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Title: For Love of a Bedouin Maid
Author: Voleur, le
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "For Love of a Bedouin Maid" ***

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                             *FOR LOVE OF A
                             BEDOUIN MAID*


                            *BY LE VOLEUR,*

              AUTHOR OF "BY ORDER OF THE BROTHERHOOD" AND
                       "A DEVIL IN ANGEL’S FORM."



                         CHICAGO AND NEW YORK:
                        RAND, McNALLY & COMPANY,
                              PUBLISHERS.



                Copyright, 1897, by Rand, McNally & Co.



                               *CONTENTS*

INTRODUCTION
1ST EPOCH—GENERAL BUONAPARTE
EPOCH II—THE CONSUL BUONAPARTE
EPOCH III—THE EMPEROR NAPOLEON
EPOCH IV—CAPTIVE, BUT EMPEROR STILL



                            *INTRODUCTION.*


"That will do; place the cigars upon the table and then you can go."

The speaker was Lord Throgmorten, a man of about thirty-six years of
age, rather stout, with reddish hair and whiskers and cold, steel-gray
eyes.  He had just returned from a yachting cruise, upon which he had
started upon his succession to the title about eighteen months before.

The scene was his lordship’s chambers in the Albany, and the time the
night of the 22nd of July, 1893.

Besides the speaker and the well-trained servant, who, in obedience to
the order just given, occupied himself in fetching the silver cigar box
from its accustomed place upon the sideboard, lighting the wax taper
which stood by its side and placing them in front of his master, there
were present two other persons.  The man on his host’s right near the
fireplace, wearing spectacles and with the careworn look upon his
features, was Mr. Percival Phelps, who had been his lordship’s guest
upon their recent cruise. He was a genial, dapper little man with
inordinate vanity, and a slight stammer, when excited; with no income to
speak of, save his stipend as a permanent clerk in the —— Office, a
position that, his host said, "suited him down to the ground."

The man facing him, and looking towards the window, though younger than
either of the other two, was already coming into prominent notice and
making a fair income as sub-editor of that popular paper "The
Telescope."

When the servant had left the room, the young man proceeded to address
his host in measured tones.

"Since I received your letter, I have been on tenter hooks to hear the
story of this wonderful discovery.  You wrote me only a bare line from
Southampton on the 12th to say that you had had a pleasant trip, during
which you had chanced on a most extraordinary find; and that you
particularly wanted me to dine with you to-night and hear about it.
Well, now the man’s gone, you can fire off your intelligence.  What is
it: coins, fossils, bones, or buried treasure?"  And the editor,
refilling his glass with port, which he knew by experience was
particularly good, settled himself in his chair in a less constrained
attitude, and prepared to listen to his host’s narration.

Lord Throgmorten’s reply was to rise from the table and with Mr. Phelps’
aid, to bring from the further end of the room a box—covered with a
cloth—whose weight, judging from the efforts required to lift it, was
considerable.

"There," said his lordship, reseating himself, "that is the discovery,
and that," pointing to Mr. Phelps who, like his host, panting from his
exertions, had resumed his seat, "is the discoverer."

"The s-s-story first.  Tell the story," said that gentleman, stammering
in his excitement, while Lord Throgmorten prepared to remove the cover.
The latter acceded to the suggestion, and began as follows, addressing
his remarks to the editor, while Phelps sat by, giving confirmatory nods
by way of emphasis, when occasion seemed to call for it.

"You are aware that, last February twelvemonth, Phelps and myself
started for Australia in my steam yacht the Osprey, for the purpose of
visiting my property out there. With our voyage out my story has nothing
to do; it was only when we had turned our nose homewards and on the 17th
June that our adventure began.  On that night we were sailing—not
steaming, mind, because there was a fair wind and we wished to save our
coal.

"This was the position of affairs at midnight when Phelps and I retired
to our cabins.  At five a.m. I was roused from my sleep by a commotion
on deck and the cry of ’Land Ahead,’ followed by the order ’Hard a
port.’  I dashed on deck, on my way jostling against Phelps, who, like
myself, had been awakened by the disturbance.  On reaching it, we saw,
rising out of the mist on our port beam, the rocky coast of an island;
we made for the side and gazed over.  To our horror, it seemed that we
were almost grazing the rocks of a reef over which the sea was breaking.
Slowly, ah! how slowly it seemed to us—all anxiously watching the line
of surf which marked the treacherous rocks beneath—we passed them.  A
few minutes later we were hove to in deep water, the danger past;
though, to this moment, it is a marvel to me how we escaped the rocks. I
hailed Captain Soames, who was on the bridge, and asked him to lay down
our position as well as his dead reckoning would permit, and, so soon as
he had done so, to join me in the saloon with the chart.

"Then Phelps and I went below, where, presently, the skipper came to us.
He unrolled the chart and placed his finger on a small cross, which we
were able to distinguish by the light of the lamp.  ’That, gentlemen,’
he said, ’is our exact position marked upon a chart corrected to the
most recent survey, and bought new, as your honors are doubtless aware,
for the purposes of this trip.  I beg your honors to notice that, by
that chart, we ought to be in deep water hundreds of miles from any
land.  I trust, therefore, that you will exonerate me from blame for
having so nearly run the ship aground.’

"Both Phelps and I assured him that we felt that our recent danger arose
from no fault in navigation, but was an accident which no one could
possibly have foreseen.

"Still the fact stared us in the face.  The chart marked deep water, and
yet we had, as nearly as possible, been wrecked upon an island that,
according to the hydrographers, had no existence.  When the truth dawned
upon us, at first we both sat speechless, the skipper alone standing and
looking from one to the other of us, as puzzled as ourselves.  For fully
half a minute we stared at one another, the unspoken question simmering
in our brain, ’Whence comes this island?’ the lamplight shining upon our
faces, and the dawning sunlight playing through the open port hole and
making ever shifting shadow patterns upon the cabin floor.

"Even now I can see myself with my eyes fixed upon the skipper’s finger,
which still rested upon the chart, and observing every stain and wrinkle
upon it, though my brain was busy with the island.

"Phelps was the first to break the silence.  ’Volcanic,’ he exclaimed,
and shut up.

"’Impossible,’ I said, his voice rousing me from my reverie.  ’There has
been no eruption for ever so long of sufficient magnitude to cast up
such an island.’

"Captain Soames’s contribution to the discussion was the most practical
of the three.  ’Beg pardon, gentlemen, for interrupting your
conversation, but would it not be better to go on shore and see for
yourselves?  Mr. Phelps here is a man of science, and they tell me he
can say a powerful deal about what rock and stones are made of, by just
looking at them.’

"I jumped to my feet exclaiming, ’The very thing.  We will go on shore
the moment they have got a boat ready. Stay,’ I resumed, when the
skipper, who had saluted, was about to leave, ’when you have made all
ship-shape on deck, overhaul her below to see whether we have sustained
any damage, so that, if necessary, we may make all speed to the nearest
port to refit.’

"While the boat was being made ready, we had our breakfast; and, when we
went on deck, the sun was shining brightly and a stiffish breeze was
blowing, and the mist, which had before almost enshrouded the island,
was gone, so that the latter could now be plainly seen.  So far as one
could judge from the deck, the island, seen through a telescope, was
about a mile broad by three miles long, and, except for an excrescence
in the center, entirely flat.  Just abreast of the yacht, was a little
inlet that seemed to offer a suitable landing place.  We had taken our
places in the boat and were about to shove off when the skipper called
out to us to ask us to make our stay as short as possible, for that,
should a heavy gale get up, he feared the anchor would not hold and we
might be driven ashore.  We, therefore, promised to make what haste we
could, then shoved off, and began to pull towards the inlet.  Before us
was this barren rock, not a sign of life upon it, not even a bird;
behind us the yacht rolling lazily upon an unending expanse of water.
Short as was the distance between the ship and the shore, the journey
was unutterably tedious owing to the terrific heat.  But, in due course,
we stepped ashore.

"Naturally the first thing we did was to make our way to the foot of the
small hillock in about the center of the island.  Here was a small group
of rocks and on these we decided to rest ourselves; and very soon,
overcome by our walk and the heat of the sun, I closed my eyes and went
off to sleep.  How long my sleep lasted, I cannot say, but I was roused
by the sound of Phelps’s voice.

"When I opened my eyes, I saw him hammering away at a small piece of
rock as vigorously as if his whole life depended on it.  I got up and
walked towards him.  ’What on earth are you hammering at now?’ I asked.

"’Look,’ he said, ’I started to break a piece of this rock off as a
souvenir of our adventure, and this is what I found.’

"At first sight, it appeared to be a rock about two feet square and nine
inches deep, buried partially in the soil; but, on examining it more
closely, I found the cause of his excitement.  The piece that he had
broken off disclosed an iron corner.

"’There is something underneath,’ said Phelps; ’the rock is only a
deposit upon it.’

"An examination of the exposed portion proved the correctness of his
remark.

"’I am going to get that out, whatever it is, if I work till dark,’ he
continued.

"At first I laughed at his enthusiasm, but it ended in my helping him.
Armed with a fragment of rock as heavy as a blacksmith’s sledge-hammer,
I poised it above my head and, bidding Phelps stand away in case he
should be struck by any fragments, I brought it down with all my might,
upon the top of the rock.  My improvised hammer split into bits with the
force of the blow, but it cracked the rocky deposit sufficiently to
enable us with a little trouble to remove it in pieces; and this is what
was underneath."

Lord Throgmorten interrupted his narration to rise from his seat and
withdraw the cover from the top of the box which stood upon the table in
front of him.  It was made of some dark wood, probably oak, heavily
bound with iron at the corners and edges, the ironwork being of an
ornamental character, but now almost covered with marine incrustation.

After examining the box from the outside, the editor asked his lordship
to resume his narrative.

Lord Throgmorten went on.  "Having got thus far in our exhumation of the
box, the question was what next to do.  Our first thought was to break
the box to pieces and carry its contents to the boat, but here a doubt
of what the box might hold prevented us.  Phelps surmised that it was
treasure.

"Our utmost efforts to move it proving useless we went back to the boat
and told them to row to the yacht and get from the ship’s carpenter
tools for the purpose.  In about half an hour they returned, bringing
the carpenter with them.  With his assistance, the box was raised from
its rocky bed and conveyed to the yacht and placed in my cabin.  On our
return, the skipper told us that, so far as could be ascertained, we had
sustained no damage; further, that his observation at noon had shown him
that he had only an error of four miles to correct in the position he
had marked upon the chart.  This was satisfactory; so, there being
nothing to detain us, we told him to get under weigh at once, and went
down to luncheon.  When we returned to the deck, the island appeared a
mere speck, and, shortly after, the breeze being much in our favor, that
too vanished below the horizon.

"Later in the afternoon, we opened the box, and in it we found these
papers."  Suiting his action to his words, Lord Throgmorten lifted the
lid of the box and drew therefrom some manuscript, and handed it to the
editor. That gentleman took the papers; then, putting his eyeglass to
his right eye, looked inquiringly at his host and said, "Pray why do you
hand these to me?"

"During our voyage home," replied Lord Throgmorten, "Phelps and myself
amused ourselves with examining the papers.  We found in them a story so
interesting that we thought it ought to be placed before the world.
This we ask you to do."

"Before I can give you a reply, I must of course, take the MS. home and
examine it."

To this both the gentlemen agreed; and, shortly afterwards, they
separated.

What followed is best told in the two accompanying letters, which passed
between Lord Throgmorten and the editor, in the early part of the
present year; by his lordship’s kind permission, they are here
transcribed.


                                   I.

To Lord Throgmorten,
       The Albany,
              Piccadilly, W.

Dear Algie,

I am now able to inform you that I have completed the task of compiling
a story from the Manuscript which came into your possession in so
extraordinary a manner.  The events narrated in the MS. are highly
interesting, as you remarked when you put the papers into my hands.  In
forwarding you the result of my labors, I leave you to apportion the
merits and demerits between myself and the mysterious person who has
vanished into the unknown whence the Manuscript also so marvelously
came.

Yours etc.
       The Editor.


                                  II.

  S. Y. Osprey,
     off Cape Town.

My dear Editor,

Many thanks for your letter and the accompanying parcel of MS. which
came to hand by the mail quite safely last week.  Both Phelps and myself
render you our hearty thanks for the way in which you have performed
your task, and trust that we shall be in England in time to witness the
result.  I shall, therefore, omit all news till we meet—except this.  It
will interest you to know that, on our voyage out here, we went out of
our course, that we might revisit the unknown island from which we
obtained the box with the MS.  To our surprise, not a trace of it was to
be discovered, though a reference to last year’s log-book and a careful
noting of our position told us that one day, at about 9:30 a.m., we
passed within a quarter of a mile of where it had stood.  Not a vestige
of land could be seen, though a sharp look-out was kept throughout the
search.  When and how the island vanished is but a matter of conjecture;
it is certain that it no longer exists, and, probably, has returned to
the depths whence it came. Again renewing my thanks,

Believe me,
       Sincerely yours,
              Throgmorten.



                         *GENERAL BUONAPARTE.*


                      *FOR LOVE OF A BEDOUIN MAID*


                              *1ST EPOCH.*


                         *GENERAL BUONAPARTE.*


                              *CHAPTER I.*


The march of civilization has been so rapid that most people know
something of the City of Paris.

It is not, however, with the modern city that this story will deal; not
with the gay, ever moving throng of boulevardiers that crowd its
thoroughfares at night under the glare of electric light, the welcome
product of this ever inventive and luxurious nineteenth century; but
with Paris at the close of the eighteenth century; Paris before the era
of Baron Hausemann, ill-lighted, ill-paved and, at this moment,
noiseless and, for the most part, asleep.  For it was the night of
December 6th, 1797.  The rain was falling fast, dripping almost in
sheets from the roofs of the houses that overhung the narrow, tortuous
streets, now deep in mud.  At long intervals, where they had not been
extinguished by the wind, a few oil lamps were suspended from chains,
the fitful light they gave serving only to render visible the gloom.

An unpleasant night to be abroad; so thought two foot passengers who
were standing under one of the afore mentioned lamps opposite to the
Palais de Luxembourg, at that time the residence of the Directors of the
French Republic.

"Pest on it, the night grows worse and worse," said the shorter of the
two, drawing his long cloak more closely round him and pulling his
slouch hat further over his eyes, to prevent the driving rain, that the
wind hurled along, from dashing into his face.

"It does indeed, Vipont," replied the taller and older man; "only the
importance of our errand would have made me stir forth to-night.  Half
past ten, as I live," looking at his watch.  "Come, let us be moving;
see, someone is approaching the Palace gate."

A lantern flickered at the moment in the court-yard of the Palace, its
light gradually growing brighter.

"The Officer of the Guard, most likely, going his rounds," remarked
Vipont, following his companion, who, without heeding the remark, was
already splashing across the space that intervened between them and the
light.

Just when they arrived at the Palace gate, the officer reached the
street.

Then one of the sentries at the gate pushed the new-comers aside,
saying, the while he presented his bayonet at their chests, "Pass on,
good folk, you cannot enter here. Pass on, whoever you may be."

Seeing that they paid no heed to his injunction, the man was about to
enforce it, when the officer came up and asked their business.

"To see Mons. Barras, the President of the Directory," was the reply.

The officer, a tall, good-looking young man with coal-black hair and
eyes, laughed somewhat contemptuously. "It is impossible," he said.
"You cannot be admitted at this hour.  Come to the Levee to-morrow."

The tall man, who appeared to be the leader, Vipont not yet having
uttered a word, spoke again, and his voice was loud and masterful.  "I
enter where I please, Sir.  If you were not a stranger in Paris, you
would know that I am the Minister of Police."

At this announcement, the young man fell back a step; for, in those
days, to offend the Minister of Police was a dangerous proceeding, he
being, next to the chief of the State, the most powerful personage.

"Pardon, Sir," he said, "I am, as you rightly remarked, a stranger in
Paris, being an officer under General Buonaparte, at present commanding
the army in Italy.  My name is St. Just."

Matters being thus explained to the satisfaction of both parties, St.
Just, first instructing a sergeant to take his place for the remainder
of the round, conducted the Police Minister and his companion across the
courtyard.  As they approached the palace, sounds of hammering,
proceeding from the ground floor apartments on their left, fell on their
ears.  Both the newcomers paused and looked inquiringly at their guide,
for shadows kept flitting to and fro across the curtained windows.

Noticing their surprise, St. Just replied to their unspoken question:
"The noise comes from the Chamber of Audience, which carpenters are
fitting up for the public reception of General Buonaparte on his return
to Paris, which, they say, may be expected daily."

No reply was given by St. Just’s companions, nor, indeed, was there
opportunity, for, by this time, they had passed through the central
doorway and into the entrance hall.  Here all was bustle, but subdued,
out of respect for the occupants of the palace—the directors.  Threading
his way through the throng of soldiers and workmen, and closely followed
by his companions, the officer mounted a staircase; then, traversing a
corridor, he opened a door, that gave admittance to the antechamber of
the President’s apartments.  St. Just crossed the room, and, parting the
arras, knocked at a door, on the further side of which voices could be
heard in conversation.

Taking advantage of St. Just’s absence, the Minister of police cast his
eye round the apartment.  It was long and narrow, apparently having been
partitioned off from the room beyond.  It was sparsely furnished in the
style of the late Louis Seize, the most noticeable object being a large
table in the center, on which were spread the remains of supper laid for
one, as was evident by the solitary chair, which the late occupant had
pushed back on leaving the table.  At the further end, the table service
had been removed to make room for a large map of the seat of war
(Italy), Buonaparte’s route being faintly traced upon it in pencil.  By
the hearth, in which burned a small fire of logs, whose tongues of flame
threw dancing rays upon the floor, stood a small round table, on which
were an oil lamp and a book.  Vipont picked up the latter and, reading
the title, Cæsar’s Commentaries, chuckled softly.  "This is indeed the
age of education, when officers read Latin in their leisure moments," he
said sneeringly.

The Minister, who had drawn aside the curtains of one of the windows,
received this observation in silence, occupying himself in gazing into
the courtyard below.

At this moment St. Just returned and announced, "Mons. le President will
receive the Minister of Police."

Vipont and his companion passed into the inner room, and St. Just closed
the door behind them.  Then, taking up the book which had called forth
the Police agent’s contemptuous comment, he soon became absorbed in it.



                             *CHAPTER II.*


When they entered the apartments of the Directors of the Republic, the
first thing that met the eyes of the Police Agents was a table laid,
like that in the adjoining room, for supper.  Those who had partaken of
it were three in number.  He who sat at the top of the table, facing the
door, was Barras, the President of the Directory; the others were
Co-Directors.  He on the right with his back to the window curtains was
Reubel, the man facing him La Reveillère.  Now these three men had met
together to discuss measures for propping up the power of the Directory,
which, from various causes, one being the growing popularity of General
Buonaparte, was on the wane.  They feared what actually did happen
later, though as yet few people had a suspicion of it; that General
Buonaparte, in the plenitude of his power and popularity, might seek to
oust them.

On the entry of the untimely visitors, Barras half rose from his chair,
and, turning, addressed the Police Minister. "Sotin, you have brought
news of importance?"  Then he paused and glanced curiously at Vipont,
who, abashed at the magnificence of his surroundings and the princely
air and toilet of the speaker, shifted, uneasily, on his feet.

"Gentlemen," replied Sotin, "the President is right; nothing but the
importance of my news would have brought me here at such an hour; I have
it on the authority of my agent from Rastadt, on whom I can implicitly
rely, and whom I here present to you," here he pointed to Vipont, "that
it is the intention of General Buonaparte to quit Rastadt on November
15th and to arrive in Paris to-morrow night."

"Impossible," burst from the three directors in a breath, and rising to
their feet, they crowded round Vipont and showered incessant questions
on him, all speaking at one time.

So engrossed were they in questioning the agent, who, disconcerted at
the novelty of his position, could only stammer his replies; that they
failed to notice that the door was ajar, and that, without, hidden by
the arras, was an unseen listener.  St. Just, for he it was, had been
attracted by the voices of the speakers.  In their excitement and
forgetful of the thinness of the wall that separated them from the
antechamber, they had exclaimed, "Buonaparte in Paris to-morrow?
Impossible!"

Anxious to hear more, St. Just had moved cautiously to the door, which,
being imperfectly latched, had yielded at his touch.  He had sprung back
frightened, but, finding himself undiscovered, had crept forward again
and now stood there listening.

"You say," continued Barras, who was the first to recover some measure
of composure, "that Buonaparte is to leave Rastadt on the 15th November?
How did you learn this?" addressing Vipont.

"By questioning indirectly the servants of the General," was Vipont’s
reply.

"If it is true," resumed Barras, turning to Sotin, "by what gate do you
expect the general to arrive?"

"By the Porte St. Antoine," was the confident reply.

There was a dead silence for a moment; then Barras spoke again, and this
time his voice was hoarse, as with emotion.

"It must be prevented; General Buonaparte must not enter Paris."

Again there was a moment’s silence, followed by a sort of click.  In his
agitation at hearing these words, the unseen listener (St. Just) had
touched the handle of his sword. Instantly he moved back noiselessly and
stood within the window curtains out of sight.  Those in the inner
chamber started at the sound and, half drawing their swords, turned
their eyes towards the door, with guilty fear.

Sotin was the first to speak.  "See, the door in unlatched; perhaps the
officer...."  Then, seizing the door, he flung it open and peered forth.
The lamp dimly burning left the outer room in gloom, but he crossed the
floor and, going to the doorway opening on the corridor, looked up and
down the passage.  Nothing met his gaze, and all was silent, save for
the distant murmuring of voices in the hall below.  He drew back into
the antechamber; then proceeded to one of the windows, the curtains of
which he pulled aside.  The light of the moon, for the night had
cleared, streamed into the room, but no one was to be seen.

"Bah! it was my fancy," he muttered; then, shaking his head as though
still doubtful of what had caused the noise, he returned to the inner
room.  "The wind, I suppose," he said, at the same time closing the
door.

Once more St. Just breathed freely.  "If he had moved this curtain," was
his thought, "France might have lost her General."

Again he moved forward and placed his ear against the partition.  The
act was futile.  Cautioned by their recent fright, the directors lowered
their voices, so that only scraps of the conversation reached St. Just:—

"A band of men .... Kill post boys .... witnesses dangerous .... Above
all .... Buonaparte .... Highwaymen ... common thing .... who’s to know?
... Sad .... great loss ... Public funeral .... Minister of police ....
Hand bills .... No success .... Make certain...."

At this point their further words became inaudible. Then the sound of a
carriage entering the courtyard caught his ears, and he moved rapidly,
but noiselessly, to the window, and looked out.  Below him was a post
chaise drawn by four horses.  He stood for a moment wondering.  Who on
earth could have arrived at this unseasonable hour: Carnot, the
Director?  Augereau, his general?

The next instant he had left the window and passed through the doorway
and downstairs.  At the foot of the staircase the soldiers in the hall
had been drawn up in line. Two or three servants, with torches in their
hands, were standing on the steps, while a soldier was opening the
carriage door.  The postillions were covered with mud, the horses also,
and reeking and steaming with sweat; and the whole appearance of the
carriage showed it to have traveled far and fast.  A slight, short man,
with pale face and long, auburn hair, and with eyes, that, without
appearing to do so, took in the whole scene at a glance, alighted from
the carriage.  His dress was plain and simple; white breeches thrust
into top boots, and a long, dark blue coat with a high collar.  Round
his waist was a tricolored sash and, suspended from a belt beneath it,
was a sword.  He wore a cocked hat which, after he had returned the
salute of the soldiers, he removed.

The moment the light from the torches fell upon his features, all was
bustle and excitement.

"Vive le General!" was the cry, "Vive le Petit Corporal!"

At these signs of recognition, a smile of pleasure flitted across the
usually cold, impassive features; the next moment it died away, and, in
a harsh, stern voice, he addressed St. Just who, with the others, had
saluted him; "Officer of the Guard, conduct me to the President of the
Directors."

At these words everybody present drew himself up into the stiffest of
military attitudes; the soldiers presented arms, and, preceded by
servants with torches, and escorted by St. Just, the newcomer entered
the Palace.

Meanwhile, his arrival had been noted in the room above. Reubel from his
seat by the window had, like St. Just, heard the approaching carriage.
Nervously he peered from the window, which was sufficiently near the
entrance of the palace for him to see the features of the person who had
alighted.  As one spell-bound, he gazed speechlessly upon the scene
below.  His companions, wondering at his silence, approached and joined
him at the window.  Even Sotin, at the sight of the figure, which he
recognized at once, seemed perturbed; but only for an instant.  Even
while Buonaparte, escorted by St. Just, was disappearing through the
doorway, he had made up his mind how to act. He turned to the others,
and said rapidly:

"Mons. Vipont and myself will hide behind the curtain. Mons. Reubel had
better remain seated where he is.  When the visitor is preparing to
depart, if President Barras will detain him in the hall, Mons. Vipont
and I will dismiss the General’s carriage, thus obliging him to walk
home—which he will never reach.  He will die on his way, as surely as if
he were outside, instead of inside Paris."

"How?" asked Vipont.

"Cochon!" replied Sotin, "are there not footpads in the streets, and do
they not commit murders nightly? Besides, shall we not be two to one?
Hush, he is here."

Forthwith the two police agents glided behind the curtain.  Hardly had
they done so, when the door of the room beyond was opened, and footsteps
were heard crossing the antechamber.

Dangerous as the movement was, Sotin’s head was thrust out from the
curtain long enough for him to whisper, "Messieurs, appear to be
supping."

Even while he spoke, the door was opened, and St. Just entered and
announced—

"General Buonaparte."

To all appearance, the General had broken in upon a friendly supper
party.  Barras, at the head of the table, was on his feet, a glass in
his hand, as though about to toast the company.  Reubel had pushed his
chair far back, as if to give his legs more room, for he had crossed one
knee over the other; La Reveillère, was peeling an orange and apparently
awaiting Barras’ toast, for a decanter, from which he had but that
instant filled his glass, stood at his right hand.

"Gentlemen," exclaimed Barras, at the moment the General was announced,
"I give you the conqueror of Italy!"

Then, when Buonaparte advanced into the room, Barras sprang forward to
welcome him, his movement loosening his hold on the glass, which fell
from his hand and smashed to pieces on the floor.

Reubel, either accidentally, or, perhaps, purposely, let fall the napkin
from across his knees and stooped for it, so that he was prevented from
rising simultaneously with his fellow directors to greet the General.
As for La Reveillère, for one instant the thought crossed his mind to
kill both the General and St. Just then and there—they were five to
two—but it was as quickly put away; for, looking up, he encountered St.
Just’s gaze, sternly fixed upon him. Additionally, without, through the
half open door, he saw the gleam of bayonets and instantly surmised the
truth. Without his knowing or suspecting it, Buonaparte was guarded by
two files of soldiers, who waited without in the antechamber, stern and
motionless.  Men who had fought under Buonaparte in Italy, and were in
consequence devoted to him.  They were, in fact, some of those whom
Buonaparte had despatched under Augereau to guard the Directors in the
recent revolt of the eighteenth Fructidor.  Men, therefore (of whom St.
Just was one), whom he knew that he could trust.

For his part, Buonaparte advanced not a step, but stood just inside the
door of the apartment.  Barras, on the contrary, rushed forward and
effusively embraced him, shaking him by the hand and saying, "Welcome,
General! welcome to France!  You bring us glad tidings of glory upon
glory!"

At this point St. Just left the room.

Buonaparte replied but coldly to Barras’ fulsome greeting; then, merely
nodding to the other two directors, he took a chair, seating himself
with his back to the door, his face half turned away.

Barras and La Reveillère pressed him to sup.  "Eat, General, eat; you
must be hungry; you have journeyed far. Eat first, and let us have your
news afterwards."

Buonaparte, thus invited, drew the nearest dish to him, and, as was his
habit, began to eat rapidly, and, regardless of conventionality, passing
from a conserve of prunes to meat, then back to a different kind of
sweet, eating much in the aggregate and yet little of each dish, and
hardly allowing one mouthful to be swallowed before taking the next.  In
fact, to put it shortly, he ate like a dog.  Then, pouring himself out a
tumblerful of wine, he swallowed it at a draught.  Finally, he pushed
the things from him and began to speak.

"Messieurs, the army has been again successful; the treaty of Campo
Formio has been signed; liberty has been given to the people of nineteen
different departments; French troops garrison Mentz, and the interests
of France are secured by the congress of Rastadt."  He paused for a
moment; then resumed, in an heroic sort of manner, "Why should I declaim
the glories of France?  Why tell of the deeds her soldiers have achieved
for her?  Will they not proclaim themselves?  Do not nineteen States
speak for them?  There," he concluded, throwing down a thick mass of
papers roughly tied with scarlet tape, "There are the records."

There was a momentary silence; then the president, Barras, spoke.  "I
pray you, General, keep these papers in your possession till a few days
shall have passed; for it is our intention to give you a fairer welcome
than your present one, and to receive in a public and a more befitting
manner, the man whom France desires to honor."

This he said for a double reason.  Imprimis, should General Buonaparte’s
body be found in the gray light of the corning dawn, it could easily be
arranged that to rifle his pockets should be the supposed object of the
murder, and that the directors should in reality possess the papers
about which a great outcry for their loss should be made.  In the second
place, should the plan fail, Buonaparte would be unlikely to suspect the
members of the Directory of complicity in the attack on him, when they
had but just expressed their satisfaction with him and had proposed to
reward him for his services.

Buonaparte’s reply to Barras’ flattering remarks was merely to bow.
Then he proceeded to discuss with them the attitude of England and the
projected invasion of that country, and other matters affecting the
welfare of France; matters, however, in no way concerning the actors in
the present narrative.

Their business concluded, Buonaparte rose to his feet and, bowing coldly
to the three directors, made his way towards the door.  But, before he
had reached it, Barras officiously sprang forward, saying, "Permit me,
General, to accompany you to your carriage."

To this Buonaparte replied laconically, and almost rudely, "If you
wish," and, opening the door, passed into the antechamber.

Motionless as statues, for two long hours the soldiers had stood, and
now when the General—for it was to him more than to Barras that the
honor was paid—passed between their lines, they presented arms.  The
scene was an impressive one, for every fifth soldier was holding aloft a
torch, and, as the General moved down the room, the torch-bearers
followed.  Barras, who was almost as crafty as Satan himself, made St.
Just, who was close to the top of the staircase, precede them, and
engaged Buonaparte in conversation about his wife—whom Barras had met in
former days—with the view of distracting his attention from those behind
them, for he knew that his brother directors would follow with Sotin and
Vipont, whom, of course, Buonaparte had not seen.  They walked arm in
arm, each with a director, Sotin with Reubel and Vipont with La
Reveillère, their cloaks well wrapped around them. Meantime they
discussed in subdued tones, so as not to reach Buonaparte’s ears,
incidents of the Italian campaign just told them by the General; their
object being to make those present believe that they had accompanied
Buonaparte. Thus, hoping to be mistaken for aides-de-camp, Sotin and
Vipont crossed the ante-chamber and descended the staircase behind the
others.  At the foot of it, Barras persuaded the General to see for
himself the alterations that were being made to prepare the Chamber of
Audience for his reception.  This gave Sotin and Vipont the opportunity
of mingling with the crowd and subsequently gaining the doorway, whence
they made their way to the General’s carriage.

Meanwhile, St. Just had, by Barras’ orders, accompanied General
Buonaparte himself to the Hall of Audience. Here all was bustle and
apparent confusion; carpenters armed with tools were rushing from one
place to another. In one corner might be seen a group supporting a
trophy of flags, whose battered appearance showed that they had recently
arrived from the seat of war; they were now being placed at the back of
a dais for the Directors, that other groups of men were erecting and
decorating at the far end of the room.  In other corners temporary seats
were being fitted up for the accommodation of the Members of the Council
of Five Hundred and for delegates from various public bodies,
ambassadors, etc.

Barras dragged Buonaparte hither and thither by the arm, talking
incessantly; St. Just, who, in his capacity of officer of the guard,
stood in the doorway, followed the two figures with his eyes and
meditated on the course he ought to pursue about the conversation he had
overheard between Barras and his fellow-conspirators.  Obviously, he
ought to see the General privately before he left the Palace, and warn
him that his life was in danger.  He knew, by having been at the
entrance of the palace on the general’s arrival, that Buonaparte was
alone, and he suspected that, if a chance were given, the police agents
would carry out the instructions of Barras.  Unfortunately, he could not
get near Buonaparte, who was never for a moment left alone.

Then St. Just reflected that he could warn Buonaparte’s postillions; but
here again he was frustrated, as will appear forthwith.

The General, having finished the inspection, returned in company with
Barms to the doorway, and thence, preceded by St. Just, he made his way
to the entrance hall of the palace.  Lounging by the fireplace were La
Reveillère and Reubel, to all appearance engaged in an animated
conversation; but St. Just quickly noted that Vipont and Sotin had
disappeared.

Suddenly, without deigning to notice any one, Buonaparte strode to the
entrance door and called for his carriage. But there was no sound of
wheels in answer to his shouts; plainly the carriage was not there.

To explain its absence, it will be necessary to follow the movements of
Sotin and Vipont.  The moment Barras and Buonaparte turned aside to the
Audience chamber, they, wrapped in their cloaks, passed rapidly and
quietly through the doorway of the palace and made their way towards
Buonaparte’s post-chaise, which had been drawn into an angle of the
building, with the postillions curled up inside and sleeping soundly,
tired out by the distance they had traversed.

Sotin cautiously advanced and peeped into the vehicle; then, satisfied
as to the personality of its occupants, threw open the door, at the same
time loudly and authoritatively calling to Vipont, "Show a light,
sergeant."

Vipont, taking his cue, advanced with one of the carriage lamps and,
throwing the light into the carriage in such a manner that it shone upon
the sleepers’ faces, while those of himself and his companion were left
in shadow, shook the nearest by his arm.  The young postillion started
up and rubbed his eyes sleepily.

"Awake," said Vipont, "Mons. le Capitaine de la Garde de Mons. le
President du directoire would speak with you."

"Dépêchez-vous, Sergent; Mons. le General waits," added Sotin behind
him.

Soon the boy became thoroughly awake, and, in turn roused his companion.

In a gruff voice Sotin then told them they might go whither they would,
for that Mons. Buonaparte was detained; but they were to return to the
palace at noon the next day for their hire and attendant expenses.

The postillions grumbled slightly at having been kept waiting two hours
for nothing; but their discontent was considerably mollified by the
"pourboire" Sotin gave them.

They went to the heads of their horses and turned them and the carriage
round; then mounted, and were preparing to start, when Sotin told them
to wait.  Advancing to the door, he flung it open and, followed by
Vipont, who had rapidly comprehended the manoeuvre, got in, telling the
postillions to drive to the gate and, if challenged, to say, "General
Buonaparte’s carriage."  Once outside, they were to turn to the right
and drive out of sight of the palace; then to stop.

Acting on their orders, and assuming that they emanated from the
General, who did not wish it to be known that he was still at the
Luxembourg, they passed through the gates without challenge, the
carriage being recognized as Buonaparte’s.  Arrived at a corner of the
street about four hundred yards away, they drew up, when Sotin and
Vipont alighted.  Then the carriage drove on, the two police agents
remaining where they were, till it had vanished out of sight.  Then,
crossing the road, they retraced their steps to the lamp near which they
were introduced to the reader; continuing their way, they arrived at a
doorway of a house at right angles to the palace gates.  There they
ensconced themselves and watched and waited.

Meanwhile General Buonaparte was standing on the steps of the palace,
surrounded by the Directors, all fulsomely apologizing and tendering
suggestions.  Barras at once offered to have his own carriage made
ready, but the General declined it.

"Say no more, gentlemen," he said, "there is a stand for public vehicles
close by, and the short walk will do me good. I am stiff from sitting so
long."

At this point, St. Just, fearing for Buonaparte’s safety, said in a loud
whisper to Barras, "Will it be wise for General Buonaparte to walk the
streets of Paris unattended? There are many abroad at this hour who
would do evil."  And he fixed his eyes searchingly on the Director’s
face.

Barras bore the scrutiny well, but, if looks could kill, St. Just would
have died that instant.

Unfortunately for St. Just, Buonaparte, overhearing what was said, took
the sentence to imply that St. Just thought he, Buonaparte, was afraid
of walking alone at such an hour.  So he turned to Barras with the
words, "Mons. le Directeur would do well to teach his soldiers silence
in the presence of their superiors."

Completely reassured, Barras addressed St. Just with the order, "get to
your duties; we have no further use for you."

With that, the party moved to the gate, through which they passed,
leaving St. Just standing in the courtyard. For a moment or so he
remained undecided; then turned on his heel and went back rapidly
towards the door of the palace.  Passing through the hall and taking
care that those who were still loitering there, should note his
presence, he turned down a passage to the left.  Opening a door on the
right of this, he entered a guard room, and, by the faint light which
shone into it, he selected a pair of pistols and a long cloak, which he
flung round him; then retraced his steps to the hall and thence to the
doorway, through which he passed.  Wheeling round to the right of the
building, he unlocked a door in the wall, and was about to step forth
into the street, when he heard voices and footsteps near him.
Immediately he recognized the voice of Reubel, though the moaning of the
wind prevented him from catching all that was said.  "Gone.... the other
two.... on the opposite side.... will catch him at the turn of the road
in the...."

St. Just waited for no more, but wrenched the door open, and dashed down
the road at the top of his speed.  Luckily for him, but unluckily for
the two men lying in wait, the rain had ceased and the wind had cleared
the clouds, so that the moon now shone brightly overhead, illuminating
the street; for all that, once or twice he stumbled and nearly fell, so
badly were the roads repaired.

On and on he ran, but still saw no signs of those he sought.  At last he
came to a large square, and here he paused for breath, and to consider
his next step.  It was evident he had missed the two police agents whom
he believed to be following General Buonaparte.  Then doubts began to
assail him.  Was he following the right road? that most likely to be
taken by the General to gain his own house, which was situated, as St.
Just knew, in the Rue Chantereine (afterwards Rue de la Victoire).  For
a moment he stood thinking and panting; then, anxious to lose no time,
he was about to retrace his steps, when he heard a faint sound, like the
cry of some one in distress, proceeding from a narrow court on his left.
Impulsively, half hoping, half fearing it might proceed from those he
sought, he dashed into the court, fear for Buonaparte, and excitement
making his breath come short and fast.

This was what had happened.  Vipont or Sotin, one of the two, creeping
behind Buonaparte, had flung his cloak over the General’s head and
dragged him by his superior strength away from the street and partly up
the court.  His companion was, at the time, a few yards behind, and the
General’s frantic struggles to release himself from the strange bondage
had necessitated the exercise of all his assailant’s force to retain him
in his grasp and force him out of the main street.  No attempt had yet
been made to kill him.  But, at the moment when St. Just ran up, the man
was shortening his sword to plunge it into Buonaparte’s back; St. Just
raised his arm; the crack of a pistol shot rang out upon the night; and
the would-be assassin staggered forward and dropped upon the footpath,
with a bullet in him.  But so nearly had he achieved his purpose, that
his sword, when he fell, made a long gash in Buonaparte’s cloak.

The other, who had been coming up to help, seeing his comrade fall, and,
with that, the failure of their plot, did not hesitate a moment, but
made a rush for the narrow court, knocking down St. Just, who attempted
to bar his passage; and, plunging into the darkness, disappeared.

When St. Just came to himself, which he did quickly, though the breath
had been knocked out of him, he found Buonaparte bending over him and
binding with a scarf a slight wound in his head.

"It is nothing, sir," he said, staggering to his feet, and feeling
somewhat giddy.  Buonaparte had asked him whether he was seriously hurt.
"One gets harder knocks on the battlefield and marches; on—"

"You are a soldier, I see," interrupted the General, "and surely we have
met before.  Is it not so?"

"We have, General," was the prompt reply, and St. Just straightened
himself and saluted.  "I was with you through most of the Italian
campaign.  In General Augereau’s division.  I accompanied the corps
home, when you ordered him to Paris.  Lieutenant St. Just, at your
service, General."

"You have seen service then, young man," was Buonaparte’s sharp answer.
Then, looking searchingly in the other’s face.  "Did I not see you at
the Luxembourg; but now?"

"You did, sir, as officer for the day of the Guard of the Directors."

"And how comes it that you were so opportunely present when I was in
such peril?"

"From certain words I accidentally overheard, I feared there were
designs against your life, and I followed you. It was I who escorted you
to the Directors on your arrival. When I heard you say that you would
walk alone, I tried to warn you; you may recollect it, Sir, and that I
was dismissed to my duties by the President of the Directors."

"I remember.  I remember also that the President’s words were prompted
by my own.  Lieutenant St. Just, I owe you an apology; more, my life.
You shall not find me ungenerous or ungrateful."

"To have saved the life of the most illustrious soldier of France,
General, is its own reward."

Buonaparte loved flattery, though he affected to despise it.  "Your
reward shall not stop at that," he laughed, "Walk with me now; we can
talk of this attack upon me, on our way.  One moment, though," and he
kicked Vipont’s unconscious body carelessly with his foot.  "What are we
to do with this carrion?"

"I will care for him; Voilà!"  And so saying, St. Just dragged Vipont to
the nearest doorway and, covering him with his cloak, left him.  The
body of a wounded—even of a murdered man—was at that time a common sight
in the early morning in the streets of Paris.

St. Just leaning on Buonaparte’s arm, they quitted the narrow passage
and made their way back to the main thoroughfare.  Here they were lucky
enough to find a passing coach.  This Buonaparte hailed.  Then he told
St. Just to get in and accompany him to his house in the Rue
Chantereine.

During the drive, St. Just placed the General in the possession of
affairs (so far as he knew them) at the Directoire.  Buonaparte listened
intently to every word that fell from St. Just’s lips, and, though the
faintness of the light prevented St. Just from seeing much more than the
outline of his companion’s figure, he knew from the tone of the other’s
replies that every word he uttered was being carefully weighed.  He had
hardly finished his relation, before the carriage drew up at
Buonaparte’s house.  A few moments later, St. Just found himself
following his host into a room in which sat Buonaparte’s wife.
Josephine sprang to her feet with a cry of joy.  "My husband!" she
exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck.  "I was beginning to think
you were never coming.  Bourrienne was here quite early in the evening
and told me you would come to me immediately."  Both Buonaparte and his
wife were so taken up with one another that, for some moments, St. Just
remained unnoticed.  But presently Buonaparte remembered him and
introduced him to his wife, to whom he made St. Just tell his story of
the night’s adventures.

When the young officer had finished, there was a momentary silence,
during which Josephine and St. Just were thinking as was natural, one of
the other, "how handsome he (she) is."

Josephine was the first to break the silence.  Turning to St. Just with
a smile, she said: "Sir, I thank you for your bravery and adroitness in
delivering my husband from his peril.  In return, if you have anything
at heart that we can forward, I am sure I express both his sentiments
and my own when I say that we will do so."

"Madame," St. Just replied, "I am content in that I have been the humble
means of saving your husband’s life; of preserving a husband for you,
but also her greatest General for France.  Permit me to say in answer to
your kindness that all I ask is, to be near the General in his campaigns
now and always, in order that, while my life lasts, I may devote it to
him."

Buonaparte rose to his feet and, crossing to St. Just, held out his
hand.  "Sir," he said, "you have earned from me to-night, not only my
gratitude, but also my esteem, which I do not lightly confer, or, when
conferred, withdraw.  You have spoken like a soldier, and your
sentiments do you honor.  Your request to accompany me in the next
campaign is granted."

Then Madame Buonaparte advanced to him.

"Mons. St. Just," she said, in her gracious manner, "to offer money to a
soldier were an insult; for bravery and a sense of duty are beyond all
price.  But you may, at least, accept this little gift, as a memento of
this night, and also as my witness to my husband’s promise; for," she
continued laughingly, tapping Buonaparte on the shoulder, "men, when
they rise to power, are apt to forget those not so fortunate."

With that, she handed to St. Just a golden chain formed of a hand
holding a heart suspended to it by a chain.

Bowing deeply, St. Just kissed the hand that held it out to him, as
though she were already an Empress, instead of but a General’s wife.

The action, theatrical as it was, delighted her.

Then Buonaparte interposed.  "Mons. St. Just," he said, "in return for
what you have done for me, I promise to do you three services, even to
the sparing of your life, should you do aught to forfeit it; the promise
to begin from now, and to remain in force till the end of my life."

St. Just bowed and thanked the General.  Then he rose to go.  Buonaparte
pressed him to remain for that night, at least, in his house, urging as
one reason St. Just’s wound. At this the young soldier laughed.  He had
made light of this wound, removed the bandage before arriving at the
house—so soon in fact as the bleeding had ceased.

"No, I must return to——my duties," he replied; "though, if the Minister
of Police recognizes me, it will be a case of an underground cell in the
Temple and then—" he paused.

"What?" asked Buonaparte smiling.

"Death," replied St. Just.  "It was partly the thought of that, that
made me ask you to let me be with you on your next campaign."

"But," said Buonaparte, "that may not be for months."

"No, no, sir," rejoined St. Just, "scarcely that, since you are about to
inspect the forces for the invasion of England, in accordance with the
plans of the Directoire."

"I had not thought of that," said Buonaparte.  "In any case be assured
of my protection; I will watch over you."

"And yourself, General.  See that you do that, for Barras will not be
gratified at his failure."

"I will take care of myself; but my time of danger is not yet.  To-day
is the 6th, is it not?"

"The 7th, sir," replied St. Just, glancing at a clock whose hand pointed
to the hour of three.  "We did not leave the Luxembourg till after
midnight."

"True," said Buonaparte, smiling; "and the Directoire are to receive me
publicly on the 10th, is it not?"

"That is so," said St. Just.

"Bien, I myself will tell Barras of the adventure that befell me; and I
will watch the effect of my intelligence upon him.  Till then, adieu."
St. Just shook hands, first with Josephine, then with the General and,
bowing, left them.

A quarter to four sounded when he reached his bedroom in the Luxembourg,
tired out and suffering considerably from his wound.



                             *CHAPTER III.*


Towards the end of April in the following year, a trooper rode into the
courtyard of the palace.  St. Just was standing at the main entrance.
The man advanced to meet him and saluted.

"Lieutenant St. Just?" he said inquiringly.

"I am he," replied St. Just.

"I am instructed to deliver this, Lieutenant."

At the same time, he handed a packet to St. Just. Then, once more
saluting, the man wheeled his charger round and trotted off.

With trembling hands and his mind strongly agitated, St. Just opened the
despatch.  His most ardent hopes were fulfilled.  The document contained
his formal discharge from his present duties and his appointment as
aide-de-camp on General Buonaparte’s staff.  He was instructed to wait
on the General at head-quarters for orders at three o’clock that
afternoon.

To say that St. Just was overjoyed, would scarcely do justice to his
feelings; he was mad with delight, and could scarce contain himself.  By
way of relief to his emotions, he indulged in a loud hurrah and threw
his cap up into the air, for all the world as though he were only a
common soldier.  Then, recollecting where he was, and the extraordinary
figure he must be cutting before his men, he replaced his cap on his
head, straightened himself and made his way, as steadily as his
exuberance would allow, into the palace, to hand over his command to the
sub-lieutenant, preparatory to taking his departure.

With a soldier’s regard for punctuality, at the stroke of three he
presented himself at General Buonaparte’s quarters, and was almost
immediately admitted to his presence. The General was standing with his
back to St. Just in front of a temporary table supported on trestles,
and bending over a large scale map of Egypt and the surrounding country.
Other maps and documents were spread about. He had a pair of compasses
in his hand, and with it he was taking off the distances between the
various places he had marked out as his route.  At St. Just’s entrance
he turned round.

"Ah!  Lieutenant," he exclaimed.  "You are glad then to go with me to
Egypt?"

"So glad, General, and so grateful, that I scarce know how to express my
thanks.  I—"

"Do not try then," interrupted Buonaparte abruptly; "nor are any due.
Your appointment on my staff has not been made from personal motives,
but solely in the interests of France, who has need of those of her sons
who are distinguished for bravery and promptitude of action.  From the
circumstances of our introduction, I believe you to possess both.
Further, I have made inquiries of General Augereau concerning you, and
his report is eminently favorable.  Your appointment, therefore, is the
consequence of your own merit.  But, if you still think any thanks are
due to me, let them be expressed by deeds; by obedience, fidelity,
courage, coolness and promptness in emergency; in a word, by unswerving
devotion to France—and to me."

He shot a piercing glance at St. Just, as though to emphasize his words;
a glance so keen and stern that the young officer felt that he trembled
under it.  But he replied, "General, you shall have no cause to regret
your confidence in me.  To my country I have dedicated myself body and
soul.  She possesses my unshared allegiance.  I have no father or
mother, no brothers or sisters.  France stands for all these to me.  To
make her respected—aye feared—among the nations; to add to her glory, so
far as my humble efforts can avail, is my sole ambition.  If she demand
my life, it shall be willingly laid down."

"Your sentiments do you honor, sir," said Buonaparte. "See that you live
up to them.  Now go, and make your preparations for departure.  Present
yourself here at daybreak on the third day from this—the 3rd of May—when
we shall march out of Paris.  Your horses will be provided for you.
Till then, farewell."  The General waved his hand towards him in token
of dismissal, and St. Just saluted and took his leave.

When the young officer left General Buonaparte, he strode onward with a
rapid, springy step, treading on air, as the saying is.  At last, he
thought, he had his opportunity; his fortune was secured.  He was
resolute to earn distinction in the career he had adopted; and, with the
sanguine exuberance of youth and strength, he already saw himself
mounting with nimble steps the successive rungs of the military
ladder—Captain, Major, Colonel, Brigadier, General of Division; until he
had attained the summit and found himself in command of an army, smiting
the enemies of France—perhaps even rivalling the great Captain under
whom he was about to serve.  Such was the mental vision that gradually
unfolded itself to his excited gaze.  At this moment he had the most
unbounded enthusiasm for the successful general whose marvelous
achievements were the theme of Europe; the most absolute devotion to
him.  Later events will show how far these sentiments were destined to
be lasting; for the present they were paramount.

St. Just had few preparations to make; having no near relatives, and
being heart whole, there were no painful leavetakings; only a farewell
dinner to his friends and intimate brother officers, the payment of a
few bills, the purchase of sundry necessary articles, and he was ready.

At daybreak, on the 3rd of May he reported himself at General
Buonaparte’s headquarters, and, a few hours later, Buonaparte began the
march that the great General hoped and believed would result in the
adding of the land of the Pharaohs to the possessions of France.  The
advance guard had already preceded the main body.

The movement of troops through their own country—except when that
country is in the partial occupation of the enemy—is seldom fruitful of
adventure, and, in the present instance, it was wholly uneventful.  St.
Just had the opportunity, to a limited degree, of improving his
knowledge of Buonaparte, also of becoming acquainted with some of his
entourage.  To his annoyance, however, almost immediately on their
quitting Paris, a feeling of weakness and lassitude began to overtake
him, despite his most strenuous efforts to shake it off.  Day by day it
grew upon him, until, by the time the army had reached Toulon, which
they made on the 8th of May, he felt so prostrated as to be almost unfit
for duty.

But he fought hard against his weakness; for all that, it was only by
the exercise of unflinching determination to conceal how ill he felt,
that he was not left behind invalided.  He managed to hold up until the
19th of May, when, with Buonaparte, he embarked on board the Admiral’s
ship, L’Orient.  Then, he broke down altogether, and was carried below.
The army surgeons pronounced him to be suffering from low fever, and
feared the worst. The efforts he had made to hide the real state of his
health had aggravated his condition, so that his vitality was at the
lowest ebb.

For more than a fortnight he lay oscillating between life and death;
then a change for the better set in, and, from that moment, he began
rapidly to improve, so that, at the end of another fortnight, he was
able to set foot on the quarter deck, and breathe the pure, fresh air of
the Mediterranean.  Oh! in the relief, after inhaling the stifling
atmosphere below deck, to drink in deep draughts of the ozone laden
breezes that swept over the broad expanse of water!  His spirits
revived, and, once more, he felt that he had it in him to emulate his
chief.

Wafted by favorable breezes, the gallant fleet sped on its way, until,
on the morning of the first of July, the Admiral’s ship sighted, in the
far distance, the domes and minarets of Alexandria.

So the fleet was headed for the land.  After beating along the coast for
several hours in the teeth of a rising gale, in search of a suitable
landing place, Marabou was selected, and at one o’clock in the morning
of the second of July the disembarkation was begun.  The spot was three
leagues to the west of Alexandria.

The landing was accomplished with great difficulty, caused, not only by
the roughness of the sea, but also by the attacks of the Bedouin Arabs,
great swarthy fellows, who appeared in swarms.  They showed marvelous
horsemanship, circling round the French and making repeated dashes upon
the right flank, and picking off many stragglers.

At three in the morning the march upon Alexandria began.  The divisions
of Bon, Kleber, and Morand heading the advance.

At the moment when the order to march was given, Buonaparte, who was
mounted on a white horse—one of the six given him in Italy—turned to
Kleber, and, pointing upwards to the sky, where a few stars still
lingered before the advent of the dawn, as though loth to have their
brightness veiled, said, "See yonder stars scintillate in token of our
coming success; foretelling glory out of the clouds of trouble."

"Yet," rejoined Kleber, "they must pale before the glory of the rising
sun."  And he pointed Eastward to where a faint light showed the
approaching dawn.

When Buonaparte appeared, the whole army set up a tremendous shout;
cheer after cheer went up and, amidst them, the march began that all
hoped and believed would result in the conquest of Egypt, but which to
thousands of the sons of France meant but their grave.

After some hours marching under a dropping fire of musketry from the
Arabs hovering around, and under a blazing sun, they arrived within
gunshot of Alexandria. There was only a show of opposition to the French
advance, for what took place was more of a skirmish before the gates
than a battle.  A few shots were fired, and then the Arabs fled into the
city, followed by the French, some scaling the walls, and others making
their way through gaps where the walls had been broken down, and through
the gates.

Soon after their entrance, Buonaparte, who was attended by St. Just and
accompanied by an escort of guides, had a near escape of being killed.
The party was going along a narrow street, that but just allowed two
persons to ride abreast; it was bounded at the end by a tall house.
Those within were watching the approach of Buonaparte and his escort,
apparently with friendly interest, when, all of a sudden, the party
being about a hundred yards from the house, a musket shot was fired from
one of the windows, and a bullet carried away the plume of Buonaparte’s
hat.

Instantly St. Just, followed by a sergeant of the Guides, enraged at the
murderous attempt, galloped to the house, threw himself from his horse,
scaled a staircase and rushed forward.

Two shots were fired at him by a woman who tried to bar his progress,
one passing over his left shoulder and lodging in the arm of the guide
behind him.  Smarting with the wound, before St. Just could interpose,
he cut her down.  The other shot went through the metal ornament of St.
Just’s sabre-tache, and, striking on a button of his tunic, made him
think for a moment that he was wounded.  The shock made him stagger, and
gave others of the Guides, who had followed, the opportunity of rushing
past.  Their blood was up and they were intent on revenging themselves
for the shots fired on their officer and their comrade, and were in no
mood to grant quarter.  So that, when St. Just came up to them, he had
the greatest difficulty in saving the life of a young Arab, who had been
knocked down with the butt of a musket and was on the point of being
sabered.

At some risk, St. Just interposed his own person, at the same time
striking up the sword raised to slay the young man, who was then taken
prisoner and bound.

Meantime the other persons in the house, recognizing the futility of
attempting a stand, took to their heels with speed, and succeeded in
making their escape from the back of the building.

So soon as, after a thorough search, St. Just had satisfied himself that
the house was empty, he returned to General Buonaparte with their
prisoner.

Buonaparte questioned the young fellow through an interpreter.  At first
he maintained a sullen silence, but, after a time, when he was reminded
that his life had been spared, and was assured that the French had come
solely to deliver the people from the tyranny of their rulers, and would
reward and protect those who chose to give them information, his reserve
and fear began to melt away and he became communicative.

He maintained that it was not he who had fired the shot at General
Buonaparte nor, indeed, any shot.  It appeared that the house belonged
to one Islam Bey, the leader of a corps of Mamelukes.  Gaining
confidence, the lad went on to warn General Buonaparte against Islam
Bey, saying that this Sheik had sworn by the beard of the Prophet to
take his life before six months had passed.

In the end, the General not only gave the lad his liberty, but appointed
him to be his body servant, and afterwards, took him to Paris.  The
young fellow became a great favorite with everybody.  His name was Ali.

Buonaparte stayed six days in Alexandria, issuing conciliatory edicts to
the people and holding many conferences with the chief Sheiks of the
city, many of whom had submitted to him.  This was on account of the
good conduct of the French troops.  A few men of the first detachment,
doubtless, began to plunder; but, the moment it was discovered such
severe punishment was meted out as effectually to check it for the
remainder of the French occupation.

On the evening of the third day after the French entry, St. Just
received orders to take a detachment of five Guides and a native who
knew the track to be traversed, and to start at day-break and make all
speed to Damanhour, with despatches for General Dessaix, who was
proceeding thither with an advance guard of nearly five thousand men.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*


At early dawn, therefore, on the morning of the fourth day after
Buonaparte’s arrival in Alexandria, St. Just and his escort saddled and
set out.  They were accompanied by some Arabs belonging to a friendly
tribe, whose chief was in the city and had offered his services to
General Buonaparte.  The force was small and both men and horses were
picked so that they might ride fast and overtake Dessaix, who was
already well on his way to Damanhour.  At the last moment they were
joined by a young subaltern of infantry in charge of a foraging party
sent out in requisition of stores.  The stores were to be carried by
mules and it was the young subaltern’s duty to convoy them and their
drivers.  St. Just found the young officer, whose name, he ascertained,
was Garraud, a pleasant companion; and his men, who were infantry,
fraternized with St. Just’s troopers, the whole party for the first few
miles marching along gayly, whistling and singing and chattering, as
French soldiers will; but their chief topic of conversation was the shot
that had been fired at the General on his entry into Alexandria.
Garraud and his men had not yet been in Alexandria; so he asked St. Just
for a full account of the affair; and St. Just gave it him.

As the sun rose higher in the heavens, conversation began to flag, both
between the two officers and the men; for, although the march had begun
in excellent spirits, the heat of the sun, which would shortly be at its
zenith, made talking a fatigue, and movement alone sufficiently
exhausting.

The Arabs only, mounted on their trusty ships of the desert, as they are
wont to call their camels, seemed to be unconscious of the heat, as well
as indifferent to two other evils the French severely felt, namely flies
and thirst; to say nothing of the sand, which made marching horribly
arduous.  "Not good, honest ordinary sand," as an old veteran of Italy
exclaimed, "but sand that penetrated through one’s shoes and clothes,
and made walking painful and tedious."

There was silence now for the most part among them all.  It had lasted
longer than usual, when St. Just, at last, broke it by inquiring in
French of their chief guide how far they were to proceed before they
halted.  The old man turned his grizzly head round and gazed backwards,
as though mentally measuring the distance they had already traversed;
then up to the sky, as if seeking inspiration from this source.  Finally
he said briefly, "A league to the water, then three to the village,
where my Masters sleep."

And so they plodded on.

At last, after crawling along in the boiling sun for two hours, they
reached one of the stopping places indicated by their guide.  There was
a small pool of brackish water and there were a number of rocks standing
out of the sand nine feet or more, behind which they could shelter
themselves from the sun.  Here St. Just called a halt.  The men
dismounted and tethered their horses; then gave them food and water.
Afterwards they attended to their own wants and ate and drank.
Referring to the water, one of the veterans, with the recollection of
the luxuries of sunny Italy before his mind, remarked that one must
march through the desert under a burning sun for hours before one would
drink from such a hole as that before them; a pool that, in ordinary
circumstances, one would not even put one’s feet into.

Their inner man refreshed, they rested for a short time, and the Arabs
and a few of the French began to smoke. St. Just was among these, for he
had picked up this, at that time, uncommon habit from some Gipsies he
had come across in Italy.

After an hour’s repose, early in the afternoon the little company
resumed its march; it was but a repetition of the morning’s tramp; more
heat, more flies, more sand, with thirst that seemed intensified, rather
than appeased, by drinking the tepid, brackish water from the soldiers’
water bottles.

By way of contrast, when the sun set, cold cutting winds sprang up that
pierced them through.

It was late and quite dark when the party came in sight of the so-called
village—a collection of mud-huts—which was to form their resting place
for the night.

The advance guard under Dessaix had recently passed through the place,
for everywhere there were signs of the presence of the French; but of
inhabitants there were none.  Worse still, half the huts were
dismantled.  Many portions of them had been torn away for fire-wood; but
one was found after a careful search, large enough to shelter the whole
party, with some crowding.

One man was posted as a sentry outside, and relieved every two hours.
His duties were not only to give notice of the approach of enemies, but
also to keep an eye on the Arab guides, who remained outside and who St.
Just felt were not to be trusted.

The night passed without adventure or alarm, and the rest of the men in
the hut was unbroken, so that they rose in the early morn in excellent
spirits and with bodies refreshed.  While the sky was still clothed in
its gray mantle, and the sun had scarce given signs of his approach, St.
Just and his escort recommenced their march, leaving the young
subaltern, Garraud, and his convoy party to make their further way
alone.

On the afternoon of the same day, they overtook General Dessaix at Beda.
It was fortunate they had started so early as they did; for, otherwise,
they would have been overwhelmed in a terrific sandstorm, which spent
itself behind them and which they escaped by only one hour.

On handing in his despatches to Dessaix, St. Just received from him a
sorry report of his command.  Short as had been their stay in the
country, the men were always murmuring; the heat, the sand, the flies,
the scarcity and badness of the water had made them so discontented that
the General had the utmost difficulty in keeping them in hand. They were
mutinous, unruly, continually complaining of their lost luxuries.  Even
the officers complained.  After a few days’ rest, St. Just set out to
return to Buonaparte, who, with the main body of the army, was to have
left Alexandria on the 6th.  Being anxious to join them with all speed,
St. Just decided to travel all night.  After marching for some hours and
when darkness was setting in, St. Just, to his alarm, was informed by an
Arab scout he had sent ahead, but who now rode back, that a large body
of desert horsemen was advancing in their direction somewhat to the
right of them.  This was most unwelcome news.  To wheel round and make
an effort to escape, St. Just felt would be useless.  Their only chance
seemed to be to halt and wait until the enemy were close upon them; then
to make a dash for it and try to cut their way through, and thus, aided
by the darkness, to get clear away.

With this view, St. Just drew up his men as close together as they could
stand.  This mode of formation surprised the Arab guides, it being the
custom of their countrymen to fight in a crescent-shaped wedge, a mode
of formation Buonaparte found a strong one, when cavalry is massed in
successive crescents one behind another.

Breathless, silent and motionless, the little troop remained drawn up,
their ears on the alert for the first sounds of the approaching
horsemen.  Soon the tread of horses’ hoofs, muffled by the sand, was
heard, and the jangling of bridles and accoutrements.  Nearer and nearer
came the sounds.  St. Just had given his men orders to make for the
left, so as, so far as possible, to skirt the enemy, rather than meet
them face to face; they were not to seek encounters, and only cut down
those who barred their way; the main thing they were to keep before them
was that they were to gallop for all that they were worth.

On came the Arabs.  They had not yet discovered the French.  A few
seconds passed; then there was a shout, and the desert horsemen put
their horses to the gallop and bore down upon the Frenchmen.  Instantly
St. Just gave the order, and from its scabbard flashed every sword;
spurs were dug into the horses’ sides, and they went off at the charge,
meeting the fringe only of their opponents.

This was St. Just’s first experience of a cavalry skirmish, his sole
experience of warfare having been gained in an infantry regiment during
the Italian campaign.  But his horse was an old stager and used to the
business; and he communicated his excitement to his rider, who felt
himself borne madly onward with the others, without seeing which way he
was going.  There was a crash of opposing forces, a mêlée of Frenchmen
and swarthy Arabs, all slashing, stabbing and hacking at each other, and
parrying the blows dealt at them, as well as the dimness of the light
permitted; and then St. Just felt his horse pause in its career and
begin to stagger; at once he knew it had been badly wounded. In a moment
he saw what had happened.  An Arab, facing him alongside, so close that
St. Just could have touched him, had come at him full tilt with his
lance pointed dead at him.  But, either by miscalculation of aim, or by
an involuntary swerving on the part of one of the horses, the weapon had
missed St. Just and buried itself deep in the flank of his charger, the
point even protruding through the buttock.  Quick as thought, St. Just
realized that, if once he were unhorsed in the darkness and in the midst
of all this crowd, the life would speedily be trampled out of him.
Possessed of great muscular strength, to which his perilous position
gave added energy, he raised himself in his stirrups, flashed his sword
high in the air, then brought it down with all his force upon the
turbaned skull of his opponent. The blade was sharp and trusty and it
was wielded by a powerful arm.  It struck the Arab’s head a little to
the left of his crown, and, cutting its way in a slanting direction,
came out below the right ear, slicing off more than half the skull.  But
the force of the blow was not yet spent. Continuing its course, St.
Just’s sabre entered his adversary’s right shoulder and, in a twinkling,
had lopped off the arm that held the spear whose point and a good
portion of its shaft were still fixed in the French officer’s horse.
Then, feeling his charger sinking beneath him, St. Just drew his feet
from the stirrups and threw himself on the Arab’s horse, the collision
sending the lifeless body of the rider to the ground.  With the man’s
warm blood gushing over him, he realized something of the horrors of
war.  But this was no time for sentiment.  Settling his feet in the
stirrups of the strange horse, at the moment he saw his own poor steed
sink to the ground, St. Just seized the reins of his new mount, wheeled
him round with the powerful Arab bit, struck his spurs into his sides,
and, finding no one immediately opposing him, dashed off at full gallop;
whither he knew not, except that he was going west of his proper route.

St. Just traversed a few miles on the same course, and then, satisfied
that he was not being pursued, he reined in his recently appropriated
horse and dismounted, intending to remain where he was, until day should
break.  The docile creature seemed to know what was expected of it, and,
with very little trouble, St. Just got it to lie down; then, passing his
arm through the reins, he laid himself down beside the animal, which
thus helped to keep him warm.  The young officer tried his hardest to
keep his eyes open; but, spite of his efforts, after a time, he dropped
asleep.  He was exhausted with the heat and his exertions.

How long he had slept he did not know, but when he awoke, feeling cold
and stiff, the day was breaking, for in the East he noticed a faint
gleam of light.

At first he was puzzled to account for his whereabouts. But, when
thoroughly awakened and in full possession of his senses, the
occurrences of the previous night came back to him, and he remembered he
had almost miraculously broken away from a horde of Bedouins, after
cutting down the rider of the horse he had seized.

But what had become of his escort—French and Arab? Carefully he made the
circuit of the horizon with his eye, but not a sign of a human being,
friend or foe, was to be seen.  Nor, further within the field of his
vision, turn which way he would, was a single object, animate or
inanimate, visible: not a tree, not a shrub, not a rock, nothing but
sand, that appeared to be without bound, north, south, east and west;
St. Just and his horse, to all appearance, were the sole occupants of
the desert.  The stillness and solitude were awful in their
oppressiveness and the young officer felt that only action on his own
part would make them bearable.

He got his horse to his feet and mounted, setting out in the direction
he believed to be that which would lead him to General Buonaparte’s line
of march.  There was not a landmark by which to shape his way; only the
first glimmer of light eastward.

He had proceeded in a northerly direction for about two hours, when he
espied a solitary horseman in the distance, advancing towards him.
Nearer and nearer came the figure, and soon St. Just was able to make
out that he was not a native of the desert, next that he wore a French
uniform and finally, with a cry of joy, that he was Garraud, the young
subaltern from whom, with his convoy party, he had parted at the
so-called village where they had rested for the night two days before.
At the same moment, Garraud recognized him, and both simultaneously
urged their horses forward.

Mutual explanations were at once made.

It appeared that Garraud and his command had left the village a few
hours after St. Just, following slowly in his wake.  The first
misfortune that had assailed them was to be almost buried in the
sand-storm that St. Just had managed to escape.  Hardly had they got
over this, when they had been attacked by the very horde that St. Just
and his escort had encountered.  They had done their best in the face of
tremendous odds, making a temporary rampart of the mules and their
loads, firing over their backs and surrendering only when several of
them had been killed and many wounded and all their ammunition had been
exhausted, so that further resistance would have been useless.  In the
confusion, somehow, Garraud had managed to escape.

The spirits of both raised by companionship, they rode on side by side,
hoping they were nearing Buonaparte.  All day they marched, resting
themselves and their horses occasionally, but with no food or water for
either.  It was just beginning to grow dark, when they descried in the
distance the huts in which they had passed the night. When they reached
the spot, darkness had closed over it. They could see no one, but the
welcome challenge "Qui va là?" fell on their ears.  The two men replied
"Napoleon" and, at the same moment, a light was shown in their faces.

They found that a regiment of Chasseurs occupied the place and that
General Buonaparte was with them.  The main body was some few hours
behind, and ought to be up before the morning.

Buonaparte’s orders were that all couriers were to be conducted to him
immediately on their arrival, so St. Just at once dismounted and,
escorted by a sergeant’s guard, made instantly for the General’s tent.
Two soldiers, with loaded carbines, stood before the entrance, and
within could be seen the figure of Buonaparte writing on an old door,
propped upon two blocks of stone to form a table.

At the challenge of the sentries, Buonaparte raised his head and saw the
little group standing without.  "What is it?" he said in a sharp, shrill
voice.

"A courier, Sir," replied the sergeant, saluting.

Buonaparte saw and recognized St. Just, who was standing a little behind
the soldier.  "Ah, from the advance guard at—"

"Beda, Sir."

"Despatches?"

"Delivered, Sir; but these are the reply;" handing in those Dessaix had
given him on his return journey.

Buonaparte opened them, glanced at them, then said, "Did you encounter
or see any force on your way here? For, on taking possession of this
place, we saw many stragglers about in the far distance, apparently part
of a large body of Bedouins."

"I cut my way through a band of the enemy—how many I can’t say—last
night, losing all my escort.  Afterwards I fell in with a French
infantry officer, whose party had been previously attacked by the same
force."

"How many miles away?"

"Between twenty and thirty, Sir."

"Good."  Then, rising, Buonaparte walked up and down his tent for a few
minutes, his brows together, thinking deeply and evidently forgetful of
St. Just’s presence. Finally he turned to his impromptu table and wrote
a few lines.  These he sealed and addressed to the General in command at
Alexandria, then handed the paper to St. Just. "Deliver this; join me
again as soon as possible."

"Alone, Sir?"

"Yes, unless you can find an escort from Alexandria. Stay!  When did you
leave General Dessaix?"

"On the 8th in the evening, Sir."

"This is the 10th.  You halted last at 11 to-day.  Have you a good
horse?"

"Yes, sir."

"Set off at six in the morning; it is now ten."

"Yes, sir."

"Go then, in the name of France."  St. Just bowed and left the tent.



                              *CHAPTER V.*


At six o’clock next day St. Just set out, to plough his solitary way
across the sandy desert.  If it had been dreary on the first occasion,
when he had the company of an escort, he found the sandy wastes, now
that he was alone, almost unbearable.  It was, therefore, with great
delight that, after the first few hours of his journey, he encountered
the main body of Buonaparte’s army crawling like a gigantic snake across
his path.  But his satisfaction was but momentary, for the sights that
met his eyes were heartrending.  Horses in a lather of sweat from head
to foot and scarce able to stand from fatigue and heat, were being
cruelly urged with whip and spur to drag along the heavy guns and
ammunition wagons, whose wheels were deeply embedded in the sand and
could scarce be got to move.  Ever and anon some of the exhausted
animals would fall down dead.  Then the guns would have to be abandoned,
sometimes for hours, until a detachment of infantry had been brought up
and transformed into beasts of burden by being yoked to them, when the
sluggish march of the artillery would be recommenced.

Often St. Just passed men, who, overcome by fatigue, could no longer
walk, and had been left in the wake of the army, to follow afterwards,
if they could; if not, to die where they were, of thirst and exhaustion,
under the sun’s scorching rays.

Many of these poor creatures cried out to him piteously for help; but he
was absolutely powerless to relieve them, and, moreover, was the bearer
of despatches which he had been charged to deliver with all speed.

Here and there, half buried in the sand, could be seen the putrefying
bodies of both men and animals (horses and mules and here and there a
camel) that had died, some of want, some of fatigue, some of illness,
and a few of Arab wounds.  In some cases only a few whitening bones
remained of what a few hours before had been creatures instinct with
activity and life; the loathsome vultures having picked off all the
flesh.

Towards night he halted and, wrapping his cloak around him, he laid
himself on the ground, his head resting on his horse’s shoulder, the
reins tightly knotted to his wrist, and soon dropped asleep, awakening
only with the dawn.  The next day he met with a terrible disappointment.
On gaining the pool where he had intended to give his horse a drink and
to replenish his own water-bottle, he found it dry, the marching army
having drained it of every drop.  With his tongue almost rattling in his
mouth, so parched was it, and his poor horse in the same condition, he
was riding on dejectedly, when, happening to cast his eyes around, he
noticed a cloud of dust upon his left.  The French could scarcely be in
that direction; the disturbance must be due to Bedouins.  At all hazards
he must avoid capture; should his despatches fall into the enemy’s
hands, the consequences would certainly be serious, and might be fatal.
He urged his jaded, thirsty steed to pace its best, and the noble animal
responded bravely to his call.

He managed to escape the desert horsemen, but this would have availed
him little, had not assistance come, for both man and horse were
thoroughly pumped out and could proceed no further.  St. Just felt his
charger sway beneath him, and, to avoid falling with him, threw himself
from the saddle only a moment before the exhausted animal rolled over.
Then, just when he had resigned himself with all the philosophy he could
command to the consciousness that, in a few hours at most, the carrion
desert birds would be stripping the flesh from his bones and from his
horse’s, he heard a muffled tread, and, shortly afterwards, a troop of
French Hussars, who were bringing up the rear guard, came in sight.

Seeing the exhausted condition of both rider and horse, and learning
from St. Just that he was the bearer of important despatches from
Buonaparte to General Kleber at Alexandria, the officer in command of
the troop rendered the young aide-de-camp all the assistance in his
power and detailed two of his troopers to accompany him on his journey,
and to return with him to Buonaparte’s headquarters.

After a few hours’ rest and a supply of food and water, the young
officer and his horse were sufficiently restored to proceed upon their
way, and, on the fifth day after leaving General Buonaparte, he,
accompanied by the two hussars, entered Alexandria and delivered his
despatches to General Kleber.

Two days after, St. Just, with the two hussars for escort, left
Alexandria for the second time, bearing reply despatches from Kleber to
Buonaparte, and made his way as rapidly as he could to Damanhour, where
he expected to find the Commander-in-Chief.  This place he reached in
two days, but only to find that Buonaparte had gone forward towards
Cairo.  So St. Just had to follow.

It was reported by patrols that Mourad Bey, who had been recently
defeated at Chebreissa, had posted skirmishers on the route to Cairo, to
harass, even if they could not check, the French advance.

St. Just, therefore, asked for and obtained from the officer in command
at Damanhour, an escort of thirty-three men, in addition to the two he
already had, the troopers detailed for the purpose being selected from
the squadron that had succored him when in such distress on his way to
Alexandria.

Thus accompanied, he pushed on as fast as the horses could be made to
go; for this carrying of despatches long distances in such a country was
becoming irksome to him, and he longed to be fighting battles again, as
he had fought when a lieutenant in Italy under Augereau.

Early on the morning of the 21st, St. Just and his troopers came to a
village, where, they had been told by the French commandant at the last
post, they would find remounts.  Here reports reached them that
Buonaparte was heavily engaged at Embabe, the next village, hard by
those wondrous pyramids which had been built in the past ages of Egypt’s
glory.

At this news, they hurried forward; and soon could hear the distant
sounds of musketry and cannon borne from afar upon the still, clear air.
Both men and horses were excited by the noise and, though it was
necessary to husband the strength of their fresh mounts, for they might
have to take part in the action then proceeding, the men were bent upon
joining their comrades with all speed.

Their route lay a little to the left, the Nile being on their right;
but, judging from the firing that the French were occupying a portion of
the road to Gizeh, St. Just and his men rode to the right, so as to cut
off an angle.

It was now noon and the sun’s rays were beating down pitilessly upon
their heads when they came upon the first signs of the conflict.

They had drawn up their panting horses upon a little knoll to recover
their wind, before bearing their riders on to the battle field below;
and St. Just, on dismounting, had plenty of leisure to observe the
scene.  Ordering his hussars and their horses to lie down, that they
might be as little conspicuous as possible, St. Just crept forward and,
gaining a point of vantage, watched the movements of the combatants.
Thick clouds of smoke, through which at frequent intervals could be seen
streaks of flame, followed by the report of guns, hovered over the
Frenchmen on his left; while, on the right, gleaming in the sunlight,
were the tents of the Mameluke camp.  Beyond, rose the distant banks of
the Nile, and further away the huts of Boulac, a suburb of the city of
Cairo.  Dotted about the plain were swarms of Arab horsemen, their
bright mail sparkling.  A body of them were massing into formation in a
last attempt to break the French squares.

St. Just had seen enough.  It was plain to him that, so soon as the sun
should have declined, General Buonaparte, knowing that the horses of the
Mamelukes must be tired from their repeated charges, would launch his
cavalry against them in the hope of cutting in two the mass of horsemen.
Accordingly, he resolved to try to gain the French lines; but, to do so,
it would be necessary to cut their way through a body of the enemy who
were drawn up between them and their goal.  Creeping cautiously back to
his men, he gave the order to mount.  Then, having drawn them up four
deep in a square, he put himself at their head, and led them round the
further side of the knoll; then bade them charge the Mamelukes.  When
within forty yards of the opposing squadron, the hussars fired their
pistols, then, like a torrent, dashed upon their enemy. Now, though the
charge was a courageous act, it was also a very foolish one, for their
foes were quite a hundred strong, and considering that the hussars’
pistols had been fired at the gallop, certainly not more than twenty out
of the possible thirty-six shots could have killed a man apiece, and
probably not half that number.  For thirty-six men to attack nearly, if
not quite, a hundred, was a reckless act; but St. Just’s blood was up,
and so they charged.  He hardly knew what followed, except that there
was a general mêlée and clashing of weapons; then, somehow, he found
himself on the ground.  His next impression was that he was being pulled
to his feet, and that a French voice was saying in his ear, "Diable!
Monsieur, that was a fine charge; but I thought none of you would have
come out of it."

St. Just, whose head was still confused, stumbled up, and found himself
in the midst of a squadron of the Guards, and that the person who had
addressed him was the young lieutenant in whose company he had ridden on
his first journey across the desert.

"Ah, Garraud, my friend, we are quits now; I pulled you through last
time; your men have done the same for me on this occasion."

"It’s superb!"  The exclamation was drawn from both by the magnificently
reckless way their enemies were charging.  Men were falling in heaps
around them.  One man at their feet had just had his stomach ripped up
with a curved sword, and lay shrieking in his agony, while his
intestines gushed out upon the ground.  A stallion, badly hurt, was
biting and tearing the wounded men around him; while, across his body,
five of the barbarians were fighting tooth and nail within arm’s length
of the square.  Here again could be seen men hurling themselves and
their horses upon the French bayonets, dying agonizing deaths only too
gladly, if, for one instant, they could find themselves within the
square.

Meanwhile St. Just had not been idle.  A man was advancing from amidst
the host of warriors, apparently bearing a charmed life.  He was mounted
upon a splendid gray stallion, whose beauty aroused the envy, as much as
the superb horsemanship and courageous bearing of the rider excited the
admiration of St. Just.  The youthful warrior, having failed to break
the square, retired for a few yards, then coming on with a yell, he
leaped it and landed in the center.  But he paid for his rashness with
his life.  Almost before the horse’s feet had touched the ground, St.
Just had fired.  The next instant, he had mounted the Arab’s horse, and
shouting "Au revoir!  I am off to Buonaparte," in imitation of the late
owners tactics, he leaped out of the square.

A roar of despair and rage went up from the opposing Arabs, but almost
instantly it was drowned by a ringing cheer from the French.  St. Just
landed upon a group of horsemen who were being charged, at the same
instant, by Dessaix and his cavalry.

"El J: The fiend!" the Bedouins cried, at his sudden appearance in their
midst, smiting right and left, his horse almost as excited as himself.

Utterly demoralized, their superstition, for the moment, getting the
better of them, they could make no stand against the French, who rode
them down like sheep. Though falling by hundreds, the French cavalry
accomplished their mission and separated the two bodies of Mamelukes,
thus relieving the hard pressed guns.

And so the fight went on; frenzied now, on the Mamelukes’ part, for they
were fighting in despair.  Another hour and they were flying, leaving
Buonaparte master of the way to Cairo.

Meanwhile St. Just had ridden past the rear of the French army and was
making for the center, where he found Buonaparte sitting motionless on
his horse, watching the battle.  St. Just—both he and his horse begrimed
with dust—presented himself before the General, a little pale with
fatigue, and with a slight sword cut on his cheek, his head bare, and
his saber-tache riddled with bullets. But his eyes were sparkling with
success when he handed to Buonaparte his despatches.  "From General
Kleber, Sir, from Alexandria."

Buonaparte continued to fix his eyes upon the battle and made no attempt
to open the papers, holding them in one hand, while, with the other, he
placed a telescope to his eye. No one spoke, all intently watching the
man who, it was beginning to dawn on them, was no ordinary general.

At last he spoke.  Turning to an aide near him, he shut up his field
glass with a snap.  "Tell the right wing to charge."  Then, addressing
himself to the others, "Gentlemen, the battle is ended; we can march
upon Cairo to-morrow.  You, Sir," addressing St. Just, "I thank in the
name of France and of the Army."

And, even while he spoke, the sun hid itself below the horizon, and the
pall of coming night settled upon the field of blood and the
disheartened enemy now in full retreat.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*


Throughout the night of the 21st of July, the darkness was
intermittently illumined by the flashes of musketry which from time to
time resounded from the direction of the village of Gizeh, whither
Mourad Bey had retreated with the remainder of his Mamelukes—about two
thousand—leaving his infantry to their fate in the intrenched camp on
the bank of the Nile.  St. Just passed the night under the shadow of the
sphinx, having, like many others, no proper place of rest—for the army
was without tents—and too tired to think of anything but sleep.

Early on the following morning he received the order to mount and
proceed at the head of a squadron of Guides, about fifty strong, to help
the detachment which was pressing on towards Gizeh, and, if possible,
afterwards to advance to Cairo.  Accordingly, mounted on the gray
stallion which had stood him in such stead on the previous day, he
placed himself at the head of his squadron and set out at a smart trot
for Gizeh.  The infantry, who were attacking the place, and to whose aid
he had been sent, had found great difficulty in advancing, for the road
to Gizeh had been one of the hottest points in the battle of the
previous day.  At last, however, the outskirts of the village had been
reached, and here it was that St. Just and his Guides came up with them.
Mourad Bey made repeated dashes, hoping to lead to victory the
dispirited remnants of his followers; but it was not to be; St. Just and
his Guides hurled themselves through the sea of fire—the blazing
houses—that separated them from the enemy’s ranks.  Despite the clouds
of pungent smoke and the myriads of sparks that fell upon them, they
forced their way, supported by the infantry who had taken fresh heart at
their arrival, with such vigor that, after a short but sharp encounter,
they put the Mamelukes to rout.  That night General Buonaparte slept at
Gizeh in the Bey’s country house.

St. Just and his troopers, now reduced to thirty, followed in the Bey’s
track to the Nile bank, but were prevented from crossing the river by
the destruction of the bridge of boats that had led to the Mameluke
fleet.  Thus checked in his advance, he rested his men in a hut hard by
the river side, while he considered what course he should pursue.

Before he had come to a decision, he noticed a good deal of activity on
board the vessels in the river, and that, from some of them, smoke was
beginning to ascend.  Instantly he understood what was going on.  They
were firing them, to prevent their falling into the hands of the French.

Now St. Just concluded that, if the Egyptians thought the vessels worth
the burning, there must be valuable cargo on board, and that they were
worth the saving.  Forthwith he resolved to do his best with that
intent.

Leaving half his men and all the horses, posted at the hut, he marched
on foot with the remainder to the river. Several boats were moored along
the bank, and one of these they seized, and in it they rowed down the
river towards the burning dahabeahs, St. Just’s intention being to cut
some of them adrift, in the hope of afterwards capturing them.

But he had reckoned without his host, for the vessels had been too
successfully set alight.  There was a strong wind blowing, and the
flames and smoke were such that he could not get near enough to cast the
vessels from their moorings.  Again and again he and his brave men
renewed the attempt, but only to be as often driven back by the
scorching heat.  But, worse even than the flames, the enemy, who had
marked them while they were some distance from the vessels, poured in a
deadly fire of musketry. One by one his men kept dropping, and St. Just
soon saw that it was no longer a question of capturing the enemy’s
ships, but of saving their own lives.

Meanwhile the ships burned furiously, producing such a light that the
French troops at Gizeh could see dimly amid the crimson gleams the
distant minarets and gilded cupolas of Cairo.

St. Just gave orders to row back to their starting point, close to which
he had posted the remainder of his troop.

But soon he found that their retreat in that direction was cut off; for,
while he and his men had been busy trying to cut adrift the burning, as
well as the yet unlighted, dahabeahs, swarms of Arabs had put off in
boats and had collected in their rear.

To turn the boat’s head round and row towards Cairo seemed the only
thing to be done, and even the risk of this was terrible, their safety
depending upon General Buonaparte’s having captured the city.  His
fifteen men were now reduced to eight, seven having fallen beneath the
Mamelukes’ fusillade.  St. Just sat in the stern of the boat steering,
pondering meanwhile on the peril of their situation and their chances of
escape.  He knew that some of the French troops were already moving on
Cairo; and, from scraps of conversation picked up round the camp fires
on the previous night, he entertained little doubt that Buonaparte would
enter the city, either by storming it, or otherwise, at dawn on the
following day.

Now if he, St. Just, could get into Cairo, with his men, unseen, and
quietly take possession of some house, they would probably be able to
maintain themselves secure in it till General Buonaparte’s arrival.  And
this was what he set himself to do.  But how to do it was the
difficulty. The light from the conflagration on the river was so great
that, were they to attempt to land in their French uniforms, they would
be instantly discovered by the lawless and turbulent hordes scattered up
and down the river banks, plundering and fighting and murdering in all
directions, and would be quickly set upon, overcome and killed.

Their position was desperate, and desperate remedies were required; and
the plan St. Just evolved was desperate, and depended also on chance for
its accomplishment. Having explained it to his men, he ordered them to
lie up under the shadow of some vessels moored in mid-stream and as yet
untouched by the fire, just keeping the boat from drifting, and to wait
for the chance of capturing a passing boat with Arabs on board, his
intention being to massacre the crew for the sake of their clothes,
which his own men would then put on; then they were to watch their
opportunity to get ashore in the confusion that everywhere prevailed.

There is an old proverb to the effect that all things come to those who
wait, if they but wait long enough; and so it was in this case.  The men
were sitting listlessly, tired of their inactivity, when a sudden cry
brought them back to attention.  Bearing down upon them was a large boat
manned by about a dozen Arabs.  A shaft of light cast from some burning
wreckage floating by upon the encrimsoned waters in their direction, had
betrayed to the approaching boat that in one of their own craft were
some of the hated invaders.  It was their fierce cry that awakened St.
Just and his crew to a conviction of their danger.  Ping!  Ping! went
the bullets from the Arab matchlocks, and at the same moment St. Just
shouted, "Only two men row; the rest lie in the boat and fire at the
Arab rowers.  Take careful aim and don’t throw away a shot.  Your lives
depend upon it."

The men obeyed at once.  Crack, crack.  Two of the Frenchmen had fired,
and two of the Arabs threw up their arms and fell in a huddled heap at
the bottom of their dhow.  Almost immediately a wild volley was fired by
the Arabs, and one of the Frenchmen, whose head had been exposed to the
light, toppled over the side of the boat into the Nile, a bullet in his
brain; giving his comrades a brief view of his face, ere he sank beneath
the waters in the ruddy light.

St. Just’s measures were prompt and decisive, and his voice rang out
like a clarion on the night.  "A volley, all of you; then pick up your
oars and row for them as hard as you can go."

The order was as promptly obeyed.  The seven shots flew straight and,
before the Arabs could recover from the confusion they had occasioned,
the French picked up their oars, crashed into them and boarded them.  A
few moments later, there drifted down the Nile an empty boat; while,
pulling for the distant domes, which marked the city of Cairo, were
eight men dressed as Arabs and speaking French.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*


The flames from the burning vessels on the river wrapped the city of
Cairo in a lurid glow, and above it hovered a cloud of smoke, but which
the breeze that heralds the approach of dawn, was gradually, though
almost imperceptibly dispersing.  The air was rent with cries and groans
and yells.  The thoroughfares were thronged with the panic-stricken
citizens.  Some, laden with goods, were fleeing with their families into
the desert towards Philiae; others, their clothes torn and
blood-stained, their muskets still in their hands, their dress
proclaiming them to be soldiers who, routed in that day’s fight, had
fled for refuge to the city, were occupying themselves with pillaging
the houses of the merchants.

In marked contrast to the general glare and din, one little narrow side
street near the citadel remained wrapped in gloom and silence.  Running
parallel to the river, as it did, the houses on its river side shut out
the light of the conflagration and only a faint reflection was visible
overhead.

Hugging the walls of the houses on one side of this court—for it scarce
merited the name of street, so narrow was it—St. Just and his followers,
enveloped in "haic" and "burnous," crept stealthily and silently along.
No one was about, nor was a light to be seen in any of the houses.

So far their venture had been successful; aided by the semi-darkness and
the confusion that was prevailing in the busier parts of the city, where
the crowd had drawn together, St. Just had managed to run his boat
ashore on an unfrequented spot and to land unnoticed.  Then separating,
the better to escape observation, but still keeping close enough
together for mutual help, should they be attacked, they had made their
way towards the citadel and had joined a mob that was pouring into its
gates. At that point, however, St. Just had turned aside to investigate
the little street which seemed deserted.

He and his men had almost reached the top, when, suddenly, a piercing
shriek rang out upon the stillness of the night.  It came from a house
St. Just was passing. He halted instantly; then, in the shrill and
fearsome tones of a woman, came some words in Arabic.  Now, during the
few weeks the young officer had been in Egypt he had, in his journeyings
with despatches, contrived to pick up a few words of Arabic; and the
knowledge thus acquired now stood him in good stead.  Thus he could
translate the woman’s cry, "Let me go; Yusuf, let me go!"

What Frenchman could listen unmoved to such a call for help?  Certainly
not St. Just.  In a whisper, he told the man next to him to close up and
pass the same order on from each man to the one behind him.  Then he
cast his eyes up and down the house; it was a tall stone building and
white-washed, and was windowless, save that high up from the ground were
a few square holes protected by bars of iron.  A strong iron-studded
door, set deep in a stone archway, formed the entrance to this house.

Earnestly as St. Just desired to go to the rescue of the shrieking
woman, the door was too strong to be forced, except after continued and
strenuous efforts, and there was no other possible entrance from the
front.  He was debating whether to try to make his way round to the back
of the house, in the hope of there finding a means of getting in, when,
all at once, the heavy door swung open, and a swarthy Arab came out,
bearing on his shoulders a woman, who was either dead or senseless, for
she made no movement.  With the opening of the door, the light from
within fell upon St. Just and those behind him, disclosing to the man’s
astonished eyes that they were not Arabs, but Frenchmen.  St. Just made
a forward movement; the Arab hesitated for a moment, then dropped his
burden and turned and fled into the house again.

St. Just’s action was speedy.  Fate seemed to be playing into his hands.
Here was a house that might serve them for a refuge and that, to all
appearance, could be defended for some hours, at any rate, by the small
body of men he had at his disposal.  At once he decided to take
possession of it.  Turning to the two nearest men, he said, "Pick up the
woman, and take her inside."  Then to the others, "Follow me, then close
the door and make it fast."

His orders were promptly carried out.  Then the party—two of them
bearing the still unconscious woman—traversed the length of a narrow
passage lighted by a small brass lamp that hung from the ceiling.  At
the end of this they found themselves in an open court, in the center of
which a marble fountain was playing, the water falling into the basin
with the sound of gentle rain, and moistening the air with its tumid
spray.

At the further side of the courtyard was a colonnade, and above it were
the latticed windows of the women’s apartments, now open.  But no dusky
beauties peeped from them, nor was there any sign or sound of life; the
whole place was silent as the grave.

Leaving one man as a sentry in the corridor, and despatching four to
make a thorough search of the premises, St. Just told the two who were
carrying the woman, to lay her down on a marble seat under the
colonnade. This done, he set himself to restore her, if so be that she
still lived.  There were signs that she had struggled with her abductor,
for, half way across the courtyard, they found a richly embroidered
shawl and a jeweled dagger.  A short examination showed St. Just that
the woman breathed, and he could find no marks of injury about her. He
sprinkled water on her face and fanned her and rubbed her hands; but,
despite all his efforts to revive her, she remained insensible.

St. Just was still thus occupied, when the four men he had sent on a
tour of inspection through the house, returned, each carrying a lighted
lantern, to report that they had found not a soul about the place,
though, from the appearance of the rooms, it was plain that the inmates
had but recently vacated them.

While receiving his men’s report, St. Just had temporarily stayed his
efforts to revive the fainting woman, and had faced the troopers.  Now
he looked to her again. The men had turned their lanterns on her; her
headgear had fallen to the ground, disclosing to the young officer’s
astonished gaze a face of such rare beauty as he had not even dreamed
of.  She was quite young and, for an Eastern woman, singularly fair; she
had hair of a golden brown and dark blue eyes, and a mouth about which
now lurked as sweet a smile as ever brightened woman’s face.

For the light shining in her eyes had completed her awakening, and, at
the moment when St. Just became conscious of her surpassing loveliness,
she was gazing in bewilderment upon the group around her.  In a few
seconds, she recognized them as the invaders of her country, and, at the
same time, remembered what had led to her unconsciousness.

Then, to the astonishment of her hearers, she thus addressed them,
speaking in excellent French and a clear, musical voice.

"Messieurs, the fortune of war has thrown into your hands a woman who
has some claim to call herself a French woman.  My mother was captured
by a slaver when traveling from France at the time of the death of Louis
Quinze, whose soul may God preserve.  All my life have I spoken your
tongue, and, because of the French blood in me, I have cursed the
slavery in which, in this country, we women are held.

"I thank you for your timely help.  You have saved me from a fate worse
than death.

"And now I will order the slaves to bring you some refreshment."

And, rising with difficulty, though not without grace and dignity,
despite her stiffness and the novelty of her position, she made as
though to walk to the colonnade.

"Mademoiselle!"

She stopped and faced the speaker, fixing her eyes intently upon his
face.  St. Just bowed low before her. She might have been an Empress;
but his respect was a tribute only to her beauty.

"Mademoiselle," he repeated, "I regret to inform you that I have just
learned that, save yourself and us, there is no one in the house."

"Is that indeed so?" she answered, bowing on her part. "Then I pray you
order your men to forage for themselves. If you care to accompany me, I
will show you where the stores are."

He turned to the men and said, "Hunt about, lads, and eat what you can;
for, if that black rascal returns with any more of his friends, we shall
have to stand a siege and fight for our skins, and" (after a pause) "the
lady’s."

With this the men dispersed, some in search of food and others to
perform allotted duties.

An hour later, St. Just, who had busied himself in the interval in
putting the house into a fair condition of defence, ascended, with
beating heart, a staircase, at the top of which was a doorway screened
by heavy blue curtains, that formed a glaring contrast to the bright red
stair carpets.  Bold soldier as he was, it was with a timid air that he
pushed aside the curtains and found himself where, till now, no man,
save the master of the house, had been permitted to set foot; in the
women’s apartments.  It was a long, narrow room, but so gracefully and
skillfully decorated that its narrowness was not at first apparent.  The
air was heavy with some Eastern perfume, that caused the feeling of
oppression, for the lattices overlooking the courtyard that had been
closed over night had not yet been opened, despite the fact that the sun
was beginning to show its power.

St. Just looked round the room for signs of the girl he had rescued not
two hours before; his eyes did not roam far before they lighted on her;
she was reclining upon a pile of cushions, on a divan, one arm under her
head, the other, bare to the shoulder and exquisitely molded, lying on
her side, but bent slightly forward, so that her fingers just touched
the floor.  She was sleeping, her whole pose betokening the abandon of
fatigue.  Noiselessly St. Just moved to her side, and gazed enraptured
on the vision of loveliness beneath him.  Through the gauzy drapery, he
could see her swelling bosom rise and fall in gentle undulations; he
noted the faint flush, induced by sleep, upon her cheek, the ruddy lips
slightly parted in a smile and showing just a hint of the gleaming teeth
within, the delicately chiselled nose, the broad smooth brow, the
exquisite oval of her face; and, at the sight of all her charms, he felt
his manhood stir within him.

Then, as sleepers generally do when one is near to them, she became
conscious that she was not alone, and the dark blue orbs unclosed.  She
started, and a look of fear came over her at finding herself in the
presence of a man; but, the next instant, she recognized him and,
remembering what had passed, she smiled.

St. Just, too, smiled, and at the same time registered a mental vow to
save her from the usual fate of young and handsome women in a captured
city.

Then she sat up and laughingly addressed him in French, as heretofore.
"Fancy your finding me asleep like this. I feel quite ashamed.  And with
my face uncovered.  And do you know, Sir, that no man but my father ever
sets foot in the apartments.  They are sacred to the women."

"I fear, Madame," replied St. Just, "that, in a state of warfare,
nothing is sacred to a Frenchman.  But I came here to help you; and this
must be my excuse.  Soon my countrymen will be in possession of the
city, and you will need protection.  But I will see to it that no harm
shall come to you."

"I am sure of that," she answered, beaming on him with admiration.  He
was the handsomest man she had ever seen.  "But come and breakfast with
me," she went on, and she motioned to him to seat himself beside her on
the divan.

St. Just needed no second invitation, but quickly did as he was bidden.
Then he noticed that, on a small table close at hand, there was laid out
a dainty refreshment in the shape of coffee and Arab cakes and fruit.

"Are you a conjurer?" he asked in surprise, when she had filled a cup
and passed it to him.  He did not understand how the repast had been
prepared, all the servants having fled.

She laughed a merry laugh.  "I made the coffee myself a short time ago,"
she said, "and then I must have dropped asleep.  The fruit and biscuits
were already in the room."

"But you had no stove," St. Just objected.

"There is a brazier in the corner.  See?  And the saucepan was put ready
for this morning by the slave last night, who was not able to forget the
habits of a lifetime even when overcome by terror.  Though, till my
father returned from Gizeh late last night and told us how the battle
had gone, we had no cause for fear."

"But how comes it that I find you here alone?"

"My father returned only for more slaves, and left immediately, when he
had collected them.  He promised to come back for me, or send Yusuf.
Yusuf came indeed—he was the man you saw carrying me—but I would that he
had stayed away, for he frightened and insulted me. He said that all law
and order were at an end; that the French would soon be here, and that
he loved me and was determined that I should be his; by force, if needs
be. With that he advanced and would have embraced me.  I screamed and
fled from him; but he soon caught me and was carrying me away, when I
fainted.  I know no more; you know what followed."

"I do indeed," said St. Just gravely.  "God be thanked that I came up
when I did.  I shudder to think what otherwise might have been your
fate."

"It would have been death," she said; "for I never could have survived
the ignominy of having been embraced by Yusuf.  I should have slain
myself at the first opportunity. Thus you have saved my life, my brave
deliverer."

She turned her lovely eyes on him—eyes which beamed forth not only
gratitude, but the dawn of love.

"You overwhelm me, when you talk like that," replied St. Just.  "Any of
my countrymen would have acted as I did.  But tell me.  You said but
now, that your mother was a French woman; may I know her name?"

"Certainly; it was de Moncourt."

"What, of Moncourt in Brittany?"

"Yes."

"Indeed! then I have little doubt I have the honor to greet a cousin.  I
am a St. Just, also of Brittany."

"Truly?  How delightful!"

"By what name did your mother call you?"

"Alas! it is an Arab one; I am called Halima."

Hardly had the words escaped her lips, when the sound of two shots
following rapidly upon each other reached their ears.  Both started to
their feet.

"Yusuf!" she cried in terror.

And he, "Oh for arms and ammunition.  We have but our pistols and a few
rounds."

"Do you want guns?" asked Halima.  "It so, there are matchlocks in the
house; and gunpowder, too.  Come with me and I will show you where they
are."

St. Just shouted to one of his men; and Halima led them up a passage,
halting at the end of it, before what seemed merely a wall panel.  But
she touched a knob that formed a portion of the Arabesque that decorated
it; and, at the same time, pushed the panel.  It opened on hinges, like
an ordinary door, disclosing a room in which were arms of all sorts, the
whole more or less old fashioned, and useless against disciplined
troops, but that might be efficacious against a Cairo mob.  At any rate,
the matchlocks would make a noise, and firing blank cartridges often
answers with a crowd.  So St. Just and his trooper picked up a dozen of
the firearms and as much ammunition as they could carry, the young girl
helping them; then they rejoined the other men, who were gathered in the
courtyard at the foot of the staircase that led to the women’s
apartments.

Quickly the matchlocks were distributed and loaded. But, before St. Just
had decided how to post his men, a loud hammering at the entrance and
the trampling of many feet and the sound of voices were heard.  One
louder than the rest shouted out in Arabic, "Open, open, ye dogs of
Christians."

Then Halima trembled and panted in faltering tones, "It is Yusuf.  Oh!
save me from him.  Kill me rather than let me fall into his hands."

And St. Just answered.  "Trust me, Yusuf shall not have you, while I
live.  Keep close behind me."  Then he called out to his men, "All
follow me up the staircase!" and he led the way with Halima.  Then he
posted four men at the top of the staircase, two in front who were to
lie down, and two behind, to stand up or kneel as occasion served.  The
staircase was not broad enough to allow more than two persons to ascend
abreast; there was a fair prospect, therefore, that the four men could
defend it.

These men placed, St. Just, with Halima and his three remaining
troopers, betook themselves to a room with windows or embrasures that
commanded the courtyard approach to the foot of the staircase.  At these
embrasures they took their stand, and awaited, stern and indomitable,
the imminent attack.

Meanwhile the din without increased; the shouts and yells and menaces
against the hated foreigners grew louder; the blows thundered upon the
iron-studded door faster and harder.  No door could long withstand such
violence, and every moment St. Just felt that it must give way.  At
last, with a loud crash, it fell, and the crowd of Arabs came pouring
into the courtyard.

"Aim low and fire," came the order from St. Just.  He fired himself, and
the three troopers did the same.  Two men in the crowd dropped, and,
with a howl of rage, the rest dashed across the yard and made for the
staircase. When the first of them came in sight, the four men at the top
fired, and several of the attacking party fell.

"Load and fire as fast as you can," said St. Just to the men in the
room; "and show as little as possible of your bodies."

Before the beginning of the fight the French troopers had thrown aside
their Arab draperies, finding they impeded their movements; so that, if
ever their assailants had had any doubt about their nationality, it was
now removed.

Both the men on the stairs and those in the room were now using their
guns with fatal effect upon the densely packed crowd below, and many a
bullet found its billet. But the besieged were not having it wholly
their own way, for, though the attacking party recoiled time after time
before the deadly fire at close quarters, they continually again pressed
forward.  They, also, were not without firearms, which they were using
to some purpose, for every now and then a bullet crashed into the room
and buried itself either in the wall, or in some article of furniture.
Presently one of St. Just’s men gave a cry and dropped, badly wounded.
But there was no time to attend to him.  All that happened was that
Halima stepped forward and took his weapon and his place, loading and
firing like the others.

Meanwhile the men at the head of the staircase were faring badly.
Already two of them had been rendered hors de combat; and St. Just,
rushing out of the room to learn how matters were progressing, arrived
just in time to see a third man fall with a thud at his feet, stone
dead.

There was a loud yell, then a rush up the staircase, and, the next
moment, St. Just and the trooper at his side found themselves hacking
and hewing and stabbing at the sea of swarthy faces in front of them.
But they made no impression on the crowd, spite of those who kept
falling beneath their blows.  On and on the rabble came, pressed
forwards by them who were behind.  Then St. Just shouted out for those
who were in the room to come to his help; but his words were lost in the
din of the yelling Arabs. Fighting and retiring inch by inch, he, and
the brave fellow at his side gradually regained the room in which were
Halima and the others.  The place was filled with smoke and sulphurous
fumes, and almost stifling, and the many bullets that had entered it had
made havoc of the furniture and woodwork.

The moment St. Just regained the room, his eyes sought Halima.  She was
standing at the window firing at the surging mass below.  Calling to the
two men with her to take his place and hold back the crowd so long as
they were able, he ran swiftly to the girl.  Each looked in the other’s
face, and both knew that their efforts to drive back the crowd were
vain.  Unless there was some way of escape, their doom was sealed.  From
the look of stern resolve she wore, and the way she clutched the dagger
in her hand, St. Just knew that she would keep her word, and that, in
securing her, the victors would capture but a corpse.

Meanwhile the three men at the door were fighting hard; but what could
three men do, opposed by forty?  With aching arms and parched mouths,
and panting breasts, they slashed and stabbed, and parried, retiring
step by step, the savage Arabs ever pressing forward, and by sheer
weight forcing the three men back upon St. Just, who now once more
joined in the fray.

A moment more, and the soldier on his right fell to the ground with a
spear point through his heart.  Instantly St. Just brought down his
sword upon the spearman’s head, and the Arab joined the Frenchman he had
slain.

Enraged at seeing their comrade fall, and thirsting for revenge, St.
Just’s two last men hurled themselves upon the mob, and, for a moment,
made it waver.

Then, feeling that their final moment had arrived, St. Just placed
himself before the girl, prepared for the last deadly rush that would
end the life of both.  But, for all that he knew that resistance would
avail them nothing, that their case was hopeless, so strongly implanted
in the human heart is the love of life, that he did not stand passively
awaiting death, but savagely fought on, desperation urging him to
superhuman efforts in one last supreme struggle for life.

Then, just when he had received a spear thrust through the left arm and
all seemed lost, suddenly, with the swiftness of a flash of lightning,
despair gave way to hope.  A measured tramp was heard along the narrow
street; then the inspiring sound of a French bugle call.  Help was at
hand, if he could but hold out a few moments longer!  The knowledge lent
him strength and inspired him to fresh efforts. Once more he threw
himself upon his foes.  But his ardor this time was scarcely needed, for
the Arabs also had heard the sounds, and knew what they portended.
Their enemy would soon be upon them.  They wavered, then fell back
before his whirling sword; the next moment they had turned and were
rushing pell mell out of the room and down the staircase, tumbling over
each other in their hurry.

But, warned by the approaching march of men, instead of making for the
main entrance, on reaching the foot of the staircase, they wheeled right
and left and made their escape by doors and windows at the back.

During this stampede, the Arab girl had not been idle. She, too, had
heard the marching and the bugle, and knew that, if she could but gain
the French, her life and honor were secure.  She saw that the courtyard
was deserted—for all the Arabs, who were not in the room, were crowded
on or about the staircase—also that the main entrance to the house was
clear.

In a moment her resolve was taken, and, while St. Just was still
brandishing his sword to keep his foes at bay, she made her way
carefully through the window, and lowered herself on to a protruding
gargoyle, about four feet below and somewhat to the side of it.
Steadying herself for a moment, she stooped, or, rather, squatted down,
until she touched the gargoyle.  From this point to the top of the
colonnade was scarcely ten feet.  Clinging firmly to the gargoyle, she
let her body down, until it swung at full length from her hold.  Then
she dropped.  The fall shook her somewhat, but, almost immediately, she
recovered herself and ran along the colonnade, until she gained a water
pipe. To slide down this and reach the ground in safety was but a
second’s work.  Then, like a young antelope, she sped across the
courtyard, and over the large studded door, which had been torn from its
hinges and lay athwart her path: and out into the narrow street.

Onward she rushed with the cry, "A moi! à moi! mes enfants!  Au secours;
pour la France!"  Nor did she pause until she found herself panting and
breathless in the arms of a French officer.  But, withdrawing herself
immediately, she hurriedly explained St. Just’s great peril.

At this, scarcely waiting for orders, the soldiers rushed past her
through the house and across the courtyard.  There they found St. Just
covered with blood and black with powder, but, save for the spear thrust
through his arm, and sundry bruises, not much the worse for what he had
undergone.  But he was panting for breath, and resting on his sword, and
could not speak.  With a cheer, the soldiers ran to him, and, two of
them supporting him, one on each side, they got him down the staircase,
then carried him across the quadrangle, and set him down before the
officer in command of the detachment, which General Buonaparte had that
moment joined.

To account for the arrival of his fellow soldiers, so opportunely for
St. Just, it needs but to be stated that Buonaparte had made his attack
at dawn upon the city, as he had intended.  The sheiks had made but a
poor defence of the Citadel and had quickly agreed to its surrender.
The troops were on their way to take possession of it, when the Arab
girl ran out and told what was occurring in the house.

So soon as he had breath enough, St. Just gave his account of all that
had occurred from the time of his pursuit of Mourad Bey.  Buonaparte’s
dark eyes flashed unpleasantly, at times, but he spoke no word until the
young officer had concluded his report; then he turned to a man at his
side, over whose head the knife of the assassin was already hovering,
and in a few weeks would fatally descend; and said something in an
undertone.  General Kleber, for it was he, replied inaudibly to those
about them, and shook his head.

Then Buonaparte addressed St. Just and, pinching his ear, he said, "Be
careful, be careful.  France is watching you, and has need of you."

The words seemed cold and formal—almost stern; but coming from this
little man with the piercing eyes, to the young officer, they sounded
like unmerited praise.

Continuing, Buonaparte turned to a captain and said,

"Guard the house and look well to the lady also."  The next instant he
rode away, followed by all, but a captain’s guard, to receive the homage
due to a conqueror.

Then St. Just fell fainting to the ground and was carried into the house
in which he had so bravely fought, and where he was to lie upon a bed of
sickness and be tended by a beautiful woman who was already more than
half in love with him.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*


For three weeks St. Just lay in bed in the house of Halima’s father, for
the greater part of the time unconscious; for—what with his wound and
bruises, the excitement he had undergone and the great heat—on the day
after the attack on the house, he fell into a raging fever.  Once
General Buonaparte came to see him, but the young officer did not know
him.

During all this time Halima helped to nurse him, and, so true is it that
we acquire affection for the objects of our care, each day she felt
herself more drawn towards him.

At last his mind came back to him, and he began to gain strength fast;
so much so, that he realized, with great dejection, that, in a few days,
he would have to return to his duties, and bid farewell to the Arab girl
who had wound herself about his heart.  Now, in the game of love there
is often much finesse and subterfuge.  He would have given anything, to
know Halima’s sentiments towards himself, but it so happened, that in
proportion as St. Just gained consciousness and strength, so did she
withdraw herself from his society, until at last she would spend but a
few minutes of each day in his company, and then only in the presence of
another person.  Had he known how assiduously she had attended him
during his term of insensibility, his mind would have been at rest, for
the knowledge would have given him the information he desired, and he
would have declared the love that was consuming him.  As it was, fearing
to offend her by his precipitancy, he said nothing, when he left her,
except to thank her for the shelter and attention she had given him.

Halima blushed and hung her head, and, though longing for him to take
her in his arms, with her Eastern bringing up, was too shy to give him
an inkling of her feelings; and so they parted, each outwardly calm, but
with a devouring flame within.

His duties, when he returned to them, he found irksome, for thought of
her, though they were really light—nothing beyond an hour’s drill daily
with his regiment.

In this way two months passed, but more stirring times were coming; this
was the calm that heralded the storm. The conquered citizens of Cairo,
though, to all appearance, acquiescing with cheerfulness and content in
the new order of things, were in reality planning a revolt, and the
knowledge of it was brought to St. Just’s ears in this way.

At five o’clock in the morning of the 21st of October, his servant
aroused him to say that a messenger from the "Lady Halima" wished to see
him.  St. Just dressed with all speed, and Halima’s messenger was
introduced.  He was the bearer of a letter from her to say that she was
assured on authority, on which she could implicitly rely, that the
citizens had for some time been quietly arming themselves, and that they
were at that very moment silently massing themselves throughout the
city, and would, at a certain signal, rise simultaneously in the
different quarters, and massacre the French.

This news was as startling as it was alarming, and St. Just instantly
had the reveille sounded and ordered his squadron to horse; then hurried
towards the citadel.  But, meantime, the insurrection had begun, and
General Buonaparte, at the first alarm, had also galloped thither,
attended by three Guides.  But he was ahead of the young officer, so
that when, a few minutes later, the latter came on the scene, he found
Buonaparte surrounded by a mob of Arabs, his escort killed, his horse
shot under him, and himself in imminent peril of his life.

Just in the nick of time St. Just and his troop dashed forward, and by
the impetuosity of their onslaught, broke through the crowd, forced them
back, and soon cleared a space around their General.  But the Arabs were
only checked, not broken, and, seeing the small number of their
assailants, they prepared to renew the attack; and, had their courage
but equalled their numerical advantage, they must have annihilated the
Frenchmen.

From the French point of view, discretion was the better part of valor,
and St. Just saw the means of putting that better part into execution;
for it so happened that, once more, he was close to the Lady Halima’s
abode.  To suggest to Buonaparte that they should take refuge there, to
mount the General on one of his trooper’s horses, and to gallop at full
speed through the gateway of the house was the work but of a few
seconds.  Before the astonished Arabs had divined their object, the
whole squadron had passed through, and the entrance to the courtyard had
been barred.

St. Just’s heart beat high at the thought that, for the second time, it
seemed likely he would have to defend the house of his lady love; but,
on this occasion, with the added responsibility for the safety of his
Commander’s person.

To set against this, however, were the circumstances that they were in
sufficient numbers (fifty) to hold the place, with the protection of the
walls afforded, for a considerable time, and were well-armed; not, as on
the previous occasion, with obsolete and rusty weapons.

But, fortunately, the valor and endurance of the party were not put to
the test; for the arrangements for defence had scarcely been completed,
when the march of infantry was heard approaching at the double.  A
French regiment was passing the end of the narrow street on its way to
the citadel, news having been received that most of the rioters were
assembled there.

At the sound of their footsteps, some of St. Just’s troopers leaned out
of the windows and shouted for help.  At once the men were halted, then
wheeled round and up the street.  The effect was magical! with shouts
and cries of terror, the crowd of Arabs assembled before the Lady
Halima’s house, without making the slightest show of fight, took to
their heels and ran helter-skelter up the street and out at the end,
some of the French soldiers chasing them to that point.  Then the door
of the house was opened, and one of the troopers informed the commanding
officer the meaning of their presence there, and that General Buonaparte
was with them.  At this unlooked for news, the officer said he would see
the General and take his orders.

Now, though when the attack was made on him, Buonaparte was on his way
to the citadel, at the sight of the Lady Halima he—always an admirer of
the other sex—was so captivated by her beauty, that he gladly accepted
her invitation to remain for breakfast.  So, when the Colonel of the
infantry regiment was introduced to him, instead of taking advantage of
his escort to continue his journey to the citadel, he contented himself
with giving the officer certain orders, among which was that he was to
keep open communications between the house in which they were, and the
citadel; and to let him know if his presence should be urgently
required.  Failing any such message, he, Buonaparte, would be at the
citadel in two hours time.

Then he dismissed the Colonel and he and St. Just sat down to breakfast
with the Lady Halima in the women’s apartment.  It brought to St. Just
the remembrance of that first repast he had taken with her in that very
room, nearly three months before, and in somewhat similar circumstances.
Now, as then, there were sounds of firing in the distance, and the tramp
of feet and the rattle of arms awoke the echoes of the court-yard below.
But in the room itself how different was the state of things.  She had
been his sole companion on that memorable morning, and he had been the
object of her assiduous courtesy; now, in the presence of this
all-conquering young General, he was a sort of "quantité négligeable."
As before, the sun-light fell with full effect upon her lovely face, now
filled with animation, her eyes sparkling with delight, the while she
gayly chatted with the "man of destiny" who was seated upon the divan
facing her.  Buonaparte, for once, had cast off the iron mask of
coldness and impenetrability he usually wore, and was basking in the
sunshine of her smiles.  For the time the cares of his position had been
thrust aside, and, as he himself expressed it, he was amusing himself
while Cairo was in revolt, like Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

His chatter was not, however, altogether frivolous; occasionally he
would be serious.  For instance, speaking of the city and his plans he
said, "I must confess that to-day’s disturbance has surprised me.  And I
had thought the future would be so easy.  Alas! which one of us knows
the future?"

The girl, who had been listening intently, here interrupted with a
laugh.  "You would know your future?  That is told easily enough.
Remember I have been brought up in the East and have been taught to
forecast events by people who have forgotten more than you of the West
have ever heard of.  I could convince you."

So saying, she clapped her hands and, before Buonaparte could object, if
indeed he had wished to do so, had said something to her slave in
Arabic, that resulted in the removal of the breakfast table and the
production of a large earthenware bowl filled apparently with water, for
she invited both men to taste it.  One thing they noticed, and it was
this; that, though the bowl was shallow and the sunlight shone around on
the table on which it stood, it did not seem to shine upon the water,
which looked black as ink.

Presently from a flask, she took from a corner cabinet the girl let fall
a drop of liquid into the bowl; then, bending over, she gazed into it in
silence, and both her companions did the same.  Now, whether the act of
fixing their eyes intently on the bowl, in a measure hypnotized them, so
that their brains became enslaved by her suggestions, it is not for the
present chronicler to say; but, in a few seconds, pictures seemed to
form themselves on the surface of the inky looking liquid in the bowl.
At first the images presented appeared blurred and misty; but,
gradually, they took definite shapes.  In the first picture Buonaparte
was seated on a throne and on his head was a golden crown, and Josephine
his wife was by his side, she also crowned. Gradually the figures faded
and disappeared.  Next St. Just saw himself on a prison floor chained to
the wall and with the visage of a madman.  In the next tableau there
were many figures dressed in generals’ uniforms, and Buonaparte in their
midst.  It was night and they were seated round a camp fire; from the
expression on the faces of all, very serious matters were engaging their
attention; and scattered around were dead and wounded men and horses and
broken weapons and accoutrements.  This scene also passed away.  In that
which followed Buonaparte and St. Just were driving in a sleigh, and in
front of them was a woman beckoning to them.  Her face was unknown to
both; upon her head was the crown that Buonaparte’s wife had worn in the
first picture; and, wherever she pointed was desolation, the desolation
that comes to a country over which an invading army has passed; and
across the picture was written "France."  The next tableau was a battle
field.  On a mound, surrounded by generals, but slightly in advance of
them, and mounted on a white horse, was Buonaparte, but looking older
and stouter.  A short distance from him, soldiers were massed about a
large farmhouse, which they were attacking, and which was being defended
by other soldiers within.  The scene changed; troops were flying in all
directions—the French—the figure of Buonaparte among them.  Yet one more
scene; a lonely rock-bound islet in a boundless sea.  The moon and stars
overhead showed that it was night.  On a narrow bed in a plainly
furnished room lay Buonaparte; and at the door there stood a soldier in
a uniform that was not that of France.  ’Twas plain his duty was to
guard a captive!  This vision, like those which had preceded it,
vanished, and the liquid mirror in the bowl revealed no further
pictures.

St. Just raised his head from the bowl and encountered the troubled gaze
of Buonaparte; while, seated hard by on a divan, was the girl.  There
was silence for a space.  It was Halima who broke it.

"Have you seen enough, Sir?" she said, turning to the General.  "Or
would you see more?"

Buonaparte’s answer was to overturn the table; the bowl fell and was
smashed into a thousand pieces on the floor.  Then a sudden light leapt
into those awful eyes, and he broke forth into a torrent of reproach.
"Why did you bring me here?" he asked angrily, turning to St. Just.  "Am
I to be insulted, fooled by such mummeries as these?  As for you, girl,
did I but know your father, I would send you to him dead."  And he
hissed out the last words, his face white with passion.

And St. Just, who loved the girl and was rightly counted brave, and
would have struck to the earth any other man who had so spoken, was so
dominated by the glance of this little man, whom physically he could
easily have crushed the life out of; that he sat unmoved and
tongue-tied.

Not so the girl; with face aflame and flashing eyes, she sprang to her
feet and faced the conqueror; then thus she spoke, "My father the Sheik
Ibrahim of the tribe of Auim (faithful) has with him many warriors who
would avenge my death by killing you."

Buonaparte made no reply to her, but addressed himself to the young
officer.  "Captain," he said, "Assemble your troop and attend me to the
Citadel.  We have dallied here too long."  Then, turning to the Lady
Halima, "I thank you, madame, for your hospitality and the timely
shelter of your house.  Adieu.  I doubt not we shall meet again."  He
bowed to her and strode quickly from the room.  She made no answer, but
merely inclined her head.  But to St. Just, who followed Buonaparte, she
nodded smilingly, and, just when he was passing through the doorway, the
words were wafted to him, "You will come to see me soon, my Captain."

On their way to the Citadel and the moment they were out of hearing,
Buonaparte made reference to the Arab girl’s remark.  "You heard what
she said about her father," he said, "and the men under his command.  He
will be useful to me; he must be gained somehow.  I shall send you to
him."  Then he relapsed into silence, and no further word was uttered
till they reached the Citadel.

Here they found all quiet; the incipient insurrection had been quelled
before it had attained dangerous dimensions.

The news of the attempt on Buonaparte’s life had reached the French,
and, when he made his appearance, loud huzzahs were raised, and many of
his officers pressed forward to congratulate him on his escape.  Among
these were Kleber, and Buonaparte’s secretary, Bourrienne.  Him the
General hailed.

"Ah!  Bourrienne!" he cried; "the very man I want.  Get writing
materials, and pen me what I shall dictate."

The letter presently dictated was addressed to the Sheik Ibrahim,
Halima’s father, urging him to join forces with the French and, while
pointing out the hopelessness of opposition, and the certainty of the
eventual victory of the invaders, promising him great rewards for his
assistance.

The letter was dictated in the hearing of St. Just, for Buonaparte
wished him to know its contents.  When it was finished, he turned to the
young man and handed it to him with the words, "You will take a squadron
of men and go to this Ibrahim with this letter, and use your best
endeavors to induce him to adopt my views.  I have heard of this man; he
is a powerful chief.  I think you will either fall in with him, or gain
news of him in the neighborhood of the third cataract, near Abu Klea.
But his daughter can inform you."

"How soon do I start, General?" asked St. Just, in a tone that was none
of the liveliest.  He had had his fill of desert rides, and looked
forward to the coming expedition with anything but pleasure.

"To-morrow at day-break," was the General’s reply. "Meanwhile your time
is at your own disposal."  Then, turning to Kleber, who was standing by,
"General, give Captain St. Just a squadron of Arabs you can trust, and
an interpreter for service in the desert, in case this sheik should not
know French."

"I will see to it, Sir," was Kleber’s answer.  "The men shall be in
readiness at day-break."

Then, with a nod, Buonaparte dismissed St. Just.

Much as he disliked the prospect of the mission that had been confided
to him, there was a temporary solace in the excuse it gave him for once
more calling on Halima; and not more than two hours after he and General
Buonaparte had left her, she was astonished to receive the announcement
of his return.

She advanced smilingly to meet him, but with a look of inquiry on her
face.  "I am delighted to see you again so soon, Captain St. Just, but I
am not so vain as to attribute your call to my attractions, or even to
your courtesy.  Besides, I see trouble in your face.  Are you the bearer
of bad news?"

Then St. Just told her of his coming journey, and how loath he was to
leave Cairo, where she was, and to face the hardships of the desert, of
which he had already had so painful an experience.

When she learned his destination, she told him she would write a letter
to her father, if he would bear it to him; and, there and then, she sat
down and wrote it, inscribing it with her father’s name and present
resting-place, so far as she believed.  Handing it to the young
Frenchman, she said, "I have told my father all that you have done for
me, and I have prayed him to protect you and put you on your way.  Also
I have told him of Yusuf’s treachery towards a daughter of the house of
"Auim."  She drew herself up proudly when she mentioned her tribe’s
name. "He will punish Yusuf either with banishment for ever from the
tribe, or with death."

St. Just took the letter from her, but his hand trembled with
excitement, and he could scarce find words in which to thank her, for
stress of the passion that was surging like a torrent in his breast.  He
tried to stem it, but it would not be confined, and at last broke forth.

"Oh, Halima!" he cried.  "It is not the perils of the desert that alarm
me; what cuts me to the heart is that I must leave you; for I love you,
I love you; I feel that I cannot live without you.  Until I saw you, my
heart yearned only for military glory—to rise in my profession; but
now—now I would forfeit every prospect, all else that I hold dear, if I
might win your love.  Tell me, lady, is there no cord in your heart that
vibrates in unison with my own?  Surely such love as mine cannot be all
in vain. Oh, if you could only know its strength, you would pity me with
such pity that, close behind it, would follow its half-sister, Love.
Speak, Halima, and end my torture."

He stood back to feed his eyes upon her beauty, his breast panting and
heaving in his excitement.

And she?  Gradually her creamy complexion took on a warmer hue, until
her face and neck were colored like the rose; the long, dark lashes
veiled her limpid eyes; she raised her hand; then, to the young
officer’s wonder and consternation, with a little cry of joy, she ran to
him and threw herself on her knees before him.  "My love! my lord! my
master!" she murmured rapturously.  Then she seized his hand and covered
it with kisses.

But to have a woman kiss his hand was more than he could bear.  A
feeling of shame came over him; it seemed so utter a reversal of what
was fitting.  The blood rushed to his face.

"Not there," he cried.  "But here, close to my heart, my Halima."  He
raised her from the ground and folded her in his arms, she hiding her
face upon his shoulder.

The hours that followed for the lovers seemed to travel with the speed
of light, for they were given up wholly to loving dalliance and
endearing phrases, that never seemed to weary the performers; and it was
not till night was well advanced, that St. Just tore himself from the
arms of the Arab girl, whom he had pledged himself to make his own, on
his return, and who on her part had sworn fidelity to him.



                             *CHAPTER IX.*


The sun had all but vanished below the horizon; in its departure
lighting up the almost cloudless heavens with masses and streaks and
rays of every hue from blood red to golden yellow—Nature’s glorious
tints, to be seen in their fullest beauty only in the East.  But the
beauty of this particular sunset no one witnessed; for taking a trio of
palm trees set in a little patch of vegetation, as the point of vision,
an observer placed there would have looked in vain, North, South, East
and West for the slightest sign of life.  In every direction for leagues
upon leagues, as far as the eye could travel was the boundless desert.
Not a single object broke the dead level of the sand.  The solitude was
supreme, the silence awful.  Presently, when the sun was on the point of
sinking out of sight, a little breath of wind from the direction of the
waning light sprang up, sending a shiver through the palm plumes aloft,
and rustling the herbage at their base; the deadly stillness was at an
end.

Then, if the imaginary watcher by the palm trees had looked North, he
would have noticed a little cloud upon the level plain; next a blurred
mass of something. Gradually he would have seen this something expand
and develop, until, finally, it took form in the shape of a troop of
horsemen.  On they came, a company of from thirty to forty, shaping
their course for the little oasis about the palm trees, the eagerly
sought mark of a resting place for the tired traveler and his beast,
where the former hopes he will obtain both food and water.

Ten minutes later, they had reached their goal.  Both men and horses
were covered with dust and sweat, and were dropping with fatigue; and it
was plain that they had traveled far and fast.  Then, at the word of
command, each man dismounted and began to water his horse, before
attending to his own requirements.  The man who gave the order, the
reader has met before.  He was St. Just; he was on the mission to the
sheik with which General Buonaparte had entrusted him, and he expected
in a few days to accomplish it.

He vaulted from his saddle; then, having unstrapped his cloak, he patted
the neck of the grey stallion lovingly, for the good horse had carried
him many a weary mile right gallantly.  Then he glanced, with a laugh,
at his dusty uniform.  It was frayed and torn and soiled; yet he wore it
with a glow of pride; for was it not the visible sign of his fellowship
with that brave army which had proved itself invincible, and was still
adding to the glory and the possessions of his country?

Be sure that he first attended to his gallant charger’s wants.  Then he
went round among his men to see that they had looked properly to theirs.
This duty performed, he sat down to eat his lonely supper; for lonely he
was, his only companions being his Arab escort, with whom, though they
were friendly, he had naught in common.

When he had finished his scanty meal, he seated himself at the foot of
one of the palms, set light to his pipe, and gave himself up to thought.
It was now six weeks since he had started on this mission.  He cursed
the luck that had deprived him of the presence of his lady love and, at
the same time, of gaining glory in the field of battle under Buonaparte.
Was he never to have the same chance as had his brothers in arms of
winning renown? He wondered what they were doing at that moment, and
what was Halima; was she thinking of him?

Though it was irksome and fatiguing, he had not found desert life
altogether uneventful; the various difficulties and dangers he had
encountered on his journey had prevented that; for instance, on one
occasion, owing to the lowness of the Nile, the boat, in which he and
some of his men were crossing, had been stranded for hours upon a shoal,
and they had been in imminent danger of being drowned.  Another time,
they had drifted on the rocks at one of the great cataracts, a boat had
been dashed to pieces and ten of his followers drowned.  Then they had
marched for days, without getting to any place where they could purchase
remounts; so that, at last, their horses had become so utterly exhausted
that they had had to rest for several days to recruit, before
proceeding.  Besides this, repeated dashes had been made upon them by
marauding Arabs they had fallen in with by the way.  Thus his original
fifty men had been reduced by one mishap and another to thirty-five; and
the sullen indifference of these, and his fears of treachery on their
part, sorely tried his temper and filled him with anxiety.  Further, he
was beginning to feel much solicitude about the outcome of his mission;
for he was now nearing his journey’s end, and expected to make his
destination in a day or two.

Altogether he was in no happy frame of mind on that November night,
while he sat silent in that desolate waste, with his eyes fixed on the
glowing embers of the fire, listening drowsily to the movements of the
tethered animals and the monotonous tramp of the sentry on the sand hill
just above him.  Presently he shivered and drew his cloak more closely
round him.  Then, gradually, his head sank and soon, with the remainder
of the camp, he slept.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The hours wore on.  Meanwhile the solitary watcher paced up and down
upon his beat, scanning the Eastern sky intently for the first signs of
coming day.  In his eagerness, he halted for several minutes, and fixed
his eyes upon the quarter in which the sun would rise.  In his
preoccupation, he failed to notice what the camels stretched below him
did, that a body of horsemen about a hundred and fifty strong were
approaching from the West.  The sand muffled the sound of their horses’
hoofs.  But one old camel heard it; like the veritable desert warrior he
was, he raised his head and snorted loudly.  At this, the musing
sentinel turned round.  Too late he saw their danger; the horde was
sweeping down, in a rapidly converging semicircle, upon the sleeping
camp.  It was his last sight on earth; a shot rang out upon the air, and
he fell upon his face, struck dead.  The next moment, with a resounding
yell, the hostile Arabs dashed upon the sleepers.

The shot that slew the sentry roused St. Just; he sprang to his feet and
rushed to his horse.  Two or three others did the same and, mounting,
galloped off into the darkness, a hailstorm of bullets in their wake.
One of these grazed the gray stallion and made him restless, so that he
would not stand for St. Just to mount him.  While he was still striving
to effect his purpose, the enemy came pouring into the camp on every
side, ruthlessly slaying St. Just’s half-awakened escort.  One of the
assailants, seeing by the moonlight St. Just’s white face, uttered a cry
of joy and threw over his head a noose, then drew him backwards suddenly
and sent him to the ground, with a crash that momentarily stunned him.
When he came to himself, which he quickly did, he found that he was
being searched from head to foot; the noose was tightly bound about his
chest, confining his arms behind his back, thus rendering him wholly
incapable of resistance.  Watch, money, knife, sword, pistol—and, worst
of all, his despatches were being passed from hand to hand amidst cries
and yells from the crowd around him.  One thing only escaped their
notice, and that was his darling’s locket.

Presently a tall man with a coal black beard came up and spoke to him in
French.  "Are you not he that rode the gray horse at the battle of
Embabe?"

"I am," replied St. Just, expecting that, there and then, an end would
be put to his existence.

"I was sure of it," muttered his interlocutor; then turned to his
followers and said something in Arabic that St. Just failed to catch,
but it stirred them greatly, for instantly arose a hoarse murmur of
anger and disappointment.  The man who seemed to be their leader,
quieted them by raising his hand, as would a huntsman to his hounds,
saying, at the same time, "I will it."  Then returned again to St. Just,
who, having regained his composure, thus addressed him.

"Kill me, if you will; but I pray you forward my despatches to him to
whom they are addressed.  One of them is a letter from a daughter to her
father.  Have pity upon his gray hairs, if you have none for me."

"That is for the Chief to say," retorted the bearded man. "March!" he
wound up.

In obedience to the order, St. Just set out.  Oh, the torture that
followed when, at the will of his savage captors, he was compelled by
the stress of the rope, though he was on foot, to keep up with his
mounted escort, and all the while his chest so confined by his bonds
that he could not breath freely.  When he lagged, he was urged on and
dragged forward with the rope.  And, meanwhile, he had the mortification
of seeing his own gray horse bestridden by the bearded warrior.

At last, after ten hours of this misery, they came in sight of the Nile,
on whose bank, under the shadow of overhanging rocks, was pitched what
was evidently the temporary encampment of the tribe.

The squadron halted and were immediately surrounded by a crowd of women
and children and barking dogs, who indiscriminately greeted the
returning warriors.  Looking about him from the spot where he lay
guarded by four men, who regarded him with no friendly eye, St. Just
noted that most of the tents had been struck and that, before his
arrival, active preparations had been made for a move; also that the
main body were eagerly questioning his captors, who, in reply,
vociferated loudly and pointed at him with lively gesticulations.  Such
was the babel of sounds around him, that he could make nothing of their
conversation, and, indeed, was in no condition to try, worn out, as he
was, in mind and body.  He lay in the shadow of a camel, where he had
thrown himself upon his arrival, and, at last, he fell asleep.

When he awoke, it was dusk, and, while he yet struggled between sleeping
and waking, his guards came to him and dragged him to his feet; then
drove him unceremoniously towards the pile of rocks.  Here, in their
shadow, squatting in dignified silence around a fire in front of a large
tent, were from ten to twenty aged men—apparently the counsellors of the
camp.  St. Just was placed in the center, near the fire, whose strong
light was shed upon his features, immediately facing the opening of the
tent, where he could just make out the form of some one seated.  At this
juncture, a little breeze sprang up, fanning the fire into greater
brightness; so that St. Just could now discern the features of those
about him.  Seated within three feet of him upon a square carpet, was
one of the oldest men he had ever seen.  His beard was white as snow,
and so long that it swept the ground in front of him.  It was impossible
to guess his age, for, save for his eyes, which sparkled brightly, he
looked like a living corpse.

So soon as St. Just was placed before him, the old man spoke: "Let him
be unbound, but guarded."

Immediately some one behind him cut the rope, and St. Just knew that he
was free.  After gazing at him for a moment, the old man called, "Ben
Idherim!"

Out of the throng there strode the man who had been leader of the band
that had captured St. Just, and, forthwith, he told how he had swooped
down upon the camp; accompanying his recital with expressive gestures.
St. Just looked on unmoved while, one by one, to lend vraisemblance to
the tale, the articles that had been found on him were handed round the
circle of impassive listeners. Finally Idherim produced the despatches
and was about to hand them also round, when St. Just broke silence.

"Sirs, as I said to him who has just spoken, kill me if you will, but
send on my despatches."

The old chief, who, since the sentence recorded of him, had not spoken,
and seemed to have sunk into a stupor, merely nodding his head
occasionally when some point in his lieutenant’s speech gained his
approval, now looked up and fixed his eyes upon St. Just, who stood
there pale, travel-stained and weary, but fearless and almost defiant.
"Why so; what would you?" he inquired.

"Sir, one is my general’s letter to a chief to whom I was journeying,
when stopped, and the other is from the chief’s daughter telling of her
safety.  Again I say, I ask not for my life.  Do with me what you will.
All I pray is that both letters may be sent on; the one, that my General
may know me to be faithful; the other, that a father may have tidings of
his daughter."

The old man’s reply was short and sharp.  "Give me the letters."  They
were handed to him, and then, to the surprise of the young Frenchman, he
broke the seals and began to read them.

At this moment, a man came out of the darkness and sat down by the
chief’s side; plainly he was on intimate terms with him.  At first, St.
Just regarded him idly, out of mere curiosity; then, as though in a
dream, the present scene was blotted out, and he saw himself again in
Cairo, and in front of him was a house, and from that house came forth a
man bearing a woman on his shoulder.  Quick as lightning did this scene
flash across him, and as quickly did it pass, and he was once more in
the present.  Forgetting his position as a captive, and with the cry of
"Yusuf!" on his lips, he sprang forward and made a rush at the new
comer.

Instantly the latter started to his feet.  In a moment he had recognized
the speaker, and, drawing a pistol, he fired point blank at the French
officer.  The bullet whizzed past his head and flattened itself against
the rock behind him.

At a word from the chief, four men sprang up and seized the would-be
assassin and bore him out of sight.  This done, the old man thus
addressed his counsellors.  "Yusuf, because he is my nephew, have I
spared; but for that, he would have died; first, because he deserted my
daughter the lady Halima, when the invaders came; secondly, because he
has outraged justice by firing upon a prisoner undergoing trial.  For
this I have decreed that Yusuf be banished from our tribe for ever."

A murmur of approbation went round the circle.  The chief continuing,
addressed St. Just, "As to you, know that I am him you seek; and this is
my answer to your General’s letter.  For myself and on behalf of my
tribe, I refuse to accede to his request.  No bribes or promises shall
make me turn my arms against my country.  Yet, because he has spared my
daughter, will I stand aloof; I will take no part against him.  You can
tell him this, if you live to see him.  But the chances are against you,
for you, a messenger of peace, have fired upon my tribe."

The venerable gentleman forgot to state that his people began the
firing; possibly, in the one-sided view he took, he overlooked it.  "For
this," he went on, "justice demands that there shall be shot for shot;
accordingly, you will take your stand on the top of yonder rock, and ten
of the youngest of the camp children of those able to bear arms, shall
fire a shot each at you.  If you survive, then shall you go free.  As I
have said, so let it be."

He ceased speaking, whereupon the circle broke up, and all took up a
position in front of the tent.

Now, the distance from the rock to the tent was but forty yards, and the
rock itself, on the top of which St. Just soon found himself, tied so
that he could not move, was about twenty feet high by only two feet
broad.  And here he stood, looking down upon the scene upon which the
silvery moonbeams fell, waiting for the death he felt was close upon
him.  Outwardly he was calm, for he had faced death too often to display
fear of it; but a tumult raged within his breast.  It was hard to die so
young, and, for an instant, such anguish took possession of him that,
but that his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth, he would have
pleaded for mercy; but, the next moment, the word ’Courage’ was
whispered in his ear, and the voice that whispered it was Halima’s.
Doubtless this was the result of imagination acting on an overwrought
mind, but it steadied him, and his failing heart revived.

The next instant, there was a flash, followed by the ping of a bullet,
and the report of a gun echoing among the rocks.  A voice below counted
"One," in Arabic; then there was a pause.  The bullet had missed.  The
second, aimed better, grazed his ear.  The third passed through the
fleshy part of his shoulder and buried itself in the stake behind him.
The fourth and fifth shots hit the rock at his feet; and the sixth
passed through the rope that bound him, almost severing it.  The
seventh, eighth and ninth flew wide.  After that, there was a long
pause.

Presently the Frenchman heard a howl of exultation, and a tall, graceful
youth took his place in front of the living target, resting his weapon
on the ground, with the air of a practiced marksman.  From where he
stood, St. Just could see the youngster’s black eyes twinkling with joy,
while he glanced along the barrel; for was he not the best shot of the
tribe, and his aim deadly?  A second’s pause, then, carefully pressing
the trigger, the marksman fired.

St. Just felt as though a hot iron had seared his side, and he knew that
he was hit.  Unconsciously, he bounded into the air with the shock;
thereby bursting the already half severed rope.  Then, falling over and
over, he landed, not on the ground, but on a projecting corner where he
was held suspended by his tunic.

When he recovered consciousness, he found himself lying in a tent, and
by him was the Sheik, holding in his hand the locket of Halima, the case
deeply dented with a bullet mark.

"But for this, you would have died," exclaimed the Sheik.  "Further had
I read the whole of my daughter’s letter, Yusuf would have taken your
place.  Now, rest yourself, assured that you have the friendship of one
who is strong to help alike in hate and love."

On the morrow St. Just lay unconscious in a raging fever.



                              *CHAPTER X.*


But what of the Lady Halima, who had not seen her lover, or had any
tidings of him for six weary weeks?

At the very moment when St. Just was undergoing his fearful ordeal on
the rock, she was wandering restlessly, feverishly, about her own
apartments, her thoughts wholly occupied with him.  Indeed, ever since
they had been parted, she had thought of little else.  But, whereas,
generally, her reflections, though she felt saddened by his absence,
were tinged with pleasure at the thought of his handsome face and form,
his bravery, his return to her with credit to himself for the successful
performance of his mission; to-night they were full of gloom.  She had a
presentiment, she strove in vain to dissipate, that her beloved was in
the direst peril.  She was endowed with a more than ordinary share of
that faculty which places us en rapport with those with whom we have a
strong affinity; so that, even when separated by thousands of miles from
those we love, we feel, rather than know, that misfortune is overtaking
them.

And so it was that Halima; convinced of her lover’s danger and her
helplessness to avert it, she paced up and down the room wringing her
hands, the tears trickling down her cheeks, and continually crying, "Oh!
Henri, Henri, what is it that is happening to you, my love?  My heart
tells me that you are in dreadful peril; and I—I am powerless.  Oh! why
did you leave me?"

At the thought that she would never see him more, Halima became so
overcome that she burst into a flood of weeping and sank upon a divan,
burying her fair face in its cushions.  And thus, somewhat later, she
was found by Buonaparte, who, since his aide-de-camp’s departure had
been a not infrequent visitor.  Unheard by her, he entered the room,
wrapped in an ample cloak, and silently approached her side; then, with
arms folded, stood looking down upon her.

Feeling intuitively that she was not alone, Halima raised her
tear-stained face, and her eyes fell on the General. She gave a little
start, then feebly tried to smile. Buonaparte dropped his cloak and
seated himself upon the cushions by her side.

"What ails you, fairest one?" he asked.  "Why this grief? I would come
to see you oftener, but my leisure hours are few, so that I cannot visit
you so often as I would.  Come, pretty one, dry those tears, and tell me
what it is that troubles you."

Now Halima, having known Buonaparte for hard on two months, had learned
something of his disposition; and she feared to tell him that she loved
St. Just.  So, bringing her feelings under some control, she answered,
"Alas, Sir, I wept, because the memory came back to me that I had
annoyed you, when, wishing to amuse, I pretended to forecast your
future.  But indeed, General, I was not serious; and, surely, you did
not so take me."

If she thought that by this speech she had cleverly put him off the
scent of her real sentiments, she mistook her man.  He tapped the floor
impatiently with his foot and answered fretfully, "Tut, tut, that is all
past and gone.  It cannot be that which troubles you.  Is it not rather
the absence of the handsome Captain?  By my soul, I am greatly in his
debt for introducing me to so fair a flower."  And he looked ardently at
Halima.

Now, when a victorious General, and, moreover, a youthful one, lays
himself out to captivate a woman, she feels flattered by his notice, and
he rarely fails.  The present instance was no exception to the rule, for
a smile broke out on the fair lady’s face, and she gave him a glance
that told even more than words.

"But fret not for him," Buonaparte went on; "he is not worth your tears;
forecast his future, as you profess you can, and you will see that it is
so.  Even I am seer enough to tell, without the aid of magic bowls, what
he is doing.  I know what my young officers are, and he is no exception.
Doubtless he is at this moment flirting with some dusky beauty on the
banks of the Nile, while his men are resting for the night."

Then he leaned back in his seat to see how she would take his
reflections on her lover’s want of constancy; at the same time he was
furtively casting his eyes in his cold, calculating way, upon her
charms; though, apparently examining his hands, of whose delicate
whiteness he was inordinately vain.

But the way that she received his words astonished him. Indignant at his
sneering accents, stung by the suggestion that any other woman could
take her place in St. Just’s affections, her jealousy aflame at the
thought that perhaps there was some truth in it, and anxious to defend
the absent one, she threw prudence to the winds, and gave her feelings
play.

Springing from the divan, she turned and faced the General, her eyes
flashing with the scorn and anger he had enkindled.

"If all men were as you suppose," she cried, "then should I pity women.
But it is not so.  To seek to make me jealous by hinting that the man I
love—yes, I love him, and I glory in it—and shall love so long as I draw
breath, has forgotten me and is dallying with another woman, is unworthy
of the conqueror of Egypt.  You have dared me to peer into the future,
to learn my lover’s doings and his fate.  I fearlessly accept your
challenge.  Doubtless I shall find that many dangers will beset him,
for, in these perilous times, it can scarce be otherwise; but, be that
as it may, of this I am well assured, that, whatever the future has in
store for him, in the end, he will be more fortunate than yourself, who,
though you will rise to the highest point of human greatness, will not
retain it—not even the freedom of the humblest subaltern in your army.
Your insatiable ambition will prove your fall.  Now you know my feelings
towards Henri St. Just.  I had meant to keep my secret.  But what I feel
for him can be of no consequence to you; and I am sure you will not let
it prejudice him.  But if I thought that you would harm him, I would
this instant bid you begone, and would look upon your face no more.
And, had I ever feared you on his account, this city weeks ago would
have no longer held us, for you would have been no more, and I should
have fled with my lover to the desert.  But now to read his fate."

And she turned from him and began to make her preparations for diving
into the unseen.

Now, although what she had said had sunk deep into his breast and
rankled there, Buonaparte did net suffer his resentment and his wounded
pride to show upon the surface.  But he stored it up against her, adding
it to the grievance of her previous forecast of his future.  He meant to
make this woman his, and his anger made him all the more determined; but
the fruit was not yet ripe for plucking, albeit it was maturing fast.
Clever actor as he was, there were few better able to disguise their
feelings.  He broke into a little laugh and then replied:—

"I crave your pardon, gentle lady;" he laughed to himself at the irony
of the epithet; "in that unconsciously I have angered you.  I little
thought that my soldier’s badinage would have let loose so impetuous a
torrent of wrath from the lips of so beauteous a creature.  Happy St.
Just to have such a champion.  But one thing I have to urge in my
excuse; I knew not that he was so favored, for you had never let fall a
word to that intent.  Forgive me then, fair Halima; I will not so offend
again."  Then, after a short pause, during which he watched her
movements, he resumed, "well, is the magic bowl in order?  I would see
how far the outcome of your incantations will give the lie to my jesting
prophecy."

The preparations had given the girl the time and opportunity for
regaining her self-control and recognizing the folly of making an enemy
of Buonaparte.  She laughed gayly; then placed the crystal bowl upon a
table near the divan and, as on the former occasion, dropped some of the
mysterious fluid into it.

"Now it is ready," she said.

Eagerly both craned their necks forward over the bowl and gazed intently
into the clear black fluid.

At first, nothing was to be seen; then, gradually, in the depths of the
fluid could be discerned the outline of a rock, which, by degrees,
became more and more distinct. Then it was seen that on the summit of it
was a figure made fast to a stake.  Next an Arab came in sight, and he
leveled a matchlock at the captive man, who was standing with head bent
low upon his breast.  There was a puff of smoke; the human target
bounded up in the air, then fell headlong from the rock and into space,
disclosing in his fall the features of St. Just!

At this, Halima removed her gaze and uttered a piercing shriek; the
spell was broken, the picture vanished; nothing but the smoke-black
surface of the liquid in the bowl remained.

Then, "Mon Dieu!" she cried, "it cannot be; it must be false;" and, with
that, fell fainting at the feet of Buonaparte.

For the moment, he also was staggered by the vision; but his
bewilderment did not last long.  He broke into an unpleasant laugh, and
turned his gaze on the unconscious girl.  "True, or not, it is as
marvelous as it is unaccountable.  As for St. Just, I am persuaded he is
dead.  I am sorry, for he was a good officer, and he saved my life.  I
wish I had not sent him on this mission."

For a few seconds, he felt a touch of genuine regret, not unmixed with
remorse, and the feeling showed itself in his usually impassive face.

Then, a glance at the unconscious girl turned his thoughts into a fresh
channel.  Bah! regrets were vain and childish; St. Just was gone; ’twas
a pity; but the girl remained and no one now stood between her and him.

He turned his attention to her, and, by dint of fanning her and
sprinkling her with water, in a short time he was rewarded by seeing her
languidly unclose her eyes in returning consciousness.  He now raised
her from the ground, and placed her on the divan.  At first her eyes
wandered vaguely round the room, as though in search of something that
she missed.  As yet, memory had not returned; but the blessing of
forgetfulness was not granted her for long; soon she knew all that had
occurred, and with the knowledge, she burst into a flood of tears.

Buonaparte made no attempt to restrain her sobs; he knew her weeping
would be the sooner over, if unchecked until it had spent its force.  He
sat beside her, watching her in silence.  Gradually the heaving became
slower and more regular in its movements; the sobs less frequent; the
tears, instead of streaming down her cheeks, now came only in odd drops,
and presently, with a long-drawn sigh, they ceased.

Then Buonaparte gazed tenderly into the liquid depths of the glistening
eyes, and took one of her little hands in his.  Forgotten was his own
charming wife in distant Paris, in the fascination of the little Arab
beauty, and, bending over her, he murmured in the thrilling tone he well
knew how to use as often as occasion served, "Dear heart, let me console
you.  To regret is weak, is useless; it will not bring him back.  You
may think me hard and cruel; but be advised by me, when I tell you that
the easiest way to solace one’s self for a lover’s loss is to install
another in his place.  Come then to me, and I will teach you so to love,
that you will say that all your previous experiences were but a parody
of the passion."

He spoke with such ardor that she could not but be moved.  Still, she
shook her head petulantly, but she did not withdraw her hand, and her
glance showed no displeasure.  And so, for a short time, they sat in
silence, Buonaparte still holding her hand, and fearing to break the
spell by speaking.

His patience was rewarded, for, presently, she spoke in a voice that
trembled slightly, but still was clear and sweet, and her eyes were
turned on him, in such wise that he felt himself bewitched and consumed
try his desire.

"If I could have absolute faith in what my eyes have seen this night,"
she said, "I would consider your proposal, which, in your position, is
most flattering; for I know that you will rise—aye faster than has risen
any other man before.  And those who join themselves with you will rise
with you.  See," she continued, getting up and walking to the open
window.  She flung open the lattice and, pointing to one of the many
stars with which the sky was studded, "Right over your head you behold
yon star.  It is the star that rules your destiny.  Each one of us in
coming into this world has his particular star that brightens with his
rise, with his fall, and dies with him.  But the majority of persons are
so commonplace and unimportant that their stars are so small as to be
invisible.  It is only the great ones of the earth whose stars can be
observed.  My mother told me that it is the same in her
country—France—that, when a star is seen falling from the sky, some soul
is quitting its earthly tenement.

"Mark well your star and watch its varying brilliancy, and, when you see
that lessening, be warned and pause in your career; if not, be well
assured that, for all your many victories—and those you have already won
are as nothing to those in store for you—the time will come when you
will suffer a defeat so crushing that it will put the finishing stroke
to your career."

She ceased, and, at first, Buonaparte made no reply, but stood gazing at
the star she had pointed out, now twinkling dimly before the approaching
dawn.  Not that he paid any heed to her "prophetic vaporings," as,
mentally, he termed them.  He was thinking over her statement that, if
assured of her lover’s death, she might entertain his (Buonaparte’s)
proposal; and conning how he might convince her that St. Just was dead;
for he had conceived a burning passion for this woman.

Then he turned from the window and thus addressed her.  "Fair Halima, I
thank you for your warning, and it shows you take an interest in me.  I
may, therefore, hope that in time your spark of interest may kindle into
the flame of love.  With you always at my side to scan the heavens for
me and give me warning, failure would be impossible.  Come to me, then,
and share the greatness that is in store for me.  Why remain faithful to
what is but a tender memory; why deny your youth and beauty the
pleasures that are their due.  You have proved to your own satisfaction
that St. Just is dead, and——"

"Sir," she interrupted him, "I am but a beginner in my art; and the
Fates sometimes play us false.  A woman is influenced more by instinct
than by reason.  Now, my instinct, or my heart—call it which you
will—tells me that to-night my vision has been distorted, that my eyes
have seen that which was not true.  If I had absolute proof that St.
Just is dead I—I might——"  She ceased, not knowing how to complete her
sentence; her thoughts had out-run her powers of speech.  She cast down
her eyes and the blood rushed to her face in her confusion.

And the man noticed it and was quick to take advantage of her
implication.  "You might learn to love me," he exclaimed; and there was
a note of triumph in his tone.

Halima marked it and hastened to reply, "Nay, Sir, you do violence to my
thoughts, and make my word out-run them.  I said not aught of love."

Buonaparte eyed her keenly.  "For the present," he said, "I will be
satisfied with your unspoken thought.  But you talked of proof of your
lover’s death.  Alas!  I fear it will be only too easy to obtain.  I
doubt not that, before a month is out, I shall bring you such evidence
as it will be impossible to disbelieve."

"But how will you convince me?  Nothing short of the evidence of
eye-witnesses will do it."

"You forget that St. Just had an escort of fifty tried and faithful
Arabs.  If one or more of these should testify to his death, would you
then believe?"

And she, strong in her belief that St. Just would die, ere he would
suffer himself to be taken captive—in which case the vision must have
been false—assented.  She knew her lover would strain every nerve to
execute his trust; to deliver not only his General’s but also her own
letter; both his honor and his love were at stake.  So, in the hope that
the month’s delay would bring a favorable turn in Fortune’s Wheel, she
parted from her new admirer.



                             *CHAPTER XI.*


Buonaparte was not the man to let the grass grow under his feet; whether
the object of his pursuit was a hostile army or a woman.  So, the next
morning, he started enquiries for news of St. Just amongst the chiefs
now under his sway.  Failing to gain information in that quarter, he
sent his Mameluke, Roustan, with a search party in a boat up the Nile,
to learn whether any of the headmen of the villages on its bank had seen
or heard anything of the young French Officer, or any of his party of
fifty Arabs.

Day followed day with no result, until a month had slipped by since
Buonaparte’s parting with the Arab girl. The General was seated one
afternoon under a tree in the garden of his house at Cairo musing on
various matters and, among them, on Halima, when word was brought to him
that Roustan was without, desiring to have speech with him.

Buonaparte ordered the messenger to admit him instantly.  When the
Mameluke entered, he bent his knee deferentially to his master, then
stood in a position of attention, waiting to be addressed.

"Well, Roustan, what news?" asked Buonaparte sharply.

"Sir," replied the faithful slave, "I have performed the commission you
entrusted to me, and have obtained certain information concerning
Captain St. Just."

"In one word," interrupted Buonaparte, "is he alive or dead?"

"He is dead, General; of that I have obtained indisputable proof."

A scarcely audible sigh escaped the General; but this was the only sign
of relief he gave.  His face remained impassive as usual, nor did he
make the slightest movement.

"Proceed with the particulars," he said.

Roustan went on to relate that he had traced St. Just and his party to a
certain oasis in the desert, distant about five weeks’ journey from
Cairo, and that there the trail had broken off.  Not to abandon the
search, he had remained in the neighborhood for a few days, prosecuting
inquiries among the tribe that dwelt about there.  He had been on the
point of giving up his quest as useless, and returning to Cairo the next
day, when he was aroused from sleep by the return of some of the tribe,
in company with four strangers.  Three of these had formed part of St.
Just’s escort, and the fourth was a prisoner, a renegade of the tribe of
Auim, of the name of Yusuf. Him the three others were desirous of
bringing on to Cairo, where, of course, they would have to report
themselves to their commander.

Roustan then went on as follows:

"I brought the four men on with me and they are now guarded in the
citadel, where they will remain until your pleasure concerning them
shall be known."

"You have done well, Roustan," was the General’s comment, when the slave
ceased speaking; "I shall not forget to reward your services.  Bring me
that little table."

There was a light writing table near at hand in the garden, and Roustan
wheeled it up to his master.  Buonaparte seized a sheet of writing
paper, wrote a few lines on it rapidly, folded it up and addressed it to
the Lady Halima.  It was to the effect that he had much to tell her at
eleven o’clock that night.  He handed the letter to Roustan, charging
him to deliver it at once, and, having done so, to proceed to the
citadel with orders that the fourth man, Yusuf, was to be kept apart
from the others, and that all were to be strictly watched and allowed to
have no communication with any one outside.

"Inform the Governor," Buonaparte concluded, "that I shall visit them at
nine o’clock this evening, when you are to be ready to accompany me."

Then, once more commending him for his sagacity, Buonaparte waved his
hand to signify that the interview was at an end.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The deep tones of the bell that notified the hours was resounding
through the citadel at nine o’clock that evening, echoing along the
silent passages in the great courtyard, when Buonaparte, attended by his
body servant, passed through the arched entrance way.

Standing within the gate, a few yards from the sentry, was a figure
that, like Buonaparte, was closely muffled in a cloak.  The figure
approached the newcomers and saluted.

"No formalities, General, if you please," said Buonaparte. "I prefer my
visit here to be unknown.  Lead me to the prisoners."

"Will you follow me, Sir?" said the person thus addressed.  Then, taking
a lighted lantern from underneath his cloak, he led the way across the
courtyard towards a low block of buildings, which he entered.
Traversing a short, dark passage, they turned to the right, and were
immediately challenged by a soldier, whose "Qui va là?" was answered by
their guide who, after giving him the countersign, ordered him to stand
aside from a heavy wooden door before which he stood on guard.  Then the
guide placed the lantern on the ground, while he unlocked the door that
gave entrance to a small square chamber.  In a corner of this room the
Arabs were huddled up together asleep. Round their wrists ran the light
steel chains, the ends of which were attached to staples in the wall.
Buonaparte took the lantern from their guide and, walking up to the
three sleeping figures, regarded them much as a keeper would the wild
beasts in his charge.  The flashing of the lantern, dim as was its
light, awoke the sleepers, who yawned and stretched themselves.  Then
they rose to a sitting posture and glared with sullen indifference and
in silence at their visitors.

Buonaparte gazed at them for a moment or two; then, turning to Roustan,
said, "Go to guard house and call a dozen men.  Bring them hither and
bid them conduct these men to the house of the Lady Halima.  I will
interrogate them in her presence."

Roustan salaamed and left the chamber.

"Come, General," Buonaparte went on, "we will go and see the other
prisoner."

Then he passed out, with his companion.

After walking a few paces, they came to a door, and this having been
unlocked, they found themselves in a smaller cell than that in which the
three Arabs were confined.  Here, however, there was but one occupant.
Yusuf, for he it was, was, unlike the other captives, unbound, and was
pacing his cell with restless step.

At the entrance of Buonaparte and his companion, he scowled at them;
then broke into a torrent of angry words, that both his hearers found
difficult to follow.

When he ceased speaking, Buonaparte addressed him.

"You are of the tribe of Auim?"  No reply.  "Speak and I will free you,
if you tell me what I want to know."

"I accept," came the sullen answer; "you do not look like a man who
lies.  Say on."

Buonaparte put several questions, which Yusuf answered; then he went on
to relate what the reader already knows; how that he had seen St. Just
shot at and fall headlong from the rock.

"Ha, ha!" he ended with a fiendish chuckle, "He is dead, sure enough.  I
knew he would die when they shot at him."  Here he stopped.

"How?" asked Buonaparte, who, during the recital, had stood leaning with
his back against the door and idly kicking one foot against the lintel.

"Because I have his amulet.  That once lost, his fate was certain.  See,
here it is."

And the exulting ruffian held before Buonaparte’s astonished eyes the
identical trinket Josephine had given to St. Just in Paris on the night
of their meeting at the Palais de Luxembourg.

Buonaparte snatched it from him suddenly.

With a howl of rage, Yusuf dashed forward to regain it—only to meet the
point of a sword, which, gleaming at his breast, had been
instantaneously drawn by the General’s companion.

Buonaparte put the jewel in his pocket and, as if abstracted, and taking
no further notice of the captive, walked from the cell.  A moment later,
his companion, having locked the door, rejoined him.

Presently they reached the outer gate way, and Buonaparte, mounting his
horse, which a soldier held, galloped off into the darkness, leaving his
companion standing under the archway, lost in thought.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The Lady Halima was pacing her room in a lever of impatience.  She had
received Buonaparte’s letter, and the hour of his promised visit had
arrived.  In the courtyard below, surrounded by their guards, stood the
three hapless captives.  The moon’s silver light fell upon them
shivering in their scanty clothing of haic and burnous—a great contrast
to the French soldiers in their uniforms, and three-cornered hats—the
two groups fair samples of the East and of the West.

Presently there was a slight movement among the French soldiers, and
their listless attitude was changed for one of expectation; at the same
time a faint sound, like that of muffled blows, could be heard in the
distance, though it scarce penetrated the thick, high walls.  But, low
as it was, it reached the Lady Halima’s ears, and it made her heart beat
high and brought the color to her face.  The sound came nearer, and now
could plainly be recognized as the sharp trot of a horse.  No wonder she
was in a fever of excitement, for she knew that Buonaparte was
approaching, and all that his visit meant for her.  What had the Fates
in store for her?  Was she to learn that her lover still lived, and,
having performed his mission in the desert, would soon return to her; or
that he was dead and that she must fulfill her promise and permit
Buonaparte to take his place?  True, she had not promised to install him
as her lover, in so many words; but she had given him to understand that
it would be so, and she considered that she was in honor bound to give
herself to him, should he demand it; she knew she had meant this all the
time, should she receive unimpeachable evidence that St. Just no longer
lived.  But she would not allow herself to think of the possibility of
his death.  Ill he might be; seriously ill of fever; even grievously
wounded; but dead?  No. Fate could not be so cruel.

But, should the worst have happened, she would have gone to Buonaparte’s
arms without the least repugnance or sense of shame.  Despite the French
strain in her, her upbringing had been an Eastern one; she was a
Mahometan and familiar with the usuages of the harem, and to the light
esteem in which Eastern women were held; so that she saw nothing
degrading, if she could not have the man she loved, in becoming the
paramour of some one else. In the case of Buonaparte, another factor
helped to influence her decision, and that was Ambition.  As already
shown, she was superstitious and believed in a mysterious connection
between humanity and the stars; and, according to her reading of the
heavens, Buonaparte was destined to rise to the highest flights of
power; were she with him, she would rise with him.

To sum up, Love was easily first with her; she would sacrifice
everything for that.  If St. Just lived, nothing should stand between
her and him.  But, if he was dead, then she would bury Love, and install
Ambition in its place.  Union with Buonaparte, at any rate, would serve
her immediate purpose—to flee from Egypt and take up her abode in
France.

She moved to the latticed window and looked out; presently she saw
Buonaparte ride into the courtyard, unattended, and dismount.  Her
agitation grew almost more than she could bear, Love and Ambition being
in the balance; the most momentous question of her life was on the eve
of settlement.

The room was almost in darkness, for only a small oil lamp, that hung
above the divan, gave a feeble light; so that, before she saw
Buonaparte, he was upon her.  While she was still standing at the
window, he entered softly, and unannounced.  Stealing up to her, he
wound his arm about her waist and kissed her.

She struggled with him, and he let her go.  She started back, and then
stood facing him with flashing eyes and heightened color, her bosom
heaving with indignation.

"How dare you, Sir?" she cried.  "So it is thus you think to gain a
woman’s favor?  I have heard much of the deference paid by your
countrymen to women; is this a sample of it?  Oh, would that my lover
were here to avenge for me this insult!"

Buonaparte answered with a laugh, "Your lover?  Ah! he is here; but not
the one you mean."

And he tapped his breast with his hand.

Halima made a step forward.

"My lover!" she cried eagerly.  "What mean you?  Do you bring me
intelligence of his return?  If that is the reason of your coming, I
could find it in my heart to pardon you.  Speak; Oh! keep me not in
suspense, but speak."

She panted in her agitation, while she hung in mingled hope and fear
upon his answer.

It came in harsh and strident tones.  He was angered at the depth of her
feeling for St. Just, and it made him pitiless and heedless of the pain
his words would cause.

"Never in this world will you see St. Just again," he said.  "He lies
buried in the desert, slain by your father’s orders."

At this dreadful news, so suddenly and cruelly imparted, his hearer
swayed as though she would have fallen; but, with an effort, she so far
controlled herself as to stagger to a divan, on which she dropped.

"It is not true, it cannot be true," she cried; "you are deceiving me
for your own ends.  Why should my father slay him?  No, I believe you
not."

Buonaparte took no notice of her words.  He merely stepped to the open
window and called out, "Roustan, bring up the prisoners."

The Arab girl sprang to her feet and advanced to him. "Prisoners?" she
asked wonderingly.  "Who are they? Why are they here?"

"You say you disbelieve me.  They bring you proof of what I have just
told you."

Even while he spoke the tramp of men could be heard outside, and, in
another moment, Roustan entered with the three Arab soldiers and their
guards.

Buonaparte cross-examined them in Halima’s presence, and she herself put
such questions to them as she chose. They told her of the capture of St.
Just by members of her father’s tribe and all that had followed, to his
final fall from the rock.  They were so evidently the witnesses of truth
that Halima could not fail to be convinced that St. Just was dead.

She waved her hand to them as a signal that they were to go, and
Buonaparte dismissed them.

Then the tears, that her excitement had kept back, poured forth.  The
girl staggered to the divan and, burying her head in its cushions, wept
long and passionately.

As on a similar occasion, Buonaparte sought not to check her tears, but
sat near, waiting patiently till her grief should spend itself.
Meanwhile he fingered mechanically St. Just’s charm, which he had taken
from Yusuf, and meant to give to Halima.

At last the force of her weeping died away, and she raised her
tear-stained face to his, a look of piteous entreaty on it.

At a loss for words of consolation, Buonaparte handed her the jewel.

"It was St. Just’s," he said.  "Now you have a right to it."

She reached out her hand and took it.  At the same time, Buonaparte
seated himself upon the divan and drew her to him.  Then he kissed her,
while he whispered tenderly in her ear, "I love you, Halima, I love you.
My Queen, my heart’s desire, tell me you love me too."

But she had St. Just’s death too freshly in her mind. She shook her head
sadly.  "No, no," she murmured; "not to-night.  Perhaps, to-morrow I
will tell you."

Now Buonaparte, always imperious, could and would brook no resistance.
For reply, he crushed her to himself.  Violent was his embrace and
masterful his manner. And, she, in her inmost heart already yielding,
made but a faint resistance.  And, at that moment, the light above the
divan flickered out and darkness fell upon the scene.



                             *CHAPTER XII.*


To return to St. Just who, when last seen, was lying unconscious in the
tent of the Arab Sheik; the fever that had robbed him of his senses soon
spent its force, and, with a lowering of his temperature, he returned to
consciousness.  Accustomed to the hardships of a campaign in the field,
and with some experience of wounds, and by no means impatient or given
to complaining, he could not but chafe at his slow progress towards
recovery.  He seemed to gain no strength.  No doubt this was due in
great measure to his want of European comforts, medical attendance, and
the diet suitable to an invalid.

When, at last, he was able to get about again, which, was not till
December had ended and a new year had dawned, he found, somewhat to his
surprise, that the sheik, if harsh, was just in all his dealings.  One
night he and the sheik were sitting over the camp fire under the shadow
of the very rock which had been the scene of St. Just’s narrow escape
from death, when the sheik spoke concerning that adventure.

"If I had wished to kill you, I could easily have done so.  You must not
suppose that my men are, as a rule, the bad marksmen they proved
themselves on that occasion. If you had been killed, I had avenged the
affront your General had put upon me, and, indirectly, upon the tribe,
by trying to bribe me to become his ally.  If you survived the shots,
you could carry my answer, and, possibly, save the life of one of my own
tribe, whom your General might slay for being the bearer of unpalatable
news.  That you would be hit fatally I expected; and how Mahmoud, who,
though but eighteen, is a good marksman, came to miss, I know not,
though he only failed by chance.

"Chance, did I say?  Nay, my son," and here the old man laid his hand
softly upon his listener’s shoulder; "It was fate.  Allah has willed
that you should live for greater things.  Therefore give praise to him."

Towards the end of January the whole camp, including St. Just, who was
mounted on a camel and closely guarded, made a move, traveling
northwards towards Cairo.  After journeying for about a month, a halt
was made at a group of stone tombs, said to be—in common with so many
burial places in Egypt whose records are lost—the tombs of Kings.

During their stay at this oasis of the tombs, St. Just began to pick up
health and strength.  Here, too, he improved his acquaintance with the
old sheik, and the more he learned of him the better he liked him.
Strange to say, too, the boy Mahmoud, he who had fired the last shot at
him on the rock, began to make friendly advances towards him, and
expressed a wish to wait on him.  At first St. Just was suspicious of
his motives, and watched him carefully.  But, in the end, he satisfied
himself that the lad had really become attached to him; so, with the
Sheik’s permission, he accepted his services, and, as the result, found
that he could have engaged no truer or more faithful servant.

The monotony of St. Just’s life at this time made him dwell with
tenderness and regret on the memory of the busy time he had passed at
Cairo, and, in particular, of the beautiful half-bred Arab girl with
whom he had been so much thrown.

He knew that his love for her was no transient passion, but the abiding
affection of a life-time; absence, in his case, so far from inducing
forgetfulness, had made the heart grow fonder.  With her, his life would
be rose-colored, like the desert sand around him when the sun’s rays
were poured upon it; without her, like the same desert at night before
the moonbeams had illumined it, cold and gray and gloomy.

Inwardly chafing at the enforced helplessness that kept him from his
love, and wondering whether they were ever again to meet, he was much
surprised and no less delighted when the sheik one day told him that, in
the middle of March, he was to set out for Cairo with his, the sheik’s,
reply to Buonaparte’s letter; and, further, that he would be furnished
with an escort of twenty men for his protection.  It now wanted about
three weeks to the time.

One day, when it wanted but four to the time when he was to set out, he
was aroused from his slumbers, while dawn yet struggled with the
darkness, by the sheik himself, who bade him get up quickly and dress
quickly.

"Before the camp wakes to life we must be on our way," he told St. Just;
but whither they were bound he gave no intimation.

Through the sleeping camp they made their way and, shaping their course
north by east, they rode out into the great silent desert, being joined
by a small escort, on reaching the outskirts of the camp.  For many
miles the sheik and St. Just rode on side by side without exchanging a
word.

At last the old man spoke, taking advantage of an opportunity, when
those who accompanied them had fallen behind, possibly in obedience to
his orders.

"Doubtless, my son," began the sheik, "you have wondered why I, your
enemy, have kept you by my side so long, when you were able to return to
him from whom you came two months ago.  It was for this; I wished to
satisfy myself that your character is what it has been represented to
me.  You know that I am a man of power and that, daily, messengers come
from other chiefs to me for my advice and help.  From enquiries of these
men I have learned much of you from the moment you set foot in
Alexandria."

After pausing to note the effect of his harangue, the sheik went on,
"Scarce an action or a word of yours—uttered even in your sleep—has
escaped me.  If from the moment of your ordeal on the rock, until
to-day, you have failed to please me, then would your stay in camp have
been cut short.  But, not only have you pleased me, but I have grown to
regard you as a son."

After some hours traveling, they halted on the margin of a broad sheet
of water fringed around with grass and low shrubs, with here and there a
date palm.  In the middle of this pool rose a cone-shaped rock graven
with hieroglyphics.  Selecting a place that was sheltered from the sun’s
heat by a pile of rocks, the whole party dismounted, the escort, who
numbered a dozen, and were all, save St. Just’s own lad Mahmoud, elderly
men, casting themselves down upon the grass to rest.

After giving some directions to the leader of the party and asking St.
Just to await his return, the Sheik remounted and set out alone, and
soon was lost to sight, putting up in his progress thousands of birds
that had made this their haunt and lived here undisturbed from the
moment they had left the egg.  Now they rose in flocks, just in advance
of the Sheik, swirling above him and uttering cries of mingled wonder
and alarm.

After an interval the old warrior came galloping back, with as firm a
seat upon his fiery steed as if he were but a youth of twenty, instead
of being fully four score years.

The old man called out something St. Just could not catch, and,
instantly, two of the men sprang up and drew their swords.  He, too,
rose to his feet, but was pulled back by Mahmoud, whose voice said in
his ear:

"Fear not, they go but to cut wood."

Meanwhile the old Sheik dismounted, and the rest busied themselves in
spreading a meal under the shadow of the rock.

Presently the two woodsmen returned bearing a large bundle of lengths of
fibrous wood.  These were distributed among the party, each piece being
about two feet long, and two inches thick.  In addition to the bundle of
sticks, one of the two men carried a pole two inches in diameter and
about ten feet long.

This he handed to the old Sheik, who, mounting his horse, once more rode
away, leaving St. Just and his followers standing under the rocks.

While St. Just was absently gazing across the lake and wondering what
was going on, he saw the old Sheik on the bank stop and plant his pole
in the water close to the bank, and in a line with the pillar.  Then to
his amazement, he saw the pillar topple and fall with a terrific splash
into the lake, whose waters instantly closed over it, the only signs
that it had ever stood there being the bubbles that rose to the surface
as the mass of stone sank deeper and deeper towards the bottom.

Then the old Sheik returned and, drawing St. Just apart, took from his
garment the miniature of the fair Halima which had but lately hung
around St. Just’s neck and had received the bullet aimed at him and thus
saved his life.

"My son," he said, "I take it that the wish of your heart is to possess
the woman whose picture I now hold.  On the faith of this, I am about to
tell you many things.  But, before you hear them, you must swear by that
which you rate above all other things that you will obey and be faithful
to the commands that I shall give you."

And St. Just, because of his great love for Halima, blindly swore to do
that which the Sheik should bid him.

Then the old man went on.

"Twelve hundred and fifty years after the coming of the Messiah to
Jerusalem, one of my forefathers ruled in Egypt.  Now the visitation of
Christ gave rise to the prophecy that when a white man, a soldier,
should come to us, Egypt would again be free.  Now I, who am the last of
the true princes of the land, believe you to be the man foretold, and it
is for the furthering of my plans that I have brought you here.  On the
spot on which we stand, buried far beneath us, lies a city that was
formerly one of the chief cities of the gods.  Here their worship
lingered for many years after the introduction of Christianity; then it
vanished.  In those troublous days my ancestor buried in the lake, which
aforetime stretched even to the Nile, a vast treasure, marking the spot
with the stone pillar upon which he had engraved his title—that pillar
that was here but now.  Now, the times in which he lived were so fraught
with danger, that he entrusted the secret to but one person, with
injunctions that it should be passed on at the death of one of the two
who knew it, and so on for generations.  Thus it came to me.  The only
other person who knew it died lately, so I tell it you.  You will wonder
at my destroying the pillar that marked the treasure’s spot, but it had
to be.  Else it might have guided some marauder.

"Owing to some cause I am unable to explain and, it follows, unable to
remove, the lake is falling foot by foot, and, in a few weeks, it will
have dried up and become a portion of the desert, and the rocking pillar
will soon be buried fathoms deep in sand.  But enough of this for the
present."

By this time the sun was getting low in the heavens, and the hour for
the afternoon meal had come.  When this was over, the old Sheik gave
orders for the men to resume the staves, that had been distributed as
torches, and to follow him.

Then, accompanied by St. Just, they plunged in single file into the
jungle of foliage that grew around the rock, and was so tangled and
interlaced that progress was very difficult, and no one who did not know
of the path they followed could have found it.  In about an hour, at the
cost of numerous tears and scratches, they emerged on a small clearing,
in which was a mound of sand, with a slab of stone before it.  Two of
the strongest men were ordered to roll away this stone; and, this done,
an opening about two feet square was seen.

Then, at a few words from the Sheik, each man went down upon his hands
and knees, and, one by one, they crawled through the hole and in utter
darkness began to traverse a passage that led from it.

They had proceeded but a few yards, when, all at once, the man
immediately in front of St. Just called out in Arabic "Take care."  In a
moment, the young Frenchman felt himself gliding down a slope.  He
clutched at the bare earth with his hands, one of which held his
unlighted torch, and managed, with an occasional slip and scratch and
scramble and bump, so far to check his progress that, when he presently
dropped two or three feet on to level ground, he was not much hurt.

When he looked about him, he saw that those of the party who were in
advance of him were occupied in lighting their torches.  He lighted his
from one of theirs.  One after another the remainder of the party
scrambled down; when all the torches had been lighted, St. Just found
that they were in a square hall, hewn out of the solid rock, the sides
of which were sculptured in the Assyrian and Egyptian style.

It was but a passing glance that he could give, for, so soon as the
whole party was assembled and the torches had been lighted, the word was
given to move forward. They traversed the rocky road for upwards of two
miles, now leaping over fallen boulders, now climbing great blocks of
masonry, till, at last, they halted before a wondrous sight.

For the last quarter of a mile—so far as St. Just could judge, they had
been going down an easy incline, and their course had been free from
obstacles.  Another thing he noticed and could not account for was that,
as they neared their present halting place, the way in front of them
became gradually lighter until finally their torches were no longer
needed.  By the time they had come to a stand-still, the source of this
light was no longer a mystery.  Opposite to them at a distance that was
difficult to calculate in their present environment, but quite near
enough for them to feel its heat, was a vast crater, that was belching
out flames and steam and streams of boiling lava.  The whole of the
space between this volcano and St. Just and his companions was occupied
by a city in ruins, that lay in a basin about three hundred feet below
the watchers, who were standing on a platform to which the passage they
had just traversed led.  The light from the crater and the molten lava
that was being spouted from it and was streaming down upon the
subterranean city, enabled them to distinguish what remained of the
buildings; but was not sufficiently diffused to show the sides or roof
of the enormous cavern in which they were, so that it was impossible to
estimate its size.

Transfixed with astonishment, St. Just watched the stream of melted lava
vomited forth from the glowing chasm and rush along in a fiery channel,
crackling and hissing and bubbling into a sort of caldron, whence it
spread out into a sheet and poured down upon the deserted city, sending
up a noisome vapor that no living creature could breathe for long.  The
whole scene was enough to strike terror into the boldest heart, and St.
Just, courageous as he was, felt his own quake and his legs beneath him
tremble.

Presently the old Sheik touched him and called his attention to an
obelisk that was reared on the platform on which they stood.

It was covered with inscriptions, almost undecipherable through age.
But the old Sheik interpreted them to St. Just as follows:

"In the sixth year of the founding of this city (this would mean about
2600 B.C.) was this built for the river and for the traders thereon;
wherein is it possible to shelter our ships.  And in this same year was
the road from the City to the Ancient tomb by the Nile Bank finished in
a manner worthy of those who built this city.  This monument has been
erected as a memorial of the same."

"There," said the Sheik, "this was their greatness, now listen to their
end."

He pointed to an inscription of six lines cut roughly upon the wall of
the rocky platform on which they were, and read:

"Woe is come upon us, Woe.  The plague is on us—the black plague.  Our
trade is at an end; our King has fled; our women and children lie dead
in the streets; for the gods have forsaken us.  The mountain is on fire
and the river has receded, and in its place have I walked dry shod.  I
have placed the King’s treasures in a safe place, and I go to tell him
that the Captain of his guard, Hathi, is faithful."

Lower down was written:

"Alas, I am too late, I die, I die.  The treasure is in the temple."

Thus abruptly ended these records of man in his magnificence and in his
woe.

"Where is the temple?" inquired St. Just.

"There," said the Sheik, pointing to a passage on their right.  "We go
to it now."

The Sheik led the way, and, after traversing the passage, they entered a
vast, ruined marble hall.

"The treasure is here?" asked St. Just.

"Nay," replied the Sheik, "for this is but the outer court."

"Is the fire always issuing from that crater?" inquired St. Just when
they had retraced their steps to their companions.  "And will it take
long to destroy what remains of the city?"

"Years, at the rate it goes on now; for it is not always burning
actively; sometimes for long periods it only smoulders.  But, possibly,
only hours, should there be a great increase in the outpour of the
lava."

"And, if the lake above fell in on top?" suggested St. Just laughing.

"Seconds; there would be such an explosion as the world has never yet
seen."

Their torches, which they had extinguished when they had been no longer
needed, were now relighted, and they made their way back as rapidly as
possible, musing in silence on all that they had seen.

The dawn of another day was breaking when they emerged on the spot from
which they had started on the subterranean journey; and at once they
started for the camp.

Three days later, St. Just left for Cairo, resolved first to marry
Halima, and then, to gain possession of the treasure and return to
France at the first opportunity. He had made some rough plans of the
place, unknown to the Sheik, and these he took with him when he set out
for Cairo.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*


It was on the fifth of March that St. Just started on his return journey
to Cairo, accompanied by an escort of twenty of the old Sheik’s
followers and the lad Mahmoud, to whom, on account of his alertness and
fidelity, he had become much attached.  He was the bearer of a letter
written in Arabic, from the Sheik to Buonaparte, its purport being that
the wily Ibrahim, while declining to give any active assistance to the
French Commander-in-chief, agreed, on the other hand, not forcibly to
oppose him.

The Sheik also gave him letters of introduction to other sheiks in and
on the way to Cairo, commending him to their protection and urging them
to do all they could to forward him on his way.

In order to avoid the hardships of the desert, it had been decided that,
so far as was possible, St. Just’s route should be by the river; boats
to make the journey in stages, it was believed, could be obtained from
the various sheiks on the way.  With this view, the party took no
horses, but set out mounted on camels.  The gray stallion, that St. Just
had captured from the Arabs when he had slain its rider, and that had
served him so faithfully during his wanderings in the desert, he
presented as a parting gift to Halima’s father.  It was the only thing
in his possession, and was but a slight return for all the old sheik had
done for him from the time he had made a target of him for his
followers.  And Ibrahim had done much; had nursed him back to life,
supplied him with money for his homeward journey, furnished him with
letters of commendation to powerful sheiks he would fall in with by the
way, given him a guard for his protection, accorded him his friendship,
and, to crown all, was desirous of receiving him as his son-in-law.

And St. Just rightly appreciated the old man’s kindness; he thanked him
again and again at parting, and promised to return with Halima at the
earliest possible moment. And the Sheik himself, with all his Arab
undemonstrativeness, seemed much affected while he wrung the young man’s
hand, when the moment for the cavalcade to start had come.

"Farewell, my son," he said; "may Allah have you in his keeping, and
bring you back here safe and sound, and, with you, the light of my old
eyes, my daughter.  I charge you watch over her and protect her from all
danger.  Keep your tryst with me, and I will keep faith with you and
will give my child to you, and you shall be my son indeed.  For I am
old, and ’tis time she had some one to protect her, other than myself.
And now, speed you all you can.  Once more, farewell."

"Trust me," was St. Just’s sole reply; then the party started.

Two days’ traveling by easy stages brought them to the river bank at a
point that marked the eastern boundary of the district occupied by
Ibrahim’s tribe.  Here they were furnished with a boat sufficiently
capacious to contain them all, as well as the men who were to take her
back.

It was weary work this traveling down the Nile, for, though St. Just was
in the company of others, he was practically alone; he could understand
but little of the dialect of those who were about him, and what
interested them, in no way appealed to him.  Besides, they seemed to
regard him with a certain degree of distrust, that, in some of them,
amounted to dislike, which they took small pains to hide.  This was only
natural, for the uniform St. Just wore was a constant reminder that he
was of the nationality of the invaders of their country.  They
endeavored to thwart and mislead him in every way, and, had it not been
for information that Mahmoud gave him privately, his progress would have
been slower even than it was.  Arrangements could be made for boats or
rafts, only for stated distances; and at the end of each of such stages
there was renewed bargaining and haggling with a fresh set of people,
St. Just’s own followers doing their best privately with the proprietors
to persuade them not to take them on.  They were desirous of returning
to the encampment of the tribe, and hoped, by raising so many
difficulties to their progress, to wear out St. Just’s persistence and
cause him to forego his purpose.  It was a pity they did not know all
that was in his mind; for, had they done so, they would have realized
the hopelessness of achieving what they had in view, and would have done
all they could to advance, instead of to retard, him. Where he fell in
with sheiks located on the margin of the river, to whom Ibrahim had
given him letters, bargaining for boats was easy; but it so happened
that most of the dwellers by the river were strangers.

Thus, from one cause and another, their progress was very slow.  Then,
something occurred that completely stopped it for a time; St. Just fell
ill.  He took a severe cold which he was unable to shake off.  He
struggled manfully with his increasing weakness, but in vain; ague set
in, and he felt that he was in for a serious illness. He called the
faithful Mahmoud and inquired of him whether any of the sheiks to whom
he had letters were within reasonable distance.  Fortunately for him,
there was one encamped but a few miles away.  So St. Just decided to
land at once and make for this sheik’s quarters. When he reached them,
he had but time to deliver his credentials, when he fell down in a
fainting fit.  He was thoroughly exhausted.

For weeks he knew nothing.  All the time, the trusty Mahmoud tended him
assiduously, and, but for him, St. Just would never have recovered.  The
Sheik, too, who had a great respect for the more powerful Ibrahim, did
all he could for him.  At last, so weak that he could not raise his
head, the young officer awoke to consciousness. Soon he began to pick up
strength, and, a month afterwards, he felt himself sufficiently
recovered to proceed. So he once more embarked upon the river and the
weary round was recommenced; and, on the 9th of August, St. Just made
his final landing on the river bank at a point near a village distant
only a few hours’ journey from Cairo, and within the sphere of French
authority.

Here he dismissed the men who had formed his escort, retaining only the
youth Mahmoud, with whom he made his way to a hut close by, where dwelt
a man who had some camels.  It was at this hut that the young officer
caught a glimpse of himself for the first time for many months; for,
hanging up against the wall, was a piece of looking-glass about four
inches square, an article, it seemed, on which the owner set much store.

St. Just started with surprise at the unfamiliar visage in the mirror.
He saw a thin, lined, haggard face, with a complexion almost as dark as
an Arab’s, set in framework of long, black, disheveled hair and unkempt
beard, his mouth completely hidden by a strong deep fringe of moustache.
His military headgear he had never seen since the moment of his fall
from the rock after he had been shot at by Mahmoud; and he now wore a
"haic," a sort of turban.  Altogether he looked a thorough Asiatic, and
to one who had known him only as the smart young officer of the Guides,
he would have been unrecognizable. He still wore what remained of his
uniform, but it was stained and worn and torn, with scarcely a morsel of
gold lace left on it.  Moreover, it hung loosely on him, for his thin
face was the index of his whole frame, which was emaciated to a degree.
He was horrified at his appearance, but he spent no time in vain regrets
at the woeful spectacle he presented.  With a short, hard laugh,
indicative of a sort of amused disgust, he strode out of the hut to join
the owner of the camels, whom he found chatting with Mahmoud.

After much chaffering, in which, on St. Just’s side, Mahmoud bore the
major part and displayed considerable acuteness, a bargain was struck.

They set out upon their journey shortly before noon, and proceeded
slowly on their way, making no halt until just before dusk, when they
dismounted for their evening meal.  Not much time, however, was allowed
for this, for, now that St. Just was nearing the goal he had been aiming
at for months, his eagerness to reach it made him hurry on his men.  But
darkness came on so rapidly that they were compelled to postpone further
progress till the following day.

At the dawn of day they resumed their march, and in about two hours St.
Just’s eyes were gladdened by the sight of a detachment of French
infantry mounted on camels en route for Suez.  Soon after this he
entered Cairo.



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*


General Buonaparte had just returned to Cairo after an absence of
several months with the army, whose operations he had been directing in
the field.  From the moment of his arrival, he had been busy
interviewing not only generals and other army officials, but all sorts
and conditions of men in that part of the world—contractors,
concessionaires, traders, slavers, interpreters, sheiks, the guardians
of order in the City, breeders of horses, dealers in camels—in fact all
who hoped to make money out of the French.

The last person he had seen was Yusuf, the man, it will be remembered,
who, being the nephew of the sheik Ibrahim, attempted to abduct his
uncle’s daughter, the lovely Halima.  He had been kept in confinement
during the whole five months of Buonaparte’s absence.  In fact the
General had forgotten him, and it was only on his return, when reminded
that Yusuf was still in prison, that he remembered his existence.  Then
he at once ordered the man’s release.

Given his liberty, Yusuf sought an interview with General Buonaparte for
the purpose of asking to be enrolled in a band of Bedouins who acted as
spies and scouts for the French Army,—at the same time that they did a
little slave dealing on their own account; of course, under the rose—and
his request was granted.

Scarcely had the Arab left his presence, when an officer came to inform
the General that a strange looking man, who said he was the bearer of
important despatches, desired an interview.

"Who is he?  Where is he from?" was Buonaparte’s sharp enquiry.

"He declines to give his name, Sir," was the reply. "He speaks French
like a Frenchman and wears a ragged French uniform and a turban; but he
looks like an Arab and says he is from the desert."

"Admit him," said Buonaparte shortly.

The officer withdrew and, in another minute, returned, followed by St.
Just.  The latter drew himself up, saluted and then removed his "haic"
(his head-covering.)

Buonaparte made a movement with his hand for the officer to retire.
Then he bent his gaze on the uncouth figure before him, scrutinizing him
closely to see whether his features were familiar to him.  Failing to
recognize him, he said sharply.

"Your name, Sir?  You have despatches.  Where do you come from?"  He
drummed impatiently with his fingers on the table.  With all his
imperturbability, the answer he received surprised him.

"Henri St. Just, Captain in the regiment of Guides."

"What!" exclaimed Buonaparte.  "St. Just?  It was reported that you were
dead by those who said they saw you shot."

He got up from his seat, and, coming up to the young officer, examined
his features closely.  The result satisfied him of St. Just’s identity.

"You are indeed St. Just.  Now, sit down and tell me all about it."

He resumed his seat, and St. Just also sat down, and, after detailing
the circumstances with which the reader is acquainted, went on to say,
"After my recovery and release, I started, with an escort furnished by
the Sheik Ibrahim, from a place whose name I do not know, except that
the people call it the Tombs of the Kings, with an answer from Ibrahim
to your letter.  It is for this reason, General, that I have ventured to
present myself before you in this most unseemly garb and unkempt
condition, for which I crave your pardon."

"It is granted; you have done quite right.  Where is the letter?"

St. Just rose and handed it to him.

Buonaparte had just concluded reading it, when an aide-de-camp entered
and, saluting, said, "A courier from Admiral Gantheaume, Sir."

"Admit him," was the answer.

In obedience, the aide-de-camp ushered in a young officer, in whom St.
Just recognized his quondam acquaintance Garraud, now a smart looking
Captain in St. Just’s old troop.

Garraud advanced and, at Buonaparte’s bidding, laid his despatches upon
the table; then retiring, he took up his stand by St. Just and gazed
intently at him.  There was something about him that seemed familiar to
him. All at once, the past came back to him, and, with a smile of
pleasure, and, quite forgetful of his General’s presence, he seized St.
Just by the arm and exclaimed boisterously:

"Why, St. Just, my dear fellow, it’s you I declare.  How on earth did
you get here, and in this strange garb, too? It was given out that you
were dead."

"Silence, if you please, Sir," exclaimed Buonaparte. "Your
congratulations may be deferred to a more fitting time.  At present you
will attend to me, important duties require your attention.  The
Englishman Smith (Sir Sidney), is he still on the coast?"

The color had mounted to Garraud’s face at the reproof he had received,
and he stammered in making his reply, "He—he is, Sir."

"How soon can you reach Alexandria, leaving at once?" Buonaparte went
on.

"In three days, Sir, traveling night and day."

Then Buonaparte bent over the table and began to write rapidly.
Meanwhile, neither of the others spoke, contenting themselves with
exchanging meaning smiles and glances.

The document completed, Buonaparte folded and sealed it; then handed it
to Garraud.

"Leave instantly," he said, "and make all speed."

Bowing to the General and giving St. Just a silent handshake, Garraud
left the room, and soon they heard the clatter of his horse’s hoofs
outside.

When they were once more alone, Buonaparte began to question St. Just
about his adventures since their last meeting.  St. Just’s answers
appeared to please him, for he rose from his seat and shook his hand;
then he pinched his ear, a way he had of showing friendliness, and
addressed him.

"You have shown yourself worthy of your country, St. Just; you have done
well, and I shall give you further opportunities for the exercise of
your courage and fidelity. Meanwhile——" he broke off and strode to the
door and flung it open.  Then he called out, "Tremeau."

A young officer presented himself and saluted.  "Take Major St. Just to
your quarters and give him the means of making himself recognizable as a
French officer.  And you, St. Just, keep within the barracks till I give
you leave to quit them.  It is likely I shall want you.  And you, too,
Tremeau, I shall have work for you."

A glow of satisfaction had lighted up St. Just’s face at hearing
Buonaparte address him as Major, and, he with the other officer, was on
the point of leaving the room, when the General resumed, "Stay."

He drew a paper to him and scrawled something rapidly upon it.  Then,
handing what he had written to St. Just, he went on, "Here is your
commission as Major, with a letter to your Colonel to reinstate you in
your old regiment; also an order to General Dupuy to furnish you with
new uniforms and a horse, or the means of procuring them."

St. Just, his heart beating with gratitude and, almost, worship for his
General, whom at that moment he regarded as a hero for whom he would
willingly have laid down his life, bent over Buonaparte’s hand and
kissed it in his enthusiasm.

The evident spontaneity of the act and its devotion pleased the General
and even touched his heart.

"Go along, you silly boy," he said, with a smile; "this is not a
drawing-room, but a soldier’s quarters.  You should reserve such acts of
homage for your mistress. Now, go; I shall not lose sight of your
interests."  And he gave him a friendly push towards his companion, who
stood waiting statue-like by the door.

The door closed upon them, and Buonaparte was alone. In a moment a
change came over his countenance; the smile vanished and, with knitted
brow, and hands clasped behind his back, he stood in the center of the
apartment, motionless, deep in thought.

"They must not meet yet," he muttered presently; "not until I have seen
her and learned what she will tell him."

St. Just’s return had brought Halima to his mind.  For months he had
seen nothing of her, nor had he communicated with her.  In fact he had
discarded her, as a child throws aside a toy of which he has grown
tired.  At the same time, although he considered himself in no way
accountable to St. Just for his relations with her, he did not care that
the former lovers should meet without preparation. He knew that Halima
was in Cairo, for he had given orders that she was to be watched, though
unknown to her, and not allowed to leave—a selfish precaution he had
taken, in case he should care to renew his intercourse with her.

However, for the moment, there were weightier matters to engage his
thoughts.  He turned again to some papers he had received from Paris,
his consideration of which had been interrupted by the despatches from
Admiral Gantheaume.

After studying them for some time attentively, he spoke aloud.  "Things
seem going badly in Paris.  Those directors are not to be trusted.
Spite of all I have done for France, they are my enemies.  They think to
keep me in the background, to brush me aside.  Ha! we shall see. They
have reason to fear me.  They shall know the stuff of which I am made.
But Junot was right; I must go back to France at once."

He gathered up the documents, locked them up in a drawer; then strode
quickly from the room.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*


After what General Buonaparte had said and his orders that they were not
to leave their quarters, St. Just and Tremeau naturally expected that,
on the following day, or, at least, on that succeeding it, they would be
entrusted with some mission, or be appointed to some position of
importance.

But day succeeded day and they had no communication from the General,
and now a week had elapsed and still they were confined to the barracks
and not permitted to go about the city; and all, as it seemed, on the
mere chance that Buonaparte might require the services of one or both of
them.  The young men found this period of confinement and inactivity
particularly irksome and their former admiration and almost worship of
their General were gradually changing to indignation and a conviction
that, for some reason, they were being fooled by him.

St. Just had utilized the interval in procuring new uniforms and outfit;
and he had been furnished with a charger, in conformity with
Buonaparte’s orders.  Further, he had called in the assistance of the
regimental barber, so that now he once more resembled the trim young
officer of a twelvemonth earlier, the only difference being that he
looked a little older, and a good deal thinner, as well as darker.

After the many months of hardship in the desert, he would have welcomed
barrack life and his regimental duties as a delightful change, were it
not for his uncertainty about Halima and his longing to be with her.

But, at ten o’clock one morning, an end was put to his suspense, for he
and his companion were summoned to the General’s presence.  They found
him listening attentively to a report an aide-de-camp was giving him.
This aide-de-camp was Garraud, and he had come from Admiral Gantheaume,
with the information that Sir Sidney Smith had left the coast, and, it
was believed, for Cyprus.

It was this news that had caused Buonaparte to send for Tremeau and St.
Just.

When they came in, without any preface he began, "In half an hour you
will start in company, with despatches for Admiral Gantheaume.  They are
to prepare him for my coming.  You will proceed with the utmost speed,
for I shall set out but one hour after you.  Make your preparations
immediately and return here within the half hour, when my despatches
will be ready."

The two young officers saluted and withdrew without a word.  In less
than the half hour they were back, their horses saddled at the door and
everything ready for their ride.  Five minutes later, they were on their
way from Cairo, St. Just filled with distress and discontent, that kept
increasing with every mile he put between the object of his passion and
himself.  It was clear that a fortnight must elapse before their meeting
could take place; he prayed it might be no longer, but his General
might, of course, take it into his head to send him on another mission.

St. Just and Tremeau met with no mishaps or adventures of any sort by
the way, for this part of the country was in the hands of the French,
whose line of communications extended from Cairo to the coast.  They
rode their best, but, for all that, did not reach the Admiral until four
days afterwards, and only four hours in advance of Buonaparte.

Up to this moment, as has been seen, Buonaparte had contrived to keep
St. Just and Halima apart, and even to conceal from her the fact that he
was alive, and, further, was in Cairo.  But for an accident, moreover,
St. Just would have accompanied his General to France, when he,
probably, would soon have forgotten his lady-love, in which case the
incidents which follow would never have occurred.

But Dame Fortune has her own mode of arranging matters for her puppets,
and in the case of Halima and St. Just, achieved her end in the way to
be now described.

It so chanced that General Kleber, to whom Buonaparte had written with
instructions that he was to meet him at the port, was not on the spot
when he arrived.  Doubtless Kleber would soon have come, but Buonaparte
could brook no delay and, in his impatience, called out:

"Send for him; send for him at once."

On that, forth from the little house at Marabou, in which the General
was issuing his last instructions, strode General Junot to find a
messenger.  Lounging outside the door, awaiting Buonaparte, was St.
Just, his tall figure conspicuous amongst those who had formed the
General’s escort.  To him Junot addressed himself.

"Ride, boot and spur, to Alexandria, and inquire at the citadel for
General Kleber.  When you see him, tell him the General impatiently
awaits him here."

The dawn of the 23rd of August—the day whose close was to see Buonaparte
set out for France to win new laurels—was breaking, when St. Just rode
forth on this new mission.

Junot, having seen him start, returned to Buonaparte, whom he found
pacing up and down in eager converse with General Menou.

"What news of Kleber?" asked Buonaparte impatiently, pausing in his walk
when Junot entered.

"I have sent a messenger to Alexandria for him, Sir," replied Junot
saluting.

"Pray Heaven he may arrive in time," was the reply.

St. Just had ridden with such despatch that it was but ten o’clock in
the morning when he entered the gates of Alexandria.  Forthwith he made
his way to the citadel; only to learn, however, that his errand had been
fruitless; General Kleber had left two hours before his arrival, unaware
of Buonaparte’s presence in the neighborhood.

St. Just handed over his despatches to one of Kleber’s aides-de-camp,
and then, tired out with the exertion of his rapid ride and prostrated
by the heat, he lay down to rest himself before setting out on his
return journey. Thinking that he might go to sleep, he left word with
the soldier to whom he gave his horse, to arouse him in an hour, unless
he, St. Just, first came to him.

Unfortunately, the man was called off to some other duty and forgot him.
In consequence, the very thing St. Just had feared took place.  He fell
off into a profound slumber, from which he did not wake until nine
o’clock at night.  He had slept for quite ten hours!

Horrified at the discovery, and cursing the soldier in whom he had
misplaced his trust, he sprang up and sought his horse, intending to
start for Marabou at once.

But, no sooner had he set his foot outside, than he heard a rumor that
Buonaparte’s escort was approaching. And the rumor was justified by the
fact; for, just when St. Just, standing by the citadel gate with reins
in hand, was on the point of springing into the saddle, there came the
sound of hoofs; next a detachment of Guides appeared, and, in their
midst, a Turkish groom, whom St. Just knew well by sight, leading
Buonaparte’s favorite horse.  But Buonaparte, to St. Just’s surprise,
was not with them.  The groom recognized the young officer and called
out to him in passing, "The General has sailed for France; set out at
six to-night."

St. Just was staggered at the news, for he had never dreamed that
Buonaparte’s departure would be so rapid. What he had just heard was so
bewildering to him, that, at first, he scarce knew what to do.  It
seemed to have upset all his plans.  At least, he must think the matter
over.  So, instead of mounting, he led his horse along on foot, the
while he strove to marshal his ideas.

Since his return to Cairo, a struggle had been going on within him
between his ambition and his love, the former backed by the influence of
his General, the latter by that of Halima.  Of late he had nursed a
sense of injury against Buonaparte for having, whether intentionally or
not, kept him from visiting his mistress.  This had tended much to
modify his former devotion to the General, and, now that the latter was
no longer present to push him forward in his military career, St. Just’s
interest in that career began to lessen, while his passion for Halima
correspondingly increased.

He felt that the present was the turning-point in his existence.  His
yearning for the lovely Arab girl became almost irresistible.  But, if
he should yield to the dire temptation that was assailing him, it would
be at a price—the highest a man could pay—his honor.  Should he now turn
his horse’s head to Cairo, he would be regarded as a deserter, and a
deserter in time of war; if caught, the penalty would be death—and dead
with dishonor.  Could he run so great a risk for a woman’s smiles?
Could he even live, a dishonored man, supposing he saved his life? Was
Halima worth the sacrifice?  Was any woman worth it?  In the agonizing
contest warring within him, the sweat came out in great drops upon his
brow and streamed down his face.  He put his hand into his pocket for
his handkerchief, and, by accident, withdrew with it the locket
containing the miniature of Halima—the locket that had turned aside
Mahmoud’s bullet and thus saved his life, and that he had preserved in
all his wanderings.

He was standing beneath a swinging oil lantern at the time.  He opened
the locket and gazed upon the lovely features there displayed.  That
glance decided his future life; for one short moment, ambition and honor
in the one scale, and love and dishonor in the other, trembled in the
balance; then slowly the former rose, until it touched the beam, and
dishonor had won the day.  Alas, for poor weak man!

"The die is cast," he cried; "it is my fate.  To Cairo and to her.  But,
oh! what a price I am paying for my love!"

Then he vaulted into the saddle and galloped off into the darkness.



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*


Five days later, making his way through the suburb of Gizeh towards the
city of Cairo, might have been seen a tall, well-built man, with shaven
face, whom, from his dark complexion and Moorish dress one would have
set down as a denizen of the desert, the more so that he was closely
followed by two Arabs.  The observer, however, who should have come to
this conclusion, would have been in error, for the traveler was St.
Just, but so changed in appearance, that scarce even his most intimate
friend would have recognized him.

After the decision he had come to, this change in his appearance had
become imperative for the achievement of his purpose, in consequence of
his having come away without having obtained leave of absence from his
General. When he learned of Buonaparte’s departure, he ought, of course,
either to have reported himself to General Kleber, or rejoined his
regiment.  To all intents and purposes he was, therefore, a deserter.
Hence the necessity for his disguise.  How he had managed it was in this
way.

On the outskirts of Gizeh he had met Mahmoud, whom, in the suddenness of
his departure from Cairo with Buonaparte’s despatch to Admiral
Gantheaume, he had forgotten to inform of his intended mission.  In
consequence, Mahmoud, when two or three days had elapsed without his
seeing or hearing anything of his master—for it will be remembered that
Tremeau had accompanied St. Just—came to the conclusion that he had been
deserted, so had decided to make his way back to his tribe as best he
could.  He had fallen in with another member of the tribe, one Abdallah,
and the two had joined themselves to a caravan en route for the desert.

On their meeting, mutual recognitions and explanations had taken place,
between St. Just and Mahmoud, with the result that a bargain had been
effected by which St. Just had sold his horse to one of the dealers in
the caravan, and exchanged his uniform for an Arab costume. Then he had
darkened his complexion, and his disguise had been completed.

Next he had explained to the two Arabs his intentions with regard to
Halima; how, by her father’s wishes he was going to marry her, get her
by some means out of Cairo, and make his way with her to the Sheik
Ibrahim. He had asked them to help him, and they had assented, and the
three were now proceeding to Cairo on this errand.

Early on the following morning, therefore, St. Just presented himself at
Halima’s house—having first procured for Mahmoud and Abdallah lodgings
in an obscure quarter of the city not far from Halima’s—where, in answer
to his summons, the door was opened by an Arab of forbidding aspect, who
scowlingly inquired his business.

"My master, the merchant Abdallah," St. Just made reply, "bade me bring
this parcel to the Lady Halima, and to await here her instructions."
And he held out a little packet that contained the miniature of Halima,
together with a paper on which was inscribed in Arabic, "News of him to
whom you gave this, and of your father, from whom the bearer has a
message."

After looking St. Just up and down suspiciously, for the man had noticed
that the few words the Frenchman had uttered had lacked the natural
ring, the Arab took the packet, and admitted him to the courtyard, where
he bade him wait.

Not a soul was there besides himself, yet memory peopled it for him with
throngs of living, moving beings.  In his mind’s eye he could see men in
the uniform of his own country, some mounted, some on foot, small in
numbers, defending themselves gallantly against a horde of dark-visaged,
vindictive Egyptians, mingled with half-clad slaves of even darker hue,
all bent on the destruction of the little desperate band.  He could see
the great general, once the object of his most absolute devotion; now,
alas!—he shuddered when he thought of Buonaparte; and turned his mind to
pleasanter reflections; he thought of Halima.

There above him—it was the second from the right—was the window from
which she had made her escape on that eventful day, the first of their
acquaintance.  And next to it was the one from which, in the moonlight,
she had bidden him a fond farewell, the last time they had met, and
flung him a rose, her parting gift.  And this was ten months ago.  How
much had passed since then!

The fountain plashed musically into its marble basin, and St. Just
seated himself beside it, and, resting his elbow on his knee, placed his
hand beneath his chin, and resigned himself to thought.  What an age it
seemed since he had seen Halima; how would she receive him when they
met? Would her eyes gladden at the sight of him, or would she treat him
as a stranger?  Oh! no, she could not be so cruel.

His reverie was broken by the re-appearance of "The Scowler," as St.
Just had mentally nick-named him.

"My mistress would have speech with you," he said; "follow me."

St. Just arose, his heart beating wildly with mingled excitement and
suspense, and, in silence, accompanied the Arab along the colonnade,
through the deserted pillared hall, and up the narrow staircase, that
had been the scone of the sanguinary contest from which he had emerged
with his bare life and Halima’s.  Then they came to the well-remembered
curtains, through which he had so often passed.  His guide drew these
aside for him to enter; then let them fall back to their place, and
retraced his steps.

And there was Halima.  At last they had met.  She was seated on the
divan she had so often shared with him.  In his eyes, she was, as she
had ever been, beautiful beyond compare; but it cut him to the heart to
see the look of care and sadness that now overspread her former laughing
features.  She was noticeably thinner, too.  At the moment of his
entrance, her eyes were bent upon the miniature before her.  Perhaps,
she was regretfully comparing the joyous, rounded face she saw there,
with her own altered looks.  Silently and motionless he waited for her
to raise her eyes.  Then she gave a little sob, and a tear stole down
her cheek and dropped upon the miniature, blurring the winsome face on
which her gaze was bent.

Her lover could contain himself no longer.  Forgetful of his changed
appearance, and the character that, for the time, he was assuming, he
rushed to her side and seized her hand.

"Halima!  My own," he cried in fervid accents.  "My darling! my
betrothed!  It is I, your Henri.  I have come back to you.  Oh! let me
look in your sweet eyes and there read that you are glad to see me.
Speak to me, dear one; surely you are not afraid of me," he added, for
she had taken no notice of his glowing tones.  Then he kissed the hand
he held, almost devouring it.

At last she turned her liquid eyes upon him; but, instead of the joy he
had hoped to see in them, there was a look of doubt, of bewilderment,
even of fear.

"Who?  What?" she stammered.  She looked intently at him to assure
herself that he was indeed the man he said; then, with a low cry of
"Henri!" she withdrew her hand from his and, burying her face in the
cushions, burst into a storm of tears.

Pained beyond measure and astonished at the violence of her grief, for
she sobbed without restraint, St. Just threw himself on his knees beside
her, placed one arm round her waist and, with caresses and loving words,
did his best to stem her tears.

"What ails my darling? why these tears?" he asked in gentle accents.
"Is it excess of joy at my return, or what? You are unnerved, my Halima.
It was thoughtless of me so suddenly to come upon you.  You thought no
doubt, with others, that I was dead, that we should never meet again.
It was so said, I know, but it was false; I am indeed your Henri.  And I
have seen your father; have been his guest for months; and he has sent
me here to take you to him.  Then we are never to be parted more. So,
weep no more, my darling, but look into my eyes and say you love me."

With such words and more of the same nature did the young men seek to
allay her anguish, whose intensity was beginning to alarm him.  Then he
gently strove to raise her head from the cushions in which she still
kept it buried.

She made but a faint resistance, and turned her tear-stained face on
his.  He tried to kiss her, but she shrank back from him, with a hunted
look upon her face.  He had never seen such a look on it before, and it
made him tremble; still more so did her words.

"Oh, no! no! you must not.  Do not touch me.  And go, go away, if you
would save both further misery.  You cannot guess what shame and
suffering your presence causes me.  If you would spare me more, I
entreat you, leave me."

St. Just, not having an inkling of the truth, supposed that it was his
own conduct in having, as she supposed, so long neglected her, that had
caused this outburst.  Still her face expressed neither injured pride
nor anger.

"Tell me, my Halima," he implored in piteous accents, "in what have I
offended.  Indeed it was not my fault that I came not to you sooner.  I
have been ill for many months—at death’s door twice.  I——"

With an effort she choked back her tears, and, turning her lovely head,
her hair all disordered and her eyes red with weeping, towards him, she
looked at him, oh so sadly in the face; then she said softly:

"I blame you not, Henri; it is I alone who am to blame.  And I am your
Halima no longer.  I am not worthy of you.  Forget me, forget that the
unhappy woman you knew as Halima ever lived, and, if you can, forgive
her.  But go, I pray you."

Still mystified, but with an awful suspicion growing in his mind, St.
Just replied, "Nay, Halima, I cannot leave you thus.  If, as you say,
you blame me not, I have a right to an explanation of your strange
words—words that have stirred me more than any I have ever heard.  After
you have told me all that they portend, it will be time for my
decision."

"You will not spare me, then," she said, "the shame of my disclosure?
Oh! you are cruel, Henri."  Then, after a momentary pause and with a
sigh of resignation, she went on, "But, perhaps, ’tis better so; for,
when you have heard the confession I have to make, you will no longer
seek to stay."

Gradually, while she had been speaking, he had withdrawn himself from
her side, and now, with a look of expectant horror in his face, he took
a seat that faced her.

"Then listen," she resumed.  "Some months after you had gone, they told
me you were dead.  It was General Buonaparte who first brought the news
to me.  I had seen him many times since your departure, and he had
professed to love me; but, despite all his pressing, I remained true to
you.  I told him that my heart whispered to me that you still lived, and
that nothing but the evidence of eye-witnesses would make me think
otherwise.  A month later he brought two men of my father’s tribe, who
said that they had seen you slain, shot by my father’s orders. My grief
was terrible, but how could I decline such evidence?  And you must
remember that, all this time, I had received no single word from you.
Then——"

"It was impossible for me to send to you," he interjected; "I was
stretched upon a bed of sickness, where I lay for months.  I had like to
have died, but for your father’s help."

"I know; I understand all now; Oh! that I had known before.  How cruel
has been Fate to me."

She paused again, and the frightened look she wore became intensified.

"And then?" asked St. Just sternly.

"And then," she panted in a tone so low that he had to strain his ears
to catch her words, "believing that you still lived, I had allowed
General Buonaparte to think—in order that I might stave off his
importunities—that, were I assured that you were dead, I would assent to
his wishes, and become his.  My love had died with you, and I resolved
to live for ambition, and thought I saw the way through him to its
gratification.  Then, at the moment when I was almost distraught with
grief, he reminded me of my promise, offered me his love as consolation
for my loss of you.  He promised to take me with him to Paris, a city he
knew I longed to see, and drew such glowing pictures of my life there,
that he lulled my scruples.  Then, taking advantage of my weakness,
he—and—and—I—became—his mistress!"

The last word was uttered in a whisper, but it penetrated to her
hearer’s ear.  The blood rushed to her neck and face, with the shame of
her confession, and she hung her head, not daring to raise her eyes to
his.

St. Just sprang to his feet, and put his hands before his face.

"His mistress!" he exclaimed.  "’Twas this I feared.  Oh, infamy!"  And
his voice sounded like a despairing wail. "And he knew that you were
mine.  Twice I have saved his life, and he robs me of my mistress."

There was silence for a space, she bending forward with her eyes still
fixed upon the floor, her expression that of abject hopelessness.  He
took his hands from before his eyes, and his face was piteous to behold,
so changed it was.  He spoke again.

"And for this woman I would have freely sacrificed my life.  For her I
have sacrificed—and uselessly—what is dearer far, my honor as a soldier,
my whole career."

And, without a word of farewell to the broken woman, he turned his face
from her and passed through the curtains; then scarcely seeing which way
he was going, he stumbled down the staircase and, somehow, gained the
courtyard, where he staggered to a seat.

All this time, she had not dared to raise her eyes, but she knew that he
was gone, for she heard his gradually retreating footsteps on the
stairs.  When they were no longer audible, she looked up and gazed
around the room despairingly.  Then, with a piercing cry of "Henri!" she
fell forward fainting to the floor.

He heard the cry, but for the time was too full of his own grief to heed
it; instead he kept repeating to himself the words that seemed to have
stamped themselves upon his brain, "Buonaparte’s mistress!" and then
these others, "A dishonored soldier, a deserter!"

In his agony, he laid his face within his hands and burst into tears.

The tears of a woman in mortal agony are piteous to behold, but a strong
man so affected is a sight over which one would fain draw the veil.

But grief so violent, as was St. Just’s, cannot be long continued
without one of two things occurring—either the sufferer overcomes it, or
it overcomes the sufferer.  In this case the latter happened; St. Just
fell forward to the ground, unconscious.

Of the two, Halima was the first to awake to consciousness and, with it,
to the memory of her love for St. Just and of all she had lost in losing
him.  Buonaparte she had never loved; his apparent devotion to her had
but flattered her woman’s pride and love of power; and now, even he had
deserted her; for months she had not seen him.  She could have survived
this, but for St. Just’s return; but the sight of him had fanned into a
glowing flame the smoldering ashes of her love, that had never quite
died out.  And now he, too, had left her.  Life was no longer possible
to her, and she would end it.

Imbued with this resolve, she sprang from her seat and rushed to a table
close at hand, on which lay a sharp-pointed, narrow-bladed little
dagger, with jeweled haft, a mere toy, it looked, but it had the
potentiality of dealing death.  Distraught with the agony of a hopeless
love, she seized the glittering weapon, and raised her arm, intent on
plunging the dagger to the hilt into her palpitating bosom.  Then, with
a longing to take one last look on the place in which so many
heart-stirring incidents had occurred, she moved across the room and
threw open the latticed window.

She gazed on the well-remembered scene, noticing each familiar shrub,
each well-known object, a pigeon circling overhead in the blue expanse,
a tall pinnacle of the citadel, just visible above the wall.  Then her
eye fell upon the fountain—what was that lying motionless beside it?  A
man!  In an instant she had recognized the well-loved form; it was St.
Just!

She swayed and felt as if about to faint again; then clutched at the
window for support.

"Dead!" she moaned; "killed by me.  By his side I will breathe out my
life; my dying lips shall be pressed to his in one last fond kiss, and I
will whisper in his ears—though he will hear me not—that I never loved
but him, for all I was so weak as to yield myself to the embraces of
another."

Still grasping the dagger, she rushed, like one demented, from the room,
down the staircase and into the courtyard. Then, with a low cry, she
flew to her lover’s side and, throwing herself upon her knees, she wound
one arm around his neck and kissed him passionately.

"Oh, my darling," she wailed, "I loved you so—ah, more than you ever
guessed—and I have lost you!  But though in life I cannot be yours, in
death I will not be parted from you.  At least, we can lie together in
one grave.  Sleep on in peace, my loved one, your Halima is coming to
you. One last kiss on those dear lips, and then—!"

She pressed her face to his in one long devouring kiss—a kiss that
typified her whole being’s passion; a kiss in which she seemed to
breathe out her very soul.

Then she bared her heaving bosom and raised her arm to strike.

And he?  Whether it was that, even in unconsciousness, the impassioned
outpouring of her soul struck a responsive chord in his; or that the
pressure of her soft arm round his neck and the hot kisses she showered
upon his face put warmth into his body and quickened the sluggish action
of his heart; or that both these causes combined to bring about what
happened; certain it is that, at the moment when the despairing girl was
about to end her life, he sighed profoundly and woke up from his swoon;
then turned his eyes on her.  In a moment he had grasped what she was
about to do, had seized her uplifted arm, wrenched the knife from her
and flung it into the basin of the fountain.

"Oh!  Halima!" he cried.  "What were you about to do?  A moment more and
I should have been too late. Thank God that I came to in time.  Ah! my
love, what prompted this rash resolve?"

"I thought you dead; that I had killed you, and I could not live without
you."

"Live with me, my darling; live for vengeance; for vengeance on your
betrayer, as I mean to do."

"It shall be so," she cried fiercely.  "To punish him we will devote our
lives."  Then, the stern expression softening into a look of such
adoring love that the last shred of the man’s resentment vanished, "Oh,
Henri, Henri, my love, my life," she murmured; then sank sobbing on his
breast.

He pillowed her lovely head upon his shoulder and caressed her fondly.
For the moment, he forgot that another had possessed her.  Then
presently, when she had grown somewhat calmer, "Buonaparte has sailed
for France," he said "and you are free.  Forget the past, as I will
strive to do, and find renewed happiness with me.  Your father looks to
see us man and wife.  What say you, sweet?"

She raised her face suffused with tears, but smiling through them, to
his, and in the lovelight in her eyes he read her answer.

He pressed her to his breast and kissed her again and again.

"Sweetheart," he said presently, "I have turned my back upon the army;
henceforth I live for you alone."

"And revenge," she added sternly.

Then, hand in hand, they went into the house.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*


When the reunited lovers had somewhat calmed down after the exciting
scene in which they had been the actors, St. Just handed Halima her
father’s letter, and showed her those the old man had given for friendly
Sheiks in Cairo.

Satisfied, after reading his letter, that her father favored her
marriage with St. Just, and the arrangement so entirely coinciding with
her most ardent desire, Halima quickly became all smiles, and entered
with avidity into his plans for giving it effect, and for making their
escape together from Cairo at the earliest practical opportunity, to
rejoin the Sheik.  Both were aware that Halima was being watched, by
Buonaparte’s orders, to prevent the very thing they meditated; so the
greatest circumspection would be needed.  They were in hopes, however,
that, now that Buonaparte was no longer in the country, the watch would
be less strictly kept, if even it were not wholly discontinued.

And St. Just, on his part, had to be very careful in his movements and
always to go about disguised.  At the same time, he thought he ran
little risk from the military authorities; for it was known to them,
that he had been sent on a mission by the General-in-chief and had, for
all they knew, either returned with him to France, or remained in
Alexandria.  As an alternative, his absence might be accounted for,
either by his death or capture by hostile Arabs; for, from one or other
of these causes, couriers were constantly disappearing.  The desert
swarmed with murderous nomads.

Captain Tremeau, who would have been the most likely person to see
through his disguise, had accompanied Buonaparte to France, and most
people thought that St. Just had done the same.  Accordingly, he felt
comparatively safe.  For all that, he thought it unwise to be seen too
frequently at Halima’s house; so that his visits there were few and
secret.  He had taken up his abode with Mahmoud and Abdallah in a
retired quarter of the city, where their presence was not likely to
excite suspicion.

He lost no time in presenting his letters of introduction to the sheiks,
who were all leading Mussulmans and hostile to the French.  His
introducer, the Sheik Ibrahim, was a man of weight and influence, so
that any one he recommended was sure to be favorably received.
Consequently, St. Just found these sheiks very friendly and ready to
help him all they could.  And they proved their good-will most
effectively by supplying him with ample funds for his ride across the
desert.  Further to gain their confidence, St. Just professed to have
renounced the Christian faith, and his desire to become a follower of
the Prophet; and, soon afterwards, his so-called conversion was
effected, and he talked of "Allah" with the best of them.  Additionally,
he had been influenced in this course by the discovery that Halima’s
friends, the sheiks in Cairo, regarded with aversion the thought of her
marriage with a Christian, and were doing their utmost to dissuade her
from it, at any rate, until she had joined her father.  But, now that
St. Just had become one of them in faith, all opposition was removed;
and, soon afterwards, he and Halima were made man and wife with Islam
rites.

Meanwhile, Halima had kept her eyes about to see how far she was being
followed in her movements.  In the result she felt satisfied that the
watch on her was not so close as formerly, and this she told her
husband, on his next visit. She said she was confident that she could
now get away unnoticed, and urged him to arrange to leave the city at
once.  Now that she had become his wife, it fretted her to see so little
of him; the hours seemed to pass so slowly in his absence, and she lived
in a fever of unrest until he returned; she yearned for a renewal of his
fond caresses and the ardent expression of his passion.  So that she was
prepared to run even great risks in order to be with him always; now,
however, she thought they would run none.

Accordingly, it was resolved that the attempt to escape from Cairo
should be made on the following day.  It was now the middle of
September, nearly a month since St. Just had fled from Alexandria.

At about four o’clock on the afternoon of the following day the
passer-by might have seen three beggars loitering in a street not far
from Halima’s house.  The oldest of the three was a villainous-looking
old rascal, whose stomach swelled out enormously, as though he were
suffering from dropsy.  It may be at once stated, however, that its
abnormal size was due not to a liquid, but a solid cause—hay stuffed in
between his body and his clothing.  This man was the Arab Abdallah.  The
two men with him were Mahmoud and St. Just, the former limping along
with one leg bent at right angles and supported on a stump; the latter
suffering, apparently, from some fearful face disease—paint artistically
applied.

Beggars suffering from various diseases are common in the East, where
they make a market of their disfigurements, which are profitable in
proportion to their loathsomeness. As a matter of course, there are
numbers of impostors among the tribe, and these are generally the most
importunate in appealing to the charity of the sympathetic portion of
the community.  In fact, it is in the East, as with us in the West,
those who make the greatest noise about their troubles are the least
deserving.

Beggars being seen at almost every corner, the presence of these three
sunning themselves on the steps of a house in a quiet street excited no
suspicion.

"This begging seems to be a fairly profitable calling," said Abdallah,
who had just made a successful appeal to a charitable passer-by.  "No
wonder there are so many halt and maimed about."  And he chuckled grimly
at the thought of the kindly dupes.

"No doubt it pays well," rejoined St. Just; "though ’tis a despicable
life, at best.  But come, it is time for us to be moving towards the
house.  ’Tis close upon the hour of prayer, when the Lady Halima is to
join us.  Are the camels in readiness, Mahmoud?"

"I have seen to that, Sir," replied the lad; "there will be no delay
with them."

"Good," resumed St. Just.  "We will be going."

And they moved on slowly, with the slouching gait that seems to go with
beggars, towards Halima’s street, passing on their way a mosque, from
which they could hear the sound of voices raised in prayer.

Then they took up their station near the house and waited.  Presently a
small door in the wall—not the main entrance—was opened, and a young
Arab boy stepped out and looked cautiously around.  No one, but the
three beggars, was in sight.  He locked the door; then flung the key
into the kennel, where it buried itself in a heap of garbage.

The boy stopped for a moment and seemed to be listening to the voices of
the devotees in the neighboring mosque; then came swiftly towards the
three watchers.  Then something occurred that made St. Just’s heart leap
high.  The boy drew from his breast something that St. Just instantly
recognized as the amulet Madame Buonaparte had given him in Paris, and
whose loss he had so much regretted, believing he should never see it
again.

Convinced by this act that the youth was a messenger from Halima, St.
Just remarked to Mahmoud in his natural voice, to satisfy the newcomer
of his identity, "Mahmoud, this boy is surely a servant of the Lady
Halima."

Before Mahmoud could reply, the young Arab had sprung forward with the
cry of "Henri!  My husband."

"Halima?" exclaimed St. Just, amazed.  "No wonder I did not recognize
you.  What means this strange costume?"

"I thought I should, dressed thus, the better escape notice.  But tell
me how you like me in this garb?  Think you I make a comely boy?"

And she laughed a merry laugh.

"A charming one, indeed," he answered, with a smile; "and ’twas a happy
thought of yours.  But we must not waste the time in pretty speeches.
We will go on in advance, and you follow at a little distance, keeping
us well in sight.  You are far too pretty and well clad to form one of
our ragged party."

And as he said, they did, making their way quickly to the three men’s
lodgings, which they all entered.  Soon three men came out dressed like
honest traders, the characters they intended to assume.  They were
accompanied by an Arab boy—so those who might meet the party would
suppose.

Then they made their way down another street and halted at some gates
that gave on to a large yard.  Through these St. Just passed with
Mahmoud, leaving Halima in Abdallah’s charge outside.  They were not
long absent and, when they returned, they brought with them three
camels, St. Just handing Abdallah a piece of paper.

"Ben Hadji is a good man," said that worthy.  "He has kept faith with
us.  The Sheik, my master, will reward him.  Thanks to him, our passage
through the city gate and on to Gizeh should be easy."

Then the camels were got down on their knees and the party mounted—all
but Mahmoud, who, in the character of a servant, was to walk behind,
until they should reach the further boundary of Gizeh, where a camel
would be provided for him.

Then the party started, Halima between Abdallah and St. Just mounted on
their camels, and Mahmoud in the rear on foot.  In due course, they
reached the city gate, where they were challenged by the officer on
guard; but the paper they had with them passed them through.

A few hours later, the same party dismounted, were waiting on a little
landing stage on the river bank, at the point where the village of Gizeh
stands.  Moored to the stage was a long, low, boat with broad square
sails; such a boat as is in use upon the Nile by the natives even at the
present day.  In this they were on the point of embarking when they
heard shouts; and, looking round they saw an Arab, dusty and
travel-stained, running towards them.  He made at once for Abdallah, to
whom he panted out:—

"Good master, I saw you from the bank.  A minute later, and I should
have missed you.  I would have speech with you.  My business is
important.  I have traveled far and fast to seek you."

He took him apart and whispered in his ear.

Abdallah’s face lengthened at the communication, but, at first, he made
no reply.  Grasping the man by the arm, lie motioned him to the boat.
"Step in," he said.  "Our way is thine; we go to the ’Tomb of the
Kings.’"

They were soon all settled in the boat, and the sail was set; then, the
wind being dead aft, they began to travel rapidly up the river.

Presently Abdallah caught St. Just’s eye and, unseen by the others,
signed to him to come to him.  When the young Frenchman had come up, the
other whispered something in his ear.  It was the communication he had
received from the stranger, and at it St. Just looked grave.  But almost
immediately, he rejoined Halima, at whose side he sat, silent and
preoccupied.

When his silence had become noticeable, Halima looked anxiously in his
face and, noting his grave and sad expression, she laid her hand gently
on his arm.

"Henri," she said, "something has happened to disturb you.  I can see it
in your face.  If some new trouble has arisen, let me share it with you.
I am your wife, and it is my privilege to do so.  If I cannot console
you in your sorrow, at least, let me bear my part in it.  I am no
coward, as you know.  Tell me, my dear one," she concluded pleadingly.

He took her hand in his.  "Alas! my Halima," he said. "I have sad
tidings for you, but they concern not your husband, but your father.
Your messenger brought news that your father has been stricken down by
illness, sick, as it is feared, to death."

She gave a start, and a little cry proceeded from her lips. It was the
last thing she had thought of.  Her father, though well on in years, had
always seemed so hale and strong.

"My father ill, and like to die?" she cried.  "Oh! may Allah save him.
He is all I have, save you.  Oh! tell them to make all speed.  I must, I
will see him before he dies, if die he must."

The tears gathered in her eyes, and she wept silently.

"My dearest, we could not go faster than we are," he said.  "The wind is
in our favor and is carrying us forward bravely.  Bear up, my Halima, in
the hope that Allah will so order it, that you shall see your father
again."

She made no reply to this, and he sat on, silent, by her side, still
holding her hand in his.

Presently, when her first grief had spent itself, her tears ceased to
flow and she dried her eyes.  Then she looked up trustfully into St.
Just’s face and said, "It will be as Allah wills; if I am to lose one
protector in my father, I have gained another in my husband.  Strong in
the possession of your love, I will not rebel against the decrees of
Allah."

"Fear not, my dear one," he replied earnestly.  "I will be father,
lover, husband all in one to you, henceforth."

And she smiled at him lovingly in reply.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*


St. Just and his party met with no adventures on their way, and no
difficulties beyond such as were inseparable from the river and the
desert; but their progress was slow, for there were often delays in
getting boats for such stages as were traversed on the river, and these
they made as frequent as they could, preferring this mode of journeying
to the tracking of the arid desert.  But, owing to the bends in the
river and also to the cataracts, they were perforce compelled to leave
it many times and travel overland.

The last stage was made upon the river, and about six weeks after
leaving Cairo—which brought them to the beginning of November—they
landed at a small village, which was little more than a group of huts, a
few hours’ journey from the "Tombs of the Kings," where, as St. Just
soon learned, the old Sheik was still encamped.

A messenger was at once despatched to inform the tribe of their arrival,
and to announce to the Sheik that, in a few hours, Halima would be with
him.

Soon after daybreak on the following morning, they made a move, and, by
two o’clock in the afternoon, they reached the out-lying tents of the
tribe.

Quite a crowd of people were on the look-out for them, for Halima was
beloved by every member of the tribe, and all the party had relatives
and friends among them. St. Just, too, was no stranger, and, during his
previous stay with them, had gained their confidence and esteem.

When the party came up, therefore, the excitement was tremendous.  Men,
women and children crowded round them, shouting and gesticulating with
delight; Halima, who had spent all her life with them until her father
had taken her to Cairo, being the center of attraction.  The people
rushed forward to kiss the hem of her cloak, to touch her saddle, her
stirrup iron—anything that was hers; Halima was touched by the
heartiness of her welcome, and her large, dark eyes filled with tears,
even while her face beamed with smiles and she bestowed thanks and
greetings on the eager faces upturned to hers.

Even the very dogs—those mangy, yapping curs, without which no Arab
encampment is complete—shared in the general enthusiasm, running round
and round the new arrivals and barking merrily.

It was almost like a royal progress, for the crowd, which was ever on
the increase, pressed on with the party, until they came to a halt in
the center of the camp.

But, amidst all this turmoil of congratulation, Halima never, for an
instant, forgot her husband.  The looks of mingled pride and love she
turned on him would have satisfied the most exacting man that, though
she was grateful for all these tokens of affection, he had all her
heart, that he was ever in her thoughts, and that she was ready to
forsake her kith and kin, if needs be, so long as she retained his love.
In addressing him, she loved to dwell with iteration on the words "Mon
mari."  In them she summed up all her love and trust.  His was the arm
that helped her to dismount—though many others proffered their
assistance—and to which she clung when she alighted.

No sooner had they gained their feet, than an old, gray-headed man
approached them.  In him both St. Just and Halima recognized the doctor
of the tribe.  Halima at once rushed up to him.

"Oh!  Ben Kerriman," she exclaimed, "My father! how is he?  He is
alive?"

"He is alive, Lady," Ben Kerriman made reply; "but he is very weak, and
so worn that you will scarcely know him.  Still the fever has now left
him, and he suffers only from excessive weakness."

"I will go to him at once," she cried eagerly.  "Dear father, I long to
see him.  Come, Henri."

A path was formed for them through the crowd, and they made their way to
a large square tent, which St. Just, at once, recognized as the Sheik’s;
for, in front of it, he and the old warrior had spent many an hour,
while smoking their long chibouques, in friendly chat.

When they reached the entrance, St. Just halted and drew back.  He
thought that, father and daughter having been parted for so long, both
would prefer to have their first interview in private.  But Halima, at
once divining his unspoken thought, seized him by the arm and dragged
him forward.

"Of course you are to come in with me," she said in French.  "I have no
secrets from you now; you are my husband.  Besides it is right that you
should be with me when I tell him that we are married.  Dear, I want
you."

He made no more ado, and they went in together.

In a few seconds, when their eyes had accommodated themselves to the
dimness of the light, they saw in the far left hand corner of the
tent—which, after the luxury of her surroundings at Cairo, struck Halima
as bare and comfortless—a couch formed of a pile of skins.  On this,
propped up with cushions, the old Sheik reclined.  He was worn almost to
a skeleton, his brown, shriveled skin giving him the appearance of a
mummy.  The only signs of life about him were his eyes, which shone with
unnatural brilliancy, but with no vacant glitter; it was plain that,
though the body had lost its strength, the brain still maintained its
sway.  St. Just could scarce refrain from shuddering at the appalling
change in the old Sheik’s appearance.

By the side of the bed of skins, within reach of the sick man’s hand,
was a small round table, on which was placed a horn of cooling drink.  A
charcoal brazier, with smoldering embers, stood in the center of the
tent.  Crouched in a corner, watching with apparent unconcern the figure
on the couch, was a withered old hag, presumably the nurse. At the
entrance of the newcomers, she turned her eyes listlessly upon them, but
took no further notice of them.

At the sight of her father, Halima uttered a low cry of pain; then she
ran up to the bed, threw herself on her knees beside it, and, seizing
one of the claw-like hands that rested on it, covered it with kisses.

"My father!" she cried, "Allah be praised that at last I see you.  Oh!
I have been fearing that I should be too late, for I heard you were so
ill.  But, now that I have come I will nurse you back to health."

There was a slight movement in the poor, withered hand, and the
glittering eyes took on an expression of content; but presently, this
changed to one of puzzled questioning.

At once she read aright the inquiry in his eyes.  She rose from her
knees and beckoned her husband to her side.

"He wants to know how I got here," she said; "tell him, dear; it will
please him to know what you have done for me."

Then St. Just came forward and, taking Halima’s hand in his, addressed
the Sheik.

"I promised that I would bring your daughter, Sir, and I have kept my
word."

Before he could say more, Halima intervened, "And he has brought you
more than a daughter, father, he has brought you a son; he is my
husband, and oh! he is so kind to me."  She turned her eyes lovingly
upon St. Just.

A look of wonder overspread the old man’s face, and he turned his eyes
affectionately on his daughter; then they sought St. Just.  And now, for
the first time he spoke, though in so low a tone that he was scarcely
audible.

"I am happy, now that my daughter has come back to me safe and well; and
I thank you, my son, for bringing her.  The news I have just heard
bewildered me; but it is well; you have but anticipated my wishes.  And
you are happy, child; he is good to you?"

"Oh! so good; nobody could be kinder; I have not a thought ungratified.
Oh! father, I have had more happiness in this last month than in all my
previous life.  And another thing, before we married, he joined our
faith; he is now a true believer."

A faint smile lighted up the old man’s face.  "Allah is great," he said,
"and Mohammed is His prophet.  It is enough; I now can go in peace.  My
children, may your lives be long and happy."  Then, to St. Just, "I give
you an old man’s blessing, my son; in my Halima you have won a treasure;
look to it that you cherish her as she deserves, for I can see that you
have all her love; she has a gentle heart, be careful that you wound it
not; a delicate instrument, whose chords will not endure rough handling,
but will respond feelingly to a gentle touch. Accordingly as you deal
with her, may Allah deal with you."

He held out a long, lean hand to the young Frenchman, who pressed it
gently, then raised it to his lips.

Then he bent his gaze again on Halima, and held out his arms.

"Embrace me, my child," he said.

Halima knelt down beside him and threw her soft, warm arms around his
neck, and kissed him fervently; then rested her head upon his breast.
"Dear father," she murmured, "it now only needs one thing to make my
happiness complete—to see your strength restored.  I will nurse you back
to health, and Henri will assist me; it is but weakness that you suffer
from."

"A weakness, my child, that will only end in death."

Then, seeing the look of sadness in her face, he added, "But not just
yet; I feel now, that a few days still remain to me—it may be weeks.
The sight of your dear face has acted like a breath of wind upon the
spark of life still left in me, and fanned it into a feeble flicker,
though it will never rekindle the dying embers of my frame.  But I am
content; I have had my day, and it has been a long one—longer than that
of most men—and now my night has almost come."

"Oh, say not so, my father," urged his daughter.  "It is because you are
weak and weary that this is in your heart.  I cannot bear to hear you
talk thus."

He laid one sinewy palm upon her head and stroked it gently.

"We will say no more of it, since it makes you sad," he said.  "We will
talk of your affairs."  He turned to St. Just.  "How comes it, my son,
that you were able to leave your brothers in arms for the long journey
from Cairo to this place?"

St. Just paled at this, and a look of pain came into his face.  He could
not put away from him the thought of the epithet that would ever be
coupled with his name—a deserter, and in time of war—and he knew that he
never would, strive how he might; though his life might not be
forfeited, the finger of scorn would be always pointed at him by those
aware of his disgrace.

Halima, who knew his every mood, noted his expression of distress, and,
to spare him the pain of the confession, intervened before he could make
answer to her father’s question.

"He has left the French army, and all for love of me," she said.  "But
do not talk of it, my father, for he likes it not.  It is no light
matter to renounce one’s country for a woman’s love, and this sacrifice
he has made for me. For the future, he is of our people."

The old Sheik looked in wonder at St. Just; such a sacrifice was beyond
his comprehension.

"How he must have loved you, child," he said.  "I loved your mother,
more than all others in the world; but, even for her, I would not have
given up my country or my faith; have sheathed my sword for ever and
exchanged the excitement of the battle field, the clash of weapons
crossed in deadly combat, the rattle of musketry, the deep boom of guns,
the exultant shouts of victory, the pursuit of the flying foe—all this;
for the smiles and gentle dalliance of any woman, however fair.  Oh! no,
I could not have made the sacrifice.  I marvel not that he dislikes to
dwell on it.  We will talk of it no more.  Child, you must be no niggard
in your love for him; even then you will be his debtor in devotion."

But the excitement he had undergone was telling on him, and he sank back
exhausted.

"I am tired, I can talk no more," he murmured.  "I feel that I can
sleep."

He closed his eyes, and, in a few seconds, he was slumbering peacefully.

"Come," said Halima, "we will withdraw for a space, and return anon."

All this while, the old woman in the corner had remained motionless and
silent.

Now, for the first time, Halima caught sight of her. With a little cry
of pleasure, she ran forward to her and threw herself on her knees in
front of her.

"Nana!" (Nurse) she cried, "I had not seen you.  Surely you have not
forgotten your little Halima."

Instantly the old woman’s features seemed to wake to life; the look of
apathy departed, and what was meant for a smile of pleasure took its
place; but St. Just thought it ghastly.  "My child," she cried, and
opened her arms to the dainty form before her.  Halima, still kneeling,
bent forward and embraced her.  The old woman kissed her, crooning over
her the while.  Then both women gabbled away in low tones, but so
rapidly that St. Just, though now a fair Arab scholar, could scarce
catch a word.

Presently Halima rose from her knees, and, taking her husband by the
hand, she drew him forward.  Then she bent her head and whispered a few
words in her nurse’s ear.  As St. Just rightly guessed, she was telling
the old woman who he was.  Then she turned to St. Just.

"Henri," she said, "this is my old nurse; she was present at my birth
and nursed me through my childhood; she has always been with us, and she
closed my mother’s eyes."

St. Just acknowledged the introduction in a few appropriate words; but,
much to his surprise, they seemed to rouse the old creature’s ire; for
she first favored him with a searching stare and then with an evil
scowl.  Instinctively St. Just felt that he had made an enemy; but why,
he was at a loss to guess.  He would ask Halima when they were outside.
The hag took no verbal notice of his greeting, but merely mumbled to
herself, her expression becoming every moment blacker; and thus they
left her.



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*


The news that St. Just was married to the daughter of their chief
quickly spread amongst the tribe.  At first great dissatisfaction was
expressed; scowls and ominous grumblings were flung at him in passing,
some of the men even going so far, among themselves, as to threaten to
take his life, so soon as the old Sheik should be no more.  The general
impression was that, taking advantage of the girl’s innocence and her
absence from her father, St. Just had used unfair means to make her his.

But, when it became known that the old Sheik had previously given his
consent to the intended marriage, and even desired it; further, that St.
Just had become a true believer and had renounced his country and
adopted theirs, the grumblings gradually died away, except on the part
of a few of the younger members of the tribe, who were partisans of the
Sheik’s banished nephew Yusuf, and had looked forward to his assuming
the leadership at his uncle’s death.  There seemed little chance of
this, they feared, now that Halima was married to a man beloved and
trusted by her father.

It was now three weeks since the return of Halima with her husband; the
old Sheik still lived, and had even gained some little strength, but
none could doubt that it was but temporary, and that the end could not
be long postponed, in spite of all his daughter’s loving care from the
moment of her coming.

But one day, their hopes were unexpectedly revived. The day was bright
and warm, and seemed to put new vitality into the old Sheik.  Halima was
much surprised when he raised himself on his elbow without assistance,
and said in tones far stronger than he had used of late:

"I feel strangely better this afternoon, my child, and have a longing to
see the sun once more, and to breathe the pure desert air; I would be
borne to the outside of the tent, where I can see my people."

A look of joy came into his daughter’s face, and she sprang up with a
little cry.  "Oh, father," she exclaimed, "your words sound in my ears
like the trickling of water to the thirsting Bedouin; for they tell me
that you will yet regain your strength; the change, so long delayed, has
at last set in.  Praise be to Allah for it."

"Nay, be not deceived, my daughter, ’tis but the expiring flicker before
the lamp goes out.  But lose not time, get help to bear me out."

So Halima, first telling her old nurse to look to her father while she
went out to execute his biddings, left the tent in search of her husband
and others to assist him. They soon had formed a comfortable couch of
skins and cushions; and then the old man was carried out and set upon
it, and propped up with pillows.  Then Halima and St. Just seated
themselves, one at each side of him.

At first the Sheik said nothing, contenting himself with taking deep
draughts of the balmy air, and turning his eyes towards the sun the
while he shaded them with his hands.  Every moment he seemed to be
gaining strength.

Presently he turned his face upwards towards the heavens and spread out
his hands; then, at last, he spoke.

"I thank thee, All Merciful, All powerful Allah, that Thou hast
permitted me once more to behold Thy glorious sun and to breathe the
pure air that sweeps across the desert.  And now I pray Thee sustain my
strength while I impart my last washes to those from whom I shall so
soon be parted."

He crossed his hands upon his knees and turned his eyes first on Halima,
next on St. Just, and then went on: "While I have strength to speak, my
children, I will give you my last instructions; for something tells me
this is my final opportunity."

"Nay, father, say not so," cried Halima, and she laid her little hand on
his withered ones and stroked them lovingly, "I cannot bear—"

"Interrupt me not, my child," he broke in solemnly; "for I have much to
say to you, and I know the time is short.  It is about the buried
treasure that I would speak to you.  Has your husband told you aught of
this?"

"He told me on our journey here, my father,"

"He did well; then I need not recapitulate."  Then he turned to St. Just
and laid his hands upon his arm. "These are evil days for us, but they
will pass.  Your chief General has left the country and returned to his
own land.  Doubtless, he thinks that the generals and the army he has
left behind will achieve his purpose of making Egypt an appanage of
France.  But something tells me that it will not be so; his army will
melt away before the climate, and the valor of our people, and our
country will be freed from the invader.  And then will come the time for
the restoration of my father’s house in the person of my daughter—and of
you, her husband. If you rightly play your part, a great destiny awaits
her, and you will share it; and I doubt not you will do so. But, to come
to the matter whereof I wish to speak to you.  When I am no longer with
you, you must choose a fitting time for the removal of this treasure and
for its disposal according to my directions.  Once I hoped myself to
carry out my plans concerning it; but Allah has willed otherwise; my
course is run, and you must act for me.

"Here," and the old Sheik took a packet from his breast and handed it to
St. Just, "you will find my views put forth; in these papers have I set
down the names of the men to whom the gold and silver is to be
consigned. They are men of probity and judgment; men who, like myself,
have been watching and working secretly year by year, in the face of
obstacles almost insurmountable, to complete our plans.

"If things go right when I am gone, Halima will be Queen of Upper Egypt,
for she will be the head of a powerful tribe—the strongest and most
ancient of all the desert tribes.  You, as her husband, will then occupy
a high position; but it will be to you no sinecure.  I doubt not that,
though you are now one of us, the creed and nationality you have
abjured, will be urged against you. At first you will meet with
opposition, but you must not be discouraged, but exercise great tact and
patience, and thus in time you will surmount it."

His voice had been getting gradually weaker, and now a pallor overspread
his face, which also became damp with sweat.

"I faint; the draught!" he gasped, and his head dropped forward.

St. Just placed his arm around him and rested his head upon his
shoulder; while Halima held a goblet, containing a stimulating and
nourishing cordial, to his lips, watching him anxiously the while.  He
drank it eagerly, then closed his eyes.  They feared the last moment had
arrived, and St. Just placed his hand upon the old man’s heart.  Its
pulsations were stronger than he had expected.  The two watchers gazed
at him with affectionate solicitude, but neither spoke a word.

In a few minutes, to their relief, the old warrior opened his eyes and
raised his head.  Then he began to speak once more.  But Halima checked
him.

"Oh! father," she cried, "be still a while; you are not strong enough
for further speech at present."

"My strength has come back to me, my child," he said, "and I must use it
while I may; and talking will not harm me.  But I will first drink
again."

Fearing that opposition would hurt him even more than would the effort
of talking, Halima said no more, but again held the goblet to his lips.

"I can hold it," he said somewhat touchily, and he took it from her.  He
handed it back to her, and then resumed.

"At one time I had hoped that your cousin Yusuf would have filled my
place and ruled the tribe, when I am gone; but he has grievously
offended me in the way that you both wot, so that his place in the tribe
is blotted out.  But I fear he will not take his banishment with
patience.  Be wary of him, for I am assured that he will trouble you.
However specious his promises of fidelity, trust him not; have no
dealings with him.  Let him not plant his foot within the borders of the
tribe.  If he do, have no mercy on him; kill him ruthlessly, as you
would a scorpion; or a venomous snake.  You will have no safety while he
lives, for he has friends among the young men of the tribe, who will
never cease to plot for him, till he is dead.  Our good doctor will
inform you of them.  He is faithful, as the sun that never fails to run
his allotted course.  He helped you into life, my child, and his love
towards you is great.  And now I will rest me for a space, ere I summon
my warriors about me; for, presently, I must have speech of them."

He sank back on his cushions and closed his eyes; in a few minutes, from
his measured breathing, he seemed to be asleep.

In about an hour he opened his eyes and looked round inquiringly, with a
dazed expression.  They lighted upon Halima, and he smiled; a look of
intelligence appeared upon his face.

"Ha!" he exclaimed, "I recollect; you brought me here. I have been
asleep and feel refreshed for it.  The sun has warmed my blood and put
new strength in me.  I will address my people while it lasts.  Call all
my warriors, and let them place themselves before me in due order."

"Oh! father," began Halima, "it is too much for you; it—"

"Be silent, child; I will have it so," he interrupted sternly.

She shrank back, cowed, and made no further effort to dissuade him.

Then the word was passed throughout the camp, and eagerly responded to.

When the whole tribe was gathered in front of him, Ben Ibrahim raised
his hand, and every voice was stilled. Even the little children held
their peace, impressed by the solemnity of the occasion, without knowing
what it meant.

"My children," the chief began—and his voice was clear and strong—"I
have called you here to rest my eyes on you once more, and to take my
last farewell of you; for the river of my life has almost ceased to
flow; and I do not murmur that it should be thus, for I have lived
longer than is given the most of us, and it is meet that I should go.  I
have known every one of you from his birth, for I am older than the
oldest of you.  In all the many years in which I have been your chief I
have striven to deal out justice to you, and, at the same time, to
temper it with mercy; but man’s knowledge is so limited, and his
judgment is so fallible, that some of you I may unknowingly have
wronged; if so, I now ask your forgiveness.  My warriors, we have stood
together on many a hard fought field, and our swords have drunk the
blood of worthy foes.  Sometimes for a brief space we have been worsted,
but never have we turned our backs except when hopelessly outnumbered.
Generally I have led you on to victory, and, when we have returned to
our women and our little ones, we have not come empty-handed from our
enemies.  I miss the faces of some who have fallen at my side, but it
was the will of Allah, and we dare not question it, and there is no more
glorious end than to die fighting for one’s home and dear ones.  I thank
you for your courage and fidelity, and I charge you solemnly to yield
the same to her on whom will soon devolve the headship of the tribe—my
daughter Halima, whom you have known from the moment of her birth.  Also
to her husband, my dear son-in-law; and I take this opportunity of
declaring that it was with my full consent and wish he married her, and
of her own free choice.  Yield him, therefore, the same unswerving
confidence and obedience you have accorded me.  He is worthy of it, and
can, moreover, teach you many things unknown to you—new arts, by which
you may defeat your enemies; new modes by which you may increase your
wealth and comfort; new forms of pleasure for your leisure hours.
Therefore, I say to you trust him and conform to his behests.

"You have heard me patiently, and now I ask you with my last breath—for
you will see my face again no more—will you be true and faithful to my
daughter and her husband, and serve them loyally as you have served me,
even to laying down your lives, if it be necessary?"

There was a moment’s silence, and then the assemblage shouted with one
voice:—

"We will."

"Then swear it on your knees," resumed the Sheik. "Swear it in the
presence of Allah, who knows all that is in your hearts, and will deal
with you in the great hereafter according to your deeds, and will mete
out a fearful punishment to the perjured traitor; swear that you will
yield true and loyal service to my daughter and him who is her husband.
They, in their turn, shall take the same oath to you."

He raised his arm, then moved it slowly downwards as a sign to them to
kneel.  The next moment, all were on their knees, the little children,
who were too young to understand, being pressed down by their mothers.
Then all the men stretched forth their hands to Halima and St. Just, and
took this oath of fealty.

"We swear to take the Lady Halima as our ruler, and to be true and
faithful to her and to her husband and to defend them against all
adversaries while the breath is in our bodies.  May Allah so deal with
us, as we deal with them."

"It is well," said the Sheik, "I can die content."

When the people had regained their feet, he turned to Halima and St.
Just.

"It is your turn, my children."

Then Halima laid her left hand on her father’s shoulder, and St. Just
moved to her side and took her other hand in his.  Then, raising his
right arm, he faced the multitude. Thus standing hand in hand—a handsome
pair, forsooth, as every one confessed—under the broad, blue expanse,
the sinking sun full in their faces, they swore to uphold the honor of
the tribe, to be true and just in all their dealings with them, and to
do their utmost to promote their welfare. It was St. Just alone who
spoke on behalf of both.

When he had finished speaking, Halima bent her gaze downward on her
father.  He was motionless, his head had fallen forward, and his eyes
were partly closed and void of all expression.  An awful fear crept over
her.

"My father! he has fainted," she exclaimed.  "Ben Kerriman!"

The doctor stepped round from behind the Sheik, and placed his ear
against the old man’s heart; then, looking very grave, he removed his
head and took a little mirror from his pocket, and placed it before the
patient’s lips. When he examined it, its surface was unsullied, its
brightness was undimmed.  Then Ben Kerriman faced the people, on whom
the hush of an impending woe had settled, and raised his hand.

"My friends," he said, "Ben Ibrahim has joined his fathers."



                             *CHAPTER XX.*


The next day the old Sheik was laid to rest with his ancestors in the
"Tombs of the Kings."  At first Halima was inconsolable in her grief;
but, from its very intensity, it soon spent itself, and her thoughts,
from dwelling upon her father, reverted to herself.

She set herself, and in this she was ably seconded by her husband, to
gain popularity in her new position; and, to say this, is to say that
she succeeded, for her youth and beauty, her sweet temper and winning
manners, and her kindness and generosity, compelled her retainers’
enthusiastic loyalty, so that they almost worshiped her; also they
admired and honored him.

Altogether she was in danger of being spoiled, for St. Just also yielded
to her in everything and never sought to impose his will on her.  Ben
Kerriman, the old doctor, noted all this with regret, and one day
remonstrated with St. Just.

"My son," he said, "you will pardon an old man for offering unsought
advice; for you know my strong regard for the Lady Halima.  But you let
her have too much of her own way; it is not good for women to be
independent. She should be taught, even more for her own sake than for
yours, to control her wishes; she should not have everything she wants.
I know her disposition well; she is generous and affectionate; but she
is by nature dictatorial and ambitious, and filled with unsatisfied
desires.  And these qualities have become far more marked since her
father’s death.  I foresee that, unless she be kept in hand, even should
she gain the goal marked out by the late Sheik, and become Queen of
Upper Egypt, she will not be content.  What she has set her heart upon
is to go to France and there to make a position for herself.  Recollect,
too, that she is half French; it was partly that, no doubt, that
inclined her to yourself.  It would be a terrible disappointment to us
all, should she forsake her father’s people."

St. Just thanked the old doctor for his kindly meant advice and promised
seriously to consider it.

Strange to say, at that very time something was occurring that seemed to
lend confirmation to the doctor’s views of Halima’s disposition.  Soon
after her father’s death, she had chosen to consider herself slighted
through the non-observance by a neighboring tribe of some trivial
ceremony customary on the decease of a friendly Sheik; and St. Just had
been surprised at the importance she had assigned to it and the temper
she had shown.  Since then, she had been continually urging him to
invade their territory to chastise them.  But he was unwilling to break
the peace of the district, that had been so admirably kept by the old
Sheik; and had, so far, held her back.

With a view of diverting her attention from the subject, he proposed
that they should set about the recovery of the buried treasure; to his
delight, she at once acceded to his suggestion.  So he called together
some of the elder members of the tribe—those with whom the old Sheik had
been in the habit of taking counsel—and told them what he and Halima had
resolved.

Accordingly, a party was formed, which, beside St. Just and Halima,
consisted of six of the leading members of the tribe, Abdallah, Mahmoud
and a guard of forty-five men.

St. Just had been surprised when Halima had announced her intention of
accompanying the expedition, and had done his utmost to dissuade her;
but she had been resolute to go, and, of course, had had her way.

So, early one morning, they set out.  It was now three weeks since the
old Sheik’s death.

They traveled with all speed, but, for all that, it was nightfall when
they reached the rocks that marked the entrance to the subterranean
city.  To explore it at that time could not be thought of, for all were
more or less fatigued; so St. Just gave orders for the camels to be
tethered and for the men to make themselves as comfortable as
circumstances would permit, an impromptu tent being rigged up for
Halima.  Then fires were lighted, and a meal of stewed kid, supplemented
with dates and rice, was prepared and duly eaten.  This done, a watch
was set, and the men disposed themselves to pass the night, each rolled
up in his blanket.  St. Just, before he retired to rest, walked through
the camp, to see that all were settled and to give his last instructions
to the sentry.  Then he himself lay down just outside Halima’s tent.

But, tired though he was, he could not sleep; his brain was busy with
thoughts of the treasure the morrow would disclose—of what it would
consist, its value, and all that it might lead to.  He tried to put the
thoughts away from him, for he longed to sleep; but, the more he tried,
the more wakeful he became, and he tossed about from side to side, in
the vain hope that, by changing his position, he would effect his
purpose.

Presently the sound of a light footfall reached his ear, then some one
behind him touched his arm.  He started up and laid his hand upon his
dagger, believing himself about to be attacked.  Halima stood beside.

"You startled me, sweetheart," he exclaimed in muffled tones.  "Is
anything the matter; are you ill?"

"Hush! no," was her reply, and she put a finger to her lips, "but I want
to talk to you, undisturbed. Everyone is now asleep."

She sat down beside him and drew her hood forward, so as to conceal her
face.  Then, "Henri," she resumed, "do you remember what I said in Cairo
the night you pressed me to become your wife?"

"A good deal was said," he answered, "on that memorable occasion; but
what is it that you wish me specially to recall?"

"This, that, instead of ending my life as I had intended, I said I would
live for you and Buonaparte—for love—and vengeance—vengeance on my
betrayer."

St. Just was roused; he had hoped Halima was forgetting this episode in
her life, as he himself was striving hard to. The subject was abhorrent
to him.

"My dear," he said, "why refer to this?  I had hoped it was fading from
your memory.  We are happy in each other’s love; why cherish revengeful
thoughts that are impossible of accomplishment?"

"Impossible?  They are not; they shall not be.  I am as firm in my
resolve as ever.  So you thought I had forgotten.  Know that I will
never rest, until I have been revenged on him.  You little guess the
stuff that I am made of.  You know how I can love; you shall learn how I
can hate."  The words ended almost in a hiss.

All this was a revelation to St. Just, and, for the moment, he was
nonplussed.

"Well," he said weakly, "what do you purpose doing?"

"I have thought it all out.  Listen.  My father told us just before he
died that in this treasure, beside the gold, there is vast wealth in
jewels—opals, diamonds, rubies of great size and value; but, for all
that, occupying little space.

"Now my plan is this; when we have got the treasure to the camp, you
shall take the gold to Cairo to those appointed by my father to receive
it.  Then, instead of returning to the tribe, make your way to Suez and
there await me.  I will join you with the jewels, and we will take ship
for France."

"A very pretty plan, but you will have to get the jewels first; no easy
matter with so many eyes about."

"I’ll manage that; trust a woman for hoodwinking those about her."

"But how can I set foot in France?  Buonaparte would have me shot as a
deserter.  But, even supposing my presence were unknown, and I escaped;
if we killed Buonaparte, we should pay forfeit with our heads; and then,
what would profit us all our wealth?"

"Kill him?  That is not my aim.  No, I shall wait till his power has
become supreme; then I will drag him down."

"Words, idle words, my dear, that can never eventuate in deeds.  I doubt
not that you have the will, but you almost make me smile.  How can you,
a mere woman, control the future of such a man?"

"You shall see when his hour has come, mere woman though I am.  When he
has reached the zenith of his power, he shall be hurled suddenly into
ignominy and exile, and eat his heart out in captivity.  Then he shall
know that I have had a hand in all that has befallen him, and learn the
intensity of my hatred."

"And you will help me to be revenged on Buonaparte?" she asked, after a
little pause.

"Willingly," he answered earnestly.  "He is the cause of all our
trouble.  To be revenged on him I am prepared to face all risks—yes,
even Hell’s torments, rather than abate one jot or tittle of his
punishment.  Are you content?"

A cruel smile of triumph played about her lips.

"I am," she said.  "See that you never waver in your resolution.  As for
my own, it is as fixed and sure as the sun round which we move.  It is
the very breath of my existence, and will cease only either with my
death, or its fulfillment.  I have not thought out the details of my
plan; there is ample time for that; but, with the wealth at our command,
the instruments for retribution will not be hard to find."

"But you are weary, love, and you have much to do to-morrow, and the
night is far advanced.  Come into my tent, my Henri."  She laid her hand
on his.  "Ah! you are cold," she cried with gentle sympathy.  "You shall
rest with my arms around you, close to my heart, and I will give you
warmth, and lull you off to sleep."

He made no demur, and she led him to her tent.

Thus was the oath to be revenged on Buonaparte re-sworn.  At that moment
he was preparing, away in France, to take up the reins of government as
First Consul, and, could he have heard them, would have laughed to scorn
the threats of Halima and her husband.



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*


At daybreak the camp was all astir.  Fires were replenished for the
preparation of the morning meal, which some attended to, while others
were told off to feed the camels. Then all breakfasted, and the final
arrangements for the day’s proceedings were completed.

When they were on the point of starting, much to St. Just’s annoyance
and regret, Halima came up ready dressed to join the party.

"My dear," he said, "you surely cannot think of going with us."

"Naturally," she replied simply.

"But it is impossible," he rejoined.  "You have no conception of the
roughness of the road; we have to burrow underground, and the way is
full of danger.  No woman could face it."

"If there is danger, the greater the reason that I should go with you.
I will not run the risk of being left alone to face the world.  If aught
befall you, it shall strike me too."

"But," he urged, "where a man would run but little risk, a woman would
run much.  Besides, the care of you would impede our movements."

"I care not; I mean to go with you.  Come, we are wasting time."

He saw she was immovable, and he sighed.

"Be it so," he said, and, without further words, they started.

On their way to the entrance of the subterranean passage, they had to
pass the lake.  To their surprise, they found that more than half of it
had disappeared.  The shallower portion of what had been the lake,
consisted now of dried up mud, intersected with deep fissures, with here
and there a shallow pool.  Only at the end nearest the high rocks,
beneath which lay the buried city, was the water deep, and black as
night.

While St. Just was gazing at it, Mahmoud came up behind him and touched
him on the arm.

"Look, master; look what I have found," he said, when St. Just turned
round; and he handed him a little slab about one inch square and a
quarter of an inch in thickness. In color it was of a dull reddish
yellow, and on one side of it could be discerned the indistinct figure
of a cat.  St. Just carefully examined it, and weighed it in his hand.
Then he took out his dagger and scratched the surface.  It was soft; it
was pure gold!

"Where did you find this?" he inquired.

Meanwhile, some of the others had come up and were gazing enviously at
what was in his hand.

"In the grass, close to this hole," replied the boy, his brown face
wreathed in smiles, though he had not the least notion of the value of
his find; but he saw, by his master’s face, that St. Just was pleased.

"Look about, some of you, and see whether you can find more," St. Just
went on.

A careful search was made, but no more gold pieces were forthcoming.
Evidently this was a stray one dropped either in the hiding, or removing
of the treasure.

"Here, sweetheart," he said, handing it to Halima; "take this as a
keepsake; it is the first fruits of our expedition."

"I will have a brooch made of it," she said.

Having seen all there was to see about the lake, they retraced their
steps to where the camels were tethered. Here St. Just gave final
directions to those who were to remain behind, and then the party of
treasure seekers made their way to the entrance of the passage leading
to the buried city, all carrying torches.

One by one they disappeared within the entrance, each man lighting his
torch inside from the one preceding him, until all were within the
opening.  Then they proceeded cautiously down the easy descent the
passage took, until they reached the point at which the real danger
began; and here their leader called a halt.

Mindful, from the experience of his previous journey, of the shoot down
which one had to slide—an easy task, when one was aware of it, for a
man, but hazardous for a woman—he adopted special precautions for
securing Halima from accident.

What he did was this—and it was only his knowledge of the length of the
shoot that made it possible—he sent one man down to the bottom of the
slope with a lighted torch.  Arrived there, he was to lie at full length
on his back close against the side of the tunnel.  Then another man was
to follow in the same way, setting his feet on the shoulders of the one
below; and so on, until the entire length of the steep incline was
occupied.  By this means the whole stretch was lighted most effectively,
and a passage was left at the side of the men, down which Halima could
travel; in case her progress should become dangerously rapid, the men
could check it.  Then he tied a rope round Halima’s waist, and she began
the descent feet foremost on her hands and knees, he standing at the top
and paying out the rope as needed.  In two minutes she had reached the
bottom.  Then he followed, and the torch-bearers after him, beginning
from the topmost man.

In due course, they reached the roadway that gave on to the ruined city,
and here they halted for a moment to view the wondrous scene, which many
of them now saw for the first time.  Halima’s eyes sparkled with
excitement; she seemed enraptured.

"Wonderful!" she exclaimed.  "It is like being transported to another
world.  I could not have imagined such a scene; never again will my eyes
rest on such a sight. Oh!  I would not have missed it for all the world.
And to think that you would have deprived me of it, Henri."

She seemed loth to leave it, but stood turning her eyes from one point
to another, without further comment. Presently St. Just recalled her to
their errand.

"It is indeed a wondrous sight," he said, "but we must not dally here;
we can admire it further, when we have done our work."

"You are right," she said: "let us go on."

St. Just gave the order, and the whole party made a sharp turn to the
left, along the pathway to the temple, which lay not many yards away.
What had been once a noble doorway was now a yawning gap, and through
this they passed, to find themselves in a gigantic hall, down which ran
two long rows of pillars, which served to support the roof, the span of
the building being such as to require them.  In the semi-darkness it was
impossible to see whether the roof still stood.  Between the pillars
there were marble statues which, considering their antiquity, were
marvelously well preserved—sufficiently so, at any rate, to show that
those who had produced them were no uncivilized barbarians, but men who
had a thorough knowledge of the sculptor’s art.

In the center of the building a much larger statue reared itself.  The
figure was at least twenty feet in height, and was placed on a pedestal
ten feet high, the whole resting on a flight of half a dozen steps that
faced four ways.  The figure represented a man perfectly proportioned
and of majestic mien.  It wore a crown and was draped in flowing robes;
the right arm was raised and bore a sword.  Doubtless, the statue was
the counterfeit presentment of the god to whom the temple had been
dedicated.

At the foot of this statue they found the object of their search.
Around its base were piled, one upon another, strong wooden boxes bound
with iron.  They were oblong, eighteen inches by twelve, and about nine
inches deep.  St. Just counted them; there were forty-eight. Then he
raised the end of one of them to judge its weight; it took more strength
than he had thought.  From the size of the boxes and their weight, their
contents must be gold—about two hundred-weight in each, as he supposed.
He made a mental calculation.  Then he turned to Halima and said in
French: "Gold.  If they are all alike, there is the value here of about
fifteen million francs."

"So much as that," she said.  "It seems an immense sum.  But think you
the jewels are packed with the gold?"

"Most likely not; we will make a further search before we go."

Meanwhile, the restless Mahmoud, who had been peering about, called out:

"This box not full; lid cracked.  Little yellow bricks, like that I
found, inside."

St. Just looked and found the boy was right; the box held layers of
little golden slabs.

Now that St. Just was advised roughly of the amount of treasure—the
weight and number of the boxes—he had to consider the mode for its
removal; he saw, at once, that he had not provided means for its
transport in one journey to the camp; the camels they had brought with
them could not possibly carry it all.  The first thing, however, was to
get it above ground, and the chief difficulty would arise in the passage
with the sharp ascent.

Only half the party was underground, the rest remaining with the camels
at their temporary encampment.  St. Just divided his men into gangs of
three, of which one would carry a torch and two a box, one at each end.
There were eight of these gangs, so that, to move all the treasure, each
would have to make six journeys.  Their leader’s intention was to have
all the boxes deposited at the foot of the steep incline, before
attempting to haul any of them up.

The orders given, the men began the work, the eight parties filing out
of the temple, each preceded by its torch-bearer.  They set off at a
fair pace, but quickly slackened, and their progress became momentarily
slower, as their burdens seemed to increase in weight.  Two
hundred-weight, borne as this had to be, is no mean load, and frequent
rests were necessary; so that it took quite half an hour to do the
distance there and back.  Thus it would occupy three hours, merely to
move the treasure to the slope. When the men returned from their first
journey, they showed the stress of their exertions in their perspiring
faces and still rapid breathing.

In due course, all the boxes were transported to the bottom of the
slope.  While this work had been in progress, St. Just had not been
idle.  They had provided themselves with a good supply of rope, and,
with this, he had slings knotted together, in which the boxes could be
slipped readily and hauled up the incline.  Thus there was no loss of
time, and, when all the treasure had been stacked hard by the shoot, the
work of haulage was begun.  Four men, by St. Just’s direction, scrambled
up, taking the end of a strong rope with them.  Then the boxes one by
one, were hitched to the middle of the cable and drawn up, the latter
being pulled back, after each box had been released, by the end that
remained with those below.  When the boxes should have been all dragged
up the slope, the rest would be comparatively easy, for the further
route to the open air was both short and almost level, rising so
gradually as to present no difficulties.  Before this was begun,
however, all the treasure was to be collected at the upper end of the
shoot.  St. Just believed in doing work by stages.

He waited long enough to see that his plan was working smoothly, and
then, leaving one of the oldest and most respected of the tribe in
charge, he and Halima, accompanied by the faithful Mahmoud, made their
way back to the temple, to take a last look round.  Unless the jewels
were packed up with the gold, they had not yet been found, and St. Just
was resolved to make a further search for them, free from the eyes of
witnesses.  As for Mahmoud, his master knew that he was to be trusted to
keep inviolate any secret.

When they had again traversed the pathway to the left and had gained the
open space before the temple, St. Just, happening to turn his head round
to the right, his attention was attracted to the crater of the volcano.
Only light smoke had been proceeding from it on their arrival; now
sparks were mingled with it, and an occasional tongue of fire shot up;
the smoke, too, had become denser and was tinged with red.  Also low
rumblings could be heard.

"The crater is more active than when we first came," he said.  "See
those showers of red hot cinders; and can you hear those sounds like
distant thunder?"

"Yes, is it not grand?" said Halima.  "It is like a huge fountain of
golden rain and hail.  I can hear the roar too; what force must be
embowelled there to cause it; it sounds like fifty blacksmiths’ fires
all blowing at once.  It certainly was not like this before.  Think you
we are in any danger?"

"I trust not; I think we are too far away.  But we will lose no time.
Come, Mahmoud, go before us with your torch."

They made their way once more into the temple, and began their search,
Halima and St. Just going along by the wall on one side of the building,
and Mahmoud taking the other.  When they had reached the end, they
retraced their steps, taking a course a little further from the walls,
and so on, backwards and forwards, and thus gradually approaching the
center, having left no portion of the flooring uncovered by their
torches, and all the while peering carefully around.

In due course, they met in the center of the building by the huge
statue; so far their search had been absolutely fruitless.  They gazed
in one another’s faces somewhat blankly.  Then St. Just looked up at the
impassive figure.

"Unless that venerable gentleman holds the secret," he said, addressing
Halima, "and is prepared to share it with us, I fear we shall have to
return, as empty-handed as we came.  I will improve my acquaintance with
him."

He ran nimbly up the steps and carefully examined the pedestal on which
the statue rested.  It seemed to be a solid block of stone; certainly
the front portion of it was, for, on his kicking it, it gave forth no
hollow sound, and no lines were visible on its exterior.  He moved round
one corner and along the side, minutely inspecting as he went. About
three inches from the end there was a vertical line or crack about a
foot in length that reached the bottom of the pedestal, and at its upper
end terminated in another line at right angles to it, that extended to
the corner.  He went round to the back and followed this horizontal line
for eighteen inches, when, as he had hoped, it was joined by another
vertical line, that, like the first, ran down to the pedestal’s base.
It was a slab of stone, in fact, eighteen inches by twelve, three inches
thick.  On being struck, it sounded hollow.

"There is a cavity," he cried.  "Mahmoud, come here."

Mahmoud ran up the steps, and then St. Just told him to insert his
dagger into the lower part of the interstice, whilst he himself took the
same course with the upper.  When both daggers had got fair hold, the
two men prized carefully together, and the stone began to move.  Soon
they could get their fingers into the opening; then, exerting all their
force, they wrenched the slab away and it fell down the steps with a
crash that reverberated through the temple, and startled Halima.

"Oh!" she cried unconsciously.  Then, "Have you found anything?"

"I shall know presently," St. Just called back.

The stone removed, a cavity was revealed, and in this lay a small square
box, apparently of silver, but so dull and tarnished that it was
difficult to determine.  St. Just seized it, and, in two strides, was at
the bottom of the steps.

"I think I’ve found them," he cried; "see."  And he held out the box.

Halima took it.  "This is for Buonaparte," she said exultantly.  "By the
help of these I shall achieve my end. Was there anything more where you
found this?"

"Nothing whatever.  Now let us go; we have been too long already."

"Here, Mahmoud," said Halima; "carry this for me, and see that you lose
it not, as you prize your life.  And, further, say not a word concerning
it to any one."

"Mahmoud is faithful," the boy replied reproachfully, taking the box
from her.  He placed it inside his loose garment, next his breast.

"Come, let us join the others,"’ said St. Just, "and see what progress
they have made."

The words had hardly left his lips when a deep, rumbling sound was
heard.  It grew louder and louder; there was a resounding blow, and
then, with a crash, a large portion of the left wall of the temple fell
in, and a volume of water poured in after it.

"Merciful Heavens!" cried Halima, "what has happened?"

"The lake overhead must have burst in," exclaimed St. Just.  "We must
fly; follow me."

And he made for the upper end of the temple, towards the right hand
corner, keeping close to Halima’s side and suiting his pace to hers.  It
would have been useless to attempt to gain the entrance, for the
flooring of the temple inclined that way, and all the water was flowing
towards it; and, such were its force and volume, that it would have
swept them off their feet and carried them over the roadway into the
abyss in which stood the ruined city.

They rushed on side by side, without uttering a word. Mahmoud, who had
been behind them at the start, soon overtook and headed them.

"Follow me," he cried, in passing; "I know."  And he made direct for the
far right hand corner, on reaching which, he halted and waited for the
others.  Now, in the search they had just been making, Mahmoud had taken
the right hand side, and he had noticed a narrow doorway at the extreme
end.  This might afford the means of their escape.

St. Just and Halima came up panting, and the boy pointed out this
opening to them.  Before examining it, St. Just paused to look around,
so far as the light from their torches would permit.  The result
somewhat reassured him, for, where they were, the floor was dry, and, if
the water at all gained on them, its progress was very slow, the great
mass of it rushing towards the entrance, where it found an exit.  His
chief fear was that the latter might not be wide enough, and that the
end wall might not be able to withstand the pressure.  In such a case
the whole temple might come down and, if not crushed to death, they
would be entombed alive.  On the other hand, should the end wall stand,
he hoped that, when the lake should have run dry, they could make their
escape by the temple entrance.

"We are safe for the moment," he said.  And he put his arm round Halima
and drew her to him and kissed her fondly.  "My poor darling, how you
tremble.  Courage, keep up your heart; we shall yet escape."

She clung to him frantically, sobbing and panting for breath.

"Oh!  I am so frightened," she gasped; "to have to die so young, and in
such a place.  Oh!  I wish I had not come."

He was too generous to reproach her for not having taken his advice.

"We shall not die, sweetheart," he made answer reassuringly. "Calm
yourself; we shall need all our wits.  See, the water does not come our
way; it all flows out at the other end; when it has subsided, we shall
be able to leave the temple.  Meanwhile, let us examine this opening in
the wall, and see what lies beyond."

His words gave his wife confidence, and gradually she grew calm.  He
advanced to the opening and, holding his torch well in front of him, he
peered about.

"There is a passage," he said, "that leads somewhere; let us explore it
while we wait; who knows? we may find further treasure."

So all three entered, and made their way along it; it was about four
feet wide and seven high, stone cased and arched—a tunnel in fact—and it
inclined gradually upwards.

They had proceeded not more than twenty yards when they were startled by
a long rolling crash behind them, that brought them to a standstill.

"Oh! what is that?" cried Halima.  "Something very heavy has fallen."

An awful fear crept over St. Just; he guessed just what had happened,
but durst not give utterance to his thoughts.

"I will go back and see," he said; "wait here for me."

"Not for worlds," said Halima.  "I will not be left for a moment.  I
will go with you."

So all three retraced their steps together.  St. Just’s fears were soon
confirmed; the entrance to the passage was completely blocked by debris
of stone and mortar.

"My God!" he exclaimed, "the whole temple has come down.  If we had not
sheltered in this passage, we should have been buried in the ruins."

"Better that than to be buried alive," said Halima; "we are hopelessly
entrapped; doomed to die of slow starvation."

"God grant us a better fate!  This passage must lead somewhere; it
rises, and, most likely, will take us above ground.  There is no cause
for despair.  Come."

For his wife’s sake, he affected a cheerfulness he was far from feeling,
and her spirits rose proportionately.

"I will be brave," she answered, "May Allah save us!"

They turned their backs upon the ruined temple and hurried along the
passage, Mahmoud in advance.  When they had traversed about three
hundred yards, gradually ascending all the while, the passage ended, and
they emerged at a point where three roads met.  The center one led down
hill to the ruined city, for, now that they had left the tunnel, the
light from the volcano was sufficient for them to discern it.  It was
useless, therefore, taking this; the choice lay between the other two,
to the right and the left respectively; which were they to follow?
Halima gave her decision.

"We’ll try the right," she said; "it saved us once, it may again.  We
will follow our luck."

There seemed some sense in what she said, so St. Just resolved to act
upon it.  Additionally, so far as he could mentally take bearings, the
direction indicated was that in which lay the camp.

"Agreed," he said; "we can but try the other, should this fail to bring
us out.  Mahmoud, to the right; go on in front, and keep a good look
out."

But now that they had left the tunnel, they found the traveling much
harder, for the road was rough and strewn with obstacles—great blocks of
stone they had to skirt, and smaller ones embedded in the lava, with
which the whole way was covered, so that hardly a step could be taken on
the level, and they constantly stumbled, and sometimes found themselves
full length upon the ground.  Occasionally, their path was completely
barricaded by a pile of debris, over which they had to scramble as best
they could. Spite of all her husband’s care, Halima received several
serious bruises, her feet especially smarting and aching, so that she
could scarce refrain from moaning; for all that, she made no sound, but
struggled bravely on.

They were really traversing the upper portion of the ruined city, for
they found themselves passing through the courtyards of deserted houses
and by the ends of still standing inner walls, on which St. Just
noticed, with a curious sense of half awakened interest, wonderfully
executed frescoes of battle scenes, and others.  In different
circumstances he would have stayed his steps to admire and wonder, for
in some cases the pictures were in no way marred, and the colors so
fresh that they might have been laid on the day before.  But their peril
was too great to leave room for admiration of passing objects; so they
hurried stumbling on.

Suddenly they found their progress barred; a huge wall of rock loomed
high before them; the road went no further; unless there should be a way
round this new obstacle, they would have to retrace their steps and try
the other road. Seating Halima on a fallen stone—she was now too tired
to object to being left while the others searched about—St. Just made
his way in one direction along the face of rock, and sent Mahmoud in the
other, to see whether a passage could be found.

Presently the boy cried out, "Way here, Master."  And almost
immediately, St. Just was at his side.  An opening had been cut within
the rock, and thence, leading downwards was a flight of steps; but the
treads were so slippery and uneven from their lava coating, that to
descend them would be perilous, though, St. Just thought, possible with
care.  Should they slip, they might slide down into an almost fathomless
abyss.  For all that, he resolved to try it; indeed there seemed to be
no alternative.

And now something else both puzzled and alarmed him; the air was
perceptibly warmer than when they had left the temple, and every moment
it grew hotter; he feared the volcano’s energy was increasing.  Had they
escaped entombment in the temple, only to be burnt to death?  The
thought was maddening; he said nothing of it to his companion, and
together they rejoined Halima.  He told her of their discovery, and they
lost no time in beginning their descent.  It was performed in this wise.
St. Just seated himself on the top step and then gradually worked
himself, with his hands and feet, on to the next; Halima followed behind
him in the same position, and Mahmoud came last, propelling himself in
like fashion.  Thus, in case Halima should slip, her motion would be
checked by her husband’s body.

Save for a few slight cuts and bruises, they reached the bottom of the
flight of steps in safety—there were eighteen in all—and found
themselves in a road that crossed the point at which the steps gave on
it.  This time they chose the left, and traveled on.  The air was almost
stifling and choked with dust, so that they had difficulty in breathing;
but still they dragged on their weary steps in silence, Halima now
leaning on her husband’s arm.

After proceeding thus for half an hour, the air ever getting hotter, and
at the same time lighter, they reached an open space; and here they
paused to look about them. Their torches were now of little use; the
flames from the volcano lighted up the scene all round.  Close on their
left was a huge ruined building, that St. Just decided had been the
palace of some great one.  To the right, at what, in the half-smothered
glare, seemed a considerable distance, the crater was belching out
flames and smoke and red hot cinders, accompanied by cracklings and
roarings and rumblings that were terrible to hear; whilst broad streams
of white-hot, boiling lava were pouring down on the ruined city away in
front, below them, where they lay like sheets of liquid fire; and, with
it all, were sulphurous fumes, whose stench was sickening, that caused
their eyes and throats to smart and made respiration painful.

Hope almost died within them; in such an atmosphere life could not long
hold out.

"Our only chance lies in this large building," said St. Just.  "The
volcano bars our progress towards the right; the burning city in the
front; unless we can find a way out through the building, we are
hopelessly cut off."

To penetrate it was easy, for the walls were full of gaps, and they soon
found themselves in a large courtyard; this was clear of obstacles and
quickly crossed.  As good luck would have it, an open gate-way faced
them; passing through, they gained a road that rose gradually as far as
they could see—evidently the main approach to the building.

Once more their hope revived, and, though faint, their strength all but
exhausted, they crawled along this road. It was bordered by banks and
rocks; no houses lined its sides; plainly it was a thoroughfare cut in
the mountain’s face or side, and leading to and from the city.  Higher
and higher they ascended; and now, for the first time, they could feel a
cooler air blowing in their faces; it was but a breath, but it was
there, and it added to their hope; this was no sulphur-laden blast—that
was now behind them—but an earth-borne breeze.

"We are on the right track; we shall yet escape," cried St. Just, and
there was a note almost of exultation in his voice. When one has been
within the very jaws of death, even a short respite revives the fainting
heart.

Suddenly Halima reeled against him and would have fallen, had he not
supported her.

"I can go no farther," she gasped faintly.  "Leave me here, Henri, and
save yourselves, you and the boy."

"Never," he answered resolutely.  "Why, sweetheart, we are saved.
Before long, we shall see the sky; we are breathing pure air now."

"It is too late; I am so worn out that I have no life left in me.  I
care not to live, I am so weary—only to die in peace."

"You shall rest awhile; you may do it safely now; in fact a rest will be
of service to us all."

He laid her gently down, and, almost in a moment, she had fallen asleep.
Meanwhile St. Just and Mahmoud sat and watched.  Sleep would have been
everything to them also, but they durst not yield to it.  How much
further should they have to go, St. Just wondered wearily, before they
would be free.  He had now every confidence that they would escape,
provided that their strength held out; but would it?  That depended on
the distance they had still to go; and there was Halima.

He let her sleep for about an hour, and then he roused her.

"Oh! let me be," she cried.  "I am too weak to move, I was happy; it was
cruel of you to disturb me."

"Dearest," he said, "it had to be; but I and Mahmoud will carry you
while we can."

They took her up between them and staggered on.  Their progress was now
slow indeed, and they had to make frequent stoppages to rest.  Oh! for a
drink of water to moisten their parched tongues and throats!  Still
onward and upward they stumbled with their almost unconscious burden.

They reached the limit of the road and were there faced by an arched
gateway cut in the solid rock.  It had been guarded by a pair of bronze
gates, one of which still hung on its hinges; the other lay prone before
them.  The gateway gave on to a tunnel, whose length they could not
ascertain, for no light showed through it; it was black as night.  They
would have to relight their torches; so far, the crater’s glare had
served them.  They put down Halima, and St. Just got out a tinder box
and the torches were rekindled.  He turned to Halima.

"Can you walk a little, do you think?" he asked.  "It will be difficult
to carry you with torches in our hand."

He could scarce speak, and felt that to carry her at that moment was
beyond him.

"I will try," she said, "if you will each give me an arm."

And thus they crawled along, the tunnel echoing to their footsteps.  No
one spoke; they were past that.  Their road was easier now, for it was
on the level; but what they gained in that, was balanced by their
failing strength.  It bore slightly to the right and seemed
interminable, but it was really not a quarter of the length it appeared
to them. It was only that they were so worn out.  On they staggered,
swaying this way and that, and sometimes almost falling, each feeling
that, if their journey should not soon end, they must die of sheer
exhaustion.

St. Just felt Halima totter.  "Bear up," he whispered—he had no
voice—"we are nearly through."

But it was useless; she heard him not, but sank fainting to the ground.
St. Just signed to Mahmoud, and they raised her and carried her a few
yards; then they put her down to rest themselves.  Thus they proceeded
with many halts for a hundred yards or so.  Having to carry their
torches, they had but one arm for her.

They were resting, Halima lying on the ground, when suddenly St. Just
clutched Mahmoud’s arm convulsively and pointed ahead; he was too far
gone to speak.

In the far distance was a tiny point of light.

Once more they took up Halima, who was still unconscious, and resumed
their way, but now full of hope; and hope lent them strength.

Larger and larger grew the spot of light—not the lurid light from the
horrid crater, but the white light of day—so that now they could almost
see their way without their torches.  Suddenly St. Just’s foot struck
violently against some obstruction, and all three fell heavily to the
ground, the shock, in their then exhausted state, rendering them
unconscious.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Mahmoud, perhaps because he was the youngest, was the first to come to
himself.  He looked around, and was surprised to find he knew the place.
It was a cave in which he had more than once sheltered from the storm.
The way out possessed no real difficulties, though it was intricate.

Casting a glance at the two prostrate figures, and assuring himself that
they still lived, he ran out of the cave; the knowledge that they were
saved, and the fresh air, had given him new strength.  On he sped, and,
after a run of half a mile, he dashed, breathless and almost speechless,
into the midst of their own tribe.

"Water!" he panted.

They offered him a pitcher, and he drank till he could hold no more.
Then, in a few words, he explained what had occurred, and where St. Just
and Halima would be found.  The cave was known to many of the tribe, and
a rescue party was at once made up.

Halima was some time recovering, but St. Just, except for the cuts and
bruises he had received, was soon himself again.

He told Mahmoud, they would never have been saved, but for his
assistance, and that he should remember him with gratitude and affection
to his dying day.  And he did. Between the master and the servant the
tie was for the future more like that between two brothers.  When they
were alone, Mahmoud handed him the silver box, which he had preserved
through all their danger.

The boxes that contained the gold were also safe, and had been
transported to the camp before St. Just’s return.



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*


The effects of the terrible experience she had undergone were very
serious to Halima.  She had been carried from the cave to the encampment
on a litter, for she had not been able to stand, still less to ride or
walk.  She lay on a couch and moaned, acutely sensible to pain, yet
seemingly unconscious, so great was her prostration.  She felt bruised
and sore all over, every nerve and muscle overstrained; her body was one
huge ache, her joints burned like fire, and she could scarcely have
suffered more had she been stretched out on the rack.

Thus she passed the weary night, vainly longing, oh! so earnestly, for
the sleep that would have been everything to her, but that her
sufferings would not permit; for, with the cessation of exercise, her
joints stiffened and the pain increased.  In the morning she was in a
high fever, and delirious.  It was nature’s retaliation for the affront
that had been put upon her; for no one may insult her with impunity, and
she rebels when too much is demanded of her, as when nerves and thews
are overstrained and the brain is overwrought.

St. Just, the old nurse and Ben Kerriman, the doctor, stood gravely
watching the unconscious girl, who lay staring at them with wide open
eyes, eyes in which there was no trace of recognition; and their heart
sank within them. The old doctor’s knowledge of the healing art was
superficial, and he was acquainted only with the simple herbal remedies.
These he administered, but with little faith in their efficiency; such
hope as he had, lay in the soundness and natural vigor of her
constitution, aided by her youth.  He gazed upon her sorrowfully, and
shook his head doubtfully—almost despairingly.  For all that, he was
unremitting in his care, and in this he was ably seconded by the old
nurse and St. Just.  He was resolved that nature should have every
chance.  For a week she hovered between life and death, on more than one
occasion the vital spark flickering so feebly that every moment they
thought it would die out.  In a week the critical moment that would
decide her fate arrived.  It passed and she was saved; her strong
constitution had gained the mastery of the fever; the temperature of her
blood was lowered; the florid color faded from her face; the pulse, that
had been rapid and irregular, became calm and measured; a slight
moisture broke out upon the hot, parched skin, and consciousness
returned.  She looked up in the faces of the watchers with a feeble
smile, and her lips moved slightly, but no sound escaped them.  Then she
closed her eyes and dropped off into a calm, refreshing sleep, that
lasted many hours.

When she awoke she was able to speak.  From that moment she gradually
gained strength; nothing now ailed her, but extreme debility, and each
day that grew less.  Ben Kerriman, in fact, was surprised at her rapid
progress towards recovery.

All this time the treasure that had almost cost their lives was kept
carefully guarded.  It had been stored up in a hut, which had been then
banked round and on the top with sand, the door only being exposed.  St.
Just kept the key of this, and each day he went in to count the boxes
and see that they had not been tampered with.  Moreover, night and day
the hut was always watched by two men—not, of course, always the same—in
whom implicit confidence could be placed.  All these precautions were
scarcely needed, for no member of the tribe would have robbed its chief;
but St. Just, realizing that he was but the bailee of this great wealth,
was resolved to run no risk.

He had deferred the examination of the silver casket, until his wife
should be restored to health, feeling that she would like to be present
at its opening; but one day, when she was thoroughly recovered and they
were alone together, and likely for some time to be undisturbed, he
brought it out.  It was soon forced open, and then the sight disclosed
to view made Halima’s eyes sparkle with delight, and St. Just’s to beam
with satisfaction.  They had expected to find precious stones, but had
never dreamed of such as these.  Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds,
and others whose names they did not know, all flawless, and of the
purest water; the diamonds colorless as ice, the others with tints rich
and deep.  And there were no mean sized stones among them; some as large
as pigeon’s eggs, others equaling the size of marbles; there were none
smaller.  They were all unset and badly cut, but the size and quality
were there.  Little as St. Just knew of the value of such gems, he was
satisfied that the contents of that little silver box far out-weighed in
worth the treasure stored up in the hut outside.

When the jewels had been duly inspected and admired, it was arranged
that Halima should have the charge of them, and, with a view to their
safe custody, she said she would sew them into a pad or belt, and wear
them under her clothing, until the opportunity should arrive for their
disposal.

The subject naturally brought up that of the remainder of the treasure.
Now that his anxiety on the score of his wife’s health was over, St.
Just was desirous of relieving himself of his responsibility as soon as
possible. Having no immediate personal interest in the money, its
custody had become an incubus he would fain shake off. Accordingly, he
now suggested that a messenger should be at once despatched to Cairo
with a letter to the persons mentioned by the late sheik, informing them
of the existence of the gold and of the old man’s wishes in regard to
it, and inquiring whether, and by what route it would be safe for him,
St. Just, to bring it.

Halima wished the matter to be put oft for a time; said the treasure was
quite safe where it was, that the country was so unsettled that its
transport would be hazardous, that the withdrawal of so many men as
would be necessary for the convoy would leave her insufficiently
protected; and advanced a number of other reasons more or less
plausible, for postponing action for the present.  Summed up, they
simply meant that she wished to keep her husband with her.

He combated her objections one by one, showing that she made too much of
them; then he dwelt on his own uneasiness at having the charge of so
much wealth, and on his pledged word to the old sheik; appealing,
finally, to her filial affection and her duty to her father.

This last was his most mighty argument, and it prevailed with the result
that she agreed that a messenger should be sent to Cairo with all speed.

Now this decision was a most untoward one, as events will show.  Had St.
Just at once set out with the treasure, without previously communicating
with the men in Cairo, the current of his life would have flowed in a
very different channel from that it took.

It may be remembered that when St. Just rejoined the tribe with Halima,
shortly before the old sheik’s death, his wife’s old nurse regarded him
with great repugnance; though why, unless it was for his nationality, he
could not understand.  At first he had hoped that her undoubted love and
fidelity towards his wife, whose affection for himself the old woman
must have seen was strong and deep, would have wrought some change in
her feelings towards him—and he, on his part, albeit by no means
sympathetic towards her, had done his utmost to capture her goodwill. So
far from that, however, her aversion for him seemed daily to increase,
and, after Halima’s illness, attained to such a pitch of hatred that, if
she could have slain him with impunity, she would have done so.  It was
not that she indulged in any overt acts of insolence or disobedience;
but the looks of diabolical malignancy she flung at him as often as she
met his eyes, sufficiently revealed her sentiments.

And the cause was this; she, of course, had been Halima’s chief
attendant in her illness, and, during her ramblings, her young mistress
had disclosed the fact of her betrayal and, in consequence, her deep
sense of injury and desire for vengeance; but with no mention of the
name of her seducer.

The nurse being unaware that Halima knew Buonaparte, thereupon jumped to
the conclusion that St. Just was the man who had robbed her former
nurseling of her virtue, having assailed her in a moment when she was
off her guard; that the intimacy once begun, Halima had been unable to
free herself from her relations with her betrayer, and had thus lapsed
to the position of his mistress, a toy he could discard when weary of
it.  The statement that they were really married with Mahometan rites
the old woman regarded as a mere blind to cover Halima’s dishonor.  The
thought worked her into a state of rage and hatred that was
uncontrollable, and she resolved to punish the unsuspecting Frenchman,
if by any means it could be done.

The course of events now seemed to have brought about her opportunity.
The existence of the treasure was known throughout the camp, and it was
rumored that it was to be sent to Cairo.  When, therefore, the old woman
heard that a messenger was to be despatched thither, she guessed what
was his errand and laid her plans accordingly.  Everything seemed to
favor them, for the man selected for the mission was one of those most
devoted to the late sheik’s nephew, Yusuf, and withal one who deeply
resented St. Just’s position in the tribe.  Naturally, St. Just was not
aware of this, or another man would have been chosen. Yusuf had always
been a favorite with the nurse; she had been present at his birth and
had seen him grow to manhood, and had looked forward to seeing him
eventually assume the headship of the tribe; thus his banishment by the
old sheik had sorely troubled her.  She now saw a chance of his
reinstatement.

There were those in Cairo who would know his whereabouts. Accordingly,
she sought the messenger who was to go to Cairo and who, it happened,
was akin to her, and could be trusted not to betray her confidence, and
instructed him to seek out Yusuf, and, should he find him, to tell him
of the coming treasure; that, if he could collect a sufficient force and
keep a good look out, he would be able to intercept it, and at the same
time kill St. Just, who would be with it.  That accomplished, there
would be nothing to prevent his taking the leadership of the tribe, and
making Halima his wife, should he desire it.

Should St. Just’s messenger be unable to get speech of Yusuf, he was to
forward her instructions to him by some one he could trust.  The old
woman was satisfied that, if Yusuf lived, he could be found, for many
knew him; he had held an important position in the tribe and had many
influential friends in Cairo.

She had no doubt that Yusuf would act upon her information, should it
arrive in time; her only fear was that it might not reach him until St.
Just should have advanced so far on his journey with the treasure, as to
preclude Yusuf from making his arrangements for attacking him.  However,
that, as she piously observed, would be as Allah willed.

In due course, St. Just’s messenger returned with letters from his Cairo
correspondents.  They had expressed delight at hearing of the treasure,
and requested him to bring it on at once.

It was now February in the year 1800, and nothing stood in the way of
St. Just’s making an immediate start. To tell the truth, he was becoming
somewhat wearied with desert life, and ready to welcome almost anything
that would vary its monotony.  So he set about at once to make his
preparations.  They were simple, including only a sufficiency of camels
to transport the treasure, the devising of a ready mode of securing it
on their backs, and the selection of the men to tend them; also supplies
for the men’s consumption by the way.  The camels would need no food,
for they would be required only to take the treasure to the river bank.
St. Just had decided to make the whole journey by the Nile.  It would
take somewhat longer than by the desert route, but he preferred it as
being less tedious and much more interesting.  His point of debarkation
would be a village five days’ journey from Cairo; St. Just had halted
there before, and was acquainted with a sheik who was friendly to the
tribe and would, he hoped, supply him with camels for the remaining
portion of the route.

It was agreed between himself and Halima—for she held firmly to her
resolution to proceed to France—that, when he should have transacted the
business connected with the treasure, he should write to her, by the
returning party, stating where he would await her.  Having regard to the
condition of the country and the risk he ran of recognition, both felt
that, at this stage, no definite fixture for their meeting could be
made.

When everything was ready and the moment of departure had arrived,
Halima, who thought she had schooled herself to the separation, broke
down altogether.  She threw her arms about his neck and clung to him
with desperation, almost devouring him with kisses.

"Oh!  Henri," she sobbed, "I would you were not leaving me, my husband.
Oh!  I cannot let you go.  Stay, my dear one, and let Abdallah take this
treasure; he is to be trusted and will see that it be handed over
safely.  I am sure you need not go.  Oh! would we had never seen this
cursed gold!"

"Nay, my Halima," he replied sadly, and he stroked the silky head that
lay against his breast; "go I must; I pledged my word to your dead
father.  It is hard enough, God knows, to part from you; don’t make it
harder for me by your tears.  But our parting will not be for long, and,
when we meet again, it will be for life.  Before six months are passed,
we shall be on our way to France."

"Ah!  I know not.  Once before you left me, promising to return soon;
but it was more than twelve months before my eyes again rested on you;
and, in the interval, how much had happened.  They told me that you were
no more, and—but I cannot bear to think of all I went through then; I
would blot it from the pages of my life’s history.  And now it may be
the same again.  It is not that I do not trust you, Henri, but others
may control your movements and keep you from me.  Oh!  I have an awful
foreboding that it will be so; that, when you shall have faded from my
sight, it will be years before my eyes will be set on you again.  Oh!
stay, my husband; do not leave your Halima who loves you so.  I cannot
live without you!"

"Wife," he replied, "it tears my heart to leave you, but I cannot now
draw back; I should be dishonored before all the tribe.  Oh! seek not to
restrain me, for it but prolongs our sorrow, and avails nothing."

"Oh! you are cruel!" she wailed.  "You love me not as I love you."

It was true there was the more fervor in her passion, but whether it
would be as enduring as her husband’s was a question to be decided by
the future.  It is not always the fiercest fire that burns the longest;
rather is its ardor the soonest spent.

Halima went on much in the same strain, he vainly endeavoring to soothe
her, until he could no longer bear it. So, impressing one long, fervent
kiss upon her quivering lips, he unclasped her arms from round him and
tore himself from her embrace; then handed her over to her old nurse,
who received her willingly enough, though she scowled ferociously at him
and mumbled words of menace.  Then he gave the signal for departure, and
the whole party moved away.

Aided by the current and fair winds, they made good progress, and, when
a fortnight had elapsed, had performed half their journey, having
reached a point hard by the ruined city of Thebes.  Up to this moment
they had not left the boat, but here was a convenient landing place, and
St. Just had a fancy for seeing something of the place.  So the boat was
moored a little distance from the river bank, and a smaller one they had
on board was launched, and in it, St. Just, with Mahmoud and a few of
the men took their places and were rowed ashore.  His chief follower and
the other men were given strict injunctions not to leave the larger boat
till his return, which would be on the morrow. So far their journey had
been without adventure; they had scarcely even seen a soul; only now and
then a solitary horseman had appeared about half a mile away; and then,
after looking about him, apparently with no particular object, had
galloped off.

After making a cursory inspection of the ruins, while the day-light
lasted, St. Just had a fire built up and lighted, for the night was cold
and squally, and settled down to camp out till the morning under the
shelter of a ruined wall, with Mahmoud close at hand and the others at a
little distance.

Wearied just sufficiently to make rest enjoyable, he fell into a
half-dreamy state, but still awake, and thought of Halima, picturing her
now asleep; wondering whether at that moment he occupied her dreams; and
how long it would be before they would meet again.  By an easy
transition his thoughts reverted to the treasure, and he fell to
pondering on the probabilities of a successful issue to his undertaking,
and the chances of his being recognized in Cairo by any of his former
comrades.  At this point he dropped off into a heavy sleep, and in his
sleep his mind went back into the past.  He dreamed that he was a mere
youth and had just joined his regiment.  A scene in his campaign in
Italy came vividly before him.  His company were sleeping in the
marshes, when, suddenly, they were attacked.  He could hear again the
clash of arms, the cries of the alarmed sleepers, and, in the distance
the sound of shots. It all seemed so real that, in his excitement, he
awoke and, with a cry, sprang to his feet.

In a moment he realized that this was no dream, but that they were in
truth attacked.  He had no occasion to rouse Mahmoud; the lad was a
light sleeper and the noise had waked him.  Both drew their swords and
rushed on to where the conflict was proceeding.  His men were contending
against fearful odds, and the result of the encounter could not be
doubtful.  He saw the hopelessness of their position, and felt that
death was staring him in the face; for all that, he did not hesitate an
instant, but threw himself upon the nearest foe.  Before their swords
had crossed, he had recognized him as Yusuf; then he knew there had been
treachery; it was impossible the man could have been there by chance.
This sudden recognition and the thought it prompted, disconcerted him,
and, for the moment, threw him off his guard.  Yusuf was a skillful
swordsman, and had had more practice with the desert weapon, with which
both were armed, than had St. Just.  The Arab began to press him sorely,
and the young Frenchman found that he had met more than his match.
Still desperately he fought on, the personality of his opponent lending
fury to his attack.  Indeed, both were animated by the same passion,
jealousy, for Yusuf had recognized in the other the man who had snatched
Halima from his arms and usurped his position in the tribe.  His look of
malignant triumph was awful to behold, for in his eyes his hated rival
was already slain.  With a skillful movement of his flexile wrist, he
sent St. Just’s sword flying, then drew back his arm to make the lunge
that should deal the death stroke.  The Frenchman felt that in another
moment he would have done with life. But that moment did not come.
Before the Bedouin could deal the blow, Mahmoud, who had been watching
his opportunity, got behind him and ran him through the heart. Yusuf
with a groan, threw up his arms and fell heavily to the ground.  Before
St. Just had had time to realize his respite, a blow on the head felled
him also, and he knew no more.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*


After the description of the affray with which the preceding chapter
closed, the reader will scarcely need to be informed that the message
from Halima’s old nurse to Yusuf duly reached that worthy.

After a few inquiries, St. Just’s messenger had discovered him in Cairo,
and told him of the treasure which, it was believed, was to be forwarded
to the city.

Forthwith Yusuf had set to work to utilize the information. Having no
means or followers of his own, it would be necessary to invoke outside
assistance.  After casting about in his mind for a suitable associate,
he had pitched upon a man, with whom he had some acquaintance, who
followed the combined callings of pirate and slave dealer; a man who,
from his daring, unscrupulousness and ferocity, as well as more than
average swarthiness, had earned for himself the sobriquet of Black Ali.

The proposed adventure was quite in Black Ali’s line, and he had entered
with avidity into Yusuf’s scheme.  He had grown rich on trading in human
flesh, and, accordingly, had found it easy to collect a gang of
scoundrels only too ready to place themselves at his disposal for any
undertaking, however desperate and lawless.  It had been agreed that the
treasure they hoped to seize should be scared equally by Yusuf and Black
Ali.  Arrangements had been quickly made and the filibustering party had
set out.  It being unknown whether St. Just’s party with the treasure
would travel by the river or the desert, both routes had been watched.
The solitary horsemen St. Just had seen at intervals, from the river,
had been Black Ali’s scouts, and they had dogged the party all the way,
had seen the young Frenchman and some of his followers land at Thebes,
and conveyed the news to the slave dealer, who, when night had fallen,
had surrounded with his men and set upon the sleepers, with the result
already stated.  Black Ali had believed that all St. Just’s followers
had been killed; the attack had been so sudden that they had had no time
for their defense; they had hardly been awakened when they had been
slaughtered; all but two, who had escaped.  No one had been hurt on the
side of the marauders, except Yusuf, who, as narrated, had been killed
by Mahmoud, a fate no one had regretted, least of all Black Ali, who now
saw himself possessed of all the treasure.  Mahmoud, like his master,
had been struck down, almost as soon as he had run his sword through
Yusuf.

Seeing that St. Just and Mahmoud were not seriously injured—only
stunned—Black Ali ordered some of his men to carry them to the river
bank, whither he, with all his party, made his way.  His intention was
to capture the large boat with the treasure and to sell as slaves such
of the crew as should not be killed, or too seriously maimed in the
approaching contest.

The smaller boat, in which St. Just had landed, and another were drawn
up on the river bank.  These were quickly launched and crowded with as
many men as they would hold; then they were rowed softly and silently to
the moored boat, one making for the port and the other for the starboard
side.  So noiseless was their approach that it was not until they were
almost alongside that they were discovered. Then an alarm was raised;
but it was too late, for all were asleep, except the watch, and, before
they had realized what had happened, the pirates were swarming over the
gunwales of the boat.  St. Just’s men did what they could, but the
contest was hopeless from the first.  Outnumbered and but half awake,
some not having time even to seize their weapons, they were in no
position to make a stout resistance.  One by one they dropped before the
savage onslaught of Black Ali’s men, who kept ever increasing in
numbers, and pressing forward, while St. Just’s men fell back fighting,
inch by inch.  Two of them, to save their lives, sprang overboard,
hoping to swim ashore; they feared less the crocodiles than their human
foes.  Their leader, the man St. Just had left in charge, fought
desperately himself, and urged his followers to do the same.  Two of the
pirates fell before him to rise no more; but his courage was of no
avail; a gigantic Arab rushed up and threw himself upon him, and, by
sheer force, beat down his guard, then cleft his skull down even to his
chin.  He dropped with a dull thud, but no sound escaped his lips.  And
then, above the clash of arms and the shouts and groans, Black Ali’s
voice rang out, "Yield and I will spare your lives. Your leader is
slain; further resistance has become useless."

There was a pause, and each man’s hand was stayed. Then one of the crew
called out, "Swear that you will not slay us, if we yield."

"I swear, by Allah," was the pirate’s answer.

Satisfied that he would keep his oath, the men suffered themselves to be
disarmed and bound.  The whole affair had lasted but five minutes.  Of
the defenders, uninjured or only slightly hurt, there were but twelve;
about the same number had been either killed outright, or wounded
fatally. The losses of the assailants were two killed and three slightly
wounded.  When those who had surrendered had been secured against
escape, Black Ali gave orders for the dead and badly wounded to be
thrown overboard.  The latter shrieked for mercy—to be allowed to die in
such peace as their wounds would suffer; but they might have spared
their dying gasps for mercy; as well might they have appealed to the
crocodiles, whose food they would shortly be, as to the pitiless Black
Ali.  "Overboard with them," he cried, and overboard they went, their
dying shrieks smothered in the waters of the Nile.

Next the slave dealer sent one of the small boats ashore with six men,
to bring St. Just and Mahmoud on board, and with orders for the main
body of his band to follow the course of the river towards Cairo,
keeping well in sight of the large boat, on which he himself would make
the journey; for Black Ali knew better than to entrust his newly gained
treasure to the hands of others; he would not lose sight of it, till it
should be safely housed.

St. Just and Mahmoud were soon on board, and then the journey, that had
been so direly interrupted, was resumed; but in what different
circumstances!

The hurt to St. Just’s head soon healed; he had received a severe, but
not a dangerous scalp wound, but his skull was not fractured, and, after
enduring a few days’ headache, he was himself again.  But only as
regards his bodily health; his mental sufferings were terrible.  Black
Ali had taken a savage delight in informing him and his companions that
they were to be sold as slaves, and from this doom there seemed no
possibility of escape.  The thought of Halima and the prospect of his
life-long separation from her well nigh drove him mad.  Then he fell to
wondering whether any of his men had got away, and whether the news of
what had happened would be conveyed to her.  In any case, she would be
suffering agonies of anxiety, either on account of her knowledge of what
had taken place, or at receiving no tidings from him.  What would she do
when months had passed and she knew not whether her husband was alive or
dead?  Would she console herself with some other man? He knew her
passionate, hot-blooded nature, and remembered her avowal that she could
not lead a single life; the reflection was torment to him.  Would she
make her way to France, as she had always wished to?  Most likely, when
she had given up hope of seeing him again.  He cursed Buonaparte, he
cursed himself for the infatuation for her, that had led him to
sacrifice his honor and his country and to abandon the career he loved
and in which he felt he had had it in him to attain high rank.  And what
was he now? Disgraced, a captive, soon to be a slave.  He put his hands
before his face and groaned.  In his despair and bitterness of soul, he
scarcely noticed the harsh treatment he received; his captors’ scoffs
and jeers, the occasional cuffs they gave him, the coarseness and
scantiness of his rations, his bonds—for, except when food was given
him, his hands were tied; all these were nothing in comparison to the
desolation of his soul.  But for Mahmoud, who preserved his spirits in a
manner that was marvelous, and did his best to cheer him by holding out
hopes of their effecting their escape, he would have cast himself over
the vessel’s side and found relief from all his troubles in the Nile.

The days went on, and, in time, they found themselves lying off a
village a few miles from Cairo.  Here Black Ali sent a messenger ashore
with instructions to his lieutenant, who had been proceeding along the
river bank with the main body of the band, to procure fifty camels on
which the treasure could be loaded.

The next day the camels arrived, and St. Just had the pain of seeing the
treasure that was the cause of his terrible predicament, that he had
endured so much to grasp, hauled out from the boat and bestowed upon
their backs.

When this work was completed, Black Ali placed his lieutenant in command
of the boat, with orders to proceed to Damietta.  He himself would go
with the treasure to Cairo, and, when he had disposed of it safely,
would rejoin the party at that port.  The prisoners were then to be
shipped on a vessel of his own, and taken to Benzert on the coast of
Tunis, and there sold.  Then the two parties started, the distance
between them widening gradually, until the camels bearing the disastrous
treasure, passed out of the young Frenchman’s sight.



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*


The sun, now at its meridian, was pouring its scorching rays in a
vertical flood upon a long, low vessel, lateen rigged, whose sails now
filled out for the wind and now flapped idly against the masts, for the
breeze, which was from the starboard quarter, came only in light, fitful
puffs; so that the ship’s progress would have been slow, had she
depended solely on her sails; as it was, aided by the impetus of
powerful sweeps each worked by two men, she was making about ten knots
an hour.  Not a cloud was to be seen; far as the eye could reach, above
was one deep blue expanse, and the color was reflected in the water,
through which the vessel ploughed her way.  She was hugging the African
shore of the Mediterranean.  Not a ship could be discerned to starboard,
not a sign of life to port, where on the land naught met the eye but
rocks, flat stretches of barren land and sandy dunes, some covered with
dense, low scrub.  Not even one of those desert scavengers, the
vultures, was to be seen.  For all that was apparent, those on board the
vessel might have comprised the whole of the human race.  The stillness
and silence were profound.

But not on the ship itself; there was no quiet there; the occasional
moans of the captives, stripped to the waist and bending submissively
while they labored at the heavy sweeps; the measured plash of these
last, in the rippling water; the harsh laughter of the leisured portion
of the men; the oaths of those whose turn it was to fill the rôle of
taskmasters to the hapless rowers, and who paced unceasingly the
vessel’s deck, ever on the look-out for any one who failed to put his
whole strength into his work, and savagely lashing such a one, his bare
shoulders offering a ready mark for the heavy whip they wielded; the
cries for mercy of those thus struck; all these combined to form a Babel
that effectually banished stillness from the ship.

Among those who manned the sweeps were St. Just and Mahmoud, with others
of his men.  Besides them, there were on board prisoners of various
nationalities, all destined by their captor for the slave market; for no
respecter either of persons or of countries was Black Ali.

Stretched on the poop under a protective awning, he now lay in sleepy
indolence, even his tawny and well-seasoned skin giving evidence, by its
greasy polish, of the sweltering heat.

Suddenly he raised himself upon his elbow and stroked his untrimmed
beard reflectively, the while he ran his cold, cruel eye along the line
of rowers—from his point of view no longer men, but mere sums of
money—scanning carefully each form that met his view, to see that it was
doing its full share of work with the heavy oar, to each of which two
men were chained.

His glance fell now on a Greek, now on a Moorish figure; then it
traveled from a Frenchman to a Negro, each crouched doglike, with his
tongue out, his eyes protruding from his head, the muscles of his back
and arms standing out in lumps and knots under the strain imposed on
them, the sweat pouring from his skin, saturating his linen waist-cloth
and causing it to cling the tighter to him.

Black Ali’s eye moved down the line, beginning at the bow; at the bench
nearest to him it was arrested; only one man was pulling.  His fellow,
overcome by his exertions, had dropped backwards, so far as his chin
allowed, and, regardless of the consequences, was resting; he could work
no more.

"Ho! there, you foreign dog," Black Ali shouted; and all started at his
voice.  "You, you sluggish Frenchman," he went on; "would you delay us
by your sloth?  Hadji!"—to the stalwart slave driver—"your whip wants
exercise, my man; wake up this Christian dog and make him work."

Having to pass along the whole rank of rowers, Hadji thought it well to
go one better than his orders.  "Quicken your stroke, you dogs," he
shouted, and he strode along the line.  To emphasize his words, he
raised his formidable whip.  With a swishing sound it descended on the
shoulders of the nearest man, raising a long wheal on the already
cruelly scored back.  A second time it fell on the devoted back, this
time drawing blood.  And thus down the whole line the cutting thong was
wielded, finally falling upon the resting man and slashing him across
the face.

Instinctively, the poor Frenchman made a movement with his arm to
protect his bleeding face; but, alas, the arm was chained and could not
reach it.  Still, for all his pain, he made no attempt to resume his
work.  Either long ill-usage had made him reckless and deadened his
feeling to the lash, or he was too weak to move.  In another moment, his
eyes closed and he fell forward.

"He is dying," said the slave driver to his master.

"Is he?" said the despot beneath the awning.  "We will have no carrion
on board.  Cut him adrift and tow him astern; he shall feed the sharks."

The order was no sooner given than executed.  The dying and almost
unconscious Frenchman was unfettered from his sweep; then his wrists
were bound together and lashed to a log of wood, to which was attached a
rope, one end of which was made fast to the stern; then he was flung
overboard, the Arabs jeering as he splashed into the water. Face
forwards he was dragged onwards by the vessel. Thus, for some minutes,
he floated on.  Presently a dark form was seen below the surface of the
water, and the wretched man, whom the sea had now restored to
consciousness, knew that a shark was making for him.  His terror gave
him temporary strength, and he splashed and struggled wildly in the vain
hope of scaring off the monster, the while he turned a backward glance
of agony at the approaching foe.

Nearer and nearer came the shark, swimming leisurely, as though debating
on which spot he should first strike his victim.  And now his back fin
could be plainly seen above the water.  The spectators on the vessel,
who had gathered on the stern to see the sport, were shouting and
screaming in their excitement, some even making bets as to what part of
the man’s body would be chosen for the shark’s first bite.  The slaves
looked on with apathy, maintaining the while the motions of the sweeps
with monotonous regularity.

There was a rush, a splash, then a piercing shriek, the shark made off
with a leg and the sea around the mutilated man became dyed a ruddy hue.
In his agony the victim writhed and splashed about and cried aloud.  At
this, the laughter of the inhuman witnesses of the scene grew louder.

But the sufferings of the wretched man were not to be much prolonged.
Other sharks came up and soon another shriek was heard.  Then there was
silence; the hapless Frenchman had been torn limb from limb.

The day wore on, and night succeeded afternoon, and the wearied rowers
were relieved by others, and allowed to sleep, in so far as the caprices
of their captors would permit.

But an awful horror had fallen on them; the dreadful sight that they had
witnessed had filled them with the fear that at any moment a like fate
might overtake each one of them.  Hurried whispers were exchanged and
dark threats muttered against their captors, that boded ill for them, if
only they could be put in execution.  The slaves’ only chance to rise
and fall upon Black Ali’s men would be when the gangs were changed and,
for the moment, their fetters were removed.  At such times, however, a
careful watch was kept upon them.

Meantime they could only wait and hope.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*


In a few days the little seaport town of Benzert came in sight, and,
soon afterwards, the Arab dhow was riding at anchor off the mole, about
half a mile from the shore.  It was the hour of noon, and across the
water, in the still, clear air, could be faintly heard the hoarse shout
of the muezzin calling the Faithful to the mid-day prayer.  At the
sound, all the slavers, murderous, thieving ruffians though they were,
without a scrap of conscience or humanity, fell on their knees and bent
their heads, while they muttered their formula of praise and prayer.  It
was a curious sight.

This duty performed, a boat was manned and lowered, and Black Ali went
ashore to arrange for the sale of his living cargo on the morrow.

The captives had done their last spell at the sweeps, and were no longer
fettered to them, but were chained together by the wrists in gangs of
from two to half a dozen.  They were now lying huddled in groups about
the deck, enjoying such repose as their thoughts allowed them.  Their
seeming hopeless apathy had inspired their callous taskmasters with
confidence in their docility and resignation to their fate; so that
Black Ali’s satellites now paid little heed to them, and would have
laughed to scorn the suggestion that they meditated mutiny.  They
believed their captives so completely cowed by the floggings and other
cruelties they had undergone that all their manhood had gone out of
them.  And almost it had; but, cowed and abject, as they were, there was
still some manhood left, and below the even surface of resignation and
submission was a seething mass of rage and hatred which, given the
opportunity, would find a vent, and, boiling over, would overwhelm their
torturers as ruthlessly as does a stream of molten metal that has burst
its way from a smelting furnace upon the unsuspecting workers.

So far, whether from the cowardice or the hopelessness of the slaves, or
that a favorable opportunity had been wanting, no attempt at a rising
had been made.  Now there seemed a chance, for the number of their
guards had been reduced, many of Black Ali’s men having accompanied him
ashore.  Those who remained behind were lolling lazily about the deck,
for the most part gazing at the shore.

St. Just and Mahmoud, chained together, were stretched in the shadow of
a boat, apparently asleep.  Certainly the carpenter, who was repairing a
damaged boat hard by them, thought so.  Occasionally he gave a glance at
them, then turned his back and resumed his work, unconscious that his
tool basket lay within reach of Mahmoud’s hand.

But St. Just’s eyes were fixed upon it covetously; given time and
opportunity, in it he saw the instrument of their enfranchisement.
Cautiously inclining his hands towards the apparently sleeping lad, he
whispered in his ear, but no sound escaped his lips.  Silently,
stealthily, first looking around to see that he was not observed,
Mahmoud advanced his unchained hand; gradually it neared the basket;
over the edge and into it made its way.  The next moment it was
withdrawn, but it was no longer empty; it held a strong three-sided
file.  With the speed of lightning the lad thrust it into his waistband
out of sight.  Then he cast his eyes round furtively, to see whether any
one had noticed him.  His heart was beating violently, he breathed
painfully, the sweat was pouring from him, he was trembling from head to
foot.  His glance assured him; he was satisfied that no one, but St.
Just, whose trepidation was equal to his own, had seen his act.  A deep
sigh escaped him; it marked his unspeakable relief, and he breathed
easily.

Hardly had he concealed the file, when the order was given for the gang
to move forward to receive their rations. St. Just and Mahmoud whispered
a word to their neighbors, and quickly the news would permeate the band.

The lynx-eyed slave driver, by way of encouraging them to speed their
steps, gave each man, in passing, a sharp cut with the whip.  But St.
Just and Mahmoud received theirs in silence, for both were inwardly
rejoicing, and they scarcely felt the pain, so buoyed up were they with
the thought that, before another hour should have passed, the inspiring
cry would have been whispered through the gang.

"A file, and freedom at the hour of sunset!"

The afternoon wore on, the captives seemingly even more quiet and
subdued than usual.  No one, to look at them, would have guessed the
hope, the impatience, the thirst for blood, that were raging beneath
their calm demeanor.  But, indolent and listless though they seemed, one
by one they were actively employed.  The file was furtively at work.
Surreptitiously and with infinite caution it was passed from hand to
hand, each man filing almost, but not quite through the link that joined
him to his neighbor, so that with a slight effort, it could be snapped
asunder.  This achieved, the file was handed on.

It had been planned that, if the file’s work were done in time, the
rising should take place at the next call for prayer, for then their
custodians would be on their knees and, for the moment, off their guard.
St. Just was to give the signal; he was to raise his hand; no sound was
to be uttered.

Meanwhile everything was going in their favor.  The crew had given
themselves up to rest, or sport, or dissipation, according to their
respective moods.  Some were singing boisterously, some were gaming with
cards, some dicing; others were devoting themselves to the bottle; for
though followers of the Prophet, these lawless preyers on humanity took
no heed of his injunctions to abstain from alcohol; and with this all
were more or less inflamed.  Some indeed, were so far overcome that they
were stretched upon the deck in drunken stupor.  Most of them had cast
aside their scimitars, which were lying here and there, retaining only
their daggers on their persons.  The muskets were stacked just below the
poop deck.  The laughter, the coarse jokes, the quarreling of the
gamesters and the singing of the half-drunken men combined to form a
Pandemonium that was almost deafening.  But for this, the sound of the
continued rasping of the file could scarcely have escaped their notice.

St. Just and his companions noted with satisfaction, and almost with a
smile, the condition and fancied security of their oppressors; and, even
more, the arms that lay about, and that they hoped would soon be in
their own hands.  The order had silently been passed along that, the
moment they had broken their shackles, each man was to pounce upon a
weapon, and then throw himself upon a foe.  Should there not be arms
sufficient to go round, belaying pins and other articles that might
serve as substitutes were to be seized; and the places of these had all
been marked, that there should be no hunting about when the moment for
attack should have arrived.

It was fortunate for the conspirators that a portion of the crew had
landed with Black Ali, for their work would be the easier; and St. Just
trusted that the others would not return in time to help their comrades.
But, even should they, the rising would still take place, for "death
before slavery; liberty at any cost," was the motto of one and all.

Hour succeeded hour and, at last, the word was passed along that the
file had done its work; every man could now free himself at will; all
that was wanting was the auspicious moment, and for this only patience
was required.

As the sun sank hour by hour, bringing the Mussulman’s prayer time ever
nearer, the suspense and mental tension of the slaves became almost
insupportable, and anxious eyes were turned in the direction of the
shore, on the look-out for any sign of an approaching boat; but nothing
intervened between them and the land.  There was a strained look on
every face, for the sun was now so low that the crisis might arrive at
any moment.  It sank below the horizon, leaving only its reflected
radiance of gold and crimson. Then faintly across the water—so faintly
as to be almost inaudible, and but for the land wind it would have been
wholly so—came the echo of the muezzin’s call.  Spite of the din on
board the vessel, some one heard it and called out, "The Muezzin!"

The word acted like a spell.  Drinking, dicing, card-playing were laid
aside; the swearer checked his swearing, the singer ceased his song; two
men who had quarrelled over their game, each accusing the other of
cheating, and had drawn their daggers to fight it out, replaced their
weapons in their waist cloths—they would renew the fight the moment they
should have performed their orisons—and even the sleepers roused
themselves.  Every voice was hushed; then every knee was bent.

The moment the captives had so yearned for had arrived.  Every eye was
turned upon St. Just.

Silently he raised his hand.  Instantly, like one man the mutineers were
on their feet; there was a sound of jingling metal, and each man’s hands
were free; a rush was made for the weapons, but there was no confusion,
for each seized the arm marked out for him, those nearest the stern
making for the muskets.  Had they been drilled soldiers, their movements
could not have been better executed.  The hope of liberty had lent them
discipline.

Then all their pent up fury burst its bonds, and, with a roar more awful
than that of a dozen lions sighting prey, their eyes glaring with
revenge and thirst for blood, they threw themselves upon their captors.

At the sound of the clanking fetters, Black Ali’s men had risen from
their knees; at first so bewildered as to be incapable of taking in the
situation.  But, in a moment, they understood too well, and they rushed
to seize their weapons, only to find they were too late.  Some tried to
gain the firearms, but here also they were foiled.  Two or three had
swords, but the rest had only daggers.  They looked at one another in
consternation, and their faces fell; they read their doom in the
murderous looks of their assailants; but, merciless scoundrels though
they were, courage was the one virtue they possessed; and, resolved to
sell their lives as dearly as they could, they did not flinch from the
encounter.

Then the murderous work began.  The fighting was all hand to hand, for
St. Just had given orders not to fire, save in the last resort, for fear
of arousing those on shore; but muskets were clubbed and swords were
flashed, and soon every member of the crew was hotly pressed by an
opponent—some by more than one, for the mutineers now outnumbered their
late masters.  Having for the most part only knives and daggers, there
was scarce a possibility of opposing and guard, and the others gave them
little chance of coming to close quarters, whirling their clubbed
muskets about until they saw their opportunity, when down with a crash
they would come on some devoted head.  And it was the same with those
who were armed with swords; such was the rapidity of their cuts and
passes, as effectually to keep the pirates at arm’s length; they seemed
to move with lightning speed; then, at the first opening, a dull
swishing sound was heard, and the deadly steel was buried in a
palpitating body, and another of Black Ali’s men was sent to his
account.  Now and then, one of these, more agile and wary than the rest,
would manage to evade the opposing sword or musket, and, rushing in,
would strike his knife into his adversary.  They fought with the
hardihood and courage of despair, but these availed them nothing against
the fury and ferocity of their assailants, who, goaded by the memory of
their sufferings for the past month, now saw their way to be avenged on
their tormentors, and seemed endowed with superhuman strength.  What
cared they for a few slashes from sword and dagger?  They scarcely felt
them.  Among the whole of them there was not a trace of ruth or pity, no
thought of quarter.  They were more like raging beasts than men.  They
did not even think of liberty; they were swayed only by the impetus to
kill.  They were irresistible.

Some of them were on the poop, shouting.  "A moi, mes camarades, à moi!"
to those of their compatriots among the slaves.  St. Just dashed up the
companion leading to it. He was followed by Mahmoud and a Frenchman.

A huge Arab, one of the few who were armed with swords, rushed forward,
raised his sword aloft and, putting all his strength into the blow, made
a cut at St. Just’s head, that, if it had found its mark, would have
ended his career. But St. Just guarded himself and the blow fell on his
sword.  Such was its force, however, that he staggered under it, so that
the Arab was the first to recover himself for another onset.  He was on
the point of delivering a second blow, when, once more Mahmoud saved his
master’s life. With the agility of a cat, he sprang on the fellow’s back
and twined his arms around his throat.  The next instant St. Just’s
sword was through his adversary’s heart; it even slightly wounded
Mahmoud.  The Arab fell forward with a groan.

Meantime others of the slaves had gained the poop and, with the help of
those already there, they made short work of the remaining members of
the crew in that part of the ship.

Then all went down again to the deck.  Here the fight was nearly over,
for, whenever one of Black Ali’s men had fallen, his late adversary had
gone to the assistance of a comrade; thus the odds against the ship’s
defenders kept increasing.  Only three of these last now survived; they
struggled bravely, desperately, striving not so much to defend
themselves—for they knew that this was hopeless—as to inflict injuries
on their assailants.  But, faint from pain and loss of blood, their
efforts were but feeble: one by one, they were struck down, until the
last had fallen. Then a yell of frenzied triumph went up from the
emancipated slaves.

The ship presented a fearful sight.  More than twenty men were strewn
about the blood-stained deck, all showing ghastly wounds; some with
their skulls smashed in, others with their faces so slashed and bruised
as to be unrecognizable; some with their bowels protruding from their
bodies, all bleeding from numerous wounds, which showed how desperate
had been their fight for life.  Their faces were horrible to behold.
All but a very few were dead, for, as each had fallen, his antagonists
had plunged their swords into him, until he had ceased to move; or had
beaten his brains out with the butt ends of their muskets.  But some
still breathed, and groaned and writhed in agony.  Their sufferings
would soon be ended.  The cry went up, "Stop the music of those howling
dogs."  It was received with a roar of laughter and shouts of, "Yes,
kill them, kill them every one, the man-hunting tigers."

The murderous work was quickly finished.  The vessel ran with blood from
stem to stern, and a loathsome smell went up, the sickening odor of the
slaughter house.

Some of the mutineers had been wounded, in most cases only slightly,
some seriously, but none had received fatal injuries.  The opposing
parties had been too unequally armed for that.  Now that their enemies
were disposed of, those who were uninjured lent their assistance to
their wounded comrades, and bound up their hurts. St. Just was among
those who had escaped without a scratch.

At last they had attained their freedom; but, hardly had they begun to
congratulate themselves on their success, when a new danger threatened
them.

"A boat, a boat!"

The cry came from a man who was leaning over the bows.

All eyes turned shorewards.  A boat had just put off; they knew it well.
Black Ali and his companions were returning.  Swiftly the victors had to
decide upon their course.  Their ability to cope successfully with the
slave dealer and his myrmidons was not in doubt; they were well-armed
and out-numbered them in the proportion of three to one.  Moreover,
their position on the ship gave them, an additional advantage; there
would be little risk in the encounter; their danger lay in their
nearness to the shore; the fight would be witnessed from the mole, and
Black Ali’s friends and the authorities of the place would come to his
assistance; then all their late efforts would have been in vain.
Ardently as they longed to meet their persecutor face to face and to
mete out to him the punishment he had so richly earned, they were
compelled reluctantly to forego their vengeance.

Their resolve was quickly taken; their only safety lay in flight.  St.
Just, by tacit consent, assumed, for the nonce, the post of leader.  No
sooner had they come to this decision, than his voice rang out, "Four
men to the windlass and cast loose the anchor."

The minutes were too precious to be spent in weighing it; it would have
to go, despite the risk they ran thereby.

Four men instantly ran up, and the next moment the windlass was whirling
round; soon the end of the chain was reached and with a rattle was cast
overboard.

"A sailor, a steersman," St. Just next shouted.

A tall Greek sprang to his feet.

"I can steer," he cried.

"To the helm, then," rejoined St. Just, "and stand by till the sweeps
are out; then bring her round."

The order was obeyed.

"Out with the sweeps, and row for your lives," went on the captain.
"Port side only, until you have got her head round to the sea; starboard
side back water."

The men dashed to the benches and took their seats, no longer chained to
the oars, but free men now.  They began to pull as they had never pulled
before; harder even than when under the slave-driver’s whip, since they
were rowing for their lives; for, if attacked, they would die, before
they would yield themselves again to slavery.

Slowly and steadily the dhow swung round, until her bows were pointing
seawards; then they set to with a will, pulling a long, even stroke that
sent them rapidly through the waves.

"Up with the sails!" was the next order.

There was a whirring of ropes, as they traveled through the blocks, and
up went the large triangular sails.

"Crowd on all you can—every rag of canvas!" their leader shouted.  There
was no danger in this, for the wind was light, and, fortunately, from
the right quarter.

Soon every sail was set, and the ship, assisted by the rowers’ efforts,
was bowling merrily before the wind.  So promptly had all answered to
their new captain’s call, that, five minutes after his first order had
been given, the ship had been got round, with all sails set, and had
begun to move.

While his instructions were being carried out, St. Just, as well as
others, was turning anxious glances towards the shore.  Nearer and
nearer came the approaching boat and, by the time the dhow was under
way, it was little more than three hundred yards astern.  But, before
this, Black Ali had seen, from the activity on board, that something was
amiss: and what that was he was not long left in doubt. Then his fury
knew no bounds.  Just when he had made arrangements to turn his living
cargo into money, to see his ship and freight both taking flight
certainly was calculated to excite his ire.  He jumped up in the boat
and cursed and raved and threw his arms about and shook his fist in
menace at the retreating ship; his crew also set up a howl of baffled
rage.  They were answered from the dhow with jeers.  Then Black Ali’s
men fired musket shots, but the bullets only made little splashes in the
water and drew more derisive shouts and mocking laughter from the new
masters of the ship.

Black Ali saw that pursuit was useless, for the distance between him and
the runaway dhow was ever growing greater.  He turned his boat’s head
towards the land and rowed for the harbor with all speed, his intention
being to get some swift vessel lying there and overtake and recapture
his own.  In this he would have no difficulty, for, by the laws of every
country, St. Just and his companions were mutineers and pirates.

The ship’s crew cheered when they saw their late oppressor give up the
chase, but St. Just looked grave; he would have been better satisfied
had it been maintained; he guessed what Black Ali meant to do.

"Don’t waste your breath in cheers, men," he exclaimed. "You will need
it all.  Wait till we are clear of him.  He has gone for the moment, but
he will soon be on our track in a ship that will out-sail us.  Row your
hardest; your lives and liberty are at stake.  Our only chance is that
they shall not sight us.  In that the coming night will help us.  Bend
your backs, strain every nerve and muscle until the darkness shrouds us.
Meantime, those of us who are now resting will lighten the vessel of
this Arab carrion, and swab the deck."

The rowers saw the force of what he said, and their efforts were
redoubled.  The others set to work on throwing the dead bodies
overboard; and, when the last was gone, began to wash the blood-stained
deck; it would take many washings and scourings with holy stone to
obliterate the last vestiges of crimson.

Meanwhile the breeze had freshened, the sails were stretched almost to
bursting, but there was no listing of the ship, for the wind was dead
astern; the masts and cordage creaked and groaned and whistled, and the
dhow seemed to be going at racing speed, the bows ploughing up the water
in a deep furrow and leaving a stream of foam in the vessel’s wake.

On, on, she flew, plunging into the trough of the great rollers, now
rising over their crests, the water gurgling and lapping against her
stern.  Gradually the land became more and more indistinct, until,
finally, it faded out of sight.

At last night fell; never surely had darkness been so longed for.  Then
the rowers’ exertions slackened, and the heavy sweeps were shipped; it
was time, for the men were nearly spent.  Soon a fresh gang would take
their places; but, before that, a palaver would be held.  So far, they
had sighted no pursuers, nor, look which way they would, had they seen a
sail of any sort; they seemed to have the Mediterranean to themselves.

They had captured the ship; they had slain their persecutors; they had
gained their liberty; they had now to consider how to avoid recapture.
They would not be safe until they should have made some European port.
The English had swept the Mediterranean of all war ships, but their own;
and them they did not fear, for capture by them would, at the worst,
mean only temporary restraint.  On learning the particulars, the English
authorities would hold them justified for all that had occurred.  The
men they feared were the slavers, privateers and pirates, with whom
those waters swarmed.

When a lantern had been swung at the mast head and another placed within
the binnacle, the whole crew assembled in council on the poop.  St. Just
opened the proceedings.

"The first thing to be done," he said, "is to appoint a captain.  I am
wholly ignorant of nautical affairs, so I am out of it.  Now, how many
practical sailors are there present?"

Half a dozen hands were raised; at the same time several voices called
out, "Theodori!"

This was the tall Greek at the tiller.

"Theodori," resumed St. Just, "you seem to be the only candidate, and I
am ready to place myself under your orders, till we gain the land.  At
the same time, I think it would give all greater confidence, if you
would state your qualifications."

"I have had ten years’ experience in the Mediterranean before the mast,"
Theodori promptly answered.  "And have served for twelve months as first
officer in a large coasting vessel.  I can navigate the ship and, if we
are not captured, can take you safely into port."

There was a mixture of modesty and confidence in his tone and bearing
that favorably impressed his hearers.  All felt he was the right man for
the post.

"I like your answer," said St. Just, "and for my part, am prepared to
place implicit trust in you."  Then he turned to the men.  "What say
you, comrades, shall Theodori be our captain?"

"He shall," they shouted with one accord.  "Theodori! Theodori!"

St. Just put up his hand for silence, and went on.  "Now we must be
agreed on one thing, we must yield our captain absolute obedience—and
cheerfully and willingly; there must be no questioning his orders.  Only
so can we hope to plant our feet on land again.  So far, we have been
successful; let us not jeopardize our success; there is much to be done
before our safety will be secured.  Captain!" to Theodori, "I await your
orders."

"I accept the post," said the new captain, "and thank you all for your
confidence.  I hope so to sail the vessel as to show that it is not
misplaced.  But, before I begin my duties, we must decide whither we are
bound.  What port am I to make for?"

This point had not before occurred to them, and it gave rise to much
discussion.  The few Frenchmen among them, captured stragglers and
couriers from Buonaparte’s army, suggested a French port, Marseilles for
choice; some, one of the islands in the Levant; others Sicily, or Italy;
some wanted to go back to Egypt.  St. Just was mute.  His mind was so
unsettled that he resolved to leave to chance his destination.  After
all who desired to do so had had their say, the Greek captain spoke.

"What we all want," he said, "is to get to shore as soon as possible.
Now the South West corner of Sicily is the nearest land in front of
us—almost due North.  I shall have to sail the ship by dead reckoning,
and from memory, for I hear there are no charts, chronometer or
instruments for taking observations.  Therefore, the less distance we
have to go, the less liability of error in reckoning.  I strongly advise
Sicily, and the first port there we sight.  But, if all agree upon some
other quarter, I will do my best to take you there.  What say you, men?"

There was a short, murmured conversation, and then one man, acting as
spokesman for the rest, addressed the Greek. "We will be guided by you,
Captain.  Sail the ship to Sicily, and good luck go with us."

The meeting then broke up.

Theodori at once began to issue orders, and in a tone that showed that,
once appointed, he meant to be obeyed. He called up the six men who were
sailors and, after a few questions, soon learned how to place them.  One
he sent to the helm with instructions to keep the ship’s head North; two
others were made first and second officers respectively of the watch; a
fourth was to be boatswain.  The other two would take their turns at the
tiller.  He decided to keep the first watch himself.

When he had made all his arrangements, he gave orders for the men to
have their rations.  Then a man was placed on the look-out, and all
turned in for the rest they so well deserved and greatly needed.

The night passed uneventfully and the morning broke bright and clear;
then earnestly was the horizon scanned by all, Theodori standing by the
helmsman with the telescope to his eye.  Presently he started almost
imperceptibly; astern of them a little to their port, he had discerned a
small white speck—a sail in the far distance; the hull was not yet
visible.  Probably it was in pursuit of them, and Black Ali was on
board.  The captain cast his eyes up to the sails; they no longer filled
out bravely, as on the night before, but swayed limply in and out, as
the wind first came in little puffs, then fell away; sometimes they even
flapped against the masts, for the breeze had died away, though still
dead aft of them; the dhow was making but little way.  For the moment
the Greek looked anxious; the vessel in their wake was a much larger
one, with greater sailing power; then his face brightened and a smile of
triumph passed across it. What had seemed to forecast their destruction
might prove the saving of them.  The pursuing vessel’s progress depended
solely on the wind; the dhow had added propulsive power in the strong
arms of her men.  Even in a dead calm they could keep on their course.

"A sail astern of us," he said, and the cry was repeated by the crew.
Then he called the boatswain.

"Man the sweeps," he said, "and change the gang every hour.  Every man
must do his best, until that ship is out of sight."

The men obeyed the orders with alacrity, St. Just and Mahmoud being the
first to seize a sweep between them. Soon, assisted by the little wind
there was, the ship had a fair way on her.  Gradually the rowers’
efforts began to tell; the vessel in their wake grew less and less and,
in two hours, not a trace of her could be seen.  But still the men rowed
on, a fresh set being put on each hour; they required no urging to their
work; they had too much at stake for that.

They saw no more of their pursuer, if such she was. Occasionally they
sighted other vessels on both sides of them, but far away.

A few days passed, their freedom ever nearing consummation, and, at
last, from the look-out man rang out the welcome cry of "Land ahead."

At first there seemed only a long, low, far-off cloud, but to the
seaman’s practiced eye it was the goal of all his hopes. The rowers were
not now at work, for the wind had freshened, and a good stiff breeze was
blowing.  Rapidly the land grew more distinct, and presently Theodori,
who was at the bow, viewing through his glass the line of coast, which
he knew well, exclaimed,

"Sicily!  Our nearest port will be Marsala: we will make for it."

In a few hours they were off the town; or, to be precise, two miles to
the right of it, it being thought advisable to land where they would be
little noticed.  The sails were lowered; then the vessel was hove to.
Next, a few men were put to the sweeps to steady her, there being, as it
will be remembered, no anchor to let go.  There was only one boat on
board—for Black Ali had the other—and this was manned and lowered, and
as many took their places in it as it would safely carry.  "Give way
men," was then the order, and they pushed off, and started for the
shore, amid the cheers of those on board.  All felt now that their
liberty was assured, and they were mad with joy.

The boat had to return four times before all were taken off the vessel.
St. Just and Mahmoud were among the final batch.  Theodori, who had so
ably steered them into safety, was the last to leave the dhow.  She was
abandoned for any one who chose to seize her.  Black Ali might regain
his own, should he come up in time.

So far, there had been no mishap in landing.  When the boat was run
ashore for the last time, those assembled on the beach gave voice to a
hearty cheer, which the others answered with a loud hurrah.  Then, in
their excitement and in all good temper, they began to scramble from the
boat, each striving to be the first.  In the general scuffle St. Just,
who was standing on one of the thwarts, received a violent push, that
was not intentional, from behind.  He fell headlong forwards, his head
striking the boat’s edge with fearful force.  He rolled over
unconscious, with the blood pouring from a terrible gash that extended
from the temple to a considerable distance behind the ear.



                        *THE CONSUL BUONAPARTE.*


                              *EPOCH II.*


                        *THE CONSUL BUONAPARTE.*


                              *CHAPTER I.*


A few days before the close of November 1803 a small trading vessel was
making her way towards the Southern coast of France.  A tall, handsome,
though careworn-looking man, about thirty years of age, was standing in
the forepart of the ship.  Despite his civilian garb, there was an air
about him that proclaimed a military training.  His eyes were fixed with
a far-off, dreamy look on the distant haze that heralded their approach
to land.  But he seemed to take but little interest in the prospect; he
showed none of the excitement of a man returning to his country after
years of absence; only a dull, leaden curiosity.

At his elbow stood a young fellow with gleaming teeth and smiling face
and dark twinkling eyes.  His coal-black hair and swarthy skin gave
evidence that he hailed from some Southern or Eastern clime.

The older man was St. Just, the younger Mahmoud, who had now broadened
and thickened, and become a man of powerful frame.

To explain their presence on a trading vessel a brief retrospect is
necessary.

When last before the reader, St. Just lay unconscious in the boat, with
a dreadful injury to his head.  His companions, seeing that he made no
attempt to rise, picked him up and laid him on the beach.  Then a cloth
was bound tightly round his head to check the bleeding, and they did
their best to bring him round.  But all their efforts were unavailing;
St. Just remained in a state of stupor.

What was to be done?  They did not like to leave him, and Theodori and
Mahmoud would not hear of it, the latter saying that nothing would
induce him to forsake the wounded man.  On the other hand, to carry him
into the town, would call attention to them and might lead to their
arrest.  Their intention had been to disperse on landing, and make their
way thither by different routes in twos and threes.  After some
discussion, it was decided that four of them should remain with him,
until a place of shelter had been found for him.  The main body then
separated, taking different directions.  Mahmoud, of course, and
Theodori were among those left behind.

When the others had cleared off, the latter started in search of help.
A little way inland, was a village, and thither Theodori bent his steps.
He had gone not far, when he met one whose dress showed him to be a
priest. The very man, opined the Greek, and he approached him and told
what had occurred.  He was familiar with all the tongues in use about
the Mediterranean, of which Italian was the most prevalent, and in this
language he addressed him.  Naturally, all he told him was that, in
landing from a boat, a man had been seriously hurt, and was in dire need
of surgical assistance.  The padre’s sympathies were enlisted, and he at
once set off with Theodori to the shore and instructed the men to bear
the wounded man to his own house.  This done, the Greek and the two
other men departed, leaving Mahmoud with St. Just.  Then the good priest
fetched a doctor, a friend of his, and St. Just’s injuries were attended
to.

He made steady progress towards recovery, so far as concerned the wound,
which in a month healed up; when, in bodily health, he was as well and
strong as ever.

But the injury to his head had had a strange effect upon his brain.
When he regained consciousness, his memory had wholly left him; he was
oblivious of everything that had occurred before the accident; the past
was an absolute blank to him.  Even Mahmoud he did not recognize; had he
been asked his own name, or Mahmoud’s, he could not have given either.
The lad had told the priest that his master’s name was St. Just and his
own Mahmoud, and St. Just hearing the names so used, accepted them.  It
was strange that this should not have aroused some memories in his
dormant brain; but so it was.

Mahmoud had begged so hard to be allowed to remain and serve St. Just,
that the padre could not find it in his heart to say him nay; he was
touched by the young man’s devotion.  The lad was both amazed and
shocked at the condition of his master’s mind, and, for a long time,
tried every means to awake his sleeping memory.

He talked of Halima and the old sheik; of his accident, of Cairo, of
Black Ali, of the treasure, of the French Army, and of every
circumstance known to St. Just that he thought likely to take his mind
back to the past; but, with all his efforts, he failed to strike one
responsive chord. St. Just would give him all his attention, looking
wonderingly in Mahmoud’s face, would seem to be striving hard to dig
into the recesses of the past, and then would answer wearily, "It is
useless, Mahmoud; my mind in regard to what is in the past is dead.  I
recollect nothing that occurred before I woke up to find myself in bed
in this good man’s house. I do not even remember having ever seen you
before that moment.  I do not doubt the truth of what you tell me, but I
remember nothing of it, nothing."

So, seeing its uselessness, and that it even gave his master pain,
Mahmoud rarely made any reference to the past, and, after a month,
ceased altogether.

Both the padre and the surgeon were much interested in the case,
especially the latter; he had never met with such a one before.  At
first he thought St. Just was shamming, that he had done something that
would not bear the light, and had artfully assumed his rôle of
ignorance, to shelve unpleasant questions.  But he soon abandoned this
idea; there was no pretense about his patient’s loss of memory. Then he
brought other medical men to see St. Just, and all were as puzzled as
himself.  They talked of depression of the skull, of lesions, and
abscesses on the brain; but all agreed that nothing could be done; time
only might effect a cure.  Should the lesion, or abscess heal, or
whatever was the mischief, be removed, most likely his memory would
return.  They could say and do no more; in those days surgical and
medical science had not attained the position it holds to-day.

So desirous was the surgeon to see the outcome of the case, that he cast
about for a means to keep his patient under his eye.  To this end, St.
Just being nothing loth, and also grateful for the surgeon’s care, he
exerted himself to find him employment in the neighboring town; with the
result that, aided by the priest, he obtained for him a post with an
important shipping firm.  St. Just’s mind was active and intelligent
enough in all that concerned the present, and he performed his duties
with promptitude and assiduity.

With the same firm a subordinate post was found for Mahmoud.  The lad’s
account of who they were and how they came to be where they were found
was but a skeleton of the truth.  He had all the cunning and shrewdness
of the Arab, and, in his master’s strange condition, he feared to betray
something that might do him injury.

Occasionally a gleam of light from the regions of the past would flash
across the Frenchman’s brain, but it was only momentary and was
extinguished even before it had begun to glow; and it left no trace
behind.  As time went on, this occurred more frequently, and he told the
surgeon of it; whereat the latter argued that time would, indeed, effect
the restoration of his patient’s memory.

Thus three years and a half went on.  Then, one day, St. Just sought the
surgeon in great excitement.  "Doctor," he said, "to-day there came to
me a thought that surely must be a reminiscence of the past.  Hitherto,
when what I take to be a memory has flashed across me, it has vanished
ere I could lay hold of it: I never could remember what it was.  But
to-day I can recall what passed through my brain an hour ago.  It was
but confused and faint, but, such as it was, I can remember it.  A scene
of battle floated before my eyes; I could hear the boom of guns, the
call of trumpets; the men were dressed in uniforms that seemed familiar
to me; some spoke French and some Italian; the latter gave way before
the former.  Then the whole scene dissolved away.  I can connect this
with nothing in my life; still, surely, surely, it means something to
me—or is it all hallucination?"

"It is no hallucination," replied the surgeon.  "It is clear to me that
you have fought in the French army of Italy.  Your memory will come back
to you; how soon I cannot say.  But I can suggest how it may be speeded,
and the course you ought to take.  Return to France; there you will see
so many things that are familiar to you, that I doubt not you will soon
recall every incident of your life.  Take my advice and go at once.  I
shall be greatly interested in the result.  All I ask is that you let me
know it."

And St. Just took his friend’s advice.  The shipping firm in whose
employ he was gave him and Mahmoud a passage in a ship bound for
Marseilles.  They also handed him, in addition to his salary, five
thousand francs; he had served them well, and they gave the sum
ungrudgingly.

This was how it had come about that St. Just and Mahmoud were now
standing side by side upon the trading vessel that was bearing them to
France.

On the good ship sped, and soon the rocky islet on which stands the
Chateaux d’If, famous in romance and history, came in view.  Past this
she flew, like a bird anxious to regain its nest, and, ere long,
Marseilles was made.  Then the sails were lowered, the rattling of
chains was heard, the anchor fell with a plunge into the water, and the
vessel was hove to.

St. Just, soon after, went ashore with Mahmoud.  He had formed no plans,
but, unknown to him, his career was gendering in the future and, ere
long, would reach fruition. Meantime he was not without the wherewithal
for his support for a few months.  He had in gold the equivalent of two
hundred pounds in English money.

The first thing to be done was to get shelter for the night; and St.
Just asked the skipper to direct him to a respectable hostelry where the
fare was good, the beds were clean and the charges moderate.

The skipper knew the very place—the Toison d’or (Golden Fleece); when at
Marseilles, he put up there himself. If St. Just would accompany him to
the agents of the vessel’s owners, he would afterwards go with him to
the inn in question, and introduce him to the landlady.  The prospect
was quite to the Frenchman’s mind, and, in due course, they made their
way together to the Toison d’or, and Mahmoud with them.

Evidently the skipper was a persona grata to the landlady, for she
received him with a smiling face and warm congratulations on his return
once more to the Phocean city.  Altogether she was most effusive; told
St. Just that any friend of Captain Ricci’s was always welcome, and
would receive her best attention.  Then she took him upstairs to a
bright, cheerful room, in which were two small beds.  Everything was so
neat and clean, and the hostess was so pleasant and obliging, that St.
Just, who had been prepared to find that Ricci’s description of the
hostelry had been couched in too glowing terms, was fain to admit that
every word of his friend’s eulogium was deserved.  He engaged the
bedroom on the spot, and then sent up Mahmoud with their baggage.

This business done, the skipper suggested a parting glass, that each
might wish the other "Bon voyage," and "Au Revoir," if possible.

St. Just was nothing loth, and together they adjourned to the common
room; it was pretty full, for work was over for the day.  All sorts and
conditions of men were gathered there; market porters, dock laborers,
sailors, soldiers—mostly pensioners, who had lost a leg or an arm in the
numerous wars in which France for the last ten years had been engaged.
Besides these, there were town officials, shop-keepers and professional
men—the whole constituting a fair sample of the male inhabitants of
Marseilles.

All seemed to be babbling at the same time, and in all sorts of tongues,
and dense clouds of tobacco smoke filled the room, enough to choke one;
the walls and ceiling were thick with it.

At intervals along the sides, stuck into tin sconces, tallow candles
flared and guttered, emitting far more smell than light, for they were
so sparsely placed, as to do little more than make the darkness visible.

Towards the upper end of this sweltering, reeking, voice-resounding den,
Captain Ricci and his companion made their way, and found two vacant
places at a table. Casting his eye round through the haze of smoke, the
skipper spied a good-looking and neatly, though somewhat smartly,
dressed young woman who was moving from table to table, ministering to
the requirements of the customers!

"Amélie!" he roared out; and, almost before the name had left his lips,
the girl was at his side, all smiles.

They ordered some brandy, which presently Amélie brought.  Ricci just
then saw a friend across the room; so, after drinking up his brandy, and
wishing his companion luck, he shook hands with him and moved away to
join his other acquaintance.  Left to his own resources, St. Just found
himself listening, with a sort of half-awakened interest, to the
conversation of two men beside him, who looked as if they had seen
service in the wars.

St. Just had listened to their talk in a dreamy sort of way.  It was
something to take him from himself, but he felt little interest in it,
and not all of it reached his ears.

The man who had been the chief talker now got out his pipe and began to
smoke; then, bringing his head nearer to his friend he puffed out a
great stream of smoke and resumed in a lower tone.

"But there’s more to tell; the other day I saw that same Arab girl in
Paris—"

"You saw her in Paris?" interposed the other.

"But I am certain of it.  I saw her driving in a carriage and pair,
dressed like a Parisian; and by her side was Colonel Tremeau, whom I
knew well in Egypt; he was a captain then of ours.  What it all means I
know not, but she is living in great style, and passes as a Frenchwoman.
She is well known in Paris, it seems, and goes by the name of Madame
Halima de Moncourt."

At the sound of this name, all St. Just’s listlessness vanished like a
flash; he started, as though some one had struck him an unexpected blow;
he felt a sudden whirring in his head, for all the world like that
produced by the breaking of a clock spring.  Then he experienced a
strange sensation of relief; the leaden feeling that had so long
oppressed him, was no longer there; his brain felt clear and light.

Halima de Moncourt!  Halima!  These men were talking of his wife!  de
Moncourt was her mother’s maiden name. So she was in Paris!

Then, like a panorama, his whole past career unfolded itself before him,
special incidents in it standing out in strong relief; his first
commission, the day on which he had first donned epaulets; his first
experience in the battle field. Then his newly-recovered memory took him
on to the memorable occasion of his first personal acquaintance with
Buonaparte; when he saved his life and was afterwards introduced to
Josephine, and all that had followed from it—the Egyptian campaign, his
first sight of Halima, and his mad passion for her; his narrow escapes
from death; the finding of the treasure and its capture; his sufferings
on the slave ship and his subsequent recovery of his liberty. All the
incidents of his life, even to the minutest detail, were marshaled in
one long procession before his mental vision, and he knew himself at
last for what he was.  The knowledge gave him little satisfaction.  He
was a deserter, and, moreover, on the soil of France.  Should any one
recognize and denounce him, he knew the penalty.  To save his life would
tax all his inventive power, combined with daring and no little
shrewdness.

But, at all risks, he must see his wife; on that he was decided; he must
know in what position they were to stand towards one another.  Had she
once more surrendered herself to Buonaparte—or to some other man?  The
suggestion maddened him.  And what about her oath of vengeance?

His brain was in a whirl.  The heat and closeness of the fetid air
became unbearable in his present frame of mind, and he went out to cool
himself and think out his position in the fresh salt breezes from the
harbor.



                             *CHAPTER II.*


The next morning, St. Just, accompanied by Mahmoud, began his journey
Paris-wards.  For the sake of economy, they traveled by stage wagon.  It
was a cumbersome mode of transit, and the jolting frightful, for the
roads were bad. They went the whole distance at a walking pace, and,
with the exception of his experience on the slaver, St. Just found it
the most wearisome journey he had ever taken; it was not only the time
it occupied, but he felt bruised all over; sometimes, when he could no
longer bear it, he got out and walked.  But, at last, early in December,
the spires of Paris came in sight, and never before had he hailed them
with such delight.

At once he engaged a cheap lodging for himself and Mahmoud in the Rue de
Dauphin.  He was familiar with the district, for it was not far from the
Luxembourg, in which palace, it will be remembered, St. Just had a post
at the time of his introduction to the reader.

This little matter settled, he began his quest for Halima. From the
conversation he had overheard between the two men at the Toison d’or, he
had thought that this would be a simple matter; he had believed his wife
well-known in Paris.

But, from the inquiries he made cautiously, he found it otherwise.  From
one point of view, this was satisfactory, for, from the men’s remarks,
he had feared she had an unenviable notoriety—that her charms, in fact,
outweighed her virtue.

He began his inquiries with Mons. Gaston, the husband of his landlady,
but the worthy man, although shrewd enough and a clerk in a public
office, failed to obtain any light as to the whereabouts of Madame de
Moncourt.

Day succeeded day, and still St. Just could gain no intelligence of his
wife, and he began to think, either that she had quitted Paris, or had
assumed another name. Doubtless, he could have learned what he required
from the Bureau of Police, but he was unwilling to apply there.  He had
not reported himself to the military authorities, and thus it would be
dangerous to communicate with the Police.  His reason for not announcing
his return to Paris was that he feared he might be sent to some military
depot outside the city, and so checked in his quest of Halima. But he
was becoming very anxious; he knew the risk he ran; at any time he might
be recognized and denounced as a deserter.  For this reason, most of his
inquiries were made at night, though sometimes he ventured out by day.

One morning he was wandering about, in a despondent mood, in the
neighborhood of the Halles Centrales, when a market cart filled with
vegetables, was driven almost over him.  To save himself, he stepped
back and took shelter under the eave of one of the stalls.

He had scarcely done so, when he heard the sound of two men’s voices in
a further corner of the covered booth.  He could not see the speakers,
nor, probably, could they see him.

At first, he paid no attention to what was being said, but presently a
name was uttered that caused him to become all ears.

"Is it wise for Monsieur to remain in Paris after the recent
occurrence?" said the first voice.

"Of course not," was the reply, "but what would you?  I cannot cross the
frontier.  Buonaparte will not let the de Moncourt go even to Brussels;
so the plan of my traveling with her as her servant cannot be carried
out."

It was the mention of his wife’s name that had riveted St. Just’s
attention.

"Has the man Garraud been sounded?" resumed the first man.

"Yes, but to no purpose.  No boat can either land at Marseilles, or
leave it, without his permission; and he will not give it, without
knowing all the ins and outs of the application.  He is a faithful
adherent of the first Consul."

"H’m," thoughtfully, "then we must find a spot near Boulogne.  The
English smuggler, Wright, may be relied upon, you think?"

"I think so—if he be well paid; and this we are prepared to do."

"Well, look him up, and sound him carefully.  I shall see you at Auteuil
to-night?"

"Certainly; I shall be at Madame’s reception.  It is said the Duke is to
be there."

No more was said, and the next sound that reached the listener’s ear was
that of persons moving.  Evidently, either the conference was at an end,
or they feared they were being overheard.  At any rate, the speakers
left the booth, though not by the entrance at which stood St. Just, but
by some exit at the back.  Anxious to see them and, if he thought it
wise, to follow them, in the hope of learning Halima’s address, he
hurried round the corner for the purpose.  Not watching whither he was
going, he ran into a chestnut roaster, whose chestnuts lay untended,
while the man himself was kneeling on one knee and peering earnestly
into the booth.

So sudden and forcible was their impact, that both men fell.  Quick as
thought, the chestnut seller was on his legs again; then, without giving
a moment’s consideration to his merchandise, he took to his heels.

St. Just, less fortunate, had no sooner risen to his feet than he found
himself in the grasp of the two men whose voices he had overheard.

Both were roughly attired; one, whose face was smeared with black,
looked like a coal dealer; the other like a laborer.

"A word with you, my friend," said he with the coal dust on his face,
and, between them, they led St. Just into the booth.  He made no
resistance; he was without fear, and besides, it was broad daylight in a
crowded neighborhood. He was slightly curious too, to know what they
would say to him.

They motioned him to a wooden stool, which he took without a word.
Then, when they also had seated themselves, between him and the
entrance, the man who had first spoken addressed him roughly:—

"Now then, who the deuce are you, prowling about the stalls and prying
into other men’s affairs?  Some wretched market thief, no doubt.  What
were you and that other rascal doing—the man that ran away?"

The man’s words and manner took St. Just aback.  "From my heart (De mon
coeur)," he began to stammer apologetically, his pronunciation being by
no means clear; so much so, that he was misunderstood.  At any rate, his
words were magical in their effect.  Before he could add another, both
men sprang to their feet and looked earnestly into his face.

"Who?  What?" demanded the man who had first questioned him.  "How came
you here?  Do you come from her?"

The other man held up a warning finger, and the speaker changed his tone
and subject.  "Have you any business with us, Sir, any orders for fuel,
that we find you about our booth?"

He spoke nervously, and St. Just saw that he was ill at ease.  He was
more bewildered now than ever.

"Gentlemen," he said, and he could not forbear a smile, "you manners
are, to say the least, bizarre; you begin by rating me, suggesting that
I am a market thief, and then you ask me whether I bring an order for
your wares.  I can see that my presence has in some way disconcerted
you; but why, I am at a loss to tell.  Though I am in no way accountable
to you for my actions, I will not emulate your want of courtesy, but
will tell you frankly why you find me here.  You may be able to assist
me; sometimes one gains intelligence from most unlikely quarters."

His hearers looked at him in some surprise; they doubted whether he was
not amusing himself at their expense.  His bearing puzzled them.

"Anything we can do to assist Monsieur," began the one who had not yet
spoken.

St. Just bowed and resumed, "There is little to tell, and that little is
soon told.  I have been but a few days in Paris, and I came to make
inquiries for a person for whom I have an important communication.  I
was merely strolling about here on the chance of meeting some one who
could give me the address of the one I seek.  Now, gentlemen, you know
my business.  There is naught of mystery about it, though something I
did or said a while ago seemed to discompose you strangely."

The men seemed now reassured, satisfied that his presence there was an
accident and himself no spy upon their actions.  His frankness and
dauntlessness had disarmed them.  They hastened to apologize, and then
the man with the swarthy face went on, "It is just possible, but hardly
likely, that we might give the information Monsieur seeks. If Monsieur
would be at the trouble to state the name of the person he inquires
about—"

"But certainly," St. Just interrupted, "the lady’s name is Madame de
Moncourt."

Again both men started visibly; it was plain that this name was wholly
unexpected by them; and that its mention stirred them greatly.  In his
way St. Just was almost as astonished as themselves; he never thought to
get the news he sought from them.  Now he was assured that they could
give it.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I see that the name is not unknown to you and
that you can oblige me with the lady’s address.  It was a fortunate
circumstance that brought me to you."

The next moment he had reason to doubt the truth of this last remark,
for, in an instant, he found himself seized, and a dagger pointed at his
heart.  At the same time, a voice muttered in tones that, though low,
were distinct enough, "The first of your myrmidons who enters here shall
see this planted in your breast."

For all the suddenness of the attack and his inward trepidation, St.
Just showed no outward mark of flinching.  He knew his best chance of
safety lay in keeping cool and exhibiting no signs of fear.

"Is this a comedy, Gentlemen," he said, "or what?  Such rapid changes in
demeanor I never saw before; one moment you are all courtesy, the next
all menace.  I think, if you would explain yourselves, we should the
better understand each other.  First, for whom or what do you take me?"

"For an agent of Police," was the reply, the poniard still held in
unpleasant closeness to his breast.

St. Just laughed scornfully.

"My good sirs," he said, "so far am I from that, that did they but know
I am in Paris, they would arrest me.  I am unarmed; search me."

Once more he was beginning to regain their confidence; what he said
seemed reasonable enough.

"Will you allow us first to bind your hands?" asked the man with the
coal-stained face, who seemed to take the lead throughout.

"By all means," was St. Just’s answer, and he held out his hands and
brought his wrists together.

One of the men took out a handkerchief and with this he tied his hands
together; then searched him carefully, the other, meanwhile, still
keening the dagger in position.

Finding him unarmed, as he had stated, and that he had nothing about him
to connect him with the Police, the men once more became composed, and
he who held the weapon lowered it.  St. Just was the first to speak.

"Now, gentlemen, I trust that you are satisfied that I had no designs
against you.  I know nothing whatever of your business, nor do I seek to
know it.  But I will be frank with you; I am sure you are not what you
seem; your speech and manner belie your dress.  Further, I believe the
man I ran against outside was watching you.  You know best whether he
had any object and whether you run any risk.

"And now you will confer a favor on me, by giving me the address of
Madame de Moncourt."

"Peste!  Monsieur," said the leading man, with a gesture of annoyance,
"what folly is this?  Why do you persist in assuming that we can help
you to it?"

"I know you can," was the cool reply.

"You are bold, Monsieur."

"And determined," he retorted.

The men moved to a little distance from him and held a whispered
consultation.  After a few minutes, the first man again addressed him.

"What is the nature of your business with Madame de Moncourt?  Your
visit might be unwelcome to her."

"Nay, gentlemen, I have not asked your business.  I claim the same
consideration."

"Your name?"

"That question also I have not put to you.  Thus much, however, I will
tell you; that what I have to say to Madame de Moncourt will cause her
the utmost satisfaction, and that she will hold him her enemy who
obstructs me.  If you decline to furnish me with what I ask, I shall
soon elsewhere obtain it; you will merely delay, but not restrain me.
Still even delay I am desirous to avoid.  I have another suggestion to
make, if you still doubt me; will you give me your word of honor to
convey a letter from me to the lady?"

There was another whispered conversation, and, at the end of it, they
advanced to him again.

"We have discussed this matter," said the man who had first addressed
him, "and this is our conclusion.  We are ready to take you at once to
Madame de Moncourt, provided you agree to our conditions.  If you are a
true man and are as anxious as you say to obtain speech with her, you
will show your confidence in us by agreeing to them.  If you decline,
we, on our part, shall decline to convey any letter from you to her."

A smile of satisfaction lighted up the hearer’s face; he was to see
Halima; all else mattered nothing.  The promptness and decision of his
answer were worthy of Buonaparte himself:—

"I accept your conditions in advance."

It was now the others’ turn to smile.

"Your trust in us is highly flattering, my friend," said one; "but
surely it is somewhat indiscreet.  Had you not better hear our
stipulations before you commit yourself to their acceptance."

"I care not what they are," St. Just rejoined impetuously; "but name
them, we are wasting time."

"In the first place you will have to consent to make the journey
blindfold; and, should Madame decline to see you, or fail to recognize
you, or, having recognized you, desire your absence; to be brought back
here in the same condition."

"I agree to that without the slightest hesitation.  But surely for you
to traverse the streets with a blindfolded man, either on foot or in a
vehicle, would arouse suspicion; which, I take it, gentlemen, is not
what you desire."

"Excellently put, Monsieur; your perspicuity does you credit.  We
purpose taking steps to provide against the danger you suggest.  In
effect, you will be carted to our destination in the guise of
merchandise—firewood, to be precise."

It was a curious mode of transit, but St. Just at once consented.  He
was prepared to submit to almost any inconvenience to see his wife.
Then they proceeded to unfold their plan, and no time was lost in
putting it in execution.

A long, open wicker basket, almost as long as a coffin, and considerably
broader and higher—such as is used for carrying firewood—was dragged
from the corner of the booth.  Then a handkerchief was tied across St.
Just’s eyes.  They wished to gag him, but refrained on his giving his
word of honor that he would not utter a sound.  Then they tied his feet
together, his hands being already bound. Next he was lifted into the
basket, the sides and ends of which were then lined with bundles of
firewood, a layer being also laid upon the top of him.

Then one of the men went away to fetch a cart.  St. Just hoped the
journey was not to be a long one, for already he was beginning to feel
far from comfortable; he was lying on his side, his knees doubled up to
his chest. Though the air was cool and fresh outside, in his cubicle,
packed round, as he was, with wood, it was almost stifling, and he began
to sweat profusely.  Breathing became oppressive, and his limbs soon
ached with cramp.  Then an intolerable itching of the skin set in, and
the unsatisfied desire to scratch almost drove him mad.  He fancied that
his sensations must be those of a person buried alive.

After enduring this for about ten minutes—but which seemed to him a good
half hour—he heard a cart draw up. Then he felt that he was being
carried out and hoisted into it, and that wood and charcoal—as he
supposed—were being thrown in after him.

Next, one man mounted on the cart, and another placed himself beside the
horse, and they moved away.

Placed as he was, it was impossible for the passenger to see whither
they were going, nor could he guess at their direction.  But, after
jolting and bumping along what seemed to him interminable streets, he
believed they had reached a city barrier.  At any rate, the cart was
brought to a standstill, and a colloquy took place.

It must have been satisfactory, for they soon set off again, and now
proceeded for what St. Just, in his imprisonment, thought many miles
along a road without a turn.  Then, from the change in his position, he
could feel that they were going up hill; next, after a moment’s halt,
they passed through a gate; he knew this because he heard the gate clang
to behind them.

At last, when his sufferings from his cramped position and the
difficulty of breathing had become almost insupportable, and he was
feeling that, unless they should be quickly ended, he must call out,
despite his word of honor to keep silent, the cart came to a final stop.

After that, his imprisonment did not last long.  The basket was soon
hauled out, and St. Just was lifted from it. He was in a pitiable
condition; not only was his face streaming with perspiration, but he was
wet through from the same cause from head to foot, and he was gasping
for breath.  When they untied his legs and arms, he was so stiff that it
was some time before he could straighten them, and, of course, to stand
was quite out of the question.

But oh! the relief of being able to breathe without restraint.  He lay
panting on the ground, drinking in deep draughts of fresh, cool air,
seeming as though he would never have enough.  In a few minutes, he
became himself, except for the stiffness of his limbs; every bone in his
body ached, and the pain when he tried to move was terrible.

All this time, no word had been spoken by his conductors; but, when they
saw that he was breathing easily, they expressed their regret for the
discomfort they had put him to, at the same time telling him that they
were now in Madame de Moncourt’s grounds.

Then they helped him to his legs and supported him while they moved him
about quietly, until he could stand alone.  Next they straightened and
bent his arms.  The pain of all this was excessive, but he bore it
manfully, bore it with the hope that he was so soon to see his wife.  In
a short time he could work his arms and legs without much pain, though
stiffly still.

"You can walk now?" asked one of his companions.

"Walk!" repeated St. Just, with a laugh, "my faith, it will be some time
before I can walk like a sober man; but I can crawl, which must serve me
for the present.  I seem to have no joints, and my sinews feel as though
they were tied in knots.  Never before have I endured such purgatory.
But ’tis over, and I do not regret it, since it is to bring me to Madame
de Moncourt."

All this time they were in the open air.

"We will proceed then," said a voice which St. Just recognized as the
smutty faced man’s.  And he put his arm through St. Just’s, and the
three proceeded to a door, through which they passed, and, by the
difference in the air and sound, the blindfolded man at once knew that
he was inside a building.  Then he was led along a passage, another door
was opened, and they entered a room, the door of which was closed behind
them.

"Pray be seated, Monsieur," said the voice that had spoken last; and a
chair was placed behind him.

St. Just did so, and the next moment, the bandage was taken from his
eyes.  After having been so long in darkness, he was almost blinded by
the sudden light, and was forced to place his hand before his eyes; but,
in a few seconds, they had become used to it.

"Thank God, I am able to use my eyes again," he said. "Doubtless,
Monsieurs, you have not restored my sight for nothing, and you will now
lead me to Madame de Moncourt."

"Softly, Sir," was the reply; "we know not yet whether she will desire
to see you.  If not, you will remember our bargain, that you are to
return to Paris under the same conditions that attended your arrival
here.

"Pen, ink and paper are before you; write what you think proper to
Madame, and it shall be delivered at once; the result will rest with
her."

"What I desire above all things," replied St. Just; and he drew his
chair up to the table and sat down to write.  It was only a few lines,
and it was in Arabic.  He took this precaution lest his companions
should attempt to read it, though, at the same time, he thought it most
unlikely.  He addressed the note in French, then handed it to one of the
men, who left the room with it, the other remaining behind to watch him.

Not two minutes had elapsed when his messenger returned; there was a
marked change in him.  He was no longer cold and unbending, but there
was a smile on his face, his tones were genial and his bearing was
almost deferential.

"First let me apologize, Monsieur," he said, "for the unconventional
and, I fear, painful mode of your conveyance here.  I can assure you we
had strong reasons for our seeming want of courtesy, and—"

"Pray say no more," interposed St. Just.  "My journey, I cannot deny,
was somewhat rough; but, if you bring me the news that Madame will
receive me, it will be to me as though it had never been.  I am
impatient only for her answer to my note."

"She bids me say that it will give her great pleasure to receive you.  A
servant will be here to attend you to her almost immediately."

The man had scarcely ceased speaking, when the door was opened and a man
in livery entered.  Approaching St. Just, he bent deferentially before
him, while he said:—

"Madame awaits Monsieur."  Then he moved to the door and opened it.
Bowing to his companions, who replied with, "An revoir, Monsieur," St.
Just left the room, and then followed the man-servant, his heart beating
with exultation as well as trepidation.  A minute later, the door of
another room was opened; then closed behind him.  Instantly a well-known
figure rushed up to him and flung herself into his arms.

"Henri! at last, my husband!"

"Halima, once more I have you!"



                             *CHAPTER III.*


St. Just led his wife to a couch and, seating himself beside her, placed
his arm round her waist and drew her to him in a close embrace.  Then,
interspersing his words with fervid kisses, he exclaimed:—

"Once more we are together, my beloved, my darling, my wife.  My Queen!
you are more beautiful than ever.  Oh! to think of all that I have
missed, the years that we have been parted.  And you, my Halima, have
you thought of me?"

"Often indeed, my Henri, but with tears, as of one whom I should never
see again; for I feared that you were no longer living.  I felt sure my
husband would come back to me, were he alive.  Oh! why did you leave me
all these years—it is more than three?  It was cruel, Henri!"

"Cruel indeed, had I had the power.  But I will tell you all that has
befallen me since we parted.  You will then see that I have not been to
blame.  Ah! I would have flown to your side, had I been able."

His eyes were all aflame with love, and he pressed her closely to
him—almost savagely—and rained fresh kisses on her blushing face.  She
could not doubt the depth and fervor of his passion, and she had an
intuition that it would be lasting.  Moreover, his unstinted admiration
was a tribute to her beauty, that appealed to the leading attribute of
her being—pride in her own surpassing loveliness—and filled her with
exultation and delight.  No one knew better than herself the power that
lies behind the eyes and smiles of a lovely woman, and in her own
person, she missed no occasion of exploiting it; for the homage of the
other sex was as the breath of life to her; a necessity of her
existence.  And she was irresistible; no man could approach her without
becoming, if she so willed it, her devoted slave. Their hearts were as
tinder to the spark of her personality. She was fascination in the
concrete.  All the Frenchmen she had met in Paris pronounced her
"ravissante," and that summed her up.  What contributed much to her
success was that she retained the mastery of her own feelings; for no
man, save St. Just, had plumbed the depth of passion in her; thus she
had all others at a disadvantage.  There were many that she liked, some
that she had a certain fondness for, but none that could appease that
love hunger that St. Just had roused in her and, when with her,
satisfied. But, warm as her affection was for him, it was more ardent
than enduring; for, when away from him, she was ready to console herself
with others.  "La donna e mobile," might well have been applied to her.
She was a strange mixture, for, while erotic passion was strong in her
voluptuous nature, she was discriminate in its indulgence; and, while
she was sensual to the fingers’ tips, there were few indeed who could
boast with truth of having enjoyed her favors.

Now, at her husband’s close embrace, her whole being trembled with
desire, and she bent her eyes languishingly upon his face, while she
pressed her full red lips against his own; for his ardor had aroused the
like in her.

"Oh! my own, my darling," she softly murmured, "I am in heaven now that
you are back to me.  No one has ever touched my heart like you."

For a space, with downcast eyes, she lay panting in his arms; for, what
with their mutual kisses and his strong embrace, to breathe freely was
impossible.  Then she struggled gently.

"Loose me somewhat, dear," she gasped.  "I love to feel your arms around
me, but your clasp is so unyielding that I scarce can draw my breath.
Nay, withdraw not altogether," she added, when he removed his arms, "but
hold me gently, while you tell me all about yourself.  There will be
time for love’s dalliances hereafter; now I am burning to be informed of
your adventures."

Thus adjured, St. Just gave her a full description of all his doings
since their separation.  The story took long in telling, the longer that
it was continually interrupted by her endearments and sympathetic
comments on his sufferings. When it was ended, everything down to his
arrival in Paris and his appearance in that room having been recounted
she turned to him again.

"Oh! my Henri, what you have suffered," she exclaimed; "and to think
that you should have lost all memory even of me!  But, at least, you
were spared the pain of wanting me."

"Ah! but think of the years of love that I have lost; for had I known,
this wasted period would not have been.  If necessary, I would have
searched the whole world through for you.  But my search would not have
been prolonged, for love would have winged my feet, and brought me
quickly to my goal."

"You can turn a pretty compliment.  Tell me now, how like you me in this
costume; you have never yet seen me, but in Eastern dress.  Does my
Parisian gown become me, with all these pretty chiffons?"

"You are ravishing, ma chérie; bewitching as you looked in Arab garb,
your charms are even enhanced in European habit.  You look a gay
Parisian from head to foot."

Undoubtedly she did.  No one, viewing her, would have guessed that in
her veins there ran a drop of Arab blood, for she was fairer even than
most Spanish women.

She laughed merrily at the compliment, for, in many things, she was
pleased as easily as is a child, and was as open in displaying her
delight.

"But now," resumed St. Just, "I am longing to hear about yourself; how
it is I find you here, and what you have been doing in the interval."

"Ah! but it would take all night to tell you everything," was her reply.
"By degrees you shall know all.  Rest content on this occasion with the
chief incidents.  You know you left me at the "Tomb of the Kings" to
take that treasure on to Cairo.  Oh! that horrid treasure!  But for
that, I should not have lost you.  Well, I waited for month after month
for the message from you that was to tell me where I was to meet you;
and, each day, I became more sad and lonely.  Ah! my Henri, how I did
miss you.  When no news came, my anxiety became almost insupportable,
for I feared that some misfortune had befallen you; and I—I was helpless
to assist you, for I knew not what it was, or where you were.

"At last, three months after you had left me, one of the men who had
formed your escort came into the camp alone.  He could scarcely walk,
but swayed about, like a drunken man, from side to side.  He was unarmed
and had scarcely a rag about him, and he looked as though he had not
tasted food for many days.  Altogether he was in a pitiable condition.
At first, he was too weak to speak; he staggered into the encampment,
and then his strength gave out, and he fell at full length to the
ground.  When he had been sufficiently restored with food and drink, he
was brought to me, and then—then, my husband, I heard the dreadful news;
the very worst that could have happened had befallen me."  Even now she
shuddered at its recitation; there was no make-believe about it, and St.
Just’s heart leaped with joy and sympathy at the thought of how she must
have loved him.

"He told me," she went on, "of the attack on you at Thebes, and how he
had seen you fall; also that Yusuf who was in the attacking party, had
been slain by Mahmoud. May Allah bless the boy for that good deed!
Henri, there must have been treachery somewhere, though I know not how
it came about."

"There was," he interposed.  "Some traitor in the camp must have given
Yusuf notice of our coming, and he, in consequence, waylaid us."

"When I heard this dreadful news, I fainted," proceeded Halima, "and it
was long before I again was conscious; and then—Ah! may I never again
suffer what I went through then.  I rent the air with piercing shrieks,
when I realized that I should never see you more; for, after what this
man had told me, and hearing nothing from you, I could not doubt that
you were dead.  How I passed the weeks that followed—but no, I cannot
bear to dwell on it; I will draw a veil over that fearful time; it was
worse even than when, once before, I thought that you were lost; for
then you were not my husband."  She trembled violently at the
recollection.

"Of course," continuing, "the treasure having been captured from you,
there was an end to my father’s ambitious schemes on my behalf; and I
was so depressed that I felt a desert life would drive me mad.  Its
dullness was more than I could bear.  I wanted rousing; grief and
monotony were killing me.  So I resolved to do alone what we had meant
to do together; to travel to my mother’s country.  I had still the
jewels, and I knew that they were of enormous value, so that I should
not be short of money.  With Abdallah and a few more to escort me, I set
off for Cairo, letting it be understood that I should remain there for a
while and eventually rejoin the tribe.

"Arrived at Cairo, I told Abdallah only, under an oath of secrecy, of my
real intentions, and that he was to take steps at once to put them into
execution.  He did his utmost to dissuade me, but, when he saw I was
resolved, he promised to do his best to help me, and agreed to see me
safe to France."

"Faithful old soul," interposed St. Just, "I am sure you could depend on
him."

"Yes, indeed, I don’t know what I should have done without him.  He is
with me still.  Well, we made our way to Rosetta.  Thence we took ship
to Syracuse, where we landed, for the vessel went no further.  Soon
afterwards, Abdallah heard of a French brig that was bound for Brest,
and in this we took our passage.  From Brest we made our way to Paris.

"The first thing I did was to make my presence known to Buonaparte.  I
knew no one else in Paris, and I wanted an introduction to a dealer in
precious stones, who would not rob me.  He gave me this, and also told
me of this villa at Auteuil, where I have since lived."

"You have renewed your intercourse with him!" St. Just exclaimed with
anger, "and you professed to hate him."

"And so I do, and would circumvent him all I could; but, to do so, it is
necessary that I know his schemes and movements.  My vengeance is not
forgotten; it is but gaining strength in slumber.  I will be frank with
you, Henri. He seemed overjoyed to see me, so far as one so impassive
shows his feelings; and at once assumed that I desired our former
relations to be restored.  But I quickly undeceived him, though I told
him he could visit me as a friend; and this he does.  Perhaps he thinks
I shall relent, but he deceives himself."

"I would he came not here," St. Just said gloomily.  "He is both
determined and deceitful and, should he guess your feelings towards him,
will not spare you."

"Have no fear for me, my friend.  I can protect myself. But it was
necessary that I should be on friendly terms with him, so as to worm
myself into the confidence of his ministers and adherents, and thus
learn his plans."

"But how can you do this?" inquired her husband. "Surely they are not
the men to reveal State Secrets!"

"They are men, my dear, and I am a woman.  I have some of my sex’s
wit—and I am not wholly destitute of other weapons."  And she looked at
him coquettishly, and laughed a merry laugh.  "Foolish boy, have I no
powers of fascination?"

"Ah! have I not reason to know it!" he cried with strong conviction.
"You are a queen, who, if you will it, can bring all men to your feet.
But tell me, how did the First Consul take it when he learned that you
were married?"

"Married!" she laughed gayly, "who says that I am married? My faith, not
I."

St. Just loosed his hold of her with a sudden movement that was
involuntary, and looked at her in wonder, to see whether she had spoken
in mere banter, or in sober earnestness.  He learned nothing from her
face; it was an enigma to him.

"This jest is out of place with me," he said.

"No jest, my friend," she answered airily, "but the honest truth."

His face clouded and took on a stern expression.

"What mean you, Halima?" he asked, and there was deliberation in his
voice.  "But now, when first we met, you addressed me as your husband."

"A facon de parler, chéri.  I thought ’twould please you; I ought rather
to have said ’My lover.’"

He gazed at her in mingled anger and stupefaction. Then he sprang from
the divan to his feet.

"Your effrontery amazes me," he said.  "Pray do you pass as an unmarried
woman?"

"I pass as Madame de Moncourt," she replied, flashing her eyes boldly on
him, "and no one has yet had the temerity to ask for my credentials."

"I shall claim you as my wife," he said, his anger rising.

"And get shot as a deserter," was the cool response.

Her audacity and coolness staggered him; but, before he could reply,
"Nay, I can save you from that," she said, "while I think of it, let me
hand you this."  And from a bangle on her wrist she unfastened the charm
Buonaparte’s wife had given him, as a reminder that her husband would
spare his life, should it be jeopardized.

"I have worn it ever since we parted."  She held it out to him.

But he declined it.  "I will not have it," he said fiercely.  "What care
I for life, without you to share it? No matter what the consequences, I
will proclaim you as my wife.  Keep the talisman and be my murderess, if
you will."  Then he added with a heartfelt wail, "Oh!  Halima, was all
your boasted love for me but counterfeit?"

While his unbending resolution angered her, his anguish, which was but
the expression of his great love for her, touched her heart.  Besides
which, she really loved him, and she did not mean to lose him; but she
must have him on her own conditions.  A smile of triumph overspread her
face, but softened withal by love.

"Counterfeit," she cried.  "You have had little experience of women, if
you cannot discriminate between real and pretended passion.  You have
held me in your arms, and I have given you every proof that woman can of
how I love you.  You insult me when you suggest that my passion was
assumed."

"Then why repudiate our marriage?"

"For the safety of us both.  Be calm, my dear, and listen to me.  First,
as to the position.  I am no longer in Egypt; I am in France and am a
naturalized Frenchwoman. And you are a Frenchman.  The Mahommedan
ceremony we went through is not binding on us here.  Were I to proclaim
myself a Christian and disown the tie between us, you would be powerless
to enforce it.  Impersonally I have made inquiries.  No doubt were I to
admit your claim, I could not afterwards have it set aside.  Now those
are the cold, hard facts.  Next, to consider the consequence that would
ensue from such admission.  I have said before, that I would be frank
with you, and I will; I will keep nothing from you.  Buonaparte pursues
me with his attentions, but I know how to keep him at a distance.  For
all that, if he knew that I was married, he would see in it the cause of
my refusing his advances.  In such a case, for how long would your life
be safe?  Do you think his promises to you would bar the way to his
desire?  Even if he spared your life, he would either imprison you, or,
at best, order you to join some regiment now abroad; in any case we
should be separated.  I am as firm as ever in my resolve to punish
Buonaparte, and I want your help.  As my acknowledged husband you could
not give it.  I cannot spare you, dear; believe me when I say that my
love for you is true and deep.  No other man has ever touched my heart
like you; has made it leap within my bosom, and the blood to rush like a
torrent through my veins.  Be reasonable, my own man, and come and sit
by me, and I will wind my arms around your neck, and kiss you to
compliance.  Come, Henri, to your Halima, whose heart and soul are
wholly yours."

She held out her arms to him invitingly.

The man cast his eyes upon her glowing face and then on her heaving
bosom, over which her draperies rose and fell; thence they traveled
downwards, past the rounded arms and tapering fingers, to her dainty
ankles and the little slender feet that rested on a footstool; and the
blood began to boil within him with desire; but still he hesitated.  She
saw it and resumed:

"Henri, you will not desert me.  There is no one I can absolutely trust,
but you.  I cannot do without you, but the public knowledge of the tie
between us would defeat my plans, and would, I know, result in harm to
you; and that I could not bear; for you are all the world to me."

The last words were uttered low, but were full of seductive sweetness to
the hearer.  She turned her liquid eyes on him, eyes in which his own
image was reflected, and there was a witchery in her smiling, pleading
mouth.  Once more his gaze roamed over the woman’s sensuous perfections,
and he felt drunk with passion.

He sprang forward into her extended arms, and she caught him in her
sinuous embrace.

"My queen!  My life," he murmured.

She read her victory in his eyes and words, and was content.  His
passion seemed to have entered into her, for she pressed him tightly to
her breast, and kissed him madly—almost hungrily—on his lips and eyes,
as though she could not have enough of him.

But to one’s capacity even, for his endearments, Dame Nature puts a
limit, and soon Halima was fain, for want of breath, to place a drag on
her effusiveness.  She drew back and panted to regain her breath.  When
somewhat calmed, she spoke again.

"Cruel man," she murmured softly, "I began to think my charms were
waning, when you remained so obdurate. Tell me, have I fallen off in
face or form?"

He looked her over searchingly; there was hunger and covetousness in his
eyes.

"My God!" he said in a tone almost of awe.  "You are more beautiful than
ever; I almost tremble at your loveliness."

A deep-drawn sigh escaped him.  Presently he resumed, "Now tell me what
you purpose.  On what footing are we to stand towards one another?"

"Exactly as before, except in name.  The world is not to know of our
relationship.  You will visit me openly, like my other friends, and
sometimes in secret; only you must be circumspect.  You will have your
apartments in Paris, and I shall live on here.  I shall have no secrets
from you; you will know and be consulted about all my plans, for your
help is vital to me.  I am rich, and my purse will be always at our
disposal.  I will give you money before you leave me.  Nay, you shall
have it now, lest I forget it."

She moved to an escritoire and drew forth from it a roll of notes and
gave it to him.  "That will suffice for present needs," she said, "Do
not be sparing in its use; there is plenty more."

Then she resumed her seat beside him.  "Henri," she said, once more
twining her arm around his neck, "I am all your own: body and soul and
every atom of me are yours; but this is our own sweet secret."

"Sweet wife," he answered softly; "and I am wholly yours; my thoughts
have never strayed to any other woman.  I devote my will, my life to
you.  Henceforth I exist but to serve you."

"Dear boy," she cooed, "and do you think I could have let you go?"

"And yet, though we have but just met for the first time for years, you
would send me from you.  Oh! not to-night, my Halima," he cried
imploringly.

There was a sensual sparkle in her eye.

"Nay, not to-night," she answered; "after so long a parting, I cannot
spare you yet.  But we must be circumspect. You shall pass here merely
as my guest.  I can so arrange it as to avoid suspicion."

"A hungry man is fain to accept a crust; I must make the most of what
you offer," was his reply.

Now, whether throughout this burning interview Halima had spoken from
her heart, whether even she had persuaded herself that all she said was
true—that she had no thought for any other than her husband—need not be
stated here. But so much may be chronicled, that he implicitly believed
her.

They had so much to say to one another that the hours flew by unheeded;
but, at last, Halima recalled herself to her shortcomings in the matter
of the men who had accompanied St. Just—or rather brought him
captive—and she sprang up suddenly.

"I don’t know what our friends will think of us," she laughed; "I
declare I had quite forgotten them; and all through you, you naughty
fellow.  I must send word to them that I shall be happy to receive
them."

"What friends?" inquired her husband, and his tone betrayed annoyance.

"Those who brought you here."

"And who are they?"

"I will introduce you when they come.  Meanwhile, will you ring the
bell, my dear?"

St. Just did what he was asked, and the man who came in answer to her
summons, was told to request the presence of the "two gentlemen who had
arrived with Monsieur."  An oath broke from her husband’s lips when the
servant closed the door; but she put her little hand before his mouth
with a pretty action and exclaimed, "Oh! fie to say such naughty words;
and so ungrateful too, when you have had me all to yourself for quite
three hours."

"Ah! but think how long I’ve had to wait," he said. "Three years with
you without a break, would not suffice me."

"Selfish glutton," she said roguishly, and her beaming countenance
showed how pleased she was.  The shortest route to her good will was
ever by the road called Flattery.

Before she could add another word, the door was opened and the two
gentlemen came in.  For the moment, they seemed strangers to St. Just,
but he soon recognized the features of the two men who had brought him
in the cart. Had he met them without previous preparation, he certainly
would not have known them.  The coal merchant and the laborer were gone,
and, in their places, stood two well-dressed gentlemen with clean hands
and faces.

Halima advanced to them effusively, and held out her hand.

"What will you think of me?  What can I say to you?" she cried.  "I am
in despair at the reflection of my want of courtesy.  But—I will speak
the truth—I had forgotten you were in the house.  But indeed I had some
reason, and, when you hear it, I trust you will forgive my seeming
rudeness.  This it is."

She turned round to St. Just, who was standing a little way behind her,
and took his hand in hers; then led him forward.

"Mons. Georges Cadoudal, Mons. St. Regent," indicating first the quondam
coal-merchant and then his comrade, "I have the honor to present to you
Captain Henri St. Just, my husband."

The look of wonder and almost incredulity on the faces of the newcomers,
and of surprise and satisfaction on St. Just’s, caused much amusement to
the lady.  The two gentlemen, of course, had not had a notion that she
was married; and he, after what had passed between himself and Halima,
had never dreamed that she would disclose the fact; in that she had, he
felt both grateful and delighted.

The three gentlemen bowed stiffly.  "Surely Madame is not serious?" St.
Regent questioned.

"Absolutely," she replied, "Naturally, you did not know that I was
married," she went on vivaciously.  "Nor indeed did I, until you were
good enough to bring my husband to me.  ’Tis nearly four years since we
met, and I thought that we should never meet again.  I believed he was
no more.  Am I forgiven for forgetting you, Messieurs?"

"Nay, Madame," replied Cadoudal, "’tis not forgiveness you require, for
you have done no wrong; congratulations you demand, and from my heart I
tender them."

He laid his hand across his chest and bent low before her.  Then he
addressed her husband, and held out his hand.  "But, if Madame is to be
congratulated, tenfold more are you, Monsieur, in that you call the
loveliest woman in all France your wife.  Have you forgiven us, for the
roughness of your ride?" he laughed.

"So entirely, if any forgiveness is required," St. Just replied, "that,
with the same end in view, I would ask to be allowed to undergo the ride
again; for all that, I never underwent such pain before.  Even now, my
limbs have not recovered their full power.  Messieurs, I thank you
heartily for all that you have done for me."

Then Halima spoke again.

"My friends," she said, "I have told you that he is my husband, to
convince you that you may repose the fullest trust in him, but the
knowledge is to go no farther; the fact must be a secret most profound;
for, should it be even hinted at, the consequences might be to bring our
plans to naught.  Amongst friends—and, dare I breathe the word,
conspirators—there should be the utmost confidence; and my husband is
one of us; he is with us heart and soul in all that we have set before
us; he will consult with us, and I will vouch for his good faith, his
intrepidity and his zeal; for he has the same cause for hating the First
Consul, as myself.  You may speak, therefore, with perfect openness
before him, and I beg you will."

Naturally after this, there was the utmost friendliness between St. Just
and his new acquaintances, and he made many discoveries that astonished
and amazed him.

Their conversation was, soon afterwards, interrupted by the entrance of
a servant, who announced that dinner was served.

"Give me your arm, Henri," said Halima.  "You will permit me,
Messieurs," she laughed.  "My husband has been so long away from me,
that he is the greatest stranger."

During and after dinner St. Just learned much more that astonished
him—notably that Halima and Cadoudal had been concerned in the recent
plot to put an end to Buonaparte.

This and more was told to St. Just on that eventful evening, much to his
uneasiness.  He found himself, unwittingly, posted on the verge of a
political volcano, with a fair chance of being speedily engulfed within
its crater.  He had never suspected that his wife, simply to gratify her
vindictive animus towards Buonaparte, would engage in schemes so
dangerous and far-reaching; and take part in a conspiracy whose
ramifications extended even beyond the country, and that, whether the
outcome were disaster or success, must result in deluging the land with
blood.  And he himself was now committed to their schemes.  His heart
was not in the conspiracy, and he trembled at the risk his wife and he
were running.  He resolved to use his utmost influence to persuade her
gradually to withdraw herself from her dangerous surroundings.  At the
same time, he could not but admit to himself that his hope of succeeding
with her was slight, for he knew her spirit and determination.

It was late when, greatly to St. Just’s relief, St. Regent and Cadoudal
took their leave.  When the door closed upon them, he sprang to his feet
and stretched himself.

"Thank God, they’re gone," he cried.  "I’ve had enough of plotting for
to-night; and now, my Halima, the few hours left we’ll dedicate to
love."

He opened his arms to her.  She ran to him and hid her face upon his
breast.  "And, I, too," she murmured, "have been longing to be alone
with you, my Henri."



                             *CHAPTER IV.*


Nothing of any moment happened during the next three weeks, the position
Halima had laid down at her first meeting with her husband being rigidly
maintained.  He came to see her as often as she would permit, but
resided at his apartment in the Rue de Dauphin, and with, of course, the
ever-faithful Mahmoud, who showed much surprise at the arrangement.

Halima had expressed her wish to see him, so, on his next visit, St.
Just took the young man with him.  Mahmoud’s delight at once more
meeting his young mistress was supreme; he threw himself at her feet and
uttered cries of joy in his native Arabic, blessing her and thanking
Allah for having permitted him to set his eyes on her again.

She pleased him mightily when she enlarged upon his bravery and fidelity
to her husband, and told him that he would find a friend in her
throughout her life, because she knew that, but for him, St. Just would
not be living.  Nor did she forget to thank him for having slain the
hated Yusuf.  Then she complimented him upon his manly looks and
handsome face, and prophesied that all the French girls would lose their
hearts to him.  Altogether, when Mahmoud left her, he was in the seventh
heaven of delight, and more than ever devoted to herself and her
husband.  It would have gone hard with any one who should have dared to
question any act or word of theirs, or say a syllable in their
disparagement, in Mahmoud’s hearing.

During these weeks St. Just’s love for Halima, if possible, increased in
fervor; with the result that, though in her presence he was supremely
happy, when away from her, he was restless, discontented, and
suspicious.  On the whole it may be questioned whether he was not
happier when he was living at Marsala, oblivious of her existence, than
now, when he basked in her society for minutes, and yearned for it
unsatisfied for hours.

With her it was another matter, for, though she preferred his company to
that of any other man, and, when she had him to herself, placed no
limitations on her passions; her love for him was neither of that depth
nor of that enduring nature which was his for her.  She was more like a
child with a much prized toy, than a wife absorbed in her devotion to
her husband.

Moreover, she had other matters to occupy her mind; she was up to her
ears in intrigues with various persons, not only of the First Consul’s
entourage, but also of the adherents of the Bourbons.  And the
atmosphere of treason and conspiracy in which she lived she thoroughly
enjoyed. She reveled in the power her beauty and her money gave her; and
even, strange as it may appear, in the risk she ran; this to her was but
a pleasurable excitement.

Buonaparte’s visits to the Auteuil villa, to St. Just were a perpetual
sore; not that he was jealous or suspicious of his wife—for he had
accepted without reserve her statement that her old relations with the
General neither had been nor would be resumed; and he had confidence
both in her will and her ability to maintain her intimacy with him on a
platonic footing—but that he was filled with a deep-seated rancor
against the First Consul, not only for Halima’s betrayal, but also
because he, St. Just, regarded him as the cause of all the sufferings
and misfortunes he had undergone.  Animated by this resentment,
therefore so far from condemning the treasonable proceedings of his
wife’s associates, he acquiesced in the plotters’ aims, at the same time
that he doubted their accomplishment; and, additionally, the wisdom of
the means proposed for bringing them about.  Then there was the
accompanying danger, and St. Just had had enough of that to make him
circumspect.

Altogether, he resolved to mix himself as little as might be with the
conspiracy; though, had he desired it, he might have learned its inmost
workings; for, now that Halima had vouched for his fidelity, the
conspirators were ready to place absolute trust in him.  As it was, they
spoke openly before him on the few occasions when he chanced to be
present at their meetings; so that, had he been minded to play the
traitor, he was in possession of ample information to lay the whole
party by the heels.

Situated as he was, he could not wholly withdraw himself from active
participation in their schemes, but he confined himself as a rule, to a
subordinate position, his duties being principally the delivering of
messages and letters to various persons more or less in touch with the
conspiracy.

St. Just had formed a close friendship with St. Regent, one of the two
men, it will be recollected, who had brought him to Halima.  There was a
great charm for St. Just in St. Regent’s good-tempered, frank, impetuous
nature. Moreover the man had a strong will and a large amount of that
magnetic force which, when put forth, compels the acquiescence of those
on whom it is brought to bear.  And he had exercised it upon St. Just,
with the result that he had gained over him complete ascendancy, and
could mould him to his will.

He started a plot, in which he was determined that St. Just should take
a part.  The latter, though unwilling, was like wax in the other’s hand,
and found himself unable to resist.

St. Regent numbered among his associates one Carbon, a chemist, an
ardent conspirator, like himself.  To him, he and St. Just repaired, and
the three, with four others of like mind, laid their heads together to
evolve a plan for Buonaparte’s assassination.

The outcome was, an "Infernal machine" of the following description.  An
ordinary hand water cart, with its barrel made of zinc, was filled with
gunpowder and scraps of iron; in the tap, barely protruding from it, was
placed a special fuse that, on being touched with a chemically prepared
stick, would become ignited.  This fuse, in a given time, would fire the
gunpowder inside the barrel, when the results would not be difficult to
guess.

St. Just, much to his annoyance and dismay, was told off to perform the
duty of artillery man.

The machine prepared, the next thing was to select a place for its
employment; and in this the plotters would be guided either by the
public announcements or by the information privately conveyed to them of
the First Consul’s intended movements.

Meanwhile St. Just awaited his instructions.

Lest he should be recognized—for he had abandoned his idea for the
present of reporting himself to the military authorities—he was now
posing to the outside world as a doctor come to Paris, not to practice,
but to study.  His appearance was so changed that none of his old
acquaintances would have known him.  His former dark locks were now cut
close to the head, and by the aid of chemicals had assumed a light brown
hue, and the once clean-shaven, resolutely moulded mouth and chin were
now concealed under a mustache and beard to match his hair.  His clothes
were of a sober cut and color to suit his professional assumption, and
his gait was slow and measured.  Carrying the conventional silver-headed
stick, and with serious mien, and apparently immersed in grave
reflection, he moved about the crowded streets; no one of all the
thoughtless, laughter-loving Parisians, who differed little at that time
from what they are to-day, would have dreamed that he was aught but what
he seemed, a sober citizen, on lawful business bent.

On a certain afternoon in the expiring year, just when it was growing
dusk, St. Just received instructions to repair to the appointed spot,
and perform his part in the dastardly conspiracy.

Now, though, from day to day, he had held himself in readiness for such
directions as he had now received, when the news came to him that the
time for action had actually arrived, he felt almost stunned, and shrank
with horror from the performance of the deed imposed on him.  For all
that, he knew that there was no evading it; the hour for backing out was
past; any treachery to his comrades, or even a mere refusal to play his
part would, he was convinced, result in retribution that would cost his
life.  True, that, in executing the conspirators’ behests, he would be
placing that life in serious jeopardy; but this was preferable to the
certainty of losing it.

He set out from his apartment on his murderous errand, with dragging
footsteps and a heavy heart.  No one, to look at him, would have guessed
that, under that calm exterior, there raged a tumult of emotions.  He
recalled the memory of his campaigns under the great general on whose
destruction he was bent, and his feet faltered.  He felt he could not go
through with what was ordered.  For a moment, a wild idea took hold of
him to retrace his steps and, at all hazards, to make his way to the
Tuileries and acquaint his old commander with his impending danger.  He
stopped and turned half round.  Then the thought of what would be the
consequence, the certainty that those he had betrayed would track him
down and take his life, no matter how or where he tried to hide himself,
restrained him from acting upon his half formed purpose.  With a
despairing sigh he resumed his progress to the rendezvous, the conflict
being waged within him almost tearing him to pieces.

But, for all the tempest of his mind, he was careful how he held his
silver-headed stick, keeping it as nearly perpendicular as he could, and
never letting it touch anybody or anything except the ground; for,
innocent as it appeared, it contained the potentiality of destruction.
The upper half of it was hollowed out and held at the bottom a powerful
acid.  Above this, but separated from it, and concealed under the silver
knob, was a subtle chemical.  When the knob should be unscrewed and the
stick sufficiently inclined, the acid would come into contact with this
chemical and ignite it; on touching with this the fuse in the supposed
water cart, the explosion would follow in due course.

Presently he came to a broad thoroughfare, and, once more, he halted,
undecided.  To his left lay the way to the Tuileries, the way to honor,
pardon, and—death!  To the right, that to the Opera House, whither the
carriage of the First Consul would shortly pass—the way to dishonorable
revenge and Halima, and, if the scheme should prove successful—Life!

His indecision was but momentary, he chose the turning to the right; it
was the crisis of his career.  A hollow, scornful laugh broke from him
at the reflection that, should the explosion be successful, there would
be no performance at the opera that night.  On the other hand, should it
result in a fiasco, Paris would, on the morrow, be engaged in the
performance of a "Dies Iræ," in which he and his associates would be
taking leading parts.

He had scarcely started afresh, after his temporary pause, when a beggar
who was tapping the ground in front of him with a stick, as though
blind, shoved against him.  At the same moment St. Just felt something
pressed into his palm. Muttering an apology, the beggar dived into the
crowd and disappeared.

Instantly St. Just closed his hand, then quietly put it into his pocket;
by its feel he knew he held a piece of folded paper—no doubt a message
of importance.  He clenched it tightly in his palm, lest some police
spy, having witnessed the beggar’s action, should seek to seize it; for
spies in Paris were plentiful as blackberries in those perilous times,
so that one could scarcely trust one’s neighbor.

The conspirator strolled insouciantly towards an oil lamp which hung a
little higher than his head, over a grocer’s shop.

Here he withdrew the note and opened it.  It was from one of the leaders
in the plot, and its words were few, but to the point, for one who
understood their language:

"The weather seems settled, so cloaks will not be needed."  In the
corner was a little flag roughly delineated in red ink.

St. Just started, and an uneasy look appeared upon his face at the
reading of this note.  The words, taken alone, meant that everything was
going satisfactorily, that the police had apparently no suspicions, and
that no special precautions needed to be taken.  But the addition of the
red flag imported danger, and that the words signified the exact
opposite of what they stated, viz.—that the police had got wind of
something and were on the alert, and that St. Just was to exercise the
utmost care in all his movements, and to warn any others in the plot,
that he might see, to keep themselves as little in evidence as they
could. Disquieting intelligence for a man engaged on such an errand as
was his.

The first thing to be done was to get rid of this unwelcome missive, for
the agents of police were expert at reading cryptograms and digging out
their meaning how deep soever it was buried.  Should he be arrested,
therefore, he had no mind that this compromising message should be found
on him.

He saw a ready way to its destruction.  With the hand that held the note
he took out his watch, and brought it near the lamp above him, as though
to learn the time. Apparently, he was unable to see distinctly by the
feeble, flickering light; so he carefully transferred the watch to the
hand that grasped his silver-headed stick; then, lighting the paper at
the oil lamp, he held it close to the watch face, as though the better
to read the figures on the dial.

It burnt more rapidly than he had expected, with the result that it
scorched his finger.

With the sudden smart he forgot the rôle and tone he was assuming, and,
without a thought, brought out in his natural voice a string of military
oaths.  Suddenly he pulled up, at the reflection of his indiscretion.
But not before his imprecations had been heard.

They caught the ear of a drunken-looking man, who was supporting himself
against a cabaret across the street. He was an old soldier, and
instantly recognized the familiar oaths.  He looked long and searchingly
at St. Just, with a clearness of perception that would scarcely have
been expected in a drunken man.

Annoyed at his unguarded exclamation, St. Just put his smarting finger
into his mouth, and once more forgetting the added years and
professional gravity he was simulating, strode rapidly down the street.

This also the watcher noted.  "Military oaths, military step," he
muttered.  "You’re not exactly what you seem, my friend.  And your voice
I’ve heard before.  I shall put a name to you anon."  And he wheeled
round and entered the cabaret against which he had been leaning.

Meanwhile, St. Just strode on and, rounding a corner to the right, he
hurried forward.  Half way down the street, he stopped.  In the middle
of the road and almost blocking it were two carts, a market man’s and a
water carrier’s.  They seemed to have collided, for the water cart was
tilted on its side, with one wheel off.  The water carrier was assailing
the owner of the market cart with language more forcible than polite;
and the other was retaliating in terms equally expressive, each charging
the other with having caused the accident.

But a glance showed St. Just that this mutual vituperation was all
make-believe, for in the water carrier he recognized St. Regent and in
the market man another of the conspirators; but both so well disguised
that, had he not been prepared beforehand, he would not have known them.

When both thought that their wordy warfare had continued long enough to
allay any suspicions that they were in collusion, the driver of the
market cart, first giving St. Just a wink that was almost imperceptible,
moved forward for a few yards, then deliberately drew round his horse so
that it and the cart behind it stood crosswise in the street and blocked
it.

Soon—it is always so, even in the most trivial street accidents—a little
crowd began to form.  This gave St. Just the opportunity he wanted to
transmit to his friends the warning he had received.  Elbowing his way
to them, he called out in loud tones:

"Messieurs, how is this?  Come, you must clear the road; the First
Consul is on his way to the Opera and will pass by almost immediately."
Then in a lower tone, "Be on your guard; there is danger ahead; the
police are on the qui vive."

The words had hardly left his mouth, when, in the distance, the sound of
horses’ hoofs was heard.  They came on at a brisk trot, and, before St.
Just had had time to unscrew the knob of his stick, half a dozen
dragoons had wheeled round the corner of the street, and were advancing
up it.  They were the foremost of the First Consul’s escort. With
fumbling fingers, St. Just removed from his stick the silver top.  He
was trembling violently.  Now that the supreme moment had arrived, his
nerve gave out.  The dastardly nature of what he purposed presented
itself in full force before him.  He felt he could not do the deed.

St. Regent shot a searching glance at him and understood.  He saw that,
though St. Just was no intending traitor, his resolution had deserted
him, and that, unless he himself applied the match, their plot would be
abortive. With a gesture of impatience and a muttered exclamation, he
snatched the stick from the trembling man.

Meanwhile, at the First Consul’s approach, a crowd had quickly gathered,
impeding the progress of the cavalcade. But the soldiers, striking the
people with the flat of their swords and pressing their horses on them,
soon forced a passage for the carriage which, driven at a rapid pace,
passed the point of danger at the very moment that St. Regent applied
the match.

For a few moments, St. Just remained standing at a distance he judged
safe from the fateful water cart.  He was still trembling violently.
Then, realizing that the explosion would occur too late to achieve its
object, he elbowed his way through the seething mob and, when clear of
it, made a dash for the end of the road.  This he gained without
impediment, but, no sooner had he done so, than he found himself grasped
firmly by the arms and surrounded by a party of men, who turned the
corner of the street just when he reached it.

Before he had even time to make a protest, still less to free himself,
the First Consul’s carriage dashed by at a rapid trot, and he caught a
glimpse of Buonaparte, who was laughing at some sally of his
aide-de-camp.

"Forward!" shouted the leader of the men who had seized St. Just.

But, before the order could be obeyed, and almost at the same instant,
there was a roar like thunder when the electric fluid strikes a
building, and two of the party were hurled violently against the
shutters of a house hard by. Then a wave of blinding smoke, accompanied
by a fetid stench of sulphurous gas, swept up the street, almost
stifling St. Just and those who had arrested him.  Then, a howl of rage
went up, with threats and execrations for the perpetrators of the deed,
mingled with the groans of the injured, the shrieks of the
terror-stricken women and the clatter of the falling bricks.  The whole
air was full of dust, and the din was deafening.  Nobody understood
exactly what had happened, or who had caused it; only that a terrible
explosion had occurred and that much havoc had been wrought by it.  The
babble and confusion were indescribable and panic had seized on all the
crowd, men, women and children fleeing in all directions.

Then the leader of the party in whom St. Just had, by this time,
recognized the agent Vipont, gave his attention to his two men who had
been knocked down and had remained motionless where they had fallen.
One had had his head crushed in by a piece of iron from the exploded
water cart.  He was a ghastly sight, his face battered out of
recognition, and his blood and brains scattered about the trottoir.

The other had come so violently into contact with the shutter he had
been thrown against, that the hook in it had been forced through his
forehead and deep into his brain. Both men were stone dead, of course.

The horse belonging to the market cart that had been forced purposely
into collision with the pretended water cart, had had one of its legs
torn off, and the blood was streaming from it.  It had also suffered
other injuries, and portions of the shattered cart lay on it.  The look
of anguish in the poor creature’s eyes was piteous to behold; it seemed
to be appealing to those about it to end its sufferings; but none heeded
it.  All were too much occupied in tending their injured fellow
creatures.

Vipont and his police were thus engaged, and also on the lookout for
those who had caused the outrage. Presently they found St. Regent.  He
was lying near the dying horse.  He had been hurled some yards, and the
fall had rendered him insensible, but the only outward injury he had
sustained seemed to be the loss of three fingers from his left hand.
They picked him up and took charge of him, but whether because he was
found so near the scene of the disaster, or that they had received some
information, or merely because he had been injured, St. Just had no
means of judging.

Round the exploded water cart was a yawning hole, and lying half in it
was the mangled carcass of the horse of one of Buonaparte’s dragoons,
blown almost all to pieces.  Its rider had escaped with a broken leg.
Many of the houses about were more or less in ruins, while all in the
vicinity of the explosion had their windows broken.

"To the Temple," said the police agent to his men. "When we have safely
lodged our prisoners, it will be time enough to render assistance here."

At this moment St. Just caught sight of the pretended blind beggar who,
earlier in the evening, had handed him the note.  The man passed close
to him and, in passing whispered rapidly in his ear, "Keep faith, and
hope."

Then he disappeared amongst the crowd, and the police party began to
move away, St. Just held firmly by a police agent on each side, and St.
Regent, insensible and in happy ignorance of what had happened to him,
borne by two men on a litter they had improvised.



                              *CHAPTER V.*


His captors marched St. Just along at a brisk pace and in a short time,
they reached the Place de la Bastille, whose name achieved the double
purpose of keeping alive the memories of the horrors that had been
perpetrated within the grim fortress that had stood there, and of
signalizing the triumph of democracy.

Continuing their way, they gained the prison that had been the last
abiding place of the ill-fated Louis Capet. St. Just had often passed
it, but had little thought he should ever find himself a prisoner within
its walls; but that had been in the days when his honor was unsullied
and he was glowing with the ardor of a young soldier, confident in his
ability to cut his way to fortune with his sword.  Alas how utterly had
his hopes been falsified!

Vipont pulled vigorously at the bell, which answered his appeal with a
strident clangor that made St. Just’s heart thrill.  It seemed to ring
out the death-knell of his freedom, if not indeed his life.  A wicket in
the heavy gates was opened, and a man in uniform appeared behind it.

"A prisoner," said Vipont curtly.  Then the party stepped inside and the
little door was closed behind them.

They crossed the court—it had been the garden during the imprisonment of
the Royal family—and the moon was shedding her rays upon the very tree
under which the hapless monarch had been wont to take his daily
exercise; causing the leaves to shimmer with a silver light as they were
stirred by the gentle breeze.  St. Just glanced up at the black facade,
now dimly outlined against the dark wintry sky, and the gruesome thought
flashed on him that, perhaps, he too was doomed to pace each day up and
down, up and down, beneath that selfsame tree until that morning when he
should be told that his last hour had come, and be hurried to the
scaffold.

Vipont’s party marched on with him and halted at a door, which, at the
summons of the warder who had admitted them to the prison, was opened.

They entered the building, and then St. Just was escorted down a narrow
passage to a flight of steps.  These the man descended, and the others
followed, emerging at the bottom on another passage, along which the
jailer led the way, the rest of the party keeping close behind him,
their footsteps echoing along the sunken corridor with thuds that
reminded the prisoner of the blows he had heard at nights when the
executioner and his assistants were setting up the scaffold, from which
in the cold, gray morning some poor devil was to take his last look on
the world.  This reflection and the searching cold and damp, that seemed
to pierce his very bones, and the mouldy smell that permeated the place,
sent a shiver through St. Just that, despite his efforts to repress it,
was visible to all.

Presently another iron door was reached, and, being opened, revealed a
room about five yards by four in area. High up in one wall was a narrow,
strongly barred window, that was little more than a slit, and
communicated to the outer air by a sort of funnel, for even the cell’s
vaulted roof was below the surface of the ground.  A small fireplace
faced this window, and, to prevent the possibility of a prisoner’s
escape that way, a strong iron grating was fixed in the lower part of
the chimney.

A low wooden bedstead a yard in width, a small deal table and a wooden
stool comprised the furniture of this inhospitable apartment.  At the
sight of it St. Just’s heart sank.

When the door of what was to be St. Just’s home until he should be
otherwise disposed of, had been thrown open, Vipont stood aside, and,
bending before the prisoner in mock courtesy, motioned him to pass
inside.

"I regret, Mons. le docteur," he said, "that we cannot offer you a more
luxurious apartment; for this, I admit, is scarcely fitting for a member
of the learned profession, I doubt not, you adorn.  But, at any rate,
you will be safe from thieves, and your scientific meditations will not
be interrupted."

He wound up with a self-sufficient chuckle.  St. Just made no reply, but
crossed the threshold of his cell, into which the jailer had preceded
him with a lantern.  Then Vipont and his myrmidons withdrew.  But, in a
few minutes, he returned, as though he had forgotten something. He
stepped quickly to the jailer’s side and whispered something in his ear.
Now that St. Just had had time to look at him, he saw that the jailer
was a hard-featured, impassive, honest-looking fellow, with nothing in
his countenance that augured cruelty or ill-nature, for the mere love of
it.  Whatever Vipont had said to him, the jailer raised the lantern and
turned its light upon St. Just at the same time bestowing a keen glance
on him.  It will be borne in mind that St. Just was got up to pass for a
serious, middle-aged member of a learned profession.  The result of the
jailer’s scrutiny, which was made with much deliberation, was the
muttered reply to his companion, "I am of your opinion."

Then he placed the lantern on the table and moved round behind St. Just,
who, though suspicious of the glances cast at him, had no idea what they
portended; but he was soon to know, for the man suddenly threw himself
upon him, pinioning his arms behind him, so that he could not move.

Indeed St. Just made no attempt to do so, for the whole movement had
been so rapid that he was taken quite aback. Before he had recovered his
composure, Vipont had made a dash at his beard and plucked it off; when,
instead of a middle-aged doctor, there stood before them a man
clean-shaven and with youthful lineaments.  The change it made in him
was wonderful; even his frame seemed to have become more upright and
muscular, so powerful is the influence of association.

Retaining in his grasp the beard, Vipont stepped back a pace and,
advancing the lantern towards the prisoner’s face, seemed to be diving
into his memory for a clue that should enable him to fix the personality
of the man in front of him; for the latter could see by the police
agent’s expression that he was convinced that they had met before.

Vipont looked long and earnestly at the captive, but to little purpose;
he could not put a name to him.

All at once he in the book of memory found the page that contained the
name he was in search of.  A smile formed itself upon his face, the
prelude to a mocking laugh, that rang loudly through the cell.  He
removed his hat and bent in mock courtesy before St. Just.

"Mons. St. Just," he said, "late lieutenant of the Guard at the
Luxembourg Palace, we meet again.  On the occasion that I have in mind,
I have a fancy that I owe to you the failure of—well, an affair I need
not specify.  Now I have an opportunity of satisfying the debt; and be
assured you shall be paid in full."

St. Just laughed scoffingly.  "We shall see, my friend, I fear you not;
the less so after the reminder you have given me of our first meeting,
the circumstances of which had escaped my memory.  I wonder whether the
First Consul knows the part you played.  For myself, I will not attempt
to deny that I am St. Just—though, I think you would be put to it to
prove it."

"Oh, no, I shouldn’t," retorted Vipont, with a sneering laugh.

Just then the sound of a distant clock, which was striking ten; was
borne across the frosty air, and penetrated to the prison.  It checked
the agent in the middle of his laugh.

"So late!" he exclaimed.  "I have dallied here too long, and must be
going."

Then he continued mockingly, "Do me the favor, my good Desmartins, to
show this gentleman, in whom I take the deepest interest, every
attention; treat him with the greatest deference; load his table with
the daintiest viands; bring out for him your choicest wines; prepare for
him your downiest bed; find him amusement, that he may not know a
moment’s weariness; guard him from every danger. In a word, do
everything to keep him safe and happy, treating him as an honored guest,
extending to him cheerfully the hospitality for which the genial
custodian of the Temple is so famed."  Then he turned to St. Just and,
in the same mocking tone continued, "Can I add anything further, Sir, to
ensure your comfort?  I regret that I can no longer avail myself of the
pleasure of your company; but I am already due at the Opera, where I
have to report to the First Consul.  I am desolated that I cannot have
the honor of your company thither, but I shall be pleased to bear him
any message you may charge me with."

There was a mocking smile on Vipont’s lips, when he finished speaking,
and, with pretended deference, he once more bent low before St. Just.

The latter glared savagely at the police agent, but, when he spoke,
there was no passion in his voice, only a cold incisiveness in every
word that fell upon the mocker’s ears and, despite his well-assumed
impassiveness, caused him some uneasiness.

"Yes, go, Sir," said St. Just.  "Go, by all means, to the First Consul,
and tell him from me, if you have the honesty and courage to keep your
promise, that, on the night to which you have alluded, you and the
rascal Sotin, were the men who tried to murder him by Mons. Barras’
orders.  I think, when he knows this, for all your activity in his
behalf to-night, you will not be long in paying another visit to the
Temple, but in a somewhat different capacity from that you occupy at
present.  You will have an opportunity of testing the hospitality of our
good friend here; of participating in the luxuries you suggested he
should heap on me."

Vipont turned pale and trembled with mingled rage and dread.

"You lie, coquin," he yelled, "you vile traducer of a trusted servant of
the State.  I know not what you mean. But I will soon silence your
perjured tongue."

And he laid his hand upon his sword and half drew it from its sheath, at
the same time taking a step forward. But Desmartins interposed, and laid
his hand on the police agent’s arm.

"No violence, Monsieur, I beg," he said.  "It is not to be permitted.  I
am responsible for the prisoner’s safety, and you shall not do him
hurt."  And he placed himself between the men.

The sword dropped back into its scabbard, and Vipont, scowling, removed
his grasp from it.  He glared furiously at St. Just.

"Why does he insult me, then," he snarled, "the gredin? But let him
wait, the coward, till I have the opportunity of chastising him.  Then
we shall see."

"As you say," St. Just calmly interposed, "we shall see. But I care not
to bandy further words with you; and surely you are forgetting your
appointment."  And, to show that conversation on his part was at an end,
he turned his back on Vipont and took a step or two away.

The police spy shook his fist in menace at St. Just; then, with the
words, "Au revoir, coquin," he turned on his heel and quitted the cell,
followed by the jailer, who took with him the lantern, leaving St. Just
to darkness and his thoughts.

For a while, he remained motionless where he stood, listening to the
retreating footsteps of his late companions. At last, they died away,
and the silence that ensued was deathlike.

"Will Halima hear what has befallen me?" he mused. "And how will she act
if she do hear it?  Will she leave me to my fate?  No, no, she could not
be so cruel!"

He paced restlessly about, tortured by the reflections that assailed
him.  Beneath his conviction of her love for him there always lurked a
doubt of her fidelity.  He did not forget that, on their meeting after
nearly four years’ separation, she had looked more radiantly beautiful
than ever; there had been no evidence in her appearance that she had
bewailed his loss; and he did not doubt that, in his absence, she had
consoled herself with other lovers, and, in like circumstances, would do
so again.  She had frankly admitted that the indulgence of her passions
was a necessity of her life.  The thought threw him into a fever of
impatience and rebellion at his helplessness, and he began to cast about
for a means of informing her of his predicament.

Suddenly he halted in his aimless tramp about his cell. The blind
beggar—who was not really blind—had seen his capture, and, if himself
unknown to Halima, would know those who were acquainted with her, and so
the news would reach her.  St. Just had not had time to recognize the
man, even if he had ever seen him before; but he was convinced that he
was in the plot.

His wife would not be long in hearing what had happened; perhaps she had
heard already.  And she could save him, if she would, for she had in her
possession the charm that Josephine had given him, the talisman that
Buonaparte had promised should three times be effective in protecting
him, should the need arise and Buonaparte have the power; and surely,
surely Halima would use it in his behalf.

This hope, nay, this certainty—for, after all her protestations of
undying love, she would never be so base as to desert him—brought with
it comparative relief, and he was able to look his position in the face,
without the dread that had but now oppressed him.

Then, with reawakened confidence, he threw himself upon his narrow
pallet and, worn out by the excitement he had undergone, soon dropped
off into a slumber in which all his troubles were forgotten; he even
dreamed that he was with Halima.

A week passed by, and gradually the captive’s spirits sank, for not a
whisper from the outer world had come to him, and the dreadful thought
was gaining on him that, after all, he was to be abandoned to his fate.
The hours dragged on in horrible monotony, his only visitor being his
jailer, who came at stated intervals to supply him with the sorry food
that was his fare.  But, though the man was rough and almost surly, and
could with difficulty be got to speak—and, when he did, it was only in
monosyllables—St. Just looked forward to his visits with positive
delight, parting from him with regret and counting the hours, by the
chimes of distant clocks, until he should be due again. He was the
captive’s sole link with humanity.

St. Just made various attempts to sound him, asked him whether anyone
had called at the prison in reference to his case; whether he was being
talked about outside; whether he had heard again from Vipont; but he
said not a word of Halima.

But he could extract nothing from Desmartins; the man was as close as a
mouse trap that has just achieved its purpose.  All that could be got
from him was that he knew nothing.  Then St. Just tried to inveigle him
into talk on general topics; he was so loth to lose the sight of a human
face, the sound of a human voice.  But his jailer discouraged
conversation and would have none of it.

However, on the evening of the seventh day of his incarceration, and
without any previous intimation, the door of his cell was opened,
and—not Desmartins, as he had at first assumed—but a file of soldiers
entered.  They were followed by their officer.  He bowed to the prisoner
and then told him that he had orders to remove him, and that it would be
necessary to blindfold him.

"Whither do you take me?" asked St. Just.

"That I am not at liberty to say," replied the officer; "but you will
learn anon."

Then they blindfolded him, and two of the men placed themselves one on
each side of him, and each took an arm to guide him; thus they led him
from the room, and along the narrow passage, the jailer going in advance
to show the way, and taking the same route as on St. Just’s arrival.

Presently, by the change in the sounds above him, and the freshness of
the atmosphere, St. Just knew that he was in the open air; in another
minute he heard the prison gate clang to behind him.  Then he was guided
into a carriage, which was quickly driven away.

He was scarcely seated, when a voice muttered in a loud whisper in his
ear, "Make no rash effort to escape, and do not speak, or attempt to
remove your bandage, or you will suffer for it."

At the same time, to lend significance to the speaker’s words, something
cold and hard was pressed against the hearer’s temple.  St. Just knew it
for the muzzle of a pistol, and, for a moment, shivered.  But only for a
moment; it needed little wit to know that, for the present at any rate,
his life was safe.  For all that, he deemed it prudent to obey the
injunctions of his companion; so sat motionless and silent.  He tried at
first to follow in his mind the turns the carriage took, but, blindfold
as he was, he found it hopeless, so gave it up, resigning himself with
such patience as he could command to whatever was to follow.  But his
mind was in a fever of inquiry.  Was he being conveyed to Halima’s
house, or to some place of safety at her instance; or were his captors
taking him to some other prison, where the discipline was harsher, and
the prisoners had less chance of making their escape?

The carriage creaked and rumbled on, with frequent jolts, for the roads,
at all times, at that period, bad, were now, by the mingled action of
frost and slush, a succession of alternate holes and hillocks.  But, at
last, when it seemed to St. Just that they had been traveling for hours,
the carriage halted, and he was bidden to descend.  Then he was again
taken by the arm and guided up a narrow staircase.  Arrived at the top,
his conductor whispered a few words to some one there.  A door was
opened, and he was led into a room and halted.  Then the same voice that
had addressed him in the carriage spoke again.

"You are at your journey’s end, and your bandage will now be removed.
Light, you see, like everything else, comes to him who waits."  He
laughed pleasantly.

When the bandage had been removed, St. Just found himself in a
moderate-sized apartment, whose walls were lined from floor to ceiling
with books.  He was standing before an open hearth, in which, burned a
cheerful fire of wood, whose flames diffused a ruddy glow throughout the
room, and a genial warmth that was more than grateful to a man who had
been enduring for a week the chill, damp air of a prison cell.  On one
side of the room were two long windows, now closed with shutters and
hung with dark red curtains.  A large oil lamp, its brilliance tempered
by a deep green shade, was burning on a table in the center of the room.
On the side that faced the fire was a pair of folding doors, now closed.
These details St. Just took in unconsciously, for what fixed his glance,
immediately that his bandage was removed, was the figure of a man who
was a stranger to him.  He was standing by the fire and partially
supporting himself on a stick.  An elderly man, thin in figure, somewhat
below the average height, and of shrivelled aspect.  His face was long
and lean and absolutely colorless; only redeemed from lifelessness by
the piercing eyes, which were ever shifting restlessly, as though trying
to find an entrance into the weak places of an opponent.  He was dressed
from head to foot in black.

Hard by St. Just there stood another man, whose green uniform with red
facings proclaimed him to be an officer of Chasseurs.  He had been St.
Just’s companion in his drive, and he it was who had removed the
handkerchief from his eyes, for he still held it in his hand.

The elder man fixed his keen glance upon St. Just for several moments,
without speaking.  Then suddenly he addressed him in a high-pitched
voice.

"Well Mons. St. Just, what have you to say for yourself for mixing in
plots against the First Consul?"

Then, before his hearer could reply, he continued to the officer in
attendance: "You can withdraw, Beaumont. Wait in the anteroom, in case
you should be wanted—but not within earshot of this room."  And he
raised his finger meaningly at the young officer, who, coloring to the
roots of his hair, stammered at the slur cast on him.

"Mons. de Talleyrand, I am a soldier and a man of honor. It is an insult
to suggest—"

"Go, Sir," interrupted the other sternly.  "I have not time to pick and
choose my words, except when matters of State demand it."

And, without further parley, the officer retired.

Then the man who had been addressed as Talleyrand resumed his
conversation with St. Just; but first he moved to a chair, halting
slightly in his walk.

"Well, Sir," he said, "you find my question difficult to answer.  But I
will spare you the dishonor of inventing denials that would be
unavailing; for the information at my command is unimpeachable.  But one
thing I should like to know, that you alone can tell me; and that is how
it happens that you, who were reported dead in Egypt more than three
years ago, have now turned up alive in Paris?"

This was a much easier question to reply to than the other, and St. Just
detailed, shortly, the particulars—garbled for the occasion—of his
capture in the desert and subsequent adventures, up to his landing and
accident at Margala, explaining his strange loss of memory, that had
extended even to his ignorance of his own identity; and how that memory
had only recently been restored.

The story seemed plausible to Talleyrand, for it appeared incredible
that a soldier with St. Just’s prospects of advancement would willingly
sacrifice his career.

"That seems reasonable," was his comment, "but what I can not understand
is why, on your return to Paris, you did not at once report yourself.  I
should have thought that, having lost so much valuable time, you would
not have wasted a moment in seeking reinstatement.  How was that?  You
must have had some overpowering reason, and I am curious to know it?"

And he shot a searching glance at his hearer’s face, as though he
thought thereby to wrench the truth from him.

St. Just quailed beneath it.  He knew, by hearsay, the character of the
man before him, and, while anxious to conceal his conjugal relations, he
recognized the risk he ran, should Talleyrand convict him of an attempt
to palm off a lie on him.  His difficulty was that he was in the dark as
to how much his cross-questioner knew.  But Talleyrand was noted for his
gallantries; so St. Just thought he might look more leniently on his
dereliction, if he assigned a woman as its cause.  All this passed
rapidly through his mind during the few seconds that elapsed before his
answer. With some hesitation, and the color mounting to his face, he
said:—

"I fully intended to report myself, as was my duty; but—"

"The woman tempted me," interrupted Talleyrand with a sneer, and a smile
that had more of triumph than good-nature in it.

St. Just started.  Oh that he could fathom the depth of the knowledge
that Talleyrand possessed of him!  However, the wily statesman had given
him his cue.

"Scarcely that," he answered, "for it would be base to charge a woman
with what was the outcome solely of my own infatuation.  For I was
infatuated, infatuated to the verge of madness; my passion robbed me of
my judgment; so that I lived only in the present, with no thought of
consequences."

"And yet you were not content to bask in the Egyptian beauty’s smiles,
but must needs associate yourself with plotters against the State.
’Twas there your madness really lay—not in your infatuation for Madame
de Moncourt. That I readily excuse; nay more, I can applaud; your
preference does you credit, Sir; I can scarcely pay her the same
compliment for the interest she takes in you."

The speaker seemed to delight in saying things that made his hearers
wince, and the coarse slight in his last words had that effect upon the
man before him.

A momentary flash of anger gleamed in his eyes; then surprise showed on
his face.  Talleyrand knew the woman for whom he had forsaken honor; and
she was interesting herself on his behalf, if the statesmen’s words
meant anything.  Probably his presence there was due to that.  The
thought brought much relief.  But Talleyrand had made no reference to
his marriage; most likely then, he was unaware of it!

"I see you have guessed my secret," he replied.  "I adore the lady to
whom you have just referred, and she has accorded me the privilege of a
visitor.  I met her first in Egypt, where I was so fortunate as to save
her life."

"Indeed!  And now she is using her influence to save yours.  Do you know
this trinket?"

He held up the charm Josephine had given to St. Just.

"I do; it belongs to me.  It was given me some years ago by Madame
Buonaparte, in the presence of her husband, the night I saved him from
assassination."

"Dear me, you seem to have a trick of saving life," sneered Talleyrand.

"Say rather, the good Fortune.  But to continue; on that occasion, the
General attached a promise to the gift."

"Which he has fulfilled, and not for the first time, I understand.  This
is the key that has unlocked your prison cell.  Madame de Moncourt, by
some means,"—and he looked meaningly at St. Just—"got news of your
predicament and, having this talisman of yours in her possession,
entrusted it to me to pass on to the First Consul, with the reminder of
his pledge to you.  I have fulfilled my errand, and, on certain
conditions, you are free."

St. Just could not repress a sigh of relief, for, though from the
commencement of his interview he had thought that he was safe, now he
was assured of it.

"I am deeply grateful to you, Sir," he said, "for your efforts on my
behalf; also to Madame de Moncourt, to whom, if I may take the liberty,
I will ask you to convey my heartfelt thanks."

Ignoring St. Just’s request, which he had wit enough to know was not
made seriously, and, in consequence, resented, Talleyrand answered
sharply.

"Then show your gratitude, Sir, by abstaining in the future from
dabbling in conspiracies, and by devoting yourself faithfully to your
country’s interests.  Are you ready to act thus?"

To this St. Just answered that he was; and, at the time he really meant
it.

"See that you keep your word," rejoined the other; "your honor requires
much cleansing ere it will be bright. Here is your trinket, which I
trust you will never again prostitute to such vile purpose as that to
which it has just been put.  But now, as to the conditions of your
liberty. It is thought a change of air would be beneficial to you. Are
you willing to leave France forthwith, for as long or as short a period
as may be ordered?"

St. Just’s face fell; absence from France meant also absence from
Halima; but he was in no position to make terms; he had no choice but to
submit; still his distaste to the position was apparent in his answer.

"If my sole choice lies between captivity in France, and liberty
abroad," he said despondently, "I must fain choose the latter, though
life lived out of France will be mere existence.  Is my place of
banishment yet decided?"

Talleyrand smiled sourly.  "Things need not be quite so bad for you as
your forecast; if so you will it.  The First Consul is disposed to give
you a chance of regaining your lost honor, but it will be your last.  He
is in contemplation to send you to England on a mission of some
importance. To ensure success, tact, courage, secrecy and adaptability
will be required; and, above all—fidelity."  And he fixed his eyes
significantly on his hearer.  "On your conduct of the affair will depend
your future.  The business will not occupy you long.  Your answer?"

By the time the speaker had concluded, St. Just had brightened up
considerably.  He hastened to reply with energy, "I accept without a
moment’s hesitation.  Sir, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the
kindness shown me; and I pledge my honor—"

Talleyrand looked up with a curious, amused expression. "Your what,
Sir?" he asked cynically.

St. Just colored with shame.  For a moment he was discomposed.  Then he
replied, "I deserve your reprimand, Monsieur.  I should have said, I
give my solemn word—I swear—that I will do my utmost to assure the
success of the mission to be entrusted to me.  If earnestness of
purpose, unwearying labor, fearlessness of danger and unswerving
fidelity can secure it, I shall not fail.  If needs be, I am ready to
sacrifice my life, in the cause committed to me."

Talleyrand’s nature was too cold, and he had too full a knowledge of the
workings of the human heart for such "high falutin" to make much
impression on him: indeed, he rather despised enthusiasm; in his eyes it
showed want of self-control.  But, in the present instance, he was
satisfied that St. Just meant all he said; whether his sentiments would
be enduring, was another thing.

"Your words are fair enough, Sir," he said coldly; "see that your deeds
lag not behind them."

The words had scarcely left his lips, when the folding doors at the end
of the room were opened, and the First Consul entered.

He paused for a moment in the doorway and then came forward.  The light
from the lamp, modified, as it was, by the green shade, made his
countenance, always pale and passionless, look almost death-like now,
and emphasized by contrast the wondrous eyes which flashed and glistened
with vitality and movement.  He wore the uniform of an officer of
Artillery, and with scarce a decoration.  His nether limbs were encased
in white breeches and silk stockings; a sash of tricolor completed his
costume.

His eyes fixed the two men in the room; both felt their magnetic force,
and one seemed almost turned to stone. But almost instantly, both bent
before him.

"So!" he began, in a hard, dry voice, "Mons. St. Just, you have come to
life again.  I will inquire into that anon. Meantime, perhaps you, Mons.
de Talleyrand, will explain the meaning of this—gentleman’s presence
here."  He stamped his foot impatiently.

"Sir," began Talleyrand, in his icy tones, "I ventured to send for Mons.
St. Just with a view to his being despatched to England on the mission
we have discussed together.  You left in my hands the selection of the
agent, and, for several reasons which I shall be happy to give you when
we are alone, I deemed him suitable."

"An assassin, a prisoner from the Temple!  I congratulate you on the
felicity of your selection," was the ironical rejoinder.

"A prisoner whom your clemency has freed.  You cannot, General, have
forgotten the token from Mons. St. Just I handed you."

Buonaparte had not forgotten, but for a purpose he affected to have done
so.  The Man of Destiny forgot nothing.  "Token, what token?" he asked
sharply.  He dropped into a chair, then leisurely took snuff.

"This charm, Sir," said St. Just respectfully.  He stepped forward and
held out the trinket.  "This jewel given to me by Madame Buonaparte in
your presence, one memorable night, when you attached a promise to it."

"I now remember, Sir," answered the First Consul sternly, "and the
pledge I gave you, but I little guessed that I should be reminded of it
in such circumstances as the present.  I did not expect that, in the
fulfillment of my promise, I should be called upon to save a would-be
assassin, and a deserter from his colors from the penalty of his crimes.
But I will respect my word, Sir; your life is spared.  See that you make
a worthier use of it in the future."  Then, in a voice of thunder, he
concluded, "But have a care, Sir, have a care, lest you try my patience
and forbearance beyond their limits.  Never again put that trinket to so
vile a use, or I fear me you will find that it has lost its virtue.
Nay, I marvel that, on this occasion, you should have shielded yourself
with its protection.  A brave man dishonored, is glad to hide his
dishonor in the grave."

The countenance he turned upon St. Just was awful in its sternness and
contempt, and the confusion and abasement of the wretched man were
piteous to behold.  He bent his head to his chest, and trembled in every
limb, and his face rivaled in its pallor even Buonaparte’s.  The
scathing words of the First Consul had so affected him that, for the
moment, he felt that death itself would have been preferable, and
regretted that the talisman had been employed to save his life.  His
breath came hard and fast, and he made several ineffectual attempts to
speak; at last he gasped out:

"Sir I thank you for your clemency.  I am so bewildered, so abashed, I
despise myself so much, that I can scarce find words.  I can only
say—you have spared my life, do with it what you will."

Buonaparte eyed him searchingly.  From his inscrutable expression it was
impossible to judge whether St. Just’s words and manner had affected
him.

"And what guarantee have I of your future behavior?" he replied.  "Wait
here."

He signed to Talleyrand, and they left the room together.

Ten minutes passed, during which St. Just, in some measure, recovered
his composure.  At the end of that time, they returned, and Buonaparte,
without referring to his last question and without noticing St. Just
walked across the room and placed his back against the marble
mantelpiece.  Then he began to kick with his heel the smouldering embers
in the grate.

Meanwhile Talleyrand addressed St. Just.  "You will proceed to England
with the utmost speed, and there make it your business to become
acquainted with a certain Sir Henry Emerson.  He is a King’s Messenger,
and we have information that he will be setting out next week for
Holland with dispatches.  It is of vital importance that we should know
their purport.  It will be for you, when on the spot, to devise the best
means of bringing this about. Take copies of them, if you can, and
restore them without his knowledge; but, if this should be impossible,
secure the papers, and let me have them without a moment’s loss of time.
You may not be able to achieve your purpose before Sir Henry Emerson has
set cut; if so, you must dog his footsteps until you do succeed.  Don’t
be too nice about the methods you employ: use bribery, violence,
anything so that you do not fail.

"On reaching London, you will go instantly to the house of one Perry, a
hosier at this address"—he handed it to St. Just—"and ask ’where you can
get the best bees.’  If the man laughs at you, go away, for he is not
the right person; but try again later.  If to your inquiry he reply that
he is a large bee farmer himself, you may state your business freely,
and he will give you every assistance.  He is keeping a watch on the
movements of this King’s Messenger.

"Here are ten thousand francs."  He handed him a bundle of notes.  "You
can change them, according to your requirements into English money at a
money changer’s. Perry will see to that for you.  Should you require
more, apply to him, and he will give it to you."

A clock on the mantelpiece struck two.  St. Just was surprised to find
it was so late; his drive to this house must have taken hours.  It
puzzled him to know where he was; not in Paris, clearly.

"You have had your instructions, Sir," said the First Consul, speaking
for the first time, since his second entrance into the room, "and will
start at once; and, as you value your life, be true.  Another act of
treachery, and nothing shall protect you."

St. Just stepped forward, and was beginning to renew his protestations
of fidelity and gratitude, when Buonaparte waved him back and, with a
frown, walked rapidly from the room.

Then Talleyrand addressed St. Just.  "To-morrow, at eleven, you will
start for Boulogne.  There you will embark on the La Flèche.  You have a
fair knowledge of English, I understand.  You will pass as the Comte St.
Clair. Live as the others do—not ostentatiously, but don’t grudge
expenditure, when needful.  Return the moment you have achieved the
object of your mission.

"One last injunction; don’t go to Auteuil, before you start."

He looked meaningly at St. Just.  "Ah, you meant to; don’t."

He touched a bell and an attendant entered.

"Captain Beaumont," he said.

The man withdrew and, in a few seconds, that officer stood before him.

"You will escort Mons. St. Just in a carriage to his apartment."

He bowed to both men and they left the room.  Five minutes afterwards
they quitted Malmaison and took the road to Paris.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*


It was hard on daybreak when St. Just reached his lodging in the Rue de
Dauphin, and the people in the house were not yet up; but the summons at
the door soon aroused them.  His landlord was at first disposed to be
unfriendly, but when he saw the handsome carriage and horses, the
liveries of the coachman and footman, and the officer in uniform who had
accompanied his lodger, he made no ado about admitting him, and became
almost fulsome in his words of welcome.  The belief of the worthy couple
had been that St. Just had been spending his week’s absence in the
country; and they had been confirmed in it by a beautiful lady who had
driven up in a carriage and told them that it was so.  She had also
interviewed his servant Mahmoud, whom it appeared, she knew, and had
taken him away with her.

Before going she had left a note for St. Just; and this was all they had
to tell him.

Halima’s note contained but these few words:—


"Am quite well.  We shall meet again soon.  I have taken Mahmoud with
me.  I know you will not want him for the present.


Then, Halima guessed, if she did not positively know, of his coming
journey to England.

His preparations did not take him long, and he left Paris at the time
Talleyrand had ordered him to start, and reached Boulogne on the evening
of the following day.  He soon found the La Flèche, a small vessel, at
anchor in the harbor. He presented himself to the captain as the Comte
St. Clair, according to instructions, and handed him papers authorizing
his passage to England.

The next morning, so soon as it was light, they moved out of the harbor,
but the breeze was so light, and what there was of it, so unfavorable to
their course, that they had to keep continually tacking; thus it was
night before they sighted the shores of England.  As it was, they were
taken somewhat out of their course, and the nearest port was Shoreham;
this they made.  St. Just was landed in a sir all boat a short distance
from the port itself, which, indeed, at that time, was little more than
a cluster of cottages—a hamlet; though now a town of some importance.

Taking his small bag in his hand—for he had not cared to encumber
himself with luggage, intending to supply himself in London with such
clothing as he required—he began to make his way across the sandy flats
that intervened between the shore and the high road, meaning, on gaining
Shoreham, to obtain some means of conveyance to Brighton, and thence to
take the coach to London.  He was told that, by bearing direct
northwards from the sea, he would soon hit the road.

The night was dark, for there was no moon, and but a few stars were to
be seen; but that his way was so direct, he would not have attempted it
without a guide.  Not a sound was to be heard, not even the fall of his
own feet, for the sand and the tufts of coarse grass that dotted it
formed a soft carpet that made his footsteps noiseless.  But walking was
somewhat arduous; the more so that he had to feel his way, or he would
have fallen, for the ground was full of little mounds and hollows.  His
progress, accordingly, was slow.

He went stumbling along, but never actually falling and had made about
half the distance to the road, when, all at once, close by his ear, he
heard the words shouted in a strident voice, "Here he is, lads!" and,
the next moment, received a violent blow on the head that felled him to
the ground, and, before he had so much as seen his assailant, he was
stretched insensible on the sand.

When he recovered consciousness, he found himself in a low, scantily and
rudely furnished room, which, from the nets and ropes that hung against
the walls and lay in heaps upon the floor, proclaimed its owner to be a
fisherman. With the feeling, so common to us all when sleeping, and some
one is approaching us, he felt that he was being watched, and he opened
his eyes.  A rough-looking, middle-aged man was bending over him,
scrutinizing him intently, with an expression of mingled anxiety and
alarm. But, when the Frenchman opened his eyes, that were now lighted
with intelligence, the fisherman’s strained look relaxed, and a smile of
satisfaction took its place.

"Glad to see you coming round, Sir," he said cheerily. "You’ll soon be
all right now; but I was mortal feared once; I began to think you were
going to turn it up.  How are you feeling, Sir?"

St. Just looked at him inquiringly, and with some alarm, as one does at
unexpectedly finding oneself in an unknown place and in the presence of
a stranger; but the man, though rough, looked kindly and good-natured;
so that St. Just’s anxiety was but brief.

"My head aches badly here," he answered; and he put his hand at the back
part of his crown.  The action made him wince; the place felt so tender.

"I must have fallen, or been struck.  What has happened?  Where am I?
Who are you?"  Then before the other could reply, he resumed, "Ah, I
remember now; I was crossing the sands and some one knocked me down. Was
it you, and if so, why?"

"No, it wasn’t me, Sir," replied the man, "and it was all a mistake."
He went on to explain that, in the dark, St. Just had been mistaken for
some one against whom his son had a grudge, and been knocked down in
consequence.  On discovering the mistake, he and his son had brought him
to their cabin.  He now expressed his sorrow and asked how he could
serve St. Just.

"I am much obliged to you," replied St. Just dryly. "Suppose you lend me
a hand to help me up, for I am still weak and dizzy."

The man gave him his hand willingly, and raised his visitor to a sitting
posture on the bed.  St. Just rubbed his eyes, then let them wander
round the room.  From the appearance of the roof and walls, and from the
thunder of the waves, which he could hear against the sides of where he
was, he was satisfied that he was in a cavern on the shore.

"This is not a house," he said, "we are underground; do you live here?"

"Well, it’s all the house I have, when I’m at home, but I’m mostly out."

"And what’s your name, and what are you?"

"John Slade, fisherman."

St. Just turned his eyes keenly on him and smiled faintly.  "And you do
a little foreign trade as well, eh? Brandy, cigars, silks and lace?"

John Slade started and scowled at the injured man, who continued with a
laugh, "You needn’t be alarmed, my friend, the secret of your retreat is
safe with me; I’ve nothing to do with the coastguard.  Besides, as you
must have discovered, I am a foreigner, a Frenchman, and I know no one
in this country.  But I have business in London and must be there as
soon as possible.  How long have I been here?"

"Since the night afore yesterday.  You’ll soon be all right now, and
I’ll see you to the coach for London.  I daresay you’ll be well enough
to start to-morrow.  But now, Master, couldn’t you take something to eat
and drink?"

St. Just thought he could.  As a fact, he was feeling very hungry; he
had had nothing for two days.

A good night’s rest made him another man, and, the next morning, he got
into John Slade’s boat, and the smuggler rowed him to Brighton.  The
boat was moored, and his companion went ashore with him and carried his
bag to the starting place of the London coach.  Then they parted with
mutual expressions of goodwill—for St. Just had quite forgiven the
mistake that had laid him prostrate—and the young Frenchman was soon
rattling along the road to London.

As yet, he had formulated no plan of action; he deferred that, until he
should have seen the hosier in the Strand. So he hailed a hackney coach
and told the driver to take him to the address Mons. de Talleyrand had
given.

Fortunately Mr. Perry was in his shop and, on St. Just’s putting the
question to him about the bees, he gave the expected answer; then he
asked his visitor into his parlor at the back of the shop, and inquired
in what way he could serve him.

The latter, having been told that he might speak to the hosier without
restraint, at once explained his errand, and asked his hearer the best
way to set about it.

Perry was a man of much better social standing and education than the
generality of London tradesmen of a hundred years ago.  He had not been
born in the ranks of shopkeepers, but in his early days had fallen
desperately in love with the pretty daughter of the former proprietor of
this shop.  The girl’s virtue being every whit on a level with her
beauty, despite his efforts to deprave it, he had been compelled either
to marry her, or give up her pursuit; unable to do the latter, he had
done the former, and her father dying shortly afterwards, he had found
himself in possession of the business, which was too good to be
relinquished, the more so that he was without means or occupation.

Chance had thrown him into the way of many of the French émigrés at that
time in London.  He had traveled in France and could speak the language.
There was a good deal of the mole in him, and he was fond of burrowing
into secrets.  Gradually he had strengthened his relations with these
emigrants, so that he had wormed himself into their confidence, and
there were few of their plots for the restoration of the French king
with which he was unacquainted.  Believing in his sympathies, they spoke
openly before him and even consulted him about their schemes; almost he
had become their trusted agent.  And while all this fed his appetite for
excitement and his love for plotting, it, at the same time, put money in
his pocket, for any services he rendered were well paid for.  As a
matter of fact, his sympathies were not with the French King’s party,
for, while filled with horror at the bloodshed of the "Terror," he
considered that the French people were quite right in rising against the
oppressors—king, nobles and priests—who had ground them down for
centuries.

The Revolutionists had their spies in England, and they were not long in
discovering Perry’s intimacy with the Monarchists.  By judicious
soundings, they found that he had no real love for these.  He could,
therefore, knowing so many of their secrets, render them important
services. So overtures were made to him, which he accepted, and, at the
time of St. Just’s visit, he was a recognized agent of the French
Republic, while all the time affecting Monarchist proclivities.  He was
well paid by the Republic, so that now he was receiving money from both
sides.  But he was careful not to give himself away, keeping the secrets
of each party inviolate from the other.  Thus he performed with
satisfaction to himself the formidable feat of running with the hare and
hunting with the hounds.

Such was the man with whom St. Just now found himself in counsel.

It appeared that Perry knew Sir Henry Emerson well; this was doubtless
known in Paris and was why St. Just had been instructed to apply to him.
Sir Henry had called at the shop only a day or two before and, when
ordering certain articles of hosiery, had mentioned casually that he was
expecting every day to be ordered to the Continent with dispatches.

Perry told him that Sir Henry was in the habit almost nightly of
visiting a certain gambling hell near the Haymarket, at which the hosier
had the entrée and occasionally tempted Fortune.  He advised that his
visitor should accompany him there that night for the double purpose of
familiarizing himself with Sir Henry Emerson’s appearance and
ascertaining, if possible, whether the date of his departure for Holland
was yet fixed.

This being settled, Perry took him to a costumier, where he fitted
himself with fashionable attire of English cut, he, Perry, supplying him
with such hosiery and under-linen as he required.  Then, having engaged
a room for him at the Golden Cross Hotel, at Charing Cross, he left him,
with the promise that he would call for him at a late hour that night,
when they would proceed together to the gaming house.

In due course, they made their way thither.  At the moment of their
arrival at the door, a close carriage, with no armorial bearings on the
panels, and drawn by a well-matched pair of horses, pulled up before it.
St. Just and his companion drew back to let the occupants precede them.

A well-built man, above the middle height and inclined to stoutness,
alighted from the carriage.  His features were handsome, but inclined to
puffiness.  Perry nudged his companion slightly and whispered, "The
Prince Regent."

The prince was followed by another man, and the two disappeared within
the house, the door having been already opened in answer to the summons
of a footman.

Perry waited a few minutes, so as not to follow too closely on the
Prince’s heels, and then knocked at the same door.  It was opened by a
man in livery, who greeted Perry respectfully, and then pulled a bell,
that tinkled in the distance, and they moved down the passage, at the
end of which was a green baize door, that opened noiselessly at their
approach, and then closed behind them.  They found themselves in a hall
that blazed with light.  A gorgeously clad, powdered footman stepped
forward and relieved them of their roquelaures—they retained their
hats—then preceded them up a broad staircase, so softly carpeted that
their footfalls could not be heard.  At the head of it was another green
baize door, before which stood a negro of Herculean proportions,
gorgeously arrayed.  The footman murmured something and the door swung
open.

The scene presented to St. Just’s view was as startling as it was novel
to him.  Proceeding, as he had, direct from the military school to the
battle field, he had little personal knowledge of the vices and
amusements of Society, and was proportionately astonished.  In a large
room, furnished luxuriously, and, withal, somewhat meretriciously, the
walls lined with long mirrors and pictures suggesting that the persons
there delineated were the denizens of countries whose climate was more
than temperate—to judge from their costume, or the absence of it;
ottomans and lounges, heavily gilt and silk upholstered, dotted about;
and the whole brilliantly illuminated by the soft light of innumerable
wax candles;—were about sixty persons of both sexes—the men
predominating—in evening dress of the very latest fashion, some of the
ladies being conspicuous more by the audacity than the elegance of their
attire.  Some were walking about the room talking and laughing,
occasionally pausing at the different tables to watch the progress of
the game.  But most of them were either seated at the tables, or
standing behind the sitters engaged at play.  Faro, hazard and other
convenient modes for winning and losing money rapidly were going on.

Perry cast his eye carefully round the room, and nodded to several
persons whom he knew.  "The man we want is not here yet," he whispered
to St. Just.  "I think we had better join in the play, if we can find a
table where it is not too high.  For a stranger to come here and refrain
from doing so would look singular."

St. Just at once assented, and they strolled about the room in search of
a table.

Presently a man called out, "Come and try your luck, Perry; you won’t be
ruined, we are only small fry here."

"Yes," replied the hosier, "my friend and I will join you;" and he
introduced St. Just—as the Comte St. Clair, of course.

They had been seated at the table but a few minutes, when Sir Henry
Emerson entered the room, and Perry pointed him out to St. Just, and,
during the evening, took an opportunity of introducing them to one
another.  Sir Henry, who took the so-called Comte St. Clair to be an
émigré, and was a strong Royalist, received him in a friendly manner and
offered to present him to the Prince at a Levee to be held next day.  He
added that he would not have another opportunity for some time, for
that, at the conclusion of the function, he would have to start for
Holland with dispatches.

This was the very information St. Just desired.  If the documents were
to be in his hands before Sir Henry left England, he had little time to
lose.  He thanked the speaker for his courtesy, of which he said he
would avail himself, and would present himself for the purpose at the
house of the King’s Messenger at the time appointed.  Then, the hour
being late, he shook hands with him, and he and Perry took their leave.
A modus operandi had to be decided on, and there was little time to do
it in.

However, before they turned in for the night, they had evolved a scheme
they thought would work, if Fortune should prove kind.  There was this
about it, that, if that on which they counted for success were absent,
they would be no worse off than they were before, and no one would know
of their conspiracy.  Since Sir Henry Emerson was to set out so soon as
the Levee should be over, they hoped to see the coveted dispatch lying
in some conspicuous position in his room—if it was not already in his
dispatch box—lest, by any chance he should forget it.

And the next day, when St. Just called, according to appointment, clad
in a levee uniform procured from a costumier, he found that they had not
miscalculated; for there, on a sideboard, in Sir Henry’s room—he
occupied a suite of chambers in King Street, St. James—lay a packet
addressed to "——, His Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary at The Hague."

Perry had accompanied St. Just, making as his excuse a little present he
had brought from his shop for the unsuspecting King’s Messenger.

A look of intelligence passed between the two conspirators when they saw
the packet on the sideboard, which stood close to the door.

Sir Henry Emerson greeted St. Just courteously and then looked
inquiringly at Perry, at the same time saying, "Ah, Perry, my friend,
what’s brought you?  Did you think the Count couldn’t be trusted to find
his way here alone in a hackney coach?"

"Not that, Sir Henry," replied the hosier, "But the air is sharp in
Holland at this time of year, and I have just got in some woolen
jackets—quite a new article—to wear under the coat; and I have ventured
to ask your acceptance of one; you are one of my oldest customers, and
your approval will be of service to me."  He held a fiat brown paper
parcel in his hand.

"Upon my word, Perry, you’re a good fellow," said Sir Henry.  "Egad, it
was very thoughtful of you and I am much obliged to you.  I’ve no doubt
I shall find it very comforting, for, as you say, Holland is deuced cold
in January.  I am afraid I have scarcely time to try it on just now, for
the Count and I must be off to the Levee; but when I come back."

"No need for that, Sir," answered Perry; "it is sure to fit.  These
things are knitted and, within certain limits, will fit any one.  I will
leave it on the sideboard."  He walked up to it, stood his stick in a
corner made by it, and put his parcel on the top of the dispatch for
Holland, at the same time dexterously slipping the packet from
underneath it and transferring it to his breast pocket, his back being
turned to the other two.

This done, he faced about, wished the two gentlemen good day and took
his leave.

"It is time for us to be going too, Count," said Sir Henry, so soon as
Perry had taken his departure, "and I think our coach is at the door."

St. Just rose with alacrity.  He was only too anxious to be gone, before
his host should have discovered that the dispatch was missing.

"I am at your service, Sir Henry," he replied.

"Hulloa!" cried Sir Henry on their way out, "Perry has left his stick
behind," and he pointed to a walking stick in the angle the wall made
with the sideboard.  "Well, it will be safe enough here; no doubt he
will remember where he left it, when he misses it, and will call for
it."

Then they stepped into the coach and were driven to St. James’s Palace
to pay their respects to "the first gentleman in Europe."

Three hours later they returned, St. Just accompanying the King’s
Messenger to his chambers.  He came in merely to thank him for the
attention he had received and to wish him "bon voyage," and was in the
act of leaving, when Perry was announced.

"I stupidly forgot my stick, Sir Henry," he began at once, "when I was
here three hours ago.  Ah, there it is;" espying it in the corner.  It
was a handsome stick with a heavy embossed gold knob; such a stick as
one would not like to lose; so that he might be well excused for calling
for it.  He walked quickly to it, placing one hand in his breast pocket
at the same time.  Then, as though a sudden thought had struck him, he
said, "Oh, if you have now the time, Sir Henry, you might try on the
jacket."  At the same time he took up the brown paper parcel from the
sideboard and brought it towards Sir Henry.  On the spot that it had
covered lay the dispatch once more.

"By all means," replied Sir Henry, "if it will not take long; for I am
due to leave in half an hour."

Perry quickly undid the parcel, the jacket was brought out, admired,
tried on and pronounced an excellent fit, all in the course of a couple
of minutes.  Then St. Just and Perry took their leave, the latter, this
time not forgetting to take his walking stick.

Not a word passed between them on the subject of their visit to Sir
Henry Emerson, until they were closeted in Perry’s parlor.  Then St.
Just, who had been itching all the way to learn what Perry had done,
burst out, "I suppose you managed to take a copy of the dispatch, since
I saw what looked like the original lying on the sideboard, when you
took up the parcel."

"I did," was the reply, "but it took me all my time; there was so much
of it."

He went to a drawer, unlocked it, took out some papers and handed them
to St. Just.  "This is the copy."

St. Just’s eyes sparkled with satisfaction.

"Bravo, my friend," he said, "you have done well.  I don’t know what I
should have done without you.  This is much better than the original,
for the English Government will not know what has occurred; whereas, if
the original had been missed, it would have aroused suspicion, and a
fresh dispatch of different import might have been substituted for it.
Is there any chance of their discovering that the envelope has been
tampered with?  But perhaps you used a fresh one.  But how about the
Foreign Office seal?"

Perry laughed.  "Those are some of my little secrets," he replied; "but
it was the same envelope I replaced, and you may rest assured, my
friend, that it will not be guessed that it has been tampered with.  It
was fortunate that everything favored us.  I expected much more
manoeuvring would have been required to get the packet."

All that remained now, was to remunerate Perry for his services.  St.
Just gave him notes for five thousand francs, with which the hosier
seemed well satisfied.

Later in the evening, they visited several places of amusement, and, the
next morning, St. Just took leave of Perry, and started on his return
for France.  Three days later he presented himself before Mons. de
Talleyrand.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*


It appeared that the dispatch, a copy of which St. Just had contrived to
get, was of great importance.  The First Consul and Talleyrand,
accordingly, were proportionately gratified, and expressed their
satisfaction at St. Just’s aptitude and alertness.  But there was no
warmth about their words, for both were men who put a chain upon their
thoughts and a mask upon their faces.  The cynical diplomatist,
moreover, discouraged and even ridiculed, in others anything that
approached enthusiasm.  But St. Just had not looked for fulsome praise,
and, knowing the character of the two great men, was satisfied with such
faint approval as he had received.  They had said enough to show him
that they thought he had done well.  And this was proved by the First
Consul’s last words when St. Just was quitting his presence.  "Keep
Mons. de Talleyrand informed of your abode, Sir; there may be other work
for you to do."

From this, St. Just had little doubt there would be; that, before long,
Mons. de Talleyrand would send for him again.

A thrill of satisfaction speeded through him at the thought, for, at the
sight of Buonaparte once more, all the subtle influence the General had
on those who came in contact with him had returned; he forgot his
grievance and pursuit of vengeance, and desired nothing better than to
devote himself faithfully for the future to the service of his old
commander.  If only Halima would forego her cravings for revenge.  There
lay the obstacle to his desire.  He resolved to make a strong appeal to
her.  But his hope of success was small, for he knew her headstrong,
dictatorial nature, and how bitter was her rancor against Buonaparte. He
longed to retrace his devious steps and regain the path of honor; but,
were it not, at the same time, the path of passion, he knew he would not
have the strength to take it.  Strong as were the cords that were
drawing him towards Buonaparte, the fetters forged by Halima were
stronger still.

These reflections filled him with despondency, for he could not rid
himself of the conviction that, with Halima unyielding, disaster was
impending; the only question was how soon.

For the moment there was no need to discuss the point with the Egyptian
Beauty, as Talleyrand had called her; for he was, so to speak, in a
position of neutrality.  He would wait and see what the future had in
store for him.

St. Just had not miscalculated, for, three days after his return to
Paris, he received a summons from the wily statesman who at that time
directed the Foreign Affairs of France.

Talleyrand suggested that he should go back to England and remain there,
until otherwise instructed, as a secret agent of the French Government.
He would have to learn all he could of the movements of the émigrés and
the plans of the English Government, and report them to his own.
Further, he would have to execute such instructions as he received.

The proposal was a compliment to his sagacity and discretion, and so St.
Just received it, and was proportionately gratified.  Coming from the
quarter whence it did, it amounted to a command that, even had he
desired to do so, he would not have dared to disobey.

St. Just knew this well; so, without the slightest hesitation, and with
professions of gratitude and allegiance to the Republic, he accepted the
offer made him.

He was given a week for his arrangements; then he was to start for
England.

On leaving the minister, he made his way at once to Halima.  Now that it
was known to the authorities that he was alive and had returned to
Paris, there was no further need for secrecy in his intercourse with his
wife; he could visit Auteuil openly, and as often as he liked.

At first Halima was indignant when she heard of the mission he had
undertaken, and she upbraided him, affecting to believe that he had
accepted it in order to get away from her.  This was too monstrous, and
he indignantly repudiated the imputation, which, he said, could not have
been made seriously.  No one knew better than herself the sacrifices he
had made for her.  He trusted it was only an outburst of
ill-temper—anger and disappointment at the prospect of their being
parted; and this he told her, and she admitted it, saying that she knew
he loved her.  Then she tried her woman’s wiles on him; throwing her
arms around his neck, with mingled embraces, tears and kisses, she
besought him not to leave her; told him that she loved him more than
life, that it would be cruel to desert her; that she would die without
him.  He must tell Mons. de Talleyrand that, on reconsideration, he felt
himself unequal to the work required of him, and must beg to be excused.

He pointed out to her the impossibility, the madness of such a course,
and at last succeeded in convincing her that, were he to do what she
suggested, it would defeat the very object they had in view—the
enjoyment of each other’s company, that he would at once become an
object of suspicion, would be watched and would speedily find himself
arrested.  Thus they would be separated.  Reluctantly, she was compelled
to admit the force of what he said.

"Let me think," she said when he had finished speaking. Her first fury
had spent itself, and, having regard to her emotional nature, she was
calm.

It was several minutes before she spoke again.

Then, "If you must go, and it seems you must, I will follow you to
England," she declared.  "I will not be separated from you again, after
the years we have been parted. I love France: still I should like to see
England.  I suppose the people are not quite uncivilized."

St. Just smiled at this.  Coming from a native of the desert, her
knowledge of men and manners, up to a recent date, having been picked up
at Cairo, the conceit amused him.

She went on, "I am not sure, besides, that a temporary absence from
France, at the present time, would not be wise.  Things are becoming
somewhat risky here.  Since that affair in which you were implicated,
the police have shown more activity than ever.  Some of our friends have
thought it prudent to leave Paris; some even have gone to England.  We
can organize our plans for Buonaparte’s confusion in greater safety
there.  Really, Henri, I am beginning to think that your appointment is
a fortunate occurrence; you will now be able to give us valuable help.
Oh! if the First Consul could only know that he is appointing as his
agent, a man who is pledged to contrive his ruin; who, when told to
watch the Royalists and report their doings, will give him false
intelligence, and will warn them when in danger and keep them informed
of what is doing in the other camp!  The First Consul paying an agent to
betray him!  Oh! it is a rare comedy; it is delicious."  Her eyes
sparkled with delight, her face rippled with animation and she broke
into a ringing laugh, in which was not the slightest affectation.

But St. Just looked very grave.  The picture she had drawn of him was so
absolutely true—and so contemptible. A spy, and not an honest spy; a
traitor to the man who paid him for his espionage.  He writhed inwardly
at his horrible position.  What was comedy to her was to him the direst
tragedy; the enormity of his offense came home to him.  To any honorable
man, whose judgment was not bemused by passion, the situation would be
unbearable. Now was the time, if ever, to pour out his heart in one last
appeal to her to relieve him of his pledge to be avenged on Buonaparte.
He had little hope of its success, but he would make it.

"Oh!  Halima," he cried, and there was a ring of pleading in his tone
that would have roused an echo in any heart not deadened by revenge;
"why nurse this vengeance against that man?  Time generally blunts the
edge of the weapon sharpened for vindictiveness.  It is four years since
this injury was wrought, and no one, but you and me, has knowledge of
it.  If I can overlook it, why not you?  This scheme of vengeance is
blasting my whole career, and, if I am still to prosecute it, will
render me, in the trusted position that has been forced upon me, so
despicable in my own eyes, that death even would be preferable.  Oh! if
you love me—and you say you do—get free of these conspiracies, which, in
your own heart, you know you join in, not from love of France, but hate
of Buonaparte.  And it is useless; he is too strong for you; how can the
hawk aspire to conquer in a contest with the eagle?  Be advised by me,
my dearest, let your vengeance sleep; or, better, let it die.  We love
each other, we have ample means, I have a career before me; this paltry
passion of revenge alone obstructs the road to honor and contentment.
Oh, my dear one, my life, my soul, if you only knew the hell that is
within me, you would be merciful to me, by sparing him.  It is not that
I love him, but he means France, and I love my country—and I love my
honor.  Say, love, shall it be so?  Shall we not bury in the limbo of
oblivion the recollection of your wrong?  Oh, Halima, relieve me of my
pledge to you, and leave me free to do my duty to my country."

He ceased speaking, and scanned her anxiously, to mark the affect of his
appeal.  But the hope that was on his face changed quickly to despair.
Her eyes flashed upon him angrily, and the look she turned on him was
pitiless, infuriated, contemptuous.

"Never!" she cried, and her voice rose almost to a shriek. "I will never
abandon my revenge.  I can wait for its accomplishment, and I know that
time will bring it me.  And you, if you are so poor a thing, you, my
husband, that you will not make my wrong your own, depart; leave me to
work it out alone.  But, if you do, much as I have loved you, I shall
hate you for your pusillanimity even more than I hate him.  Almost I
hate you now, for that you can suggest forgetfulness of my wrong.  Leave
me now, ere I say words to you that cannot be recalled."

Her bosom was heaving with emotion, her eyes were like two balls of fire
that seemed to bulge beneath her brow, and she paced with rapid steps
about the room.  "Go," she repeated, and she threw her hand out towards
him; "go, before my temper gets beyond control."

And, with the feeling that all hope was gone, he left her.

It was two months later; early in March.  Both St. Just and Halima were
in London.  Three days after his fruitless appeal to her to forego her
scheme of vengeance and leave him free to follow the path of duty, he
had started for England, whither, a fortnight afterwards, she had
followed him.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Halima was living in a London suburb—the district now known as Earl’s
Court.  A Lord Hartford, a strong supporter of the French Royalists, and
a friend and great admirer of the dark-eyed beauty, had placed a house
he had there at her disposal.  It was a roomy, old-fashioned red-brick
structure standing in its own grounds, which were of considerable
extent.

It was one o’clock in the morning.  In a large room to the right of the
hall, a room with long French windows that gave in to the well-kept
garden, a merry party sat at supper; the men numbered about thirty,
while the ladies did not exceed a dozen; all were dressed in the height
of the prevailing fashion, and each wore a white rosette pinned to coat
or gown, the emblem of the cause they were supporting.  The meal was
practically over, and many of the guests had drawn their chairs back
from the table and were sitting about in groups engaged in animated
conversation, interspersed with occasional bursts of merriment and
ringing laughter from the lips of some fair woman; for they had supped
well, and the wine had passed round freely, warming hearts, sharpening
wits and unlocking lips.

One person alone sat moodily apart, seeming to take no interest in the
doings of the merry crew; a thin, sallow complexioned man with a nervous
manner; his eyes moved uneasily about the room, and, more from
restlessness, to judge from his appearance, than that he took much
pleasure in it, he kept taking sips from a glass of wine that stood in
front of him.  When anyone addressed him, it was as Mons. de Guichard,
but his real name was Querel.  He had been a surgeon in the Royalist
army and had joined in the plot to reinstate the Bourbons, and affected
to be one of the most ardent supporters of the cause.

Suddenly there was a lull in the laughter and conversation, and all eyes
were turned to the most beautiful and most extravagantly dressed woman
present.  She was robed in a gown of white satin, cut, with an audacity
that bordered on immodesty, so as to display as much as she durst of the
voluptuous charms with which Nature had endowed her—her beautifully
rounded arms, which were bare to the shoulder, where a narrow band,
gem-studded, crossed them, and the exquisite curves of her neck and
swelling bosom, on which a diamond necklace reflected a thousand
sparkles from the wax-lights about the room.  Her blue black eyes were
like two gleaming stars as she flashed them round the company; her face
was flushed with excitement, in part due to wine, and her expression and
whole bearing testified to a feeling of triumphant joy at the
consciousness of her rare outward gifts and their power to sway the
other sex and mold all men to her will.

The eyes of the man with the sallow face, de Guichard, no longer roved
about the room, but fixed themselves on her with a hungry lust that was
almost brutal.

Halima sprang quickly to her feet and raised aloft a glass filled almost
to the brim with foaming wine.  Instantly the talk and laughter, that
had been lessening, in expectation of her action, became completely
hushed.  Not only so, but all sat immovable.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," she began, "before we part, I have a toast to
give you.  Most of you were present at our meeting before supper, and
know what was resolved on, but, for the information of those who were
not in time for it, I will repeat that our plans are at last complete
for restoring to France her rightful King.  A messenger goes to-night to
make them known to our faithful friends in Paris, and to encourage them
to keep up their hearts. Courage, my friends, for the blow will soon be
struck that shall hurl the bragging upstart from the height he has had
the temerity to mount.  This is the toast I ask you to join me in:
’Success to the White Rosette and the cause it typifies, our King’s.’
Also to our next meeting in Paris, fixed for the 25th of March.  Vive le
Roi!"

She swung the glass about her head, sprinkling, unintentionally, drops
of wine on those about her; then she brought it to her lips and emptied
it at a draught; then flung it down, and it splintered into fragments on
the floor.

Instantly all present sprang to their feet, and the cry went up "Success
to the White Rosette!  Vive le Roi!" the shriller notes of the women
mingling with the rougher tones of the men.  The glasses were clinked
together then drained to the bottom and, finally like Halima’s shattered
to atoms on the ground.  Employed in a cause deemed almost sacred, they
should be put to no common use again.  Then deafening shouts and cheers
went up, and the enthusiasm became intense, the gentlemen drawing and
brandishing their swords, and the ladies waving their
pocket-handkerchiefs, and fluttering their fans.  "Vive le Roi!  Vive
Louis XVIII" again and again they cried.

Gradually the excitement wore itself away, and the party began to
separate, some taking their departure, others making their way to the
drawing-room, whence soon the strains of music could be heard.  Some of
the gentlemen, inveterate topers, following the custom of the times,
lingered in the dining-room over their wine, but others, votaries of
Venus, rather than of Bacchus, followed the ladies into the
drawing-room.  Amongst them was Mons. de Guichard, whose eye quickly
singled out their hostess, who flitted about from group to group,
dropping sugared words, varied according to the taste and sex of the
recipients, among ladies and gentlemen alike.  He made several efforts
to gain her side, but each time, almost before he had reached her, she
had moved away.

But, at last, he saw his opportunity.  He had seated himself near the
door, and Halima had just taken leave of some of her guests, and was
passing him on her return.  He rose to his feet, and bowing courteously,
"Madame," he said, "may I beg the favor of five minutes’ conversation
with you privately on a matter of great moment?"

His manner was so confused, he hesitated and was so ill at ease, his
face contorted and twitching with emotion she failed to comprehend, that
her first sentiment was of alarm.

"Alone?" she asked, her tone and face expressing her surprise.

He made no verbal answer, but merely bowed assent.

Halima had no lack of courage, and her first emotion had been but
momentary.  "If you will follow me, Monsieur," she said.  "But I trust
our interview will not take long.  Indeed, I cannot for more than a few
minutes neglect my duties as a hostess."

She passed out of the room and led the way along the hall—throwing a
dark cloak over her shoulders on the way—to a glass door that, by a
short flight of steps, gave access to the garden, he following her.
With rapid strides, they threaded several winding paths, coming out at
last in front of a small pavilion, which she entered, inviting him to
follow.

Halima closed the door, then, tapping the floor impatiently with her
foot, she said, "I hope our business will not occupy us for more than a
brief space, and that its importance will justify my seeming rudeness to
my guests. Besides," and here she stifled a yawn behind her fan, "the
hour grows late, and I am tired."

For a moment, the man stood silent, then, with gleaming eyes, their
brightness scintillating even in the semi-darkness of the chamber, his
words rushed out in a torrent.

"Oh!  Madame, can you not see what I would say to you? You are a woman,
does not your heart tell you of the fire that is consuming me?  Madame,
no words of mine—nay, it is not in the power of language to express
it—can make you know the depth of my devotion to you.  I love you, I
adore you, I could kiss the very ground your foot has pressed.  My peace
of mind is gone, a tempest rages furiously within me.  Every word you
say to another stings me, every look, every smile bestowed on others is
gall and wormwood to me.  I live only in your presence.  Without you,
death is to be desired.  Why think you I have put my life in peril and
joined this conspiracy?  ’Tis for love of you. Kings, countries,
statesmen, all else in this world, count to me for nothing when weighed
with you.  With you I feel it in me to achieve great things, to dare all
dangers.  Your society is eagerly desired, you are admired, beloved, you
hold an important position in this enterprise to reinstate the King;
but, supported by your love, I can secure for you even a higher place
than you have yet attained, or ever will without me.  Madame, does not
my fervor melt you?  Will you bid me hope?"

He ceased speaking, and gazed down into her face, searching anxiously
for some sign that he had moved her.  His face was deathly white, and
his breath came throbbingly in the intensity of his suspense.

But she remained unmoved.  For one thing, she did not like the man; had
never felt assured that he was trustworthy.  Had almost any other man
evinced such passion for her, even had it awakened no responsive chord
in her, would have felt touched, and, to spare him would have checked
him at the outset.  But this man she felt she hated.

"I don’t know which amazes me the most, Sir," she replied; "your
temerity, or your vanity.  What have I ever said or done to warrant your
addressing me in terms of love?  I can charge myself with nothing that
should have prompted it.  It must be that you have too liberally
indulged in wine, and that your wits have gone awandering.  I will leave
you to regain your scattered senses."

The measured incisiveness of her tone, and the contemptuous expression
of her face would have silenced most men, but he was mad with passion.
When she moved to go, he placed himself before her.  "If I am drunk," he
said, "’tis not with wine, but love.  Oh! how can so fair a form, that
glows with life, and warmth, enshrine so cold a heart?  An icicle shut
up within a jeweled casket.  You heed not that my heart is lacerated,
and for love of you.  But have a care, for passion makes one desperate.
Oh!  Madame," and his voice changed suddenly to a wail, "forgive me and
relent."  He reached out his hand and clutched her dress.

"Unhand me, Sir."  She spoke quietly enough, but rage was gathering in
her face, and some little trepidation.  They were some distance from the
house and, for aught she knew, no one was within call.

But his passion had passed beyond his power.  A salacious glare was in
his eye, and his lips twitched lustfully.  The next moment he had caught
her to him and almost stifled her in his embrace.  She felt his hot
breath on her face, his kisses on her lips.  Oh! how she loathed the
man.  A piercing shriek went up.  There was a sound of rushing feet
outside, the door of the pavilion was flung open, and two men burst in.

One wore a plain traveling suit, the other was dressed in the height of
fashion; but both were shrouded in long cloaks.

At their entrance, de Guichard loosed his hold on Halima, who was
panting and almost speechless with rage and shame, at the insult put
upon her.

The first of the newcomers—he was St. Just—turned savagely on de
Guichard.  "Explain your presence here, Sir," he exclaimed.

But the man stood tongue-tied.  The change in the position had been so
rapid and unlooked for, that he was at a loss for words.

"This man has insulted me, Henri," Halima broke in, speaking in gasps;
"I came here with him, believing he had political secrets to impart; but
he took the opportunity of forcing his attentions on me, and when I
repelled him, he seized me in his arms and kissed me.  Then I screamed."

"Hah! is it so, Sir?" exclaimed St. Just.  "I will teach you a lesson,
you will not easily forget.  If you received what you deserve, I would
thrash you like a cur; but, since you have the appearance of a gentleman
and wear a sword. I will give you the opportunity of using it.  Draw,
Sir!"

St. Just’s words and Halima’s had given de Guichard time to regain his
self-possession.

"And pray, Sir," he said, "what right have you to interfere in another’s
love affair?  I came here by this lady’s invitation.  Doubtless, but for
you and your companion, we should have arranged our little difference,
for ’the quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love.’"

"We waste time, Sir," St. Just broke out.  "Draw, before I buffet you in
the face.  I might prove a special right to make this lady’s quarrel
mine; but I am content to assert that by which every honorable man is
moved to avenge a woman’s injuries."

"I do not fight before women," returned de Guichard sullenly.  "And
there is no light here; we cannot fight in the dark."

"As to fighting before a woman, Sir," Halima interposed, "for that you
have my full permission; further, it would afford me satisfaction; the
wrong is mine, I should like to witness its avenging.  And, for light,
that soon can be procured.  Oblige me with your tinder box, Sir."  The
last words were spoken to her husband.

He gave her what she asked for, and soon she had set a light to several
wax candles about the room.  While she was thus engaged, no word was
spoken aloud, but St. Just stepped up to his companion and whispered in
his ear.  The other nodded in reply, and then St. Just removed his
cloak.

Her task performed, Halima took her stand beside her husband, a joyous,
cruel glow of expectation on her face. She sprang from a race of
warriors, and the din of battle was music to her ears; her eyes were
like two dancing sparks, as they flashed impatiently at the prospect of
a struggle between two men with hatred in their breasts; and her
nostrils were distended, as though, in anticipation, they sniffed the
scent of blood.  The animal bulked largely in her nature.  She seemed to
have no fear as to the result of the encounter; indeed she had not
thought of that, and if she had, she would not have been greatly
troubled; for she knew her husband was a skillful swordsman; of the
other’s prowess she knew nothing.

Both men were very pale, St. Just with rage, de Guichard with that and
baffled lust.

"Are you ready, Gentlemen?" cried Halima, who seemed to have taken the
whole management upon herself.  "Then draw."

She stepped back and placed herself midway between the combatants, the
stranger taking up a like position facing her.

Then the two men advanced, and drew their weapons. There was the clash
of steel opposed to steel; the duel had begun.

It was soon apparent that science would play but a small part in the
encounter; the temper of both men forbade it; St. Just fought furiously,
de Guichard desperately; the exchanges were made rapidly and with a
will: there was no attempt at feinting—only the cut and dried attacks,
parried in the ordinary way.  So far as skill went, there was not much
to choose between the combatants; their strength also seemed
well-matched.  Spite of the vigorous nature of their onslaughts, for
some minutes there was no palpable result; all that happened was that
they began to labor more in breathing.  Suddenly St. Just, in making a
furious lunge, slipped on the polished floor and fell, his blade, in the
fall, snapping short off at the hilt.

De Guichard, desiring only to escape, now thought he saw his chance.
Making a cut at the candle held by St. Just’s companion, he sliced off
the lighted end: then, in the comparative darkness and confusion, he
bounded to the door and rushed out into the darkness, brushing against a
man who was advancing.  Meanwhile, St. Just had regained his feet and,
seeing his late opponent’s retreating back, had hurled his sword hilt
after him.

The next moment, preceded by a torrent of strong oaths in Breton French,
a man entered the pavilion.  He looked from one to the other in
surprise; then, recognizing St. Just, "Confound it, man, do you want to
break my shins? Am I Goliath and you David that you sling things at me?"

At this the man who had accompanied St. Just threw himself into a chair
and laughed heartily.

But Halima and St. Just exclaimed together, "Cadoudal! How come you
here?  We thought you were in Paris?"

"No," replied Cadoudal, "I landed in England this morning and came on
here at once in the hope of meeting His Royal Highness; and I am
fortunate in doing so."  He bowed low to the man who had entered with
St. Just, the Comte d’Artois.  "The time for our rising is close at
hand. ’Tis now, or never with us.  We must start for Paris at once. The
Jacobins wait but a signal from us to light the torch of revolution."

"Bravo!  Vive le Roi!" cried Halima, almost before Cadoudal had ceased
speaking.  "Down with the oppressor. To Paris, gentlemen, to Paris."
She sprang to her feet and began to chant a Royalist hymn.

In the excitement that followed on the disclosure of the Chouan leader’s
news, de Guichard, now speeding citywards, was forgotten.  And, on the
morrow, while the other conspirators yet lingered, and St. Just was
hastening to Ettenheim, with a letter for the ill-fated Duc d’Enghein,
urging him to join the cause, the traitor de Guichard was being borne
across the channel, as fast as ship could take him, to France and
Buonaparte.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*


A long stretch of road wound its way along, until it was lost in the
distance in a thin white thread.  At intervals at both sides were wooden
pillars painted in the national colors of Baden.  Not far away, a broad
river swept along, following the same course as the road.

Moving along the road in silence, was a squadron of dragoons, at their
head a stern-faced officer; but between him and it, two closely-guarded
carriages.

In the first was seated St. Just, and by his side an older man, whom the
former had just addressed as General Dumouriez, opposite to them sat two
soldiers, their guards.  In the second carriage was a young man of
refined appearance, whose countenance, at this moment, was racked with
anguish.

"My wife, my poor wife!" he murmured.

The sun was rising on the 15th of March, 1804.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Within the narrow walls of a square-chamber, which was bare of
furniture, save for a common wooden table, a man was seated on a rudely
constructed stool.  His face could not be seen, for it was hidden in his
hands, his elbows resting on his knees.  His whole attitude bespoke
despair—despair that was well-founded, for he was waiting, waiting
hopelessly, for the death he felt was close at hand.

It was St. Just, and he was immured in the fortress of Vincennes.

Presently he started to his feet, and then could be seen the havoc
wrought upon his countenance by grief and disappointment.  The bloom of
health was gone, and his cheeks were pale and sunken, the bones above
them bulging over the cavities below; the flesh hung down in leathery
folds; deep lines scored his forehead, and his eyes, dim and lusterless,
were seated far back in their sockets.  Nothing in his appearance
recalled the gay lieutenant of the Directory.

He began to pace his narrow cell with rapid steps, as though he hoped
thereby to thrust away from him the thought of his impending fate.
Backwards and forwards, like a caged animal, he tramped the straitened
chamber; but, though he speeded his footsteps till they approached a
run, he could put no space between his thoughts and him; he knew that
hope had flown; their plot had failed, and he was lost.

With a sigh, so deep and loud that it sounded like a groan, he checked
his restless pacing, and sank once more wearily on to the wooden stool.

Then, like the fugitive figures in a kaleidoscope, the late occurrences,
that had followed each other in a rush, arranged themselves in changing
pictures before his mental eye, and thought moved with them.

The picture of his wife came first, standing in the pavilion in the
garden of Hartford House, her lovely face glowing with excitement at
Cadoudal’s news and the prospect of the speedy success of their
conspiracy.  He had taken leave of her and the Comte d’Artois and
Cadoudal there and then, and started forthwith on his mission to the
heads of the conspiracy.  What was she doing now?  By her obstinacy and
vindictiveness she had wrought his ruin.  Not intentionally, but it had
been the necessary sequence of her conduct.  Despite his passion for
her, the anger raged so fiercely in him, that, for the moment, he felt
he almost hated her; that, if she then had stood before him, he could
have struck her down.  He cursed the mad infatuation that had merged his
life in hers.

Then he followed in imagination his movements in that fateful journey,
from the moment of his leaving her; his drive that night by poste chaise
to the little town of Alfriston in Sussex, and the breakfast that
followed at the Star Inn there.  Then his embarkation, at the mouth of
the Cuckmere River, upon Captain Wright’s sloop, and the midnight
landing below the cliff at Bévile.  He could almost feel himself now
being hauled up that cliff with a swinging him round and round and
bruising him against protruding lumps of chalk; he could almost hear the
screaming of the gulls disturbed by him in his ascent.

He recalled the days of terror that had followed, when each conspirator
(traveling for the most part without papers) sometimes as a beggar,
sometimes as a pedlar, secretly and swiftly as he could, tramped his way
along the country that lay between the sea and Paris.  He thought of the
many perils of discovery he had undergone from barking dogs at country
houses on his way, and the espionage, and suspicions of some of the
Government officials; of his manner of getting into Paris, hidden, as he
had been, under the tarpaulin of a hay-wagon, whose driver he had
hoodwinked into the belief that he was a deserter.

Then onward marched his thoughts and he found himself at Ettenheim with
the Duc d’Enghien.  He remembered that that visit had been rendered
futile by the Duc’s mistress, who had besought her lover not to risk his
life in France, but to abide where he then was; and that her arguments
had prevailed.

At this, he had gone on to Paris to report the failure of his mission to
the Duc; and there had been a period of awful waiting, of terrible
suspense.  Then, when everything had seemed ripe for action, still no
active steps had been taken; everyone had seemed afraid to make the
plunge into the whirlpool of revolt.  And, while they had hesitated,
whispers of treachery had been heard, at first vague and contradictory;
gradually they had gathered strength, and, at last, the news had
thundered on them that Moreau and Pichegru had been arrested, and that
the Comte d’Artois had fled precipitately to the coast.

Their leaders gone, the others had feared to rise; and he himself had
hurried again to Ettenheim to warn the Duc d’Enghien of his danger.

How vividly he recalled the interview in the library, the hurried
burning of the compromising papers, and the scattering of their ashes in
the moat; the tearful entreaties of the Duchesse (so called) that they
should remain there just one more night; and then, last scene of all,
the startling summons at the chateau, the tramp of the soldiers through
the corridors, when they had gained admission, the rude awakening, the
peremptory orders to rise and dress immediately, the journey, in the
still, silent night, that had ended at Vincennes.

This was the final picture that was presented to his mind, and it
brought him to the present.  He was a prisoner in the gloomy fortress,
from which death only would release him!  Truly his heart was full of
anguish and regret; he had sacrificed all for love of Halima, and,
notwithstanding, had failed in gaining that for which he had made the
sacrifice; for he could not doubt that he had seen her for the last
time.  The First Consul would not again forgive him; he had warned him
on the last occasion.

He moved wearily to the window of his cell and gazed out on the inner
moat, pressing his head against the iron bars; it was burning and racked
with pain, and the cold was grateful to him.

It was close on dawn, and in the dim gray light, there came in view a
party of soldiers with an officer.  Some carried torches and lighted
lanterns, and others spades and mattocks.

The officer looked around and, presently, pointed to a spot; then the
men began to dig there, the watcher at the narrow window speculating,
with half-listless curiosity, what could be their object; were they
seeking a buried treasure?

Gradually the light of day crept up, and, at its approach, the torches’
flare and the feeble glimmer from the lanterns began to wane, until,
when the golden sheen, fast spreading over the Eastern sky, announced
the birth of another day, they could no longer be discerned.

Then the meaning of what these men were doing flashed all at once upon
St. Just, and he became sick with horror. The shape and size of the
opening they were making proclaimed with fearful certainty its purpose.
It was a grave.

For whom?  For him?  A great fear fell upon him; a deadly faintness
overcame him for the moment, but, with a strong effort, he forced it
back.  He could not take his eyes away; a sort of fascination seemed to
glue them to the scene.

At last the grave was finished and the diggers stood at ease, and began
to wipe the sweat from off their foreheads, for the work had been both
arduous and rapidly performed. Suddenly their officer gave the word of
command, and caps were replaced and the men ranged themselves in a line
and stood at attention.

The reason was soon apparent; a file of soldiers wheeled round the
corner and were halted at some thirty paces from the grave.  Then more
soldiers came in sight, and in the midst of them—some before and some
behind him—walked a man, wearing only his shirt and pantaloons.  The
prisoner was marched up to the newly opened grave and halted; his guards
fell back and he stood there alone, awaiting death.

Then the full horror of the situation burst forth upon St. Just; the man
who faced him was the Duc d’Enghien. Doubtless his own fate would be the
same!

And now an officer approached the man whose course was all but run; and
St. Just could see that the Duc was addressing him with vehemence; nay,
in the clear still air, he could hear his very words.

"Sir, I protest against this outrage, in the face of God and man.  Your
ruler must be mad to do that which will raise all Europe against him."

But the officer shook his head and refused to allow him to proceed.
Meanwhile, the firing party had been drawn up in line, their muskets in
position.  The officer in command stepped back, then raised his sword.

There was a sharp cry and, at the same moment, the crack of musketry.
The murdered Royalist reeled, spun half round, clutching convulsively at
his throat with both hands, in his death agony, and fell backward into
the grave.

Sick at heart at the bloody spectacle he had just witnessed, St. Just
strove to avert his gaze, but a compelling fascination seemed to chain
him to the window.  The officer gave some directions to the men.  Those
with spades advanced and began to throw in the soil.  The foul deed that
horrified all Europe was accomplished.

The filling of the grave was soon completed, and the footsteps of the
last actors in the grisly drama died away, and all that remained to mark
the tragedy that had been enacted was a slight mound upon the ground,
watched by a little dog—his master’s favorite—that, ever and anon, sent
up a piteous howl to note its sense of its bereavement.

Then St. Just, no longer supported by excitement, felt his knees begin
to totter, and a deadly sickness overtake him; he clutched at the iron
bars to hold him up, but his grasp was feeble, and gradually it relaxed.

He swayed to and fro; then fell fainting to the floor.



                        *THE EMPEROR NAPOLEON.*


                              *EPOCH III.*


                        *THE EMPEROR NAPOLEON.*


                              *CHAPTER I.*


Eighteen months elapsed before there was any change in St. Just’s
condition.  All that time he remained a prisoner in the fortress of
Vincennes.

When, at the sight of the execution of the Duc d’Enghien, he had fallen
fainting to the ground, he had struck his head violently against the
stone floor, with the result that when, later, his jailer entered his
cell, he was still insensible.  All attempts to rouse him proving
fruitless, the garrison surgeon was called in.  He pronounced St. Just’s
condition to be very serious, and warned the Government that, unless the
patient received the utmost care, he would slip through their fingers.
So he was at once removed to a more comfortable apartment; but it was
several months before he regained his strength.  Brain fever, the result
of the privations he had undergone, culminating in the awful shock of
the Duc d’Enghien’s murder, set in, and, for weeks, he lay unconscious,
sometimes delirious, with occasional lucid intervals.  More than once
they thought that life had left him, but he rallied just in time.  At
last, the fever was subdued, and, from that moment, though he was at
first so weak as to be unable to raise his hand, he began rapidly to
regain his strength.

In all probability his illness saved his life, for to try him for
treason was impossible.  The Governor informed Buonaparte of his
condition, and received orders that he was to be detained in the
fortress until further notice, but to be treated with no unnecessary
harshness, and to be allowed such liberty as was consistent with his
safe keeping.  This had been due to Josephine’s intercession; she had
not forgotten St. Just’s services to her husband on the night when she
first met the young lieutenant; also she had been struck with his
handsome face and manly bearing, and had a somewhat tender feeling
towards him.

When he had recovered, he was allowed a fair amount of liberty within
the fortress, with as much outdoor exercise as he desired, but this was
on parole.  At first he was naturally very anxious, for he had not
forgotten the tragedy he had witnessed, and for some months he lived in
perpetual apprehension of hearing that the moment for his execution had
arrived: or, at any rate, that he was to be tried for treason—and this
would have amounted in the end to the same thing; for that he would be
found guilty there could not be a doubt.

But, when month succeeded month, and he received no untoward news, his
hope revived and gradually strengthened into confidence that his life
was to be spared.

The fact was that stirring events in France had succeeded each other
with such rapidity, and Buonaparte’s mind was so occupied with weightier
matters, that he forgot all about St. Just, who might have spent the
remainder of his days a prisoner, but for an accident to be presently
described.

One evening, when he was sitting by his window musing over all that had
occurred to him since he had regained his memory at Marsala and returned
to France, he was surprised to receive a visit from the governor.  He
was surprised because it was usual, when that functionary desired an
interview with a prisoner, for such prisoner to be brought before him at
his own quarters; not for him to go to the prisoner.

So, when his door was opened and St. Just recognized his visitor, he
feared that it portended mischief to himself, and a vague dread came
over him.  He sprang in some confusion from his seat, and had just begun
to greet the governor respectfully when his eye fell on another person
who was following him.  The sight almost took away his breath; if his
apprehension of evil had been vague before, it was now distinct enough,
for the man was Buonaparte!

"The—the First Consul!" he gasped in terror, when the short figure and
pale face of the "Man of Destiny" confronted him.

A grim smile flitted about the great man’s features, and, with his hands
crossed behind his back, he turned to the governor, who, hat in hand,
had stood aside respectfully; then he said in his harsh, rapid tones:—

"Evidently, Mons. le Gouverneur, your lodgers hear nothing of what goes
on in the outside world."

"Not a word, Sire; it is forbidden within these walls."

At that word, "Sire," St. Just gave a start.  What did it portend?  He
noted, too, that the governor’s manner was rather that of a subject to a
monarch than of an official to the head of a republic.  Had Buonaparte
indeed, become King of France?

While he was still wondering, Buonaparte, who, in the dim twilight had
not recognized him, turned to him and inquired sharply, "Your name,
sir."

"St. Just, Sire," was the reply, he deeming it wise to use the same form
of address that the governor had employed; but he was trembling visibly.

Buonaparte started, and again a cruel smile hovered about his mouth;
then the words fell from him in a torrent:—

"So it is you, Sir.  I had forgotten you.  By my faith, it was a fitting
return you made for my clemency in allowing you to live.  You plotted
against me once and I forgave you; I have spared your life a second
time, regardful of my promise; can you suppose that, but for that, you
would have lived an hour after you had been brought here?  And it is to
my wife that you are principally indebted; it was she who reminded me of
my pledge.  You have a good friend in the Empress.  But for her, you
would have been shot, as you deserved, and buried in yonder ditch."  And
he pointed towards the window, and beyond to the very spot on which the
young Duc d’Enghien had been done to death.

St. Just’s first fear had somehow passed away, and an irresistible
impulse took possession of him to speak out all that was in his mind.
Smarting at the Emperor’s contemptuous lashings, boiling over with
indignation at his wife’s seduction and all that had followed as a
consequence, he felt that even the certainty of instant death could not
restrain him.  He must speak and he would.

He drew himself upright and looked unflinchingly in the conqueror’s
face.

"It is true that you have spared my life," he said; "but of what value
is it, since you have poisoned it?  It would have been no misfortune to
have died like him, whose grave you can see out yonder, innocent of all,
except the attempt to rid France of a despot.  I could even have
welcomed death, had I succeeded."

The governor was astonished at St. Just’s temerity.  He stepped forward
and drew his sword, and, but for the Emperor’s interference, would have
cut down the audacious speaker.

But Napoleon waved him back.

"Nay, do not seek to check him," he said calmly.  "I would hear him out.
When the tongue wags freely, we learn who are our friends and who our
enemies.  Proceed, Sir," to St. Just.

At the Emperor’s words and tone St. Just was greatly discomposed, but,
having started, he could not now draw back.  For all that, his
confidence and rage were waning fast, and he proceeded stumblingly:—

"Was it honorable to seduce the woman to whom I was affianced, and, with
that object, to do your best to send me to my death?  In such
circumstances, would not you strive to be revenged; would not you strike
down the man who should dishonor her you love?"

"Tut, tut, man," struck in Napoleon, "I like not generalities.  Let us
inform ourselves of whom we talk about. Is it Madame de Moncourt of whom
you speak?"

"It is."

"And pray, Sir, what right had one of my officers when on duty in the
field to enter into a marriage contract without my permission?  But let
that pass.  In the first instance I did not know how matters stood
between you. Possibly, had you taken me into your confidence, events
might have taken a different course.  But do you mean to tell me
seriously that this is the reason of your treachery? That, with a grand
career before you, you sacrificed your whole future for a woman; that,
instead of remaining brave and honorable, as I know you were, you could
become a traitor to your country, a deserter from your colors, a
creature forced to crawl about disguised, a plotter of assassination;
and all this because a woman has smiled upon another?  What is woman? a
toy, a plaything for an hour; a bagatelle not worth consideration in
comparison to a man’s career.  I did not think you had been so great a
fool.  And it was for this, you madman, that you raised your feeble hand
at me!"

And the Emperor laughed boisterously.  St. Just became more and more
confused.  Napoleon’s mockery hit him hard.  All his angry vehemence had
left him, and with it all his hope.  He no longer stood erect, but hung
his head. He felt as though his speech had left him; but, with a mighty
effort he managed to force out the words:—

"Yes, that was my sole reason.  Now do with me what you will.  I do not
flinch from death, and will meet it like a soldier."  And, with these
words, he once more stood upright, expecting, the next moment, to hear
his doom.  He was resolved to receive it like a man.

For a short space no one spoke.  As for the governor, he was amazed.  It
astounded him how any one could dare to beard Napoleon.

The Emperor took a step or two to the window and gazed out, his eye
reposing on the low mound, below which lay buried the body of the
murdered Bourbon.  He was debating how to deal with the man who had had
the rashness to speak his mind to him.  He was not magnanimous, but he
was whimsical; many of his actions that were attributed to generosity
were actually the outcome of caprice, and, sometimes, of a belief in
fate.

Twice he resorted to his snuff-box, as though hoping to gain inspiration
from it.  Then he wheeled round sharply and fixed his piercing eyes upon
St. Just, who stood trembling at his own audacity, and at the
expectation that the first words that would reach his ear would sound
his death knell.  He was astonished, therefore, at what they really
were.

"You have made a great mistake, my friend.  Doubtless the best way to
prevent its repetition, would be to have you shot.  But I will spare
your life, once more; you might think, otherwise, that I went in fear of
you.  Pshaw! a lion does not dread a snapping cur.  For all that I would
send you to the traitor’s fate, but that the memory of one man’s death
restrains me."  He pointed to the ominous mound that varied the level of
the moat.  "You may thank your star for that."

He paused and began to pace the room, the eyes of the other two men
watching every moment; they scarce durst breathe.  Their suspense was
becoming almost unbearable, when he spoke again.

"You shall have your liberty once more, Sir; but—before I leave, I will
sign the necessary papers for your release—not in France.  On leaving
here, you will proceed to Ministry of Marine with a letter I shall give
you, authorizing and instructing the Minister to give you a packet of
papers.  With these you will proceed to England, where you will hand
them to Mr. Perry, the hosier in London. You know the man, having made
his acquaintance on a previous occasion, when he helped you to intercept
a despatch from the English Government to their Minister at the Hague.
I have no more to add, except that you will not return to France,
without permission.  If you do, your death be on your head."

He turned to go; then wheeled round suddenly and shook his hand
threateningly at St. Just.  "And beware, Sir; think not to escape my
vengeance, if you again betray my trust.  Even in England you will find
my arm long enough to reach you.  Spies will dog your steps; so have a
care, Sir, have a care."

He walked rapidly to the door, the governor, at his heels, the latter
throwing the words to St. Just on his way out, "I will have everything
put in order for your journey at once."

Left to himself, St. Just tottered to a seat and panted audibly, for
such were the strength and conflict of his emotions and the violent
beating of his heart, which seemed struggling to burst from its fleshy
prison, that his breath could only come in short, quick sobs.  He seemed
to have withered up under the fire of Napoleon’s scorching words. Shame,
remorse, hatred, thirst for vengeance, and a sense of utter impotence,
all fought together within him, and were tearing him to pieces in the
contest.  Oh! that he could relive the past, blot out the present, cast
in a nobler mould his future!  But alas! he knew the hopelessness of his
aspirations!  He had the rectitude to wish aright, but not the will to
do.  He knew that, in Halima’s hands, he would be as wax.  Honor, for
him, involved a life apart from her; for the Emperor, in sending him to
England, was, without meaning it, sending him to dishonor.

For one mad moment, he thought of refusing to obey the Emperor’s
command, and submitting to the consequences. It was certain death; but
what of that?  It would save his honor.  And the pain; that would be
only momentary; he had suffered far more anguish in the battlefield; and
to be shot was a fitting end to a soldier’s life.

But death meant never again to set eyes on Halima.  No, he could not
face it.  Not yet.

An hour later he had left Vincennes, and, three days afterwards, he was
in London.

At once he made his way to Hartford House, his mind disturbed with
mingled hopes and fears.  For aught he knew, his wife no longer lived,
and, if she did, it did not follow that she was even in England.

But his mind was quickly set at rest on both these points. Of the
servants who came in answer to his summons he inquired whether Halima
still lived there, asking for her in her mother’s name, for he did not
know whether she had thought fit to adopt his own.

The man replied that Madame de Moncourt still lived there and was at
home.  Oh! the relief at this intelligence! By his emotions at that
moment, St. Just knew what would have been his feelings, had the reply
been different.  Yes, Halima was still all in all to him.  His spirits
sprang up with a bound; he had made his inquiry in a tone of mingled
eagerness and dread; but now his whole mien and manner changed; a gleam
of pleasure lighted up his face, and his tone was bright and cheerful.

"Will you tell Madame," he said, "that a messenger has arrived from
France on business of importance, and begs the favor of an interview?"

Since the servant did not know him, he would not give his name.

The man invited him to enter, and showed him into an anteroom off the
hall.

Presently he heard a step upon the staircase, that sent a thrill right
through him and made the heart within him dance with joy.  For the
moment, all the past was blotted out; all his shame, his rage, his
desire to be revenged upon Napoleon, were as though they had never been;
he lived only in the present.

He had been warming his hands before the fire, but, at the opening of
the door, he swung round and faced her.

She advanced into the room with a quick, gliding motion, a look of eager
expectation on her face.  Then, bending courteously, she said, "I bid
you welcome, Sir.  I understand you are direct from France, and are the
bearer of important news.  Does it by any chance concern—Vincennes? I am
deeply interested in one—"

All the while she had fixed her eyes piercingly, inquiringly upon St.
Just, scrutinizing him from head to foot. Suddenly they glowed with a
brighter light, and a flash of joyous recognition was darted from their
depths.

"Henri!" she cried, nay, almost shrieked; and she rushed to him and
threw her arms around his neck.  She drew his head down to her own and
covered him with kisses.  "Oh! my darling, to think that you are given
back to me once more.  And I had mourned you so, and had tried, oh my
very hardest, for your release; and the terror I have been in lest—but
there, I cannot put it into words.  But it is over, and you have come
back to me, my dearest.  Oh! my happiness is too great."

She burst out laughing; then she began to sob hysterically, and the
tears fell from her eyes in scalding drops.

St. Just laid his hand gently on her gold brown locks and stroked them
fondly.  "Don’t weep, my own," he said; "this is no time for tears;
tears are for sorrow, not for joy; and we are happy now.  Ah, chérie,
you don’t know what it is for me to be with you again, after all that I
have suffered, it is like heaven, but I will spare you the recital of
what I have undergone.  Our hours shall not be so misspent, and we have
lost too many since first we met.  So, dry your tears, my sweet, and let
me see you smile."

She looked up at him, smiling lovingly through the drops that glistened,
like liquid diamonds, on her cheeks. "It is joy, my Henri," she murmured
sobbingly.  "It has been too much for me to see you so unexpectedly; but
I shall be myself again directly."  Then she stroked his face again.

It was two hours later and the reunited couple were still seated
together in Halima’s boudoir, whither she had taken him.  Of course she
had coaxed out of him a full account of all that he had seen and done
and suffered since their last meeting.  At his relation of the Duc
d’Enghien’s murder, the tears rushed to her eyes; but her grief was only
momentary, for it was overwhelmed in the swirl of indignation that swept
over her.  She sprang to her feet and began to pace rapidly about the
room; the blood rushed in a torrent to her face, and there was a
dangerous glitter in her eyes.

"Coward! inhuman monster!" she exclaimed.  "Oh! that women can be the
mothers of such men—more bloody and ruthless than any tiger.  One would
almost believe that, at his conception, Allah must have slept, and the
enemy of mankind been thus left free to wreak his malice on humanity
unchecked.  Oh! cruel, cruel!  But it shall be the worse for him.  Of
late my lust for vengeance has seemed to languish somewhat; but this
cold-blooded, this perfidious murder of an innocent man has put new life
in it, and it will now increase in strength so long as the breath is in
me, or it finds satisfaction in the hurling of the bloody upstart into
infamy.  I am glad you have given me this full account for it has put
the seal on my resolve."

She seated herself again upon the couch, with a sudden movement threw
one leg over the other, and swung her foot restlessly to and fro.  Her
bosom was heaving with agitation, and her nostrils quivered with
violence of her passion.  All her husband’s efforts to compose her were
unavailing; for the time, her passion for him seemed to have spent
itself.  He now sat mutely watching her. Presently she spoke again.

"And the French people have made this fiend their Emperor!  Poor deluded
fools!  And he boasts that he will bring all Europe to his feet.  And I
think he will.  So be it; the higher the eagle soars, the more crushing
will be his fall when wounded.  Ha! ha!  So far my incantations have
revealed the truth; I doubt not now they will be fulfilled in their
entirety.  I shall live to see his downfall and disgrace; then I will
mock at him in his despair."

She turned her face towards the fire and gazed absently at the glowing
embers; for the moment so lost in her reflection that she forgot that
she was not alone.

With a start, she roused herself and faced St. Just, then laid her hand
lightly on his arm.

"So he has entrusted you with papers for his agent."  She spoke in her
natural tone, without excitement; but, though the outward expression of
her hatred was for the present satisfied, her longing for revenge was as
intense as ever, and her determination.

St. Just assented.  "That is so."

"And where are these papers?"

"In the lining of my cloak."

"And what do you intend to do with them?"

"Deliver them to the man, Perry, of course."

"Do you know their contents?"

"No."

"Do you mean to examine them?"

"I should not dream of it.  I should not dare.  I should be a traitor."

"And you would act as the instrument of this perfidious despot, our
bitter enemy, in the advancement of his nefarious designs to keep the
rightful King of France in exile, and its people holden in his iron
grip!  You would miss this opportunity of discovering his intentions and
informing his opponents of them!  Why, those papers may contain
intelligence that may make, or mar him.  It may be vital to our cause!"
She bounded from the couch and faced him.  Then she went on
disdainfully.  "And you would not dream of it; you would not dare; you
would be a traitor!  Oh! you craven, you poor-hearted creature!  Is it
blood that flows along your veins, or is it milk.  Oh! to think that I
should have given my heart to such a man!"  Her voice was rising rapidly
with her temper, and her face flushed red.  "But I should dream of it; I
should dare; and I should be no traitor; and I will see those papers!"
Her words seemed to tumble over one another as she rushed them out, and
the last ended almost in a shriek.

St. Just turned pale and shivered at her violence.  He thought he had
already plumbed the strength and depth of her emotions, but found them
still unfathomable. Again he felt that he was helpless in her hands.
Only personal violence would restrain her, and that he would not dream
of.

"My dearest, what you ask for is impossible," he remonstrated, but his
accents lagged behind his words.

"Impossible," she cried, "No, but certain; and I mean to have them."

And, before St. Just could say another word, she had seized his cloak,
which had been flung across a chair hard by the door, and had darted
from the room.  Pursuit was useless, for she was fleet of foot and could
easily out-run him.  Almost before he knew that she was gone, he heard
the key turned in the door outside, and her footsteps vanishing in the
distance.  He was a prisoner, until it should please her to release him.

His heart went down within him.  What would be the upshot of what had
just occurred?  Would she restore the papers to him when she had
mastered what was in them—perhaps made a copy of them?  A grim smile
came over him at the thought that this would be playing off on him the
very trick that he himself had played upon Sir Henry Emerson.

Fool that he had been!  Why could he not have delivered his papers to
the hosier, Perry, before going to see his wife?  Then this awful
predicament would have been avoided.  Again his insensate passion for
this Delilah had made him betray his trust.  And he had meant to be true
this time—certainly so far as the delivery of this despatch.  He cursed
himself for not having foreseen that, when once Halima had discovered
the object of his journey, she would do her best to make it futile,
when, by so doing, she would baffle Buonaparte.

And now what could he do?  Nothing against her will; she had him, so to
speak, bound and gagged.

In a fit of desperation, he rushed to the bell and pulled it
frantically; so violently, indeed, that he quickly broke it.  But no one
came in answer to his summons.  Halima had given orders to the contrary.
Also she had placed a strong man-servant at the door, with instructions
to stop St. Just should he burst it open.  He did try, but his efforts
were in vain.  Again and again he threw himself against it, but the door
was strong and resisted every impulse.

Then he began to shout with all his strength, now employing threats and
now entreaties.  But still no one came to him.  At last, he was
compelled to cease for want of breath.  Patience only seemed left to
him, but how could he be patient?

He threw himself into a chair, worn out with his exertions, and
abandoned himself to the bitterness of his thoughts.  So bitter indeed
were they, and so plunged in misery was he and so unhinged, that he
could not have been safely entrusted with a lethal weapon; for probably
that evening would have been his last.  It was fortunate that Halima had
removed his traveling cloak, for it contained a brace of loaded pistols.

The twilight deepened and glided into night, and then, wearied out, he
fell asleep.  Hour succeeded hour, until the night was nearly spent and
dawn approached.

He did not hear a carriage pull up before the house, but, almost
immediately afterwards, he felt himself roughly shaken.  Opening his
eyes, he saw a servant standing over him with a candle in his hand.

Without speaking, the man put into his hand a note, which ran as
follows:

"Accompany the bearers whither they take you, without fear.  Halima."

"Where is Madame?" he asked the servant.

"I do not know, Sir," the man replied respectfully, "she left home some
hours ago, and has not yet returned."

Then he added, "The messengers await you, Sir, in a coach below."

Wondering, half sleepily, what would happen next, and caring little, for
he had lost all hope, St. Just followed the servant to the door and
stepped into the carriage, which, the rapid glance he gave it showed
him, was a private one.  Two Bow Street runners got in after him, and
immediately the coach was driven off at a rapid trot.  In a quarter of
an hour, they reached the toll bar at Hyde Park Corner.  The gate was
opened at their approach, the coachman shouted something, and, without
stopping they drove through.  Ten minutes later, the carriage drew up
before a house in Downing Street.  St. Just was requested to get out,
and his companions in his drive each thrust an arm through one of his
and led him up the steps in front of the house, then up a flight of
stairs and into a square room on the first floor.  It was dimly lighted,
for only one candle was burning on a table; so that St. Just could not
see much of his surroundings; but he could distinguish folding doors on
the side of the room that faced him.

The men asked him to be seated; then took their stand between him and
the door.  From beyond the folding doors, he could hear the hum of
conversation and, amongst the voices, he fancied he could distinguish
Halima’s.  He strained his ears and was now sure of it.  Then, at any
rate, no harm was meant to him.

Presently he heard the clock of the neighboring Horse Guards strike the
fourth quarter, and then One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.  He
must have slept for many hours, then, at the house at Earl’s Court.

Hardly had the last stroke died away, when the folding doors were
opened, and Mr. Pitt, the Prime Minister, the Prince Regent, and, to St.
Just’s surprise, Halima entered the apartment.  They were followed by a
secretary. Plainly the Prince had not been to bed, for he was still
habited in the uniform he had worn at dinner the night before; he still
looked as if he had dined—or drunk "not wisely, but too well."

He ogled Halima, who gave him back a saucy glance; then he whispered
something in the ear of Mr. Pitt, who told the "runners" to withdraw and
wait outside the door.

Then Mr. Pitt, in a pleasant tone and courteous manner, asked St. Just
to draw up to them and take a seat. The Regent seated himself on one
side of a long table near the end, and Halima took a chair that faced
him, the Premier placing himself at the top.  The secretary took a place
a little lower down, away from them.

"Mons. St. Just," said Mr. Pitt, addressing him, "your action in this
matter does you credit.  Madame, your wife, has informed me of your
scruples in giving up the papers entrusted to you by your Government.
In the circumstances they were natural; but I think you will find it to
your advantage—in fact it seems to me your only course—now to follow our
instructions and advice."

"Quite the only course; very much to your advantage; much obleeged to
you," hiccoughed the Regent, at this point, with a hazy idea that he was
forwarding the proceedings.

Mr. Pitt glanced at him contemptuously and went on: "The letters you
sent us by Madame," and he pointed to a packet on the table, "have been
copied.  They will be duly delivered at their destination—Mr. Perry’s—by
Madame’s servant"—he meant Mahmoud—"whom, we understand, Mr. Perry
knows; therefore no suspicion will be aroused.  The copies that have
been made of them you will deliver in person to our Admiral, Lord
Nelson.  With that object you will be shipped on board H.M.S. La
France"—seeing the look of surprise on St. Just’s face—"a French vessel
recently captured in the channel.  You will have to run the gauntlet of
whatever French ships may be found between here and Gibraltar, not far
from which, I fancy, Lord Nelson will be met with.  You may wonder why
you have been selected for this mission, so I will satisfy you. We
believe the despatches you brought from Paris to be genuine, to mean
what they say.  But, sometimes, such documents are penned and despatched
in order that they may be seized by the enemy and so mislead him—to lead
him into a trap.  It, therefore, seems desirable to make you the
messenger to Lord Nelson.  If the information given here"—and he tapped
the packet with his finger—"should be false, the Admiral will know how
to deal with you."

This was pleasant hearing for St. Just.  It seemed possible that he had
escaped being shot as a traitor by French bullets, only to swing from a
British yard-arm as a spy. But, for the moment, he said nothing; Mr.
Pitt proceeded, "To be frank with you, you will be a hostage for the
genuineness of your despatch.  Now that you realize the position,
perhaps you would like to express your opinion of the reliability of
these documents.  It might save us anxiety and yourself this voyage—and,
perhaps—your neck, for the Admiral is a strict disciplinarian."

St. Just did realize the position; it was as clear as daylight.

"I can only say in reply to that," rejoined St. Just, "that I have not
an idea what the despatch contains, nor whether it was written to
mislead, or not.  For the last eighteen months I have been imprisoned at
Vincennes, and not a word of what took place in Europe during the whole
time reached my ears.  Three days ago I was released and sent here with
these papers, and ordered to remain in England, awaiting fresh
instructions.  I know no more."

"I thoroughly believe you, Mons. St. Just," replied the Premier.  "For
all that, we like to be on the safe side; and I fear you will have to
take this voyage.  The papers are ready for Mons. St. Just, Mr. Sidney?"
he wound up interrogatively to the Secretary.

"They are, Sir," was the reply.

St. Just sat sad and stupefied.  Once more, he had no sooner rejoined
his wife than he was to be torn away from her.  Fate was indeed cruel to
him.

Now Halima had so represented matters as to make it appear that he had
betrayed his trust and voluntarily handed over the papers to the English
Government; but with a show of opposition to protect himself from
Napoleon’s vengeance, should it come to his ears, and he, St. Just, fall
into the Emperor’s hands.  But he had no mind to lie under such an
imputation, and was on the point of making a vehement protest, and
explaining that he was no party to Mr. Pitt’s being in possession of the
papers; that he had been robbed of them; when Halima, reading his
intention in his face, first silenced him with a look, and, then getting
up, went round to him.  "Henri!" she murmured cooingly.  Her accents
brought back to him the memory of days of love and dalliance spent
together in the luxurious house at Cairo; of nights out in the desert
under the starlit sky; of moments when they had been in peril of their
lives, and they two had been all in all to one another.  His name, now
uttered by her in her softest tones, that breathed of love, thrilled him
from head to foot, and sent the blood leaping through his veins.  The
words he had meant to utter remained unspoken.

"Henri," she laid her hand gently on his arm, "be silent, if you love
me.  I read your thoughts.  You would tell them how the papers reached
their hands; that you had no part in the transaction.  If you value your
liberty, your life—and mine, for your death would be also mine—say
nothing.  It will not alter their resolve to send you.  At present, they
have trust in you; do nothing to destroy that trust.  Even as it is,
they have some little doubt, though I have worked hard for you.

"I pray that Buonaparte, in making you the bearer of despatches to his
agents, has not played you false; for if aught is wrong, and they are a
mere ruse, the English will shoot you like a dog.  So be warned by me,
chéri, for my sake, if you care not for yourself; for I cannot lose you.
But there is no time for more.  Farewell, my dearest.  May Allah bring
you safely to me again."

During this short murmured conversation, the others had withdrawn
somewhat from St. Just and Halima, and were discussing something in low
tones together, and signing papers.  Halima glanced at them, and, seeing
that she was unobserved, bent forward swiftly, and kissed him lightly
and noiselessly on the cheek; then slid back rapidly to her seat.

St. Just sat motionless.  He felt like one suddenly launched into the
middle of a dream, in which all sorts of impossibilities and
incongruities and anachronisms are jumbled up together, and yet, to the
dreamer, have the semblance of reality and rationality.  His brain was
in a whirl.  All the resolutions and fidelity to Napoleon, formulated in
his cell at Vincennes, had taken wing, at the touch of a woman’s hand,
at the music of a woman’s voice, at the imprint of a woman’s lips.  He
scarcely knew what was going on about him.

He was roused from his reverie by the opening of one of the folding
doors and the entrance of a young officer in the uniform of a Hussar.
The young man bowed respectfully, but without servility, to the company;
then, bringing his spurred heels sharply to attention, he stood erect
awaiting orders.  The Prime Minister addressed him in a clear, incisive
tone, "Captain Anson, you will convey this gentleman," indicating St.
Just, "and the papers with which you will be entrusted to Commander
Fergusson of H.M.S. La France, now lying off Shoreham.  You will travel
as fast as your escort can cover the ground, for it is imperative that
you reach the ship before twelve o’clock, at which hour she is to sail.
It is vital that Mons. St. Just shall embark in her.  You will,
therefore, guard him carefully and hand him over with these papers to
Captain Fergusson."

The officer bowed, and Mr. Pitt went on:—"The Regent has placed at your
disposal one of his private traveling carriages.  You will show this,"
handing him a paper, which he and the Regent had signed and stamped with
the Royal Arms, "to all postmasters and others, so that you may take
precedence of every one in the choice of horses.

"What escort did you bring?"

"Twenty men, Sir, in accordance with the instructions in your letter to
the Colonel.  I received his orders soon after six this morning, and I
left Hounslow almost immediately."

"Egad, Sir, that is not bad work," put in the Regent, who, all this
time, had been whispering to Halima.

"Take every care of Mons. St. Just," resumed the Premier. "Treat him
with all courtesy and instruct Captain Fergusson to do the same.  You
will ride in the carriage with him, and will not permit him, on any
pretext, to communicate with any one on the way.  I have nothing more to
add."

He bowed to Captain Anson; then leaned back in his chair.

The Regent pulled out his watch.  "Damnation!" he exclaimed, "it’s close
on eight o’clock.  Ah!  I thought so."  At that moment the Horse Guards
clock began to strike that hour.  "You must ride hard, gentlemen.
You’ve sixty-two miles to cover in four hours.  Come, I’ve done Brighton
in the time; and you won’t be stopped—except by highwaymen; but those
gentlemen mostly work by night."

He laughed, and, leaning forward, began to recount an adventure of his
own, in which a highwayman had figured, when he had been stopped upon
the Brighton Road.  But, while he was talking, the Hussar, bowing
comprehensively all round, had led his prisoner from the room; the last
thing they heard, as they paced the corridor, being the coarse laugh of
the Regent and the words, "Damnation, impudent, eh, Pitt?  Truth, upon
honor; egad what impudent——"

The words died away, and, in a few seconds, St. Just found himself in
the traveling carriage—a royal one.  It was beautifully padded and with
springs so carefully adjusted that, even on the roughest road, the
jolting was almost imperceptible.  Four horses were harnessed to it.

The royal-liveried postilions glanced curiously at their unusual
"fares," the door was banged to, the escort surrounded the carriage, and
then, at a word from the grizzled sergeant in command, the cavalcade set
out.



                             *CHAPTER II.*


Headed by a portion of their escort, they started at a rapid trot,
wheeled round the corner of Downing Street, then past the Houses of
Parliament and across Westminster Bridge, and on to where the Brighton
Road begins.

Soon they had passed the outskirts of the metropolis and were in the
open country.  Then they put on a spanking pace, over hill and down
dale, the horses galloping on every level stretch of road and down all
safe descents, and even up gentle rises.  The carriage oscillated from
side to side, with the speed at which they were traveling, but there was
little jolting, for in those days the Brighton Road was famous for its
high condition, and was as smooth almost as a billiard table.

Their first halting place was the White Hart at Reigate, where they
stopped for a change of horses.  Here Captain Anson left the carriage
and, after placing a soldier at each door with orders to prevent St.
Just from leaving the carriage or speaking to any one, returned almost
immediately, followed by the obsequious landlord with a basket, a
welcome sight to the prisoner in the carriage, who was famishing.

The escort were, after resting their horses, to return to their barracks
at Hounslow, for it would have been impossible for the men, without
remounts, to accompany the carriage all the way.  Captain Anson ordered
two of the troopers to mount to the box; then, all being ready, they
rattled off again with their fresh team.

There was a bottle of wine in the basket, and certain appetizing viands,
and, under their influence, the tongues of both the occupants of the
carriage became unloosed; for, up to this time, there had been little
conversation. But now Captain Anson, in particular, became quite
talkative, relating many amusing anecdotes and giving St. Just an
insight into fashionable life in London in the Regency. Thus the time
occupied between Reigate and Crawley sped by without their noticing it,
so that they reached the latter village when they thought that they had
but just cleared the outskirts of Red Hill.

When they drew up before the George, the officer frowned, for, just in
front of them, was another post-chaise; while, from the inn yard, some
fresh horses were being led out.

Then St. Just heard the sound of angry voices in altercation.  "Ah!"
thought he, "a dispute about the horses, no doubt;" and in this he was
correct.  Next, some one tried to approach the carriage, but this the
two troopers placed on guard prevented.  The fresh team was quickly
harnessed, and the carriage moved on again.  In passing the inn door,
St. Just noticed on the doorstep a swearing, gesticulating figure he
well knew.  It was Perry, the hosier of the Strand.  For the first time
since the commencement of his journey St. Just was glad to get away, for
he had no wish to be recognized by his London friend; the circumstance
would certainly have been communicated to Paris.

"Poor old chap," laughed Anson, while they were making the steep ascent
leading to Hand Cross village, "I’m afraid we’ve upset him vastly, in
borrowing his horses.  He made no end of a hubbub and swore I should not
have them, without your personal command."

"Mine?" asked the other in surprise; "What did he know about me?"

"Why?" laughed Captain Anson; "seeing the Royal carriage and liveries he
thought the Regent was inside; the more so when I showed him my
authority.  It was all I could do to keep him from coming to the
carriage to pay his respects to the Prince, whom, he said, he knew.  I
had to tell him that his Royal Highness was asleep, and that I would not
permit him to be disturbed.  I don’t know who the fellow is, but he said
he had important business with one Stephen Dumbell at Bolney, and that
he must see him before noon; that all sorts of awful things would
happen, if he didn’t.  I’m afraid Stephen Dumbell will have to possess
his soul in patience, until his friend procures another team."

St. Just laughed too, but only in a half-hearted way, for Perry’s
appearance had filled him with uneasy thoughts. Again it came to him
what an egregious act of folly it had been, his not having delivered his
despatch before seeing Halima.  Then all that had since happened, and
his present predicament would have been avoided.  It was possible, nay
probable, that his dereliction of duty would have wide-spreading
consequences; might even change the whole current of affairs in Europe.
And why should Perry be leaving England so suddenly, for that he, like
them, was making his way to Shoreham, St. Just felt certain.

He was glad to learn that Perry was unknown to Captain Anson, and he
kept his own knowledge of him to himself.

Meanwhile the carriage rattled on; now descending at a breakneck pace
the long decline that led to the pretty little hamlet of Bolney; then on
past the Cross Roads, leaving on the right the road to sleepy Cowfold
and the more active and larger, but hardly less old-fashioned Horsham.

On they dashed, past the grand old mansion of Hickstead, at that time
approached, as was that of Cuckfield, by a fine avenue of trees, most of
which have long disappeared, together with the monks who planted them.

On, on, on, and now it was in verity a race with time. Captain Anson
thrust his head out of the carriage window. "Faster, faster!" he cried
to the postillions.  "A guinea each, if we arrive in time."

And, in answer to his appeal, the men plied vigorously whip and spur to
the panting, sweating horses; and soon they were tearing long as fast as
they could gallop over the bridge that spans the river Arun hard by
Lancing. On, on, they sped and, at last, Shoreham loomed in view.

Then, when their goal was all but reached and Captain Anson, after
consulting his watch, had fallen back to his corner with a sigh of
relief and a smile of satisfaction, for he saw that he would be in time;
a serious mishap occurred.  With a sudden jerk, the carriage came to a
stop, and the occupants found themselves violently thrown forward and
involuntarily jostling one another.  In an instant, Anson was on his
feet and shouting to the postilions from the window.  But a glance
sufficed to show him what had happened; the two leaders were down; they
had fallen from sheer exhaustion—galloped to a standstill.  The two that
remained upon their legs were trembling in every limb, and so bathed in
sweat that they might have been swimming a river.

Captain Anson was terribly upset; it looked as though, just when success
seemed within his reach, he was to be foiled.  But he was a man of
energy and not easily daunted; he would use every means to discharge his
trust—so much depended on it; not only to his country, but to himself.

"Two of the horses are down," he said to his companion. "I must ask you
to get out, Mons. St. Just."  He had already decided what to do.

St. Just at once did as requested.

Then, issuing his orders with decision, the officer told the two
soldiers on the box to descend and guard St. Just. The postilions were
already on their feet.  These he told to unharness the two shaft horses,
and to remove the riding saddle and bridle from one of the leaders that
had fallen, but were now once more on their legs, and replace them on
the shaft horse that was without them.  All this was done almost by the
time he had given his orders. Then he carefully examined the two saddled
horses to see which, in his judgment, was the stronger and swifter of
the two.  Indicating the other, he addressed St. Just. "Kindly mount,
Mons. St. Just," he said.  "We shall have to complete our journey on
horseback.  Excuse my want of ceremony, but time is pressing."

The Frenchman made no difficulty; he realized the futility of
opposition; so he placed his foot in the stirrup with alacrity, and, the
next instant, was in the saddle. Captain Anson had been watching him,
and saw at a glance, that he was quite at home on horseback.

"You are used to riding, Mons. St. Just," he said pleasantly.

"I have had plenty of practice as an aide-de-camp under General
Buonaparte," was the reply.

Captain Anson then rapidly gave instructions to the postilions and
soldiers to follow on to Shoreham with the post-chaise so soon as the
two horses should have rested sufficiently to be harnessed to it.  Then
he turned again to St. Just.

"Plain speaking between soldiers is the best, Monsieur," he said.  "Let
me call your attention, therefore, to the fact that I am better mounted
than yourself and that I carry a brace of loaded pistols.  Should you
attempt to make your escape, I will shoot you without the least demur. I
trust you will not impose so painful a duty on me."

St. Just laughed.  "You will not require to use your pistol, Captain
Anson.  I am not absolutely devoid of sense.  I am at your service."

They gave their horses rein and started at a brisk trot, but soon warmed
up into a canter.

It was ten minutes to the hour when they sighted the cruiser, which was
anchored just outside the harbor mouth. They were now almost alongside
the harbor, and Captain Anson was looking anxiously about for a means of
reaching the La France; and luck befriended him.  A fishing boat, within
hail, was floating lazily with the tide towards the harbor mouth.

"Boat ahoy!" cried Anson.

"Aye, aye, Sir," came the cheery answer.

"In the King’s name.  Five guineas, if you put us on board yonder
cruiser before she sails."

"Done!" shouted the hardy fisherman, who was at the tiller, and he soon
brought the little craft alongside where the two men stood, for by this
time they had dismounted.

The horses were given in charge of a custom house official, with
instructions to await the officer’s return, and then they stepped aboard
the boat.

"Look alive, man," said Captain Anson; "put in all you know; that vessel
must not sail before we board her."

"Never fear, we’ll do it, Sir," replied the sturdy boatman, and he and
his two mates quickly put the boat about.  There was a stiff nor’wester
blowing, and the tide was with them, so that the clumsy craft began to
make fair way; but every now and then she dipped her nose into the
surf-capped rollers that marked the harbor bar, sending showers of
brackish spray into the faces of the passengers, and, in fact, all over
them, so that they soon were drenched to the skin.  But little recked
one of them of this; all that he cared for was to reach the vessel.

Nearer and nearer they approached her, and now were almost close upon
her.  They could hear the sharp tones of the officers shouting their
commands; could hear even the creaking of the capstan, as inch by inch
the anchor was being dragged up from its muddy depths; and also the
voice of the musical Jack who was singing to give the men the time,
which he himself took from the notes of an indifferently played fiddle.

Captain Anson placed his hands to his mouth and bawled, "Ship ahoy!
Despatches!"  Then suddenly he removed them.  "By God, she is moving,"
his voice rising almost to a shriek; "she is under weigh."

And indeed she was, her sails beginning to belly out in the freshening
breeze.

"Aye, aye," muttered the old boatman at the helm, quite calmly, "but
she’ll tack yet, to let the wind take her down channel.  You’ll see,
Sir, we shall manage it."

He put the helm hard over, and the fishing vessel, answering, swung
round and was brought up by the side almost under the cruiser’s bows.

"Ship ahoy!" yelled the fisherman.

"In the King’s name, despatches," shouted Anson, springing to his feet
and waving the papers above his head, and almost falling overboard in
his excitement.

"All right," was shouted in reply; "Come on board as sharp as you can."
A tow rope was flung over the craft, and deftly caught and made fast to
her by the fisherman, who then pulled her alongside the cruiser.

St. Just waited for a second or two, when the heave of the sea, that
lifted him almost to the shrouds, gave him his opportunity.  Quickly
grabbing a second rope, he clambered up hand over hand and landed safely
upon the cruiser’s deck.

Not so the debonair Hussar.  Unused to the position, he made his leap
just a shade too late, and got drenched to his skin in consequence.

A gray-haired, bushy whiskered man of forty-five came up to him the
moment that he touched the deck.

"I am Captain Fergusson," he said.  "You say you have despatches for me,
Sir.  You were only just in time; and I must start at once, for I cannot
lose the tide."

"I am Captain Anson," replied the other, "—th Hussars."  Then he
continued, politely, and looking every inch a gentleman, despite his
drenched appearance—the water was streaming from him, and making little
pools about him—"My orders are to hand over to you, yonder
gentleman"—pointing to St. Just, who was standing motionless, gazing
absently at the roofs of the little town that seemed, with the motion of
the vessel, to be bobbing up and down—"with instructions that he is to
be guarded carefully and allowed to hold no communication with anyone
but yourself; consistently with that, he is to receive every
consideration. These papers will tell you all.

"This," handing the Captain a large, blue, official-looking envelope,
"contains your sailing orders; and this, despatches for the Admiral."
He passed the various documents to Captain Fergusson, who replied:

"I need scarcely say, Captain Anson, that the instructions here
contained will be obeyed to the very letter. And now you must have a
glass of Nantz, after your wetting."

"I thank you," replied Anson, "but it is impossible. I dare not detain
you; and I, too, must return immediately."

He shook hands with the Captain, and then turned to St. Just, and held
out his hand.  "Good-bye, Mons. St. Just, and Au revoir.  I wish you
good luck, I trust you will forgive me for what may have appeared
harshness in my manner.  It was not in my heart; but merely a necessity
of the performance of my duty.  I hope in the future we may meet as
friends in more congenial circumstances."

He smiled pleasantly, as indeed he might; so far as he was concerned,
everything had turned out satisfactorily.

St. Just took the proffered hand and shook it warmly. "No excuse
whatever is called for, Captain Anson," he replied; "you performed an
uncongenial task with every courtesy."

Then Captain Anson swung himself overboard and lowered himself by a rope
into the fishing-boat.  She cast off and, at once, began tacking for the
shore, St. Just watching her till she disappeared into the harbor.

Captain Fergusson glanced rapidly over his new instructions, and gave
the necessary orders; and, not till the little vessel was fairly on her
course, did he give his attention to St. Just.

Then he approached him.  "For the time it seems I am to be your jailer,
Mons. St. Just.  I will make things as pleasant and comfortable as I can
for you, consistent with your safe custody; but I shall have to confine
you to your cabin and place an armed sentry at your door. Except for two
hours’ exercise daily on the poop, you will have to spend all your time
there.  If you care to read, I can supply you with some books."

St. Just bowed.  "I am in your hands," he said.  "I cannot complain; it
is the fortune of war.  But one thing I should like to ask; how long is
my confinement likely to continue?"

"About three weeks, I fancy; but it depends upon wind and weather."

"And my destination?"

Captain Fergusson gave a peculiar laugh.  "Ah! that I cannot say," he
said.  "Sims," to an officer standing near, "conduct this gentleman to
the middle cabin on the port side of the upper deck, and place a marine
at the door."

He bowed to St. Just, to signify that the interview was ended, and then
walked away to his cabin to con more carefully the orders he had
received.  They were brief and simple, but their very brevity and
simplicity gave him food for thought.

The envelope was addressed:—

"To Commander Fergusson H.M.S. La France."

The contents were as follows:—


"Sir,

"We commit to your charge a Buonapartist, Mons. St. Just, taken with the
accompanying despatches from the French Government.  You will deliver
him and them to Admiral Lord Nelson, last heard of in Lat. —— Long. ——.

"If the Admiral find the information in the papers trustworthy, Mons.
St. Just is to be brought back to England.  If not, let Lord Nelson deal
with him as the bearer of false news in time of war deserves.

Signed: George, Prince Regent.
  ——, First Lord of the Admiralty.
  W. Pitt, First Lord of the Treasury
        and Prime Minister.

And this shall be your warrant for what you do."


Meanwhile St. Just had been conducted to his cabin, a narrow room about
ten feet long and from six to eight in width; its furniture a bunk, a
chair and a seaman’s chest, empty except for washing requisites of the
commonest description, the lid forming a table in the daytime.  The
cabin was lighted by a small port hole.

This then was to be his abode for the next three weeks—or more, and
then—?  The reflection made him shudder. He knew his fate depended on
the truthfulness of the despatches taken from him—or rather on their
result.

The hours seemed to drag on terribly.  For a change, he paced about his
little cabin; then he threw himself upon his bunk and tried to sleep;
and, at last, succeeded.

How long he slept he did not know, but it was dark when he awoke,
aroused by the opening of his door. Someone came in with a lantern,
which he hung up on an iron hook in the rafters overhead.  Then he laid
some books upon the sea chest.  It was Sims, the officer who had brought
him to the cabin.

Following him was a sailor with a tray, on which were a bottle of rum
and a glass, some cold pork, ship’s biscuits, butter, and sundry other
eatables, as well as knives and forks.  He placed the tray upon the sea
chest and then withdrew.

"Halloa! hors de combat?" said Sims, thinking St. Just’s position due to
mal de mer.  "You’ll get used to the sea in a day or two, and then
you’ll be all right."

St. Just sat up, his eyes blinking in the lamp light.

"It’s not sea sickness I’m suffering from," he laughed, "but cabin
sickness.  The appointments here can scarcely be called luxurious, and I
find my own company the reverse of cheerful."

"Anything else you want?" asked Sims who, St. Just thought, seemed a
pleasant, hearty fellow.

St. Just laughed again.  "Now what a question to ask a prisoner," he
said.

"Well, I’d give you your liberty, old fellow, if I could; but short of
that?"

"You are very good.  To begin with then, what I most want is a change of
clothing and a pipe."

"The last I can manage on the spot; as to the first, I’ll talk to the
Captain about it, and we’ll see what we can do."

He put his hand into his pocket and brought out his own pipe and some
tobacco, and these he handed to the captive.

St. Just’s eyes glistened at the sight.

He grasped the proffered articles with avidity and thanked the donor
with effusion.

After a little further talk, the young officer was obliged to leave him.
Then St. Just became conscious that he was hungry; so he fell to upon
the pork and biscuits. The fare was coarse, and the biscuits were
desperately hard, and he had to hammer them into little pieces with the
handle of his knife.

But, on the whole, he made an excellent meal, for what was wanting in
the quality of the food was made up by appetite in himself.  Then came
the crowning luxury of the pipe.  He smoked three.  Then he turned into
his berth, and so finished his first day on board the English cruiser,
which was spinning merrily on her way towards Cadiz.  She averaged ten
knots an hour, for the wind was with them, and the Captain had crowded
on her all the sail that she could carry.

For St. Just, one day was much like another, and he found the hours drag
slowly, in spite of the companionship of his pipe.  The one pleasure he
looked forward to was his two hours’ daily exercise on deck.  The sight
of the dancing waves and the blue sky overhead, and the smell of the
fresh salt breeze, seemed to instill him with new life, but it made him
long for his liberty all the more.

Once the La France had a narrow escape of being captured. A large French
brig was sighted in the distance and, at once, gave chase; she began
rapidly to overhaul them.  When the Frenchman was within gunshot,
Captain Fergusson was not long in knowing it; the ball struck the sea
only a few yards on their starboard side.  The disparity in the size of
the two ships was such that the only alternatives of the English one’s
escaping capture were, either to be able by smarter seamanship to dodge
the Frenchman, or that an English ship should come to their assistance.
Captain Fergusson knew the importance of his reaching the British
Admiral, and this added to his anxiety; it may even be said it was its
sole cause.  Eagerly he scanned the distance, the compass round, on the
chance of sighting a vessel that flew the Union Jack; but not a sail of
any sort could he discover, save that which was bringing the Frenchman
ever nearer.  St. Just was enjoying his interval of exercise while the
chase proceeded, and watched with great excitement the distance between
the two vessels lessening.

Gradually the brig gained on them, and ever and anon a shot ploughed up
the sea all round the gallant little cruiser; but, so far, she had not
been struck.  Captain Fergusson, for all he knew that a contest could
practically have but one result, was resolved to fight before hauling
down his flag.  So he had the deck cleared for action, and the cannon
shotted.  Then, with a look of desperate resolve, he calmly waited.
Nothing it seemed could save him.

But, all at once, the tension on his face relaxed, and his eye
brightened; a chance he had not reckoned in his calculations was to
befriend him.  Looking southward, in the opposite direction to the brig,
he noticed that the air was becoming hazy.  His practiced eye informed
him what it was—a sea mist.  If they could only hold on long enough,
they would run into it, and so be lost to the view of their pursuer.

"By God!" he cried excitedly to the First Lieutenant, "if only we can
get into that fog we shall give the Frenchman the slip."

At that moment a shot struck the little vessel on the taffrail, but did
no serious damage, and no one on board was hit.  It was the last, for,
soon afterwards, the La France ran into the mist and was lost to sight.

This was the only exciting incident during St. Just’s stay on the
cruiser.  After this, day succeeded day with unvarying monotony, until
the morning of the 20th of October in this eventful year of 1805.  Then
Captain Fergusson sighted in the distance the English fleet.  It was
bearing down towards them in two lines, one led by Nelson in the
Victory, the other by Collingwood in the Redoubtable.

When within signalling distance Captain Fergusson ran up the Union Jack,
following it with the private signal. This having been acknowledged, the
flags went up to signify that he had despatches and a prisoner.

Gradually the little vessel neared the fleet, and, when she was within
hailing distance of the Victory, a voice rang out:

"Captain Fergusson to come on board with prisoner and despatches."

Forthwith he proceeded to St. Just’s cabin, where the Frenchman lay
asleep.  "Sorry to disturb you, Mons. St. Just, but we are in the middle
of the English fleet, and I have orders from the Admiral to take you on
board at once; so please dress as speedily as you can."

A few minutes’ rowing, and they were alongside the Victory, the eyes of
every one on deck upon them; for the news had gone about that there were
tidings of the allied French and Spanish fleets, and all were longing to
be at them.  St. Just slowly mounted the gangway.  At its head stood an
officer in uniform, whom Fergusson addressed as Captain Hardy.  Captain
Hardy took him apart and told him that he was to go with him at once to
the Admiral; so, after giving orders to an officer to watch St. Just,
the two proceeded to Lord Nelson’s cabin.

Soon afterwards, many captains of other vessels in the fleet were
signalled to come on board, and the ship was kept in a continual bustle
by their arrival in quick succession.  Then long and earnest
deliberations went on below. Meanwhile St. Just remained standing on the
poop, well guarded, and the object of great curiosity on the sailors’
part.  It was said that he was a spy who had been captured. He scarcely
noticed the glances leveled at him, for he had plenty to occupy his
mind.  For aught he knew, he was within a few minutes of his death.  No
wonder he looked pale and anxious.

After some time, a midshipman approached, with instructions that he was
to follow him.  He was conducted to Lord Nelson’s cabin.

At first, to the Frenchman’s unaccustomed eyes, the gloom was such—for
there was no light, but that which struggled through the port-holes—that
he could scarce distinguish the persons gathered in the room; but his
sight quickly accommodated itself to the partial light. Then he noticed
a long table, down each side of which were seated naval officers in
full-dress uniform.  In the center, his back supported against a
bulkhead, was a small, spare man, with a thin, worn face and a large
nose, and grizzled hair.  Like the other officers, he was in full
uniform, and it was noticeable that his right sleeve was empty and
looped up to a button hole of his coat.  His left breast glittered with
stars and orders.  One side of his face was turned to an officer at his
left, and he was whispering something to him behind his hand.  The eye
turned towards St. Just was scarred and sightless.  St. Just did not
need to be told that the man before him was the redoubted English
Admiral, Lord Nelson.

The Admiral turned to St. Just and asked him: "Do you know the contents
of the despatches of which you are the bearer?"

The Frenchman drew himself up to an erect position and saluted in
military fashion.

"I do not, Sir," he replied promptly.

"Detail how you became possessed of them."

Every eye was turned keenly on St. Just, as though to read how far he
spoke the truth.

Calmly and deliberately he related the circumstances; how that, having
been imprisoned for so long, he had been offered his liberty, provided
he delivered these despatches to a Buonapartist agent in London; how
that he had not been given the least inkling of what was in them, nor
any oral message for the agent.  Then, mindful of Halima’s injunctions,
he went on to say that he had shown the papers to his wife, who had
taken then to the Prime Minister.  He could tell the Admiral nothing
more.

There was a moment’s silence, and then an elderly officer at the end of
the table laughed.

The Admiral turned upon him sharply, "Well, Sir?"

The answer came with equal promptness and in a powerful brogue.

"My Lord, ’tis a foine wit the fellow has.  But, be jabers, Oi, for one,
will not be believing the truth.  If the French fleet—bad cess to
’em—meant to sail from Cadiz, wouldn’t they have kept it quiet; and
would they have let this information fall into our hands, except for the
purpose of misleading us as to their rale intentions?"

No one spoke audibly for a moment, but a low murmur went round, and it
soon became evident that the old sailor’s opinion had several
supporters.  One or two, indeed growled audibly:—

"Well spoken, Temeraire."

The Admiral raised his empty sleeve and flapped it to and fro, then
spoke:

"Fergusson, you have had the best opportunity of judging how far this
gentleman is to be believed.  What is your opinion?"

Like most jailers, who are not naturally cruel, Fergusson had a
protective sentiment towards his late prisoner; so he replied:

"I have had no means of testing his truthfulness, my Lord.  On the other
hand, I have no cause to doubt it."

"Oi should trice the rascal to the yardarm, Sir," interposed the Irish
officer who had previously spoken.

"What say you, Hardy?"

"I say, do nothing till after the battle.  It would be murder."

The Admiral smiled pleasantly.  His flag-captain’s opinion coincided
entirely with his own.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I believe these despatches to be genuine; that
they were not meant to fall into our hands. At any rate, I intend to act
upon the information they contain.  I am confident that to-morrow’s dawn
will witness the defeat of another Armada; that, once more, the brave
hearts of English sailors will win a glorious victory for our country."

Further speech on the Admiral’s part was prevented by the entrance of a
midshipman.  The youngster saluted Nelson and then laid before him on
the table a pencilled note:


"The enemy’s fleet is sighted.

"Collingwood."


The words were read out, and then followed a burst of cheering.

The Admiral reached his hat and moved from his seat. To the midshipman
who had just entered he said, "Remove this gentleman to Midshipman P’s
cabin" (that to which Nelson was afterwards carried when he had received
his death wound, and in which he died).  Then he addressed St. Just, "If
I win to-morrow’s battle, Sir, I pledge my word of honor to land you in
England, in return for this day’s service.  If I fail and find that I
have been led into a trap by your despatches—Well—"  And he threw him a
warning look.

Stupefied and with a sinking heart and without a word, St. Just bowed to
the Admiral and retired.  Then the midshipman took charge of him and
conducted him to the cabin indicated, a gloomy hole lighted only by a
small window giving on to the alley way.  Here he sat for hours in
solitude.

Later, towards night, the occupant of the cabin came in, and the
prisoner ventured to ask him whether he knew what in the despatches was
the information that had been considered so important.

"You don’t know?" was the reply.  "Well, the report is that an English
correspondent of the French Government gave information to Boney of the
strength and destination of our fleet; and that the French Admiral
undertook to send us to the bottom and then come to the assistance of
the invasion army at Boulogne.  The despatch you handed to our
Government, it is said, acknowledges the receipt of the agent’s
intelligence and asks for later news, at the same time disclosing the
intended movements of the French fleet."

"Phew!" breathed the Frenchman, and began to perspire profusely.

He had little dreamed of the momentous issues involved in the
miscarriage of the despatch, and he trembled at the magnitude of the
disaster he foresaw.

"I’m for sleep," resumed the midshipman; "perhaps the last I shall enjoy
in this life.  There will be bloody work to-morrow, and for many of us,
both French and English, the coming dawn will be the last."

With that, he turned into his bunk, and was almost immediately asleep.
But St. Just sat on in gloomy silence. There was no sleep for him that
night.

And the next day was that memorable 21st of October, 1805, when the most
glorious of England’s many naval victories was won.

St. Just took no share in it, so that its recital forms no part of his
history.  Cooped up, as he was, all day in the narrow, ill-lighted
cabin, except for the deafening booming of the cannon, and the
concussion when the shots from the Frenchmen struck the ship, he knew
nothing of the progress of the battle; or which side was gaining in the
encounter.  But in his enforced idleness, expecting every minute to be
sent to the bottom of the sea, his misery and suspense were such, that
even death itself would almost have been welcome.

But his solitude was broken in upon in a way he had little dreamed of.
He heard the sound of shuttling feet outside; then the door was thrown
open and some sailors entered, bearing in their arms the dying Admiral.

His eyes fell upon St. Just, and, for all his agony, he was not
forgetful of his promise.  He turned to one of the officers and pointed
to the Frenchman.  "I have given my word that that gentleman shall be
landed in England safe and sound.  See to it that I do not die
forsworn."

And, so soon as might be, the promise was performed.



                             *CHAPTER III.*


Nearly four years had passed since St. Just was present, as an auditor
rather than as a spectator, at the battle of Trafalgar; and it was now
towards the end of June, 1809. He had landed in England after that
battle, in December of the same year, and had thenceforth made it his
home, at such times as he was not upon his travels—and they had been
fairly numerous.

About midnight on a certain day in this same month of June, a
post-chaise was being driven rapidly along the road that led from Paris
to St. Cloud.

Seated in it were two persons.  One was a venerable looking old man with
a white beard; the other a man not much past thirty, but looking almost
middle-aged, and with the stamp of care and melancholy on his features.
The first was the old man Abdallah, who had accompanied Halima in her
journey from the desert to the shores of France, and had since
established himself in Paris as a jeweler.  His companion was St. Just,
but so changed in looks that his former friends would not have known
him. It was not hard work—though he had been no sluggard in the
interval—that had wrought this transformation, but the preyings of an
uneasy mind; disappointment, shame, remorse, self-contempt, and, later,
jealousy, had kept him without a moment’s peace and added two decades to
his looks.  Major St. Just, the aide-de-camp of Buonaparte, had been a
well-set, muscular young fellow, with a bright brown eye and the glow of
health upon his cheek; full of life and ardor, with a springy step, and
having the soul of honor.  Captain Henri, the English spy, was gray and
shriveled, his face all scored with lines, his eyes dull and shifting,
shrinking from the glance of his fellow men, his visage shrouded with a
veil of gloom and sadness; and he walked with the slow, uncertain gait
of a man who seeks to shuffle by without attracting notice.  Still, for
one on the weather side of fifty, he would have been deemed by those who
had not known him in his better days, a handsome man, for his features
were well-molded and refined.

During the four years, or nearly so, that had elapsed since he had left
Paris, a Buonapartist agent on the mission, which had culminated in his
presence, as a prisoner, at the battle of Trafalgar, his life had been a
chequered one, and, more than once, he had been in the direst peril.

Halima had sent him here and there and everywhere, according to her
whim, and he had not dared refuse.  In fact he had been little more than
her messenger.  The usual relations between wife and husband had in
their case been reversed.  It had been her part to issue orders, his to
execute them.  He had seen but little of her, for he had been almost
always journeying, and might almost as well have had no wife.  Once or
twice he had feebly attempted to rebel, but she had quickly cowed him
into submission by the threat of breaking off all relations with him.

She had become more masterful than ever, more restless and excitable and
more active and determined in her plots against Napoleon; she was,
indeed, the moving spirit amongst the conspirators.  For all that, in
her husband’s absence, she found time for her amours, and indulged in
them with all the passion and abandon of her nature.

She had despatched her husband—the news of his presence at the battle of
Trafalgar had leaked out, and it was confidently reported to the French
Government that he had met his death there—on many secret expeditions;
for instance, he had gone as the accredited agent of the English
Government to Spain and Austria; he had had interviews with persons
trusted by the "Man of Destiny," but who had revealed to him secrets of
the highest political importance; he had even gone so far afield as the
United States.


Many a strange tale could Fouché’s agents have narrated of a certain
Jules Durand—one of St. Just’s pseudonyms—who had had long interviews
with their Chief, and had made numerous journeys between France and
England, his real character and personality being unsuspected.

And Halima, though her headquarters were in England, had made several
flying visits to the Continent, in the prosecution of her schemes.  On
one occasion, at the very time that the Emperor Alexander was being
entertained by Napoleon with imperial magnificence, she, in the person
of a certain Mademoiselle de Deauville, interviewed the Russian Emperor,
when the subject of his attitude towards England was discussed, and
negotiations, that resulted in the subsequent alliance of the two
Powers, were begun. Plot after plot was foiled, but still she was not
daunted, every failure seeming only to strengthen her resolve and the
bitterness of her animosity towards the Emperor of the French.

But to return to the occupants of the post-chaise, which was speeding
through the darkness as fast as horses could lay hoof to ground.

On the seat opposite to them was a small box.  The older man was
endeavoring to dissuade the other from some course on which he seemed
strongly bent.

"Be advised by me, Monsieur," he said, laying his hand persuasively on
the other’s arm; "do not move further in this matter.  Let me order the
postilions to turn their horses’ heads again towards Paris.  It is for
your own sake I ask it."

"Pish!  Abdallah," replied St. Just impatiently, "you waste your words;
it is useless to attempt to turn me from ray purpose; I have taken my
decision and will go through with it.  Besides, do you suppose that,
when I show to Josephine the proofs of her husband’s design to divorce
her and marry this Austrian Archduchess, she will flinch? No, rest
assured that we shall gain our ends—at least I shall.  For what other
purpose, indeed, can she have appointed this meeting with me to-night?"

The Empress Josephine had given him many tokens that she was not
indifferent to him, and, complimented by her notice, he had conceived
for her a sort of passion; not such a passion as he had for Halima—for,
had Halima remained true to him, he would not have given a thought to
Josephine; and even now, his wife, had she so willed it, could have
brought him to her feet again, with never a thought for any other
woman—but an intimate relationship that, when leavened by compliments
and risky phrases, and amorous sighs and suggestive glances, he chose to
dignify by the name of love.  He thought himself a very fine fellow, in
that he dared to make advances to an Empress.

Abdallah saw that his protest might as well have been uttered to the
winds, so he contented himself with a grunt and a shake of the head;
meaning that it was a bad business and that he washed his hands of it.

No more was said between them, each remaining seated in moody silence,
the while the carriage bowled along.

Presently it rattled across the bridge that spans the Seine; then they
turned sharply to the left down an avenue leading to the palace gate.
Here the carriage halted, and the occupants got out.

Instead of proceeding up the avenue, the main entrance to the palace,
whose gloomy facade indistinctly loomed ahead of them, St. Just and his
companion took a further detour to the left, bringing up, after a short
walk, before a narrow gate.  Abdallah took a key from his pocket and
unlocked it; and both passed through.

They had but just re-closed it when a voice called out, "Hola!  Who goes
there?" and a tall sentry, topped with a huge bearskin that made him
look gigantic in the gloom, seemed to spring out of the ground before
them.  He held his musket at the ready, and they could see the
glimmering of the steel bayonet at its muzzle.

Before those challenged by the sentinel could make reply, another figure
appeared upon the scene.  He carried a lantern and, when he spoke, there
was an air of authority about his tone that showed he was an officer.

"What’s all this?" the words were shot out sharply.

"Not so last, Colonel Tremeau, I beseech you," said a peculiarly sweet
voice behind the officer, and a woman in a superb evening toilette, but
her head and shoulders enveloped in a shawl, emerged from a clump of
trees and advanced to them.  The lamplight was not strong enough to show
her features, standing, as she was, in the shadow of the trees, but St.
Just noticed that her figure was magnificent.

"I will answer for these gentlemen," she continued, "and, if that do not
suffice you, here is an authority you will not dispute."

She handed the officer a ring of gold set with a superb single emerald.
He glanced at it, and then, in a tone of some surprise he murmured, "The
Empress’ ring!  Pass on, gentlemen," he went on aloud; "your authority
is good enough.  I did not know you were expected.  Yet, stay; your
names!  It is my duty to obtain them.  The names of all callers have to
be sent in to the Palace Marshall for transmission to the Emperor."

"The Court jeweler and his assistant, with jewelry for Her Majesty,"
replied Abdallah sharply, and he held up the small box that had been on
the carriage seat.

Colonel Tremeau seemed to hesitate, so once more the lady intervened:—

"Come, Sir, come; why this demeanor?  These persons attend here by the
orders of the Empress.  She would make a present to one of her ladies,
whose fête day is on the morrow."

The officer, without further parley, entered the particulars on his
tablets; then moved aside to allow the men to pass, the lady leading the
way.  Following her they quickly traversed the garden, taking the path
that led towards the "Bassin de Fer à Cheval."  Thence, taking an avenue
that bore southwards and lay parallel to the Seine, they emerged, after
a short walk, upon an open space, whose center was occupied by a lofty
tower, a replica of the monument of Lysicrates at Athens, recently
erected by the Emperor.

Before this the lady halted.  Then, opening a door, she invited them to
enter.  "The Empress is within," she said, "and is expecting you."

They passed into a room lighted by wax candles placed in sconces, and
furnished with a rustic table and garden seats; and there were many
windows in it.

At one of these, that faced the door, Josephine was seated.  She was
wearing a white evening gown, heavily embroidered with gold; a lovely
and fascinating woman still, though at this time she was entering her
tenth lustrum.

At their entrance she turned her face to her visitors—for she had been
looking out of the window—and addressed them in a pleasant tone:—"Ah!
gentlemen, I am glad you have arrived; I was beginning to fear you would
disappoint me."

Both men bowed low, and St. Just made answer, "We made all speed, Your
Majesty, and it has but this moment struck the hour at which you bade us
come."

"Is that so?" rejoined the Empress.  "Then I have been unreasonably
impatient.  But, when events of moment are in the balance, a weak woman
may be pardoned for feeling thus.  We are not fashioned to control
ourselves like men."

"For which the good God be thanked," put in St. Just.

She shook her head at him reprovingly, but smiling archly; which showed
that his speech had not displeased her.  Then she addressed the lady.
"Hermionie, you may take a stroll, or, if you prefer it, you may retire
for the night.  I shall not require your further services, and I have
business with these gentlemen."

The lady, who had removed her shawl, displaying to St. Just a lovely
face, dropped a low curtsey to the Empress, and withdrew.  "The night is
warm," she said, "I will take a stroll in the garden."

When the door had closed behind her, Josephine turned eagerly to the two
men.  "Now, gentlemen," she said, "let me hear the business you would
discuss with me."

"Madame," replied St. Just, and he advanced to her and held out the
charm she had given him in her husband’s presence nearly ten years
before; "unworthy though I am of the honor, I crave permission to recall
myself to your remembrance by this token."

The sight of what he showed her had a strong effect upon her.  Surprise
and doubt and joy, all were printed on her countenance.  Gradually
doubt, and then surprise, died out of her face, and only delight
remained.  For, changed, though he was, she knew him.  Again, for the
third time, she had met the man who, without meaning it, had touched her
heart at their first interview; whom she scarce durst acknowledge to
herself she loved; whose life, by reason of that love, she had
intervened to save.

"St. Just!" she panted.  "It is, indeed, then you."  Then, her voice
still trembling with emotion, she turned to old Abdallah.  "Leave us, my
friend, I pray you, leave us.  I would see Mons. St. Just alone."

The old man withdrew.

St. Just threw himself on his knees before her; then he seized her hand
and covered it with kisses, she making no endeavor to release it.

"My Queen!  My Empress!" he exclaimed with fervor. "By the memory of
those halcyon days in the Forest of Fontainebleau when, in the guise of
a woodcutter, I dwelt near you and feasted my eyes upon your grace and
loveliness; when you would wander to my lonely hut, and our souls would
commune in—dare I say it—love; in remembrance of those moments, I
beseech you hear me."

He looked languishingly at Josephine and, for the time being, felt that
he meant every word he said.

The Empress colored slightly in pleased confusion. "Two years ago," she
murmured and she dropped her eyes; for in her, too, there was some
make-believe.  Then, as though the words had dropped from her unawares,
she added, "Hush, I must not listen to such words, and you, Henri, must
not utter them.  Besides, foolish fellow, you know you do not mean
them."

Now what more encouragement than this could a man desire?  His
protestations of affection were redoubled. "Nay, but by Heaven, I do,
all and more."

"Stop, I beseech you.  I cannot hear you; to do so would be
dishonorable, as it is for you to speak in such a strain. Nay, you will
anger me, if you proceed."

She was beginning to be fearful of herself; his words had moved her
strangely.  "But what has happened," she went on tenderly, "that has
wrought this change in your appearance; a change so great that at first
I failed to recognize you?  You look years older than when last we met.
Then your hair was black as the raven’s wing; now it is fast whitening;
you must have suffered much!"  And, moved by the impulse of her gentle
heart, without thinking what she did, she laid her hand upon his head
and lightly stroked his hair.

St. Just leaped quickly to his feet and made as though he would have
taken her in his arms.  "You mistake me, Sir," she said, her breast
heaving with agitation; "and you forget yourself and who and what I am.
You must be mad, if you cannot distinguish between a woman’s sympathy,
and love.  Restrain yourself, or this interview must end at once.  Now
tell me what is the matter on which you desired so urgently to see me;
and I will pardon what has gone before."

At that moment, had not their minds been so intent on one another, they
might have heard the sound of approaching footsteps; but love is often
deaf, as well as blind.

"I have traveled night and day from the seat of war, to give you news
that will cause you great unhappiness and destroy your peace of mind.
But my sole reason is the hope that, being warned, you may be enabled to
take measures to avert what is impending."

He paused before proceeding, to give the Empress time to prepare herself
for what he had to say.  She had an inkling of it, for vague rumors had
reached her ears.  But his words alarmed her greatly; her cheeks
blanched, her features stiffened and a look of terror started to her
eyes. For a moment she gazed at him, motionless and with parted lips.
Then, "What is it?" she panted.  "Tell me. Do not keep me in suspense;
that I cannot bear.  Do not fear for me; whatever it is, I shall make no
scene.  Only let me hear the worst at once.  But, I fear, I greatly fear
I guess it."

"The Emperor has tired of you and is meditating a divorce, and an
alliance with the daughter of the Emperor of Austria."

Two persons, a man and woman, had just seated themselves below the
window.  Both started when they heard the words that had fallen from St.
Just, and the woman would have uttered an exclamation; but the man
instantly placed his hand before her mouth and whispered, "Hush!
Hermionie, hush!"


St. Just continued, "Nay more, I know that both Talleyrand and Fouché
have received instructions on the subject."

The Empress gazed at him in terror, grief and entreaty in her eyes.  At
first she seemed bereft of speech.  But, in a few moments, she replied,
"Alas!  I feared he was losing his affection for me; but that he should
contemplate divorcing me—such villainy I never dreamed of.  But it
cannot be; surely the laws of France would not permit it."

"I fear the laws of France will avail but little against Napoleon,"
replied St. Just.  "At present he is France and can make such laws as
suit him."

"Oh!  I cannot believe it.  Why, I am all the world to Napoleon.  It is
impossible that he could be so base, after his ardent protestations of
affection."

She was trying to persuade herself that what she said was true; but
intuitively she knew the contrary.  For facts and rumors kept crowding
to her mind, all tending to confirm the dreadful news.  The vague
stories of her husband’s infidelities; his cold treatment and occasional
cruel taunts when he found he had no hope of her giving him an heir; all
these recollections flashed upon her now with added force, and murdered
hope.

But, woman-like, she turned on her informant.

"Base traitor!" she exclaimed, "because I was weak enough to let you see
that I have for you the sentiments of a friend, you dare to come to me
and breathe slanders against my husband."

But she knew they were not slanders, and her momentary rage died out;
St. Just was not to blame.  She sank into a seat—for she had been
standing—and sobbed without restraint.


At this juncture, the listeners outside the window moved away.  The
woman had risen first, and the man had tried to check her; but she had
whispered angrily, "I will not be an eavesdropper," and had stepped
away, and he had been obliged to follow her.

St. Just waited in silence until her tears had somewhat lessened.  Then
he spoke:

"Josephine, there is a chance of averting this calamity. What I have
told you is absolutely true; but I can give you further news that, if
judiciously employed, may turn Napoleon from his purpose.  Listen; the
Emperor of Russia and Talleyrand have come to the conclusion that
England is their best ally, and are plotting to bring such an alliance
into being.  Moreover, Europe is secretly arming for the struggle with
Napoleon.  It may not come just yet, but it must come soon.  Now, if you
should warn the Emperor of all this, he might be grateful and, out of
gratitude, abandon his intention of divorcing you.  Read these papers,
and you will see that I have grounds for what I say."

The Empress dried her tears and took the papers he handed to her; then
settled herself to their perusal.  They confirmed every word St. Just
had uttered.

"Have you pen and ink and paper?" she said, when she had finished.  He
reopened the despatch box from which he had taken the papers, and handed
her what she asked for.

She seated herself at the table and began to write, not as a suppliant,
but as one who was conveying valuable information and stood firmly on
her rights.  Her exalted status gave her confidence.  Her letter was
lengthy and took some time in writing, and, meanwhile, not a word was
exchanged between them.  St. Just had thrown himself into a chair, and
waited patiently.

At last she had disburdened her mind, and the scratching of the pen was
stopped.  She took the papers St. Just had given her, and tied them all
together, with her own letter on the top.  Then, on another sheet of
paper, she scribbled the following words:

"On the Emperor’s service.  The bearer is a courier from the Empress.
All who can are to help him in the name of France.  Josephine."

This she sealed with her own seal and handed, with the packet of papers,
to St. Just.

"There, I can do no more," she said.  "God grant it may have the result
I hope.  Hide your very fastest," she continued; "lose not a moment by
the way.  You must reach Napoleon, ere he has had time to move in this
nefarious scheme.  And remember that the heart of the Empress goes with
you to the Emperor."

"And dare I hope," he answered, "that the heart of Josephine goes with
me too?"

She threw him a captivating glance, and smiled archly. Frivolous, and
with no deep-seated feeling, as she was, the letter had revived her
spirits, and she had persuaded herself that all would now be well.

"Foolish boy," she answered merrily.  "Come and see me the moment you
have achieved your errand, and you will find that Josephine is not
ungrateful."

And with this he was compelled to be content.


Near the cascade, already mentioned, the man and the woman, who had
overheard part of the conversation between the Empress Josephine and St.
Just, were seated on a rustic bench.  Their attitude, proclaimed that
they were lovers, for the man’s arm was round her waist, and her head
was resting lovingly against his shoulder.

"Peace, Hermionie, peace, I say," the man said sharply. "I will hear no
more.  I repeat, it is for the good of the State.  It must be done.
Besides, the Emperor desires it; that suffices me!"

She turned from him petulantly like some spoilt child.

"It is cruel, it is unjust," she said, "and I hate cruelty and
injustice, and will do all I can to oppose them.  I repeat, I will tell
the Empress what we have overheard, what was not intended for our ears.
And Colonel Tremeau, I command you to keep secret what you have learned
to-night."  Then, in a softer tone, "Nay, I am wrong to use that tone.
Dear Charles, if you love me, keep it secret."

Few men could have resisted her pleading tone, and still fewer gazed
into her lovely face, without yielding to its entreaty; but this man was
selfish and self-seeking to the core.

"You will do as you like," he answered in a hard, decisive tone, "as to
telling the Empress; but," and he paused to emphasize what he was
saying, "in that case, our marriage will not take place."

His cold, impassive tones sent an icy chill to his hearer’s heart.  His
words seemed to admit of no appeal.

"Charles!" the girl faltered, "Oh! you must; I have your promise.  After
having taken advantage of my love, in a moment’s weakness, and robbed me
of that which a maiden holds most dear, you could not be so cruel, so
dishonorable as to desert me, after what I have told you."

She shook with her emotion and burst into a flood of tears.  Then she
threw her soft white arms around his neck and kissed him passionately,
as though to coax from him the concession that was her right.

For all his selfishness, the man was touched by this exhibition of
despair and, to console her for the moment, he replied:

"There, there; don’t weep, chérie.  It shall be as you wish.  I will
give you the shelter of my name; it is your due.  So dry your eyes, my
darling; they do not become your pretty face.  Trust your Charles.  I
will see that no one shall speak lightly of you."

His words were fair enough, but whether he would make them good the
future should decide.  All that he cared for now was to make her
amenable to his will, with as little fuss as needs be.  She was in his
power, and he knew that she was bound to yield.

And she, poor trusting fool, believed, and the smiles broke through her
tears.

"No, no," she said, "the world must never say that Hermionie de Vannes
is less virtuous than she should be. And I never really doubted you, my
Charles; I knew you were a man of honor and would be true to me.  Kiss
me, dearest, and say you are not angry with me, and forgive me that I
ever seemed to doubt you; I will be guided wholly by you.  I will do
anything you wish, and say nothing to the Empress."

"Now you’re my own little girl again," he said condescendingly, and he
kissed her warmly.

"Hermionie!  Hermionie! where are you?"

It was the Empress’s voice across the garden calling her.

"The Empress," said the man.  "Good night, my sweet; sleep soundly and
dream of me; don’t let your loving heart be troubled with anxious
thoughts.  All will be well with you."

He kissed her again, then sprang away into the darkness; and Hermionie
hastened to the tower, where she found the Empress with St. Just
standing by her side.  It was on the verge of dawn, and they were gazing
silently upon the view.  Below them in the distance the Seine meandered,
and to their left the bridge of St. Cloud could be just discerned.

The Empress was the first to speak.

"See, the clouds are breaking, the mists disperse, another day is
dawning.  We can just begin to see the green tops of the trees in the
wood (the Bois de Boulogne); and yonder is Butte Montmartre, its summit
crowned with those aged trees.  Oh! how beautiful!  And how fresh is
everything in nature when the sun first wakes the world!  See the first
glimmer of his rays reflected far away on the dome of the Invalides.
And now one can discern the shadowy forms of the houses of Paris
emerging into view, as the mist floats slowly away.  Ah!  Paris, dear
delightful, thoughtless, witty, restless, lively Paris, how I love you.
But you are cruel too.  Tell me my fate, you complex City. Will my
Emperor return to me?"

She stretched her arms out appealingly to the slumbering city.

The birds were wakening into life and beginning to twitter amongst the
shrubs; and some were already breaking into song.  A lark was making
melody in the sky above, carolling his earliest matins with joyous
notes, trilling a welcome to the new-born day.

"Nature herself replies to your Majesty’s behest," put in St. Just.
"That bird forecasts your fate.  Your life is to be one unending song."

He leaned forward and took her hand; then raised it to his lips.

"I would it might be so," she sighed; "but my mind misgives me.  Come,
Hermionie, it is time we sought our beds, if all the Palace is not to
know of our proceedings.  And you, sir," turning to St. Just, "ought not
to tarry.  I fear you will altogether miss your rest."

Once more he bent low over the Empress’s hand.  "In your service,
Madame," he said gallantly, "I desire no rest. To do your will is a
recreation in itself.  And I pledge my word not to lay head to pillow,
until I have handed your mission to the Emperor.  Farewell, Madame,
until I have redeemed my word."

She gave his hand a meaning pressure and whispered in his ear,
"Farewell, and may God keep you.  My heart goes with you, my true
knight, my—lover!"

An hour later, he had started for the frontier, and was riding for all
that he was worth; wholly unconscious that Colonel Tremeau had been
closeted with the Palace Marshal detailing what he had overheard; and
that, in consequence, the news was already on its way to Bounaparte.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*


It was night, a few days later.  From above in the spangled heavens the
silver moon was shedding her softened beams upon the expiring camp
fires; and along the range of hills, the bugle notes rang out, above the
murmur of the camp, the order, "All lights out;" the signal for the
wearied army to seek forgetfulness and repose in sleep.

Away to the left, from the burning village of Wagram flames ever and
anon shot up, lighting the country round and casting a ruddy glow upon a
tent pitched on a mound round which the French army was encamped.  Above
the tent, the emblem of France’s glory, the tricolor flapped and floated
in the breeze.  At frequent intervals, two grenadiers of the Imperial
Guard, who were pacing to and fro before the tent, paused in their
sentry-go to listen anxiously; for on the right of the French lines,
hard by the silver streak that marked the river Danube, the distant boom
of artillery and the fainter rattle of musketry could be heard.  Already
then, the fighting had begun.

Within the tent sat the master of these legions.  Untiringly, while all
around him slept, he worked.  He was writing, with feverish haste, at
the desk that lay open upon the table, the dim lantern casting its
feeble rays upon the pale, impressive face, and reflecting just a
glimmer on the gilt buttons and epaulets of the green and red Chasseur
uniform he wore.

Occasionally he paused to think, and, at such moments, his glance fell
on the sleeping secretary, who was, doubtless, dreaming of his cherished
wife and children away in sunny France.

"Pauvre enfant!" muttered the Emperor, and resumed his writing.

Suddenly he threw down his pen and rose to his feet; then stretched his
limbs.  He was cramped with long-continued writing.  His sensitive ear
had caught the sound of the firing, and he stepped quickly to the
opening of the tent.

The noise grew louder, and he could even sniff the smoke from powder.
Evidently the engagement was extending, and might jeopardize his
position.  An anxious look appeared upon his face.  He turned his head
within, and his eye traveled quickly round the tent and lighted on a
long blue cloak that lay across his camp bed.  This he threw over his
shoulders; then, having buckled on his sword, he left the tent.

At sight of him, the two grenadiers presented arms.  He carelessly
acknowledged their salute, and then began to pace up and down the little
plateau before the tent.  As was usual with him when deep in thought,
his hands were crossed behind his back, and his chin was bent down upon
his breast.

Hour succeeded hour, midnight came and went; and in the East the first
gray streaks of dawn appeared, but still Napoleon maintained his
monotonous tramp before his tent, pausing occasionally to listen.

At last, angry and impatient, he left his post and started with rapid
strides to walk towards the advanced Guard.

Few men unused to the intricacies of the camp, covering at it did,
several square miles, could have found their way thither without a
guide, but Napoleon walked on unerringly. He seemed to know every inch
of the ground.

At last, he paused in his solitary tramp, and halted, for a few moments,
by a belt of trees, the silver-blue waters of the Danube flowing swiftly
almost at his feet.

A short way down the river was a picket stationed to guard a small
footbridge, and he could see the soldiers sitting by the fire, and,
borne to him by the freshening breeze, he could hear their merry peals
of laughter and occasional exclamations, called forth by some amusing
story. He was amazed at their lightheartedness, when they knew that a
battle was impending, and angered at the laxity with which their guard
was kept.  He stamped his foot, and in his face there came a look that
boded ill for the commander of the picket.

"Fools!" he muttered.  "Is it thus they keep their watch! Where is their
officer?"

And the Emperor was just starting towards the group to learn the answer
to his question, when something occurred that roused the laughing,
chattering picket and brought them to their feet.

A horseman dashed across the narrow bridge.  He was riding for his life,
which each moment seemed to place in greater jeopardy, for in hot
pursuit of him were some thirty Austrians.  Mounted on white horses and
with their white uniforms, they looked in the dim light like specters.
They were gaining rapidly on the flying man, for his horse was almost
done, and theirs seemed fresh enough.

The Emperor caught sight of what was going on, and made his way quickly
to the picket.  Meanwhile, all was bustle with them.  The men had sprung
to their feet and formed themselves into some sort of order to receive
the enemy, whom they much outnumbered.

Meantime, the fugitive kept advancing, urging, by whip and spur, his
jaded steed to greater efforts.  Safety seemed almost in his grasp, and,
encouraged by the presence of his compatriots, he waved his hand aloft,
and shouted, "France and the Emperor!"

The picket cheered in response, and, with cries of "Vive l’Empereur,"
rushed to meet their foe.  Then both sides went at it pell mell; shots
were fired, but these soon ceased when the combatants got to close
quarters; then it became a hand to hand struggle between swords and
bayonets, and cuts and thrusts were freely exchanged, to the
accompaniment of shouts and cheers from those who were unhurt, and
groans from the wounded and the dying.  Other Austrians swam their
horses across the river to the assistance of their comrades, and, for
the moment, despite the stubborn resistance of the French, who yielded
only inch by inch, victory inclined to the attacking side.  But soon
reinforcements poured in on the French side, and the engagement raged
more furiously than ever.  For a short space the outpost seemed in
danger, for Austrian troops on the other side of the river were
collecting and hurrying across.  But at this juncture, just when affairs
were looking critical for Napoleon’s men, some guns from the heights in
possession of the French opened fire, sweeping the plains across the
Danube.  The hailstorm of grape and canister was murderous, and, there
being no shelter for them, the Austrians first wavered and then
incontinently took to flight.  The small body on this side of the river
were thus isolated, and could make no further stand against the dash and
élan of the French.  So the retreat was sounded and the survivors of
them galloped across the bridge, followed by a storm of musket shots
from the victorious enemy, that brought many a white uniform to the
dust.  Few of them, indeed, regained their comrades.  The whole affair
had occupied but a few minutes, and Napoleon, who had mounted a
trooper’s horse, and ridden up to the picket at the outset, had sat
watching it immovably throughout.

When all was over, the flying horseman, who had so narrowly escaped
capture, gained his side.  Then, reining in his panting charger, he
saluted.

"Whence come you, Sir," asked the Emperor sternly.

"From France, Sire, with despatches, marked immediate, from the
Empress," was the prompt reply.

"Follow me to my tent, if your horse can carry you so far.  Then I will
see that the Empress’s communication receives attention."  And, to suit
his pace to the new-comer’s, he moved on at a walk, the other in his
wake.

Arrived at the tent, Napoleon woke his secretary; he wanted him to write
his answer to Josephine’s despatch.

St. Just, for he was the courier who had so nearly lost his life, had
not expected to find another person present, and felt embarrassed.
Knowing the subject of the Empress’s communication, he wished to have
his interview with the Emperor alone.  He hesitated for a moment, and
then said deprecatingly:—"The Empress strictly charged me, Sire, to give
you these papers when you were alone."

At the same time he held out the packet.  Surprise and anger at the
speaker’s boldness in daring to criticise his actions, showed on
Napoleon’s face.

"My secretary does not count," he answered sharply.

"In the Empress’s eyes I think he does, Sire," rejoined St. Just,
astonished, and at the same time, fearful at his own temerity.

There was silence for a few moments, and the Emperor gave him a look
that made him tremble.  He seemed on the point of letting his passion
have its fling; but suddenly his expression changed, and he said
deliberately, "The Empress’s wishes are my commands."  Then to the
secretary, "Leave us."

So soon as the secretary had departed, the Emperor snatched the packet
from St. Just and then, for the first time, became aware of his
identity.  He started in surprise, for he had believed that his former
aide-de-camp was dead—killed at Trafalgar, as it had been reported.

"Hah!" he exclaimed.  "You, again!  Then you were not hanged by that
cursed English Admiral.  What means this continual game of hide and
seek?  You seem to be gifted with the cat’s tenacity of life.  But I
will inquire into your affairs anon.  At present Her Majesty’s despatch
demands my notice."

He cut the silken cord that bound the papers, seated himself at a table
and opened them out before him; then conned them carefully.  Meanwhile,
St. Just stood motionless and silent; but his brain was active; there
was much to move it; he realized that he was in deadly peril, and knew
that his life depended on the Emperor’s mood.

Presently the Emperor started to his feet and, taking no notice of St.
Just, went to a despatch box in the corner, and from it took a document.
This also he read carefully, comparing it with some of the papers St.
Just had brought.  He threw it down upon the table with an angry "Pish!"
Then he called out sharply, "Guard!"

There was a hurried movement outside the tent; then a file of soldiers
came in view and drew up, motionless as statues, before the opening.

The Emperor, without moving from the table, addressed the sergeant.  "Go
to my secretary’s tent and tell the officer who brought the last
despatch to attend me instantly. Should he not be there, he must be
sought until you find him."

The sergeant saluted and withdrew.

Then Napoleon went again to the despatch box; this time he took from it
two miniatures.

At the one he looked at first, his face took on an expression of mingled
affection and regret.  It was the counterfeit presentment of the Empress
Josephine, taken many years before; and the painter had been happy in
his conception, for, though he had not actually sacrificed truth to
flattery in any single feature, yet he had, somehow, so idealized the
whole, as to depict a marvelously lovely face, that certainly surpassed
in fascination the original.  She seemed to be just opening her mouth to
speak; one could almost see the lips in motion; and the eyes and every
feature were instinct with the vivacity which was her greatest charm.

The Emperor gazed at it for a minute.  Then, "No, no," he muttered; "it
is useless."  He sighed, then laid the miniature, lovingly and
reluctantly, as it seemed, upon the table.

Then he took up the other, and this also he subjected to a long and
earnest scrutiny.  It was the portrait of a much younger woman—a mere
girl in fact—with far less pretentions to feminine attractions than had
Josephine.  This was the Archduchess Marie Louise, the daughter of
Napoleon’s most stubborn foe: but, for all that, chosen by the great
conquerer to be his wife, so soon as he should have freed himself from
his present matrimonial claims.

With fear and trembling, and a sickening feeling at his heart, St. Just
stood watching every movement, and scanning every feature of Napoleon;
but to the mood of the man within, the stern, impassive countenance gave
no clue. Hope was not wholly dead in St. Just, but despair predominated.

A quick, military step was heard approaching, and, immediately
afterwards, an officer entered the tent, first pausing at the entrance
to salute the Emperor.

A glance sufficed to show St. Just that his journey had been fruitless.
The dread, muttered words "Too late" penetrated to his brain, and all
the heart went out of him.  The newcomer was Colonel Tremeau, the
officer he had met a few days before in the garden at St. Cloud.  He
guessed that his conversation with the Empress had been overheard.  He
must have traveled post haste in order to outstrip him—and he had
succeeded.

Napoleon noted the surprise and terror of St. Just, and a cruel smile
began to flit about his face—the smile that did not betoken approval of
the person whom it felt, but was, rather, devilish, and calculated to
fill the stoutest heart with dread.

"You know this gentleman, Mons. St. Just," he said, and his tone was
cold and calm.  "You should have ridden faster.  You did not know it was
a race.  Your rival came in first.  Your information was forestalled;
your plot has failed."

St. Just was almost dumbfounded; words seemed to fail him; he had no
time to think; still he must say something. Pale as death and not
knowing what he did say, he stammered:

"Sire, permit me a word, one word I beseech you,"

"Say on, but make your words as few as possible."

"There is no plot, Sire," resumed the luckless emissary; "I have ridden
here without resting by the way, at the Empress’s express commands, to
convey to you intelligence that Her Majesty thought vital to France and
you.  The papers that came into her hands and that she charged me to
deliver to your Majesty, seemed to show that our country is in danger.
England is on the point of joining hands with Russia; all Europe is
rising secretly against you. Your armies are retreating everywhere in
Spain.

"You hold in your hand, Sire, the proofs of the duplicity and worse, of
Talleyrand and Fouché.  Think you that they would wish to part you from
the Empress, save for their own ends?"

He paused, appalled at his own audacity.

"By Heavens, Sir," the Emperor stormed, and he sprang to his feet, and
stamped with rage, "you presume too far. I will submit no longer to your
insolence.  I will have you shot.  Colonel Tremeau, arrest that man."

Colonel Tremeau made a step forward to obey the Emperor’s command, but
paused when the other raised his hand and addressed Napoleon.

"Pause one moment, Sire," he said, "and consider what you would do.  I
have the Empress’s safe conduct.  Surely you would not stain your honor
as a soldier and a man by laying a finger on a peaceful envoy."

Then, to do him justice, more concerned for Josephine than for himself,
distracted at the thought of her pain at receiving no reply to her
appeal, and at the suspicion that he had betrayed her, he went down on
one knee before Napoleon, and besought him to weigh carefully the
serious news in the despatches.  "Arrest me, Sire," he concluded; "kill
me, if you will; but save the Empress and yourself."

"Possibly the Empress would rather save her paramour," interjected
Colonel Tremeau sneeringly.

At this, Napoleon turned round suddenly to the last speaker, his face
convulsed with rage, and from his eyes fire seemed to flash.

"What mean you, Sir?" he shouted.  "Explain your vile innuendo
instantly, or you, too, shall be arrested."

Thus challenged, Tremeau told of St. Just’s midnight visit to St. Cloud
and of what he had overheard there. St. Just listened to him in silence,
and, listening, thought it was all over with him.  He could not but
admit to himself that Tremeau stated fairly what had taken place.  He
showed no animus, spoke calmly and dispassionately, and put no false
color on the truth.  Also it became plain that Tremeau had not heard
all; he must have gone before the interview with Josephine was over.
Poor though it was, this was some slight consolation.

When the officer had finished his account, at first the Emperor said
nothing.  He took the miniature of Josephine from the table and threw it
on the ground; then stamped upon it, grinding it to fragments under his
heel.  Then, his features working unceasingly and his hands clenching
and unclenching in his fury, he called out, "Guard!"

The file appeared with their sergeant at their head.  He gathered up the
despatches and crumpled them together; then passed them to the sergeant.
"Burn these papers at once.  Stay, I will see you do it."

He strode rapidly outside the tent to a camp fire a few yards off; then
flung the papers into it.  St. Just had stepped outside the tent and
been a silent watcher of the scene.  The Emperor strode up to him.  "Go,
Sir, to the Empress," he said sternly, "and tell her what you have seen.
That is my answer to her letter and enclosures.  As for you," and he
looked St. Just contemptuously from head to foot, "I give Her Majesty
credit for better taste, than to place on Colonel Tremeau’s words the
construction they might bear.  You have mistaken condescension for a
sentiment that implies equality.  The lion’s consort mates only with her
kind, and could find no attraction in a cur."

At this moment an officer of high rank galloped up, his charger flecked
with foam; he drew rein when he reached Napoleon.

"The Austrians are advancing, Sire,"—he brought the words out
breathlessly—"and the men are impatient to attack."  The change in the
Emperor’s face was almost magical; the rage that had contorted it had
vanished like a flash, at the officer’s first words, and now there was a
glow of pleasure on it; the impassiveness was gone, and the light of
anticipated victory was in his eye.  He forgot the man who had so raised
his ire, and even Josephine.

"This is welcome news," he answered joyously; "we will give them a
lesson for their rashness.  Return, Marshal, instantly, and let the
advance be sounded.  I will be with you before they get to work."  Then
he turned to Colonel Tremeau.  "Leave me now, Sir, I will see you after
the battle.  At present I would be alone."

The Marshal rode away and Tremeau withdrew.

Napoleon re-entered his tent, and St. Just, from the outside, saw him
bring the portrait of the Austrian Arch-duchess to his lips, while the
Frenchwoman’s lay shattered at his feet.

Then Josephine’s envoy moved away.  He was sick at heart, chafing at
Napoleon’s contemptuous words, and despondent at the utter failure of
his mission.  How he should break the news to Josephine, he scarce durst
think.

Meanwhile, the Emperor rode forth to beat the Austrians. History tell us
how, throughout that long and hard fought day, wherever the fight was
thickest and the danger greatest, he was to be found.  Perchance, he
hoped that some stray bullet would still that conscience that was vainly
telling him that what he meditated against Josephine was a hideous
crime.



                              *CHAPTER V.*


Nearly five months had passed since the battle of Wagram had been fought
and won; since the momentous interview between the Emperor and St. Just
that had resulted so disastrously for Josephine.  Then it had been warm,
sunny June, the sky one sheet of azure; now it was the last day in
November, when all was chill and dreary, and a dark pall hung over
everything.  It was a day on which even a Mark Tapley would have found
it hard to preserve his spirits.

The action of the drama had been shifted from Austria to France, and the
scene on which the curtain was now to rise was the Palace of
Fontainebleau.

Here, on the evening of the aforesaid day in November, Josephine, still
Empress, but not long to be, was pacing, restlessly and with agitated
mien, the floor of her private apartment.  She was still beautiful, but
the sadness of her face, and the look almost of terror in it were
painful to behold.  Just so might have looked Mary, Queen of Scots, on
her way to execution.  She was royally attired, and the aid of every
feminine art had been invoked to enhance the many charms she had, and to
create the few she lacked. A diamond tiara sparkled on her head, and
over her shoulders, to protect them from the draughts, was thrown a
violet velvet mantle studded with the imperial bees, the Emperor
affected.

The infinite pains to make herself attractive, had been taken for him,
for he was momentarily expected.  He had arrived some hours before from
Paris, but they had not yet met.

Prepared by St. Just, as she had been, for the last three months for the
coming interview—he had informed her of the failure of his errand to her
husband—now that the moment for it was close at hand, she was filled
with trepidation; and, though she had been anxiously looking forward to
it with increasing hope, she would now have postponed it, if she could.
She had remarked but now, on meeting some of the ministers returning
from an audience with the Emperor, how curt had been their salutations,
how they had hurried away from her after the barest ceremonious
courtesy, as though fearing to be questioned by her; how even the
officers of her own household looked furtively at her, and the people
outside the palace regarded her with coldness, as though guessing that
her reign was almost at an end.  Even in her Maids of Honor she thought
she saw a change; they seemed less respectful, less observant of the
Court etiquette, that Napoleon made de rigueur; more familiar in their
manner.  Poor woman, no wonder she was sad; every friend seemed to have
deserted her; save only St. Just, who was now a Captain of her Guard,
and on his fidelity she knew she could rely; but then he was flattered
by her marked notice of him, and nursed a sort of languid passion for
her.

Suddenly the unhappy woman paused in her pacings to and fro, and
started, and her heart throbbed painfully. A firm, sharp step, that she
and those about her recognized, could be heard without in the
antechamber and rapidly approaching.  At once, the ladies rose and
placed themselves in an attitude of respectful reverence, in which some
fear was mingled.  He was not given to control his sentiments, and his
courtiers never knew in what mood he might be found.

The door flew open and the Emperor entered.  He looked worried and
confused.  Like the Empress, he was in evening dress.  The ladies all
bent low before him.

Acknowledging their obeisance with the slightest movement of his head,
he passed on towards Josephine.

The moment she had first hoped for, and then dreaded, had arrived.  With
a mighty effort she strove to close the door upon her fear and to assume
a gladness she was far from feeling.

She sprang towards him with a joyous cry, and stretched out her arms to
him, but her face was very pale, and there was a hunted expression in
her eyes; she was trembling violently.  All this Napoleon noted and a
frown gathered on his brow.  But for this, he would have responded in
the same spirit to her tones and gesture.  As it was, his greeting was
chill and formal, and, the moment it was performed, he added in a cold,
harsh tone:

"Come, Josephine, let us walk together in the corridor before dinner."

Filled with a nameless dread, and without a word, the Empress took his
arm, and they passed from the apartment, the ladies meanwhile throwing
expressive glances at each other.  Threading the suite of rooms, they
reached the gallery de François Premier.  The long corridor, unlighted
as it was, looked weird and uncanny in the twilight, and presented an
almost endless vista.  Its gloom and silence sent a shiver through the
Empress; its aspect was so different from what it was when she had seen
it last, illumined with thousands of wax candles and filled with
courtiers in brilliant uniforms and ladies in elaborate toilettes; the
walls echoing with the hum of sprightly conversation, broken every now
and then by the rippling laugh of some fair woman.  Now, not a sound,
but their own footfalls, could be heard.  Even the sculptured
salamanders seemed to grin maliciously, and the figures on the
tapestried walls to frown on her.  With a shudder and involuntarily, she
tightened her grasp upon her husband’s arm.

The Emperor, on his part, strolled on almost joyously, but such joy as
was in him was assumed.  It was more a sense of satisfaction that an
unpleasant business would soon be done with.  Try as he might, he could
not persuade himself that what he meditated was well.  He saw the
cruelty of the act to her; yet his Ministers desired it; said it would
consolidate his power; that for him to found a dynasty would be good for
France.  But even now his heart was torn by the emotions that warred
within.

At last, involuntarily, a cry of pity broke from him, "My poor
Josephine," and he looked down upon her pityingly. She started with
alarm; it was coming, what she feared.

"Napoleon," she gasped timidly, "What is it, and why do you look so
strangely at me?"  She led, almost dragged him, to a seat in a window
that looked out upon a quaint old-fashioned garden, in which were yew
trees pruned into formal and fantastic shapes, many of which, in the
gathering darkness, looked like human figures standing motionless,
surrounded by huge animals all still as death.

"Tell your Josephine what troubles you," she resumed in pleading tones,
when they were seated.  "Forget for one short hour the cares of State,
and let us be all in all to one another."

Nervously he clasped her hand in his, and, with eyes cast down upon the
ground in very shame at the base part he was about to play, he strove to
speak.  But his words did not come willingly.

"How—how can I tell you," he began; "but I must, though it cuts me to
the heart.  Josephine! my dear Josephine!  You know how I have loved
you!....  To you, to you alone, I owe the only moments of happiness I
have tasted in this world.  But, Josephine, my destiny is not to be
controlled by my desire.  My dearest affections must yield to the
interests of France.  They—the Ministers wish me to separate from you.
They—they say that it is necessary for the welfare of France that I
should have an heir to follow me in the Empire I have founded.  They
tell me I must marry again."  His voice had sunk lower and lower, till
the last words had become all but inaudible.

"And who are they," she cried impetuously, "that dare to tell the
conqueror of Egypt, of Italy, of Austria; the ruler of the foremost
country in the world, that he must do anything?"  Then, changing her
tone to one of supplication, she continued.  "You talk of marrying
again; do I not already enjoy few enough of a wife’s privileges, that
you should think of putting me away?  You do not give me the opportunity
of wearying you, for you are so much away on your numerous campaigns.  I
do not complain, for what is a woman in comparison to affairs of State;
but I feel your frequent absences sorely.

"Oh!  Napoleon, think how we have loved each other; recall the days of
old when you were troubled, and came to Josephine for sympathy and
consolation."

She rose to her feet and faced him.  "You have raised me to an exalted
station, to a position that any woman would be proud of; it is a great
thing to be an Empress; doubtless I am the envy of millions of my sex!
But it is not the Emperor, it is Napoleon whom I love.  These trappings
are as naught to me, without your love; this imperial mantle, I cast it
from me; this sparkling bauble, I tear it from my brow;" and, suiting
her action to her words, she tossed the mantle from her shoulders and
dashed her tiara on the ground.

"Sire, I come to you, all powerful, as you now are; I come to you, a
suppliant, as you once came to me."  She cast herself upon her knees
before him.  "Oh! do not mock me with the State; what right has it to
intervene between two loving hearts, to abrogate God’s ordinances?  Oh!
Napoleon, say you love me."  She grovelled at his feet and clasped her
arms around his knees; she could scarce proceed for the tears that were
streaming down her face and the sobs that she could not repress.  "Oh!
be Emperor in deed as well as name," she went on in broken accents. "Why
should you vex yourself about a son to follow you as Emperor and King,
you who can make Emperors and Kings at will?  And for the State, you are
the State, as Louis le Grand in his time proudly said he was."

Then, seeing his unbending look, "I see my appeal is useless.  Say no
more, I understand you.  I expected this, but the blow is not the less
mortal."

She sank exhausted on the floor before him.

Hard and selfish, as he was, he had some heart, and at the sight of her
killing grief and the lovely, tear-stained face, that he had never
before seen, except wreathed in smiles, a wave of pity for a moment
rolled over his resolve, and almost stifled it.  Her pleadings had
raised strong emotions.  He rose and began to pace the gallery, with
head bent forward and hands clasped behind his back. "Stay," he said.
Then he began to mutter to himself, "Yes, I would I could defy them."
His hands twitched nervously.  Suddenly he snapped his fingers.  "Yes,
and I will defy them.  Am I not Emperor, and shall they dictate to me?
By Heavens, no.  They will only cringe before me, when I tell them that
I refuse to be coerced by them."  His hand strayed unconsciously to his
pocket, and touched something.  "And yet—"  Then all at once his manner
changed.  A man was advancing along the gallery. It was St. Just,
resplendent in his uniform as Captain of the Empress’s guards.
Napoleon’s eye fell on him, and he remembered what Colonel Tremeau had
said about him, he had called him the paramour of the Empress.

At sight of him, a frown gathered on the Emperor’s brow, and his face
became convulsed with rage.  "No," he broke out in a voice of thunder,
"No, I will not alter my determination.  My Ministers are right.  Ah!
traitress," to Josephine, who had been anxiously watching his relenting
mien, but now had uttered a cry, the knell of her expiring hope, "dost
think I do not know that, when I am absent, you console yourself with
others?  It was so from the very first. There was that man who was with
you in the days of the Revolution; did you not meet him again in Italy?
Then there have been others, I have heard of, but how many I know not.
And now this man," pointing to St. Just.  He turned savagely on him.
"Pray, Sir, what business have you here?"

The Emperor’s fury awed St. Just.  On entering the gallery he had not
known that it was tenanted, though he was looking for Napoleon.  "I
came, Sire," he answered deprecatingly, "in the exercise of my duty as
Captain of the Empress’s guard.  I was not aware that you and Her
Majesty were here, or I should not have so presumed."

"You lie, Sir," roared Napoleon furiously.  "You came to spy.  Renegade,
deserter, traitor, you are always intruding on the scene.  But this time
you shall not escape me; by Heavens; you shall die, as you have so long
deserved!"

Instantly he drew his sword and made a savage cut at the Captain of the
Guard, that would have ended that officer’s career, had he not stepped
nimbly back.  Then, smarting under the Emperor’s scathing words, and
moved by sympathy for the insulted Empress, he did what ever afterwards,
when he thought of it, filled him with amazement at his temerity.  He
drew his sword and placed himself in a position of defense before the
Emperor.

The combat began.  The Emperor attacked with ungovernable fury; so
reckless was he, taking no pains to guard himself, that, had the other
chosen, he could several times have run him through, and thus terminated
the First Empire; but he kept calm, contenting himself with remaining on
the defensive, parrying Napoleon’s furious onslaughts, with such skill
as he was master of.  But to guard oneself in a duel, without taking
advantage of openings for attack, when one’s opponent is enraged and
active, and fights regardless of his own danger, is no easy matter.  And
St. Just had all and more than he could do, for, presently, the Emperor,
in making a furious lunge in tierce, was so far successful that he
ripped St. Just’s sleeve and slightly wounded his sword arm.  This
roused the officer’s temper, and he began to press Napoleon in his turn,
driving him into a corner; though still it was his intention to avoid
even pricking him, if he could so far control himself.

At the first onset, Josephine had tried to scream for help, but, so
paralyzed with terror was she, that her voice refused to come.  So, with
wide open eyes and terror-struck, she watched the combat, mute and
motionless.

Napoleon, in making a fierce thrust, now slipped and fell upon his knee.
He was at his opponent’s mercy, as, indeed he had been all along, for
all he had not known it.

Burning with the sense of his own injuries, and exasperated beyond
control, St. Just had shortened his sword and was about to plunge it
into his opponent, when Josephine rushed forward and seized his arm.

"No, no," she cried, "what would you do?  It is the Emperor you would
slay.  More, he is my husband."

"And he would divorce you," St. Just retorted angrily. But Josephine had
saved the Emperor.  The few words she had uttered had given his
assailant time to think, and he became once more master of himself.

Meantime Napoleon had risen to his feet and regained his sword.  The
Captain of the Empress’s guard snapped his own sword across his knee,
flung the pieces on the floor, and stood defenseless and erect before
the Emperor.  Then, as though all that had just passed had never been,
he saluted, and said respectfully, "Mons. de Talleyrand desires an
audience with Your Majesty; he awaits you in the White Drawing Room."

Boiling with indignation at his defeat, and longing to cut him down or
run him through, but conscious that he had received his life at the
speaker’s hands, the Emperor yet felt that it was impossible to slay an
unarmed man, and before the Empress, too.  Perhaps it was, in reality,
her presence that stayed his hand.  At any rate, he lowered his sword.
But the look of concentrated malice he turned upon St. Just was fearful
to behold.  "Why did you not deliver your message when you first
intruded here?" he asked in a voice that was hoarse with passion.

"Sire, you scarce gave me the opportunity," was the calm reply.

"Go, Sir," resumed the Emperor.  "I give you one hour to quit the
palace; if, by that time, you are not gone, then woe betide you; no
power on earth shall save you from my vengeance."

Then he turned to Josephine.

"Madame, the King of Westphalia dines with us to-night. See that you be
ready to receive him."  Then, moving his head in the direction of St.
Just, he hissed out the words, "Make hay while you may; you have little
time."  Then he added sternly and emphatically, "I go to tell Mons. de
Talleyrand to arrange for the divorce forthwith."

"Sire, Napoleon, hear me," shrieked the unhappy Empress, and she moved
towards him impulsively.

"I have said it," he said coldly, then stepped quickly towards the door.

Josephine staggered back and would have fallen, but that St. Just caught
her in his arms and saved her.

At the door Napoleon paused and turned his head, his figure sharply
silhouetted upon the panelling, by the moon, which showed up the red
ribbon of the Legion of Honor he wore, and accentuated the pallor of his
face.

"You have one hour," to St. Just.

He left the gallery, and the door closed with a clang behind him.

The sound roused the Empress and she withdrew herself slowly from St.
Just’s support, and stumbled to a seat. She looked up at him,
terror-stricken and bewildered.

"He is gone from me," she moaned.  "I have lost him. Oh! what shall I
do, what shall I do?  Cruel, cruel!"

She pressed her hands against her head, as though to still its
throbbing.  Until her first grief should have spent itself, St. Just
knew that to attempt to comfort her would be useless; and there was
nothing he could say.  He stood watching her in silence.

For some time she wept silently.  Then, suddenly she sprang up, and her
eye fell on the broken sword.  She stooped towards it and raised it from
the floor.

Divining her intention, St. Just dashed forward and wrested it from her
hand.  "Not that," he cried; "you must be mad."

"And have I not suffered enough to make me so?  Why should I live?  I
cannot live.  Oh! let me die," she wailed.

"Never," he replied impetuously.  "There is yet happiness in store for
you; life and hope."

"I will live, then; I may help him yet.  Give it me," pointing to the
broken sword.

"You swear you will not use it?"

"I swear.  I shall keep it as a memorial of your fidelity. If ever I
should be in dire distress and want your help, I shall send this
sword-hilt to you.  Then, come to me at once, for I shall need you
sorely.  Be careful for yourself; for Josephine’s sake be careful, and
do not needlessly meet danger.  It cuts me to the heart to part with
you, but you must go."

Her voice was broken with her sobs, and there was a hopelessness about
her tone that went straight to her hearer’s heart.

He went down on his knee and passionately kissed her hand.  A bracelet
containing a miniature of herself dropped from her wrist.  He stooped
and picked it up.

"Keep it, my friend," she said, "in memory of the unhappy Josephine."

She bent forward and brushed his forehead with her lips.  "We shall not
meet again, except to help him who has rejected me.  If I seem
unfaithful it is to serve him; to regain his love.  But now he loves me
not, so this token of affection to a faithful friend is no treason to
him. Farewell, my dear, you must not tarry."

But, ere the last words had left her mouth, St. Just had sprung to his
feet.  Her words and the touch of her lips upon his brow had sent the
blood coursing madly through his veins.  His heart was in a ferment.
Before she had divined his purpose, he had taken her in his arms and was
passionately kissing her.  Was it his fancy only, or did she really
return his kisses?  At least, she showed no resentment.  "Farewell,"
again she murmured faintly.  She struggled slightly to free herself, and
he released her.

Then he ran to an open window and, with one last look at her, he vaulted
through it and sped across the garden.  On he flew, scarce noticing
where he went, intent only on cutting one of the main avenues, for the
time was going on, and his hour of grace would soon be spent; and then,
unless he should be well clear of the precincts of the palace, the full
weight of Napoleon’s fury would be hurled at him.  Soon he struck into a
broad drive, and, by following this, it led him to the Porte Dauphin.
Passing through the gate, he was hurrying onwards, when he felt a slight
touch on his arm.  With a start, he checked his footsteps and, not
knowing whether it proceeded from friend or foe, instinctively he laid
his hand upon his sword.  He saw two figures in the darkness, a man and
a boy; the man holding two horses by the bridles.

A silvery laugh rang out upon the stillness of the night and, the next
moment, two voices spoke, together:—"Master!" "Henri!"  The speakers
were Mahmoud and his mistress.

"Halima!" cried St. Just astounded.  "How come you here?"

"Am I not everywhere where my vengeance leads me?" she answered gayly.
"And I fancy I was wanted here. Deluded schemer, it is useless trying to
keep me in the dark; my agents have kept me informed of all your doings.
So you have been doing a little plotting on your own account—and a
little philandering too, eh?  Oh! fie, you who swore that you had eyes
for no other woman, that your life was torture when away from me.  Oh!
faithless, cruel deceiver!"  And again her laughter rang out merrily.

It was so plainly unaffected, too, that even a less jealous man than was
St. Just could not have avoided the conviction that he had not been
greatly missed; that his wife had found consolation in another quarter.
He bit his lip in mortification.

"Curses on Abdallah!" he muttered.

"Nay, curse him not, my dear," she answered airily; "he has not lowered
you in my esteem.  I blame you not; for, unwittingly, you have done good
service.  ’Tis, is’t not, that the Emperor divorces Josephine?"

He nodded; he was offended at her banter, and somewhat shamed.

"Good," she replied, referring to the divorce.  "It is the beginning of
the end.  Now tell me more."

Rapidly he sketched out what had passed, detailing Napoleon’s fury and
his threat to have him shot, unless he were away at once.

When he had concluded.  "You have no time to lose, my dear," she said.
"Mount, mount quickly, and ride away.  They must not find you here.
Make your way with all speed to England; there, at least, you will be
safe."

"And you?" he asked.

"I shall be not long after you.  Await me there.  For the moment, I have
work in France.  My vengeance is working towards its climax.  It will
surely come, I know, but how soon I know not.  Now go, dear."

He embraced her tenderly.  "Oh!  Halima, my best-beloved," he said, "why
cannot we always be together?"  Then he mounted one of the horses and
galloped off into the blackness of the night.



                     *CAPTIVE, BUT EMPEROR STILL.*


                              *EPOCH IV.*


                     *CAPTIVE, BUT EMPEROR STILL.*


                              *CHAPTER I.*


It is to be regretted that of St. Just’s MS., from which this story is
compiled, many pages have been lost.  The reader will have noticed that
there are several gaps in the narrative—years in which his time is
unaccounted for. From the numbering of the leaves preserved, it appears
that more than a hundred pages are missing, pages that cover the period
between the moment when St. Just left Halima after his duel with
Napoleon in November, 1809, and the Emperor’s abdication at
Fontainebleau, 1814.

So that it is impossible to state with certainty whether, when St. Just
rode away from his wife with the intention of gaining England, and
informing the British Government of Napoleon’s contemplated divorce, he
carried out his purpose.  This much however is known, that, by some
means he managed to escape the Emperor’s vengeance. How he occupied
himself in the five years’ interval cannot now be ascertained; but, from
allusions in the subsequent portions of his MS. it would seem that for a
portion of the time he served in the Russian Army, and took part in
harassing Napoleon in his retreat from Moscow. How he got to Russia is
not clear; but it is likely enough that he was sent there by the British
Government with despatches for the Emperor Alexander.

Doubtless he was engaged in many adventures, at the instigation of his
wife, but of these there is no account.

In the five years that had elapsed, great changes had taken place.
Napoleon, no longer Emperor of the French, was confined to the island of
Elba, in which he exercised a petty sovereignty; having been driven from
his country by the treachery of his Counsellors and Marshals, backed up
by the victorious forces of the Allies.

Halima was exultant at his downfall, in which, somehow, she persuaded
herself she had had a hand.  True, she had been plotting against him for
years, but it may well be doubted that her actions had had the slightest
influence on events; but she thought so, and was, in consequence
content.

Josephine, the one woman who had had true and lasting love for the
Emperor, was dead, her end, no doubt, accelerated by the divorce.

Louis XVIII was king of France, but, with the usual obstinacy of the
Bourbons, he failed to recognize the enormous change that had taken
place in the temper and sentiment of the people; and already there were
signs, for those who had the wit to understand them, that, under the
surface there were smoldering embers of discontent that would burn
fiercely at the first fanning.  But the powers in France were unaware of
it, and the deluded monarch sat his throne in cheerful self-sufficiency.

But it is with England, not with France, that the reader has now to do.

The first of January in the year 1815 was remarkable for its mildness,
enhanced, in the locality which was the scene of the events next to be
recorded, by the blazing sun which was pouring its rays generously upon
the earth from the blue expanse of cloudless sky, making the sap stir in
the leafless trees, and dyeing the herbage a more vivid green.

In the Spring and Summer the scene would have been a lovely one, and
even now, it was not without its charms—the charms that belong to an
English landscape.

Away in the distance lay in the Sussex Downs, sheltering from the cold
blasts from the North, a roomy, weather-beaten, red-brick house, at
present the abode of Halima and St. Just.  A short distance from this
house, and looking down upon it, was Wolstonbury Hill, nestling beneath
which was the little church of Hurstpierpoint; the spire only was
visible from the house, by reason of the trees that intervened.  Away to
the right was Devil’s Dyke, and still further in the same direction lay
Shoreham Gap.  Extending the range of his vision the gazer would discern
a clump of trees, called Chantingbury Ring, a well-known landmark for
miles round—the sailors say that, coming up channel, you can see it
thirty miles away.

In the old-fashioned garden that surrounded the house and was bounded by
the high road between London and Brighton—about ten miles distant from
the house—strolled on this same first of January, a lady and a
gentleman. Let it be said at once that they were Halima and St. Just.
Her age at this time was about three and thirty. She was still a lovely
woman, but had parted with her girlish looks.  Some might even think
that her increased years had added to her charms; there was no waning in
them; only maturity; and from her intercourse with high-bred men and
women, she had acquired an ease of manner, a dignity of presence and a
wit and polish in her conversation that, with her quick intelligence,
made her more fascinating even than of yore.  Withal, she had lost none
of her strong will power and imperiousness.  She was dressed handsomely,
but more quietly than heretofore.

As for St. Just, he was noticeably aged, though the change in him in the
last five years was not so great as in the five that had preceded them.
He walked with a slight limp, the result of a wound received in Spain.

Presently they halted in their walk, and stood silently watching the sun
just beginning to slip behind the leafless trees that crowned a little
knoll to the West.  At the same time the chime of distant bells struck
on their ears.

St. Just was the first to break the silence.

"Art happy, chérie, in the reflection that your vengeance is complete;
that our enemy, Napoleon, no longer the great, is exiled; that my
wanderings about the Continent are over, and that now we can be all in
all to one another."

"But is it really true?" she asked.

"True enough, my dearest.  Did you not read it in the newspaper I
brought last week, when I went to London?"

"But newspapers oft lie.  I am still not easy.  You know, or ought to by
this time, that I depend on what my spirits tell me; not altogether on
what is common knowledge.  And they have told me—"

"Hush! little woman, not so loud; you may be overheard. As it is, these
English about here are suspicious of us, because we’re French; what
would they think, should they see and hear you at your incantations?  I
believe they would burn you as a witch."

She burst into a merry, careless laugh.  "They must catch me first," she
said.

But he did not join in her merriment.

"Don’t laugh, my dear," he said.  "If harm should come to you—" he
sighed.

"No harm will come to me.  If any should threaten me, my spirits would
forewarn me of it."

They resumed their walk in silence, pacing up and down the graveled
walks.  He seemed moody and disturbed.

By this time the sun had disappeared, and the air had become cold and
raw.  Halima shivered.  "I shall go in, Henri," she said.  "It is
getting cold.  This country is not like our sunny France."  After a
moment’s pause, she went on complainingly, "Where are your reflections
straying to?"

"I was thinking," he replied in an absent tone, "of what I had been
reading in the newspaper.  I was thinking of the unhappy woman who was
Napoleon’s wife."

"Of Marie Louise?" she asked.

"No, of Josephine."

"Ah!  I might have expected it," she retorted angrily and there was a
dangerous light in her eyes, that might have warned him.  But it only
angered him.  He turned upon her sharply.

"You sneer, but she was a noble woman.  I am proud to admit that she
regarded me with favor.  I would have done much for her.  But for your
devilish ingenuity and persistent malice, I might have saved him for her
sake."

"That you could not have done," she answered scornfully, "against my
will."

"Pray how?"

"Recall to your mind the eve of the battle of Wagram. Ah! you would have
made him believe in her, but for me. Abdallah was my agent, as you
know."

St. Just nodded in assent.

"He was watched by one of the Empress’s Maids of Honor."

"Yes; go on," interposed the man, in a tone of unnatural calm.  He was
putting a rein on his excitement. He felt that he was about to get an
insight into circumstances that had puzzled him.

"She was in the power of her lover," resumed Halima, "a Colonel of the
Guard.  What was his name?  Ah!" after a moment’s pause, "Tremeau.  He
was watched by the palace Marshal, who was in the pay of Fouché. Fouché
had his own interest to serve, and was in league with Talleyrand; and
he, in his turn, was intriguing with Pitt and Malmesbury and other
enemies of Napoleon.  And I was in it all; I knew all that was going on,
and helped to pull the strings.  I was kept informed of all your doings
at Fontainebleau, my dear—amours and all."

"I see," he said; "spy upon spy."

"V’là!" she exclaimed, airily, "One must watch one’s husband when he is
away.  I know something of the ways of men.  I always followed your
movements, when you were traveling."

"Except in Spain."

"No, not even excepting Spain, for there I was kept au courant by
Tremeau, who, you may remember, was in that country after Napoleon’s
second marriage.  He was in favor with Marshal Soult, and betrayed his
plans to Wellington.  Yes, my friend, I had a finger in the Spanish pie,
not less than in other articles of Napoleon’s menu."

"But my missions?"

"Blinds, my innocent, mere blinds; the instructions in your papers were
not intended to be acted on.  They were written to mislead, in case they
should be taken from you.  I soon found out that you were only half in
earnest about Napoleon; that, once under the glamour of his presence,
you would return to your allegiance to him. Fortunately, I discovered
this in time.  Had you been trusted, you might have wrought irreparable
mischief."

"Then I was played with all along?" was his moody comment.

"I would not put it so offensively as that, my friend. Let us say that
the part you played was not a leading one; but you filled your rôle,
such as it was, with credit. A stronger part would, I fear, have proved
too much for you.  You may thank me, therefore, that you were not cast
for the jeune premier."

She laughed, a little scornful laugh that was not pleasant to the
hearer.

For a few seconds, St. Just made no rejoinder.  Then, looking at her
sternly, he enquired, "Do you tell me seriously that you had anything to
do with Tremeau’s listening to my conversation with Josephine at St.
Cloud, and afterwards forestalling me in my mission to the Emperor?"

"Certainly I do."

"You did an innocent woman a grievous wrong; what harm had she ever done
to you?"

"None that I know of.  I was not jealous of her, if you suggest that.  I
did not mind your philandering with her in my absence.  Without vanity,
I think I might put my attractions in the scale with hers.  No, I had
not the least animus against her; she was a quantité négligeable, a
victim to the odium Napoleon would incur by her divorce."

"’Twas a heartless act.  Had you no consideration for your fellow
woman?"

"What thought had Buonaparte for me, when he robbed me of my innocence?"
she retorted sharply.

He recoiled from her, as though he had been struck. "Ah! don’t," he said
imploringly.  "Why remind me of it?  It was almost blotted from my
mind."

"But never from mine," and her eyes looked hard and cruel, and gleamed
with a vindictive fire.

She tripped away from him, and he turned round to watch her until she
disappeared into the house.  A deep sigh escaped him.  For the last ten
years—the best of his life and hers—he had been her husband in little
more than name; no sooner had he returned from one mission, than he had
been despatched upon another.  Now he came to think of it, he had been
the mere instrument of her revenge, a tool in her hands, a sort of
confidential servant; and, even so, not wholly trusted.  The position
irked him terribly, and, for the first time in his life, a something,
that he hardly durst acknowledge as regret, stole over him, that they
had ever met.

"I wonder what would have happened," he said half aloud, "if I had never
left Napoleon."

He sighed again, then began slowly moving to the house.

A noise of shouting in the distance made him check his steps.  He
listened; the sound came nearer, and still nearer.  Then, besides the
shouting, he could distinguish the clattering of horses’ hoofs and the
pattering of running feet.  Plainly, men mounted and on foot were
hurrying along the high road in chase of somebody or something. And now
a cry fell on his ear, that took him back to the bygone days—to France.

"A moi, mes amis; à moi, au secours!"

Without a moment’s hesitation, St. Just dashed down the carriage way in
the direction of the sounds.  When he reached the gates, he saw an
emaciated figure, panting and exhausted, running down the road; and,
about a hundred yards behind the fugitive, some dragoons, with an
officer at their head.  The officer was waving his sword and shouting,
"Stop him, stop him, in the king’s name. He is a French prisoner escaped
from Lewes."  Some laborers in the neighborhood were following the
dragoons. Other villagers hearing the noise, came up from the opposite
direction with lanterns, to see what it was about.

Thus hemmed in, the hunted creature had no chance of escape.  Seeing
this, he would have given up the attempt and quietly submitted to
re-capture; when St. Just, knowing, or rather guessing, that those who
were pursuing him knew no French, shouted to him, "A moi, pour France."

The fugitive dashed on, and fell palpitating at St. Just’s feet.

"The very man I sought," he gasped.  "Take it."  And St. Just felt a
small, but weighty, parcel thrust into his hands, under cover of the
darkness.  To save the man from capture was impossible, for the soldiers
were close upon him; and St. Just had only time to conceal the packet,
when the commander of the dragoons rode up, a few yards in advance of
his men.  The fugitive had scrambled to his feet.

"Caught, you French rascal," exclaimed the officer, striking at him with
the flat of his sword.  The man bent to dodge the blow, and then, before
anyone could divine his purpose, he made a dash at the holster before
the saddle, and seized one of the officer’s pistols.  In an instant he
had fired.

His aim was true.  The officer swayed in his saddle, bent forward, then
rolled off his horse to the ground, shot through the heart.  But, before
this had happened, there was another explosion.  The assassin had raised
the pistol to his head and fired the second barrel.  He dropped to the
ground and lay huddled up beside his victim.  At the same moment, the
foremost trooper rode up and dismounted to examine the body of his
officer.  He was stone dead.

The villagers crowded round the other man.  He moved slightly.  St. Just
bent over him.  The wounded Frenchman murmured the words, "May the good
God forgive my sin;" then a shiver passed through his frame and he was
dead.  St. Just examined the man’s features by the lantern’s light, and
was shocked to recognize in them Tremeau, the man of whom he and his
wife had but now been talking.

The other soldiers had now come up, and the sergeant dismounted and
proceeded to search the body.  There was nothing on him, but the rags
that covered him.

The sergeant scratched his head and seemed perplexed. How to remove two
bodies on the high road with no proper means of transport, and whither
he should take them, required deliberation.

He was considerably relieved, accordingly, when a short, broadset man,
with gray whiskers and a florid face, and dressed like a country
gentleman, came up.  He had half a dozen greyhounds with him.  The
villagers made way for him and touched their caps respectfully.

"It is the squire, a magistrate," St. Just muttered to the Sergeant; "He
will see to this business."

"Hullo! neighbors, what’s the matter?" asked the squire.

He spoke in a sharp, jerky manner, with a strong Sussex intonation.
Provincialisms were more marked then, than in these railroad days.

St. Just who had been the nearest witness to the tragedy, told the
magistrate what had occurred, omitting however, the fact of Tremeau’s
having handed him the packet, for no one had seen the transfer.

"The damnable villain!" was the squire’s comment, when St. Just had
finished.  "Thank God, we have done with these murderous French at last.
Boney has been so soundly thrashed, that he will never work more
mischief."  Which showed that the squire did not excel in prophecy. But
the villagers held the same opinion.  "You’re right there, Squire; we’ve
done with Boney at last, but he’s took a deal of doing," assented one,
who seemed to take the lead. The others sent up a little cheer, but the
grim sergeant only nodded.

"Take both bodies to the Hall," the Squire resumed. "I will communicate
with the coroner; the inquest can be held there.  You, Mons. St. Just,
will, of course, attend it.  And you, Sergeant."

St. Just assented, then wished the Squire good-evening and withdrew.  He
was anxious to put the packet in a place of safety for future
examination, when he should be alone; for now, he expected his wife to
come out every moment, to inquire the meaning of the disturbance; she
must have heard the shots.

When he reached his study, he took the packet from his pocket and
examined the outside.  It was stitched up in a sleeve of French
Guardsman’s coat, and greatly to his surprise, he found it was addressed
to himself.

"Major St. Just
       England."


Then it really had been meant for him.  How fortunate that he had
happened to be on the spot.  He had supposed, naturally, that it
concerned Colonel Tremeau, or some friend of his, and that he himself
had been intended only as a messenger for its delivery.

He locked it up in his escritoire, and then went to seek his wife.

Later, another surprise awaited him, for, at the inquest, he discovered
that the murdered officer was that very Captain Anson who, ten years
before, had driven with him, a prisoner, along that same road, when on
his way, unknowingly, to Trafalgar.



                             *CHAPTER II.*


It was late the same night, or, to be precise, at an early hour—long
before day-break—on the following morning, before St. Just found an
opportunity of examining the packet that had so strangely reached his
hands; for Halima was never fond of retiring early for the night.  But,
at last, she went to bed, and then St. Just betook himself to the room
he called his own.

It was a cozy, pleasant room, and, at this time, a cheering fire was
blazing in the grate.  As he glanced around, his eye fell on the various
familiar objects gathered in his journeyings and associated with his
profession.  Over the mantelpiece was the sword that he had worn in
Egypt; while, in a small glass case below it, was the little reddish
yellow brick of gold that he and Halima had picked up by the lake,
beneath which had lain the subterranean city. In the bookcase on his
right were three calf-bound volumes found at Moscow in the ruins of the
Kremlin.  Two of these were stamped with Napoleon’s arms, the third
displayed the Imperial arms of Russia.

He glanced at these and other memorials of his travels; then, with a
sigh for what he might have done and been, but for his infatuation for
the dark-eyed beauty who controlled him, he stepped to the escritoire
and took out the packet.

Then a curious hesitation came upon him: a sort of fear of the news it
might contain.  He turned the packet about in his hands, his fingers
trembling, and again carefully scrutinized the address.  He did not
recognize the writing and tried to think out the writer’s personality.

At last he murmured, "Why do I hesitate?  Why do I fear, I who have
thrice braved Napoleon’s wrath, and remained unscathed?  Pshaw!  I can
have nothing to fear, so here goes."

And, with a hand that shook, for all the bravery of his words, he took a
pair of scissors from the table and cut the stitches that secured the
wrapper.

On removing this, what first met his gaze was a small packet carefully
secured in oilskin.  It was sealed with a seal that made his heart beat
faster, and brought the tears to his eyes; for in the impression he
recognized the cipher of the Empress Josephine.

This packet was addressed:

"S. M. I. L’Empereur Napoleon."


St. Just laid it down and took up a second package, heavier and bulkier
than the first.  This was addressed to himself and was in Josephine’s
handwriting.

"To Major St. Just,
       Greeting and Farewell."


This, also, he laid down, but with a sigh.  He would open it when he had
satisfied himself as to the remaining contents of the parcel.  They were
two pieces of English newspaper covered with manuscripts in French.
Translated, the words ran as follows:

"A word from the lips of Charles Tremeau, formerly Colonel of the
Imperial Guard, written with all sincerity at the House at Lewes to
Mons. St. Just.

"Sir, knowing that my life, since I was so badly wounded in the fight at
Vittoria in Spain, can be but of short duration, I hasten to send to
you—if by any chance it can be sent—the enclosed packet, which was
handed to me by the Empress Josephine, with instructions to forward it
to you, in order that you might warn the Emperor of the dangers
threatening him.  It was meant to reach you last year, when you were in
Paris.  I pray you lose no time, when this and the enclosures find you.
I have to ask your forgiveness for a breach of trust I now confess.

"Thinking that the papers entrusted to me by the Empress might implicate
you and her in the Emperor’s estimation, and thus make capital for
myself, I opened the packet and made myself master of its contents.
Hardly had I done so when I was forced to flee from Paris on account of
Fouché, who was seeking me, and into whose clutches I had no mind to
fall.  Accordingly, I bargained for a passage to England with one Slade,
of Brighton, a Sussex fisherman, then in the Port of Havre.
Unfortunately for me, when we landed, he was arrested by the Custom
House officers as a smuggler, and I with him.  We were marched off to
Lewes jail, where we have been incarcerated for the past two months.
Alas! alas! most bitterly I repent my folly and dishonorable conduct.

"At my wife’s instance, I took copies of these papers and sent them to
the English Government, hoping they would set me free.  This was a month
ago, and I have heard nothing.  Perhaps they have deposited them among
their Archives, labeled as the wanderings of a lunatic!  If so, the
worse for them, but it is right that you should know what I have done;
then you will be on your guard.

"It only remains for me to charge you to deliver the enclosed
papers—they are the originals from the Empress—to the Emperor at Elba.

"This is written in the hope that I may find the means for it to reach
you.

(Signed) C. Tremeau,
       Chef de bataillon."


Below was added later:

"An opportunity for escape presents itself, or so we hope.  To-morrow,
all being well, I shall deliver these in person.  Slade and I have
arranged to escape together. We shall separate outside the jail and meet
afterwards at his house near the village of Brighton.  I give his
address below, in case aught should befall me after I have seen you.
Should this be so, explain my absence.  Use him as you think well.  He
knows all and may be trusted.

"T."


Then followed Slade’s address.

In much bewilderment, St. Just put down the papers; then, carefully,
actuated by his affection, he took up the packet addressed to him in
Josephine’s handwriting.  On opening it, the first thing that met his
eyes was the sword-hilt he had given her at Fontainebleau, five years
before. To it was attached a slip of paper with these words on it:

"In my hour of agony I found you a friend.  Again I call on you, by the
memory of this sword-hilt, to befriend me.  I rely on your fidelity to
deliver the accompanying packet to the Emperor, my husband, for so do I
always regard him in my heart.  So, go to him, my faithful and
well-beloved friend, so soon as you receive this, I entreat you.  Spare
no trouble, lose no time, but go at once.  You swore to help me, long
ago, if ever you could; and I know you will.  And now you can, for I
count what you do for the Emperor as done for me.  Then start, dear
friend, on receipt of this, for the sake of France, for Napoleon’s,
above all, for the sake of her who signs herself, as she ever will,

"Josephine
       "Empress Queen."


This letter from the dead hand of the Empress strongly moved St. Just.
The tone of piteous entreaty that rang through it touched his heart, and
her unswerving faith in him made a strong appeal alike to honor and
affection. She did not know his grievance against Napoleon, when she
asked him to assist the Emperor; therefore she was not to blame.  And
he—well, he would ignore it; for the time, at any rate.

"Adorable woman!" he exclaimed.  "Faithful, trusting creature!  And to
think that I shall never see you more! All that is left me is to execute
your behest.  And I will; you shall not have trusted me in vain.  Yes,
this very day I’ll start."

He glanced at his watch.

"Three.  I can be at Brighton by four, if I ride sharply; and four hours
later at Havre, with a favorable wind.  I ought to reach the Emperor by
the 13th or the 14th, at the latest.  Yes, I must set out at once.  Now
to apprise Halima of my absence."

He seated himself at his writing table and, after pondering for a few
moments, scribbled the following words:


"My dearest.  Important business, the details of which I have not time
to enter into now, calls me immediately to London.  I will explain on my
return.

"Yours, Henri."


This letter he addressed to her and laid on the table, where it would be
sure to catch her eye, when she should come down in the morning.  While
doing so, a grim smile flitted across his face; he was thinking of
Halima’s rage when she should find that he had gone without consulting
her.  How she would stamp about and storm; would vent her spleen on the
unhappy servants; they would have but a sorry time of it.

He went to the mantelpiece and took down his sword. "This sword," he
murmured, "was first drawn in his service, and, if he require it, it
shall be again."

He took up the packet for the Emperor, and placed it in his pocket.
Then he picked up the Empress’s letter to himself and re-read it.  This
done, he raised it to his lips and kissed it passionately.  "I long to
keep it in remembrance of her," he murmured, "but it is not safe."

He stepped up to the fire and threw it on the flames, and followed it
with Tremeau’s confession.  He waited till both were shriveled into
blackness; then left the room.

Pausing in the hall outside, he unhooked from a peg a riding cloak and a
three-cornered hat.  From a cabinet he took a pair of strong warm gloves
and a brace of pistols, which he carefully loaded and put into his
pocket. Then, as noiselessly as possible, he quitted the house by a
side-door in the study, and made his way to the stables, which were
close at hand.

Here he selected from a stall a suitable roadster, and saddled him with
his own hands, not choosing to wake the grooms, who were sleeping
soundly in the loft above. Then, he left the stable and proceeded down
the avenue, leading the horse.

He had just mounted and was about to turn into the high road, when he
received a check he had not bargained for.  Barring his way, was a party
of mounted men. There was sufficient light—for it was a clear, starlight
night—for him to see that they were soldiers, and, by their uniform,
hussars.  While he was wondering what their presence could portend, a
voice called out in peremptory tones, "Halt."

Clearly the words were addressed to him, for the others were already
stationary.  Desirous of concealing his identity, on the chance that
they might be coming to arrest him—not that he was aware of having done
anything to warrant it, but that his experience had made him
apprehensive—he decided to pretend to be a groom; so, to the challenge
he replied in broad Sussex dialect, "Who be you, Sirs, and what be you
adoin’ here?  This here ain’t a public road.  If you want Shoreham, it’s
straight on to the right. Let me pass, please, Masters.  I’ve got to
ride for all I know for the doctor.  My mistress is lying near on death,
and master is watching beside her bed.  Let me pass, sirs; it is a case
of life and death!"

But the men made no attempt to stir, and the voice that had before
challenged him called out, "Is not your master named St. Just?"

"Aye, that be’s name," rejoined the pseudo-countryman. "Let me get
through.  I tell you my mistress is mortal bad, and I cannot stop for
naught."

"Harkee, sirrah,"—the words came from a fresh voice—"your master is
accused of conspiring against the King, and we have a warrant for his
arrest.  Lead us to him instantly, or it will be the worse for you."
And the speaker moved his horse close up to St. Just.

There was something in the man’s tone that seemed familiar to St. Just;
he was confident he had heard the voice before.  And, now that its owner
had come alongside of him, he recognized him in an instant.  He was Sir
Henry Emerson, the man whose despatches he had purloined in the
character of the Comte St. Clair.

Taught by the many perils he had passed through, he was generally
prepared for an emergency, and never lost his presence of mind.  On the
present occasion, while the colloquy had been proceeding, he had been
casting about for a plan of escape; and had decided on his course of
action.  Convinced that it was useless to parley farther—more than ever
now that he had recognized Sir Henry Emerson—he slashed, with his riding
whip, the King’s Messenger across the face; then, suddenly wheeling
round, he struck his spurs into his horse and leaped the fence that
bordered one side of the avenue.

In making his jump, St. Just had been careful to select his spot.  It so
happened that, for some distance along the other side of the hedge,
right down to the high road, the ground had been excavated for
sandstone, for which that part of Sussex was celebrated.  It was,
therefore, full of pits, and anyone, jumping into them in the dark, must
sustain serious injury, if not death.  St. Just, however, knew the
bearings well, and he had chosen the only spot on which one could alight
with safety.  It gave on to a grassy track that threaded its way between
the various quarries and, after a long detour, came out eventually on to
the high road, nearer Brighton.

St. Just’s action had been so sudden that his would-be captors were
thoroughly bewildered and, at first, could not conceive what had become
of him.  A moment ago he had been there; now he had disappeared.  That
was all that they were certain of.  Sir Henry Emerson gave a yell of
mingled pain and rage, and the officer and his men came round him to
learn the cause of it.  With a volley of curses, he explained.
Meanwhile, the sound of horse’s hoofs could be heard upon the turf,
gradually growing fainter, until they were no longer audible.  They knew
nothing of the country, so to pursue the fugitive would be useless.
Besides, in their opinion, he was not the man they wanted, and he could
be dealt with when he came back with the doctor.  So they proceeded
slowly up the avenue towards the house, Sir Henry Emerson, with a red
wheal across his face, cursing and swearing at every step.

Meanwhile St. Just was cantering along the grassy track, and, in due
course, gained the lane which led to the high road.  Here he breathed
his horse for a minute or two, listening the while with pained
intentness for the first sound of approaching horsemen: but not a
footfall, either of horse or man, was to be heard.  The stillness was
almost absolute; not a whisper of animated life, or a breath of wind to
stir the leafless trees.  Once more he gave his horse the rein and
quickly urged him to a gallop.  Though, for the moment, he had escaped,
his pursuers would quickly discover that the man who had slipped through
their fingers was the very one they wanted, and would soon be after him.
On he sped, sweeping across Sayre’s Common as though the devil were at
his heels; then, continuing with unabated speed, he gained the foot of
Dale Hill, leading to Rye Coombe.  Here he dismounted and once more
strained his ears for the slightest sound that should import pursuit;
but still the silence was profound.  He ascended the hill on foot,
walking briskly and leading his horse.  At the top of the hill he
remounted.  It was now a level stretch to Brighton, and he made the most
of it, thundering along the road at topmost speed, until within half a
mile of Brighton; then he moderated his pace. Slade’s house was in the
outskirts of the village, as Brighton then was, and he pulled up at the
fisherman’s door, just when the clock of St. Nicholas’ Church, not far
distant, was chiming half past four.

A sharp knock, a few hurried words, and a little money, and the business
was arranged.

One of John Slade’s sons, Tommy, a bright-looking lad of two and twenty,
who loved anything that savored of adventure, entered heart and soul
into the "lark," as he mentally phrased it, and hailed with delight the
proposal that he should ride back St. Just’s horse to the Plough Inn at
Rye Coombe.  He was to don the Frenchman’s hat and cloak, and he
guaranteed to lead his pursuers a pretty race, if they should sight him.

When this matter had been arranged, St. Just disguised himself as a
fisherman, and then he and the elder Slade walked quickly up the hill,
at whose foot the cottage stood, and struck out for St. Nicholas’
Church.  Here they turned to the right and, after continuing for a short
distance, knocked at the door of one of an isolated group of cottages,
where lived the mate of the John Edward, as Slade’s sloop was
named—after himself.

Roused from his slumbers, and grumbling considerably thereat, Harry
Wingfield was quickly told the reason.  The sloop was to start, as
rapidly as she could be got off, with the French gentleman for Havre or
Fécamp, whichever port would be the easier to make.

They made their way down West Street for the shore.

"How is it the sloop comes to be moored here, instead of at Shoreham?"
asked St. Just.

"Well, Sir, since father died, I’ve lived here. Wingfield here," and he
jerked his thumb towards the mate, "know’d I’d be wantin’ him middlin’
early this morning for I’d sent him word.  That’s why he was so slippy
in comin’ down when we knocked.  I’ve only just got from Lewes—given ’em
the slip, you know—and, if not off pretty sharp, they’ll have me.  I
meant to sail at five this mornin’ just on the turn of the tide; so
you’re only just in time; a little later and I should have flown."

St. Just made a suitable reply, and, by this time, they had reached the
bottom of the street.  They shaped their way to the "Blockhouse"—or
rather, the remains of it—that had been erected by Henry VIII to defend
the coast. Below this lay the sloop.  Borrowing a boat, they rowed
quickly to her.  The crew were on board, so the anchor was weighed
instantly, the sails were set and the John Edward was headed for the
coast of France.



                             *CHAPTER III.*


The little sloop John Edward duly made the port of Havre.

Here Fortune smiled upon St. Just, for he learned that a ship was lying
in the "roads" on the point of sailing for Naples, and that its captain
was an old acquaintance, Captain Brenneau, aforetime commanding the La
Flèche. So he started for the owner’s office to engage a passage. He
parted cordially from the smuggler-fisherman, for they had become very
friendly on the passage, and St. Just had told him of his errand to
Napoleon.  Tremeau had said that Slade was to be trusted, and St. Just
thought he would be interested in his movements.  He had told him also
of Tremeau’s tragic end, at which the fisherman had been much affected;
he and the French Colonel had seen much of one another in Lewes jail,
and had escaped together.

In shaking hands with his late passenger and making him wince with the
vigor of his grasp, Slade said heartily, "Good luck go with you, Sir;
and, when you return to England, I hope you’ll come and see me.  No, no,
Sir," when St. Just pressed money on him, "I won’t take a penny off you.
I didn’t put to sea on your account, for I was bound to make myself
scarce, till things had settled down a bit; and you’re a friend of that
there Tremeau, a decent chap I will say for a Frenchy."

And, with these farewell words ringing in his ears, and another grip of
the honest fellow’s hand, St. Just left him and went aboard L’aigle d’or
(the Golden Eagle) where he found Captain Brenneau anxiously pacing the
quarterdeck, watching the men hoisting in the stores.

He failed to recognize St. Just, dressed, as he was, like a fisherman,
and roughly ordered him away.  "I will have no loafers (faineants) about
my ship;" for St. Just was hanging about, idly gazing at the workers.

St. Just broke into a laugh and recalled himself to the Captain’s
remembrance, and then proceeded to state the object of his voyage and to
ask Brenneau whether he would drop him at Elba.  To this the other at
once agreed and, on the following day they sailed.

Now, had they proceeded thither direct, Elba should have been reached,
ten or eleven days later; but Captain Brenneau had to call at Marseilles
to see the owners, and here the vessel was detained for ten days loading
further cargo; so that it was not until the first of February that they
sighted the little island that now comprised all Napoleon’s empire.

It was dark by the time they were near enough to lower a boat.

St. Just bid farewell to the Captain, and took his seat in it; the boat
put off, and, in half an hour made the harbor and was brought up by a
flight of steps in the harbor wall.  Here St. Just got out, and the boat
pushed off to make her way back to the ship.

He stood watching the departing boat for about five minutes; and he was
on the point of ascending the steps, when he heard voices just above
him.  He paused to listen.

"I tell you," said one voice, "that to-night he is expected from the
country.  It is the best chance we have yet had."

"But," said another voice, "he is always guarded; it will be useless."

"Not to-night.  He and Bertrand return alone to meet ——," St. Just could
not catch the name—"who brings intelligence from Pauline."

"And where do you propose to stop him?"

"At the ——" again the word was inaudible to St. Just.

"You will take your stand, hat in hand, in the middle of the road; take
this dog with you, leading it with a string, as though you were blind,
and beg alms of the Emperor. Then, when the carriage has stopped to
avoid running over you, lean forward and fire both pistols at him.  He
will be seated on the right side, remember."

"And what part do you take?"

"We cover your retreat."

"Is it certain that this man has promised us a ship?"

"Yes, yes; an hour ago, when the fog lifted, I saw her standing off the
shore.  And a boat to take us to her is at this moment waiting at the
spot arranged."

St. Just was horrified at what he heard.  Clearly there was on foot a
plot to assassinate the Emperor.  What could he do to circumvent it?
Not knowing where to find Napoleon, he could not warn him.  He was an
absolute stranger in the place, too.  And no time was to be lost; for,
so far as he could tell, the attack might be made at any moment.
Certainly it was to be to-night.  His agitation became terrible, while
he vainly tried to puzzle out some plan of saving Napoleon’s life.  He
was in a trap, for his only means of getting away from where he was, was
by the steps, and these men were at the top.  For a certainty they would
know that he had overheard their conversation, when he should show
himself, and, for their own safety, would attack him, in the hope of
silencing him for ever. Doubtless he could secure his own safety by
remaining where he was, until they should have gone.  But then, the
Emperor?  He had come all the way from England on what he regarded as a
sacred trust from Josephine, to help the Emperor to the utmost of his
power, and, come what might, this time he would not betray his trust.
He was periling his life in appearing before the Emperor; by facing the
conspirators above, he would be but anticipating danger.  And this he
made up his mind to do.  He would steal noiselessly up the steps, and,
the moment he gained the top, without a word, he would fall upon these
men. Two circumstances were in his favor—the start they would receive
when he suddenly burst upon them; and the advantages that lay in
striking the first blow.  Besides this, he was convinced, by what he had
overheard, that they were cowards.

Silently he removed his cloak, lest it should impede his movements, and
laid it on the steps.  Then he examined his pistols—they were
double-barreled—to see that they were duly primed.  Satisfied on this
point, he placed one in the right breast pocket of his coat, so that his
left hand could grasp it readily; and the other in a pocket in the
skirt. Next, slowly and with the utmost care, lest the clink of metal
should be heard, he withdrew his sword from the scabbard.  Then, step by
step and bending low, he crept up the flight of stairs, pausing at each
to steady himself. No Red Indian bent on falling upon his enemy in his
sleep could have moved more stealthily.  He could still hear the men
above him talking, but their tones were lower than before, and his mind
was so intent on his own movements that he caught only a word or two now
and then.  So far as he could judge from the different intonations,
three men were talking.  But he had no fear.  He had many faults, but
want of courage, when it came to fighting, was not one of them.
Besides, in the present instance, his opponents might be accounted as
only two, for he would cut down one almost before they would know that
they were attacked.

On, like a tiger crouching and dragging himself slowly towards his
unsuspecting prey, he glided, mounting ever higher; until, at last, he
was within three steps of the top. The restraint he had placed upon
himself in his efforts to make no noise, scarce even to breathe, had
made him short of breath; so he paused for a moment to regain it,
preparatory to the rush he meditated.

It was a minute before he could breathe easily.  Then, with a dash, he
was at the top of the steps and rushing at the men.  There were three of
them, as he had thought, and they were standing about two yards from
where he had landed, all close together and talking in low tones. There
was no one else in sight.  They started apart, on seeing him, with an
exclamation of alarm; but he was on them almost before it had left their
lips.  There was a cry of pain, then a groan, as St. Just’s swift weapon
was withdrawn, and the man nearest to him lay writhing on the ground.
The other two, seeing their companion fall and realizing the imminent
peril they were in, unsheathed their daggers, and, in an instant almost,
had rolled their cloaks round their left arms—they were hanging over
them at the time, and by a rapid whirling movement of the wearers’ arms,
they were coiled round—and prepared to defend their lives.  They felt it
would be useless to attempt to fly.  St. Just saw that he had all his
work to do. They dodged about him with the activity of cats, always
keeping at a safe distance, but now and then making feints at advancing,
and one or the other continually trying to attack him from behind.  He
had to keep turning round, whirling his sword about the while, with such
velocity that sometimes it seemed to be multiplied by three or four.  He
began to be apprehensive of the result, for the men were young and
agile, and seemed to be untiring.  So active were they, that he feared
to attempt to withdraw his pistol, lest at that moment they should take
him unawares.  The fight had now been going on for several minutes, and
St. Just’s breath was failing him.  He had not bargained for so sharp a
contest.  He could not last much longer.  Becoming desperate at this
reflection, he rushed frantically, with sword uplifted, at the nearest
of his assailants, regardless of himself.  But luck befriended him. In
his hurry to avoid the sudden onslaught, the man struck his foot against
something and lost his balance. Before he could recover it, St. Just’s
sword had reached him and inflicted an awful gash in his neck, that
brought him to the ground.  At the same instant St. Just felt a sharp
pain in his left arm.  Aiming at his back in the hope of striking his
heart, the other man had missed the spot, owing to a movement on St.
Just’s part, so that the blow had descended on his arm.  Feeling the
smart, St. Just turned quickly.  His assailant was too close for him to
cut or pierce him with his sword, but he raised his hand and brought the
hilt down on the man’s head, with all his force.  The man dropped like a
stone.

St. Just was laboring painfully with his efforts, and he rested on his
sword to take his breath and to think things out.

"The Emperor is saved for to-night," he gasped, when he was able to
speak; "but it was tough work, I was nearly done for; I could not have
held out much longer."

When he had recovered himself he went down the steps to regain his
cloak.  He threw it over his shoulders and went up again.  Then, without
heeding the prostrate men, and caring little whether they were alive or
dead, he set off at a brisk walk, intending to make inquiries how he was
to reach the Emperor.

He had just got beyond the precincts of the harbor, when he heard a step
and saw a light approaching.  The man who bore it came quickly on, and,
in another minute, was close to him.  A lantern was held up to him, and
a face peered into his.

St. Just was dumfounded; the man was his old comrade, Garraud.

"Garraud! don’t you know me?" he exclaimed.  "I’m St. Just."

From his action, Garraud might have seen a specter.  He started so
violently that he dropped the lantern.  Then, "My God!  St. Just, is it
really you?" he said, "I thought you dead.  And what brings you here?"

St. Just told him of his errand from the dead Empress, and then went on
to speak about the plot he had overheard, and how he had dealt with the
conspirators.

"Heavens! what a narrow escape," cried Garraud.  "We must alarm the
guard at once, and seek for the others. There must be more in this
affair than the three you have disposed of.  You seem to be continually
in adventures, my friend."

They walked away together, and, ten minutes later, a dozen Polish
lancers were trotting quickly down the road by which the Emperor was
expected, carrying a message from St. Just, confirmed by Garraud.

Then the two reunited friends made their way to the Palace, as the
tumbledown building the Emperor occupied was called, where there was as
much ceremony as had been observed at the Tuileries and Fontainebleau in
the olden days.

Two hours later, St. Just was summoned to the Emperor’s presence, being
ushered in by General Bertrand.

The apartment was poorly furnished; the contrast to Fontainebleau struck
St. Just with amazement.  A few gilt chairs from the Tuileries were
scattered about the room, serving merely to emphasize its bareness; in
the center was a long trestle table, on which was spread a large map of
the island; a small writing table stood in one corner, and along the
side of a wall an old chintz-covered sofa.  These completed all the
furniture.

The Emperor at the moment of St. Just’s entrance was standing before the
fire-place, pressing down the blazing logs in it with his foot, a trick
of his.

He was wearing a very old uniform of the Guards, his only decoration
being the cross of the Legion of Honor; his boots were dirty, and,
altogether, there was a general appearance of slovenliness about him.
He was even paler than when St. Just had last seen him, and he looked
anxious and dissatisfied.  He had grown stouter, too.  He was wearing
his cocked hat, but it was pushed off from his brow, and was balanced on
the back of his head.  But, despite the deterioration in his appearance,
there was still an air of majesty, and he had not lost his commanding
mien.

As it had ever been with him in Napoleon’s presence, St. Just felt awed,
and, when the Emperor turned round, he knelt at his feet and kissed his
hand.

"Rise, Sir, rise," said the great man sharply.  "We look not for the
ceremonial here that was the rule in France."

St Just rose to his feet.  "I have the honor, Sire," he said, with great
respect, "to be the bearer of information for your private ear."

"Go, Bertrand," said the Emperor instantly, without replying to St.
Just.  "Leave me with this gentleman; but remain within call."  Then,
when the Marshal had left the room, he continued to St. Just, "Now Sir!
Your message must needs be pressing when you dare to present yourself to
me, after what occurred when last we met.  I have not forgotten that I
have an account to settle with you. Methinks your courage exceeds your
judgment."

This was not an encouraging reception, and while St. Just hesitated, he
went on speaking in still sharper tones, "Come Sir, explain why you are
here."

He paused for St. Just’s reply, and began to pace the room impatiently.

"Sire," replied St. Just, "I need no reminder of the circumstances of
our last meeting, and I take this opportunity of expressing my
contrition for my conduct on that occasion, and praying your
forgiveness.  It is in accordance with a promise then given to the
Empress that I am here to-night.  On the first day of the New Year I
received this packet, accompanied by a letter from Her Majesty, charging
me to deliver it to you.  Coming as it did from a hand then cold in
death, I regarded it as a sacred trust, and instantly I started to
fulfill it."

He handed the packet to the Emperor, who immediately asked how it had
come into his possession.

St. Just told him, and of Tremeau’s letter to him and his tragic end.
Also of Tremeau’s breach of trust in having opened the packet and sent a
copy of its contents to the English Government.  Then he gave a rapid
sketch of the incidents of his start from home, up to the moment of his
arrival at Elba, winding up with an account of the conversation he had
overheard on landing, and of his encounter with the men who were
plotting to assassinate the Emperor.

Napoleon listened to him attentively, without a word. His countenance
was absolutely immobile; so far as any one could judge from looking at
it, St. Just’s narration was no concern of his; but, all the while, he
was weighing in his mind whether the speaker was to be believed.  More
than once he had broken his trust; he might be lying now.

"Have you anything to add?" he asked in a cold, impassive tone, when St.
Just had finished speaking.

St. Just was in great pain; his wounded arm was smarting terribly; he
had lost a great deal of blood, there was a curious dizziness in his
head, and a strange weakness was creeping over him; he felt unequal to
further conversation.  But, making a strong effort, he replied, "Only
this, if Your Majesty will forgive my boldness; but my loyalty to your
person gives me courage.  Once before, upon the eve of Wagram, I brought
you State papers from the Empress, containing grave intelligence.  You
doubted their trustworthiness and destroyed them.  I cannot but think
that, had Your Majesty acted on that information, affairs would have
shaped themselves for you more fortunately.  And now, a second time, I
bring you a despatch from her.  I have not a suspicion of its contents,
but, from the earnest entreaty of her letter that I should convey her
packet to you with my own hand and with the utmost speed, I know they
must be of the gravest moment to Your Majesty.  Oh!  Sire," he continued
with impassioned earnestness, "if a humble person, such as I am, dare
advise, I beseech you, this time to be guided by the Empress.  Your
interests were ever nearer to her heart than were all others.  I—know—I
risk—my—"

He tottered, sank into a chair, then rolled on to the floor in a swoon.

When he recovered consciousness, he found himself lying in the anteroom,
and Garraud bending over him.  He stared vacantly into his friend’s
face.  "What has happened?" he stammered, "where am I?"

"Bravo! my friend," cried Garraud cheerfully, "you’re all right now; you
fainted, you know; lost a good deal of blood from your wound;
over-excitement, and so on.  But you must keep quiet.  Don’t talk, but
listen; the Emperor is now closeted with his suite.  You may be wanted."

"I recollect now," replied St. Just.  "I was with the Emperor, and I
swooned; but I am well enough now; only a trifle weak."  And, with a
little struggle, he raised himself and sat upright.

Soon afterwards, General Bertrand entered with a smiling face.

"If you are well enough, Mons. St. Just," he said, "the Emperor desires
to see you at once."

St. Just rose slowly; his arm was in a sling; unknown to him, Napoleon’s
surgeon had attended to him by express command, and had bound up his
wound.

In the adjoining room he found the Emperor, surrounded by his suite.
When he entered, the words he heard rejoiced not less than they amazed
him.

"Gentlemen," the Emperor was saying, "we leave for Paris the moment it
can possibly be arranged.  France calls us, and we, her sons, must obey
her summons.  She needs her Emperor, and she shall not need in vain.
Therefore, prepare to start; but not a word of our intentions must be
breathed outside these walls.  You may now retire; all but Mons. St.
Just, with whom I desire a word or two."  He bent his head slightly in
token of dismissal. All bowed low before him and then filed out; all,
except St. Just, who stood awaiting Napoleon’s will with inward
trepidation.

But he was quickly reassured, for, the moment they were left alone, the
Emperor advanced to him with a pleased expression, and held out his
hand.

"Mons. St. Just," he said, "I wish to take your hand in token of
forgiveness.  I believe I wronged you.

"Had I, last April, received the news that you, at the risk of your
life, have brought me, I should never have quitted Paris.  As you have
just heard me say, I am going to return; and, in consequence of the
intelligence of which you have been the bearer.  In token of my
appreciation of your services, I hand you this.  I will not say, live up
to it, for I know you will."

He detached from his coat the decoration of the Legion of Honor, and
handed it to St. Just.

St. Just was overwhelmed at the unexpected honor and, while he took it,
was at a loss for words; but his face expressed all that was in his
mind.

"But—but, Sire," at last he stammered, "this is the cross of a
Commandant!"

"Quite so," replied Napoleon reassuringly; "and, to give you the status
to support the dignity, I create you Count of Elba, and will see that
you be endowed with a sufficient income.  Now, I will not keep you
longer, for you require rest.  Don’t stay to thank me, Count.  Bertrand
shall make out your patent of nobility to-morrow."

So St. Just, murmuring his thanks and protests of fidelity, but scarce
knowing what he was doing, bowed low to the Emperor and withdrew.

Apparently St. Just never received his patent, for the following note
forms a portion of his MS.:

"It was never done.  Bertrand meant to do it, but it got put off from
time to time, owing to his multifarious occupations; and on February
25th we sailed; I have never seen my titular island since, though I
still have, at this time of writing, my cross.  4 June 1820."



                             *CHAPTER IV.*


After Napoleon’s landing in France on his escape from Elba, events moved
fast.  As everyone knows, his progress from the coast to Paris was a
triumphal march; the people and the soldiers alike receiving him with
effusion.  The generals sent to effect his capture became magnetized by
his presence and, instead of arresting him as a conspirator, hailed him
with acclamation as their leader and enrolled themselves beneath his
standard.  Their soldiers followed them with the wildest enthusiasm,
fresh troops successively sent forward to oppose him, taking the same
course; so that, by the time he reached the capital, he was at the head
of a powerful army, mostly veterans and commanded by the finest generals
in the world.  Thus, there was no one left to bar his progress; the
opposition had melted away; such leading men as had not cast in their
lot with his, had fled the country, and the King with them.  The words
in which Julius Cæsar used to describe his own achievements, altered
thus, would even more suitably have applied to Buonaparte:—"Imperator
venit, visus est, vicit."

The news of his return fell like a thunderclap on the ears of Europe,
and diplomatists and generals became as busy as ants when their home has
been disturbed, devising means to crush once and forever the bold
usurper.  But, if they were active for his downfall, he was untiring in
his efforts to strengthen his position and to make preparations for the
impending onslaught; for he knew how terrible would be its force, and
that nothing but consummate generalship, aided by extraordinary fortune,
could avail him; the Allies were resolute and agreed about hurling him
from power.  So, during those memorable Hundred Days, his energy never
flagged, and he performed prodigies of work, inquiring into everything
himself—no detail was too small for him.

Fortresses were strengthened, provisioned and armed; thousands upon
thousands of France’s already depleted population were drafted into the
army and drilled incessantly from morn to night; the foundries were kept
going night and day, casting artillery; muskets and arms of every sort
were poured out by tens of thousands; stores of every description were
collected, men and women were hard at work all day in turning out
materials for uniforms, and others in making them up as fast as their
nimble fingers could ply their needles; never before in so short a
period was such a mass of war material got together.  And the Emperor
saw to everything.

To be sure, he was ably seconded by his generals and ministers, for the
enthusiasm was prodigious.  Everything was done to excite the passions
of the French against the rest of Europe, and to inspire them with
confidence in the Emperor’s invincibility.  But there were some few—the
more thoughtful of them—who doubted.

Throughout this period of preparation, St. Just saw a good deal of the
Emperor, who had now taken him back into his favor, and seemed to have
no doubt of his fidelity. Napoleon’s trust was amply justified, for, now
that the ci-devant traitor was removed from his wife’s influence, his
former devotion to his old commander had returned in greater strength
than ever, and no persuasion or temptation could have made him swerve
from his allegiance. Not even Halima herself could have achieved it.

The Emperor had placed him on his staff, and raised him to the rank of a
colonel, and had bestowed other marks of favor on him, pecuniary and
otherwise.  Also he took him into his confidence on private matters,
sometimes discussing with him subjects strictly personal to himself.

The Emperor often employed him on private missions and enquiries that
required tact and promptness and fidelity for their performance; and he
had never reason to be dissatisfied with the result.  All this was very
flattering to St. Just, and nourished his devotion.

The wound he had received in Elba had healed by the time he landed in
France, and, beyond an occasional twinge, his arm was as sound as ever.

One day, ten days after the return to Paris—that is to say, early in
April—St. Just was summoned to a private audience with the Emperor.

"Colonel," began Napoleon, the moment St. Just entered, "I want someone
I can trust implicitly to proceed to Vienna upon an errand that will
make demands alike on his acuteness and his courage.  I have the utmost
confidence in you, and should prefer you as my messenger to any one
else.  I know you have had much experience of continental travel."

He looked at St. Just with a knowing smile that showed he knew a good
deal more of his movements at Halima’s instance than had been suspected
by the other. St. Just reddened slightly, but remained silent, waiting
for further information.

"If you agree to go," the Emperor went on—St. Just was about to say
impetuously that, of course, he would go, when Napoleon held up his hand
to check him.  "Stay," he said, "wait till I have finished.  The man who
undertakes this mission for me will run great risk; if he fail, I may be
powerless to assist him.  They may shoot him as a spy; or they may
imprison him.  Now, are you prepared to take the risk?  I issue no
command, for I might be sending you to your death.  It is not the
Emperor who orders, but the friend who asks."

Now, in putting the matter in the way he did, the Emperor showed much
astuteness.  Had he merely issued his order for St. Just to go, the
aide-de-camp would, of course, have started without demur; but he would
have gone unwillingly, for he liked Paris; the bustle and activity going
on, and in which he bore a prominent part, had great attractions for
him, and he was anxiously looking forward to the moment when, their
preparations completed, the French army should, with Napoleon at its
head, meet its enemies face to face.  Above all, he was a soldier: the
smell of powder was a sweet savor in his nostrils, the boom of cannon
and the roll of musketry were as music in his ears.  By going to Vienna
he might lose the chance of winning distinction on the field.  But,
beyond all this, he would be separated from the Emperor, his intimate
intercourse with whom was now his chief delight and pride.

And Napoleon knew all this; he was a keen observer of those about him,
and he had read St. Just aright.  So he put his wishes on this occasion
by way of favor; thus first anticipating and then smothering St. Just’s
dissatisfaction, making him swell with pride at the confidence reposed
in him, and burn with enthusiasm to execute the Emperor’s behests.

Not a moment did he hesitate when Napoleon finished speaking.

"Sire," was his prompt reply, "I deeply feel the honor your choice
confers on me.  Willingly, gladly I will execute your errand, and will
do my utmost to bring it to a successful issue.  The Emperor has but to
command, and I will cheerfully obey.  I trust I shall not fail in
accomplishing the end you have in view; but, be assured, Sire, that, if
I should, it will not be through lack of zeal.  How soon am I to start,
Sire, and what are my instructions?"

His face was glowing with enthusiasm, and the Emperor was moved at his
devotion, and said a few gracious words by way of thanks; then he
proceeded to explain to his staff officer what it was he had to do.

The Empress Marie Louise, with Napoleon’s son, the titular King of Rome,
was living at Vienna at her father’s court; and Napoleon and his
ministers thought it would be a good stroke of policy to get her into
France.  Once there, they hoped she could be influenced to intervene
with the Allied Powers on his behalf.  If she could gain her father to
the Emperor’s side, he might prevail on the other Powers not to
interfere with the present regime in France, so long as the people
themselves were satisfied. The Empress, if she could be got possession
of, would be, it was hoped, a sort of hostage for the Powers’
non-interference with her husband.

Already there was a plan on foot for the execution of this project, and
St. Just had been selected by Napoleon as the agent.

He was to proceed with all speed to the Austrian Capital, and there—in
person should it be possible, but, if not, by some trusty messenger—he
was to convey to the Empress a letter from the Emperor, urging her to
accompany the bearer to France.

It was hoped that, having regard to private communications which had
already taken place, the Empress would yield to the Emperor’s request
and place herself under the protection of St. Just.  She really had
expressed her willingness to return to France, if it could be managed
secretly.  According to the plan that had been arranged, she was to
leave the palace at night by a side door and join St. Just outside; then
they were to make their way as rapidly as possible to Munich, where an
escort would receive the Empress and accompany her to Paris.  All this
was detailed at length by the Emperor to St. Just, with the names of
certain persons at Vienna who were in the plot, and could be trusted.
His last words were,

"You will find the Empress at Schönbrunn.  Twenty-four hours after
meeting her you must be at Munich.  Spare no expense.  When once you get
possession of the Empress, fly.  Now go, my friend, and good luck go
with you."

St. Just bent before the Emperor and kissed his hand; then he withdrew.
An hour afterwards he had quitted Paris.


St. Just’s MS. from which this story is compiled gives no details of his
journey to Vienna, the reason probably being that, inasmuch as his
errand resulted in a fiasco, he did not wish to be reminded of it; but,
from hints dropped here and there, it may be gathered that he reached
his destination and saw the Empress.  It would seem that he was duped,
and by Halima once more. Fouché, with whom she had close relations, and
who, in his heart, believed that Napoleon’s day was over, and was
opposed to the project for the furtherance of which St. Just was acting,
must have told her.  In the result, a lady closely veiled met him at the
palace, as arranged, and the programme was duly carried out.  But, on
their setting foot in France, he found that his companion was not the
Empress, but his wife.  His chagrin and rage may be imagined; they must
have been unbounded, and, probably for the first time in her life,
Halima failed to pacify him and mould him to her will.  At any rate, he
makes no mention of what took place on his return; not even of how the
Emperor received him, when he learned how St. Just had been beguiled.
Evidently the subject was too sore a one for St. Just to bear to dwell
upon.  Much of the foregoing statement is based on surmise; but it is
pieced together from stray notes in the MS. and is, probably, a fair
account of what occurred.

When St. Just returned to Paris, he fell into his old groove; warlike
preparations were hurried on; conscripts were drilled more assiduously
than ever; arrangements were made for the government of the country in
Napoleon’s absence; and at last the moment came when the Emperor set out
to cast the die that was to make or mar his fortune once for all.



                              *CHAPTER V.*


The morning of the 16th of June, 1815, was just dawning; for, away in
the Northeast, a faint shimmer in the sky, that grew momentarily
stronger, was heralding the approach of day.

The French army was once more on foreign soil; it had advanced into that
country which, from its having been the scene of so many well-contested
fields, so many sanguinary conflicts, had acquired the name of Europe’s
Cockpit.

That portion of the army, to which St. Just was for the moment joined,
was posted on a height hard by some windmills, which, in an emergency,
would form a temporary shelter and give time for the troops to rally
after a check.

In the distance facing them, was the Prussian contingent of the Allied
army, under Blucher, its center holding Ligny, its right and left wings
extending respectively towards St. Amand and Sombrey.  Between the two
armies was a broad ravine.

St. Just, mounted on a handsome chestnut charger, had arrived, not long
before, with despatches from Marshal Ney to the Emperor.  At the moment,
he had dismounted to give his horse a rest, and was standing motionless
by the windmills, his arm thrust through the bridle, his eyes and ears
alike on the alert.  Suddenly the sound of firing, in the distance,
broke on his ear, now rapid, now merely dropping shots; occasionally,
for a short space, ceasing altogether.  He listened attentively, and the
sound grew louder.  He judged, from the quarter whence it came, that it
was the advanced guard driving the Prussians back from the village of
Fleurus.  If the two were engaged, it must be the Prussians who were
retiring; the French guards would never give ground to such a foe—for
St. Just, like most of Napoleon’s officers, held the Prussians in
contempt.

While, he was figuring to himself the changes in the several positions
that the engagement then proceeding would bring about, he heard the
tramp of horses, and the Emperor, accompanied by his staff, rode up.

"Ah!  St. Just," he cried, "what are you doing here?"

"My horse was tired, Sire, and I was giving him a few moments’ rest.  I
was told by the picket officer that you were expected at the windmills
almost immediately, and I thought I should find you sooner by waiting
here than by seeking you, since I did not know from which direction you
would come.  Marshal Ney sent me to say that he is hindered in his
advance on Quatre Bras, by the enemy, who are in force beyond Frasnes."

The Emperor, who was habited in his well-known gray overcoat, for the
morning was chilly, scribbled these words on a piece of paper:—"Advance,
at all hazards, on Quatre Bras at once.  Send men by the village of
Marchais to occupy the heights of Brie.  I must have them by two
o’clock. At that hour I shall order a charge of the whole front to
support you.  You ought not to have lost so much time; if you had
already advanced, we should have had the Prussians in our grasp."  He
handed the paper to St. Just. "Take this at once to Marshal Ney, and
ride your hardest. Urge on the Marshal the necessity of an immediate
advance."

St. Just mounted and rode off at full gallop, for the Emperor’s message
was imperative.  He would get a remount from Marshal Ney, for he knew
that, when he reached him, his horse would be exhausted.

On gaining Frasnes, he found that Ney was only then preparing to
advance.  Ney read the Emperor’s message carefully, and deliberated.  It
was all very well to give the order, but he doubted the strength of his
command for the task before him.

While he was still hesitating, a dragoon rode up in haste.
"Marshal,"—he saluted and shot out the words—"Colonel ——, commanding the
advance guard, bids me say that the Prince of Orange has occupied Quatre
Bras."

"Perdition!" shouted Ney, much upset at the intelligence. "At all costs
we must drive him out."  Then, turning to St. Just; "you see, Colonel,
the difficulty I am in.  The Emperor does not know of it; it is
impossible for me to move the men as he desires; my force is not
sufficient in the face of this last news.  Here, take those men to the
front;" pointing to a squadron of Dragoons. He seemed quite bewildered,
and scarce knew what to do, hesitating whether to follow the Emperor’s
orders or to act on his own knowledge, gained on the spot, of the
position.

"But, Sir," St. Just protested, "what about the men for the heights of
Brie?"

"I tell you they cannot be spared, Sir," was the Marshal’s sharp reply.
"Go, Sir; the Emperor has placed me in command here.  I must have time."

St. Just was attached to Ney’s command, and he durst not disobey; so he
made no further protest.  He saw that, for some reason, the Marshal was
delaying, and it troubled him.  He said no word audibly, but he
muttered, "It is terrible, but I am helpless.  At any rate, I can obey."

He exchanged his wearied horse for a fresher one, then placed himself at
the head of the squadron and started for the front.  He could hear the
sound of firing in the direction of Ligny on the right, and also
straight ahead of him.  Advancing at a rapid trot, he came up to some
battalions of French infantry.  They were hotly engaged with the enemy,
firing as fast as they could load.

"They run, they run," shouted an officer by his side.

"Who?" asked St. Just sharply.

"The Brunswickers; see!"  And he pointed towards the eddying cloud in
front.

St. Just looked, but it was impossible to judge in the smoke and the
confusion how the fight was going.  All he saw was that the French were
falling fast; right and left, and all around him they were dropping
under the storm of bullets.  To remain idly looking on was more than he
could stand; the impulse to rush forward at the foe, to ride them down
and hack and hew, was tearing him to pieces, and to remain a passive
spectator was no longer possible.  At last, although he had received no
orders to advance, he shouted, "Charge!" and galloped forward to an
opening between two squares.  With a cheer, his men dashed after him.
Straight before them, but concealed by the dense smoke, and formed into
a square, were the Forty-second Highlanders, who had been advancing and
had missed their position, so that they were unsupported.  Into this
square plunged St. Just’s Dragoons with an impetuosity that could not be
withstood.  The Highlanders wavered, then broke and, in a moment, the
Dragoons were in the midst of them, slashing and thrusting, and hewing
like fiends let loose.  The English, without knowing it, had approached
so near the French lines that the battalions behind St. Just rushed in
and attacked the Highlanders with the bayonet.

When St. Just and his men had cut their way through the square, sending,
in their passage, many a gallant Scotsman to his account, his sword was
red with blood, and yet he could scarce remember that he had used it; in
his excitement, he had not had time to think, and had hardly realized
what was going on.

His men and himself, mad with the lust of battle and the desire to kill,
their appetite for blood increased by what it fed on, now threw
themselves on a body of Black Brunswickers.  It was reckless folly, for
the latter far out-numbered them, and both horses and men were fresh;
whereas St. Just’s were blown.  Blindly and madly, they rushed upon the
Germans, but their foe stood firm.  They retired and charged again, but
not the least impression could they make upon the serried mass before
them; St. Just’s men were beaten back with frightful loss.  Seeing the
hopelessness of further fighting, St. Just ordered a retreat.  At a
short distance on the left was a glade with trees, and to these the
discomfited Dragoons betook themselves, in the hope of finding temporary
shelter.  But the Brunswickers swooped down upon them with shouts of
triumph.

In and out between the trees they fought with desperation, dyeing the
ground crimson with their blood.  More of the victorious Belgians came
up, and the glade rang with oaths and shrieks, the clash of arms and the
crack of pistol shots; and mingled with them, the cries of the wounded
and the dying.

St. Just’s horse was killed under him and, in falling, brought his rider
to the ground, entangling his leg in the stirrup, so that he could not
rise.  Thus he was taken prisoner.  His captors hurried him through the
wood till they came to the highway leading from Brussels to Quatre Bras.

At this point, a mounted general officer with a prominent Roman nose,
and dressed in a plain uniform and wearing a cocked hat devoid of
plumes, confronted them.  He was accompanied by an aide-de-camp.

"Who are you, Sir?" he asked sharply, addressing the prisoner.

St. Just drew himself up and saluted.

"Colonel St. Just," he answered, "of the Emperor’s Imperial Guard."

"Hah!" said the aide-de-camp, and, leaning forward, he spoke in a low
tone to his companion, who immediately called out to the soldiers, "Fall
back there!"  Then to St. Just, "A word with you, Sir.  Now, Sir, I know
who you are, and all about you.  I also know your wife.  Now, tell me
what are Buonaparte’s plans, or—" and he paused ominously.

"Or what?" St. Just asked promptly.

"I will have you shot for a spy.  You are well known for one."

"I refuse to say a word," was the unflinching answer, and he looked the
general officer boldly in the face.

The latter wasted no time in argument.  He turned to the aide-de-camp.
"Matthews, see this man shot."  Then, without another word, he rode
away, satisfied that his order would be carried out.  As St. Just
learned afterwards, he was the Duke of Wellington.

St. Just’s position was desperate indeed; for all that, he did not lose
his presence of mind.  If he should go quietly, he would infallibly be
shot.  He resolved to make a dash for life; should he fail, the result
would be the same as if he had not tried; he would be shot—in the back
instead of in the face—a distinction without a difference.  Suddenly the
thought flashed on him of how Tremeau had acted in somewhat similar
circumstances—before his house in Sussex.  St. Just was alone before the
officer, his captors having fallen back some paces, in obedience to the
orders of the Duke.  Instantly his resolution was taken.  Before any one
could dream of his intention, he had dashed upon the officer, hurled him
from his horse and vaulted into the vacant saddle.  Then, wheeling the
horse round, he set off at a gallop, shouting "Vive L’Empereur."

The whole affair had been so sudden, that his captors were dumfounded
with astonishment, and, for the moment, were at a loss how to act.

The officer sprang to his feet and shouted, "Fire on him!"

But, by this time, the fugitive had got many yards away. He heard the
order given and instantly bent low in his saddle.  Crack, crack, crack,
went three musket shots.  He could feel the bullets whistle past him.
Before they could load again, he was out of range.

He rode for his life, tearing down the road at topmost speed.  A few
stragglers—English—blocked his path.

"Despatches from the Duke!" he shouted.  "Make way!"

They did; his English words had saved him.  On he flew.  Presently he
became conscious of a horse’s hoofs striking the ground rapidly behind
him.  He was convinced he was being pursued.  It was the officer who had
been charged to see him shot.  He had caught a Dragoon’s stray horse,
and was thundering after the runaway.  St. Just could feel that his
pursuer was gaining on him.  Just when life and liberty seemed his, was
he to be deprived of both?

But now a greater danger than the officer in his wake assailed him.  In
a field a few yards from the road was a man in the dreaded scarlet
uniform.  The officer shouted to him to shoot St. Just.  The English
soldier leveled his musket, taking a steady aim, his object plainly
being to fire point blank, just when St. Just was passing.  The
Frenchman saw his peril and suddenly ducked his head.

Bang! he felt a sudden, scorching smart and a bullet cut a channel
across his forehead; then the blood began to trickle down his face.

All at once, on the other side of a ploughed field on his right, he
espied a troop of the Emperor’s Polish Lancers.  They were sabering some
Belgian infantry.  He turned into the field and crossed it at a gallop.
His strength was failing him, for the blood was pouring from his wound.
A few more strides and he had gained his comrades.  He was saved!  He
swayed unsteadily in his saddle, then rolled off and fell unconscious at
their feet.

When he awoke to consciousness, he found himself in a clean white bed
with a French officer by his side.  His comrade also had been wounded,
for his head was swathed in a bloodstained cloth.

"Where am I?" St. Just asked in a weak voice, and looking, bewildered,
first into the other’s face and then around the room.

"At La Belle Alliance, a farm house," was the reply; continuing, "The
decisive battle will be fought to-morrow. Hark! what is that?  A
carriage!"

He went to the window and looked out.  "’Tis the Emperor’s carriage; and
he is getting out."

In less than a minute, a staff officer entered the room, followed
immediately by Napoleon.

At the sight of him, St. Just first raised himself to a sitting posture
on the bed, then staggered to his feet and saluted.  He felt weak and
dizzy.

The Emperor, who was now paler than his wont, and looked ill and
worried, spoke to him kindly, making a few inquiries about his wound and
how he got it.  Then he repeated what the officer had said, that the
decisive battle would be fought on the morrow, and inquired whether St.
Just would be able to take part in it.

To this St. Just replied that nothing should prevent him; that his wound
was a mere scratch, and that he was merely a little weak, and that a
night’s rest would put him on his feet.

The Emperor moved to the window and gazed out. "To-morrow," he muttered
musingly, "to-morrow."

                     *      *      *      *      *

The morning of the 18th of June was ushered in with pouring rain.  It
came down in heavy showers, almost in sheets, drenching the expectant
combatants to the skin, and making the ground so soft and spongy that
much of it was like a swamp; so that the movements of the artillery were
slow and difficult; often the men had to assist the horses in getting
the wheels out of the furrows of slush and mud.  Thus, it was half past
ten before the army had taken up its position.

Before this, the Emperor had posted himself on the heights of Rossome.
St. Just, still weak, was by his side. From ten in the morning till six
in the evening he remained there, inactive, following with his eyes, as
well as he could, the movements of the army.

The Emperor sat motionless on his horse, continually bringing his
telescope to his eye to watch the progress of the battle, and sending
frequent messages by his aides-de-camp to his generals in all parts of
the field.  His countenance betrayed the terrible anxiety he felt.
Every now and then he gazed out into the far distance for the first sign
of reinforcements.

"Grouchy," he murmured, "why does not Grouchy come?  He should have been
here long ere this."

He turned suddenly to St. Just and spoke to him for the first time for
hours.  It was now six o’clock.

"Tarry no longer.  Say to Kellermann, the cavalry is to advance; and the
day is ours.  Tell him to sound the charge at once."

St. Just saluted and dashed off.

By the time he had reached General Kellermann, his mind misgave him as
to the Emperors meaning.  Did he intend all the cavalry to take part in
the charge, or only Kellermann’s division?  There was now no means of
ascertaining.  All he could do was to repeat to General Kellermann the
Emperor’s words, and leave him to put his own construction on them.  But
he did it with great misgiving.  "The Emperor’s orders are," he said,
"that the cavalry is to advance, and that you are to sound the charge at
once."

Kellermann thought the whole body of cavalry was to charge, and passed
on the order to General Guyot, who commanded a division of seven
thousand horse, who had been waiting for hours in ungovernable
excitement.  This was not what the Emperor had intended; these seven
thousand were the reserve.

It was a fatal error, and, too late, Napoleon saw it.  It lost the day,
for, at this critical period, the battle was drawn.  The English could
not advance, and, in consequence of the Emperor’s having despatched ten
thousand men to hold Bulow, the Prussian general, in check, the French
were not in a position to follow up any advantage the cavalry charge
might give them.

St. Just joined himself to General Kellermann’s command and charged with
them.  They rushed off at a gallop, the thousands of hoofs making the
ground shake beneath them.  Again and again they dashed with desperate
valor at the English infantry, but could make no permanent impression;
frequently they broke the line opposed to them; but the stubborn
Englishmen had a valor equal to their own, and always rallied, closing
up their ranks as fast as they were broken.  More and more furiously did
the Frenchmen fight, but it was all of no avail.  They had made their
final throw, and it had proved a blank.  Their loss of men was fearful,
and, before reinforcements could be hurried up, Blucher, with his
Prussians had come up.

This was the turning point of the day.  From that moment, the French
case was hopeless, and they had to admit defeat.  The Retreat was
sounded; but soon all order was abandoned, and it became a rout, and the
cry of "sauve qui peut" went up.  The worsted French scattered pell-mell
in all directions.

St. Just, forced back in the rout that followed this welcome and almost
indispensable accession to the strength of the "thin red line," of
English, once more regained the Emperor’s side.

Night was advancing and the Emperor could no longer direct his routed
troops.  It was too dark for practical orders either to be given, or, if
given, carried out.  But he still lingered, and was only forced away in
the general rush, St. Just and two or three others with him.

Across that ghastly field they rode; and what a ride! Every now and then
some bivouac fire, not yet expired, would flicker up in the darkness and
show the flying Emperor to the host of wounded that bestrewed his path.
Many of the poor creatures, when they recognized him, would raise
themselves upon their elbows and, even while they groaned with pain,
would faintly cheer, then sink back exhausted by their effort, only to
be trampled to death alike by friend and foe in the mad flight of
pursuer and pursued.

On and on and on the little party rode, wearied and dejected, almost
without a word.  A short halt was made at Genappe, merely to obtain
fresh horses.  At one o’clock on the morning of the 19th they reached
Quatre Bras. Here they remained, and rested for an hour, and the Emperor
despatched orders to try to check the rout and collect the scattered
fragments of the army.  Also St. Just says, to inform General Grouchy of
their defeat.

At dawn the journey was resumed by way of Laon, and thence, by rapid
stages, to Paris.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*


It was the 28th of June.  Much had happened in the ten days that had
elapsed since the battle of Waterloo. Napoleon had returned to Paris;
had found both the Chamber of Peers and the Chamber of Representatives
determined no longer to retain him as the ruler of the country; had
abdicated in consequence; and was now on his way to Rochefort with the
intention of escaping to the United States.

Near the Tuileries was a cul de sac, called the Ruelle de Dauphin, and
here was situated at this time the Hotel Mirabeau, where St. Just was
living by himself.

On the afternoon of the day last mentioned a woman, closely veiled, and
followed by two men, entered this building and proceeded to the third
story.  Here a latch-key in the woman’s hand admitted them to a small
vestibule that led to a long, narrow room.  In one corner of this
apartment was a door, which, on being opened, disclosed a closet.

The movements of the persons who had just entered were peculiar.

The woman crossed the room, opened the door of the closet, and motioned
to the men to enter; "When I kiss him," she said, then closed the door
upon them.

Then she took off her cloak and removed her veil, placing both on a
chair.  There was a mirror in the room and, naturally, the next thing
she did was to step up to it.  It reflected the face of Halima, and on
it was a look of triumph, tinged with hatred.  She turned away with a
scornful smile, and sat down to wait.  Evidently she was expecting some
one.  She was still a woman of rare beauty, but long-continued
determination, in the face of repeated disappointments, had imparted to
her expression a certain hardness, that, in former days, had not been
there.  For the rest, as regards appearance, she was somewhat fuller in
figure than of yore.

Napoleon’s return from Elba had been a dreadful blow to her, and, for
the moment, she had reeled under it.  To find that, only a few months
after she had thought his fall complete, he was once more supreme in
France, had at first taken all the spirit out of her.  But, when the
initial shock had passed, she had soon plucked up again and set her
busy, vindictive brain to work to devise fresh plans for her betrayer’s
overthrow.  It was not that she now resented, or even thought of, the
act that had been the original cause of her vindictiveness; if she had
dwelt on it, it would have been rather with a feeling of complacency,
and even pride, that a man who had risen to such a height of power
should have honored her with his amorous regard.

Rather, what moved her now, what fostered her desire for vengeance,
added virulence to her malice, and strengthened her resolve, was the
revelation of her own importance, in contra-distinction to Napoleon’s
power, the frequency with which her plottings had been baffled, the
little there was to show for all the wealth she had so lavishly expended
in the prosecution of her schemes.  For, though, in her
self-sufficiency, she tried to persuade herself that she had taken a
leading part in causing the Emperor’s misfortunes; yet her own heart
told her it was a very small one.

Now, for the second time, Napoleon’s downfall seemed complete and
permanent.  Surely this time there would be no recovery.  She thought
out the position calmly, and decided that it was impossible.  His defeat
at Waterloo had been so overwhelming, and the Allies were so resolute to
crush him, and so strong.

These were her reflections while she sat there waiting, and her smile
deepened in malignant triumph.

Since she had fooled her husband in his mission to the Empress Marie
Louise, they had not met.  On their return to France on that occasion,
he had separated from her and had resolutely declined all her advances
to resume cohabitation.  Heart and soul, he was now devoted to the
Emperor, and her power to make him swerve from his allegiance was gone.
But she knew all that he was doing, or nearly all, for in all his
movements her spies dogged his steps.

Presently she heard on the stairs a footfall that she knew.  The door
opened and St. Just came in.

At the sight of her, he started and stood still.  "Halima!" he exclaimed
slowly, his surprise showing in his tone, "what brings you here?"  The
usual ring of welcome in his voice no longer sounded.

She noted its absence and, though not surprised, resented it.  A sullen
curtain veiled the brightness of her face; but only for an instant; then
she became all smiles and sweetness.  She had a part to play, and was an
adept in all the wiliness of the Oriental.

"Fie, uncourteous man," she answered playfully, "to speak like that and
look so cross; and just because his loving wife has come to see him,
when he won’t come to her.  Oh!  Henri, dear, I cannot bear this
separation.  And it is not right; husband and wife should not be parted.
I have come to ask forgiveness for the trick I played you in Vienna; but
I little guessed you would take it so to heart, or I would not have done
it.  Surely, by this time, you have forgiven me.  Oh!  Henri, let me
come back to you!"

She paused and looked at him expectantly.

But he made no reply; only stood there immovable; and his face was full
of trouble and indecision.

"What!" she resumed, "still unforgiving?  Nay, Henri, I did not think it
of you.  But I will kiss you into acquiescence.  I will lay my heart
against your own, and you shall feel its throbs, and its mate within you
shall leap to meet it, and I will soften you to pardon."

All this time St. Just was standing with his back towards the closet
door, to which Halima’s eyes had several times been furtively directed.
Noiselessly and gradually this door was opening.

Halima’s last words had hardly left her mouth—deceiver that she was—when
she rushed at St. Just with her arms wide open, and threw them round his
neck, drawing his face down to her own.  "Kiss me, my Henri," she cooed
in the note he knew so well; and, unconsciously, at the magic of her
voice, his arms embraced her and he pressed his lips to hers.

The door behind St. Just was now wide open, and, stealthily, with the
sinuous movements of a panther, the two men glided towards their
unsuspecting victim.  Then, when close to him, suddenly they threw
themselves upon him, pinioning his arms so that he was helpless.  At the
same moment, Halima loosened her hold on him and freed herself from his
embrace, standing away from him with a look of triumph on her face.  In
another instant, before he had realized what had happened, he was on his
back and held in an iron grip by his assailants.  They were powerful
men, each far stronger than St. Just, so that he was like an infant in
their hands.  He saw the futility of resistance, and did not attempt it.
But he turned on Halima such a look of sad reproach and grief as would
have touched the heart even of a Lucretia Borgia.  And it touched
Halima’s; still she did not falter in her purpose.

"Delilah!"  The tone told what was in his mind; sorrow and indignation,
reproach and murdered love, failure and despondency; it expressed them
all.

"I know all you feel," she answered, "all you think of me; but it had to
be, there was no other way.  You have that about you that I was resolved
to see; and I knew that no persuasion of mine would make you part with
it. Force was the only instrument at my disposal.  It saves your
reputation, too; there is no disgrace in yielding to superior strength,
so you have nothing for which to blame yourself.  No harm whatever is
intended you; only a temporary inconvenience.  You must see the
hopelessness of resistance; bow to the inevitable, therefore, and show
your sense by not attempting it.  But, in any case, I mean to have those
papers."

She faced him without flinching, with stern, unbending aspect, and her
tone was resolute.

Her warning had been almost needless, for held as he was, he could move
neither hand nor foot.

He laughed scornfully; then answered bitterly, "Doubtless your advice,
Madame, was well-intended, but you might have spared yourself the giving
it, for no one knows better than myself my utter helplessness.  Even
with one of these lusty rogues I should, unarmed, have had no chance.
But, were my arms but free, even though I know that death would be the
outcome, I would struggle, while life lasted, to defend my trust.  Oh!
God! to be thus constrained!"

His despairing accents thrilled her.

"I know it, Henri," she replied; "there lives no braver man than you."
Then she turned to the men.  "Bind him hand and foot, and search him."

She looked on calmly, though her heart was in a tumult, while they took
strong cords from their pockets, and proceeded to tie first his hands
and then his feet together. St. Just made no resistance; where would
have been the use?  But he glared savagely at Halima, all the while, in
a way that made her tremble.

Then they searched him carefully.  Their quest resulted in the discovery
of a sealed letter, the object of Halima’s proceedings.  In a fever of
excitement, she tore it open and began to read it.

"Ha!" she cried suddenly, "so Napoleon thinks to escape to the United
States; I had half expected it."  She drew herself up, and her voice was
raised almost to a scream. "But never while Halima lives to bar the way.
Fouché must know of this at once.  He may be trusted to take measures to
prevent it."  Then, in a calmer tone, she addressed herself to the two
men.

"Guard well your prisoner till my return.  Allow him to communicate with
no one.  Should he attempt to call out, gag him.  But harm him not, or
you shall suffer for it."  Then turning once more to St. Just, "Au
revoir, my husband, I shall return anon."

St. Just scowled at her, but made no reply.  Then she left him.

Two days later, on the 30th of June, Captain Maitland commanding H.M.S.
Bellerophon received a quill that contained a note inscribed on tissue
paper.  It was to warn him that Napoleon purposed leaving Rochefort for
America on the 3rd July, and to keep a sharp look-out to frustrate the
attempt.

It is a matter of history how, in consequence of the vigilance of the
English—eleven British men-of-war were cruising off the port—who had
received intelligence of his intention, Napoleon found it impossible to
get away.

Thus Halima’s interview with Fouché had not been abortive, and, at last,
she had the satisfaction of feeling that she had struck a decisive blow
at the man she had chosen to consider as her enemy, and had so
persistently and, for the most part, fruitlessly conspired against.

Two hours later Halima returned to St. Just’s apartments in the Hotel
Mirabeau.  She found him seated in a chair, with his hands and feet
still bound and the two men guarding him.

The look of triumph on her face at her departure was no longer there;
now she showed trouble and depression—even fear.  She had had time to
think, and, with reflection, had come the dread that she had offended
her husband past forgiveness.  For years she had been dominated by two
emotions—a craving to achieve the ruin of Napoleon; and passion for her
husband—not, for a moment, that she was true to him when he was absent.
Of these, the former had been far the stronger.  But now, this was
satisfied. She was free to devote herself entirely to her husband, to
let her passion for him have full play.  More than anything, she now
desired to regain his love.  But alas! she greatly feared she had
strained it past resilience; it was like a spring that had been
over-bent.  She came in, shame-facedly, almost abjectly, tremblingly,
walking, like Agag, "delicately."

St. Just glanced sternly at her and frowned ominously.

"Why have you returned?" he asked; "to flout me with the tidings that
you have added yet another to the already crushing misfortunes of
France’s greatest son."

"That I have prevented the escape from justice of her greatest
criminal."

Then she turned to the two men.  "Loose this gentleman, but be careful
not to hurt him.  Then leave us, but remain within call.  I would speak
in private with my husband."

The men unbound St. Just, and then withdrew.

"Henri," she began, pleading in her gentlest tones, "forgive me.  Now
that I have avenged myself upon the man I hated with a hatred that was
uncontrollable, that so filled my being that there was scarce a corner
for any other passion; now that, with its satisfaction, that hatred has
been swept away, love has rushed in upon me, like a torrent, to fill the
void; love for you, Henri, whom I acknowledge I have wickedly neglected
and used only for my own ends. I know you are angry with me now, and I
have merited your anger.  But, oh! be generous and forgive me.  I swear
that never again will I be otherwise than a true and devoted wife.  All
my love, aye, all my being is now yours. You have no rival in my heart.
I will strive my hardest—but it will need no striving, for it will be my
chief delight—to compensate for my past neglect.  For every year that is
added to the roll of time, I will give you ten years of love; when
painful memories assail you, I will chase them away with kisses; should
sickness come to you, I will be to you the gentlest, most patient nurse
that man could have; I will see only with your eyes; hear only with your
ears; speak only with your lips.  My very thoughts shall be enslaved to
you—and proudly so.  Oh! forget the troublous years we have passed
through, and let us start a new life together from to-day, never to be
parted for an hour."

All the time that she was pleading, she was gazing anxiously in his face
for the first sign of yielding; but she gazed in vain.  She saw no
softening of the stern expression, no kindling of the cold, dark eyes,
no tinting of the deadly pallor of the face.  Austere and motionless he
sat, listening, but in no wise moved.  Napoleon himself could not have
looked more stern.  And, all the while, he had uttered not a word.

She could see that she had made no impression, and it frightened her.
She had seen him furious before, but never with a look like this.  An
awful fear came over her that she had lost him; she shivered, and her
face became as pale as his.  For she was in deadly earnest; with all the
strength of her passionate nature, she loved him, and, at that moment,
felt that she could not survive the loss of him.  But she would not yet
relinquish hope.  She would exhaust all the armory of her persuasive
weapons first.

She threw herself on the ground and clasped him round the legs; then
turned her face up to him beseechingly, the tears streaming from her
eyes.  "Henri," she wailed, "you terrify me when you look like that.
Oh! bend your eyes on me with love, as in the olden days.  Am I less
beautiful than of yore?  Men do not tell me so.  Oh! recall the time of
Cairo and the desert, when our days and nights were wholly given up to
love, when we were all in all to one another.  I can love; you know how
I can love, and you were never wearied with it; you used to say that you
never had enough, although I lavished all I had on you.  Then I was an
untutored girl, with no knowledge that could interest a man; with
nothing but my love to give.  Now I have learned much, and can hold my
own in the world of rank and intellect; men listen when I talk, and not
alone from courtesy, for they take counsel with me on the gravest
matters.  You know this, Henri, you know that I am better fitted to be
your helpmeet than when first you loved me."

The anguish in her face was terrible, but still he sat implacable and
mute.

"Oh! cruel, cruel!" she went on; "will nothing touch your heart; or is
it turned to stone?  Henri, my husband, give me back your love, forgive
me and take me to your heart again, or I shall die.  I cannot live
without you. What, still obdurate?  Oh! speak to me!"

Then he unloosed his tongue.

"Yes, I will speak.  Traitress!  Adulteress! for I know that, in my
absence, you forgot your honor as a wife, and gave rein to your
unbridled passions."  She started and the blood rushed for an instant to
her face; then forsook it, and she became even whiter than before.  But
she uttered no word of protest.  "I have heard you patiently, but
unmoved.  The time when your pleadings could beguile me, is past for
ever.  I will do you the justice to believe that you are speaking from
your heart, but there is no response in mine.  I acknowledge to the full
your beauty, but the glamour that enthralled me has passed away.  Your
presence has become hateful to me, the touch of your fingers is
abhorrent.  Till I knew you, I was an honorable man, with a career
before me in which my soul delighted, and in which I should have won
distinction.  I might have become a Marshal of France; nay, I am sure, I
should, unless I had lost my life in battle; but, even so, I should have
preserved my honor.

"Then, one fatal day, I met you, and I loved you. Oh! how I loved you!
loved you so that I flung duty to the winds and betrayed my trust.  I
blame you not for this; you were absolutely innocent, and you used no
perfidy to ensnare me.  The fault was wholly mine.  My love for you was
irresistible; for it, I forsook the colors of my country. And I was
happy in your love.

"For all that, although you were at first guiltless, my disgrace and
ruin are due to you.  I could easily have made my peace with Buonaparte,
explained that I had been captured, and he would have forgiven me.  My
advancement would have been rapid, in those stirring times; I might have
kept both love and honor.  But you used my passion for my ruin; you
forced me to choose between the two, and I, in my infatuation, chose
love.  And all to satisfy your devilish craving for revenge; and revenge
for what?  For what you deemed a grievous wrong; but what, in the light
of your after conduct as a wife—for you have wronged me far more than he
wronged you, and in the same way too—you should have considered but a
venial error, born of impulse.  From year to year you pursued Napoleon
with persistent hatred, and, though your machinations had no actual
consequence, yet the will to harm him never flagged. To gratify your
vengeful cravings, you played upon my love; and I, poor, weak, loving
fool, allowed it, and let you use me as you would, for the furtherance
of your schemes. And, after all, I did not get that for which I had
staked my honor.  You know how little of your society I have had all
these years.  While you were leading a life of luxury, lavishing your
smiles and meretricious charms on other men, I was scouring the
continent on your wicked errands, a traitor to my country, engaged in
petty trickery, at times suffering the greatest hardships, always in
peril of my life and liberty.  Twice I underwent imprisonment, with the
fear of death before my eyes, and several times was wounded.  And, for
all that my hardships were for love of you, yet you did not trust me,
but set your spies on me, and sent me on fool’s errands, and baffled me
when I had my own ends to serve.  Time after time I appealed to you; you
saw how I was suffering from the disgrace of my position, but nothing
moved you; you remained resolute and implacable; unless I worked your
will, I should not retain your love.  Your love!  You never loved me; it
was but the lust of passion, or you would not have used me thus.  You
made of me your tool, your hireling, nay, your abject slave."

"I did, I did," she murmured.  "I confess it all.  I was mad with
hatred, and it so possessed me that I scarce knew what I did.  But I
will devote my life to you henceforth. I will do my utmost to make up
for it, and will live only to do your will.  I will be your slave now.
Oh! Henri! forgive me and take me to your heart again!"

She loosened her hands from his knees, and clasped them together and
knelt before him, abject in her abandonment, and gazed up at him
imploringly.

But her grief, her piteous appeal had no effect on him. The recollection
of all she had made him suffer had bereft him of compassion.  His love
had died away. Gradually it had waned, and it was his many absences from
her side—her own doing—that had caused it; by slow degrees he had
learned to do without her; at first with torture, then, with
indifference, and finally with relief; and her act of two hours before
had brushed away the last vestige of his love.  It was gone forever;
contempt and hatred had usurped its place.

"Never," he answered, "I have done with you for ever. Take your fatal
beauty to another market.  At last I am free from its enslavement.  You
deserve that I should strike you dead for all that you have made me
suffer; but you are not worth that a man should jeopardize his life to
punish you.

"Go, while I can control myself, for I would not have your murder on my
soul.  But never see my face again, if you place any value on your life;
for, in such a case, I will not answer for your safety."

But his last words were inaudible to the wretched woman at his feet;
for, before he had finished speaking, she had swooned away.

Even then there was no relenting on his part; no thought of the many
hours when she had lain in his embrace, of the countless kisses they had
interchanged, of the words of love that each had whispered in the
other’s ear. He looked down upon her sternly, not a gleam of pity in his
eye.

"Hola! there, without," he called.  The two men came in.

"See to this woman, she has fainted."  They looked at him suspiciously,
as though they thought he had used violence towards her.

He saw their glances.  "Nay," he said, "I have not hurt her; her own
heart is her assailant; she has but swooned. I will leave you to restore
her.  It would only add to her distress to see me when she returns to
consciousness.  So soon as she is able to be moved, transport her to her
house, or where she will."

He strode to the door and left them, the men making no attempt to check
him.

He never saw his wife again.


At this point St. Just’s MS. ends abruptly, so that his after life can
only be surmised.  Probably, with Napoleon’s banishment, he retired from
the French army, being unwilling to serve under the new regime.  The
same uncertainty rests upon the fortunes of the beautiful Egyptian for
whom he had suffered and sacrificed so much; for, from the moment when
he left her swooning in his apartments at the Hotel Mirabeau, he makes
no mention of her.

A glimmer of light is shed on St. Just’s own movements by the following
unfinished letter found with the MS. and transcribed below verbatim.


"On board the English ship Minerva
       3rd May, 1821.

"My dear Garraud,

After years of silence, I take up my pen to write to you, my earliest
comrade; and what has moved me now I cannot say—some sudden impulse.

"At the moment of my writing, St. Helena, the living tomb of the great
Emperor, is fading out of sight.

"He is dying; so they told me yesterday.  More than a year ago I saw
him.  With the help of our friend Brenneau—you remember him, the
merchant captain—I landed at St. Helena.  He had a message for this Sir
Hudson Lowe, whom, they have placed as keeper of the Emperor.

"When he had delivered this, we walked as far as Longwood, where
Napoleon lives.

"Night was falling, and a strong desire came over me to see him.  I
concealed myself until it was quite dark, and then tapped gently at a
window.  It was opened, and Count Bertrand looked out.  This was better
luck than I had expected, for he knew me instantly, and helped me
through the window.

"In a few minutes, I stood before the Emperor.  I saw a great change in
his appearance.  He had gained much flesh since I had last seen him, and
there was a flabbiness, with an unhealthy pallor, about his face, that
indicated disease. The brightness of his eye was gone, and he looked
woefully dejected.

"He received me kindly, and seemed glad to see me, and talked with me of
by-gone days and various persons and events in France.

"I fell on my knees and begged him to forgive me for having mixed myself
up in plots against him.

"’Rise, Colonel St. Just,’ he said, and he took me by the hand—me who
had conspired against him—’It is a pity we so long misunderstood each
other.’

"Then I wept.  ’Ah Sire,’ I cried, ’Had I known before what I have since
discovered, I should have acted differently.’

"’Ah, my friend,’ he said, ’how many of us would act differently, did we
but know in time.  But we cannot unlive the past, and regrets are vain.
I forgive you any wrong you did me.  Think kindly of Napoleon, no matter
what the world may say of him.’

"Then, touched by his kindness, and weeping at the thought of all his
greatness come to this, I left him and rejoined Brenneau, and we made
our way back to the ship.

"We have remained together ever since, trading in Africa, and have made
money at it.  We are now two days out on our way to Italy.  On our
arrival, I will join you in Rome, and bring my memoranda of events in my
own life, from the rise of Napoleon’s star to the time of its setting in
the lonely rockbound island.  Together we will go over them again.

"I keep the papers in one of the old boxes in which I found the treasure
that I told you of.  I have preserved it as a memorial of that marvelous
subterranean city.

"There is so much movement in the vessel, that I can scarce keep pen to
paper.  It is blowing hard.

"Brenneau has just run down to say that a hurricane is approaching.
More, when the weather has calmed down again."

This unfinished letter was found in the box with the MS. referred to.
Probably the storm got worse, and St. Just had placed it there for
safety.  What happened afterwards is not within mortal ken; whether the
ship went down with every soul on board; or St. Just or any others were
saved and landed on the volcanic isle on which the box was found; or
that it was floated thither by the waves; or sunk on the spot on which
the rock was afterwards thrown up; will remain for ever


                          A SECRET OF THE SEA.





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