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´╗┐Title: When Valmond Came to Pontiac: The Story of a Lost Napoleon. Volume 3.
Author: Parker, Gilbert
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "When Valmond Came to Pontiac: The Story of a Lost Napoleon. Volume 3." ***

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WHEN VALMOND CAME TO PONTIAC

The Story of a Lost Napoleon

By Gilbert Parker

Volume 3.



CHAPTER XIII

The sickness had come like a whirlwind: when it passed, what would be
left?  The fight went on in the quiet hills--a man of no great stature
or strength, against a monster who racked him in a fierce embrace.  A
thousand scenes flashed through Valmond's brain, before his eyes, while
the great wheel of torture went round, and he was broken, broken-mended
and broken again, upon it.  Spinning--he was for ever spinning, like a
tireless moth through a fiery air; and the world went roaring past.  In
vain he cried to the wheelman to stop the wheel: there was no answer.
Would those stars never cease blinking in and out, or the wind stop
whipping the swift clouds past?  So he went on, endless years, driving
through space, some terrible intangible weight dragging at his heart, and
all his body panting as it spun.

Grotesque faces came and went, and bright-eyed women floated by, laughing
at him, beckoning to him; but he could not come, because of this endless
going.  He heard them singing, he felt the divine notes in his battered
soul; he tried to weep for the hopeless joy of it; but the tears came no
higher than his throat.  Why did they mock him so?  At last, all the
figures merged into one, and she had the face--ah, he had seen it
centuries ago!--of Madame Chalice.  Strange that she was so young still,
and that was so long past--when he stood on a mountain, and, clambering
a high wall of rock, looked over into a happy No-man's Land.

Why did the face elude him so, flashing in and out of the vapours?
Why was its look sorrowful and distant?  And yet there was that perfect
smile, that adorable aspect of the brow, that light in the deep eyes.
He tried to stop the eternal spinning, but it went remorselessly on;
and presently the face was gone; but not till it had given him ease of
his pain.

Then came fighting, fighting, nothing but fighting--endless charges of
cavalry, continuous wheelings and advancings and retreatings, and the mad
din of drums; afterwards, in a swift quiet, the deep, even thud of the
horses' hoofs striking the ground.  Flags and banners flaunted gaily by.
How the helmets flashed, and the foam flew from the bits!  But those
flocks of blackbirds flying over the heads of the misty horsemen--they
made him shiver.  Battle, battle, battle, and death, and being born--he
felt it all.

All at once there came a wide peace and clearing, and the everlasting jar
and movement ceased.  Then a great pause, and light streamed round him,
comforting him.

It seemed to him that he was lying helpless and still by falling water in
a valley.  The water soothed him, and he fell asleep.  After a long time
he waked, and dimly knew that a face, good to look at, was bending over
him.  In a vague, far-off way he saw that it was Elise Malboir; but even
as he saw, his eyes closed, the world dropped away, and he sank to sleep
again.

It was no vision or delirium; for Elise had come.  She had knelt beside
his bed, and given him drink, and smoothed his pillow; and once, when
no one was in the tent, she stooped and kissed his hot dark lips, and
whispered words that were not for his ears to hear, nor to be heard by
any one of this world.  The good Cure found her there.  He had not heart
to bid her go home, and he made it clear to the villagers that he
approved of her great kindness.  But he bade her mother also come,
and she stayed in a tent near by.

Lagroin and two hundred men held the encampment, and every night the
recruits arrived from the village, drilled as before, and waited for the
fell disease to pass.  No one knew its exact nature, but now and again,
in long years, some one going to Dalgrothe Mountain was seized by it, and
died, or was left stricken with a great loss of the senses, or the limbs.
Yet once or twice, they said, men had come up from it no worse at all.
There was no known cure, and the Little Chemist could only watch the
swift progress of the fever, and use simple remedies to allay the
suffering.  Parpon knew that the disease had seized upon Valmond the
night of the burial of Gabriel.  He remembered now the sickly, pungent
air that floated past, and how Valmond, weak from the loss of blood in
the fight at the smithy, shuddered, and drew his cloak about him.  A few
days would end it, for good or ill.

Madame Chalice heard the news with consternation, and pity would have
sent her to Valmond's bedside, but that she found Elise was his faithful
nurse and servitor.  This fixed in her mind the belief that if Valmond
died, he would leave both misery and shame behind; if he lived, she
should, in any case, see him no more.  But she sent him wines and
delicacies, and she also despatched a messenger to a city sixty miles
away, for the best physician.  Then she sought the avocat, to discover
whether he had any exact information as to Valmond's friends in Quebec,
or in France.  She had promised not to be his enemy, and she remembered
with a sort of sorrow that she had told him she meant to be his friend;
but, having promised, she would help him in his sore strait.

She had heard of De la Riviere's visit to Valmond, and she intended
sending for him, but delayed it.  The avocat told her nothing: matters
were in abeyance, and she abided the issue; meanwhile getting news of the
sick man twice a day.  More, she used all her influence to keep up the
feeling for him in the country, to prevent flagging of enthusiasm.  This
she did out of a large heart, and a kind of loyalty to her temperament
and to his own ardour for his cause.  Until he was proved the comedian
(in spite of the young Seigneur) she would stand by him, so far as his
public career was concerned.  Misfortune could not make her turn from a
man; it was then she gave him a helping hand.  What was between him and
Elise was for their own souls and consciences.

As she passed the little cottage in the field the third morning of
Valmond's illness, she saw the girl entering.  Elise had come to get some
necessaries for Valmond and for her mother.  She was pale; her face had
gained a spirituality, a refinement, new and touching.  Madame Chalice
was tempted to go and speak to her, and started to do so, but turned
back.

"No, no, not until we know the worst of this illness--then!" she said to
herself.

But ten minutes later De la Riviere was not so kind.  He had guessed a
little at Elise's secret, and as he passed the house on the way to visit
Madame Chalice, seeing the girl, he came to the door and said:

"How goes it with the distinguished gentleman, Elise?  I hear you are his
slave."

The girl turned a little pale.  She was passing a hot iron over some
coarse sheets, and, pausing, she looked steadily at him and replied:

"It is not far to Dalgrothe Mountain, monsieur."

"The journey's too long for me; I haven't your hot young blood," he said
suggestively.

"It was not so long a dozen years ago, monsieur."  De la Riviere flushed
to his hair.  That memory was a hateful chapter in his life--a boyish
folly, which involved the miller's wife.  He had buried it, the village
had forgotten it,--such of it as knew,--and the remembrance of it stung
him.  He had, however, brought it on himself, and he must eat the bitter
fruit.

The girl's eyes were cold and hard.  She knew him to be Valmond's enemy,
and she had no idea of sparing him.  She knew also that he had been
courteous enough to send a man each day to inquire after Valmond, but
that was not to the point; he was torturing her, he had prophesied the
downfall of her "spurious Napoleon."

"It will be too long a journey for you, and for all, presently," he said.

"You mean that His Excellency will die?" she asked, her heart beating so
hard that it hurt her.  Yet the flat-iron moved backwards and forwards
upon the sheets mechanically.

"Or fight a Government," he answered.  "He has had a good time, and good
times can't last for ever, can they, Elise?  Have you ever thought of
that?"

She turned pale and swayed over the table.  In an instant he was beside
her; for though he had been irritable and ungenerous, he had at bottom a
kind heart.  Catching up a glass of water, he ran an arm round her waist
and held the cup to her lips.

"What's the matter, my girl?" he asked.  "There, pull yourself
together."

She drew away from him, though grateful for his new attitude.  She could
not bear everything.  She felt nervous and strangely weak.

"Won't you go, monsieur?" she said, and turned to her ironing again.

He looked at her closely, and not unkindly.  For a moment the thought
possessed him that evil and ill had come to her.  But he put it away from
him, for there was that in her eyes which gave his quick suspicions the
lie.  He guessed now that the girl loved Valmond, and he left her with
that thought.  Going up the hill, deep in thought, he called at the
Manor, to find that Madame Chalice was absent, and would not be back
till evening.

When Elise was left alone, a weakness seized her again, as it had done
when De la Riviere was present.  She had had no sleep in four days, and
it was wearing on her, she said to herself, refusing to believe that a
sickness was coming.  Leaving the kitchen, she went up to her bedroom.
Opening the window, she sat down on the side of the bed and looked round.
She figured Valmond in her mind as he stood in this place and that, his
voice, his words to her, the look in his face, the clasp of his hand.

All at once she sprang up, fell on her knees before the little shrine of
the Virgin, and burst into tears.  Her rich hair, breaking loose, flowed
round her-the picture of a Magdalen; but it was, in truth, a pure girl
with a true heart.  At last she calmed herself and began to pray:

"Ah, dear Mother of God, thou who dost speak for the sorrowful before thy
Son and the Father, be merciful to me and hear me.  I am but a poor girl,
and my life is no matter.  But he is a great man, and he has work to do,
and he is true and kind.  Oh, pray for him, divine Mother, sweet Mary,
that he may be saved from death!  If the cup must be emptied, may it be
given to me to drink!  Oh, see how all the people come to him and love
him!  For the saving of Madelinette, oh, may his own life be given him!
He cannot pray for himself, but I pray for him.  Dear Mother of God, I
love him, and I would lose my life for his sake.  Sweet Mary, comfort thy
child, and out of thy own sorrow be good to my sorrow.  Hear me and pray
for me, divine Mary.  Amen."

Her whole nature had been emptied out, and there came upon her a calm, a
strange clearness of brain, exhausted in body as she was.  For an instant
she stood thinking.

"Madame Degardy!  Madame Degardy!" she cried, with sudden inspiration.
"Ah, I will find her; she may save him with her herbs!"

She hurried out of the house and down through the village to the little
hut by the river, where the old woman lived.

Elise had been to Madame Degardy as good a friend as a half-mad creature,
with no memory, would permit her.  Parpon had lived for years in the same
village, but, though he was her own son, she had never given him a look
of recognition, had used him as she used all others.  In turn, the dwarf
had never told any one but Valmond of the relationship; and so the two
lived their strange lives in their own singular way.  But the Cure knew
who it was that kept the old woman's house supplied with wood and other
necessaries.  Parpon himself had tried to summon her to Valmond's
bedside, for he knew well her skill with herbs, but the little hut was
empty, and he could get no trace of her.  She had disappeared the night
Valmond was seized of the fever, and she came back to her little home in
the very hour that Elise visited her.  The girl found her boiling herbs
before a big fire.  She was stirring the pot diligently, now and then
sprinkling in what looked like a brown dust, and watching the brew
intently.

She nodded, but did not look at Elise, and said crossly:

"Come in, come in, and shut the door, silly."

"Madame," said the girl, "His Excellency has the black fever."

"What of that?" she returned irritably.

"I thought maybe your herbs could cure him.  You've cured others, and
this is an awful sickness.  Ah, won't you save him, if you can?"

"What are you to him, pale-face?" she said, her eyes peering into the
pot.

"Nothing more to him than you are, madame," the girl answered wearily.

"I'll cure because I want, not because you ask me, pretty brat."

Elise's heart gave a leap: these very herbs were for Valmond!  The old
woman had travelled far to get the medicaments immediately she had heard
of Valmond's illness.  Night and day she had trudged, and she was more
brown and weather-beaten than ever.

"The black fever!  the black fever!" cried the old woman.  "I know it
well.  It's most like a plague.  I know it.  But I know the cure-ha, ha!
Come along now, feather-legs, what are you staring there for?  Hold that
jug while I pour the darling liquor in.  Ha, ha!  Crazy Joan hasn't lived
for nothing.  They have to come to her; the great folks have to come to
her!"

So she meandered on, filling the jug.  Later, in the warm dusk, they
travelled up to Dalgrothe Mountain, and came to Valmond's tent.  By the
couch knelt Parpon, watching the laboured breathing of the sick man.
When he saw Madame Degardy, he gave a growl of joy, and made way for her.
She pushed him back with her stick contemptuously, looked Valmond over,
ran her fingers down his cheek, felt his throat, and at last held his
restless hand.  Elise, with the quick intelligence of love, stood ready.
The old woman caught the jug from her, swung it into the hollow of her
arm, poured the cup half full, and motioned the girl to lift up Valmond's
head.  Elise raised it to her bosom, leaning her face down close to his.
Madame Degardy instantly pushed back her head.

"Don't get his breath--that's death, idiot!" she said, and began to pour
the liquid into Valmond's mouth very slowly.  It was a tedious process at
first, but at length he began to swallow naturally, and finished the cup.

There was no change for an hour, and then he became less restless.  After
another cupful, his eyes half opened.  Within an hour a perspiration
came, and he was very quiet, and sleeping easily.  Parpon crouched near
the door, watching it all with deep, piercing eyes.  Madame Degardy never
moved from her place, but stood shaking her head and muttering.  At last
Lagroin came, and whisperingly asked after his chief; then, seeing him in
a healthy and peaceful sleep, he stooped and kissed the hand lying upon
the blanket.

"Beloved sire!  Thank the good God!" he said.  Soon after he had gone,
there was a noise of tramping about the tent, and then a suppressed
cheer, which was fiercely stopped by Parpon, and the soldiers of the
Household Troops scattered to their tents.

"What's that?" asked Valmond, opening his eyes bewilderedly.

"Your soldiers, sire," answered the dwarf.

Valmond smiled languidly.  Then he saw Madame Degardy and Elise.

"I am very sleepy, dear friends," he said, with a courteous, apologetic
gesture, and closed his eyes.  Presently they opened again.  "My snuff-
box--in my pocket," he said to the old woman, waving a hand to where his
uniform hung from the tent-pole; "it is for you, madame."

She understood, smiled grimly, felt in a waistcoat pocket, found the
snuff-box, and, squatting on the ground like a tailor, she took two
pinches, and sat holding the antique silver box in her hand.

"Crazy Joan's no fool, dear lad," she said at last, and took another
pinch, and knowingly nodded her head again and again, while he slept
soundly.



CHAPTER XIV

"Lights Out!"

The bugle-call rang softly down the valley, echoed away tenderly in the
hills, and was lost in the distance.  Roused by the clear call, Elise
rose from watching beside Valmond's couch, and turned towards the door of
the tent.  The spring of a perfect joy at his safety had been followed by
an aching in all her body and a trouble at her heart.  Her feet were like
lead, her spirit quivered and shrank by turn.  The light of the campfires
sent a glow through the open doorway upon the face of the sleeper.

She leaned over him.  The look she gave him seemed to her anxious spirit
like a farewell.  This man had given her a new life, and out of it had
come a new sight.  Valmond had escaped death, but in her poor confused
way she felt another storm gathering about him.  A hundred feelings
possessed her; but one thought was master of them all: when trouble drew
round him, she must be near him, must be strong to help him, protect him,
if need be.  Yet a terrible physical weakness was on her.  Her limbs
trembled, her head ached, her heart throbbed in a sickening way.

He stirred in his sleep; a smile passed over his face.  She wondered
what gave it birth.  She knew well it was not for her, that smile.  It
belonged to his dream of success--when a thousand banners should flaunt
in the gardens of the Tuileries.  Overcome by a sudden rush of emotion,
she fell on her knees at his side, bursting into noiseless sobs, which
shook her from head to foot.

Every nerve in her body responded to the shock of feeling; she was having
her dark hour alone.

At last she staggered to her feet and turned to the open door.  The
tents lay silent in the moonshine, but wayward lights flickered in the
sumptuous dusk, and the quiet of the hills hung like a canopy over the
bivouac of the little army.  No token of misfortune came out of this
peaceful encampment, no omen of disaster crossed the long lane of drowsy
fires and huge amorous shadows.  The sense of doom was in the girl's own
heart, not in this deep cradle of the hills.

Now and again a sentinel crossed the misty line of vision, silent,
and majestically tall, in the soft haze, which came down from Dalgrothe
Mountain and fell like a delicate silver veil before the face of the
valley.

As she looked, lost in a kind of dream, there floated up from the distant
tent the refrain she knew so well:

                    "Oh, say, where goes your love?
                         O gai, vine le roi!"

Her hand caught her bosom as if to stifle a sudden pain.  That song had
been the keynote to her new life, and it seemed now as if it were also to
be the final benediction.  All her spirit gathered itself up for a great
resolution: she would not yield to this invading weakness, this misery of
body and mind.

Some one drew out of the shadows and came towards her.  It was Madame
Degardy.  She had seen the sobbing figure inside the tent, but, with the
occasional wisdom of the foolish of this world, she had not been less
considerate than the children of light.

With brusque, kindly taps of her stick, she drove the girl to her own
tent, and bade her sleep: but sleep was not for Elise that night; and in
the grey dawn, while yet no one was stirring in the camp, she passed
slowly down the valley to her home.

Madame Chalice was greatly troubled also.  Valmond's life was saved.
In three days he was on his feet, eager and ardent again, and preparing
to go to the village; but what would the end of it all be?  She knew of
De la Riviere's intentions, and she foresaw a crisis.  If Valmond were in
very truth a Napoleon, all might be well, though this crusade must close
here.  If he were an impostor, things would go cruelly hard with him.
Impostor?  Strange how, in spite of all evidence against him, she still
felt a vital sureness in him somewhere; a radical reality, a convincing
quality of presence.  At times he seemed like an actor playing his own
character.  She could never quite get rid of that feeling.

In her anxiety--for she was in the affair for good or ill--she went again
to Monsieur Garon.

"You believe in Monsieur Valmond, dear avocat?" she asked.

The little man looked at her admiringly, though his admiration was a
quaint, Arcadian thing; and, perching his head on one side abstractedly,
he answered:

"Ah, yes, ah, yes!  Such candour!  He is the son of Napoleon and a
certain princess, born after Napoleon's fall, not long before his death."

"Then, of course, Monsieur Valmond is really nameless?" she asked.

"Ah, there is the point--the only point; but His Excellency can clear up
all that, and will do so in good time, he says.  He maintains that France
will accept him."

"But the Government here, will they put him down?  proceed against him?
Can they?"

"Ah, yes, I fear they can proceed against him.  He may recruit men,
but he may not drill and conspire, you see.  Yet"--the old man smiled,
as though at some distant and pleasing prospect "the cause is a great
one; it is great.  Ah, madame, dear madame"--he got to his feet and
stepped into the middle of the floor--"he has the true Napoleonic spirit.
He loves it all.  At the very first, it seemed as if he were going to be
a little ridiculous; now it is as if there was but one thing for him--
love of France and loyalty to the cause.  Ah, think of the glories of the
Empire! of France as the light of Europe, of Napoleon making her rich and
proud and dominant!  And think of her now, sinking into the wallow of
bourgeois vulgarity!  If--if, as His Excellency said, the light were to
come from here, even from this far corner of the world, from this old
France, to be the torch of freedom once again--from our little parish
here!"

His face was glowing, his thin hands made a quick gesture of charmed
anticipation.

Madame Chalice looked at him in a sort of wonder and delight.  Dreamers
all!  And this visionary Napoleon had come into the little man's quiet,
cultured, passive life, and had transformed him, filled him with
adventure and patriotism.  There must be something behind Valmond, some
real, even some great thing, or this were not possible.  It was not
surprising that she, with the spirit of dreams and romance deep in her,
should be sympathetic, even carried away for the moment.

"How is the feeling in the country since his illness?" she asked.

"Never so strong as now.  Many new recruits come to him.  Organisation
goes on, and His Excellency has issued a proclamation.  I have advised
him against that--it is not necessary, it is illegal.  He should not
tempt our Government too far.  But he is a gentleman of as great
simplicity as courage, of directness and virtue--a wholesome soldier--"

She thought again of that moonlit night, and Elise's window, and a kind
of hatred of the man came up in her.  No, no, she was wrong; he was not
the true thing.

"Dear avocat," she said suddenly, "you are a good friend.  May I have
always as good!  But have you ever thought that this thing may end in
sore disaster?  Are we doing right?  Is the man worthy our friendship
and our adherence?"

"Ah, dear madame, convictions, principles, truth, they lead to good ends
--somewhere.  I have a letter here from Monsieur Valmond.  It breathes
noble things; it has humour, too--ah, yes, so quaint!  I am to see him
this afternoon--he returns to the Louis Quinze to-day.  The Cure and I--"

She laid her hand on his arm, interrupting him.  "Will you take me this
evening to Monsieur Valmond, dear friend?" she asked.

She saw now how useless it was to attempt anything through these admirers
of Valmond; she must do it herself.  He must be firmly and finally warned
and dissuaded.  The conviction had suddenly come to her with great force,
that the end was near--come to her as it came to Elise.  Her wise mind
had seen the sure end; Elise's heart had felt it.

The avocat readily promised.  She was to call for him at a little before
eight o'clock.  But she decided that she would first seek Elise; before
she accused the man, she would question the woman.  Above and beyond all
anger she felt at this miserable episode, there was pity in her heart for
the lonely girl.  She was capable of fierce tempers, of great caprices,
of even wild injustice, when her emotions had their way with her; but her
heart was large, her nature deep and broad, and her instincts kind.  The
little touch of barbarism in her gave her, too, a sense of primitive
justice.  She was self-analytical, critical of life and conduct, yet her
mind and her heart, when put to the great test, were above mere
anatomising.  Her rich nature, alive with these momentous events, feeling
the prescience of coming crisis, sent a fine glow into her face, into her
eyes.  Excitement gave a fresh elasticity to her step.

In spite of her serious thoughts, she looked very young, almost
irresponsible.  No ordinary observer could guess the mind that lay behind
the eloquent, glowing eyes.  Even the tongue at first deceived, till it
began to probe, to challenge, to drop sharp, incisive truths in little
gold-leaped pellets, which brought conviction when the gold-leaf wore
off.

The sunlight made her part of the brilliant landscape, and she floated
into it, neither too dainty nor too luxurious.  The greatest heat of the
day was past, and she was walking slowly under the maples, on the way to
Elise's home, when she was arrested by a voice near her.  Then a tall
figure leaped the fence, and came to her with outstretched hand and an
unmistakable smile of pleasure.

"I've called at the Manor twice, and found you out; so I took to the
highway," said the voice gaily.

"My dear Seigneur," she answered, with mock gravity, "ancestors' habits
show in time."

"Come, that's severe, isn't it?"

"You have waylaid me in a lonely place, master highwayman!" she said,
with a torturing sweetness.

He had never seen her so radiantly debonnaire; yet her heart was full of
annoying anxiety.

"There's so much I want to say to you," he answered more seriously.

"So very much?"

"Very much indeed."

She looked up the road.  "I can give you ten minutes," she said.
"Suppose we walk up and down under these trees.  It is shady and quiet
here.  Now proceed, monsieur.  Is it my money or my life?"

"You are in a charming mood to-day."

"Which is more than I could say for you the last time we met.  You
threatened, stormed, were childish, impossible to a degree."

His face became grave.  "We were such good friends once!"

"Once--once?" she asked maliciously.  "Once Cain and Abel were a happy
family.  When was that once?"

"Two years ago.  What talks we had then!  I had so looked forward to your
coming again.  It was the alluring thing in my life, your arrival," he
went on; "but something came between."

His tone nettled her.  He talked as if he had some distant claim on her.

"Something came between?" she repeated slowly, mockingly.  "That sounds
melodramatic indeed.  What was it came between--a coach-and-four, or a
grand army?"

"Nothing so stately," he answered, piqued by her tone: "a filibuster and
his ragamuffins."

"Ragamufins would be appreciated by Monsieur Valmond's followers, spoken
at the four corners," she answered.

"Then I'll change it," he said: "a ragamuffin and his filibusters."

"The 'ragamuffin' always speaks of his enemies with courtesy, and the
filibusters love their leader," was her pointed rejoinder.

"At half a dollar a day," he answered sharply.

"They get that much from His Excellency, do they?" she asked in real
surprise.  "That doesn't look like filibustering, does it?"

"'His Excellency!'" he retorted.  "Why won't you look this matter
straight in the face?  Napoleon or no Napoleon, the end of this thing
is ruin."

"Take care that you don't get lost in the debris," she said bitingly.

"I can take care of myself.  I am sorry to have you mixed up in it."

"You are sorry?  How good of you!  How paternal!"

"If your husband were here--"

"If my husband were here, you would probably be his best friend," she
rejoined, with acid sweetness; "and I should still have to take care of
myself."

Had he no sense of what was possible to leave unsaid to a woman?  She was
very angry, though she was also a little sorry for him; for perhaps in
the long run he would be in the right.  But he must pay for his present
stupidity.

"You wrong me," he answered, with a quick burst of feeling.  "You are
most unfair.  You punish me because I do my public duty; and because I
would do anything in the world for you, you punish me the more.  Have you
forgotten two years ago?  Is it so easy to your hand, a true and constant
admiration, a sincere homage, that you throw it aside like--"

"Monsieur De la Riviere," she said, with exasperating deliberation, her
eyes having a dangerous light, "your ten minutes is more than up.  And it
has been quite ten minutes too long."

"If I were a filibuster"--he answered bitterly and suggestively.

She interrupted him, saying, with a purring softness: "If you had only
courage enough--"

He waved his hand angrily.  "If I had, I should hope you would prove a
better friend to me than you are to this man."

"Ah, in what way do I fail towards 'this man'?"

"By encouraging his downfall.  See--I know I am taking my life in my
hands, as it were, but I tell you this thing will do you harm when it
goes abroad."

She felt the honesty of his words, though they angered her.  He seemed to
impute some personal interest in Valmond.  She would not have it from any
man in the world.

"If you will pick up my handkerchief--ah, thank you!  We must travel
different roads in this matter.  You have warned; let me prophesy.  His
Highness Valmond Napoleon will come out of this with more honour than
yourself."

"Thanks to you, then," he said gallantly, for he admired her very
stubbornness.

"Thanks to himself.  I honestly believe that you will be ashamed of your
part in this, one day."

"In any case, I will force the matter to a conclusion," he answered
firmly.  "The fantastic thing must end."

"When?"

"Within a few days."

"When all is over, perhaps you will have the honesty to come and tell me
which was right--you or I.  Goodbye."

Elise was busy at her kitchen fire.  She looked up, startled, as her
visitor entered.  Her heavy brow grew heavier, her eyes gleamed sulkily,
as she dragged herself forward with weariness, and stood silent and
resentful.  Why had this lady of the Manor come to her?  Madame Chalice
scarcely knew how to begin, for, in truth, she wanted to be the girl's
friend, and she feared making her do or say some wild thing.

She looked round the quiet room.  Some fruit was boiling on a stove,
giving out a fragrant savour, and Elise's eye was on it mechanically.  A
bit of sewing lay across a chair, and on the wall hung a military suit of
the old sergeant, beside it a short sabre.  An old Tricolor was draped
from a beam, and one or two maps of France were pinned on the wall.  She
fastened her look on the maps.  They seemed to be her cue.

"Have you any influence with your uncle?" she asked.

Elise remained gloomily silent.

"Because," Madame Chalice went on smoothly, ignoring her silence,
"I think it would be better for him to go back to Ville Bambord--
I am sure of it."

The girl's lip curled angrily.  What right had this great lady to
interfere with her or hers?  What did she mean?

"My uncle is a general and a brave man; he can take care of himself," she
answered defiantly.  Madame Chalice did not smile at the title.  She
admired the girl's courage.  She persisted however.  "He is one man,
and--"

"He has plenty of men, madame, and His Excellency--"

"His Excellency and hundreds of men cannot stand, if the Government send
soldiers against them."

"Why should the Gover'ment do that?  They're only going to France; they
mean no trouble here."

"They have no right to drill and conspire here, my girl."

"Well, my uncle and his men will fight; we'll all fight," Elise retorted,
her hands grasping the arms of the rocking-chair she sat in.

"But why shouldn't we avoid fighting?  What is there to fight for?
You are all very happy here.  You were very happy here before Monsieur
Valmond came.  Are you happy now?"

Madame Chalice's eyes searched the flushed face anxiously.  She was
growing more eager every moment to serve, if she could, this splendid
creature.

"We would die for him!" answered the girl quickly.

"You would die for him," came the reply, slowly, meaningly.

"And what's it to you, if I would?" came the sharp retort.  "Why do you
fine folk meddle yourselves with poor folk's affairs?"

Then, remembering she was a hostess, with the instinctive courtesy of her
race, she said: "Ah, pardon, madame; you meant nothing, I'm sure."

"Why should fine folk make poor folk unhappy?" said Madame Chalice,
quietly and sorrowfully, for she saw that Elise was suffering, and all
the woman in her came to her heart and lips.  She laid her hand on the
girl's arm.  "Indeed yes, why should fine folk make poor folk unhappy?
It is not I alone who makes you unhappy, Elise."

The girl angrily shook off the hand, for she read the true significance
of the words.

"What are you trying to find out?" she asked fiercely.  "What do you
want to do?  Did I ever come in your way?  Why do you come into mine?
What's my life to you?  Nothing, nothing at all.  You're here to-day and
away to-morrow.  You're English; you're not of us.  Can't you see that I
want to be left alone?

"If I were unhappy, I could look after myself.  But I'm not, I'm not--I
tell you I'm not!  I'm happy.  I never knew what happiness was till now.
I'm so happy that I can stand here and not insult you, though you've
insulted me."

"I meant no insult, Elise.  I want to help you; that is all.  I know how
hard it is to confide in one's kinsfolk, and I wish with all my heart I
might be your friend, if you ever need me."

Elise met her sympathetic look clearly and steadily.  "Speak plain to me,
madame," she said.

"Elise, I saw some one climb out of your bedroom window," was the slow
reply.

"Oh, my God!" said the girl; "oh, my God!" and she stared blankly for a
moment at Madame Chalice.  Then, trembling greatly, she reached to the
table for a cup of water.

Madame Chalice was at once by her side.  "You are ill, poor girl," she
said anxiously, and put her arm around her.

Elise drew away.

"I will tell you all, madame, all; and you must believe it, for, as God
is my judge, it is the truth."  Then she told the whole story, exactly
as it happened, save mention of the kisses that Valmond had given her.
Her eyes now and again filled with tears, and she tried, in her poor
untutored way, to set him right.  She spoke for him altogether, not for
herself; and her listener saw that the bond which held the girl to the
man might be proclaimed in the streets, with no dishonour.

"That's the story, and that's the truth," said Elise at last.  "He's a
gentleman, a great man, and I'm a poor girl, and there can be nothing
between us; but I'd die for him."

She no longer resented Madame Chalice's solicitude: she was passive, and
showed that she wished to be alone.

"You think there's going to be great trouble?" she asked, as Madame
Chalice made ready to go.

"I fear so, but we will do all we can to prevent it."  Elise watched her
go on towards the Manor in the declining sunlight, then turned heavily to
her work again.

There came to her ears the sound of a dog-churn in the yard outside, and
the dull roll and beat seemed to keep time to the aching pulses in her
head, in all her body.  One thought kept going through her brain: there
was, as she had felt, trouble coming for Valmond.  She had the
conviction, too, that it was very near.  Her one definite idea was, that
she should be able to go to him when that trouble came; that she should
not fail him at his great need.  Yet these pains in her body, this
alternate exaltation and depression, this pitiful weakness!  She must
conquer it.  She remembered the hours spent at his bedside; the moments
when he was all hers--by virtue of his danger and her own unwavering care
of him.  She recalled the dark moment when Death, intrusive, imminent,
lurked at the tent door, and in its shadow she emptied out her soul in
that one kiss of fealty and farewell.

That kiss--there came to her again, suddenly, Madame Degardy's cry of
warning: "Don't get his breath--it's death, idiot!"

That was it: the black fever was in her veins!  That one kiss had sealed
her own doom.  She knew it now.

He had given her life by giving her love.  Well, he should give her death
too--her lord of fife and death.  She was of the chosen few who could
drink the cup of light and the cup of darkness with equally regnant soul.

But it might lay her low in the very hour of Valmond's trouble.  She must
conquer it--how?  To whom could she turn for succour?  There was but
one,--yet she could not seek Madame Degardy, for the old woman would
drive her to her bed, and keep her there.  There was only this to do:
to possess herself of those wonderful herbs which had been given her
Napoleon in his hour of peril.

Dragging herself wearily to the little but by the river, she knocked, and
waited.  All was still, and, opening the door, she entered.  Striking a
match, she found a candle, lighted it, and then began her search.  Under
an old pan on a shelf she found both herbs and powder.  She snatched up a
handful of the herbs, and kissed them with joyful heart.  Saved--she was
saved!  Ah, thank the Blessed Virgin!  She would thank her for ever!

A horrible sinking sensation seized her.  Turning in dismay, she saw the
face of Parpon at the window.  With a blind instinct for protection, she
staggered towards the door, and fell, her fingers still clasping the
precious herbs.

As Parpon hastily entered, Madame Degardy hobbled out of the shadow of
the trees, and furtively watched the hut.  When a light appeared, she
crept to the door, opened it stealthily upon the intruders of her home,
and stepped inside.

Parpon was kneeling by Elise, lifting up her head, and looking at her in
horrified distress.

With a shrill cry the old woman came forward and dropped on her knees at
the other side of Elise.  Her hand, fumbling anxiously over the girl's
breast, met the hard and warty palm of the dwarf.  She stopped suddenly,
raised the sputtering candle, and peered into his eyes with a vague,
wavering intensity.  For minutes they knelt there, the silence clothing
them about, the body of the unconscious girl between them.  A lost memory
was feeling blindly its way home again.  By and by, out of an infinite
past, something struggled to the old woman's eyes, and Parpon's heart
almost burst in his anxiety.  At length her look steadied.  Memory,
recognition, showed in her face.

With a wild cry her gaunt arms stretched across, and caught the great
head to her breast.

"Where have you been so long, Parpon--my son?" she said.



CHAPTER XV

Valmond's strength came back quickly, but something had given his mind a
new colour.  He felt, by a strange telegraphy of fate, that he had been
spared death by fever to meet an end more in keeping with the strange
exploit which now was coming to a crisis.  The next day he was going back
to Dalgrothe Mountain, the day after that there should be final review,
and the succeeding day the march to the sea would begin.  A move must be
made.  There could be no more delay.  He had so lost himself in the
dream, that it had become real, and he himself was the splendid
adventurer, the maker of empires.  True, he had only a small band of ill-
armed men, but better arms could be got, and by the time they reached the
sea--who could tell!

As he sat alone in the quiet dusk of his room at the Louis Quinze waiting
for Parpon, there came a tap at his door.  It opened, the garcon mumbled
something, and Madame Chalice entered slowly.

Her look had no particular sympathy, but there was a sort of friendliness
in the rich colour of her face, in the brightness of her eyes.

"The avocat was to have accompanied me," she said; "but at the last I
thought it better to come without him, because--"

She paused.  "Yes, madame--because?" he asked, offering her a chair.
He was dressed in simple black, as on that first day when he called at
the Manor, and it set off the ivory paleness of his complexion, making
his face delicate yet strong.

She looked round the room, almost casually, before she went on

"Because what I have to say were better said to you alone--much better."

"I am sure you are right," he answered, as though he trusted her judgment
utterly; and truly there was always something boy-like in his attitude
towards her.  The compliment was unstudied and pleasant, but she steeled
herself for her task.  She knew instinctively that she had influence with
him, and she meant to use it to its utmost limit.

"I am glad, we are all glad, you are better," she said cordially; then
added, "how do your affairs come on?  What are your plans?"

Valmond forgot that she was his inquisitor; he only saw her as his ally,
his friend.  So he spoke to her, as he had done at the Manor, with a sort
of eloquence, of his great theme.  He had changed greatly.  The
rhetorical, the bizarre, had left his speech.  There was no more
grandiloquence than might be expected of a soldier who saw things in the
bright flashes of the battle-field--sharp pinges of colour, the dyes well
soaked in.  He had the gift of telling a story: some peculiar timbre in
the voice, some direct dramatic touch.  She listened quietly, impressed
and curious.  The impossibilities seemed for a moment to vanish in the
big dream, and she herself was a dreamer, a born adventurer among the
wonders of life.  Were she a man, she would have been an explorer or a
soldier.

But good judgment returned, and she gathered herself together for the
unpleasant task that lay before her.

She looked him steadily in the eyes.  "I have come to tell you that you
must give up this dream," she said slowly.  "It can come to nothing but
ill; and in the mishap you may be hurt past repair."

"I shall never give up--this dream," he said, surprised, but firm, almost
dominant.

"Think of these poor folk who surround you, who follow you.  Would you
see harm come to them?"

"As soldiers, they will fight for a cause."

"What is--the cause?" she asked meaningly.

"France," was the quiet reply; and there was a strong ring in the tone.

"Not so--you, monsieur!"

"You called me 'sire' once," he said tentatively.

"I called my maid a fool yesterday, under some fleeting influence;
one has moods," she answered.

"If you would call me puppet to-morrow, we might strike a balance and
find--what should we find?"

"An adventurer, I fear," she remarked.

He was not taken aback.  "An adventurer truly," he said.  "It is a far
travel to France, and there is much to overcome!"

She could scarcely reconcile this acute, self-contained man with the
enthusiast and comedian she had seen in the Cure's garden.

"Monsieur Valmond," she said, "I neither suspect nor accuse; I only feel.
There is something terribly uncertain in this cause of yours, in your
claims.  You have no right to waste lives."

"To waste lives?" he asked mechanically.

"Yes; the Government is to proceed against you."

"Ah, yes," he answered.  "Monsieur De la Riviere has seen to that; but he
must pay for his interference."

"That is beside the point.  If a force comes against you--what then?"

"Then I will act as becomes a Napoleon," he answered, rather grandly.

So there was a touch of the bombastic in his manner even yet!  She
laughed a little ironically.  Then all at once her thoughts reverted to
Elise, and some latent cruelty in her awoke.  Though she believed the
girl, she would accuse the man, the more so, because she suddenly became
aware that his eyes were fixed on herself in ardent admiration.

"You might not have a convenient window," she said, with deliberate,
consuming suggestion.

His glance never wavered, though he understood instantly what she meant.
Well, she had discovered that!  He flushed.

"Madame," he said, "I hope that I am a gentleman at heart."

The whole scene came back on him, and a moisture sprang to his eyes.

"She is innocent," he continued--"upon my sacred honour!  Yes, yes, I
know that the evidence is all against me, but I speak the absolute truth.
You saw--that night, did you?"

She nodded.

"Ah, it is a pity--a pity.  But, madame, as you are a true woman, believe
what I say; for, I repeat, it is the truth."

Then, with admirable reticence, even great delicacy, he told the story
as Elise had told it, and as convincingly.

"I believe you, monsieur," she said frankly, when he had done, and
stretched out her hand to him with a sudden impulse of regard.  "Now,
follow up that unselfishness by another."

He looked inquiringly at her.

"Give up this mad chase," she added eagerly.

"Never!" was his instant reply.  "Never!"

"I beg of you, I appeal to you-my friend," she urged, with that ardour of
the counsel who pleads a bad cause.

"I do not impeach you or your claims, but I ask that you leave this
village as you found it, these happy people undisturbed in their homes.
Ah, go!  Go now, and you will be a name to them, remembered always with
admiration.  You have been courageous, you have been loved, you have been
inspiring--ah, yes, I admit it, even to me!--inspiring!  The spirit of
adventure in you, your hopes, your plans to do great things, roused me.
It was that made me your ally more than aught else.  Truly and frankly, I
do not think that I am convinced of anything save that you are no coward,
and that you love a cause.  Let it go at that--you must, you must.  You
came in the night, privately and mysteriously; go in the night, this
night, mysteriously--an inscrutable, romantic figure.  If you are all you
say, and I should be glad to think so,--go where your talents will have
greater play, your claims larger recognition.  This is a small game here.
Leave us as you found us.  We shall be the better for it; our poor folk
here will be the better.  Proceed with this, and who can tell what may
happen?  I was wrong, wrong--I see that now-to have encouraged you at
all.  I repent of it.  Here, as I talk to you, I feel, with no doubt
whatever, that the end of your bold exploit is near.  Can you not see
that?  Ah yes, you must, you must!  Take my horses to-night, leave here,
and come back no more; and so none of us shall feel sorrow in thinking of
the time when Valmond came to Pontiac."

Variable, accusing, she had suddenly shown him something beyond caprice,
beyond accident of mood or temper.  The true woman had spoken; all outer
modish garments had dropped away from her real nature, and showed its
abundant depth and sincerity.  All that was roused in him this moment was
never known; he never could tell it; there were eternal spaces between
them.  She had been speaking to him just now with no personal sentiment.
She was only the lover of honest things, the friend, the good ally,
obliged to flee a cause for its terrible unsoundness, yet trying to
prevent wreck and ruin.

He arose and turned his head away for an instant, her eloquence had been
so moving.  His glance caught the picture of the Great Napoleon, and his
eyes met hers again with new resolution.

"I must stay," he answered; "I will not turn back, whatever comes.  This
is but child's play, but a speck beside what I mean to do.  True, I came
in the dark, but I will go in the light.  I shall not leave them behind,
these poor folk; they shall come with me.  I have money, France is
waiting, the people are sick of the Orleans, and I--"

"But you must, you must listen to me, monsieur!" she said desperately.

She came close to him, and, out of the frank eagerness of her nature,
laid her hand upon his arm, and looked him in the eyes with an almost
tender appealing.

At that moment the door opened, and Monsieur De la Riviere was announced.

"Ah, madame!" said the young Seigneur in a tone more than a little
carbolic; "secrets of State, no doubt?"

"Statesmen need not commit themselves to newsmongers, monsieur," she
answered, still standing very near Valmond, as though she would continue
a familiar talk when the disagreeable interruption had passed.

She was thoroughly fearless, clear of heart, above all littlenesses.

"I had come to warn Monsieur Valmond once again, but I find him with his
ally, counsellor--and comforter," he retorted, with perilous suggestion.

Time would move on, and Madame Chalice might forget that wild remark, but
she never would forgive it, and she never wished to do so.  The insolent,
petty, provincial Seigneur!

"Monsieur De la Riviere," she returned, with cold dignity, "you cannot
live long enough to atone for that impertinence."

"I beg your pardon, madame," he returned earnestly, awed by the
look in her face; for she was thoroughly aroused.  "I came to stop a
filibustering expedition, to save the credit of the place where I was
born, where my people have lived for generations."

She made a quick, deprecatory gesture.  "You saw me enter here," she
said, "and you thought to discover treason of some kind--Heaven knows
what a mind like yours may imagine!  You find me giving better counsel
to His Highness than you could ever hope to give--out of a better heart
and from a better understanding.  You have been worse than intrusive;
you have been rash and stupid.  You call His Highness filibuster and
impostor.  I assure you it is my fondest hope that Prince Valmond
Napoleon will ever count me among his friends, in spite of all his
enemies."

She turned her shoulder on him, and took Valmond's hand with a pronounced
obeisance, saying, "Adieu, sire" (she was never sorry she had said it),
and passed from the room.  Valmond was about to follow her.

"Thank you, no; I will go to my carrriage alone," she said, and he did
not insist.

When she had gone he stood holding the door open, and looking at De la
Riviere.  He was very pale; there was a menacing fire in his eyes.  The
young Seigneur was ready for battle also.

"I am occupied, monsieur," said Valmond meaningly.

"I have come to warn you--"

"The old song; I am occupied, monsieur."

"Charlatan!" said De la Riviere, and took a step angrily towards him,
for he was losing command of himself.

At that moment Parpon, who had been outside in the hall for a half-hour
or more, stepped into the room, edged between the two, and looked up with
a wicked, mocking leer at the young Seigneur.

"You have twenty-four hours to leave Pontiac," cried De la Riviere,
as he left the room.

"My watch keeps different time, monsieur," said Valmond coolly, and
closed the door.



CHAPTER XVI

From the depths where Elise was cast, it was not for her to see that her
disaster had brought light to others; that out of the pitiful confusion
of her life had come order and joy.  A half-mad woman, without memory,
knew again whence she came and whither she was going; and bewildered and
happy, with a hungering tenderness, moved her hand over the head of her
poor dwarf, as though she would know if he were truly her own son.  A new
spirit also had come into Parpon's eyes, gentler, less weird, less
distant.  With the advent of their joy a great yearning came to save
Elise.  They hung watchful, solicitous, over her bed.

It must go hard with her, and twenty-four hours would see the end or a
fresh beginning.  She had fought back the fever too long, her brain and
emotions had been strung to a fatal pitch, and the disease, like a
hurricane, carried her on for hours, tearing at her being.

Her own mother sat in a corner, stricken and numb.  At last she fell
asleep in her chair, but Parpon and his mother slept not at all.  Now and
again the dwarf went to the door and looked out at the night, so still,
and full of the wonder of growth and rest.

Far up on Dalgrothe Mountain a soft brazen light lay like a shield
against the sky, a strange, hovering thing.  Parpon knew it to be the
reflection of the campfires in the valley, where Lagroin and his men were
sleeping.  There came, too, out of the general stillness, a long, low
murmur, as though nature were crooning: the untiring rustle of the river,
the water that rolled on and never came back again.  Where did they all
go--those thousands of rivers for ever pouring on, lazily or wildly?
What motive?  What purpose?  Just to empty themselves into the greater
waters, there to be lost?  Was it enough to travel on so inevitably to
the end, and be swallowed up?

And these millions of lives hurrying along?  Was it worth while living,
only to grow older and older, and, coming, heavy with sleep, to the
Homestead of the Ages, enter a door that only opened inwards, and be
swallowed up in the twilight?  Why arrest the travelling, however swift
it be?  Sooner or later it must come--with dusk the end of it.

The dwarf heard the moaning of the stricken girl, her cry, "Valmond!
Valmond!" the sobs that followed, the woe of her self-abnegation, even
in delirium.

For one's self it mattered little, maybe, the attitude of the mind,
whether it would arrest or be glad of the terrific travel; but for
another human being, who might judge?  Who might guess what was best for
the other; what was most merciful, most good?  Destiny meant us to prove
our case against it, as well as we might; to establish our right to be
here as long as we could, so discovering the world day by day, and
ourselves to the world, and ourselves to ourselves.  To live it out,
resisting the power that destroys so long as might be--that was the
divine secret.

"Valmond!  Valmond!  O Valmond!"

The voice moaned out the words again and again.  Through the sounds there
came another inner voice, that resolved all the crude, primitive thoughts
here defined; vague, elusive, in Parpon's own brain.

The girl's life should be saved at any cost, even if to save it meant the
awful and certain doom his mother had whispered to him over the bed an
hour before.

He turned and went into the house.  The old woman bent above Elise,
watching intently, her eyes straining, her lips anxiously compressed.

"My son," she said, "she will die in an hour if I don't give her more.
If I do, she may die at once.  If she gets well, she will be--"  She made
a motion to her eyes.

"Blind, mother, blind!" he whispered, and he looked round the room.  How
good was the sight of the eyes!  "Perhaps she'd rather die," said the old
woman.  "She is unhappy."  She was thinking of her own far, bitter past,
remembered now after so many years.  "Misery and blindness too--ah!  What
right have I to make her blind?  It's a great risk, Parpon, my dear son."

"I must, I must, for your sake.  Valmond!  Valmond!  O Valmond!" cried
Elise again out of her delirium.

The stricken girl had answered for Parpon.  She had decided for herself.
Life!  that was all she prayed for: for another's sake, not her own.

Her own mother slept on, in the corner of the room, unconscious of the
terrible verdict hanging in the balance.

Madame Degardy quickly emptied into a cup of liquor the strange brown
powder, mixed it, and held it to the girl's lips, pouring it slowly down.

Once, twice, during the next hour, a low, anguished voice filled the
room; but just as dawn came, Parpon stooped and tenderly wiped a soft
moisture from the face, lying so quiet and peaceful now against the
pillow.

"She breathes easy, poor pretty bird!" said the old woman gently.

"She'll never see again?" asked Parpon mournfully.  "Never a thing while
she lives," was the whispered reply.

"But she has her life," said the dwarf; "she wished it so."

"What's the good!"  The old woman had divined why Elise had wanted to
live.

The dwarf did not answer.  His eyes wandered about abstractedly,
and fell again upon Elise's mother sleeping, unconscious of the awful
peril passed, and the painful salvation come to her daughter.

The blue-grey light of morning showed under the edge of the closed
window-blind.  In the room day was mingling incongruously with night,
for the candle looked sickly, and the aged crone's face was of a leaden
colour, lighted by the piercing eyes that brooded hungrily on her son--
her only son: the dwarf had told her of Gabriel's death.

Parpon opened the door and went out.  Day was spreading over the drowsy
landscape.  There was no life as yet in all the horizon, no fires, no
animals stirring, no early workmen, no anxious harvesters.  But the birds
were out, and presently here and there cattle rose up in the fields.

Then, over the foot-hills, he saw a white horse and its rider show up
against the grey dust of the road.  Elise's sorrowful words came to him:
"Valmond!  Valmond!  O Valmond!"

His duty to the girl was done; she was safe; now he must follow that
figure to where the smoke of the campfires came curling up by Dalgrothe
Mountain.  There were rumours of trouble; he must again be minister,
counsellor, friend, to his master.

A half hour later he was climbing the hill where he had seen the white
horse and its rider.  He heard the sound of a drum in the distance.  The
gloom and suspense of the night just passed went from him, and into the
sunshine he sang:

                    "Oh, grand to the war he goes,
                         O gai, vive le roi!"

Not long afterwards he entered the encampment.  Around one fire, cooking
their breakfasts, were Muroc the charcoalman, Duclosse the mealman, and
Garotte the lime-burner.  They all were in good spirits.

"For my part," Muroc was saying, as Parpon nodded at them, and passed by,
"I'm not satisfied."

"Don't you get enough to eat?" asked the mealman, whose idea of
happiness was based upon the appreciation of a good dinner.

"But yes, and enough to drink, thanks to His Excellency, and the buttons
he puts on my coat."  Muroc jingled some gold coins in his pocket.  "It's
this being clean that's the devil!  When I sold charcoal, I was black and
beautiful, and no dirt showed; I polished like a pan.  Now if I touch a
potato, I'm filthy.  Pipe-clay is hell's stuff to show you up as the Lord
made you."  Garotte laughed.  "Wait till you get to fighting.  Powder
sticks better than charcoal.  For my part, I'm always clean as a
whistle."

"But you're like a bit of wool, lime-burner, you never sweat.  Dirt don't
stick to you as to me and the meal man.  Duclosse there used to look like
a pie when the meal and sweat dried on him.  When we reach Paris, and His
Excellency gets his own, I'll take to charcoal again; I'll fill the
palace cellars.  That suits me better than chalk and washing every day."

"Do you think we'll ever get to Paris?" asked the mealman, cocking his
head seriously.

"That's the will of God, and the weather at sea, and what the Orleans
do," answered Muroc grinning.

It was hard to tell how deep this adventure lay in Muroc's mind.  He had
a prodigious sense of humour, the best critic in the world.

"For me," said the lime-burner, "I think there'll be fighting before we
get to the Orleans.  There's talk that the Gover'ment's coming against
us."

"Done!" said the charcoalman.  "We'll see the way our great man puts
their noses out of joint."

"Here's Lajeunesse," broke in the mealman, as the blacksmith came near to
their fire.  He was dressed in complete regimentals, made by the parish
tailor.

"Is that so, monsieur le capitaine?" said Muroc to Lajeunesse.  "Is the
Gover'ment to be fighting us?  Why should it?  We're only for licking the
Orleans, and who cares a sou for them, hein?"

"Not a go-dam," said Duclosse, airing his one English oath.  "The English
hate the Orleans too."  Lajeunesse looked from one to the other, then
burst into a laugh.  "There's two gills of rum for every man at twelve
o'clock to-day, so says His Excellency; and two yellow buttons for the
coat of every sergeant, and five for every captain.  The English up there
in Quebec can't do better than that, can they?  And will they?  No.  Does
a man spend money on a hell's foe, unless he means to give it work to do?
Pish!  Is His Excellency like to hang back because Monsieur De la Riviere
says he'll fetch the Government?  Bah!  The bully soldiers would come
with us as they went with the Great Napoleon at Grenoble.  Ah, that!
His Excellency told me about that just now.  Here stood the soldiers,"--
he mapped out the ground with his sword," here stood the Great Napoleon,
all alone.  He looks straight before him.  What does he see?  Nothing
less than a hundred muskets pointing at him.  What does he do?  He walks
up to the soldiers, opens his coat, and says, 'Soldiers, comrades, is
there one of you will kill your Emperor?'  Damned if there was one!  They
dropped their muskets, and took to kissing his hands.  There, my dears,
that was the Great Emperor's way, our Emperor's father's little way."

"But suppose they fired at us 'stead of at His Excellency?" asked the
mealman.

"Then, mealman, you'd settle your account for lightweights sooner than
you want."

Duclosse twisted his mouth dubiously.  He was not sure how far his
enthusiasm would carry him.  Muroc shook his shaggy head in mirth.

"Well, 'tis true we're getting off to France," said the lime-burner.
"We can drill as we travel, and there's plenty of us for a start."

"Morrow we go," said Lajeunesse.  "The proclamation's to be out in an
hour, and you're all to be ready by ten o'clock in the morning.  His
Excellency is to make a speech to us to-night; then the General--ah,
what a fine soldier, and eighty years old!--he's to give orders, and make
a speech also; and I'm to be colonel,"--he paused dramatically,--"and you
three are for captains; and you're to have five new yellow buttons to
your coats, like these."  He drew out gold coins and jingled them.  Every
man got to his feet, and Muroc let the coffee-tin fall.  "There's to be a
grand review in the village this afternoon.  There's breakfast for you,
my dears!"

Their exclamations were interrupted by Lajeunesse, who added: "And so my
Madelinette is to go to Paris, after all, and Monsieur Parpon is to see
that she starts right."

"Monsieur" Parpon was a new title for the dwarf.  But the great comedy,
so well played, had justified it.  "Oh, His Excellency 'll keep his
oath," said the mealman.  "I'd take Elise Malboir's word about a man for
a million francs, was he prince or ditcher; and she says he's the
greatest man in the world.  She knows."

"That reminds me," said Lajeunesse gloomily, "Elise has the black fever."

The mealman's face seemed to petrify, his eyes stood out, the bread he
had in his teeth dropped, and he stared wildly at Lajeunesse.  All were
occupied in watching the mealman, and they did not see the figure of a
girl approaching.

Muroc, dumfounded, spoke first.  "Elise--the black fever!" he gasped,
thoroughly awed.

"She is better, she will live," said a voice behind Lajeunesse.  It was
Madelinette, who had come to the camp early to cook her father's
breakfast.

Without a word, the mealman turned, pulled his clothes about him with a
jerk, and, pale and bewildered, started away at a run down the plateau.

"He's going to the village," said the charcoalman.  "He hasn't leave.
That's court-martial!"

Lajeunesse shook his head knowingly.  "He's never had but two ideas in
his nut-meal and Elise; let him go."

The mealman was soon lost to view, unheeding the challenge that rang
after him.

Lagroin had seen the fugitive from a distance, and came down, inquiring.
When he was told he swore that Duclosse should suffer divers punishments.

"A pretty kind of officer!" he cried in a fury.  "Damn it, is there
another man in my army would do it?"

No one answered; and because Lagroin was not a wise man, he failed to
see that in time his army might be entirely dissipated by such awkward
incidents.  When Valmond was told, he listened with a better
understanding.

All that Lajeunesse had announced came to pass.  The review and march and
show were goodly, after their kind; and, by dint of money and wine, the
enthusiasm was greater than ever it had been; for it was joined to the
pathos of the expected departure.  The Cure and the avocat kept within
doors; for they had talked together, and now that the day of fate was at
hand, and sons, brothers, fathers, were to go off on this far crusade,
a new spirit suddenly thrust itself in, and made them sad and anxious.
Monsieur De la Riviere was gloomy.  Medallion was the one comfortable,
cool person in the parish.  It had been his conviction that something
would occur to stop the whole business at the critical moment.  He was
a man of impressions, and he lived in the light of them continuously.
Wisdom might have been expected of Parpon, but he had been won by Valmond
from the start; and now, in the great hour, he was deep in another theme
--the restoration of his mother to himself, and to herself.

At seven o'clock in the evening, Valmond and Lagroin were in the streets,
after they had marched their men back to camp.  A crowd had gathered near
the church, for His Excellency was on his way to visit the Cure.

As he passed, they cheered him.  He stopped to speak to them.  Before he
had ended, some one came crying wildly that the soldiers, the red-coats
were come.  The sound of a drum rolled up the street, and presently,
round a corner, came the well-ordered troops of the Government.

Instantly Lagroin wheeled to summon any stray men of his little army, but
Valmond laid a hand on his arm, stopping him.  It would have been the
same in any case, for the people had scattered like sheep, and stood
apart.

They were close by the church steps.  Valmond mechanically saw the
mealman, open-mouthed and dazed, start forward from the crowd; but,
hesitating, he drew back again almost instantly, and was swallowed up in
the safety of distance.  He smiled at the mealman's hesitation, even
while he said to himself: "This ends it--ends it!"

He said it with no great sinking of heart, with no fear.  It was the
solution of all; it was his only way to honour.

The soldiers were halted a little distance from the two; and the
officer commanding, after a dull mechanical preamble, in the name of
the Government, formally called upon Valmond and Lagroin to surrender
themselves, or suffer the perils of resistance.

"Never!" broke out Lagroin, and, drawing his sword, he shouted: "Vive
Napoleon!  The Old Guard never surrenders!"

Then he made as if to rush forward on the troops.  "Fire!" called the
officer.

Twenty rifles blazed out.  Lagroin tottered back, and fell at the feet of
his master.

Raising himself, he clasped Valmond's knee, and, looking up, said
gaspingly:

"Adieu, sire!  I love you; I die for you."  His head fell at his
Emperor's feet, though the hands still clutched the knee.

Valmond stood over his body, one leg on either side, and drew a pistol.

"Surrender, monsieur," said the officer, "or we fire!"

"Never!  A Napoleon knows how to die!" was the reply, and he raised
his pistol at the officer.

"Fire!" came the sharp command.

"Vive Napoleon!" cried the doomed man, and fell, mortally wounded.

At that instant the Cure, with Medallion, came hurrying round the corner
of the church.

"Fools!  Murderers!" he said to the soldiers.  "Ah, these poor
children!"

Stooping, he lifted up Valmond's head, and Medallion felt Lagroin's
pulseless heart.

The officer picked up Valmond's pistol.  A moment afterwards he looked at
the dying man in wonder; for he found that the weapon was not loaded!



CHAPTER XVII

"How long, Chemist?"

"Two hours, perhaps."

"So long?"

After a moment he said dreamily: "It is but a step."

The Little Chemist nodded, though he did not understand.  The Cure
stooped over him.

"A step, my son?" he asked, thinking he spoke of the voyage the soul
takes.

"To the Tuileries," answered Valmond, and he smiled.  The Cure's brow
clouded; he wished to direct the dying man's thoughts elsewhere.  "It
is but a step--anywhere," he continued; and looked towards the Little
Chemist.  "Thank you, dear monsieur, thank you.  There is a silver night-
lamp in my room; I wish it to be yours.  Adieu, my friend."

The Little Chemist tried to speak, but could not.  He stooped and kissed
Valmond's hand, as though he thought him still a prince, and not the
impostor which the British rifles had declared him.  To the end, the
coterie would act according to the light of their own eyes.

"It is now but a step--to anything," repeated Valmond.

The Cure understood him at last.  "The longest journey is short by the
light of the grave," he responded gently.

Presently the door opened, admitting the avocat.  Valmond calmly met
Monsieur Garon's pained look, and courteously whispered his name.

"Your Excellency has been basely treated," said the avocat, his lip
trembling.

"On the contrary, well, dear monsieur," answered the ruined adventurer.
"Destiny plays us all.  Think: I die the death of a soldier, and my
crusade was a soldier's vision of conquest.  I have paid the price.
I have--"

He did not finish the sentence, but lay lost in thought.  At last he
spoke in a low tone to the avocat, who quickly began writing at his
dictation.

The chief clause of the record was a legacy of ten thousand francs to
"my faithful Minister and constant friend, Monsieur Parpon;" another of
ten thousand to Madame Joan Degardy, "whose skill and care of me merits
more than I can requite;" twenty thousand to "the Church of St. Nazaire
of the parish of Pontiac," five thousand to "the beloved Monsieur Fabre,
cure of the same parish, to whose good and charitable heart I come for my
last comforts;" twenty thousand to "Mademoiselle Madelinette Lajeunesse,
that she may learn singing under the best masters in Paris."  To Madame
Chalice he left all his personal effects, ornaments, and relics, save a
certain decoration given the old sergeant, and a ring once worn by the
Emperor Napoleon.  These were for a gift to "dear Monsieur Garon, who has
honoured me with his distinguished friendship; and I pray that our mutual
love for the same cause may give me some title to his remembrance."

Here the avocat stopped him with a quick, protesting gesture.

"Your Excellency!  your Excellency!" he said in a shaking voice, "my
heart has been with the man as with the cause."

Other legacies were given to Medallion, to the family of Lagroin, of whom
he still spoke as "my beloved General who died for me;" and ten francs to
each recruit who had come to his standard.

After a long pause, he said lingeringly: "To Mademoiselle Elise Malboir,
the memory of whose devotion and solicitude gives me joy in my last hour,
I bequeath fifty thousand francs.  In the event of her death, this money
shall revert to the parish of Pontiac, in whose graveyard I wish my body
to lie.  The balance of my estate, whatever it may now be, or may prove
to be hereafter, I leave to Pierre Napoleon, third son of Lucien
Bonaparte, Prince of Canino, of whom I cherish a reverent remembrance."

A few words more ended the will, and the name of a bank in New York was
given as agent.  Then there was silence in the room, and Valmond appeared
to sleep.

Presently the avocat, thinking that he might wish to be alone with the
Cure, stepped quietly to the door and opened it upon Madame Chalice.  She
pressed his hand, her eyes full of tears, passed inside the room, going
softly to a shadowed corner, and sat watching the passive figure on the
bed.

What were the thoughts of this man, now that his adventure was over and
his end near?  If he were in very truth a prince, how pitiable, how
paltry!  What cheap martyrdom!  If an impostor, had the game been worth
the candle?--Death seemed a coin of high value for this short, vanished
comedy.  The man alone could answer, for the truth might not be known,
save by the knowledge that comes with the end of all.

She looked at the Cure, where he knelt praying, and wondered how much of
this tragedy the anxious priest would lay at his own door.

"It is no tragedy, dear Cure" Valmond said suddenly, as if following her
thoughts.

"My son, it is all tragedy until you have shown me your heart, that I may
send you forth in peace."

He had forgotten Madame Chalice's presence, and she sat very still.

"Even for our dear Lagroin," Valmond continued, "it was no tragedy.  He
was fighting for the cause, not for a poor fellow like me.  As a soldier
loves to die, he died--in the dream of his youth, sword in hand."

"You loved the cause, my son?" was the troubled question.  "You were all
honest?"

Valmond made as if he would rise on his elbow, in excitement, but the
Cure put him gently back.  "From a child I loved it, dear Cure," was the
quick reply.  "Listen, and I will tell you all my story."

He composed himself, and his face took on a warm light, giving it a look
of happiness almost.

"The very first thing I remember was sitting on the sands of the sea-
shore, near some woman who put her arms round me and drew me to her
heart.  I seem even to recall her face now, though I never could before
--do we see things clearer when we come to die, I wonder?  I never saw
her again.  I was brought up by my parents, who were humble peasants, on
an estate near Viterbo, in Italy.  I was taught in the schools, and I
made friends among my school-fellows; but that was all the happiness I
had; for my parents were strict and hard with me, and showed me no love.
At twelve years of age I was taken to Rome, and there I entered the house
of Prince Lucien Bonaparte, as page.  I was always near the person of His
Highness."

He paused, at sight of a sudden pain in the Cure's face.  Sighing, he
continued:

"I travelled with him to France, to Austria, to England, where I learned
to speak the language, and read what the English wrote about the Great
Napoleon.  Their hatred angered me, and I began to study what French and
Italian books said of him.  I treasured up every scrap of knowledge I
could get.  I listened to all that was said in the Prince's palace, and I
was glad when His Highness let me read aloud private papers to him.  From
these I learned the secrets of the great family.  The Prince was seldom
gentle with me--sometimes almost brutal, yet he would scarcely let me out
of his sight.  I had little intercourse then with the other servants, and
less still when I was old enough to become a valet; and a valet I was to
the Prince for twelve years."

The Cure's hand clasped the arm of his chair nervously.  His lips moved,
but he said nothing aloud, and he glanced quickly towards Madame Chalice,
who sat moveless, her face flushed, her look fixed on Valmond.  So, he
was the mere impostor after all--a valet!  Fate had won the toss-up; not
faith, or friendship, or any good thing.

"All these years," Valmond continued presently, his voice growing weaker,
"I fed on such food as is not often within the reach of valets.  I knew
as much of the Bonapartes, of Napoleonic history, as the Prince himself,
so much so, that he often asked me of some date or fact of which he was
not sure.  In time, I became almost like a private secretary to him.  I
lived in a dream for years; for I had poetry, novels, paintings, music,
at my hand all the time, and the Prince, at the end, changed greatly, was
affectionate indeed, and said he would do good things for me.  I became
familiar with all the intrigues, the designs of the Bonapartes; and what
I did not know was told me by Prince Pierre, who was near my own age,
and who used me always more like a friend than a servant.

"One day the Prince was visited by Count Bertrand, who was with the
Emperor in his exile, and I heard him speak of a thing unknown to
history: that Napoleon had a son, born at St. Helena, by a countess well
known in Europe.  She had landed, disguised as a sailor, from a merchant-
ship, and had lived in retirement at Longwood for near a year.  After the
Emperor died, the thing was discovered, but the governor of the island
made no report of it to the British Government, for the event would have
reflected on himself; and the returned exiles kept the matter a secret.
It was said that the child died at St. Helena.  The story remained in my
mind, and I brooded on it.

"Two years ago Prince Lucien died in my arms.  When he was gone, I found
that I had been left five hundred thousand francs, a chateau, and several
relics of the Bonapartes, as reward for my services to the Prince, and,
as the will said, in token of the love he had come to bear me.  To these
Prince Pierre added a number of mementoes.  I went to visit my parents,
whom I had not seen for many years.  I found that my mother was dead,
that my father was a drunkard.  I left money for my father with the
mayor, and sailed for England.  From London I came to New York; from New
York to Quebec.  All the time I was restless, unhappy.  I had had to work
all my life, now I had nothing to do.  I had lived close to great
traditions, now there was no habit of life to keep them alive in me.
I spent money freely, but it gave me no pleasure.  I once was a valet to
a great man, now I had the income of a gentleman, and was no gentleman.
Ah, do you not shrink from me, Monsieur le Cure?"

The Cure did not reply, but made a kindly gesture, and Valmond continued:

"Sick of everything, one day I left Quebec hurriedly.  Why I came here I
do not know, save that I had heard it was near the mountains, was quiet,
and I could be at peace.  There was something in me which could not be
content in the foolishness of idle life.  All the time I kept thinking--
thinking.  If I were only a Napoleon, how I would try to do great things!
Ah, my God!  I loved the Great Napoleon.  What had the Bonapartes done?
Nothing--nothing.  Everything had slipped away from them.  Not one of
them was like the Emperor.  His own legitimate son was dead.  None of the
others had the Master's blood, fire, daring in his veins.  The thought
grew on me, and I used to imagine myself his son.  I loved his memory,
all he did, all he was, better than any son could do.  It had been my
whole life, thinking of him and the Empire, while I brushed the Prince's
clothes or combed his hair.  Why should such tastes be given to a valet?
Some one somewhere was to blame, dear Cure.  I really did not conceive or
plan imposture.  I was only playing a comedian's part in front of the
Louis Quinze, till I heard Parpon sing a verse of 'Vive Napoleon!'  Then
it all rushed on me, captured me--and the rest you know."

The Cure could not trust himself to speak yet.

"I had not thought to go so far when I began.  It was mostly a whim.  But
the idea gradually possessed me, and at last it seemed to me that I was a
real Napoleon.  I used to wake from the dream for a moment, and I tried
to stop, but something in my blood drove me on--inevitably.  You were all
good to me; you nearly all believed in me.  Lagroin came--and so it has
gone on till now, till now.  I had a feeling what the end would be.  But
I should have had my dream.  I should have died for the cause as no
Napoleon or Bonaparte ever died.  Like a man, I would pay the penalty
Fate should set.  What more could I do?  If a man gives all he has, is
not that enough?  .  .  .  There is my whole story.  Now, I shall ask
your pardon, dear Cure."

"You must ask pardon of God, my son," said the priest, his looks showing
the anguish he felt.

"The Little Chemist said two hours, but I feel"--his voice got very faint
"I feel that he is mistaken."  He murmured a prayer, and crossed himself
thrice.

The Cure made ready to read the office for the dying.  "My son," he said,
"do you truly and earnestly repent you of your sins?"

Valmond's eyes suddenly grew misty, his breathing heavier.  He scarcely
seemed to comprehend.

"I have paid the price--I have loved you all.  Parpon--where are you?
--Elise!"

A moment of silence, and then his voice rang out with a sort of sob.
"Ah, madame," he cried chokingly, "dear madame, for you I--"

Madame Chalice arose with a little cry, for she knew whom he meant, and
her heart ached for him.  She forgot his imposture--everything.

"Ah, dear, dear monsieur!" she said brokenly.

He knew her voice, he heard her coming; his eyes opened wide, and he
raised himself on the couch with a start.  The effort loosened the
bandage at his neck, and blood gushed out on his bosom.

With a convulsive motion he drew up the coverlet to his chin, to hide the
red stream, and said gaspingly:

"Pardon, madame."

Then a shudder passed through him, and with a last effort to spare her
the sight of his ensanguined body,' he fell face downward, voiceless--for
ever.

The very earth seemed breathing.  Long waves of heat palpitated over the
harvest-fields, and the din of the locust drove lazily through.  The far
cry of the king-fisher, and idly clacking wheels of carts rolling down
from Dalgrothe Mountain, accented the drowsy melody of the afternoon.
The wild mustard glowed so like a golden carpet, that the destroying hand
of the anxious farmer seemed of the blundering tyranny of labour.  Whole
fields were flaunting with poppies, too gay for sorrow to pass that way;
but a blind girl, led by a little child, made a lane through the red
luxuriance, hurrying to the place where vanity and valour, and the
remnant of an unfulfilled manhood, lay beaten to death.

Destiny, which is stronger than human love, or the soul's fidelity, had
overmastered self-sacrifice and the heart of a woman.  This woman had
opened her eyes upon the world again, only to find it all night, all
strange; she was captive of a great darkness.

As she broke through the hedge of lilacs by the Cure's house, the crowd
of awe-stricken people fell back, opening a path for her to the door.
She moved as one unconscious of the troubled life and the vibrating world
about her.

The hand of the child admitted her to the chamber of death; the door
closed, and she stood motionless.

The Cure made as if to rise and go towards her, but Madame Chalice,
sitting sorrowful and dismayed at the foot of the couch, by a motion of
her hand stopped him.

The girl paused a moment, listening.  "Your Excellency," she whispered.
It was as if a soul leaned out of the casement of life, calling into the
dark and the quiet which may not be comprehended by mortal man.
"Monsieur--Valmond !"

Her trembling hands were stretched out before her yearningly.  The Cure
moved.  She turned towards the sound with a pitiful vagueness.

"Valmond, O Valmond!" again she cried beseechingly, her clouded eyes
straining into the silence.

The cloak dropped from her shoulders, and the loose robe enveloping her
fell away from a bosom that throbbed with the passion of a great despair.
Nothing but silence.

She moved to the wall like a little child feeling its way, ran her hand
vaguely along it, and touched a crucifix.  With a moan she pressed her
lips to the nailed feet, and came on gropingly to the couch.  She reached
down towards it, but drew back as if in affright; for a dumb, desolating
fear was upon her.

But with that direful courage which is the last gift to the hopeless,
she stooped down again, and her fingers touched Valmond's cold hands.

They ran up his breast, to his neck, to his face, and fondled it, as only
life can fondle death, out of that pitiful hunger which never can be
satisfied in this world; then they moved with an infinite tenderness to
his eyes, now blind like hers, and lingered there in the kinship of
eternal loss.

A low, anguished cry broke from her: "Valmond--my love!" and she fell
forward upon the breast of her lost Napoleon.

When the people gathered again in the little church upon the hill,
Valmond and his adventure had become almost a legend, so soon are men
and events lost in the distance of death and ruin.

The Cure preached, as he had always done, with a simple, practical
solicitude; but towards the end of his brief sermon he paused, and,
with a serious tenderness of voice, said:

"My children, vanity is the bane of mankind; it destroys as many souls as
self-sacrifice saves.  It is the constant temptation of the human heart.
I have ever warned you against it, as I myself have prayed to be kept
from its devices--alas!  how futilely at times.  Vanity leads to
imposture, and imposture to the wronging of others.  But if a man repent,
and yield all he has, to pay the high price of his bitter mistake, he may
thereby redeem himself even in this world.  If he give his life
repenting, and if the giving stays the evil he might have wrought,
shall we be less merciful than God?

"My children" (he did not mention Valmond's name), "his last act was
manly; his death was pious; his sin was forgiven.  Those rifle bullets
that brought him down let out all the evil in his blood.

"We, my people, have been delivered from a grave error.  Forgetting--
save for our souls' welfare--the misery of this vanity which led us
astray, let us remember with gladness all of him that was commendable in
our eyes: his kindness, eloquence, generous heart, courage, and love of
Mother Church.  He lies in our graveyard; he is ours; and, being ours,
let us protect his memory, as though he had not sought us a stranger,
but was of us: of our homes, as of our love, and of our sorrow.

"And so atoning for our sins, as did he, may we at last come to the
perfect pardon, and to peace everlasting."



EPILOGUE

I

(EXTRACT FROM A LETTER WRITTEN BY MADAME CHALICE TO MONSIEUR PADRE, CURE
OF THE PARISH OF PONTIAC, THREE MONTHS AFTER VALMOND'S DEATH.)

" .  .  .  And here, dear Cure, you shall have my justification for
writing you two letters in one week, though I should make the accident
a habit if I were sure it would more please you than perplex you.

"Prince Pierre, son of Prince Lucien Bonaparte, arrived in New York two
days ago, and yesterday morning he came to the Atlantic Bank, and asked
for my husband.  When he made known his business, Harry sent for me, that
I might speak with him.

"Dear Cure, hearts and instincts were right in Pontiac: our unhappy
friend Valmond was that child of Napoleon, born at St. Helena, of whom he
himself spoke at his death in your home.  His mother was the Countess of
Carnstadt.  At the beginning of an illness which followed Napoleon's
death, the child was taken from her by Prince Lucien Bonaparte, and was
brought up and educated as the son of poor peasants in Italy.  No one
knew of his birth save the companions in exile of the Great Emperor.  All
of them, with the exception of Count Bertrand, believed, as Valmond said,
that the child had died in infancy at St. Helena.

"Prince Lucien had sworn to the mother that he would care personally for
the child, and he fulfilled his promise by making him a page in his
household, and afterwards a valet--base redemption of a vow.

"But even as Valmond drew our hearts to him, so at last he won Prince
Lucien's, as he had from the first won Prince Pierre's.

"It was not until after Valmond's death, when receiving the residue of
our poor friend's estate, that Prince Pierre learned the whole truth from
Count Bertrand.  He immediately set sail for New York, and next week he
will secretly visit you, for love of the dead man, and to thank you and
our dear avocat, together with all others who believed in and befriended
his unfortunate kinsman.

"Ah, dear Cure, think of the irony of it all--that a man be driven,
by the very truth in his blood, to that strangest of all impostures
--to impersonate himself--He did it too well to be the mere comedian;
I felt that all the time.  I shall show his relics now with more pride
than sorrow.  Prince Pierre dines with us to-night.  He looks as if he
had the Napoleonic daring,--or rashness,--but I am sure he has not the
good heart of our Valmond Napoleon.  .  .  ."


II

The haymakers paused and leaned upon their forks, children left the
strawberry vines and climbed upon the fences, as the coach from the
distant city dashed down the street towards the four corners, and the
welcoming hotel, with its big dormer windows and well-carved veranda.
As it whirled by, the driver shouted something at a stalwart forgeron,
standing at the doorway of his smithy, and he passed it on to a loitering
mealman and a lime-burner.

A girl came slowly over the crest of a hill.  Feeling her way with a
stick, she paused now and then to draw in long breaths of sweet air from
the meadows, as if in the joy of Nature she found a balm for the
cruelties of Destiny.

Presently a puff of smoke shot out from the hillside where she stood,
and the sound of an old cannon followed.  From the Seigneury, far over,
came an answering report; and Tricolors ran fluttering up on flagstaffs,
at the four corners, and in the Cure's garden.

The girl stood wondering, her fine, calm face expressing the quick
thoughts which had belonged to eyes once so full of hope and blithe
desire.  The serenity of her life--its charity, its truth, its cheerful
care for others, the confidence of the young which it invited, showed in
all the aspect of her.  She heard the flapping of the flag in the Cure's
garden, and turned her darkened eyes towards it.  A look of pain crossed
her face, and a hand trembled to her bosom, as if to ease a great
throbbing of her heart.  These cannon shots and this shivering pennant
brought back a scene at the four corners, years before.

Footsteps came over the hill: she knew them, and turned.

"Parpon!" she said, with a glad gesture.

Without a word he placed in her hand a bunch of violets that he carried.
She lifted them to her lips.  "What is it all?" she asked, turning again
to the Tricolor.

"Louis Napoleon enters the Tuileries," he answered.  "But ours was the
son of the Great Emperor!" she said.  "Let us be going, Parpon: we will
plats these on his grave."  She pressed the violets to her heart.

"France would have loved him, as we did," said the dwarf, as they moved
on.

"As we do," the blind girl answered softly.

Their figures against the setting sun took on a strange burnished
radiance, so that they seemed as mystical pilgrims journeying into that
golden haze, which veiled them in beyond the hill, as the Angelus sounded
from the tower of the ancient church.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Vanity is the bane of mankind
You cannot live long enough to atone for that impertinence





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