that I am anxious to see Maddalena Lomi. But as for Nanina, she will
simply be of use to me. All I know already about the studio and the
artists in it, I know through her. She will deliver my message, and
procure me my introduction; and when we have got so far, I shall give
her an old gown and a shake of the hand; and then, good-by to our little
innocent!"

"Well, well, for your sake I hope you are the wiser of the two in this
matter. For my part, I always distrust innocence. Wait one moment, and
I shall have the body and sleeves of this dress ready for the
needle-women. There, ring the bell, and order them up; for I have
directions to give, and you must interpret for me."

While Brigida went to the bell, the energetic Frenchwoman began planning
out the skirt of the new dress. She laughed as she measured off yard
after yard of the silk.

"What are you laughing about?" asked Brigida, opening the door and
ringing a hand-bell in the passage.

"I can't help fancying, dear, in spite of her innocent face and her
artless ways, that your young friend is a hypocrite."

"And I am quite certain, love, that she is only a simpleton."



CHAPTER II.

The studio of the master-sculptor, Luca Lomi, was composed of two large
rooms unequally divided by a wooden partition, with an arched doorway
cut in the middle of it.

While the milliners of the Grifoni establishment were industriously
shaping dresses, the sculptors in Luca Lomi's workshop were, in their
way, quite as hard at work shaping marble and clay. In the smaller of
the two rooms the young nobleman (only addressed in the studio by his
Christian name of Fabio) was busily engaged on his bust, with Nanina
sitting before him as a model. His was not one of those traditional
Italian faces from which subtlety and suspicion are always supposed to
look out darkly on the world at large. Both countenance and expression
proclaimed his character frankly and freely to all who saw him. Quick
intelligence looked brightly from his eyes; and easy good humor laughed
out pleasantly in the rather quaint curve of his lips. For the rest,
his face expressed the defects as well as the merits of his character,
showing that he wanted resolution and perseverance just as plainly as it
showed also that he possessed amiability and intelligence.

At the end of the large room, nearest to the street door, Luca Lomi was
standing by his life-size statue of Minerva; and was issuing directions,
from time to time, to some of his workmen, who were roughly chiseling
the drapery of another figure. At the opposite side of the room, nearest
to the partition, his brother, Father Rocco, was taking a cast from a
statuette of the Madonna; while Maddalena Lomi, the sculptor's daughter,
released from sitting for Minerva's face, walked about the two rooms,
and watched what was going on in them.

There was a strong family likeness of a certain kind between father,
brother and daughter. All three were tall, handsome, dark-haired, and
dark-eyed; nevertheless, they differed in expression, strikingly as they
resembled one another in feature. Maddalena Lomi's face betrayed strong
passions, but not an ungenerous nature. Her father, with the same
indications of a violent temper, had some sinister lines about his mouth
and forehead which suggested anything rather than an open disposition.
Father Rocco's countenance, on the other hand, looked like the
personification of absolute calmness and invincible moderation; and his
manner, which, in a very firm way, was singularly quiet and deliberate,
assisted in carrying out the impression produced by his face. The
daughter seemed as if she could fly into a passion at a moment's notice,
and forgive also at a moment's notice. The father, appearing to be just
as irritable, had something in his face which said, as plainly as if in
words, "Anger me, and I never pardon." The priest looked as if he need
never be called on either to ask forgiveness or to grant it, for the
double reason that he could irritate nobody else, and that nobody else
could irritate him.

"Rocco," said Luca, looking at the face of his Minerva, which was now
finished, "this statue of mine will make a sensation."

"I am glad to hear it," rejoined the priest, dryly.

"It is a new thing in art," continued Luca, enthusiastically. "Other
sculptors, with a classical subject like mine, limit themselves to the
ideal classical face, and never think of aiming at individual character.
Now I do precisely the reverse of that. I get my handsome daughter,
Maddalena, to sit for Minerva, and I make an exact likeness of her. I
may lose in ideal beauty, but I gain in individual character. People may
accuse me of disregarding established rules; but my answer is, that I
make my own rules. My daughter looks like a Minerva, and there she is
exactly as she looks."

"It is certainly a wonderful likeness," said Father Rocco, approaching
the statue.

"It the girl herself," cried the other. "Exactly her expression, and
exactly her features. Measure Maddalena, and measure Minerva, and from
forehead to chin, you won't find a hair-breadth of difference between
them."

"But how about the bust and arms of the figure, now the face is done?"
asked the priest, returning, as he spoke, to his own work.

"I may have the very model I want for them to-morrow. Little Nanina has
just given me the strangest message. What do you think of a mysterious
lady admirer who offers to sit for the bust and arms of my Minerva?"

"Are you going to accept the offer?" inquired the priest.

"I am going to receive her to-morrow; and if I really find that she is
the same height as Maddalena, and has a bust and arms worth modeling, of
course I shall accept her offer; for she will be the very sitter I have
been looking after for weeks past. Who can she be? That's the mystery
I want to find out. Which do you say, Rocco--an enthusiast or an
adventuress?"

"I do not presume to say, for I have no means of knowing."

"Ah, there you are with your moderation again. Now, I do presume to
assert that she must be either one or the other--or she would not have
forbidden Nanina to say anything about her in answer to all my first
natural inquiries. Where is Maddalena? I thought she was here a minute
ago."

"She is in Fabio's room," answered Father Rocco, softly. "Shall I call
her?"

"No, no!" returned Luca. He stopped, looked round at the workmen, who
were chipping away mechanically at their bit of drapery; then advanced
close to the priest, with a cunning smile, and continued in a whisper,
"If Maddalena can only get from Fabio's room here to Fabio's palace over
the way, on the Arno--come, come, Rocco! don't shake your head. If
I brought her up to your church door one of these days, as Fabio
d'Ascoli's betrothed, you would be glad enough to take the rest of the
business off my hands, and make her Fabio d'Ascoli's wife. You are a
very holy man, Rocco, but you know the difference between the clink of
the money-bag and the clink of the chisel for all that!"

"I am sorry to find, Luca," returned the priest, coldly, "that you allow
yourself to talk of the most delicate subjects in the coarsest way. This
is one of the minor sins of the tongue which is growing on you. When we
are alone in the studio, I will endeavor to lead you into speaking of
the young man in the room there, and of your daughter, in terms more
becoming to you, to me, and to them. Until that time, allow me to go on
with my work."

Luca shrugged his shoulders, and went back to his statue. Father Rocco,
who had been engaged during the last ten minutes in mixing wet plaster
to the right consistency for taking a cast, suspended his occupation;
and crossing the room to a corner next the partition, removed from it
a cheval-glass which stood there. He lifted it away gently, while his
brother's back was turned, carried it close to the table at which he
had been at work, and then resumed his employment of mixing the plaster.
Having at last prepared the composition for use, he laid it over the
exposed half of the statuette with a neatness and dexterity which showed
him to be a practiced hand at cast-taking. Just as he had covered the
necessary extent of surface, Luca turned round from his statue.

"How are you getting on with the cast?" he asked. "Do you want any
help?"

"None, brother, I thank you," answered the priest. "Pray do not disturb
either yourself or your workmen on my account."

Luca turned again to the statue; and, at the same moment, Father Rocco
softly moved the cheval-glass toward the open doorway between the two
rooms, placing it at such an angle as to make it reflect the figures
of the persons in the smaller studio. He did this with significant
quickness and precision. It was evidently not the first time he had used
the glass for purposes of secret observation.

Mechanically stirring the wet plaster round and round for the second
casting, the priest looked into the glass, and saw, as in a picture, all
that was going forward in the inner room. Maddalena Lomi was standing
behind the young nobleman, watching the progress he made with his bust.
Occasionally she took the modeling tool out of his hand, and showed
him, with her sweetest smile, that she, too, as a sculptor's daughter,
understood something of the sculptor's art; and now and then, in the
pauses of the conversation, when her interest was especially intense in
Fabio's work, she suffered her hand to drop absently on his shoulder, or
stooped forward so close to him that her hair mingled for a moment with
his. Moving the glass an inch or two, so as to bring Nanina well under
his eye, Father Rocco found that he could trace each repetition of these
little acts of familiarity by the immediate effect which they produced
on the girl's face and manner. Whenever Maddalena so much as touched the
young nobleman--no matter whether she did so by premeditation, or really
by accident--Nanina's features contracted, her pale cheeks grew paler,
she fidgeted on her chair, and her fingers nervously twisted and
untwisted the loose ends of the ribbon fastened round her waist.

"Jealous," thought Father Rocco; "I suspected it weeks ago."

He turned away, and gave his whole attention for a few minutes to the
mixing of the plaster. When he looked back again at the glass, he was
just in time to witness a little accident which suddenly changed the
relative positions of the three persons in the inner room.

He saw Maddalena take up a modeling tool which lay on a table near her,
and begin to help Fabio in altering the arrangement of the hair in his
bust. The young man watched what she was doing earnestly enough for a
few moments; then his attention wandered away to Nanina. She looked at
him reproachfully, and he answered by a sign which brought a smile to
her face directly. Maddalena surprised her at the instant of the change;
and, following the direction of her eyes, easily discovered at whom the
smile was directed. She darted a glance of contempt at Nanina, threw
down the modeling tool, and turned indignantly to the young sculptor,
who was affecting to be hard at work again.

"Signor Fabio," she said, "the next time you forget what is due to your
rank and yourself, warn me of it, if you please, beforehand, and I will
take care to leave the room." While speaking the last words, she passed
through the doorway. Father Rocco, bending abstractedly over his plaster
mixture, heard her continue to herself in a whisper, as she went by
him, "If I have any influence at all with my father, that impudent
beggar-girl shall be forbidden the studio."

"Jealousy on the other side," thought the priest. "Something must be
done at once, or this will end badly."

He looked again at the glass, and saw Fabio, after an instant of
hesitation, beckon to Nanina to approach him. She left her seat,
advanced half-way to his, then stopped. He stepped forward to meet her,
and, taking her by the hand, whispered earnestly in her ear. When he had
done, before dropping her hand, he touched her cheek with his lips, and
then helped her on with the little white mantilla which covered her head
and shoulders out-of-doors. The girl trembled violently, and drew the
linen close to her face as Fabio walked into the larger studio, and,
addressing Father Rocco, said:

"I am afraid I am more idle, or more stupid, than ever to-day. I can't
get on with the bust at all to my satisfaction, so I have cut short the
sitting, and given Nanina a half-holiday."

At the first sound of his voice, Maddalena, who was speaking to her
father, stopped, and, with another look of scorn at Nanina standing
trembling in the doorway, left the room. Luca Lomi called Fabio to him
as she went away, and Father Rocco, turning to the statuette, looked
to see how the plaster was hardening on it. Seeing them thus engaged,
Nanina attempted to escape from the studio without being noticed; but
the priest stopped her just as she was hurrying by him.

"My child," said he, in his gentle, quiet way, "are you going home?"

Nanina's heart beat too fast for her to reply in words; she could only
answer by bowing her head.

"Take this for your little sister," pursued Father Rocco, putting a few
silver coins in her hand; "I have got some customers for those mats she
plaits so nicely. You need not bring them to my rooms; I will come and
see you this evening, when I am going my rounds among my parishioners,
and will take the mats away with me. You are a good girl, Nanina--you
have always been a good girl--and as long as I am alive, my child, you
shall never want a friend and an adviser."

Nanina's eyes filled with tears. She drew the mantilla closer than ever
round her face, as she tried to thank the priest. Father Rocco nodded
to her kindly, and laid his hand lightly on her head for a moment, then
turned round again to his cast.

"Don't forget my message to the lady who is to sit to me to-morrow,"
said Luca to Nanina, as she passed him on her way out of the studio.

After she had gone, Fabio returned to the priest, who was still busy
over his cast.

"I hope you will get on better with the bust to-morrow," said Father
Rocco, politely; "I am sure you cannot complain of your model."

"Complain of her!" cried the young man, warmly; "she has the most
beautiful head I ever saw. If I were twenty times the sculptor that I
am, I should despair of being able to do her justice."

He walked into the inner room to look at his bust again--lingered before
it for a little while--and then turned to retrace his steps to the
larger studio. Between him and the doorway stood three chairs. As he
went by them, he absently touched the backs of the first two, and passed
the third; but just as he was entering the larger room, stopped, as if
struck by a sudden recollection, returned hastily, and touched the third
chair. Raising his eyes, as he approached the large studio again after
doing this, he met the eyes of the priest fixed on him in unconcealed
astonishment.

"Signor Fabio!" exclaimed Father Rocco, with a sarcastic smile, "who
would ever have imagined that you were superstitious?"

"My nurse was," returned the young man, reddening, and laughing rather
uneasily. "She taught me some bad habits that I have not got over yet."
With those words he nodded and hastily went out.

"Superstitious," said Father Rocco softly to himself. He smiled again,
reflected for a moment, and then, going to the window, looked into the
street. The way to the left led to Fabio's palace, and the way to the
right to the Campo Santo, in the neighborhood of which Nanina lived. The
priest was just in time to see the young sculptor take the way to the
right.

After another half-hour had elapsed, the two workmen quitted the studio
to go to dinner, and Luca and his brother were left alone.

"We may return now," said Father Rocco, "to that conversation which was
suspended between us earlier in the day."

"I have nothing more to say," rejoined Luca, sulkily.

"Then you can listen to me, brother, with the greater attention,"
pursued the priest. "I objected to the coarseness of your tone in
talking of our young pupil and your daughter; I object still more
strongly to your insinuation that my desire to see them married
(provided always that they are sincerely attached to each other) springs
from a mercenary motive."

"You are trying to snare me, Rocco, in a mesh of fine phrases; but I am
not to be caught. I know what my own motive is for hoping that Maddalena
may get an offer of marriage from this wealthy young gentleman--she
will have his money, and we shall all profit by it. That is coarse and
mercenary, if you please; but it is the true reason why I want to
see Maddalena married to Fabio. You want to see it, too--and for what
reason, I should like to know, if not for mine?"

"Of what use would wealthy relations be to me? What are people with
money--what is money itself--to a man who follows my calling?"

"Money is something to everybody."

"Is it? When have you found that I have taken any account of it? Give
me money enough to buy my daily bread, and to pay for my lodging and my
coarse cassock, and though I may want much for the poor, for myself I
want no more. Then have you found me mercenary? Do I not help you in
this studio, for love of you and of the art, without exacting so much as
journeyman's wages? Have I ever asked you for more than a few crowns to
give away on feast-days among my parishioners? Money! money for a man
who may be summoned to Rome to-morrow, who may be told to go at half an
hour's notice on a foreign mission that may take him to the ends of the
earth, and who would be ready to go the moment when he was called on!
Money to a man who has no wife, no children, no interests outside the
sacred circle of the Church! Brother, do you see the dust and dirt and
shapeless marble chips lying around your statue there? Cover that floor
instead with gold, and, though the litter may have changed in color and
form, in my eyes it would be litter still."

"A very noble sentiment, I dare say, Rocco, but I can't echo it.
Granting that you care nothing for money, will you explain to me why
you are so anxious that Maddalena should marry Fabio? She has had offers
from poorer men--you knew of them--but you have never taken the least
interest in her accepting or rejecting a proposal before."

"I hinted the reason to you, months ago, when Fabio first entered the
studio."

"It was rather a vague hint, brother; can't you be plainer to-day?"

"I think I can. In the first place, let me begin by assuring you that
I have no objection to the young man himself. He may be a little
capricious and undecided, but he has no incorrigible faults that I have
discovered."

"That is rather a cool way of praising him, Rocco."

"I should speak of him warmly enough, if he were not the representative
of an intolerable corruption, and a monstrous wrong. Whenever I think of
him I think of an injury which his present existence perpetuates; and if
I do speak of him coldly, it is only for that reason."

Luca looked away quickly from his brother, and began kicking absently at
the marble chips which were scattered over the floor around him.

"I now remember," he said, "what that hint of yours pointed at. I know
what you mean."

"Then you know," answered the priest, "that while part of the wealth
which Fabio d'Ascoli possesses is honestly and incontestably his own;
part, also, has been inherited by him from the spoilers and robbers of
the Church--"

"Blame his ancestors for that; don't blame him."

"I blame him as long as the spoil is not restored."

"How do you know that it was spoil, after all?"

"I have examined more carefully than most men the records of the civil
wars in Italy; and I know that the ancestors of Fabio d'Ascoli wrung
from the Church, in her hour of weakness, property which they dared to
claim as their right. I know of titles to lands signed away, in
those stormy times, under the influence of fear, or through false
representations of which the law takes no account. I call the money thus
obtained spoil, and I say that it ought to be restored, and shall be
restored, to the Church from which it was taken."

"And what does Fabio answer to that, brother?"

"I have not spoken to him on the subject."

"Why not?"

"Because I have, as yet, no influence over him. When he is married, his
wife will have influence over him, and she shall speak."

"Maddalena, I suppose? How do you know that she will speak?"

"Have I not educated her? Does she not understand what her duties are
toward the Church, in whose bosom she has been reared?"

Luca hesitated uneasily, and walked away a step or two before he spoke
again.

"Does this spoil, as you call it, amount to a large sum of money?" he
asked, in an anxious whisper.

"I may answer that question, Luca, at some future time," said the
priest. "For the present, let it be enough that you are acquainted with
all I undertook to inform you of when we began our conversation. You now
know that if I am anxious for this marriage to take place, it is from
motives entirely unconnected with self-interest. If all the property
which Fabio's ancestors wrongfully obtained from the Church were
restored to the Church to-morrow, not one paulo of it would go into my
pocket. I am a poor priest now, and to the end of my days shall remain
so. You soldiers of the world, brother, fight for your pay; I am a
soldier of the Church, and I fight for my cause."

Saying these words, he returned abruptly to the statuette; and refused
to speak, or leave his employment again, until he had taken the mold
off, and had carefully put away the various fragments of which it
consisted. This done, he drew a writing-desk from the drawer of his
working-table, and taking out a slip of paper wrote these lines:


"Come down to the studio to-morrow. Fabio will be with us, but Nanina
will return no more."


Without signing what he had written, he sealed it up, and directed it
to "Donna Maddalena"; then took his hat, and handed the note to his
brother.

"Oblige me by giving that to my niece," he said.

"Tell me, Rocco," said Luca, turning the note round and round
perplexedly between his finger and thumb; "do you think Maddalena will
be lucky enough to get married to Fabio?"

"Still coarse in your expressions, brother!"

"Never mind my expressions. Is it likely?"

"Yes, Luca, I think it is likely."

With those words he waved his hand pleasantly to his brother, and went
out.



CHAPTER III.

From the studio Father Rocco went straight to his own rooms, hard by the
church to which he was attached. Opening a cabinet in his study, he took
from one of its drawers a handful of small silver money, consulted for a
minute or so a slate on which several names and addresses were written,
provided himself with a portable inkhorn and some strips of paper, and
again went out.

He directed his steps to the poorest part of the neighborhood; and
entering some very wretched houses, was greeted by the inhabitants with
great respect and affection. The women, especially, kissed his hands
with more reverence than they would have shown to the highest
crowned head in Europe. In return, he talked to them as easily and
unconstrainedly as if they were his equals; sat down cheerfully on dirty
bedsides and rickety benches; and distributed his little gifts of
money with the air of a man who was paying debts rather than bestowing
charity. Where he encountered cases of illness, he pulled out his
inkhorn and slips of paper, and wrote simple prescriptions to be made up
from the medicine-chest of a neighboring convent, which served the same
merciful purpose then that is answered by dispensaries in our days.
When he had exhausted his money, and had got through his visits, he
was escorted out of the poor quarter by a perfect train of enthusiastic
followers. The women kissed his hand again, and the men uncovered as he
turned, and, with a friendly sign, bade them all farewell.

As soon as he was alone again, he walked toward the Campo Santo, and,
passing the house in which Nanina lived, sauntered up and down the
street thoughtfully for some minutes. When he at length ascended the
steep staircase that led to the room occupied by the sisters, he found
the door ajar. Pushing it open gently, he saw La Biondella sitting with
her pretty, fair profile turned toward him, eating her evening meal
of bread and grapes. At the opposite end of the room, Scarammuccia was
perched up on his hindquarters in a corner, with his mouth wide open to
catch the morsel of bread which he evidently expected the child to throw
to him. What the elder sister was doing, the priest had not time to see;
for the dog barked the moment he presented himself, and Nanina hastened
to the door to ascertain who the intruder might be. All that he could
observe was that she was too confused, on catching sight of him, to be
able to utter a word. La Biondella was the first to speak.

"Thank you, Father Rocco," said the child, jumping up, with her bread in
one hand and her grapes in the other--"thank you for giving me so much
money for my dinner-mats. There they are, tied up together in one little
parcel, in the corner. Nanina said she was ashamed to think of your
carrying them; and I said I knew where you lived, and I should like to
ask you to let me take them home!"

"Do you think you can carry them all the way, my dear?" asked the
priest.

"Look, Father Rocco, see if I can't carry them!" cried La Biondella,
cramming her bread into one of the pockets of her little apron, holding
her bunch of grapes by the stalk in her mouth, and hoisting the packet
of dinner-mats on her head in a moment. "See, I am strong enough to
carry double," said the child, looking up proudly into the priest's
face.

"Can you trust her to take them home for me?" asked Father Rocco,
turning to Nanina. "I want to speak to you alone, and her absence will
give me the opportunity. Can you trust her out by herself?"

"Yes, Father Rocco, she often goes out alone." Nanina gave this answer
in low, trembling tones, and looked down confusedly on the ground.

"Go then, my dear," said Father Rocco, patting the child on the
shoulder; "and come back here to your sister, as soon as you have left
the mats."

La Biondella went out directly in great triumph, with Scarammuccia
walking by her side, and keeping his muzzle suspiciously close to the
pocket in which she had put her bread. Father Rocco closed the door
after them, and then, taking the one chair which the room possessed,
motioned to Nanina to sit by him on the stool.

"Do you believe that I am your friend, my child, and that I have always
meant well toward you?" he began.

"The best and kindest of friends," answered Nanina.

"Then you will hear what I have to say patiently, and you will believe
that I am speaking for your good, even if my words should distress you?"
(Nanina turned away her head.) "Now, tell me; should I be wrong, to
begin with, if I said that my brother's pupil, the young nobleman
whom we call 'Signor Fabio,' had been here to see you to-day?" (Nanina
started up affrightedly from her stool.) "Sit down again, my child; I am
not going to blame you. I am only going to tell you what you must do for
the future."

He took her hand; it was cold, and it trembled violently in his.

"I will not ask what he has been saying to you," continued the priest;
"for it might distress you to answer, and I have, moreover, had means of
knowing that your youth and beauty have made a strong impression on
him. I will pass over, then, all reference to the words he may have been
speaking to you; and I will come at once to what I have now to say,
in my turn. Nanina, my child, arm yourself with all your courage, and
promise me, before we part to-night, that you will see Signor Fabio no
more."

Nanina turned round suddenly, and fixed her eyes on him, with an
expression of terrified incredulity. "No more?"

"You are very young and very innocent," said Father Rocco; "but surely
you must have thought before now of the difference between Signor Fabio
and you. Surely you must have often remembered that you are low down
among the ranks of the poor, and that he is high up among the rich and
the nobly born?"

Nanina's hands dropped on the priest's knees. She bent her head down on
them, and began to weep bitterly.

"Surely you must have thought of that?" reiterated Father Rocco.

"Oh, I have often, often thought of it!" murmured the girl "I have
mourned over it, and cried about it in secret for many nights past. He
said I looked pale, and ill, and out of spirits to-day, and I told him
it was with thinking of that!"

"And what did he say in return?"

There was no answer. Father Rocco looked down. Nanina raised her head
directly from his knees, and tried to turn it away again. He took her
hand and stopped her.

"Come!" he said; "speak frankly to me. Say what you ought to say to your
father and your friend. What was his answer, my child, when you reminded
him of the difference between you?"

"He said I was born to be a lady," faltered the girl, still struggling
to turn her face away, "and that I might make myself one if I would
learn and be patient. He said that if he had all the noble ladies in
Pisa to choose from on one side, and only little Nanina on the other, he
would hold out his hand to me, and tell them, 'This shall be my wife.'
He said love knew no difference of rank; and that if he was a nobleman
and rich, it was all the more reason why he should please himself. He
was so kind, that I thought my heart would burst while he was speaking;
and my little sister liked him so, that she got upon his knee and kissed
him. Even our dog, who growls at other strangers, stole to his side and
licked his hand. Oh, Father Rocco! Father Rocco!" The tears burst out
afresh, and the lovely head dropped once more, wearily, on the priest's
knee.

Father Rocco smiled to himself, and waited to speak again till she was
calmer.

"Supposing," he resumed, after some minutes of silence, "supposing
Signor Fabio really meant all he said to you--"

Nanina started up, and confronted the priest boldly for the first time
since he had entered the room.

"Supposing!" she exclaimed, her cheeks beginning to redden, and her dark
blue eyes flashing suddenly through her tears "Supposing! Father Rocco,
Fabio would never deceive me. I would die here at your feet, rather than
doubt the least word he said to me!"

The priest signed to her quietly to return to the stool. "I never
suspected the child had so much spirit in her," he thought to himself.

"I would die," repeated Nanina, in a voice that began to falter now. "I
would die rather than doubt him."

"I will not ask you to doubt him," said Father Rocco, gently; "and
I will believe in him myself as firmly as you do. Let us suppose, my
child, that you have learned patiently all the many things of which you
are now ignorant, and which it is necessary for a lady to know. Let us
suppose that Signor Fabio has really violated all the laws that govern
people in his high station and has taken you to him publicly as his
wife. You would be happy then, Nanina; but would he? He has no father or
mother to control him, it is true; but he has friends--many friends and
intimates in his own rank--proud, heartless people, who know nothing of
your worth and goodness; who, hearing of your low birth, would look on
you, and on your husband too, my child, with contempt. He has not your
patience and fortitude. Think how bitter it would be for him to bear
that contempt--to see you shunned by proud women, and carelessly pitied
or patronized by insolent men. Yet all this, and more, he would have to
endure, or else to quit the world he has lived in from his boyhood--the
world he was born to live in. You love him, I know--"

Nanina's tears burst out afresh. "Oh, how dearly--how dearly!" she
murmured.

"Yes, you love him dearly," continued the priest; "but would all your
love compensate him for everything else that he must lose? It might,
at first; but there would come a time when the world would assert its
influence over him again; when he would feel a want which you could not
supply--a weariness which you could not solace. Think of his life then,
and of yours. Think of the first day when the first secret doubt whether
he had done rightly in marrying you would steal into his mind. We are
not masters of all our impulses. The lightest spirits have their moments
of irresistible depression; the bravest hearts are not always superior
to doubt. My child, my child, the world is strong, the pride of rank is
rooted deep, and the human will is frail at best! Be warned! For your
own sake and for Fabio's, be warned in time."

Nanina stretched out her hands toward the priest in despair.

"Oh, Father Rocco! Father Rocco!" she cried, "why did you not tell me
this before?"

"Because, my child, I only knew of the necessity for telling you to-day.
But it is not too late; it is never too late to do a good action. You
love Fabio, Nanina? Will you prove that love by making a great sacrifice
for his good?"

"I would die for his good!"

"Will you nobly cure him of a passion which will be his ruin, if not
yours, by leaving Pisa to-morrow?"

"Leave Pisa!" exclaimed Nanina. Her face grew deadly pale; she rose and
moved back a step or two from the priest.

"Listen to me," pursued Father Rocco; "I have heard you complain that
you could not get regular employment at needle-work. You shall have that
employment, if you will go with me--you and your little sister too, of
course--to Florence to-morrow."

"I promised Fabio to go to the studio," began Nanina, affrightedly. "I
promised to go at ten o'clock. How can I--"

She stopped suddenly, as if her breath were failing her.

"I myself will take you and your sister to Florence," said Father Rocco,
without noticing the interruption. "I will place you under the care of a
lady who will be as kind as a mother to you both. I will answer for your
getting such work to do as will enable you to keep yourself honestly
and independently; and I will undertake, if you do not like your life at
Florence, to bring you back to Pisa after a lapse of three months only.
Three months, Nanina. It is not a long exile."

"Fabio! Fabio!" cried the girl, sinking again on the seat, and hiding
her face.

"It is for his good," said Father Rocco, calmly: "for Fabio's good,
remember."

"What would he think of me if I went away? Oh, if I had but learned to
write! If I could only write Fabio a letter!"

"Am I not to be depended on to explain to him all that he ought to
know?"

"How can I go away from him! Oh! Father Rocco, how can you ask me to go
away from him?"

"I will ask you to do nothing hastily. I will leave you till to-morrow
morning to decide. At nine o'clock I shall be in the street; and I will
not even so much as enter this house, unless I know beforehand that you
have resolved to follow my advice. Give me a sign from your window. If
I see you wave your white mantilla out of it, I shall know that you have
taken the noble resolution to save Fabio and to save yourself. I will
say no more, my child; for, unless I am grievously mistaken in you, I
have already said enough."

He went out, leaving her still weeping bitterly. Not far from the house,
he met La Biondella and the dog on their way back. The little girl
stopped to report to him the safe delivery of her dinner-mats; but he
passed on quickly with a nod and a smile. His interview with Nanina
had left some influence behind it, which unfitted him just then for the
occupation of talking to a child.


Nearly half an hour before nine o'clock on the following morning, Father
Rocco set forth for the street in which Nanina lived. On his way thither
he overtook a dog walking lazily a few paces ahead in the roadway; and
saw, at the same time, an elegantly-dressed lady advancing toward him.
The dog stopped suspiciously as she approached, and growled and showed
his teeth when she passed him. The lady, on her side, uttered an
exclamation of disgust, but did not seem to be either astonished or
frightened by the animal's threatening attitude. Father Rocco looked
after her with some curiosity as she walked by him. She was a handsome
woman, and he admired her courage. "I know that growling brute well
enough," he said to himself, "but who can the lady be?"

The dog was Scarammuccia, returning from one of his marauding
expeditions The lady was Brigida, on her way to Luca Lomi's studio.

Some minutes before nine o'clock the priest took his post in the street,
opposite Nanina's window. It was open; but neither she nor her little
sister appeared at it. He looked up anxiously as the church-clocks
struck the hour; but there was no sign for a minute or so after they
were all silent. "Is she hesitating still?" said Father Rocco to
himself.

Just as the words passed his lips, the white mantilla was waved out of
the window.



PART SECOND.



CHAPTER I.

Even the master-stroke of replacing the treacherous Italian forewoman by
a French dressmaker, engaged direct from Paris, did not at first avail
to elevate the great Grifoni establishment above the reach of minor
calamities. Mademoiselle Virginie had not occupied her new situation
at Pisa quite a week before she fell ill. All sorts of reports were
circulated as to the cause of this illness; and the Demoiselle Grifoni
even went so far as to suggest that the health of the new forewoman had
fallen a sacrifice to some nefarious practices of the chemical sort, on
the part of her rival in the trade. But, however the misfortune had been
produced, it was a fact that Mademoiselle Virginie was certainly very
ill, and another fact that the doctor insisted on her being sent to the
baths of Lucca as soon as she could be moved from her bed.

Fortunately for the Demoiselle Grifoni, the Frenchwoman had succeeded in
producing three specimens of her art before her health broke down. They
comprised the evening-dress of yellow brocaded silk, to which she had
devoted herself on the morning when she first assumed her duties
at Pisa; a black cloak and hood of an entirely new shape; and an
irresistibly fascinating dressing-gown, said to have been first brought
into fashion by the princesses of the blood-royal of France. These
articles of costume, on being exhibited in the showroom, electrified the
ladies of Pisa; and orders from all sides flowed in immediately on the
Grifoni establishment. They were, of course, easily executed by the
inferior work-women, from the specimen designs of the French dressmaker.
So that the illness of Mademoiselle Virginie, though it might cause her
mistress some temporary inconvenience, was, after all, productive of no
absolute loss.

Two months at the baths of Lucca restored the new forewoman to health.
She returned to Pisa, and resumed her place in the private work-room.
Once re-established there, she discovered that an important change had
taken place during her absence. Her friend and assistant, Brigida, had
resigned her situation. All inquiries made of the Demoiselle Grifoni
only elicited one answer: the missing work-woman had abruptly left her
place at five minutes' warning, and had departed without confiding to
any one what she thought of doing, or whither she intended to turn her
steps.

Months elapsed The new year came; but no explanatory letter arrived from
Brigida. The spring season passed off, with all its accompaniments of
dressmaking and dress-buying, but still there was no news of her.
The first anniversary of Mademoiselle Virginie's engagement with the
Demoiselle Grifoni came round; and then at last a note arrived, stating
that Brigida had returned to Pisa, and that if the French forewoman
would send an answer, mentioning where her private lodgings were,
she would visit her old friend that evening after business hours. The
information was gladly enough given; and, punctually to the appointed
time, Brigida arrived in Mademoiselle Virginie's little sitting-room.

Advancing with her usual indolent stateliness of gait, the Italian asked
after her friend's health as coolly, and sat down in the nearest chair
as carelessly, as if they had not been separated for more than a few
days. Mademoiselle Virginie laughed in her liveliest manner, and raised
her mobile French eyebrows in sprightly astonishment.

"Well, Brigida!" she exclaimed, "they certainly did you no injustice
when they nicknamed you 'Care-for-Nothing,' in old Grifoni's workroom.
Where have you been? Why have you never written to me?"

"I had nothing particular to write about; and besides, I always intended
to come back to Pisa and see you," answered Brigida, leaning back
luxuriously in her chair.

"But where have you been for nearly a whole year past? In Italy?"

"No; at Paris. You know I can sing--not very well; but I have a voice,
and most Frenchwomen (excuse the impertinence) have none. I met with a
friend, and got introduced to a manager; and I have been singing at the
theater--not the great parts, only the second. Your amiable countrywomen
could not screech me down on the stage, but they intrigued against me
successfully behind the scenes. In short, I quarreled with our principal
lady, quarreled with the manager, quarreled with my friend; and here I
am back at Pisa, with a little money saved in my pocket, and no great
notion what I am to do next."

"Back at Pisa? Why did you leave it?"

Brigida's eyes began to lose their indolent expression. She sat up
suddenly in her chair, and set one of her hands heavily on a little
table by her side.

"Why?" she repeated. "Because when I find the game going against me, I
prefer giving it up at once to waiting to be beaten."

"Ah! you refer to that last year's project of yours for making your
fortune among the sculptors. I should like to hear how it was you failed
with the wealthy young amateur. Remember that I fell ill before you
had any news to give me. Your absence when I returned from Lucca, and,
almost immediately afterward, the marriage of your intended conquest
to the sculptor's daughter, proved to me, of course, that you must have
failed. But I never heard how. I know nothing at this moment but the
bare fact that Maddalena Lomi won the prize."

"Tell me first, do she and her husband live together happily?"

"There are no stories of their disagreeing. She has dresses, horses,
carriages; a negro page, the smallest lap-dog in Italy--in short, all
the luxuries that a woman can want; and a child, by-the-by, into the
bargain."

"A child?"

"Yes; a child, born little more than a week ago."

"Not a boy, I hope?"

"No; a girl."

"I am glad of that. Those rich people always want the first-born to be
an heir. They will both be disappointed. I am glad of that."

"Mercy on us, Brigida, how fierce you look!"

"Do I? It's likely enough. I hate Fabio d'Ascoli and Maddalena
Lomi--singly as man and woman, doubly as man and wife. Stop! I'll tell
you what you want to know directly. Only answer me another question or
two first. Have you heard anything about her health?"

"How should I hear? Dressmakers can't inquire at the doors of the
nobility."

"True. Now one last question. That little simpleton, Nanina?"

"I have never seen or heard anything of her. She can't be at Pisa, or
she would have called at our place for work."

"Ah! I need not have asked about her if I had thought a moment
beforehand. Father Rocco would be sure to keep her out of Fabio's sight,
for his niece's sake."

"What, he really loved that 'thread-paper of a girl' as you called her?"

"Better than fifty such wives as he has got now! I was in the studio the
morning he was told of her departure from Pisa. A letter was privately
given to him, telling him that the girl had left the place out of a
feeling of honor, and had hidden herself beyond the possibility of
discovery, to prevent him from compromising himself with all his friends
by marrying her. Naturally enough, he would not believe that this was
her own doing; and, naturally enough also, when Father Rocco was sent
for, and was not to be found, he suspected the priest of being at the
bottom of the business. I never saw a man in such a fury of despair
and rage before. He swore that he would have all Italy searched for the
girl, that he would be the death of the priest, and that he would never
enter Luca Lomi's studio again--"

"And, as to this last particular, of course, being a man, he failed to
keep his word?"

"Of course. At that first visit of mine to the studio I discovered two
things. The first, as I said, that Fabio was really in love with the
girl--the second, that Maddalena Lomi was really in love with him. You
may suppose I looked at her attentively while the disturbance was going
on, and while nobody's notice was directed on me. All women are vain,
I know, but vanity never blinded my eyes. I saw directly that I had but
one superiority over her--my figure. She was my height, but not well
made. She had hair as dark and as glossy as mine; eyes as bright and
as black as mine; and the rest of her face better than mine. My nose is
coarse, my lips are too thick, and my upper lip overhangs my under too
far. She had none of those personal faults; and, as for capacity, she
managed the young fool in his passion as well as I could have managed
him in her place."

"How?"

"She stood silent, with downcast eyes and a distressed look, all the
time he was raving up and down the studio. She must have hated the girl,
and been rejoiced at her disappearance; but she never showed it. 'You
would be an awkward rival' (I thought to myself), 'even to a handsomer
woman than I am.' However, I determined not to despair too soon, and
made up my mind to follow my plan just as if the accident of the girl's
disappearance had never occurred. I smoothed down the master-sculptor
easily enough--flattering him about his reputation, assuring him that
the works of Luca Lomi had been the objects of my adoration since
childhood, telling him that I had heard of his difficulty in finding a
model to complete his Minerva from, and offering myself (if he thought
me worthy) for the honor--laying great stress on that word--for the
honor of sitting to him. I don't know whether he was altogether deceived
by what I told him; but he was sharp enough to see that I really could
be of use, and he accepted my offer with a profusion of compliments.
We parted, having arranged that I was to give him a first sitting in a
week's time."

"Why put it off so long?"

"To allow our young gentleman time to cool down and return to the
studio, to be sure. What was the use of my being there while he was
away?"

"Yes, yes--I forgot. And how long was it before he came back?"

"I had allowed him more time than enough. When I had given my first
sitting I saw him in the studio, and heard it was his second visit there
since the day of the girl's disappearance. Those very violent men are
always changeable and irresolute."

"Had he made no attempt, then, to discover Nanina?"

"Oh, yes! He had searched for her himself, and had set others searching
for her, but to no purpose. Four days of perpetual disappointment had
been enough to bring him to his senses. Luca Lomi had written him a
peace-making letter, asking what harm he or his daughter had done, even
supposing Father Rocco was to blame. Maddalena Lomi had met him in the
street, and had looked resignedly away from him, as if she expected him
to pass her. In short, they had awakened his sense of justice and his
good nature (you see, I can impartially give him his due), and they
had got him back. He was silent and sentimental enough at first, and
shockingly sulky and savage with the priest--"

"I wonder Father Rocco ventured within his reach."

"Father Rocco is not a man to be daunted or defeated by anybody, I
can tell you. The same day on which Fabio came back to the studio, he
returned to it. Beyond boldly declaring that he thought Nanina had done
quite right, and had acted like a good and virtuous girl, he would say
nothing about her or her disappearance. It was quite useless to ask him
questions--he denied that any one had a right to put them. Threatening,
entreating, flattering--all modes of appeal were thrown away on him.
Ah, my dear! depend upon it, the cleverest and politest man in Pisa,
the most dangerous to an enemy and the most delightful to a friend, is
Father Rocco. The rest of them, when I began to play my cards a little
too openly, behaved with brutal rudeness to me. Father Rocco, from
first to last, treated me like a lady. Sincere or not, I don't care--he
treated me like a lady when the others treated me like--"

"There! there! don't get hot about it now. Tell me instead how you
made your first approaches to the young gentleman whom you talk of so
contemptuously as Fabio."

"As it turned out, in the worst possible way. First, of course, I made
sure of interesting him in me by telling him that I had known Nanina. So
far it was all well enough. My next object was to persuade him that she
could never have gone away if she had truly loved him alone; and that he
must have had some fortunate rival in her own rank of life, to whom she
had sacrificed him, after gratifying her vanity for a time by bringing
a young nobleman to her feet. I had, as you will easily imagine,
difficulty enough in making him take this view of Nanina's flight. His
pride and his love for the girl were both concerned in refusing to admit
the truth of my suggestion. At last I succeeded. I brought him to
that state of ruffled vanity and fretful self-assertion in which it is
easiest to work on a man's feelings--in which a man's own wounded pride
makes the best pitfall to catch him in. I brought him, I say, to that
state, and then _she_ stepped in and profited by what I had done. Is it
wonderful now that I rejoice in her disappointments--that I should be
glad to hear any ill thing of her that any one could tell me?"

"But how did she first get the advantage of you?"

"If I had found out, she would never have succeeded where I failed. All
I know is, that she had more opportunities of seeing him than I, and
that she used them cunningly enough even to deceive me. While I thought
I was gaining ground with Fabio, I was actually losing it. My first
suspicions were excited by a change in Luca Lomi's conduct toward me.
He grew cold, neglectful--at last absolutely rude. I was resolved not
to see this; but accident soon obliged me to open my eyes. One morning
I heard Fabio and Maddalena talking of me when they imagined I had left
the studio. I can't repeat their words, especially here. The blood flies
into my head, and the cold catches me at the heart, when I only think
of them. It will be enough if I tell you that he laughed at me, and that
she--"

"Hush! not so loud. There are other people lodging in the house. Never
mind about telling me what you heard; it only irritates you to no
purpose. I can guess that they had discovered--"

"Through her--remember, all through her!"

"Yes, yes, I understand. They had discovered a great deal more than you
ever intended them to know, and all through her."

"But for the priest, Virginie, I should have been openly insulted and
driven from their doors. He had insisted on their behaving with decent
civility toward me. They said that he was afraid of me, and laughed
at the notion of his trying to make them afraid too. That was the last
thing I heard. The fury I was in, and the necessity of keeping it down,
almost suffocated me. I turned round to leave the place forever, when,
who should I see, standing close behind me, but Father Rocco. He must
have discovered in my face that I knew all, but he took no notice of
it. He only asked, in his usual quiet, polite way, if I was looking for
anything I had lost, and if he could help me. I managed to thank him,
and to get to the door. He opened it for me respectfully, and bowed--he
treated me like a lady to the last! It was evening when I left the
studio in that way. The next morning I threw up my situation, and turned
my back on Pisa. Now you know everything."

"Did you hear of the marriage? or did you only assume from what you knew
that it would take place?"

"I heard of it about six months ago. A man came to sing in the chorus at
our theater who had been employed some time before at the grand concert
given on the occasion of the marriage. But let us drop the subject now.
I am in a fever already with talking of it. You are in a bad situation
here, my dear; I declare your room is almost stifling."

"Shall I open the other window?"

"No; let us go out and get a breath of air by the river-side. Come! take
your hood and fan--it is getting dark--nobody will see us, and we can
come back here, if you like, in half an hour."

Mademoiselle Virginie acceded to her friend's wish rather reluctantly.
They walked toward the river. The sun was down, and the sudden night of
Italy was gathering fast. Although Brigida did not say another word on
the subject of Fabio or his wife, she led the way to the bank of the
Arno, on which the young nobleman's palace stood.

Just as they got near the great door of entrance, a sedan-chair,
approaching in the opposite direction, was set down before it; and
a footman, after a moment's conference with a lady inside the chair,
advanced to the porter's lodge in the courtyard. Leaving her friend
to go on, Brigida slipped in after the servant by the open wicket, and
concealed herself in the shadow cast by the great closed gates.

"The Marchesa Melani, to inquire how the Countess d'Ascoli and the
infant are this evening," said the footman.

"My mistress has not changed at all for the better since the morning,"
answered the porter. "The child is doing quite well."

The footman went back to the sedan-chair; then returned to the porter's
lodge.

"The marchesa desires me to ask if fresh medical advice has been sent
for," he said.

"Another doctor has arrived from Florence to-day," replied the porter.

Mademoiselle Virginie, missing her friend suddenly, turned back toward
the palace to look after her, and was rather surprised to see Brigida
slip out of the wicket-gate. There were two oil lamps burning on pillars
outside the doorway, and their light glancing on the Italian's face, as
she passed under them, showed that she was smiling.



CHAPTER II.

While the Marchesa Melani was making inquiries at the gate of the
palace, Fabio was sitting alone in the apartment which his wife usually
occupied when she was in health. It was her favorite room, and had been
prettily decorated, by her own desire, with hangings in yellow satin and
furniture of the same color. Fabio was now waiting in it, to hear the
report of the doctors after their evening visit.

Although Maddalena Lomi had not been his first love, and although he
had married her under circumstances which are generally and rightly
considered to afford few chances of lasting happiness in wedded life,
still they had lived together through the one year of their union
tranquilly, if not fondly. She had molded herself wisely to his peculiar
humors, had made the most of his easy disposition; and, when her quick
temper had got the better of her, had seldom hesitated in her
cooler moments to acknowledge that she had been wrong. She had been
extravagant, it is true, and had irritated him by fits of unreasonable
jealousy; but these were faults not to be thought of now. He could only
remember that she was the mother of his child, and that she lay ill but
two rooms away from him--dangerously ill, as the doctors had unwillingly
confessed on that very day.

The darkness was closing in upon him, and he took up the handbell to
ring for lights. When the servant entered there was genuine sorrow in
his face, genuine anxiety in his voice, as he inquired for news from the
sick-room. The man only answered that his mistress was still asleep, and
then withdrew, after first leaving a sealed letter on the table by his
master's side. Fabio summoned him back into the room, and asked when the
letter had arrived. He replied that it had been delivered at the palace
two days since, and that he had observed it lying unopened on a desk in
his master's study.

Left alone again, Fabio remembered that the letter had arrived at a time
when the first dangerous symptoms of his wife's illness had declared
themselves, and that he had thrown it aside, after observing the address
to be in a handwriting unknown to him. In his present state of suspense,
any occupation was better than sitting idle. So he took up the letter
with a sigh, broke the seal, and turned inquiringly to the name signed
at the end.

It was "NANINA."

He started, and changed color. "A letter from her," he whispered to
himself. "Why does it come at such a time as this?"

His face grew paler, and the letter trembled in his fingers. Those
superstitious feelings which he had ascribed to the nursery influences
of his childhood, when Father Rocco charged him with them in the studio,
seemed to be overcoming him now. He hesitated, and listened anxiously
in the direction of his wife's room, before reading the letter. Was its
arrival ominous of good or evil? That was the thought in his heart as he
drew the lamp near to him, and looked at the first lines.

"Am I wrong in writing to you?" (the letter began abruptly). "If I am,
you have but to throw this little leaf of paper into the fire, and to
think no more of it after it is burned up and gone. I can never reproach
you for treating my letter in that way; for we are never likely to meet
again.

"Why did I go away? Only to save you from the consequences of marrying a
poor girl who was not fit to become your wife. It almost broke my
heart to leave you; for I had nothing to keep up my courage but the
remembrance that I was going away for your sake. I had to think of that,
morning and night--to think of it always, or I am afraid I should have
faltered in my resolution, and have gone back to Pisa. I longed so much
at first to see you once more, only to tell you that Nanina was not
heartless and ungrateful, and that you might pity her and think kindly
of her, though you might love her no longer.

"Only to tell you that! If I had been a lady I might have told it to you
in a letter; but I had never learned to write, and I could not prevail
on myself to get others to take the pen for me. All I could do was to
learn secretly how to write with my own hand. It was long, long
work; but the uppermost thought in my heart was always the thought of
justifying myself to you, and that made me patient and persevering. I
learned, at last, to write so as not to be ashamed of myself, or to make
you ashamed of me. I began a letter--my first letter to you--but I heard
of your marriage before it was done, and then I had to tear the paper
up, and put the pen down again.

"I had no right to come between you and your wife, even with so little
a thing as a letter; I had no right to do anything but hope and pray for
your happiness. Are you happy? I am sure you ought to be; for how can
your wife help loving you?

"It is very hard for me to explain why I have ventured on writing now,
and yet I can't think that I am doing wrong. I heard a few days ago (for
I have a friend at Pisa who keeps me informed, by my own desire, of all
the pleasant changes in your life)--I heard of your child being born;
and I thought myself, after that, justified at last in writing to you.
No letter from me, at such a time as this, can rob your child's mother
of so much as a thought of yours that is due to her. Thus, at least, it
seems to me. I wish so well to your child, that I cannot surely be doing
wrong in writing these lines.

"I have said already what I wanted to say--what I have been longing to
say for a whole year past. I have told you why I left Pisa; and have,
perhaps, persuaded you that I have gone through some suffering, and
borne some heart-aches for your sake. Have I more to write? Only a word
or two, to tell you that I am earning my bread, as I always wished to
earn it, quietly at home--at least, at what I must call home now. I am
living with reputable people, and I want for nothing. La Biondella has
grown very much; she would hardly be obliged to get on your knee to kiss
you now; and she can plait her dinner-mats faster and more neatly than
ever. Our old dog is with us, and has learned two new tricks; but you
can't be expected to remember him, although you were the only stranger I
ever saw him take kindly to at first.

"It is time I finished. If you have read this letter through to the end,
I am sure you will excuse me if I have written it badly. There is no
date to it, because I feel that it is safest and best for both of us
that you should know nothing of where I am living. I bless you and pray
for you, and bid you affectionately farewell. If you can think of me as
a sister, think of me sometimes still."

Fabio sighed bitterly while he read the letter. "Why," he whispered to
himself, "why does it come at such a time as this, when I cannot dare
not think of her?" As he slowly folded the letter up the tears came into
his eyes, and he half raised the paper to his lips. At the same moment,
some one knocked at the door of the room. He started, and felt himself
changing color guiltily as one of his servants entered.

"My mistress is awake," the man said, with a very grave face, and a very
constrained manner; "and the gentlemen in attendance desire me to say--"

He was interrupted, before he could give his message, by one of the
medical men, who had followed him into the room.

"I wish I had better news to communicate," began the doctor, gently.

"She is worse, then?" said Fabio, sinking back into the chair from which
he had risen the moment before.

"She has awakened weaker instead of stronger after her sleep," returned
the doctor, evasively. "I never like to give up all hope till the very
last, but--"

"It is cruel not to be candid with him," interposed another voice--the
voice of the doctor from Florence, who had just entered the room.
"Strengthen yourself to bear the worst," he continued, addressing
himself to Fabio. "She is dying. Can you compose yourself enough to go
to her bedside?"

Pale and speechless, Fabio rose from his chair, and made a sign in the
affirmative. He trembled so that the doctor who had first spoken was
obliged to lead him out of the room.

"Your mistress has some near relations in Pisa, has she not?" said the
doctor from Florence, appealing to the servant who waited near him.

"Her father, sir, Signor Luca Lomi; and her uncle, Father Rocco,"
answered the man. "They were here all through the day, until my mistress
fell asleep."

"Do you know where to find them now?"

"Signor Luca told me he should be at his studio, and Father Rocco said I
might find him at his lodgings."

"Send for them both directly. Stay, who is your mistress's confessor? He
ought to be summoned without loss of time."

"My mistress's confessor is Father Rocco, sir."

"Very well--send, or go yourself, at once. Even minutes may be of
importance now." Saying this, the doctor turned away, and sat down to
wait for any last demands on his services, in the chair which Fabio had
just left.



CHAPTER III.

Before the servant could get to the priest's lodgings a visitor had
applied there for admission, and had been immediately received by Father
Rocco himself. This favored guest was a little man, very sprucely and
neatly dressed, and oppressively polite in his manner. He bowed when he
first sat down, he bowed when he answered the usual inquiries about his
health, and he bowed, for the third time, when Father Rocco asked what
had brought him from Florence.

"Rather an awkward business," replied the little man, recovering himself
uneasily after his third bow. "The dressmaker, named Nanina, whom you
placed under my wife's protection about a year ago--"

"What of her?" inquired the priest eagerly.

"I regret to say she has left us, with her child-sister, and their very
disagreeable dog, that growls at everybody."

"When did they go?"

"Only yesterday. I came here at once to tell you, as you were so very
particular in recommending us to take care of her. It is not our fault
that she has gone. My wife was kindness itself to her, and I always
treated her like a duchess. I bought dinner-mats of her sister; I even
put up with the thieving and growling of the disagreeable dog--"

"Where have they gone to? Have you found out that?"

"I have found out, by application at the passport-office, that they
have not left Florence--but what particular part of the city they have
removed to, I have not yet had time to discover."

"And pray why did they leave you, in the first place? Nanina is not a
girl to do anything without a reason. She must have had some cause for
going away. What was it?"

The little man hesitated, and made a fourth bow.

"You remember your private instructions to my wife and myself, when
you first brought Nanina to our house?" he said, looking away rather
uneasily while he spoke.

"Yes; you were to watch her, but to take care that she did not suspect
you. It was just possible, at that time, that she might try to get back
to Pisa without my knowing it; and everything depended on her remaining
at Florence. I think, now, that I did wrong to distrust her; but it
was of the last importance to provide against all possibilities, and to
abstain from putting too much faith in my own good opinion of the girl.
For these reasons, I certainly did instruct you to watch her privately.
So far you are quite right; and I have nothing to complain of. Go on."

"You remember," resumed the little man, "that the first consequence of
our following your instructions was a discovery (which we immediately
communicated to you) that she was secretly learning to write?"

"Yes; and I also remember sending you word not to show that you knew
what she was doing; but to wait and see if she turned her knowledge
of writing to account, and took or sent any letters to the post.
You informed me, in your regular monthly report, that she nearer did
anything of the kind."

"Never, until three days ago; and then she was traced from her room in
my house to the post-office with a letter, which she dropped into the
box."

"And the address of which you discovered before she took it from your
house?"

"Unfortunately I did not," answered the little man, reddening and
looking askance at the priest, as if he expected to receive a severe
reprimand.

But Father Rocco said nothing. He was thinking. Who could she have
written to? If to Fabio, why should she have waited for months and
months, after she had learned how to use her pen, before sending him a
letter? If not to Fabio, to what other person could she have written?

"I regret not discovering the address--regret it most deeply," said the
little man, with a low bow of apology.

"It is too late for regret," said Father Rocco, coldly. "Tell me how she
came to leave your house; I have not heard that yet. Be as brief as you
can. I expect to be called every moment to the bedside of a near and
dear relation, who is suffering from severe illness. You shall have all
my attention; but you must ask it for as short a time as possible."

"I will be briefness itself. In the first place, you must know that I
have--or rather had--an idle, unscrupulous rascal of an apprentice in my
business."

The priest pursed up his mouth contemptuously.

"In the second place, this same good-for-nothing fellow had the
impertinence to fall in love with Nanina."

Father Rocco started, and listened eagerly.

"But I must do the girl the justice to say that she never gave him the
slightest encouragement; and that, whenever he ventured to speak to her,
she always quietly but very decidedly repelled him."

"A good girl!" said Father Rocco. "I always said she was a good girl. It
was a mistake on my part ever to have distrusted her."

"Among the other offenses," continued the little man, "of which I now
find my scoundrel of an apprentice to have been guilty, was the enormity
of picking the lock of my desk, and prying into my private papers."

"You ought not to have had any. Private papers should always be burned
papers."

"They shall be for the future; I will take good care of that."

"Were any of my letters to you about Nanina among these private papers?"

"Unfortunately they were. Pray, pray excuse my want of caution this
time. It shall never happen again."

"Go on. Such imprudence as yours can never be excused; it can only be
provided against for the future. I suppose the apprentice showed my
letters to the girl?"

"I infer as much; though why he should do so--"

"Simpleton! Did you not say that he was in love with her (as you term
it), and that he got no encouragement?"

"Yes; I said that--and I know it to be true."

"Well! Was it not his interest, being unable to make any impression on
the girl's fancy, to establish some claim to her gratitude; and try if
he could not win her that way? By showing her my letters, he would make
her indebted to him for knowing that she was watched in your house. But
this is not the matter in question now. You say you infer that she had
seen my letters. On what grounds?"

"On the strength of this bit of paper," answered the little man,
ruefully producing a note from his pocket. "She must have had your
letters shown to her soon after putting her own letter into the post.
For, on the evening of the same day, when I went up into her room, I
found that she and her sister and the disagreeable dog had all gone, and
observed this note laid on the table."

Father Rocco took the note, and read these lines:


"I have just discovered that I have been watched and suspected ever
since my stay under your roof. It is impossible that I can remain
another night in the house of a spy. I go with my sister. We owe you
nothing, and we are free to live honestly where we please. If you see
Father Rocco, tell him that I can forgive his distrust of me, but that I
can never forget it. I, who had full faith in him, had a right to expect
that he should have full faith in me. It was always an encouragement
to me to think of him as a father and a friend. I have lost that
encouragement forever--and it was the last I had left to me!

"NANINA."


The priest rose from his seat as he handed the note back, and the
visitor immediately followed his example.

"We must remedy this misfortune as we best may," he said, with a sigh.
"Are you ready to go back to Florence to-morrow?"

The little man bowed again.

"Find out where she is, and ascertain if she wants for anything, and if
she is living in a safe place. Say nothing about me, and make no attempt
to induce her to return to your house. Simply let me know what you
discover. The poor child has a spirit that no ordinary people would
suspect in her. She must be soothed and treated tenderly, and we shall
manage her yet. No mistakes, mind, this time! Do just what I tell you,
and do no more. Have you anything else to say to me?"

The little man shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.

"Good-night, then," said the priest.

"Good-night," said the little man, slipping through the door that was
held open for him with the politest alacrity.

"This is vexatious," said Father Rocco, taking a turn or two in the
study after his visitor had gone. "It was bad to have done the child an
injustice--it is worse to have been found out. There is nothing for it
now but to wait till I know where she is. I like her, and I like that
note she left behind her. It is bravely, delicately, and honestly
written--a good girl--a very good girl, indeed!"

He walked to the window, breathed the fresh air for a few moments, and
quietly dismissed the subject from his mind. When he returned to his
table he had no thoughts for any one but his sick niece.

"It seems strange," he said, "that I have had no message about her yet.
Perhaps Luca has heard something. It may be well if I go to the studio
at once to find out."

He took up his hat and went to the door. Just as he opened it, Fabio's
servant confronted him on the thresh old.

"I am sent to summon you to the palace," said the man. "The doctors have
given up all hope."

Father Rocco turned deadly pale, and drew back a step. "Have you told my
brother of this?" he asked.

"I was just on my way to the studio," answered the servant.

"I will go there instead of you, and break the bad news to him," said
the priest.

They descended the stairs in silence. Just as they were about to
separate at the street door, Father Rocco stopped the servant.

"How is the child?" he asked, with such sudden eagerness and impatience,
that the man looked quite startled as he answered that the child was
perfectly well.

"There is some consolation in that," said Father Rocco, walking away,
and speaking partly to the servant, partly to himself. "My caution has
misled me," he continued, pausing thoughtfully when he was left alone in
the roadway. "I should have risked using the mother's influence sooner
to procure the righteous restitution. All hope of compassing it
now rests on the life of the child. Infant as she is, her father's
ill-gotten wealth may yet be gathered back to the Church by her hands."

He proceeded rapidly on his way to the studio, until he reached the
river-side and drew close to the bridge which it was necessary to cross
in order to get to his brother's house. Here he stopped abruptly, as
if struck by a sudden idea. The moon had just risen, and her light,
streaming across the river, fell full upon his face as he stood by the
parapet wall that led up to the bridge. He was so lost in thought that
he did not hear the conversation of two ladies who were advancing along
the pathway close behind him. As they brushed by him, the taller of the
two turned round and looked back at his face.

"Father Rocco!" exclaimed the lady, stopping.

"Donna Brigida!" cried the priest, looking surprised at first, but
recovering himself directly and bowing with his usual quiet politeness.
"Pardon me if I thank you for honoring me by renewing our acquaintance,
and then pass on to my brother's studio. A heavy affliction is likely to
befall us, and I go to prepare him for it."

"You refer to the dangerous illness of your niece?" said Brigida. "I
heard of it this evening. Let us hope that your fears are exaggerated,
and that we may yet meet under less distressing circumstances. I have no
present intention of leaving Pisa for some time, and I shall always be
glad to thank Father Rocco for the politeness and consideration which he
showed to me, under delicate circumstances, a year ago."

With these words she courtesied deferentially, and moved away to rejoin
her friend. The priest observed that Mademoiselle Virginie lingered
rather near, as if anxious to catch a few words of the conversation
between Brigida and himself. Seeing this, he, in his turn, listened as
the two women slowly walked away together, and heard the Italian say to
her companion: "Virginie, I will lay you the price of a new dress that
Fabio d'Ascoli marries again."

Father Rocco started when she said those words, as if he had trodden on
fire.

"My thought!" he whispered nervously to himself. "My thought at the
moment when she spoke to me! Marry again? Another wife, over whom I
should have no influence! Other children, whose education would not be
confided to me! What would become, then, of the restitution that I have
hoped for, wrought for, prayed for?"

He stopped, and looked fixedly at the sky above him. The bridge was
deserted. His black figure rose up erect, motionless, and spectral, with
the white still light falling solemnly all around it. Standing so for
some minutes, his first movement was to drop his hand angrily on the
parapet of the bridge. He then turned round slowly in the direction by
which the two women had walked away.

"Donna Brigida," he said, "I will lay you the price of fifty new dresses
that Fabio d'Ascoli never marries again!"

He set his face once more toward the studio, and walked on without
stopping until he arrived at the master-sculptor's door.

"Marry again?" he thought to himself, as he rang the bell. "Donna
Brigida, was your first failure not enough for you? Are you going to try
a second time?"

Luca Lomi himself opened the door. He drew Father Rocco hurriedly into
the studio toward a single lamp burning on a stand near the partition
between the two rooms.

"Have you heard anything of our poor child?" he asked. "Tell me the
truth! tell me the truth at once!"

"Hush! compose yourself. I have heard," said Father Rocco, in low,
mournful tones.

Luca tightened his hold on the priest's arm, and looked into his face
with breathless, speechless eagerness.

"Compose yourself," repeated Father Rocco. "Compose yourself to hear the
worst. My poor Luca, the doctors have given up all hope."

Luca dropped his brother's arm with a groan of despair. "Oh, Maddalena!
my child--my only child!"

Reiterating these words again and again, he leaned his head against the
partition and burst into tears. Sordid and coarse as his nature was, he
really loved his daughter. All the heart he had was in his statues and
in her.

After the first burst of his grief was exhausted, he was recalled to
himself by a sensation as if some change had taken place in the lighting
of the studio. He looked up directly, and dimly discerned the priest
standing far down at the end of the room nearest the door, with the lamp
in his hand, eagerly looking at something.

"Rocco!" he exclaimed, "Rocco, why have you taken the lamp away? What
are you doing there?"

There was no movement and no answer. Luca advanced a step or two, and
called again. "Rocco, what are you doing there?"

The priest heard this time, and came suddenly toward his brother, with
the lamp in his hand--so suddenly that Luca started.

"What is it?" he asked, in astonishment. "Gracious God, Rocco, how pale
you are!"

Still the priest never said a word. He put the lamp down on the nearest
table. Luca observed that his hand shook. He had never seen his brother
violently agitated before. When Rocco had announced, but a few minutes
ago, that Maddalena's life was despaired of, it was in a voice which,
though sorrowful, was perfectly calm. What was the meaning of this
sudden panic--this strange, silent terror?

The priest observed that his brother was looking at him earnestly.
"Come!" he said in a faint whisper, "come to her bedside: we have no
time to lose. Get your hat, and leave it to me to put out the lamp."

He hurriedly extinguished the light while he spoke. They went down the
studio side by side toward the door. The moonlight streamed through the
window full on the place where the priest had been standing alone with
the lamp in his hand. As they passed it, Luca felt his brother tremble,
and saw him turn away his head.

             .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

Two hours later, Fabio d'Ascoli and his wife were separated in this
world forever; and the servants of the palace were anticipating in
whispers the order of their mistress's funeral procession to the
burial-ground of the Campo Santo.



PART THIRD.



CHAPTER I.

About eight months after the Countess d'Ascoli had been laid in her
grave in the Campo Santo, two reports were circulated through the
gay world of Pisa, which excited curiosity and awakened expectation
everywhere.

The first report announced that a grand masked ball was to be given at
the Melani Palace, to celebrate the day on which the heir of the house
attained his majority. All the friends of the family were delighted
at the prospect of this festival; for the old Marquis Melani had the
reputation of being one of the most hospitable, and, at the same time,
one of the most eccentric men in Pisa. Every one expected, therefore,
that he would secure for the entertainment of his guests, if he really
gave the ball, the most whimsical novelties in the way of masks, dances,
and amusements generally, that had ever been seen.

The second report was, that the rich widower, Fabio d'Ascoli, was on the
point of returning to Pisa, after having improved his health and spirits
by traveling in foreign countries; and that he might be expected to
appear again in society, for the first time since the death of his wife,
at the masked ball which was to be given in the Melani Palace. This
announcement excited special interest among the young ladies of Pisa.
Fabio had only reached his thirtieth year; and it was universally agreed
that his return to society in his native city could indicate nothing
more certainly than his desire to find a second mother for his infant
child. All the single ladies would now have been ready to bet, as
confidently as Brigida had offered to bet eight months before, that
Fabio d'Ascoli would marry again.

For once in a way, report turned out to be true, in both the cases just
mentioned. Invitations were actually issued from the Melani Palace, and
Fabio returned from abroad to his home on the Arno.

In settling all the arrangements connected with his masked ball, the
Marquis Melani showed that he was determined not only to deserve, but
to increase, his reputation for oddity. He invented the most extravagant
disguises, to be worn by some of his more intimate friends; he arranged
grotesque dances, to be performed at stated periods of the evening by
professional buffoons, hired from Florence. He composed a toy symphony,
which included solos on every noisy plaything at that time manufactured
for children's use. And not content with thus avoiding the beaten track
in preparing the entertainments at the ball, he determined also to show
decided originality, even in selecting the attendants who were to wait
on the company. Other people in his rank of life were accustomed
to employ their own and hired footmen for this purpose; the marquis
resolved that his attendants should be composed of young women only;
that two of his rooms should be fitted up as Arcadian bowers; and that
all the prettiest girls in Pisa should be placed in them to preside over
the refreshments, dressed, in accordance with the mock classical taste
of the period, as shepherdesses of the time of Virgil.

The only defect of this brilliantly new idea was the difficulty of
executing it. The marquis had expressly ordered that not fewer than
thirty shepherdesses were to be engaged--fifteen for each bower. It
would have been easy to find double this number in Pisa, if beauty had
been the only quality required in the attendant damsels. But it was also
absolutely necessary, for the security of the marquis's gold and silver
plate, that the shepherdesses should possess, besides good looks, the
very homely recommendation of a fair character. This last qualification
proved, it is sad to say, to be the one small merit which the majority
of the ladies willing to accept engagements at the palace did not
possess. Day after day passed on; and the marquis's steward only
found more and more difficulty in obtaining the appointed number of
trustworthy beauties. At last his resources failed him altogether; and
he appeared in his master's presence about a week before the night of
the ball, to make the humiliating acknowledgment that he was entirely
at his wits' end. The total number of fair shepherdesses with
fair characters whom he had been able to engage amounted only to
twenty-three.

"Nonsense!" cried the marquis, irritably, as soon as the steward had
made his confession. "I told you to get thirty girls, and thirty I mean
to have. What's the use of shaking your head when all their dresses are
ordered? Thirty tunics, thirty wreaths, thirty pairs of sandals and silk
stockings, thirty crooks, you scoundrel--and you have the impudence to
offer me only twenty-three hands to hold them. Not a word! I won't hear
a word! Get me my thirty girls, or lose your place." The marquis roared
out this last terrible sentence at the top of his voice, and pointed
peremptorily to the door.

The steward knew his master too well to remonstrate. He took his hat and
cane, and went out. It was useless to look through the ranks of rejected
volunteers again; there was not the slightest hope in that quarter.
The only chance left was to call on all his friends in Pisa who had
daughters out at service, and to try what he could accomplish, by
bribery and persuasion, that way.

After a whole day occupied in solicitations, promises, and patient
smoothing down of innumerable difficulties, the result of his efforts
in the new direction was an accession of six more shepherdesses. This
brought him on bravely from twenty-three to twenty-nine, and left him,
at last, with only one anxiety--where was he now to find shepherdess
number thirty?

He mentally asked himself that important question, as he entered a shady
by-street in the neighborhood of the Campo Santo, on his way back to the
Melani Palace. Sauntering slowly along in the middle of the road, and
fanning himself with his handkerchief after the oppressive exertions of
the day, he passed a young girl who was standing at the street door of
one of the houses, apparently waiting for somebody to join her before
she entered the building.

"Body of Bacchus!" exclaimed the steward (using one of those old Pagan
ejaculations which survive in Italy even to the present day), "there
stands the prettiest girl I have seen yet. If she would only be
shepherdess number thirty, I should go home to supper with my mind at
ease. I'll ask her, at any rate. Nothing can be lost by asking, and
everything may be gained. Stop, my dear," he continued, seeing the girl
turn to go into the house as he approached her. "Don't be afraid of
me. I am steward to the Marquis Melani, and well known in Pisa as an
eminently respectable man. I have something to say to you which may be
greatly for your benefit. Don't look surprised; I am coming to the point
at once. Do you want to earn a little money? honestly, of course. You
don't look as if you were very rich, child."

"I am very poor, and very much in want of some honest work to do,"
answered the girl, sadly.

"Then we shall suit each other to a nicety; for I have work of the
pleasantest kind to give you, and plenty of money to pay for it. But
before we say anything more about that, suppose you tell me first
something about yourself--who you are, and so forth. You know who I am
already."

"I am only a poor work-girl, and my name is Nanina. I have nothing more,
sir, to say about myself than that."

"Do you belong to Pisa?"

"Yes, sir--at least, I did. But I have been away for some time. I was a
year at Florence, employed in needlework."

"All by yourself?"

"No, sir, with my little sister. I was waiting for her when you came
up."

"Have you never done anything else but needlework? never been out at
service?"

"Yes, sir. For the last eight months I have had a situation to wait on a
lady at Florence, and my sister (who is turned eleven, sir, and can make
herself very useful) was allowed to help in the nursery."

"How came you to leave this situation?"

"The lady and her family were going to Rome, sir. They would have taken
me with them, but they could not take my sister. We are alone in the
world, and we never have been parted from each other, and never shall
be--so I was obliged to leave the situation."

"And here you are, back at Pisa--with nothing to do, I suppose?"

"Nothing yet, sir. We only came back yesterday."

"Only yesterday! You are a lucky girl, let me tell you, to have met
with me. I suppose you have somebody in the town who can speak to your
character?"

"The landlady of this house can, sir."

"And who is she, pray?"

"Marta Angrisani, sir."

"What! the well-known sick-nurse? You could not possibly have a better
recommendation, child. I remember her being employed at the Melani
Palace at the time of the marquis's last attack of gout; but I never
knew that she kept a lodging-house."

"She and her daughter, sir, have owned this house longer than I can
recollect. My sister and I have lived in it since I was quite a little
child, and I had hoped we might be able to live here again. But the top
room we used to have is taken, and the room to let lower down is far
more, I am afraid, than we can afford."

"How much is it?"

Nanina mentioned the weekly rent of the room in fear and trembling. The
steward burst out laughing.

"Suppose I offered you money enough to be able to take that room for a
whole year at once?" he said.

Nanina looked at him in speechless amazement.

"Suppose I offered you that?" continued the steward. "And suppose I only
ask you in return to put on a fine dress and serve refreshments in a
beautiful room to the company at the Marquis Melani's grand ball? What
should you say to that?"

Nanina said nothing. She drew back a step or two, and looked more
bewildered than before.

"You must have heard of the ball," said the steward, pompously; "the
poorest people in Pisa have heard of it. It is the talk of the whole
city."

Still Nanina made no answer. To have replied truthfully, she must have
confessed that "the talk of the whole city" had now no interest for her.
The last news from Pisa that had appealed to her sympathies was the news
of the Countess d'Ascoli's death, and of Fabio's departure to travel in
foreign countries. Since then she had heard nothing more of him. She
was as ignorant of his return to his native city as of all the reports
connected with the marquis's ball. Something in her own heart--some
feeling which she had neither the desire nor the capacity to
analyze--had brought her back to Pisa and to the old home which now
connected itself with her tenderest recollections. Believing that Fabio
was still absent, she felt that no ill motive could now be attributed
to her return; and she had not been able to resist the temptation of
revisiting the scene that had been associated with the first great
happiness as well as with the first great sorrow of her life. Among all
the poor people of Pisa, she was perhaps the very last whose curiosity
could be awakened, or whose attention could be attracted by the rumor of
gayeties at the Melani Palace.

But she could not confess all this; she could only listen with great
humility and no small surprise, while the steward, in compassion for her
ignorance, and with the hope of tempting her into accepting his offered
engagement, described the arrangements of the approaching festival, and
dwelt fondly on the magnificence of the Arcadian bowers, and the beauty
of the shepherdesses' tunics. As soon as he had done, Nanina ventured on
the confession that she should feel rather nervous in a grand dress that
did not belong to her, and that she doubted very much her own capability
of waiting properly on the great people at the ball. The steward,
however, would hear of no objections, and called peremptorily for Marta
Angrisani to make the necessary statement as to Nanina's character.
While this formality was being complied with to the steward's perfect
satisfaction, La Biondella came in, unaccompanied on this occasion by
the usual companion of all her walks, the learned poodle Scarammuccia.

"This is Nanina's sister," said the good-natured sick-nurse, taking the
first opportunity of introducing La Biondella to the great marquis's
great man. "A very good, industrious little girl; and very clever at
plaiting dinner-mats, in case his excellency should ever want any. What
have you done with the dog, my dear?"

"I couldn't get him past the pork butcher's, three streets off," replied
La Biondella. "He would sit down and look at the sausages. I am more
than half afraid he means to steal some of them."

"A very pretty child," said the steward, patting La Biondella on the
cheek. "We ought to have her at the hall. If his excellency should want
a Cupid, or a youthful nymph, or anything small and light in that way,
I shall come back and let you know. In the meantime, Nanina, consider
yourself Shepherdess Number Thirty, and come to the housekeeper's room
at the palace to try on your dress to-morrow. Nonsense! don't talk to
me about being afraid and awkward. All you're wanted to do is to look
pretty; and your glass must have told you you could do that long ago.
Remember the rent of the room, my dear, and don't stand in your light
and your sister's. Does the little girl like sweetmeats? Of course she
does! Well, I promise you a whole box of sugar-plums to take home for
her, if you will come and wait at the ball."

"Oh, go to the ball, Nanina; go to the ball!" cried La Biondella,
clapping her hands.

"Of course she will go to the ball," said the nurse. "She would be mad
to throw away such an excellent chance."

Nanina looked perplexed. She hesitated a little, then drew Marta
Angrisani away into a corner, and whispered this question to her:

"Do you think there will be any priests at the palace where the marquis
lives?"

"Heavens, child, what a thing to ask!" returned the nurse. "Priests at a
masked ball! You might as well expect to find Turks performing high mass
in the cathedral. But supposing you did meet with priests at the palace,
what then?"

"Nothing," said Nanina, constrainedly. She turned pale, and walked away
as she spoke. Her great dread, in returning to Pisa, was the dread
of meeting with Father Rocco again. She had never forgotten her first
discovery at Florence of his distrust of her. The bare thought of seeing
him any more, after her faith in him had been shaken forever, made her
feel faint and sick at heart.

"To-morrow, in the housekeeper's room," said the steward, putting on his
hat, "you will find your new dress all ready for you."

Nanina courtesied, and ventured on no more objections. The prospect of
securing a home for a whole year to come among people whom she knew,
reconciled her--influenced as she was also by Marta Angrisani's advice,
and by her sister's anxiety for the promised present--to brave the trial
of appearing at the ball.

"What a comfort to have it all settled at last," said the steward, as
soon as he was out again in the street. "We shall see what the marquis
says now. If he doesn't apologize for calling me a scoundrel the moment
he sets eyes on Number Thirty, he is the most ungrateful nobleman that
ever existed."

Arriving in front of the palace, the steward found workmen engaged in
planning the external decorations and illuminations for the night of the
ball. A little crowd had already assembled to see the ladders raised
and the scaffoldings put up. He observed among them, standing near the
outskirts of the throng, a lady who attracted his attention (he was
an ardent admirer of the fair sex) by the beauty and symmetry of
her figure. While he lingered for a moment to look at her, a shaggy
poodle-dog (licking his chops, as if he had just had something to eat)
trotted by, stopped suddenly close to the lady, sniffed suspiciously
for an instant, and then began to growl at her without the slightest
apparent provocation. The steward advancing politely with his stick to
drive the dog away, saw the lady start, and heard her exclaim to herself
amazedly:

"You here, you beast! Can Nanina have come back to Pisa?"

This last exclamation gave the steward, as a gallant man, an excuse for
speaking to the elegant stranger.

"Excuse me, madam," he said, "but I heard you mention the name of
Nanina. May I ask whether you mean a pretty little work-girl who lives
near the Campo Santo?"

"The same," said the lady, looking very much surprised and interested
immediately.

"It may be a gratification to you, madam, to know that she has just
returned to Pisa," continued the steward, politely; "and, moreover, that
she is in a fair way to rise in the world. I have just engaged her to
wait at the marquis's grand ball, and I need hardly say, under those
circumstances, that if she plays her cards properly her fortune is
made."

The lady bowed, looked at her informant very intently and thoughtfully
for a moment, then suddenly walked away without uttering a word.

"A curious woman," thought the steward, entering the palace. "I must ask
Number Thirty about her to-morrow."



CHAPTER II.

The death of Maddalena d'Ascoli produced a complete change in the lives
of her father and her uncle. After the first shock of the bereavement
was over, Luca Lomi declared that it would be impossible for him to work
in his studio again--for some time to come at least--after the death of
the beloved daughter, with whom every corner of it was now so sadly and
closely associated. He accordingly accepted an engagement to assist in
restoring several newly discovered works of ancient sculpture at Naples,
and set forth for that city, leaving the care of his work-rooms at Pisa
entirely to his brother.

On the master-sculptor's departure, Father Rocco caused the statues
and busts to be carefully enveloped in linen cloths, locked the studio
doors, and, to the astonishment of all who knew of his former industry
and dexterity as a sculptor, never approached the place again. His
clerical duties he performed with the same assiduity as ever; but he
went out less than had been his custom hitherto to the houses of his
friends. His most regular visits were to the Ascoli Palace, to inquire
at the porter's lodge after the health of Maddalena's child, who was
always reported to be thriving admirably under the care of the best
nurses that could be found in Pisa. As for any communications with his
polite little friend from Florence, they had ceased months ago. The
information--speedily conveyed to him--that Nanina was in the service
of one of the most respectable ladies in the city seemed to relieve any
anxieties which he might otherwise have felt on her account. He made
no attempt to justify himself to her; and only required that his
over-courteous little visitor of former days should let him know
whenever the girl might happen to leave her new situation.

The admirers of Father Rocco, seeing the alteration in his life, and the
increased quietness of his manner, said that, as he was growing older,
he was getting more and more above the things of this world. His enemies
(for even Father Rocco had them) did not scruple to assert that the
change in him was decidedly for the worse, and that he belonged to
the order of men who are most to be distrusted when they become most
subdued. The priest himself paid no attention either to his eulogists or
his depreciators. Nothing disturbed the regularity and discipline of his
daily habits; and vigilant Scandal, though she sought often to surprise
him, sought always in vain.

Such was Father Rocco's life from the period of his niece's death to
Fabio's return to Pisa.

As a matter of course, the priest was one of the first to call at the
palace and welcome the young nobleman back. What passed between them at
this interview never was precisely known; but it was surmised readily
enough that some misunderstanding had taken place, for Father Rocco did
not repeat his visit. He made no complaints of Fabio, but simply stated
that he had said something, intended for the young man's good, which had
not been received in a right spirit; and that he thought it desirable
to avoid the painful chance of any further collision by not presenting
himself at the palace again for some little time. People were rather
amazed at this. They would have been still more surprised if the subject
of the masked ball had not just then occupied all their attention, and
prevented their noticing it, by another strange event in connection
with the priest. Father Rocco, some weeks after the cessation of his
intercourse with Fabio, returned one morning to his old way of life as a
sculptor, and opened the long-closed doors of his brother's studio.

Luca Lomi's former workmen, discovering this, applied to him immediately
for employment; but were informed that their services would not be
needed. Visitors called at the studio, but were always sent away again
by the disappointing announcement that there was nothing new to show
them. So the days passed on until Nanina left her situation and returned
to Pisa. This circumstance was duly reported to Father Rocco by his
correspondent at Florence; but, whether he was too much occupied among
the statues, or whether it was one result of his cautious resolution
never to expose himself unnecessarily to so much as the breath of
detraction, he made no attempt to see Nanina, or even to justify himself
toward her by writing her a letter. All his mornings continued to be
spent alone in the studio, and all his afternoons to be occupied by
his clerical duties, until the day before the masked ball at the Melani
Palace.

Early on that day he covered over the statues, and locked the doors of
the work-rooms once more; then returned to his own lodgings, and did
not go out again. One or two of his friends who wanted to see him were
informed that he was not well enough to be able to receive them. If they
had penetrated into his little study, and had seen him, they would have
been easily satisfied that this was no mere excuse. They would have
noticed that his face was startlingly pale, and that the ordinary
composure of his manner was singularly disturbed.

Toward evening this restlessness increased, and his old housekeeper, on
pressing him to take some nourishment, was astonished to hear him answer
her sharply and irritably, for the first time since she had been in his
service. A little later her surprise was increased by his sending her
with a note to the Ascoli Palace, and by the quick return of an answer,
brought ceremoniously by one of Fabio's servants. "It is long since
he has had any communication with that quarter. Are they going to be
friends again?" thought the housekeeper as she took the answer upstairs
to her master.

"I feel better to-night," he said as he read it; "well enough indeed to
venture out. If any one inquires for me, tell them that I am gone to the
Ascoli Palace." Saying this, he walked to the door; then returned, and
trying the lock of his cabinet, satisfied himself that it was properly
secured; then went out.

He found Fabio in one of the large drawing-rooms of the palace, walking
irritably backward and forward, with several little notes crumpled
together in his hands, and a plain black domino dress for the masquerade
of the ensuing night spread out on one of the tables.

"I was just going to write to you," said the young man, abruptly, "when
I received your letter. You offer me a renewal of our friendship, and
I accept the offer. I have no doubt those references of yours, when we
last met, to the subject of second marriages were well meant, but they
irritated me; and, speaking under that irritation, I said words that I
had better not have spoken. If I pained you, I am sorry for it. Wait!
pardon me for one moment. I have not quite done yet. It seems that
you are by no means the only person in Pisa to whom the question of my
possibly marrying again appears to have presented itself. Ever since it
was known that I intended to renew my intercourse with society at
the ball to-morrow night, I have been persecuted by anonymous
letters--infamous letters, written from some motive which it is
impossible for me to understand. I want your advice on the best means
of discovering the writers; and I have also a very important question to
ask you. But read one of the letters first yourself; any one will do as
a sample of the rest."

Fixing his eyes searchingly on the priest, he handed him one of the
notes. Still a little paler than usual, Father Rocco sat down by the
nearest lamp, and shading his eyes, read these lines:


"COUNT FABIO---It is the common talk of Pisa that you are likely, as
a young man left with a motherless child, to marry again. Your having
accepted an invitation to the Melani Palace gives a color of truth to
this report. Widowers who are true to the departed do not go among all
the handsomest single women in a city at a masked ball. Reconsider your
determination, and remain at home. I know you, and I knew your wife, and
I say to you solemnly, avoid temptation, for you must never marry again.
Neglect my advice and you will repent it to the end of your life. I have
reasons for what I say--serious, fatal reasons, which I cannot divulge.
If you would let your wife lie easy in her grave, if you would avoid a
terrible warning, go not to the masked ball!"


"I ask you, and I ask any man, if that is not infamous?" exclaimed
Fabio, passionately, as the priest handed him back the letter. "An
attempt to work on my fears through the memory of my poor dead wife! An
insolent assumption that I want to marry again, when I myself have not
even so much as thought of the subject at all! What is the secret object
of this letter, and of the rest here that resemble it? Whose interest is
it to keep me away from the ball? What is the meaning of such a phrase
as, 'If you would let your wife lie easy in her grave'? Have you no
advice to give me--no plan to propose for discovering the vile hand
that traced these lines? Speak to me! Why, in Heaven's name, don't you
speak?"

The priest leaned his head on his hand, and, turning his face from the
light as if it dazzled his eyes, replied in his lowest and quietest
tones:

"I cannot speak till I have had time to think. The mystery of that
letter is not to be solved in a moment. There are things in it that are
enough to perplex and amaze any man!"

"What things?"

"It is impossible for me to go into details--at least at the present
moment."

"You speak with a strange air of secrecy. Have you nothing definite to
say--no advice to give me?"

"I should advise you not to go to the ball."

"You would! Why?"

"If I gave you my reasons, I am afraid I should only be irritating you
to no purpose."

"Father Rocco, neither your words nor your manner satisfy me. You speak
in riddles; and you sit there in the dark with your face hidden from
me--"

The priest instantly started up and turned his face to the light.

"I recommend you to control your temper, and to treat me with common
courtesy," he said, in his quietest, firmest tones, looking at Fabio
steadily while he spoke.

"We will not prolong this interview," said the young man, calming
himself by an evident effort. "I have one question to ask you, and then
no more to say."

The priest bowed his head, in token that he was ready to listen. He
still stood up, calm, pale, and firm, in the full light of the lamp.

"It is just possible," continued Fabio, "that these letters may refer to
some incautious words which my late wife might have spoken. I ask you
as her spiritual director, and as a near relation who enjoyed her
confidence, if you ever heard her express a wish, in the event of my
surviving her, that I should abstain from marrying again?"

"Did she never express such a wish to you?"

"Never. But why do you evade my question by asking me another?"

"It is impossible for me to reply to your question."

"For what reason?"

"Because it is impossible for me to give answers which must refer,
whether they are affirmative or negative, to what I have heard in
confession."

"We have spoken enough," said Fabio, turning angrily from the priest. "I
expected you to help me in clearing up these mysteries, and you do your
best to thicken them. What your motives are, what your conduct means, it
is impossible for me to know, but I say to you, what I would say in far
other terms, if they were here, to the villains who have written these
letters--no menaces, no mysteries, no conspiracies, will prevent me from
being at the ball to-morrow. I can listen to persuasion, but I scorn
threats. There lies my dress for the masquerade; no power on earth shall
prevent me from wearing it to-morrow night!" He pointed, as he spoke, to
the black domino and half-mask lying on the table.

"No power on _earth!_" repeated Father Rocco, with a smile, and an
emphasis on the last word. "Superstitious still, Count Fabio! Do you
suspect the powers of the other world of interfering with mortals at
masquerades?"

Fabio started, and, turning from the table, fixed his eyes intently on
the priest's face.

"You suggested just now that we had better not prolong this interview,"
said Father Rocco, still smiling. "I think you were right; if we part at
once, we may still part friends. You have had my advice not to go to
the ball, and you decline following it. I have nothing more to say.
Good-night."

Before Fabio could utter the angry rejoinder that rose to his lips, the
door of the room had opened and closed again, and the priest was gone.



CHAPTER III.

The next night, at the time of assembling specified in the invitations
to the masked ball, Fabio was still lingering in his palace, and
still allowing the black domino to lie untouched and unheeded on
his dressing-table. This delay was not produced by any change in his
resolution to go to the Melani Palace. His determination to be present
at the ball remained unshaken; and yet, at the last moment, he lingered
and lingered on, without knowing why. Some strange influence seemed to
be keeping him within the walls of his lonely home. It was as if the
great, empty, silent palace had almost recovered on that night the charm
which it had lost when its mistress died.

He left his own apartment and went to the bedroom where his infant child
lay asleep in her little crib. He sat watching her, and thinking quietly
and tenderly of many past events in his life for a long time, then
returned to his room. A sudden sense of loneliness came upon him after
his visit to the child's bedside; but he did not attempt to raise his
spirits even then by going to the ball. He descended instead to his
study, lighted his reading-lamp, and then, opening a bureau, took from
one of the drawers in it the letter which Nanina had written to him.
This was not the first time that a sudden sense of his solitude had
connected itself inexplicably with the remembrance of the work-girl's
letter.

He read it through slowly, and when he had done, kept it open in his
hand. "I have youth, titles, wealth," he thought to himself, sadly;
"everything that is sought after in this world. And yet if I try to
think of any human being who really and truly loves me, I can remember
but one--the poor, faithful girl who wrote these lines!"

Old recollections of the first day when he met with Nanina, of the first
sitting she had given him in Luca Lomi's studio, of the first visit
to the neat little room in the by-street, began to rise more and more
vividly in his mind. Entirely absorbed by them, he sat absently drawing
with pen and ink, on some sheets of letter-paper lying under his hand,
lines and circles, and fragments of decorations, and vague remembrances
of old ideas for statues, until the sudden sinking of the flame of his
lamp awoke his attention abruptly to present things.

He looked at his watch. It was close on midnight.

This discovery at last aroused him to the necessity of immediate
departure. In a few minutes he had put on his domino and mask, and was
on his way to the ball.

Before he reached the Melani Palace the first part of the entertainment
had come to an end. The "Toy Symphony" had been played, the grotesque
dance performed, amid universal laughter; and now the guests were, for
the most part, fortifying themselves in the Arcadian bowers for new
dances, in which all persons present were expected to take part.
The Marquis Melani had, with characteristic oddity, divided his two
classical refreshment-rooms into what he termed the Light and Heavy
Departments. Fruit, pastry, sweetmeats, salads, and harmless drinks were
included under the first head, and all the stimulating liquors and solid
eatables under the last. The thirty shepherdesses had been, according
to the marquis's order, equally divided at the outset of the evening
between the two rooms. But as the company began to crowd more and
more resolutely in the direction of the Heavy Department, ten of the
shepherdesses attached to the Light Department were told off to assist
in attending on the hungry and thirsty majority of guests who were not
to be appeased by pastry and lemonade. Among the five girls who were
left behind in the room for the light refreshments was Nanina. The
steward soon discovered that the novelty of her situation made her
really nervous, and he wisely concluded that if he trusted her where the
crowd was greatest and the noise loudest, she would not only be utterly
useless, but also very much in the way of her more confident and
experienced companions.

When Fabio arrived at the palace, the jovial uproar in the Heavy
Department was at its height, and several gentlemen, fired by the
classical costumes of the shepherdesses, were beginning to speak
Latin to them with a thick utterance, and a valorous contempt for all
restrictions of gender, number, and case. As soon as he could escape
from the congratulations on his return to his friends, which poured on
him from all sides, Fabio withdrew to seek some quieter room. The heat,
noise, and confusion had so bewildered him, after the tranquil life he
had been leading for many months past, that it was quite a relief
to stroll through the half deserted dancing-rooms, to the opposite
extremity of the great suite of apartments, and there to find himself
in a second Arcadian bower, which seemed peaceful enough to deserve its
name.

A few guests were in this room when he first entered it, but the distant
sound of some first notes of dance music drew them all away. After a
careless look at the quaint decorations about him, he sat down alone
on a divan near the door, and beginning already to feel the heat and
discomfort of his mask, took it off. He had not removed it more than
a moment before he heard a faint cry in the direction of a long
refreshment-table, behind which the five waiting-girls were standing. He
started up directly, and could hardly believe his senses, when he found
himself standing face to face with Nanina.

Her cheeks had turned perfectly colorless. Her astonishment at seeing
the young nobleman appeared to have some sensation of terror
mingled with it. The waiting-woman who happened to stand by her side
instinctively stretched out an arm to support her, observing that she
caught at the edge of the table as Fabio hurried round to get behind it
and speak to her. When he drew near, her head drooped on her breast, and
she said, faintly: "I never knew you were at Pisa; I never thought you
would be here. Oh, I am true to what I said in my letter, though I seem
so false to it!"

"I want to speak to you about the letter--to tell you how carefully I
have kept it, how often I have read it," said Fabio.

She turned away her head, and tried hard to repress the tears that would
force their way into her eyes "We should never have met," she said;
"never, never have met again!"

Before Fabio could reply, the waiting-woman by Nanina's side interposed.

"For Heaven's sake, don't stop speaking to her here!" she exclaimed,
impatiently. "If the steward or one of the upper servants was to come
in, you would get her into dreadful trouble. Wait till to-morrow, and
find some fitter place than this."

Fabio felt the justice of the reproof immediately. He tore a leaf out of
his pocketbook, and wrote on it, "I must tell you how I honor and thank
you for that letter. To-morrow--ten o'clock--the wicket-gate at the
back of the Ascoli gardens. Believe in my truth and honor, Nanina, for
I believe implicitly in yours." Having written these lines, he took from
among his bunch of watch-seals a little key, wrapped it up in the note,
and pressed it into her hand. In spite of himself his fingers lingered
round hers, and he was on the point of speaking to her again, when he
saw the waiting-woman's hand, which was just raised to motion him away,
suddenly drop. Her color changed at the same moment, and she looked
fixedly across the table.

He turned round immediately, and saw a masked woman standing alone in
the room, dressed entirely in yellow from head to foot. She had a yellow
hood, a yellow half-mask with deep fringe hanging down over her mouth,
and a yellow domino, cut at the sleeves and edges into long flame-shaped
points, which waved backward and forward tremulously in the light air
wafted through the doorway. The woman's black eyes seemed to gleam with
an evil brightness through the sight-holes of the mask, and the tawny
fringe hanging before her mouth fluttered slowly with every breath she
drew. Without a word or a gesture she stood before the table, and her
gleaming black eyes fixed steadily on Fabio the instant he confronted
her. A sudden chill struck through him, as he observed that the yellow
of the stranger's domino and mask was of precisely the same shade as
the yellow of the hangings and furniture which his wife had chosen after
their marriage for the decoration of her favorite sitting-room.

"The Yellow Mask!" whispered the waiting-girls nervously, crowding
together behind the table. "The Yellow Mask again!"

"Make her speak!"

"Ask her to have something!"

"This gentleman will ask her. Speak to her, sir. Do speak to her! She
glides about in that fearful yellow dress like a ghost."

Fabio looked around mechanically at the girl who was whispering to him.
He saw at the same time that Nanina still kept her head turned away, and
that she had her handkerchief at her eyes. She was evidently struggling
yet with the agitation produced by their unexpected meeting, and was,
most probably for that reason, the only person in the room not conscious
of the presence of the Yellow Mask.

"Speak to her, sir. Do speak to her!" whispered two of the waiting-girls
together.

Fabio turned again toward the table. The black eyes were still gleaming
at him from behind the tawny yellow of the mask. He nodded to the girls
who had just spoken, cast one farewell look at Nanina, and moved down
the room to get round to the side of the table at which the Yellow Mask
was standing. Step by step as he moved the bright eyes followed him.
Steadily and more steadily their evil light seemed to shine through and
through him, as he turned the corner of the table and approached the
still, spectral figure.

He came close up to the woman, but she never moved; her eyes never
wavered for an instant. He stopped and tried to speak; but the chill
struck through him again. An overpowering dread, an unutterable
loathing seized on him; all sense of outer things--the whispering of the
waiting-girls behind the table, the gentle cadence of the dance music,
the distant hum of joyous talk--suddenly left him. He turned away
shuddering, and quitted the room.

Following the sound of the music, and desiring before all things now
to join the crowd wherever it was largest, he was stopped in one of
the smaller apartments by a gentleman who had just risen from the card
table, and who held out his hand with the cordiality of an old friend.

"Welcome back to the world, Count Fabio!" he began, gayly, then suddenly
checked himself. "Why, you look pale, and your hand feels cold. Not ill,
I hope?"

"No, no. I have been rather startled--I can't say why--by a very
strangely dressed woman, who fairly stared me out of countenance."

"You don't mean the Yellow Mask?"

"Yes I do. Have you seen her?"

"Everybody has seen her; but nobody can make her unmask, or get her to
speak. Our host has not the slightest notion who she is; and our hostess
is horribly frightened at her. For my part, I think she has given us
quite enough of her mystery and her grim dress; and if my name, instead
of being nothing but plain Andrea D'Arbino, was Marquis Melani, I would
say to her: 'Madam, we are here to laugh and amuse ourselves; suppose
you open your lips, and charm us by appearing in a prettier dress!'"

During this conversation they had sat down together, with their backs
toward the door, by the side of one of the card-tables. While D'Arbino
was speaking, Fabio suddenly felt himself shuddering again, and became
conscious of a sound of low breathing behind him.

He turned round instantly, and there, standing between them, and peering
down at them, was the Yellow Mask!

Fabio started up, and his friend followed his example. Again the
gleaming black eyes rested steadily on the young nobleman's face, and
again their look chilled him to the heart.

"Yellow Lady, do you know my friend?" exclaimed D'Arbino, with mock
solemnity.

There was no answer. The fatal eyes never moved from Fabio's face.

"Yellow Lady," continued the other, "listen to the music. Will you dance
with me?"

The eyes looked away, and the figure glided slowly from the room.

"My dear count," said D'Arbino, "that woman seems to have quite an
effect on you. I declare she has left you paler than ever. Come into
the supper-room with me, and have some wine; you really look as if you
wanted it."

They went at once to the large refreshment-room. Nearly all the guests
had by this time begun to dance again. They had the whole apartment,
therefore, almost entirely to themselves.

Among the decorations of the room, which were not strictly in accordance
with genuine Arcadian simplicity, was a large looking-glass, placed
over a well-furnished sideboard. D'Arbino led Fabio in this direction,
exchanging greetings as he advanced with a gentleman who stood near the
glass looking into it, and carelessly fanning himself with his mask.

"My dear friend!" cried D'Arbino, "you are the very man to lead us
straight to the best bottle of wine in the palace. Count Fabio, let me
present to you my intimate and good friend, the Cavaliere Finello, with
whose family I know you are well acquainted. Finello, the count is a
little out of spirits, and I have prescribed a good dose of wine. I see
a whole row of bottles at your side, and I leave it to you to apply the
remedy. Glasses there! three glasses, my lovely shepherdess with the
black eyes--the three largest you have got."

The glasses were brought; the Cavaliere Finello chose a particular
bottle, and filled them. All three gentlemen turned round to the
sideboard to use it as a table, and thus necessarily faced the
looking-glass.

"Now let us drink the toast of toasts," said D'Arbino. "Finello, Count
Fabio--the ladies of Pisa!"

Fabio raised the wine to his lips, and was on the point of drinking it,
when he saw reflected in the glass the figure of the Yellow Mask. The
glittering eyes were again fixed on him, and the yellow-hooded head
bowed slowly, as if in acknowledgment of the toast he was about to
drink. For the third time the strange chill seized him, and he set down
his glass of wine untasted.

"What is the matter?" asked D'Arbino.

"Have you any dislike, count, to that particular wine?" inquired the
cavaliere.

"The Yellow Mask!" whispered Fabio. "The Yellow Mask again!"

They all three turned round directly toward the door. But it was too
late--the figure had disappeared.

"Does any one know who this Yellow Mask is?" asked Finello. "One may
guess by the walk that the figure is a woman's. Perhaps it may be the
strange color she has chosen for her dress, or perhaps her stealthy way
of moving from room to room; but there is certainly something mysterious
and startling about her."

"Startling enough, as the count would tell you," said D'Arbino. "The
Yellow Mask has been responsible for his loss of spirits and change of
complexion, and now she has prevented him even from drinking his wine."

"I can't account for it," said Fabio, looking round him uneasily; "but
this is the third room into which she has followed me--the third time
she has seemed to fix her eyes on me alone. I suppose my nerves are
hardly in a fit state yet for masked balls and adventures; the sight of
her seems to chill me. Who can she be?"

"If she followed me a fourth time," said Finello, "I should insist on
her unmasking."

"And suppose she refused?" asked his friend

"Then I should take her mask off for her."

"It is impossible to do that with a woman," said Fabio. "I prefer trying
to lose her in the crowd. Excuse me, gentlemen, if I leave you to finish
the wine, and then to meet me, if you like, in the great ballroom."

He retired as he spoke, put on his mask, and joined the dancers
immediately, taking care to keep always in the most crowded corner of
the apartment. For some time this plan of action proved successful, and
he saw no more of the mysterious yellow domino. Ere long, however, some
new dances were arranged, in which the great majority of the persons in
the ballroom took part; the figures resembling the old English country
dances in this respect, that the ladies and gentlemen were placed in
long rows opposite to each other. The sets consisted of about twenty
couples each, placed sometimes across, and sometimes along the
apartment; and the spectators were all required to move away on either
side, and range themselves close to the walls. As Fabio among others
complied with this necessity, he looked down a row of dancers waiting
during the performance of the orchestral prelude; and there, watching
him again, from the opposite end of the lane formed by the gentlemen on
one side and the ladies on the other, he saw the Yellow Mask.

He moved abruptly back, toward another row of dancers, placed at right
angles to the first row; and there again; at the opposite end of the gay
lane of brightly-dressed figures, was the Yellow Mask. He slipped into
the middle of the room, but it was only to find her occupying his former
position near the wall, and still, in spite of his disguise, watching
him through row after row of dancers. The persecution began to grow
intolerable; he felt a kind of angry curiosity mingling now with the
vague dread that had hitherto oppressed him. Finello's advice recurred
to his memory; and he determined to make the woman unmask at all
hazards. With this intention he returned to the supper-room in which he
had left his friends.

They were gone, probably to the ballroom, to look for him. Plenty of
wine was still left on the sideboard, and he poured himself out a glass.
Finding that his hand trembled as he did so, he drank several more
glasses in quick succession, to nerve himself for the approaching
encounter with the Yellow Mask. While he was drinking he expected
every moment to see her in the looking-glass again; but she never
appeared--and yet he felt almost certain that he had detected her
gliding out after him when he left the ballroom.

He thought it possible that she might be waiting for him in one of the
smaller apartments, and, taking off his mask, walked through several
of them without meeting her, until he came to the door of the
refreshment-room in which Nanina and he had recognized each other. The
waiting-woman behind the table, who had first spoken to him, caught
sight of him now, and ran round to the door.

"Don't come in and speak to Nanina again," she said, mistaking the
purpose which had brought him to the door. "What with frightening her
first, and making her cry afterward, you have rendered her quite unfit
for her work. The steward is in there at this moment, very good-natured,
but not very sober. He says she is pale and red-eyed, and not fit to be
a shepherdess any longer, and that, as she will not be missed now, she
may go home if she likes. We have got her an old cloak, and she is going
to try and slip through the rooms unobserved, to get downstairs and
change her dress. Don't speak to her, pray, or you will only make her
cry again; and what is worse, make the steward fancy--"

She stopped at that last word, and pointed suddenly over Fabio's
shoulder.

"The Yellow Mask!" she exclaimed. "Oh, sir, draw her away into the
ballroom, and give Nanina a chance of getting out!"

Fabio turned directly, and approached the Mask, who, as they looked at
each other, slowly retreated before him. The waiting-woman, seeing the
yellow figure retire, hastened back to Nanina in the refreshment-room.

Slowly the masked woman retreated from one apartment to another till
she entered a corridor brilliantly lighted up and beautifully ornamented
with flowers. On the right hand this corridor led to the ballroom; on
the left to an ante-chamber at the head of the palace staircase. The
Yellow Mask went on a few paces toward the left, then stopped. The
bright eyes fixed themselves as before on Fabio's face, but only for a
moment. He heard a light step behind him, and then he saw the eyes
move. Following the direction they took, he turned round, and discovered
Nanina, wrapped up in the old cloak which was to enable her to get
downstairs unobserved.

"Oh, how can I get out? how can I get out?" cried the girl, shrinking
back affrightedly as she saw the Yellow Mask.

"That way," said Fabio, pointing in the direction of the ballroom.
"Nobody will notice you in the cloak; it will only be thought some new
disguise." He took her arm as he spoke, to reassure her, and continued
in a whisper, "Don't forget to-morrow."

At the same moment he felt a hand laid on him. It was the hand of the
masked woman, and it put him back from Nanina.

In spite of himself, he trembled at her touch, but still retained
presence of mind enough to sign to the girl to make her escape. With
a look of eager inquiry in the direction of the mask, and a half
suppressed exclamation of terror, she obeyed him, and hastened away
toward the ballroom.

"We are alone," said Fabio, confronting the gleaming black eyes, and
reaching out his hand resolutely toward the Yellow Mask. "Tell me who
you are, and why you follow me, or I will uncover your face, and solve
the mystery for myself."

The woman pushed his hand aside, and drew back a few paces, but never
spoke a word. He followed her. There was not an instant to be lost, for
just then the sound of footsteps hastily approaching the corridor became
audible.

"Now or never," he whispered to himself, and snatched at the mask.

His arm was again thrust aside; but this time the woman raised her
disengaged hand at the same moment, and removed the yellow mask.

The lamps shed their soft light full on her face.

It was the face of his dead wife.



CHAPTER IV.

Signor Andrea D'Arbino, searching vainly through the various rooms in
the palace for Count Fabio d'Ascoli, and trying as a last resource, the
corridor leading to the ballroom and grand staircase, discovered his
friend lying on the floor in a swoon, without any living creature near
him. Determining to avoid alarming the guests, if possible, D'Arbino
first sought help in the antechamber. He found there the marquis's
valet, assisting the Cavaliere Finello (who was just taking his
departure) to put on his cloak.

While Finello and his friend carried Fabio to an open window in the
antechamber, the valet procured some iced water. This simple remedy, and
the change of atmosphere, proved enough to restore the fainting man to
his senses, but hardly--as it seemed to his friends--to his former self.
They noticed a change to blankness and stillness in his face, and when
he spoke, an indescribable alteration in the tone of his voice.

"I found you in a room in the corridor," said D'Arbino. "What made you
faint? Don't you remember? Was it the heat?"

Fabio waited for a moment, painfully collecting his ideas. He looked at
the valet, and Finello signed to the man to withdraw.

"Was it the heat?" repeated D'Arbino.

"No," answered Fabio, in strangely hushed, steady tones. "I have seen
the face that was behind the yellow mask."

"Well?"

"It was the face of my dead wife."

"Your dead wife!"

"When the mask was removed I saw her face. Not as I remember it in
the pride of her youth and beauty--not even as I remember her on her
sick-bed--but as I remember her in her coffin."

"Count! for God's sake, rouse yourself! Collect your thoughts--remember
where you are--and free your mind of its horrible delusion."

"Spare me all remonstrances; I am not fit to bear them. My life has only
one object now--the pursuing of this mystery to the end. Will you help
me? I am scarcely fit to act for myself."

He still spoke in the same unnaturally hushed, deliberate tones.
D'Arbino and Finello exchanged glances behind him as he rose from the
sofa on which he had hitherto been lying.

"We will help you in everything," said D'Arbino, soothingly. "Trust in
us to the end. What do you wish to do first?"

"The figure must have gone through this room. Let us descend the
staircase and ask the servants if they have seen it pass."

(Both D'Arbino and Finello remarked that he did not say _her_.)

They inquired down to the very courtyard. Not one of the servants had
seen the Yellow Mask.

The last resource was the porter at the outer gate. They applied to him;
and in answer to their questions he asserted that he had most certainly
seen a lady in a yellow domino and mask drive away, about half an hour
before, in a hired coach.

"Should you remember the coachman again?" asked D'Arbino.

"Perfectly; he is an old friend of mine."

"And you know where he lives?"

"Yes; as well as I know where I do."

"Any reward you like, if you can get somebody to mind your lodge, and
can take us to that house."

In a few minutes they were following the porter through the dark,
silent streets. "We had better try the stables first," said the man. "My
friend, the coachman, will hardly have had time to do more than set the
lady down. We shall most likely catch him just putting up his horses."

The porter turned out to be right. On entering the stable-yard, they
found that the empty coach had just driven into it.

"You have been taking home a lady in a yellow domino from the
masquerade?" said D'Arbino, putting some money into the coachman's hand.

"Yes, sir; I was engaged by that lady for the evening--engaged to drive
her to the ball as well as to drive her home."

"Where did you take her from?"

"From a very extraordinary place--from the gate of the Campo Santo
burial-ground."

During this colloquy, Finello and D'Arbino had been standing with Fabio
between them, each giving him an arm. The instant the last answer was
given, he reeled back with a cry of horror.

"Where have you taken her to now?" asked D'Arbino. He looked about him
nervously as he put the question, and spoke for the first time in a
whisper.

"To the Campo Santo again," said the coachman.

Fabio suddenly drew his arms out of the arms of his friends, and sank to
his knees on the ground, hiding his face. From some broken ejaculations
which escaped him, it seemed as if he dreaded that his senses were
leaving him, and that he was praying to be preserved in his right mind.

"Why is he so violently agitated?" said Finello, eagerly, to his friend.

"Hush!" returned the other. "You heard him say that when he saw the face
behind the yellow mask, it was the face of his dead wife?"

"Yes. But what then?"

"His wife was buried in the Campo Santo."



CHAPTER V.

Of all the persons who had been present, in any capacity, at the Marquis
Melani's ball, the earliest riser on the morning after it was Nanina.
The agitation produced by the strange events in which she had been
concerned destroyed the very idea of sleep. Through the hours of
darkness she could not even close her eyes; and, as soon as the new day
broke, she rose to breathe the early morning air at her window, and to
think in perfect tranquillity over all that had passed since she entered
the Melani Palace to wait on the guests at the masquerade.

On reaching home the previous night, all her other sensations had been
absorbed in a vague feeling of mingled dread and curiosity, produced
by the sight of the weird figure in the yellow mask, which she had left
standing alone with Fabio in the palace corridor. The morning light,
however, suggested new thoughts. She now opened the note which the young
nobleman had pressed into her hand, and read over and over again the
hurried pencil lines scrawled on the paper. Could there be any harm, any
forgetfulness of her own duty, in using the key inclosed in the note,
and keeping her appointment in the Ascoli gardens at ten o'clock? Surely
not--surely the last sentence he had written, "Believe in my truth and
honor, Nanina, for I believe implicitly in yours," was enough to satisfy
her this time that she could not be doing wrong in listening for once to
the pleading of her own heart. And besides, there in her lap lay the key
of the wicket-gate. It was absolutely necessary to use that, if only for
the purpose of giving it back safely into the hand of its owner.

As this last thought was passing through her mind, and plausibly
overcoming any faint doubts and difficulties which she might still have
left, she was startled by a sudden knocking at the street door; and,
looking out of the window immediately, saw a man in livery standing in
the street, anxiously peering up at the house to see if his knocking had
aroused anybody.

"Does Marta Angrisani, the sick-nurse, live here?" inquired the man, as
soon as Nanina showed herself at the window.

"Yes," she answered. "Must I call her up? Is there some person ill?"

"Call her up directly," said the servant; "she is wanted at the Ascoli
Palace. My master, Count Fabio--"

Nanina waited to hear no more. She flew to the room in which the
sick-nurse slept, and awoke her, almost roughly, in an instant.

"He is ill!" she cried, breathlessly. "Oh, make haste, make haste! He is
ill, and he has sent for you!"

Marta inquired who had sent for her, and on being informed, promised
to lose no time. Nanina ran downstairs to tell the servant that the
sick-nurse was getting on her clothes. The man's serious expression,
when she came close to him, terrified her. All her usual self-distrust
vanished; and she entreated him, without attempting to conceal her
anxiety, to tell her particularly what his master's illness was, and how
it had affected him so suddenly after the ball.

"I know nothing about it," answered the man, noticing Nanina's manner
as she put her question, with some surprise, "except that my master was
brought home by two gentlemen, friends of his, about a couple of hours
ago, in a very sad state; half out of his mind, as it seemed to me. I
gathered from what was said that he had got a dreadful shock from seeing
some woman take off her mask, and show her face to him at the ball. How
that could be I don't in the least understand; but I know that when the
doctor was sent for, he looked very serious, and talked about fearing
brain-fever."

Here the servant stopped; for, to his astonishment, he saw Nanina
suddenly turn away from him, and then heard her crying bitterly as she
went back into the house.

Marta Angrisani had huddled on her clothes and was looking at herself in
the glass to see that she was sufficiently presentable to appear at the
palace, when she felt two arms flung round her neck; and, before she
could say a word, found Nanina sobbing on her bosom.

"He is ill--he is in danger!" cried the girl. "I must go with you to
help him. You have always been kind to me, Marta--be kinder than ever
now. Take me with you--take me with you to the palace!"

"You, child!" exclaimed the nurse, gently unclasping her arms.

"Yes--yes! if it is only for an hour," pleaded Nanina; "if it is only
for one little hour every day. You have only to say that I am your
helper, and they would let me in. Marta! I shall break my heart if I
can't see him, and help him to get well again."

The nurse still hesitated. Nanina clasped her round the neck once more,
and laid her cheek--burning hot now, though the tears had been streaming
down it but an instant before--close to the good woman's face.

"I love him, Marta; great as he is, I love him with all my heart and
soul and strength," she went on, in quick, eager, whispering tones; "and
he loves me. He would have married me if I had not gone away to save
him from it. I could keep my love for him a secret while he was well; I
could stifle it, and crush it down, and wither it up by absence. But now
he is ill, it gets beyond me; I can't master it. Oh, Marta! don't break
my heart by denying me! I have suffered so much for his sake, that I
have earned the right to nurse him!"

Marta was not proof against this last appeal. She had one great and rare
merit for a middle-aged woman--she had not forgotten her own youth.

"Come, child," said she, soothingly; "I won't attempt to deny you. Dry
your eyes, put on your mantilla; and, when we get face to face with the
doctor, try to look as old and ugly as you can, if you want to be let
into the sick-room along with me."

The ordeal of medical scrutiny was passed more easily than Marta
Angrisani had anticipated. It was of great importance, in the doctor's
opinion, that the sick man should see familiar faces at his bedside.
Nanina had only, therefore, to state that he knew her well, and that she
had sat to him as a model in the days when he was learning the art of
sculpture, to be immediately accepted as Marta's privileged assistant in
the sick-room.

The worst apprehensions felt by the doctor for the patient were soon
realized. The fever flew to his brain. For nearly six weeks he lay
prostrate, at the mercy of death; now raging with the wild strength
of delirium, and now sunk in the speechless, motionless, sleepless
exhaustion which was his only repose. At last; the blessed day came when
he enjoyed his first sleep, and when the doctor began, for the first
time, to talk of the future with hope. Even then, however, the same
terrible peculiarity marked his light dreams which had previously shown
itself in his fierce delirium. From the faintly uttered, broken phrases
which dropped from him when he slept, as from the wild words which burst
from him when his senses were deranged, the one sad discovery inevitably
resulted--that his mind was still haunted, day and night, hour after
hour, by the figure in the yellow mask.

As his bodily health improved, the doctor in attendance on him grew more
and more anxious as to the state of his mind. There was no appearance
of any positive derangement of intellect, but there was a mental
depression--an unaltering, invincible prostration, produced by his
absolute belief in the reality of the dreadful vision that he had seen
at the masked ball--which suggested to the physician the gravest doubts
about the case. He saw with dismay that the patient showed no anxiety,
as he got stronger, except on one subject. He was eagerly desirous of
seeing Nanina every day by his bedside; but, as soon as he was assured
that his wish should be faithfully complied with, he seemed to care for
nothing more. Even when they proposed, in the hope of rousing him to an
exhibition of something like pleasure, that the girl should read to him
for an hour every day out of one of his favorite books, he only showed a
languid satisfaction. Weeks passed away, and still, do what they would,
they could not make him so much as smile.

One day Nanina had begun to read to him as usual, but had not proceeded
far before Marta Angrisani informed her that he had fallen into a doze.
She ceased with a sigh, and sat looking at him sadly, as he lay near
her, faint and pale and mournful in his sleep--miserably altered from
what he was when she first knew him. It had been a hard trial to watch
by his bedside in the terrible time of his delirium; but it was a harder
trial still to look at him now, and to feel less and less hopeful with
each succeeding day.

While her eyes and thoughts were still compassionately fixed on him, the
door of the bedroom opened, and the doctor came in, followed by Andrea
D'Arbino, whose share in the strange adventure with the Yellow Mask
caused him to feel a special interest in Fabio's progress toward
recovery.

"Asleep, I see; and sighing in his sleep," said the doctor, going to
the bedside. "The grand difficulty with him," he continued, turning to
D'Arbino, "remains precisely what it was. I have hardly left a single
means untried of rousing him from that fatal depression; yet, for the
last fortnight, he has not advanced a single step. It is impossible to
shake his conviction of the reality of that face which he saw (or rather
which he thinks he saw) when the yellow mask was removed; and, as long
as he persists in his own shocking view of the case, so long he will
lie there, getting better, no doubt, as to his body, but worse as to his
mind."

"I suppose, poor fellow, he is not in a fit state to be reasoned with?"

"On the contrary, like all men with a fixed delusion, he has plenty of
intelligence to appeal to on every point, except the one point on which
he is wrong. I have argued with him vainly by the hour together. He
possesses, unfortunately, an acute nervous sensibility and a vivid
imagination; and besides, he has, as I suspect, been superstitiously
brought up as a child. It would be probably useless to argue rationally
with him on certain spiritual subjects, even if his mind was in
perfect health. He has a good deal of the mystic and the dreamer in his
composition; and science and logic are but broken reeds to depend upon
with men of that kind."

"Does he merely listen to you when you reason with him, or does he
attempt to answer?"

"He has only one form of answer, and that is, unfortunately, the most
difficult of all to dispose of. Whenever I try to convince him of his
delusion, he invariably retorts by asking me for a rational explanation
of what happened to him at the masked ball. Now, neither you nor I,
though we believe firmly that he has been the dupe of some infamous
conspiracy, have been able as yet to penetrate thoroughly into this
mystery of the Yellow Mask. Our common sense tells us that he must be
wrong in taking his view of it, and that we must be right in taking
ours; but if we cannot give him actual, tangible proof of that--if we
can only theorize, when he asks us for an explanation--it is but too
plain, in his present condition, that every time we remonstrate with him
on the subject we only fix him in his delusion more and more firmly."

"It is not for want of perseverance on my part," said D'Arbino, after a
moment of silence, "that we are still left in the dark. Ever since the
extraordinary statement of the coachman who drove the woman home, I
have been inquiring and investigating. I have offered the reward of
two hundred scudi for the discovery of her; I have myself examined
the servants at the palace, the night-watchman at the Campo Santo, the
police-books, the lists of keepers of hotels and lodging-houses, to hit
on some trace of this woman; and I have failed in all directions. If my
poor friend's perfect recovery does indeed depend on his delusion being
combated by actual proof, I fear we have but little chance of restoring
him. So far as I am concerned, I confess myself at the end of my
resources."

"I hope we are not quite conquered yet," returned the doctor. "The
proofs we want may turn up when we least expect them. It is certainly
a miserable case," he continued, mechanically laying his fingers on the
sleeping man's pulse. "There he lies, wanting nothing now but to recover
the natural elasticity of his mind; and here we stand at his bedside,
unable to relieve him of the weight that is pressing his faculties down.
I repeat it, Signor Andrea, nothing will rouse him from his delusion
that he is the victim of a supernatural interposition but the production
of some startling, practical proof of his error. At present he is in the
position of a man who has been imprisoned from his birth in a dark room,
and who denies the existence of daylight. If we cannot open the shutters
and show him the sky outside, we shall never convert him to a knowledge
of the truth."

Saying these words, the doctor turned to lead the way out of the room,
and observed Nanina, who had moved from the bedside on his entrance,
standing near the door. He stopped to look at her, shook his head
good-humoredly, and called to Marta, who happened to be occupied in an
adjoining room.

"Signora Marta," said the doctor, "I think you told me some time ago
that your pretty and careful little assistant lives in your house. Pray,
does she take much walking exercise?"

"Very little, Signor Dottore. She goes home to her sister when she
leaves the palace. Very little walking exercise, indeed."

"I thought so! Her pale cheeks and heavy eyes told me as much. Now, my
dear," said the doctor, addressing Nanina, "you are a very good girl,
and I am sure you will attend to what I tell you. Go out every morning
before you come here, and take a walk in the fresh air. You are too
young not to suffer by being shut up in close rooms every day, unless
you get some regular exercise. Take a good long walk in the morning, or
you will fall into my hands as a patient, and be quite unfit to continue
your attendance here. Now, Signor Andrea, I am ready for you. Mind, my
child, a walk every day in the open air outside the town, or you will
fall ill, take my word for it!"

Nanina promised compliance; but she spoke rather absently, and seemed
scarcely conscious of the kind familiarity which marked the doctor's
manner. The truth was, that all her thoughts were occupied with what
he had been saying by Fabio's bedside. She had not lost one word of the
conversation while the doctor was talking of his patient, and of the
conditions on which his recovery depended. "Oh, if that proof which
would cure him could only be found!" she thought to herself, as she
stole back anxiously to the bedside when the room was empty.

On getting home that day she found a letter waiting for her, and was
greatly surprised to see that it was written by no less a person than
the master-sculptor, Luca Lomi. It was very short; simply informing her
that he had just returned to Pisa, and that he was anxious to know when
she could sit to him for a new bust--a commission from a rich foreigner
at Naples.

Nanina debated with herself for a moment whether she should answer the
letter in the hardest way, to her, by writing, or, in the easiest
way, in person; and decided on going to the studio and telling the
master-sculptor that it would be impossible for her to serve him as a
model, at least for some time to come. It would have taken her a long
hour to say this with due propriety on paper; it would only take her
a few minutes to say it with her own lips. So she put on her mantilla
again and departed for the studio.

On, arriving at the gate and ringing the bell, a thought suddenly
occurred to her, which she wondered had not struck her before. Was
it not possible that she might meet Father Rocco in his brother's
work-room? It was too late to retreat now, but not too late to ask,
before she entered, if the priest was in the studio. Accordingly, when
one of the workmen opened the door to her, she inquired first, very
confusedly and anxiously, for Father Rocco. Hearing that he was not with
his brother then, she went tranquilly enough to make her apologies to
the master-sculptor.

She did not think it necessary to tell him more than that she was now
occupied every day by nursing duties in a sick-room, and that it
was consequently out of her power to attend at the studio. Luca Lomi
expressed, and evidently felt, great disappointment at her failing him
as a model, and tried hard to persuade her that she might find time
enough, if she chose, to sit to him, as well as to nurse the sick
person. The more she resisted his arguments and entreaties, the more
obstinately he reiterated them. He was dusting his favorite busts and
statues, after his long absence, with a feather-brush when she came in;
and he continued this occupation all the while he was talking--urging
a fresh plea to induce Nanina to reconsider her refusal to sit at every
fresh piece of sculpture he came to, and always receiving the same
resolute apology from her as she slowly followed him down the studio
toward the door.

Arriving thus at the lower end of the room, Luca stopped with a fresh
argument on his lips before his statue of Minerva. He had dusted it
already, but he lovingly returned to dust it again. It was his favorite
work--the only good likeness (although it did assume to represent
a classical subject) of his dead daughter that he possessed. He had
refused to part with it for Maddalena's sake; and, as he now approached
it with his brush for the second time, he absently ceased speaking, and
mounted on a stool to look at the face near and blow some specks of dust
off the forehead. Nanina thought this a good opportunity of escaping
from further importunities. She was on the point of slipping away to the
door with a word of farewell, when a sudden exclamation from Luca Lomi
arrested her.

"Plaster!" cried the master-sculptor, looking intently at that part of
the hair of the statue which lay lowest on the forehead. "Plaster here!"
He took out his penknife as he spoke, and removed a tiny morsel of some
white substance from an interstice between two folds of the hair
where it touched the face. "It _is_ plaster!" he exclaimed, excitedly.
"Somebody has been taking a cast from the face of my statue!"

He jumped off the stool, and looked all round the studio with an
expression of suspicious inquiry. "I must have this cleared up," he
said. "My statues were left under Rocco's care, and he is answerable
if there has been any stealing of casts from any one of them. I must
question him directly."

Nanina, seeing that he took no notice of her, felt that she might now
easily effect her retreat. She opened the studio door, and repeated,
for the twentieth time at least, that she was sorry she could not sit to
him.

"I am sorry too, child," he said, irritably looking about for his hat.
He found it apparently just as Nanina was going out; for she heard him
call to one of the workmen in the inner studio, and order the man to
say, if anybody wanted him, that he had gone to Father Rocco's lodgings.



CHAPTER VI.

The next morning, when Nanina rose, a bad attack of headache, and
a sense of languor and depression, reminded her of the necessity of
following the doctor's advice, and preserving her health by getting
a little fresh air and exercise. She had more than two hours to spare
before the usual time when her daily attendance began at the Ascoli
Palace; and she determined to employ the interval of leisure in taking a
morning walk outside the town. La Biondella would have been glad enough
to go too, but she had a large order for dinner-mats on hand, and was
obliged, for that day, to stop in the house and work. Thus it happened
that when Nanina set forth from home, the learned poodle, Scarammuccia,
was her only companion.

She took the nearest way out of the town; the dog trotting along in his
usual steady, observant way close at her side, pushing his great rough
muzzle, from time to time, affectionately into her hand, and trying hard
to attract her attention at intervals by barking and capering in front
of her. He got but little notice, however, for his pains. Nanina was
thinking again of all that the physician had said the day before by
Fabio's bedside, and these thoughts brought with them others, equally
absorbing, that were connected with the mysterious story of the young
nobleman's adventure with the Yellow Mask. Thus preoccupied, she had
little attention left for the gambols of the dog. Even the beauty of the
morning appealed to her in vain. She felt the refreshment of the cool,
fragrant air, but she hardly noticed the lovely blue of the sky, or
the bright sunshine that gave a gayety and an interest to the commonest
objects around her.

After walking nearly an hour, she began to feel tired, and looked about
for a shady place to rest in.

Beyond and behind her there was only the high-road and the flat
country; but by her side stood a little wooden building, half inn, half
coffee-house, backed by a large, shady pleasure-garden, the gates of
which stood invitingly open. Some workmen in the garden were putting
up a stage for fireworks, but the place was otherwise quiet and lonely
enough. It was only used at night as a sort of rustic Ranelagh, to
which the citizens of Pisa resorted for pure air and amusement after
the fatigues of the day. Observing that there were no visitors in the
grounds, Nanina ventured in, intending to take a quarter of an hour's
rest in the coolest place she could find before returning to Pisa.

She had passed the back of a wooden summer-house in a secluded part
of the gardens, when she suddenly missed the dog from her side;
and, looking round after him, saw that he was standing behind the
summer-house with his ears erect and his nose to the ground, having
evidently that instant scented something that excited his suspicion.

Thinking it possible that he might be meditating an attack on some
unfortunate cat, she turned to see what he was watching. The carpenters
engaged on the firework stage were just then hammering at it violently.
The noise prevented her from hearing that Scarammuccia was growling, but
she could feel that he was the moment she laid her hand on his back. Her
curiosity was excited, and she stooped down close to him to look through
a crack in the boards before which he stood into the summer-house.

She was startled at seeing a lady and gentleman sitting inside. The
place she was looking through was not high enough up to enable her to
see their faces, but she recognized, or thought she recognized, the
pattern of the lady's dress as one which she had noticed in former days
in the Demoiselle Grifoni's show-room. Rising quickly, her eye detected
a hole in the boards about the level of her own height, caused by a knot
having been forced out of the wood. She looked through it to ascertain,
without being discovered, if the wearer of the familiar dress was the
person she had taken her to be; and saw, not Brigida only, as she had
expected, but Father Rocco as well. At the same moment the carpenters
left off hammering and began to saw. The new sound from the firework
stage was regular and not loud. The voices of the occupants of the
summer-house reached her through it, and she heard Brigida pronounce the
name of Count Fabio.

Instantly stooping down once more by the dog's side, she caught
his muzzle firmly in both her hands. It was the only way to keep
Scarammuccia from growling again, at a time when there was no din of
hammering to prevent him from being heard. Those two words, "Count
Fabio," in the mouth of another woman, excited a jealous anxiety in her.
What could Brigida have to say in connection with that name? She never
came near the Ascoli Palace--what right or reason could she have to talk
of Fabio?

"Did you hear what I said?" she heard Brigida ask, in her coolest,
hardest tone.

"No," the priest answered. "At least, not all of it."

"I will repeat it, then. I asked what had so suddenly determined you to
give up all idea of making any future experiments on the superstitious
fears of Count Fabio?"

"In the first place, the result of the experiment already tried has been
so much more serious than I had anticipated, that I believe the end I
had in view in making it has been answered already."

"Well; that is not your only reason?"

"Another shock to his mind might be fatal to him. I can use what I
believe to be a justifiable fraud to prevent his marrying again; but I
cannot burden myself with a crime."

"That is your second reason; but I believe you have another yet. The
suddenness with which you sent to me last night to appoint a meeting
in this lonely place; the emphatic manner in which you requested--I may
almost say ordered--me to bring the wax mask here, suggest to my mind
that something must have happened. What is it? I am a woman, and my
curiosity must be satisfied. After the secrets you have trusted to me
already, you need not hesitate, I think, to trust me with one more."

"Perhaps not. The secret this time is, moreover, of no great importance.
You know that the wax mask you wore at the ball was made in a plaster
mold taken off the face of my brother's statue?"

"Yes, I know that."

"My brother has just returned to his studio; has found a morsel of the
plaster I used for the mold sticking in the hair of the statue; and
has asked me, as the person left in charge of his work-rooms, for an
explanation. Such an explanation as I could offer has not satisfied him,
and he talks of making further inquiries. Considering that it will be
used no more, I think it safest to destroy the wax mask, and I asked you
to bring it here, that I might see it burned or broken up with my own
eyes. Now you know all you wanted to know; and now, therefore, it is my
turn to remind you that I have not yet had a direct answer to the first
question I addressed to you when we met here. Have you brought the wax
mask with you, or have you not?"

"I have not."

"And why?"

Just as that question was put, Nanina felt the dog dragging himself free
of her grasp on his mouth. She had been listening hitherto with such
painful intensity, with such all-absorbing emotions of suspense, terror,
and astonishment, that she had not noticed his efforts to get away,
and had continued mechanically to hold his mouth shut. But now she was
aroused by the violence of his struggles to the knowledge that, unless
she hit upon some new means of quieting him, he would have his mouth
free, and would betray her by a growl.

In an agony of apprehension lest she should lose a word of the momentous
conversation, she made a desperate attempt to appeal to the dog's
fondness for her, by suddenly flinging both her arms round his neck, and
kissing his rough, hairy cheek. The stratagem succeeded. Scarammuccia
had, for many years past, never received any greater marks of his
mistress's kindness for him than such as a pat on the head or a present
of a lump of sugar might convey. His dog's nature was utterly confounded
by the unexpected warmth of Nanina's caress, and he struggled up
vigorously in her arms to try and return it by licking her face. She
could easily prevent him from doing this, and could so gain a few
minutes more to listen behind the summer-house without danger of
discovery.

She had lost Brigida's answer to Father Rocco's question; but she was in
time to hear her next words.

"We are alone here," said Brigida. "I am a woman, and I don't know that
you may not have come armed. It is only the commonest precaution on my
part not to give you a chance of getting at the wax mask till I have
made my conditions."

"You never said a word about conditions before."

"True. I remember telling you that I wanted nothing but the novelty
of going to the masquerade in the character of my dead enemy, and the
luxury of being able to terrify the man who had brutally ridiculed me in
old days in the studio. That was the truth. But it is not the less the
truth that our experiment on Count Fabio has detained me in this city
much longer than I ever intended, that I am all but penniless, and that
I deserve to be paid. In plain words, will you buy the mask of me for
two hundred scudi?"

"I have not twenty scudi in the world, at my own free disposal."

"You must find two hundred if you want the wax mask. I don't wish to
threaten--but money I must have. I mention the sum of two hundred scudi,
because that is the exact amount offered in the public handbills by
Count Fabio's friends for the discovery of the woman who wore the yellow
mask at the Marquis Melani's ball. What have I to do but to earn that
money if I please, by going to the palace, taking the wax mask with me,
and telling them that I am the woman. Suppose I confess in that way;
they can do nothing to hurt me, and I should be two hundred scudi the
richer. You might be injured, to be sure, if they insisted on knowing
who made the wax model, and who suggested the ghastly disguise--"

"Wretch! do you believe that my character could be injured on the
unsupported evidence of any words from your lips?"

"Father Rocco, for the first time since I have enjoyed the pleasure of
your acquaintance, I find you committing a breach of good manners. I
shall leave you until you become more like yourself. If you wish to
apologize for calling me a wretch, and if you want to secure the wax
mask, honor me with a visit before four o'clock this afternoon, and
bring two hundred scudi with you. Delay till after four, and it will be
too late."

An instant of silence followed; and then Nanina judged that Brigida must
be departing, for she heard the rustling of a dress on the lawn in
front of the summer-house. Unfortunately, Scarammuccia heard it too. He
twisted himself round in her arms and growled.

The noise disturbed Father Rocco. She heard him rise and leave the
summer-house. There would have been time enough, perhaps, for her
to conceal herself among some trees if she could have recovered her
self-possession at once; but she was incapable of making an effort to
regain it. She could neither think nor move--her breath seemed to die
away on her lips--as she saw the shadow of the priest stealing over the
grass slowly from the front to the back of the summer-house. In another
moment they were face to face.

He stopped a few paces from her, and eyed her steadily in dead silence.
She still crouched against the summer-house, and still with one hand
mechanically kept her hold of the dog. It was well for the priest that
she did so. Scarammuccia's formidable teeth were in full view, his
shaggy coat was bristling, his eyes were starting, his growl had changed
from the surly to the savage note; he was ready to tear down, not Father
Rocco only, but all the clergy in Pisa, at a moment's notice.

"You have been listening," said the priest, calmly. "I see it in your
face. You have heard all."

She could not answer a word; she could not take her eyes from him.
There was an unnatural stillness in his face, a steady, unrepentant,
unfathomable despair in his eyes that struck her with horror. She
would have given worlds to be able to rise to her feet and fly from his
presence.

"I once distrusted you and watched you in secret," he said, speaking
after a short silence, thoughtfully, and with a strange, tranquil
sadness in his voice. "And now, what I did by you, you do by me. You
put the hope of your life once in my hands. Is it because they were not
worthy of the trust that discovery and ruin overtake me, and that
you are the instrument of the retribution? Can this be the decree of
Heaven--or is it nothing but the blind justice of chance?"

He looked upward, doubtingly, to the lustrous sky above him, and sighed.
Nanina's eyes still followed his mechanically. He seemed to feel their
influence, for he suddenly looked down at her again.

"What keeps you silent? Why are you afraid?" he said. "I can do you no
harm, with your dog at your side, and the workmen yonder within call.
I can do you no harm, and I wish to do you none. Go back to Pisa; tell
what you have heard, restore the man you love to himself, and ruin me.
That is your work; do it! I was never your enemy, even when I distrusted
you. I am not your enemy now. It is no fault of yours that a fatality
has been accomplished through you--no fault of yours that I am rejected
as the instrument of securing a righteous restitution to the Church.
Rise, child, and go your way, while I go mine, and prepare for what is
to come. If we never meet again, remember that I parted from you without
one hard saying or one harsh look--parted from you so, knowing that
the first words you speak in Pisa will be death to my character, and
destruction to the great purpose of my life."

Speaking these words, always with the same calmness which had marked
his manner from the first, he looked fixedly at her for a little while,
sighed again, and turned away. Just before he disappeared among the
trees, he said "Farewell," but so softly that she could barely hear it.
Some strange confusion clouded her mind as she lost sight of him.
Had she injured him, or had he injured her? His words bewildered
and oppressed her simple heart. Vague doubts and fears, and a sudden
antipathy to remaining any longer near the summer-house, overcame her.
She started to her feet, and, keeping the dog still at her side, hurried
from the garden to the highroad. There, the wide glow of sunshine, the
sight of the city lying before her, changed the current of her thoughts,
and directed them all to Fabio and to the future.

A burning impatience to be back in Pisa now possessed her. She hastened
toward the city at her utmost speed. The doctor was reported to be in
the palace when she passed the servants lounging in the courtyard. He
saw the moment, she came into his presence, that something had happened,
and led her away from the sick-room into Fabio's empty study. There she
told him all.

"You have saved him," said the doctor, joyfully. "I will answer for his
recovery. Only let that woman come here for the reward; and leave me to
deal with her as she deserves. In the meantime, my dear, don't go away
from the palace on any account until I give you permission. I am going
to send a message immediately to Signor Andrea D'Arbino to come and hear
the extraordinary disclosure that you have made to me. Go back to read
to the count, as usual, until I want you again; but, remember, you
must not drop a word to him yet of what you have said to me. He must be
carefully prepared for all that we have to tell him; and must be kept
quite in the dark until those preparations are made."

D'Arbino answered the doctor's summons in person; and Nanina repeated
her story to him. He and the doctor remained closeted together for some
time after she had concluded her narrative and had retired. A little
before four o'clock they sent for her again into the study. The doctor
was sitting by the table with a bag of money before him, and D'Arbino
was telling one of the servants that if a lady called at the palace
on the subject of the handbill which he had circulated, she was to be
admitted into the study immediately.

As the clock struck four Nanina was requested to take possession of
a window-seat, and to wait there until she was summoned. When she had
obeyed, the doctor loosened one of the window-curtains, to hide her from
the view of any one entering the room.

About a quarter of an hour elapsed, and then the door was thrown open,
and Brigida herself was shown into the study. The doctor bowed, and
D'Arbino placed a chair for her. She was perfectly collected, and
thanked them for their politeness with her best grace.

"I believe I am addressing confidential friends of Count Fabio
d'Ascoli?" Brigida began. "May I ask if you are authorized to act for
the count, in relation to the reward which this handbill offers?"

The doctor, having examined the handbill, said that the lady was quite
right, and pointed significantly to the bag of money.

"You are prepared, then," pursued Brigida, smiling, "to give a reward of
two hundred scudi to any one able to tell you who the woman is who wore
the yellow mask at the Marquis Melani's ball, and how she contrived to
personate the face and figure of the late Countess d'Ascoli?"

"Of course we are prepared," answered D'Arbino, a little irritably. "As
men of honor, we are not in the habit of promising anything that we are
not perfectly willing, under proper conditions, to perform."

"Pardon me, my dear friend," said the doctor; "I think you speak
a little too warmly to the lady. She is quite right to take every
precaution. We have the two hundred scudi here, madam," he continued,
patting the money-bag; "and we are prepared to pay that sum for the
information we want. But" (here the doctor suspiciously moved the bag
of scudi from the table to his lap) "we must have proofs that the person
claiming the reward is really entitled to it."

Brigida's eyes followed the money-bag greedily.

"Proofs!" she exclaimed, taking a small flat box from under her cloak,
and pushing it across to the doctor. "Proofs! there you will find one
proof that establishes my claim beyond the possibility of doubt."

The doctor opened the box, and looked at the wax mask inside it; then
handed it to D'Arbino, and replaced the bag of scudi on the table.

"The contents of that box seem certainly to explain a great deal," he
said, pushing the bag gently toward Brigida, but always keeping his
hand over it. "The woman who wore the yellow domino was, I presume, of
the same height as the late countess?"

"Exactly," said Brigida. "Her eyes were also of the same color as the
late countess's; she wore yellow of the same shade as the hangings in
the late countess's room, and she had on, under her yellow mask, the
colorless wax model of the late countess's face, now in your friend's
hand. So much for that part of the secret. Nothing remains now to be
cleared up but the mystery of who the lady was. Have the goodness, sir,
to push that bag an inch or two nearer my way, and I shall be delighted
to tell you."

"Thank you, madam," said the doctor, with a very perceptible change in
his manner. "We know who the lady was already."

He moved the bag of scudi while he spoke back to his own side of the
table. Brigida's cheeks reddened, and she rose from her seat.

"Am I to understand, sir," she said, haughtily, "that you take advantage
of my position here, as a defenseless woman, to cheat me out of the
reward?"

"By no means, madam," rejoined the doctor. "We have covenanted to pay
the reward to the person who could give us the information we required."

"Well, sir! have I not given you part of it? And am I not prepared to
give you the whole?"

"Certainly; but the misfortune is, that another person has been
beforehand with you. We ascertained who the lady in the yellow domino
was, and how she contrived to personate the face of the late Countess
d'Ascoli, several hours ago from another informant. That person has
consequently the prior claim; and, on every principle of justice, that
person must also have the reward. Nanina, this bag belongs to you--come
and take it."

Nanina appeared from the window-seat. Brigida, thunderstruck, looked
at her in silence for a moment; gasped out, "That girl!"--then stopped
again, breathless.

"That girl was at the back of the summer-house this morning, while you
and your accomplice were talking together," said the doctor.

D'Arbino had been watching Brigida's face intently from the moment of
Nanina's appearance, and had quietly stolen close to her side. This was
a fortunate movement; for the doctor's last words were hardly out of
his mouth before Brigida seized a heavy ruler lying, with some writing
materials, on the table. In another instant, if D'Arbino had not caught
her arm, she would have hurled it at Nanina's head.

"You may let go your hold, sir," she said, dropping the ruler, and
turning toward D'Arbino with a smile on her white lips and a wicked
calmness in her steady eyes. "I can wait for a better opportunity."

With those words she walked to the door; and, turning round there,
regarded Nanina fixedly.

"I wish I had been a moment quicker with the ruler," she said, and went
out.

"There!" exclaimed the doctor; "I told you I knew how to deal with her
as she deserved. One thing I am certainly obliged to her for--she has
saved us the trouble of going to her house and forcing her to give up
the mask. And now, my child," he continued, addressing Nanina, "you
can go home, and one of the men-servants shall see you safe to your own
door, in case that woman should still be lurking about the palace. Stop!
you are leaving the bag of scudi behind you."

"I can't take it, sir."

"And why not?"

"_She_ would have taken money!" Saying those words, Nanina reddened, and
looked toward the door.

The doctor glanced approvingly at D'Arbino. "Well, well, we won't argue
about that now," he said. "I will lock up the money with the mask for
to-day. Come here to-morrow morning as usual, my dear. By that time
I shall have made up my mind on the right means for breaking your
discovery to Count Fabio. Only let us proceed slowly and cautiously, and
I answer for success."



CHAPTER VII.

The next morning, among the first visitors at the Ascoli Palace was
the master-sculptor, Luca Lomi. He seemed, as the servants thought,
agitated, and said he was especially desirous of seeing Count Fabio. On
being informed that this was impossible, he reflected a little, and then
inquired if the medical attendant of the count was at the palace, and
could be spoken with. Both questions were answered in the affirmative,
and he was ushered into the doctor's presence.

"I know not how to preface what I want to say," Luca began, looking
about him confusedly. "May I ask you, in the first place, if the
work-girl named Nanina was here yesterday?"

"She was," said the doctor.

"Did she speak in private with any one?"

"Yes; with me."

"Then you know everything?"

"Absolutely everything."

"I am glad at least to find that my object in wishing to see the count
can be equally well answered by seeing you. My brother, I regret to
say--" He stopped perplexedly, and drew from his pocket a roll of
papers.

"You may speak of your brother in the plainest terms," said the doctor.
"I know what share he has had in promoting the infamous conspiracy of
the Yellow Mask."

"My petition to you, and through you to the count, is, that your
knowledge of what my brother has done may go no further. If this scandal
becomes public it will ruin me in my profession. And I make little
enough by it already," said Luca, with his old sordid smile breaking out
again faintly on his face.

"Pray do you come from your brother with this petition?" inquired the
doctor.

"No; I come solely on my own account. My brother seems careless what
happens. He has made a full statement of his share in the matter from
the first; has forwarded it to his ecclesiastical superior (who will
send it to the archbishop), and is now awaiting whatever sentence they
choose to pass on him. I have a copy of the document, to prove that he
has at least been candid, and that he does not shrink from consequences
which he might have avoided by flight. The law cannot touch him, but the
Church can--and to the Church he has confessed. All I ask is, that he
may be spared a public exposure. Such an exposure would do no good to
the count, and it would do dreadful injury to me. Look over the papers
yourself, and show them, whenever you think proper, to the master of
this house. I have every confidence in his honor and kindness, and in
yours."

He laid the roll of papers open on the table, and then retired with
great humility to the window. The doctor looked over them with some
curiosity.

The statement or confession began by boldly avowing the writer's
conviction that part of the property which the Count Fabio d'Ascoli
had inherited from his ancestors had been obtained by fraud and
misrepresentation from the Church. The various authorities on which this
assertion was based were then produced in due order; along with some
curious particles of evidence culled from old manuscripts, which it must
have cost much trouble to collect and decipher.

The second section was devoted, at great length, to the reasons which
induced the writer to think it his absolute duty, as an affectionate son
and faithful servant of the Church, not to rest until he had restored
to the successors of the apostles in his day the property which had been
fraudulently taken from them in days gone by. The writer held himself
justified, in the last resort, and in that only, in using any means for
effecting this restoration, except such as might involve him in mortal
sin.

The third section described the priest's share in promoting the marriage
of Maddalena Lomi with Fabio; and the hopes he entertained of securing
the restitution of the Church property through his influence over his
niece, in the first place, and, when she had died, through his influence
over her child, in the second. The necessary failure of all his
projects, if Fabio married again, was next glanced at; and the time at
which the first suspicion of the possible occurrence of this catastrophe
occurred to his mind was noted with scrupulous accuracy.

The fourth section narrated the manner in which the conspiracy of the
Yellow Mask had originated. The writer described himself as being in
his brother's studio on the night of his niece's death, harassed by
forebodings of the likelihood of Fabio's marrying again, and filled
with the resolution to prevent any such disastrous second union at
all hazards. He asserted that the idea of taking the wax mask from
his brother's statue flashed upon him on a sudden, and that he knew of
nothing to lead to it, except, perhaps, that he had been thinking just
before of the superstitious nature of the young man's character, as he
had himself observed it in the studio. He further declared that the idea
of the wax mask terrified him at first; that he strove against it as
against a temptation of the devil; that, from fear of yielding to
this temptation, he abstained even from entering the studio during his
brother's absence at Naples, and that he first faltered in his good
resolution when Fabio returned to Pisa, and when it was rumored, not
only that the young nobleman was going to the ball, but that he would
certainly marry for the second time.

The fifth section related that the writer, upon this, yielded to
temptation rather than forego the cherished purpose of his life by
allowing Fabio a chance of marrying again--that he made the wax mask in
a plaster mold taken from the face of his brother's statue--and that he
then had two separate interviews with a woman named Brigida (of whom he
had some previous knowledge ), who was ready and anxious, from motives
of private malice, to personate the deceased countess at the masquerade.
This woman had suggested that some anonymous letters to Fabio would pave
the way in his mind for the approaching impersonation, and had written
the letters herself. However, even when all the preparations were made,
the writer declared that he shrank from proceeding to extremities; and
that he would have abandoned the whole project but for the woman Brigida
informing him one day that a work-girl named Nanina was to be one of the
attendants at the ball. He knew the count to have been in love with this
girl, even to the point of wishing to marry her; he suspected that her
engagement to wait at the ball was preconcerted; and, in consequence, he
authorized his female accomplice to perform her part in the conspiracy.

The sixth section detailed the proceedings at the masquerade, and
contained the writer's confession that, on the night before it, he had
written to the count proposing the reconciliation of a difference that
had taken place between them, solely for the purpose of guarding himself
against suspicion. He next acknowledged that he had borrowed the key of
the Campo Santo gate, keeping the authority to whom it was intrusted in
perfect ignorance of the purpose for which he wanted it. That purpose
was to carry out the ghastly delusion of the wax mask (in the very
probable event of the wearer being followed and inquired after) by
having the woman Brigida taken up and set down at the gate of the
cemetery in which Fabio's wife had been buried.

The seventh section solemnly averred that the sole object of the
conspiracy was to prevent the young nobleman from marrying again, by
working on his superstitious fears; the writer repeating, after this
avowal, that any such second marriage would necessarily destroy
his project for promoting the ultimate restoration of the Church
possessions, by diverting Count Fabio's property, in great part,
from his first wife's child, over whom the priest would always have
influence, to another wife and probably other children, over whom he
could hope to have none.

The eighth and last section expressed the writer's contrition for having
allowed his zeal for the Church to mislead him into actions liable to
bring scandal on his cloth; reiterated in the strongest language his
conviction that, whatever might be thought of the means employed, the
end he had proposed to himself was a most righteous one; and concluded
by asserting his resolution to suffer with humility any penalties,
however severe, which his ecclesiastical superiors might think fit to
inflict on him.

Having looked over this extraordinary statement, the doctor addressed
himself again to Luca Lomi.

"I agree with you," he said, "that no useful end is to be gained now by
mentioning your brother's conduct in public--always provided, however,
that his ecclesiastical superiors do their duty. I shall show these
papers to the count as soon as he is fit to peruse them, and I have no
doubt that he will be ready to take my view of the matter."

This assurance relieved Luca Lomi of a great weight of anxiety. He bowed
and withdrew.

The doctor placed the papers in the same cabinet in which he had secured
the wax mask. Before he locked the doors again he took out the flat box,
opened it, and looked thoughtfully for a few minutes at the mask inside,
then sent for Nanina.

"Now, my child," he said, when she appeared, "I am going to try our
first experiment with Count Fabio; and I think it of great importance
that you should be present while I speak to him."

He took up the box with the mask in it, and beckoning to Nanina to
follow him, led the way to Fabio's chamber.



CHAPTER VIII.

About six months after the events already related, Signor Andrea
D'Arbino and the Cavaliere Finello happened to be staying with a friend,
in a seaside villa on the Castellamare shore of the bay of Naples.
Most of their time was pleasantly occupied on the sea, in fishing and
sailing. A boat was placed entirely at their disposal. Sometimes they
loitered whole days along the shore; sometimes made trips to the lovely
islands in the bay.

One evening they were sailing near Sorrento, with a light wind. The
beauty of the coast tempted them to keep the boat close inshore. A short
time before sunset, they rounded the most picturesque headland they had
yet passed; and a little bay, with a white-sand beach, opened on their
view. They noticed first a villa surrounded by orange and olive trees on
the rocky heights inland; then a path in the cliff-side leading down
to the sands; then a little family party on the beach, enjoying the
fragrant evening air.

The elders of the group were a lady and gentleman, sitting together
on the sand. The lady had a guitar in her lap and was playing a simple
dance melody. Close at her side a young child was rolling on the beach
in high glee; in front of her a little girl was dancing to the music,
with a very extraordinary partner in the shape of a dog, who was
capering on his hind legs in the most grotesque manner. The merry
laughter of the girl, and the lively notes of the guitar were heard
distinctly across the still water.

"Edge a little nearer in shore," said D'Arbino to his friend, who was
steering; "and keep as I do in the shadow of the sail. I want to see the
faces of those persons on the beach without being seen by them."

Finello obeyed. After approaching just near enough to see the
countenances of the party on shore, and to be barked at lustily by the
dog, they turned the boat's head again toward the offing.

"A pleasant voyage, gentlemen," cried the clear voice of the little
girl. They waved their hats in return; and then saw her run to the dog
and take him by the forelegs. "Play, Nanina," they heard her say. "I
have not half done with my partner yet." The guitar sounded once more,
and the grotesque dog was on his hind legs in a moment.

"I had heard that he was well again, that he had married her lately,
and that he was away with her and her sister, and his child by the
first wife," said D'Arbino; "but I had no suspicion that their place
of retirement was so near us. It is too soon to break in upon their
happiness, or I should have felt inclined to run the boat on shore."

"I never heard the end of that strange adventure of the Yellow Mask,"
said Finello. "There was a priest mixed up in it, was there not?"

"Yes; but nobody seems to know exactly what has become of him. He was
sent for to Rome, and has never been heard of since. One report is,
that he has been condemned to some mysterious penal seclusion by his
ecclesiastical superiors--another, that he has volunteered, as a sort of
Forlorn Hope, to accept a colonial curacy among rough people, and in
a pestilential climate. I asked his brother, the sculptor, about him a
little while ago, but he only shook his head, and said nothing."

"And the woman who wore the yellow mask?"

"She, too, has ended mysteriously. At Pisa she was obliged to sell off
everything she possessed to pay her debts. Some friends of hers at a
milliner's shop, to whom she applied for help, would have nothing to do
with her. She left the city, alone and penniless."

The boat had approached the next headland on the coast while they were
talking. They looked back for a last glance at the beach. Still the notes
of the guitar came gently across the quiet water; but there mingled with
them now the sound of the lady's voice. She was singing. The little girl
and the dog were at her feet, and the gentleman was still in his old
place close at her side.

In a few minutes more the boat rounded the next headland, the beach
vanished from view, and the music died away softly in the distance.

LAST LEAVES FROM LEAH'S DIARY.

3d of June.--Our stories are ended; our pleasant work is done. It is a
lovely summer afternoon. The great hall at the farmhouse, after having
been filled with people, is now quite deserted. I sit alone at my little
work-table, with rather a crying sensation at my heart, and with the
pen trembling in my fingers, as if I was an old woman already. Our
manuscript has been sealed up and taken away; the one precious object
of all our most anxious thoughts for months past--our third child, as we
have got to call it--has gone out from us on this summer's day, to seek
its fortune in the world.

A little before twelve o'clock last night, my husband dictated to me
the last words of "The Yellow Mask." I laid down the pen, and closed the
paper thoughtfully. With that simple action the work that we had wrought
at together so carefully and so long came to a close. We were both
so silent and still, that the murmuring of the trees in the night air
sounded audibly and solemnly in our room.

William's collection of stories has not, thus far, been half exhausted
yet; but those who understand the public taste and the interests of
bookselling better than we, think it advisable not to risk offering too
much to the reader at first. If individual opinions can be accepted as
a fair test, our prospects of success seem hopeful. The doctor (but
we must not forget that he is a friend) was so pleased with the two
specimen stories we sent to him, that he took them at once to his
friend, the editor of the newspaper, who showed his appreciation of what
he read in a very gratifying manner. He proposed that William should
publish in the newspaper, on very fair terms, any short anecdotes and
curious experiences of his life as a portrait-painter, which might not
be important enough to put into a book. The money which my husband
has gained from time to time in this way has just sufficed to pay our
expenses at the farmhouse up to within the last month; and now our
excellent friends here say they will not hear anything more from us on
the subject of the rent until the book is sold and we have plenty of
money. This is one great relief and happiness. Another, for which I feel
even more grateful, is that William's eyes have gained so much by their
long rest, that even the doctor is surprised at the progress he has
made. He only puts on his green shade now when he goes out into the sun,
or when the candles are lit. His spirits are infinitely raised, and he
is beginning to talk already of the time when he will unpack his palette
and brushes, and take to his old portrait-painting occupations again.

With all these reasons for being happy, it seems unreasonable and
ungracious in me to be feeling sad, as I do just at this moment. I can
only say, in my own justification, that it is a mournful ceremony to
take leave of an old friend; and I have taken leave twice over of the
book that has been like an old friend to me--once when I had written the
last word in it, and once again when I saw it carried away to London.

I packed the manuscript up with my own hands this morning, in thick
brown paper, wasting a great deal of sealing-wax, I am afraid, in my
anxiety to keep the parcel from bursting open in case it should be
knocked about on its journey to town. Oh me, how cheap and common it
looked, in its new form, as I carried it downstairs! A dozen pairs of
worsted stockings would have made a larger parcel; and half a crown's
worth of groceries would have weighed a great deal heavier.

Just as we had done dinner the doctor and the editor came in. The first
had called to fetch the parcel--I mean the manuscript; the second had
come out with him to Appletreewick for a walk. As soon as the farmer
heard that the book was to be sent to London, he insisted that we should
drink success to it all round. The children, in high glee, were mounted
up on the table, with a glass of currant-wine apiece; the rest of us had
ale; the farmer proposed the toast, and his sailor son led the cheers.
We all joined in (the children included), except the editor--who, being
the only important person of the party, could not, I suppose, afford
to compromise his dignity by making a noise. He was extremely polite,
however, in a lofty way, to me, waving his hand and bowing magnificently
every time he spoke. This discomposed me a little; and I was still more
flurried when he said that he had written to the London publishers that
very day, to prepare them for the arrival of our book.

"Do you think they will print it, sir?" I ventured to ask.

"My dear madam, you may consider it settled," said the editor,
confidently. "The letter is written--the thing is done. Look upon the
book as published already; pray oblige me by looking upon the book as
published already."

"Then the only uncertainty now is about how the public will receive it!"
said my husband, fidgeting in his chair, and looking nervously at me.

"Just so, my dear sir, just so," answered the editor. "Everything
depends upon the public--everything, I pledge you my word of honor."

"Don't look doubtful, Mrs. Kerby; there isn't a doubt about it,"
whispered the kind doctor, giving the manuscript a confident smack as he
passed by me with it on his way to the door.

In another minute he and the editor, and the poor cheap-looking brown
paper parcel, were gone. The others followed them out, and I was left in
the hall alone.

Oh, Public! Public! it all depends now upon you! The children are
to have new clothes from top to toe; I am to have a black silk gown;
William is to buy a beautiful traveling color-box; the rent is to be
paid; all our kind friends at the farmhouse are to have little presents,
and our future way in this hard world is to be smoothed for us at the
outset, if you will only accept a poor painter's stories which his wife
has written down for him After Dark!





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