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Title: De L'Orme. - The Works of G. P. R. James, Esq., Vol. XVI.
Author: James, G. P. R. (George Payne Rainsford)
Language: English
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Transcriber's Notes:
     1. Page scan source:
        The Works of G.P.R. James, Esq.--Volume 16
        https://books.google.com/books?id=dTYoAQAAIAAJ
        (University of California, Davis)
     2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



[Illustration: frontispiece]



THE WORKS
OF
G. P. R. JAMES, ESQ.


REVISED AND CORRECTED BY THE AUTHOR.
WITH AN INTRODUCTORY PREFACE.


"D'autres auteurs l'ont encore plus avili, (le roman,) en y mêlant les
tableaux dégoutant du vice; et tandis que le premier avantage des
fictions est de rassembler autour de l'homme tout ce qui, dans la
nature, peut lui servir de leçon ou de modèle, on a imaginé qu'on
tirerait une utilité quelconque des peintures odieuses de mauvaises
moeurs; comme si elles pouvaient jamais; laisser le c[oe]ur qui les
repousse, dans une situation aussi pure que le c[oe]ur qui les aurait
toujours Ignorées. Mais un roman tel qu'on peut le concevoir, tel que
nous en avons quelques modèles, est une des plus belles productions de
l'esprit humain, une des plus influentes sur la morale des individus,
qui doit former ensuite les m[oe]urs publiques."--MADAME DE STAËL.
_Essai sur les Fictions_.

    "Poca favilla gran flamma seconda:
     Forse diretro a me, con miglior voci
     Si pregherà, perchè Cirra risonda."
                       DANTE. _Paradiso_, Canto I.



VOL. XVI.
DE L'ORME.



LONDON:
PARRY AND CO., LEADENHALL STREET.
M DCCCXLVIII.



DE L'ORME.


BY

G. P. R. JAMES, ESQ.


AUTHOR OF

"MARGARET GRAHAM,"
"THE LAST OF THE FAIRIES," ETC.



-------------------------------



LONDON:
PARRY AND CO., LEADENHALL STREET.
M DCCCXLVIII.



PREFACE

TO THE THIRD EDITION.


Romance writing, when rightly viewed and rightly treated, is of the
same nature as the teaching by parables of the eastern nations; and I
believe, when high objects are steadily kept in view and good
principles carefully inculcated, it may prove far more generally
beneficial than more severe forms of instruction.

The man who is already virtuous and wise, or who, at least, seeks
eagerly to be so, takes up the Essay or the Lecture, and reads therein
the sentiments ever present in his own heart. But while the same man
may find equal pleasure in the work of fiction addressed to the same
great ends, how many thousands are there who will open the pages of
the Novel or the Romance, but who would avoid anything less amusing to
their fancy? If, then, while we excite their imagination with pleasant
images, we can cause the latent seeds of virtue to germinate in their
hearts; if we can point out the consequences of errors, follies, and
crimes; if we can recall good feelings fleeting away, or crush bad
ones rising up under temptation,--and that we can do so with great
effect, may be safely asserted,--we can benefit, in the most essential
particular, a large body of our fellow-men; a much larger body, I
fear, than that which can be attracted by anything that does not wear
the form of amusement.

Such has been my conviction ever since I entered upon a career in
which the public has shown me such undeserved encouragement; and with
such a purpose, and for such an object, have I always written. In some
works I have striven alone to impress those general principles of
honour and virtue, and those high and elevated feelings, which do not
seem to me to be increasing in the world. In others, I have
endeavoured to advocate, without seeming too much to do so, some
particular principle, or to warn against some particular error. In the
following pages my purpose was to expose the evil consequences of an
ill-regulated spirit of enterprise and a love of adventure, and to
deter from errors, the magnitude of which I may have felt by sharing
in them.

To do so, it was necessary to choose as my subject the life of a young
man placed in circumstances of difficulty and temptation; and no
writer can ever hope to produce a good effect by painting man
otherwise than man is.

At the same time I have ever been convinced that no benefit can ensue
from drawing the mind of the reader through long scenes of vice and
guilt, for the sake of a short moral at the end; and in writing the
history of the Count de l'Orme, I determined to show, as was
absolutely necessary, that he was led by the love of adventure into
error nearly approaching to guilt: but to dwell upon his errors no
longer than was absolutely required; to point out, even while I
related them, that their consequences were terrible; and to make the
great bulk of the book display a life of regret, pain and difficulty,
consequent upon the fault I sought to reprehend. This I have done to
the best of my judgment, restricting all details of the error into
which the principal character of the book fell, to some ten or twelve
pages. Having read those pages again, after a lapse of many years,
with the deepest attention and consideration, I send them forth with
scarcely an alteration; being firmly convinced, that the mind which
can contract any evil from the terrible scene which they depict--a
scene which, I have every reason to believe, really occurred--must be
foul and corrupt ere it sits down to the perusal. One thing I
certainly know, that those pages were written in the spirit of purity,
and with the purpose of good; and I will never believe that such
feelings can generate, in the breast of others, likewise pure, aught
but their own likeness.

De l'Orme was first published in 1830, and was written while I was
residing in France. The incidents, however, had been collected and
arranged long before, and only required form and compression. For some
curious details regarding the battle of Sedan I was indebted to a
gentleman of that city, and I believe the facts of the famous revolt
of the Count of Soissons will be found historically correct, even to
very minute particulars.



DE L'ORME.



CHAPTER I.


I was born in the heart of Bearn, in the year 1619; and if the scenery
amongst which we first open our eyes, and from which we receive our
earliest impressions, could communicate its own peculiar character to
our minds, I should certainly have possessed a thousand great and
noble qualities, that might have taught me to play a very different
part from that which I have done, in the great tragic farce of human
life. Nevertheless, in contemplating the strange contrasts of scenery,
the gay, the sparkling, the grand, the gloomy, the sublime, wherein my
infant years were passed, I have often thought I saw a sort of picture
of my own fate, with its abrupt and rapid changes; and even in some
degree of my own character, or rather of my own mood, varying
continually through all the different shades of disposition, from the
lightest mirth to the most profound gloom, from the idlest
heedlessness to the most anxious thought.

However, it is not my own peculiar character that I sit down to
depict--that will be sufficiently displayed in the detail of my
adventures: but it is rather those strange and singular events which,
contrary to all probability, mingled me with great men, and with great
actions, and which, continually counteracting my own will, impelled me
ever on the very opposite course from that which I straggled to
pursue.

For many reasons, it is necessary to commence this narrative with
those early years, wherein the mind of man receives its first bias,
when the seeds of all future actions are sown in the heart, and when
causes, in themselves so trifling as almost to be imperceptible, chain
us to good or evil, to fortune or misfortune, for ever. The character
of man is like a piece of potter's clay, which, when fresh and new, is
easily fashioned according to the will of those into whose hands it
falls; but its form once given, and hardened, either by the slow
drying of time, or by its passage through the ardent furnace of the
world, men may break it to atoms, but never bend it again to another
mould.

Our parents, our teachers, our companions, all serve to modify our
dispositions. The very proximity of their faults, their failings, or
their virtues, leaves, as it were, an impress on the flexible mind of
infancy, which the steadiest reason can hardly do more than modify,
and years themselves can never erase. To the events of those early
years I owe many of my errors in life; and my faults and their
consequences are not without their moral: for in my history, as in
that of every other man, it will be found that punishment of some kind
never failed to tread fast upon the heels of each wrong action; and in
one instance, a few hours of indiscretion mingled a dark and fearful
current with the course of many an after year.

To begin, then, with the beginning:--I was, as I have said, born in
the heart of the little mountainous principality of Bearn, which,
stretching along the northern side of the Pyrenees, contains within
itself some of the most fertile and some of the most picturesque, some
of the sweetest and some of the grandest scenes that any part of
Europe can boast. The chain of my native mountains, interposing
between France and Spain, forms a gigantic wall whereby the unerring
hand of nature has marked the limits of either land; and although this
immense bulwark is, in itself, scarcely broken by any but very narrow
and difficult passes, yet the mountainous ridges which it sends off,
like enormous buttresses, into the plain country on each side, are
intersected by a number of wide and beautiful valleys, rich with all
the gifts of summer, and glowing with all the loveliness of bright
fertility.

One of the most striking, though perhaps not one of the most
extensive, of these valleys, is that which, running from east to west,
lies in a direct line between Bagneres de Bigorre and the little town
and castle of Lourdes.[1] Never have I seen, and certainly never shall
I now see, any other valley so sweet, so fair, so tranquil;--never,
one so bright in itself, or so surrounded by objects of grandeur and
magnificence. I need not say after this, that it was my native place.

The dwelling of my father, Roger De l'Orme, Count de Bigorre, was
perched up high upon the hill-side, about two miles from Lourdes, and
looked far over all the splendid scene below. The wide valley, with
its rich carpet of verdure, the river dashing in liquid diamonds
amidst the rocks and over the precipices; the long far windings of the
deep purple mountains, filling the mind with vague, but grand
imaginings; the dark majestic shadows of the pine forest that every
here and there were cast like a black mantle round the enormous limbs
of each giant hill; the long wavy perspective, of the passes towards
Cauteretz, and the Pont d'Espagne, with the icy Vigne Malle raising up
his frozen head, as if to dare the full power of the summer sun
beyond,--all was spread out to the eye, offering in one grand view a
thousand various sorts of loveliness.

I must be pardoned for dilating upon those sweet scenes of my early
childhood, whose very memory bestows a calm and placid joy, which I
have never found in any other spot, or in any other feeling; neither
in the gaiety and splendour of a court, the gratification of passion,
the hurry and energy of political intrigue, the excitement and triumph
of the battle field, the struggle of conflicting hosts, or the
maddening thrill of victory.--But for a moment, let me indulge, and
then I quit such memories for things and circumstances whose interest
is more easily communicable to the minds of others.

The château in which my eyes first opened to the light was little
inferior in size to the castle of Lourdes, and infinitely too large
for the small establishment of servants and retainers which my
father's reduced finances enabled him to maintain. Our diminished
household looked, within its enormous walls, like the shrunken form of
some careful old miser, insinuated into the wide and hanging garments
of his youth; and yet my excellent parent fondly insisted upon as much
pomp and ceremony as his own father had kept up with a hundred and
fifty retainers waiting in his hall. Still the trumpet sounded at the
hour of dinner, though the weak lungs of the broken-winded old _maître
d'hôtel_ produced but a cacophonous sound from the hollow brass: still
all the servants, who amounted to five, including the gardener, the
shepherd, and the cook, were drawn up at the foot of the staircase, in
unstarched ruffs and tarnished liveries of green and gold, while my
father, with slow and solemn pace, handed down to dinner Madame la
Comtesse; still would he talk of his vassals, and his seigneurial
rights, though his domain scarce covered five hundred acres of wood
and mountain, and vassals, God knows, he had but few. However, the
banners still hung in the hall; and it was impossible to gaze upon the
walls, the pinnacles, the towers, and the battlements of the old
castle, without attaching the idea of power and influence to the lord
of such a hold; so that it was not extraordinary he himself should, in
some particulars forget the decay of his house, and fancy himself as
great as his ancestors.

A thousand excellent qualities of the heart covered any little foibles
in my father's character. He was liberal to a fault; kind, with that
minute and discriminating benevolence which weighs every word ere it
be spoken, lest it should hurt the feelings of another; brave, to that
degree that scarcely believes in fear, yet at the same time so humane,
that his sympathy with others often proved the torture of his own
heart; but----

Oh! that in this world there should still be a _but_, to qualify
everything that is good and excellent!--but, still he had one fault
that served greatly to counteract all the high qualities which he
possessed. He was invincibly lazy in mind. He could endure nothing
that gave him trouble; and, though the natural quickness of his
disposition would lead him to purpose a thousand great undertakings,
yet long ere the time came for executing them, various little
obstacles and impediments had gradually worn down his resolution; or
else the trouble of thinking about one thing for long was too much for
him, and the enterprise dropped by its own weight. Had fortune brought
him great opportunities, no one would have seized them more willingly,
or used them to better or to nobler purposes; but fortune was to
seek--and he did nothing.

The wars of the League, in which his father had taken a considerable
part, had gradually lopped away branch after branch of our estates,
and even hewn deeply into the trunk; and my father was not a man,
either by active enterprise or by court intrigue, to mend the failing
fortunes of his family. On the contrary, after having served in two
campaigns, and distinguished himself in several battles, out of pure
weariness, he retired to our château of De l'Orme, where, being once
fixed in quiet, he passed the rest of his days, never having courage
to undertake a longer journey than to Pau or to Tarbes; and forming in
his solitude a multitude of fine and glorious schemes, which fell to
nothing almost in the same moment that they were erected: as we may
see a child build up, with a pack of cards, many a high and ingenious
structure, which the least breath of air will instantly reduce to the
same flat nonentities from which they were reared at the first.

My mother's character is soon told. It was all excellence; or if there
was, indeed, in its composition, one drop of that evil from which
human nature is probably never entirely free, it consisted in a touch
of family pride--and yet, while I write it, my heart reproaches me,
and says that it was not so. However, the reader shall judge by the
sequel; but if she had this fault, it was her only one, and all the
rest was virtue and gentleness. Restricted as were her means of
charity, still every one that came within the sphere of her influence
experienced her kindness, or partook of her bounty. Nor was her
charity alone the charity that gives; it was the charity that feels,
that excuses, that forgives.

A willing aid in all that was amiable and benevolent was to be found
in good Father Francis of Allurdi, the chaplain of the château. In his
young days they said he had been a soldier; and on some slight,
received from a world for which he was too good, he threw away the
corslet and took the gown, not with the feeling of a misanthrope, but
of a philanthropist. For many years he remained as cure at the little
village of Allurdi, in the Val d'Ossau; but his sight and his strength
both failing him, and the cure being an arduous one, he resigned it to
a younger man, (who, he thought, might better perform the duties of
the station,) and brought as gentle a heart and as pure a spirit as
ever rested in a mortal frame, to dwell with the two others I have
described in the Château de l'Orme.

It may be asked, if he too had his foible? Believe me, dear reader,
whoever thou art, that every one on this earth has some; nor was he
without one: and, strange as it may appear, his was superstition--I
say, strange as it may appear, for he was a man of a strong and
vigorous mind, calm, reflective, rational, without any of that hurried
and perturbed indistinctness of judgment which suffers imagination to
usurp the place of reason. But still he was superstitious to a great
degree, affording a striking instance of that union of opposite
qualities, which every one who takes the trouble of examining his own
bosom will find more or less exemplified in himself. His superstition,
however, grew in a mild and benevolent soil, and was, indeed, but as
one of those tender climbing plants which hang upon the ruined tower
or the shattered oak, and clothe them with a verdure not their own:
thus he fondly adhered to the imaginative tenets of ancient days fast
falling into decay. He peopled the air with spirits, and in his fancy
gave them visible shapes, and in some degree even corporeal qualities.
However, on an ardent and youthful mind like mine, such picturesque
superstitions were most likely to have effect; and so far, indeed, did
they influence me, that though reason in after-life exerted her power
to sweep them all away, imagination often rebelled, and clung fondly
to the delusion still.

Such as I have described them were the denizens of the Château de
l'Orme at the time of my birth, which was unmarked by any other
peculiarity than that of my mother having been married, and yet
childless, for more than eight years. The joy which the unexpected
birth of an heir produced, may easily be imagined, though little
indeed was the inheritance which I came to claim. All with one consent
gave themselves up to hope and to gladness; and more substantial signs
of rejoicing were displayed in the hall than the château had known for
many a day.

My father declared that I should infallibly retrieve the fortunes of
my house. Father Francis, with tears in his eyes, exclaimed that it
was evidently a blessing from Heaven; and even my mother discovered
that, though futurity was still misty and indistinct, there was now a
landmark to guide on hope across the wide ocean of the years to come.



CHAPTER II.


I know not by what letters patent the privilege is held, but it seems
clearly established, that the parents of an only child have full right
and liberty to spoil him to whatsoever extent they may please; and
though, my grandfathers on both sides of the house being dead long
before my birth, I wanted the usual chief aiders and abettors of
over-indulgence, yet, in consideration of my being an unexpected gift,
my father thought himself entitled to expend more unrestrictive
fondness upon me than if my birth had taken place at an earlier period
of his marriage.

My education was in consequence somewhat desultory. The persuasions of
Father Francis, indeed, often won me for a time to study, and the
wishes of my mother, whose word was ever law to her son, made me
perhaps attend to the instructions of the good old priest more than my
natural volatility would have otherwise admitted. At times, too, the
mad spirit of laughing and jesting at everything, which possessed me
from my earliest youth, would suddenly and unaccountably be changed
into the most profound pensiveness, and reading would become a delight
and a relief. I thus acquired a certain knowledge of Latin and of
Greek, the first principles of mathematics, and a great many of those
absurd and antiquated theories which were taught in that day under the
name of philosophy. But from Father Francis, also, I learned what
should always form one principal branch of a child's education--a very
tolerable knowledge of my native language, which I need not say is, in
general, spoken in Bearn in the most corrupt and barbarous manner.

Thus, very irregularly, proceeded the course of my mental instruction;
my corporeal education my father took upon himself, and as his
laziness was of the mind rather than the body, he taught me
thoroughly, from my very infancy, all those exercises which, according
to his conception, were necessary to make a perfect cavalier. I could
ride, I could shoot, I could fence, I could wrestle, before I was
twelve years old; and of course the very nature of these lessons
tended to harden and confirm a frame originally strong, and a
constitution little susceptible of disease.

The buoyancy of youth, the springy vigour of my muscles, and a good
deal of imaginative feeling, gave me a sort of indescribable passion
for adventure from my childhood, which required even the stimulus of
danger to satisfy. Had I lived in the olden time, I had certainly been
a knight errant. Everything that was wild, and strange, and even
fearful, was to me delight; and it needed many a hard morsel from the
rough hand of the world to quell such a spirit's appetite for
excitement.

To climb the highest pinnacles of the rocks, to plunge into the
deepest caverns, to stand on the very brink of the precipices and look
down into the dizzy void below, to hang above the cataract on some
tottering stone, and gaze upon the frantic fury of the river boiling
in the pools beneath, till my eye was wearied, and my ear deafened
with the flashing whiteness of the stream, and the thundering roar of
its fall--these were the enjoyments of my youth, and many, I am
afraid, were the anxious pangs which my temerity inflicted on the
bosom of my mother.

I will pass over all the little accidents and misadventure of youth;
but on one circumstance, which occurred when I was about twelve years
old, I must dwell more particularly, inasmuch as it was not only of
import at the time, but also affected all my future life by its
consequences.

On a fine clear summer morning, I had risen in one of those thoughtful
moods, which rarely cloud the sunny mind of youth, but which, as I
have said, frequently succeeded to my gayest moments; and, walking
slowly down the side of the hill, I took my way through the windings
of a deep glen, that led far into the heart of the mountain. I was
well acquainted with the spot, and wandered on almost unconsciously,
with scarcely more attention to any external object than a casual
glance to the rocks that lay tossed about on either side, amidst a
profusion of shrubs and flowers, and trees of every hue and leaf.

The path ran along on a high bank of rocks overhanging the river,
which, dashing in and out round a thousand stony promontories, and
over a thousand bright cascades, gradually collected its waters into a
fuller body, and flowed on in a deep swift stream towards a more
profound fall below. At the side of the cataract, the most industrious
of all the universe's insects, man, had taken advantage of the
combination of stream and precipice, and fixed a small mill-wheel
under the full jet of water, the clacking sound of which, mingling
with the murmur of the stream, and the savage scenery around,
communicated strange, undefined sensations to my mind, associating all
the cheerful ideas of human proximity, with the wild grandeur of rude
uncultivated nature.

I was too young to unravel my feelings, or trace the sources of the
pleasure I experienced; but getting to the very verge of the rock, a
little way above the mill, I stood, watching the dashing eddies as
they hurried on to be precipitated down the fall, and listening to the
various sounds that came floating on the air.

On what impulse I forget at this moment, but after gazing for some
time, I put my foot still farther towards the edge of the rocky stone
on which I stood, and bent over, looking down the side of the bank.
The stone was a detached fragment of grey marble, lying somewhat
loosely upon the edge of the descent--my weight overthrew its
balance--it tottered--I made a violent effort to recover myself, but
in vain--the rock rolled over, and I was pitched headlong into the
stream.

The agony of finding myself irretrievably gone--the dazzle and the
flash of the water as it closed over my head--the thousand regrets
that whirled through my brain during the brief moment that I was below
the surface--the struggle of renewed hope as I rose again and beheld
the blue sky and the fair face of nature, are all as deeply graven on
my memory as if the whole had occurred but yesterday. Although all
panting when I got my head above the water, I succeeded in uttering a
loud shout for assistance, while I struggled to keep myself up with my
hand; but as I had never learned to swim, I soon sunk again, and on
rising a second time, my strength was so far gone, I could but give
voice to a feeble cry, though I saw myself drifting quickly towards
the mill and the waterfall, where death seemed inevitable. My only
hope was that the miller would hear me; but to my dismay, I found that
my call, though uttered with all the power I had left, was far too
faint to rise above the roar of the cascade and the clatter of the
mill-wheels.

Hope gave way, and ceasing to struggle, I was letting myself sink,
when I caught a faint glimpse of some one running down amongst the
rocks towards me, but at that moment, in spite of my renewed efforts,
the water overwhelmed me again. For an instant there was an
intolerable sense of suffocation--a ringing in my ears, and a flashing
of light in my eyes that was very dreadful, but it passed quickly
away, and a sweet dreamy sensation came over me, as if I had been
walking in green fields, I did not well know where--the fear and the
struggle were all gone, and, gradually losing remembrance of
everything, I seemed to fall asleep.

Such is all that my memory has preserved of the sensations I
experienced in drowning--a death generally considered a very dreadful
one, but which is, in reality, anything but painful. We have no means
of judging what is suffered in almost any other manner of passing from
the world; but were I to speak from what I myself felt in the
circumstances I have detailed, I should certainly say that _it is the
fear that is the death_.

My next remembrance is of a most painful tingling, spreading itself
through every part of my body, even to my very heart, without any
other consciousness of active being, till at length, opening my eyes,
I found myself lying in a large barely furnished room in the mill,
with a multitude of faces gazing at me, some strange and some
familiar, amongst the last of which I perceived the pimpled nose of
the old _maître d'hôtel_, and the mild countenance of Father Francis
of Allurdi.

My father, too, was there; and I remember seeing him with his arms
folded on his breast, and his eyes straining upon me as if his whole
soul was in them. When I opened mine, he raised his look towards
heaven, and a tear rolled over his cheek; but I saw or heard little of
what passed, for an irresistible sensation of weariness came over me;
and the moment after I awoke from the sleep of death, I fell into a
quiet and refreshing slumber, very different from the "cold
obstruction" of the others.

I will pass over all the rejoicing that signalized my recovery--my
father's joy, my mother's thanks and prayers, the servants' carousing,
and the potations, deep and strong, of the pimple-nosed _maître
d'hôtel_, whose hatred of water never demonstrated itself more
strongly than the day after I had escaped drowning. As soon as I had
completely regained my strength, my mother told me, that after having
shown our gratitude to God, it became our duty to show our gratitude
also to the person who had been the immediate means of saving me from
destruction; and it was then I learned that I owed my life to the
courage and skill of a lad but little older than myself, the son of a
poor procureur, or attorney, at Lourdes. He had been fishing in the
stream at the time the rock gave way under my feet, and seeing my
fall, hurried to save me. With much difficulty and danger he
accomplished his object, and having drawn me from the water, carried
me to the mill, where he remained only long enough to see me open my
eyes, retiring modestly the moment he was assured of my safety.

In those young days, life was to me so bright a plaything, all the
wheels of existence moved so easily, there was so much beauty in the
world, so much delight in being, that my most enthusiastic gratitude
was sure to follow such a service as that I had received. Readily did
I assent to my mother's proposal, that she should accompany me to
Lourdes to offer our thanks--not as with the world in general, in mere
empty words, as unsubstantial as the air that bears them, but by some
more lasting mark of our gratitude.

Upon the nature of the recompense she was to offer, she held a long
consultation with my father, who, unwilling to give anything minute
consideration, left it entirely to her own judgment, promising the
fullest acquiescence in whatever she should think fit; and accordingly
we set out early the next day for Lourdes, my mother mounted on a
hawking palfrey, and I riding by her side on a small fleet Limousin
horse, which my father had given me a few days before.

This was not, indeed, the equipage with which the Countess de Bigorre
should have visited a town once under the dominion of her husband's
ancestors; but what was to be done? A carriage, indeed, we had, which
would have held six, and if required, eight persons; though the
gilding was somewhat tarnished, and a few industrious spiders had spun
their delicate nets in the windows, and between the spokes of the
wheels. Neither were horses wanting, for on the side of the mountain
were eight coursers, with tails and manes as long as the locks of a
mermaid, and a plentiful supply of hair to correspond about their
feet. They were somewhat aged, indeed, and for the last six years they
had gone about slip-shod amongst the hills, enjoying the _otium cum
dignitate_ which neither men nor horses often find. Still they would
have done; but where were we to find the six men dressed in the
colours of the family, necessary to protect the foot-board behind?
where the four stout cavaliers, armed up to the teeth, to ride by the
side of the carriage? where the postilions? where the coachman?

My mother did much more wisely than strive for a pomp which we were
never to see again. She went quietly and simply, to discharge what she
considered a duty, with as little ostentation as possible; and when
the worthy _maître d'hôtel_ lamented, with the familiarity of long
service, that the Countess de Bigorre should go without such a retinue
as in his day had always made the name respected, she replied,
quietly, that those who were as proud of the name as she was, would
find no retinue needful to make it respectable. My father retired into
his library, as we were about to depart, saying to my mother, that he
hoped she had commanded such a body of retainers to accompany her as
she thought necessary. She merely replied that she had; and set out,
with a single groom to hold the horses, and a boy to show us the way
to the dwelling of the procureur.

Let it be observed, that, up to the commencement of the year of which
I speak, Lourdes had never been visited with the plague of an
attorney; but at that epoch, the father of the lad who had saved my
life, and who, like him, was named Jean Baptiste Arnault, had come to
settle in that place, much to the horror and astonishment of the
inhabitants. He had, it was rumoured, been originally _intendant_, or
steward, to some nobleman in Poitou, and having, by means best known
to himself, obtained the charge of procureur in Bearn, he had first
visited Pau, and thence removed to Lourdes.

The name of an attorney had at first frightened the good Bearnois of
that town; but they soon discovered that Maître Jean Baptiste Arnault
was a very clever, quiet, amiable, little man, about two cubits in
height, of which stature his head monopolised at least the moiety. He
was not particularly handsome; but, as he appeared to have other
better qualities, that did not much signify, and they gradually made
him their friend, their confidant, and their adviser; in all of which
capacities, he acted in a mild, tranquil, easy little manner, that
seemed quite delightful: but, notwithstanding all this, the people of
the town of Lourdes began insensibly to get of a quarrelsome and a
litigious turn, so that Jean Baptiste Arnault had his study in general
pretty full of clients; and, though he made it appear clearly to the
most common understanding, that his sole object was to promote peace
and good-will, yet, strange to say, discord, the faithful jackal of
all attorneys, was a very constant attendant on his steps.

Such were the reports that had reached us at the Château de l'Orme;
and the _maître d'hôtel_, when he repeated them, laid his finger upon
the side of his prominent and rubicund proboscis, and screwed up his
eye till it nearly suffered an eclipse, saying as plainly as nose and
eye could say, "Monsieur Jean Baptiste Arnault is a cunning fellow."
However, my father had no will to believe ill of any one, and my
mother as little; so that, when we set out for Lourdes, both were
fully convinced that the parent of their child's deliverer was one of
the most excellent of men.

After visiting the church, and offering at the shrine of _Notre Dame
du bon secours_, we proceeded to the dwelling of the procureur, and
dismounting from our horses, entered the _étude_, or office, of the
lawyer; the boy, who had come to show us the way, throwing open the
door with a consequential fling, calculated to impress the mind of the
attorney with the honour which we did him. It was a miserable chamber,
with a low table, and a few chairs, both strewed with some books of
law, and written papers, greased and browned by the continual thumbing
of the coarse-handed peasants, in whose concerns they were written.

Jean Baptiste Arnault was not there, but in his place appeared a
person, plainly dressed in a suit of black, with buttons of jet,
without any embroidery or ornament whatever. He wore a pair of riding
boots, with immense tops, shaped like a funnel, according to the mode
of the day, and the dust upon these appendages, as well as the
disordered state of his long wavy hair, seemed to announce that he had
ridden far; while a large Sombrero hat, and a long steel-hilted Toledo
sword, which lay beside him, led the mind naturally to conclude that
his journey had been from Spain.

To judge of his station by his dress, one would have concluded him to
be some Spanish merchant of no very large fortune; but his person and
his air told a different tale. Pale, and even rather sallow in
complexion, the high broad forehead, rising almost upright from his
brow, and seen still higher through the floating curls of his dark
hair, the straight, finely turned nose, the small mouth curled with a
sort of smile, strangely mingled of various expressions, half cynical,
half bland, the full rounded chin, the very turn of his head and neck,
as he sat writing at a table exactly opposite the door, all gave that
nobility to his aspect, which was not to be mistaken.

On our entrance, the stranger rose, and in answer to my mother's
inquiry for the procureur, replied, "Arnault is not at present here;
but if the Countess de Bigorre will sit down, he shall attend her
immediately," and taking up the letter he had been writing, he left
the apartment. The moment after, the door by which he had gone out
again opened, and Jean Baptiste Arnault entered the room, at once
verifying by his appearance everything we had heard of his person. He
was quite a dwarf in stature; and, in size at least, dame Nature had
certainly very much favoured his head, at the expense of the rest of
his body. His face, to my youthful eyes, appeared at least two feet
square, with all the features in proportion, except the eyes, which
were peculiarly small and black; and not being very regularly set in
his head, seemed like two small boats, nearly lost in the vast ocean
of countenance which lay before us.

I do not precisely remember the particulars of the conversation which
took place upon his coming in, but I very well recollect laughing most
amazingly at his appearance, in spite of my mother's reproof, and
telling him, with the unceremonious candour of a spoiled child, that
he was certainly the ugliest man I had ever seen. He affected to take
my boldness in very good part, and called me a fine frank boy; but
there was a vindictive gleam in his little black eyes, which
contradicted his words; and I have since had reason to believe that he
never forgot or forgave my childish rudeness. It is a very general
rule, that a man is personally vain in proportion to his ugliness, and
hates the truth in the same degree that he deceives himself. Certain
it is, no man was ever more ugly, or ever more vain; and his conceit
had not been nourished a little by marrying a very handsome woman.

Of course the first subject of conversation which arose between my
mother and himself was the service which his son had rendered me; and
as a recompense, she offered that the young Jean Baptiste should be
received into the Château de l'Orme, and educated with its heir, which
she considered as the highest honour that could be conferred on the
young _roturier_; and in the second place, she promised, in the name
of my father, that five hundred livres per annum should be settled
upon him for life,--a sum of no small importance in those days, and in
that part of the country.

The surprise and gratitude of the attorney can hardly be properly
expressed. Of liberality he had not in his own bosom one single idea;
and, I verily believe, that at first he thought my mother had some
sinister object in the proposals which she made; but speedily
recovering himself, he accepted with great readiness the pension that
was offered to his son; at the same time hesitating a good deal in
regard to sending him to the Château de l'Orme. He enlarged upon his
sense of the honour, and the favour, and the condescension; but his
son, he said, was the only person he had who could act as his clerk,
and he was afraid he could not continue his business without him. In
short, his objections hurt my mother's pride, and she was rising with
an air of dignity to put an end to the matter, by taking her
departure, when, as if by a sudden thought, the procureur besought her
to stay one moment, and as her bounty had already been so great,
perhaps she would extend it one degree farther. His son, he said, was
absolutely necessary to him to carry on his business; but he had one
daughter, whom, her mother being dead, he had no means of educating as
he could wish. "If," said he, "Madame la Comtesse de Bigorre will
transfer the benefit she intended for my son to his sister, she will
lay my whole family under an everlasting obligation; and I will take
upon myself to affirm, that the disposition and talents of the child
are such as will do justice to the kindness of her benefactress."

These words he pronounced in a loud voice, and then starting up, as if
to cut across all deliberation on the subject, he said he would call
both his children, and left the room.

After having been absent some time, he returned with the lad who had
saved my life, and a little girl of about ten years old. Jean
Baptiste, the younger, was at this time about fifteen; and though
totally unlike his father in stature, in make, or in mind, he had
still a sufficient touch of the old procureur in his countenance, to
justify his mother in the matter of paternity.

Not so the little Helen, whose face was certainly not the reflection
of her father's, if such he was. Her long soft dark eyes alone were
sufficient to have overset the whole relationship, without even the
glossy brown hair that curled round her brow, the high clear forehead,
the mouth like twin cherries, or the brilliant complexion, which
certainly put Monsieur Arnault's coffee-coloured skin very much out of
countenance.

Her manners were as sweet and gentle as her person: my mother's heart
was soon won, and the exchange proposed readily conceded. The young
Jean Baptiste was thanked both by my mother and myself, in all the
terms we could find to express our gratitude, all which he received in
a good-humoured and yet a sheepish manner, as if he were at once
gratified and distressed by the commendations that were showered upon
him. Helen, it was agreed, should be brought over to the château the
next day; and having now acquitted ourselves of the debt of obligation
under which we had lain, we again mounted our horses and rode away
from Lourdes.



CHAPTER III.


Though I have not gone very far into my history, I have learned to
hate being my own historian, stringing I, and I, and I, together to
the end of the chapter. Nevertheless, I believe that no man's history
can be so well told as by himself, if he will but be candid; for no
one can so completely enter into his feelings, or have so vivid an
impression of the circumstances amidst which he has acted.
Notwithstanding this, it shall be my endeavour to pass over the events
of my youth as rapidly as possible, for the purpose of arriving at
that part of this history where the stirring nature of the scenes in
which I mingled may cover the egotism of the detail; but still, as
there are persons and occurrences yet unmentioned, by which my after
life was entirely modified, I must still pause a little on this part
of my tale.

Faithful to the charge she had undertaken, my mother made the
education of Helen Arnault her particular care. At first, she confined
her instructions to those arts alone that were likely to be useful to
her in the _bourgeoise_ class in which she had been born; but there
was a degree of ready genius mixed with the infinite gentleness of
Helen's disposition, which gradually seduced my mother into teaching
her much more than she had at first intended. Nor was she ill
qualified for the task, possessing every female accomplishment, both
mental and corporeal, in as much perfection as they had received in
those days. At first, the education of the sweet girl, thus placed
under her protection, formed a sort of amusement for her, when my
father and myself were absent in any of the long rides we used to take
through the country--gradually it became so habitual as to be
necessary to her comfort; and Helen so completely wound herself round
the Countess's heart, that she could not bear to be without her for
any considerable length of time.

Perhaps it was the very attachment which she herself experienced
towards Helen, that made my mother feel how strong might be the effect
of such sweetness and such beauty at some after time upon the heart of
an ardent, sensitive, imaginative youth--and my mother from the first
knew me to be such. Whatever was the cause, certain it is she took
care that between Helen and myself should be placed a barrier of
severe and chilling formality, calculated to repress the least
intimacy in its very bud. Whenever she mentioned my name to her young
_protégée_, it was always under the ceremonious epithet of Count
Louis. Whenever I entered the room, Helen Arnault was sent away, upon
some excuse which prevented her return; or if she was permitted to
remain, there was a sort of courtly etiquette maintained, well
calculated to freeze all the warmer blood of youth.

All this my mind has commented on since, though I only regarded it, at
the time, as something very disagreeable, without in the least
understanding why my mother chose to play so very different a part
from that which suited her natural character. She certainly acted for
the best, but I think she was mistaken in her judgment of the means to
be employed for effecting her object. It is probable, that had she
suffered me at the first to look upon Helen Arnault as a sister, and
taught her to consider me as her brother, the feelings which we
acquired towards each other at ten and twelve years old would have
remained unchanged at a later period. God knows how it would have
been! I am afraid that all experiments upon young hearts are dangerous
things. The only remedy is, I believe, a stone wall; and the example
of Pyramus and Thisbe demonstrates that even it must not have a crack
in it.

As it was, the years rolled on, and I began to acquire the sensations
of manhood. I saw Helen Arnault but by glimpses, but I saw nothing on
earth so lovely. Every day new beauties broke forth upon me; and it
was impossible to behold her hour by hour expanding into the
perfection of womanhood, without experiencing those feelings with
which we see a bud open out into the rose--a wish to possess so
beautiful a thing.

In the meanwhile, several changes took place in our vicinity; the most
important of which was the arrival of a neighbour. The Château de
l'Orme stood, as I have said, upon the side of the hill, commanding an
extensive view through the valley below. It had originally been
nothing more than one of those towers to be found in every gorge of
the Pyrenees, built in times long past to defend the country from the
incursions of the Moors of Spain.

After the expulsion of the infidels from the Peninsula, it had been
converted into a hunting residence for the counts of Bigorre, and a
great many additions had been made to it, according to the various
tastes of a long line of proprietors, who had each in general followed
the particular style of architecture which accorded with his own
immediate pursuits. The more warlike had built towers, and walls, and
turrets, and battlements. One of the counts dying without children, it
had fallen into the hands of his brother, who was a bishop. He added a
Gothic chapel and a dormitory for ecclesiastics. His nephew, a famous
lawyer and President de Grenoble, no sooner succeeded, than he built
an immense hall, exactly copied from the hall of justice in which he
had so often presided; and others of different dispositions had
equally taken care of the stables, the dairy, and the kitchen.

In short, they had been like the fairies called to the birth of a
child in our nursery tales; each had endowed the building with some
particular gift, so that on the whole, though somewhat straggling and
irregular, it contained an apartment of every kind, sort, and
description, that could be wanted or wished for.

In one of the square towers, built upon the edge of a steep rock, some
ninety feet in height, my father had fixed his library. Here he could
read whatever book he chose, in a quiet, dozy sort of manner, without
hearing any noise from the rest of the house; though, at the same
time, he just caught, through the open windows, the murmuring of the
waterfall below, and could look up from what he was perusing, and run
his eye through all the windings of the valley, with a dreamy
contemplative listlessness, in which he was very fond to indulge.

At about a quarter of a mile from the château, and amongst the first
objects within the scope of my father's view as he sat in this
library, was a small house, which had belonged to some of the
wealthier retainers of the family, when it had been in its flush
prosperity. This had since passed into the hands of a farmer, at the
time that my grandfather had judged proper to diminish the family
estate, and expend its current representative in gunpowder and cannon
balls; but a year or two before the time to which I refer, it had
become vacant by the death of its occupier, and had remained shut up
ever since.

Little care being taken to keep this house in repair, it formed a sort
of eye-sore in my father's view, and regularly every month he declared
he would repurchase it, and arrange it according to his own taste,
with a degree of energy, and even vehemence of manner, which would
have led any one, who did not know him, to suppose that within an hour
the purchase would be completed, and the alterations put in train; but
the moment he had shut the library door behind him, he began to think
of something else, and before he was in the court-yard, he had
forgotten all about it.

One morning, however, he was not a little surprised to see the windows
of the house opened, and two or three workmen of various kinds
employed in rendering it habitable. Without giving himself time to
recover from his astonishment, or to forget the change, he sent down
the lackey to inquire the name of its new occupier, and, in short, the
whole particulars.

How the man executed his commission I know not; but the reply was,
that the Chevalier de Montenero would do himself the honour of waiting
upon the Count de Bigorre. My father said, "Very well," and resolved
to have everything prepared to receive this new neighbour with
ceremony; but finding that the arrangements required a good deal of
thought, he resolved to leave them all to my mother, and was
proceeding to her apartments for the purpose of casting the weight of
it upon her shoulders, when, in the corridor, he met little Helen
Arnault, who had then been with us about six months--began playing
with and caressing her--forgot the Chevalier de Montenero, and went
out to ride with me towards Bigorre.

On our return, we found a strong iron grey horse saddled in the
court-yard, and were informed that the Chevalier de Montenero was in
the apartments of Madame la Comtesse. On following my father thither,
I instantly recognised the person we had seen in the _étude_ of the
procureur at Lourdes. The sight, I will own, was a pleasing one to me,
for from the moment I had first beheld him I had wished to hear and
see more. There was a sort of dignity in his aspect that struck my
boyish imagination, and captivated me in a way I cannot account for. I
am well aware that on every principle of right reasoning, the theory
of innate sympathies is one of the most ridiculous that ever the
theory-mongers of this earth produced, but yet, though strange, it is
no less a fact, which every one must have felt, that there are persons
whom we meet in the world, and who, without one personal beauty to
attract, and, even before we have had any opportunity of judging of
their minds, obtain a sort of hold upon our feelings and imagination,
more powerful than long acquaintance with their qualities of mind
could produce. Perhaps it may proceed from some association between
their persons and our preconceived ideas of goodness.

The Chevalier de Montenero, however, in his youth must have been
remarkable for personal beauty, and the strongest traces of it
remained even yet, though, in this respect, years had been the less
merciful, inasmuch as they had been leagued with care. Deep lines of
painful and anxious thought were evident on the Chevalier's forehead
and in his cheek--but it was not thought of a mean or sordid nature.
The grandeur of his brow, the erect unshrinking dignity of his
carriage, all contradicted it. Powerful, or rather overpowering
passions, might perchance speak forth in the flash of his dark eye,
but its expression for good or bad was still great and elevated. There
was something also that might be called impenetrable in his air. It
was that of a man long accustomed to bury matters of much import deep
in his own bosom; and very few, I believe, would have liked to ask him
an impertinent question.

In manner he was mild and grave; and though his name was evidently
Spanish, and his whole dress and appearance betrayed that he had very
lately arrived from that country, yet he spoke our language with
perfect facility, and without the slightest foreign accent. I believe
the pleasure I felt in seeing him again showed itself in somewhat of
youthful gladness; and as he was not a man to despise anything that
was pure and unaffected, he seemed gratified by my remembrance, and
invited me to visit him in his solitude. "I mean, madame," said he,
turning to my mother, "to make the house which I have bought in the
valley a hermitage, in almost everything but the name; but if you will
occasionally permit your son to cheer it with his company, I shall be
the happier in the society of one who as yet is certainly uncorrupted
by this bad world, and, in return, he may perhaps learn from me some
of that lore which long commerce with my fellow-creatures, and much
familiarity with great and strange events, have taught me."

I eagerly seized on the permission, and from that day, whenever my
mood turned towards the serious and the thoughtful, my steps naturally
followed the path towards the dwelling of the Chevalier. I may say
that I won his affection; and much did he strive to correct and guide
my disposition to high and noble objects, marking keenly every
propensity in my nature, and endeavouring to direct them aright. There
was a charm in his conversation, an impressive truth in all he said,
that both persuaded and convinced; and, had I followed the lessons of
wisdom I heard from his lips, I should have been both happier and
better in my after life; but the struggle of youthful passion was ever
too strong for reason: and for many years of my being I was but a
creature of impulse, carried away by the wish of the moment, and
forgetting, at the time I most needed them, all the resolutions I had
founded upon the experience of others.

The Chevalier evidently saw and regretted the wildness of my
disposition, but I do not think he loved me the less. There was
something in it that harmonized with his own character; for often,
notwithstanding all that he had learned in the impressive school of
the world, the original enthusiasm of his heart would shine out, in
spite of the veil of stern coldness with which he covered his warmer
feelings. This I remarked afterwards; but suffice it in this place to
say, that his regard for me assumed a character of almost paternal
tenderness, which I ever repaid by a respect and reverence I am afraid
more than filial. In his manners, to every one but the members of our
family, he was distant and cold, but it seemed as if towards us his
heart had expanded from the first. My mother he would often visit,
behaving on such occasions with the calm, elegant attention of high
bred courtesy, never stiffening into coldness or sinking into
familiarity. With my father he would sit for many hours at a time,
conversing over various subjects of life and morals, with which, even
to my young mind, it was apparent that he was actively and practically
acquainted; while my father, though perhaps his reasoning was as good,
spoke evidently but from what he had read and what he had heard,
without the clear precision of personal knowledge.

Other acquaintances, also, though of an inferior class, and very
different character, must now be mentioned, though neither their
habits of life, or rank in society, were calculated to throw much
lustre on those who in any way consorted with them.

The excessive height to which the gabelle had carried the price of
salt acted as one of the greatest encouragements to those Spanish
smugglers, who have in all times frequented the various passes of the
Pyrenees, and distinguished themselves by a daring and reckless
courage, and a keen penetrating sagacity, which might have raised them
individually to the highest stations of society, if employed for the
nobler and better purposes of existence.

It unfortunately happens in the world, that talent is less frequently
wanting than the wisdom to employ it; and many men, who, to my
knowledge, might have established their own fortune, served their
country, and rendered their name immortal, have wasted grand abilities
upon petty schemes, and heroic courage upon disgraceful enterprises.
So was it, though in a minor degree, with many of the Spanish
smugglers that were continually passing to and fro in our immediate
neighbourhood; and a braver or more ingenious race of men never
existed.

Of course they were not without their aiders and abettors on the
French side of the mountains; and it was very generally supposed that
the mill, near which I had fallen into the water, was a great
receptacle for the contraband goods which they imported. However,
nothing of the kind was to be discovered, although the officers of the
gabelle, called Gabellateurs, and the Douaniers, or custom-house
officers, had visited it at all times and seasons. The mill had ever
been found clear and fair, and the miller, a quiet, civil sort of
person, who let them look where they listed, and took it all in good
part.

Notwithstanding all this fair appearance, which baffled even the keen
eyes of those interested in the discovery, and deceived completely all
who were not interested in the smuggling itself, whenever my father
wanted some good Alicante wine, or Xeres, or anything else of the same
nature, he sent to the miller, who was always found ready to oblige
_Monseigneur le Comte_. Often also, in my childhood, did I visit the
mill in company with the old _maître d'hôtel_, whose predilection for
the good things of this life, especially in the form of liquids, would
have led him to cultivate the acquaintance of the Devil himself, if he
had appeared with a bottle of wine under his arm. Many was the curious
scene that I thus saw, now floating faintly before my memory as a
remembered dream; and many were the means employed to make the amiable
practice of smuggling palatable to the taste of the heir of Bigorre.
Oranges, and pomegranates, and dates, were always brought forward to
gratify the young Count, and my bold and daring spirit, even as a
child, excited the admiration and delight of many of the dark
smugglers, who used, in return, to tell me long stories of their
strange adventures, which, heightened by the barbarous yet picturesque
dialect that they spoke, excited my fancy to the utmost, and sent me
away with my brain full of wild imaginations.

Very often, if any of these men had something peculiarly rare or
curious to dispose of, they went so far as to bring it up to the
Château de l'Orme, where my father generally became a purchaser,
notwithstanding a remonstrance which my mother would occasionally
venture to make against the encouragement of persons habitually
infringing the law of the land. Our family thus acquired the
reputation amongst the smugglers of being their patrons and
benefactors; and violent in all their passions, whether good or bad,
their gratitude was enthusiastic in proportion. One of them, named
Pedro Garcias, deserves more particular notice than the rest on many
accounts. When I first knew him, he was a man of about forty, perhaps
more; but time and danger, and excited passion and fatigue, had made
as little impression upon him as the soft waves of some sheltered bay
do upon the granite rocks that surround it. He was born at the little
village of Jacca, on the other side of the mountains, the son of a
wealthy farmer, who afforded him an education much superior to his
rank in life. The blood of his ancestors, they said, was mingled with
that of the Moors; but instead of feeling this circumstance as a stain
upon his race, like most of his countrymen, he seemed rather to glory
in his descent from a valiant and conquering people, and to exult in
the African fire that circled in his veins.

His complexion was not peculiarly swarthy, though his long stiff black
hair, and flashing eyes, spoke out in favour of his Moorish origin. In
height he was nearly six feet three inches; but instead of any of the
awkward disproportion which we sometimes see in tall people, his form
was cast in the most exquisite mould of vigorous masculine beauty.

There existed between his mind and person that similarity which we
more frequently find amongst the uncultivated children of nature, than
where education has changed the character, or impeded its development.
His intellect and all his perceptions were strong, powerful, and
active, with a certain cast of fearless grandeur about them, that gave
something great and fine even to the employment he had chosen. His
disposition also was quick, hasty, and unsparing, but full of a rude
enthusiastic generosity, that would have taught him to die for those
he considered his friends, and also a bold dignity, which led him to
trust to daring more than cunning. He had in his nature much of the
beast of prey, but it was of the nobler kind.

Heaven knows how, with so many qualities of mind and person--qualities
calculated to raise him above, rather than sink him below, the station
in which he was born--Heaven knows how he fell into the perilous but
inglorious life of a simple _contrabandisto_ between France and Spain.

This man was one of the smugglers who most frequently visited the
château, and it sometimes happened that the intermediation of the old
_maître d'hôtel_ was dispensed with, and that he would be admitted to
an audience of my father himself, which generally lasted a
considerable time; for Garcias possessed that sort of natural
eloquence which, mingled with a degree of caustic humour, was sure to
command attention, and to engage without wearying. There was
something, too, in his very appearance that attracted and interested.
Certainly never was a more picturesque, I may say, a more striking
figure seen, than he presented, as I have beheld him often, coming
down amongst the mountains, whose child he seemed to be: his long
black hair gathered into a net under his broad sombrero; his cloak of
chequered cloth, mantling all the upper part of his figure, and only
leaving free the left hip, with the steel hilt of his sword, and the
right arm ready to make use of it; while his legs, whose swelling
muscles told of their gigantic strength, appeared striding underneath,
covered to the knees with the tight elastic silk breeches of the
Aragonese mountaineers. The rest of his dress generally consisted of a
brown cloth jacket, a crimson sash round his waist, containing his
pistols and long knife, white stockings, and a pair of mountain
sandals, made of untanned cowhide, laced up to his ankle.

Such were the various persons that surrounded me in my youth; and such
indeed were the only ones with whom I had any communication, except
the young Jean Baptiste Arnault, who used to come frequently to see
his sister. Her father troubled himself very little about her, after
she was once fairly under the protection of my mother; but her brother
was not so remiss, and, whenever he came, was received with kindness
by all the family, nor suffered to depart without some little token of
regard. For my own part, the memory of the service he had rendered me
remained ever upon my mind, and showed itself in every way that my
youthful imagination could devise; till, at length, the good
simple-hearted lad, from the person obliging, began to feel himself
the obliged, and both feelings mingling in his heart together,
produced towards me the most generous and disinterested attachment.

I have said that I was between twelve and thirteen years old when
Helen Arnault first became an inmate of the same dwelling. Two years
rapidly passed by, and not long after I had reached the age of
fourteen, I was sent to the college of Pau, where three years and a
half more glided away in unperturbed tranquillity--calm--quiet--slow;
but what a change had taken place in all my thoughts and feelings by
the time they had passed! I was farther advanced both in stature, in
form, and ideas, than most youths of my age. Childhood was
gone--manhood was at hand. I left the placid, innocent bowers of
infancy, with their cool and passionless shades; and I stood with my
footstep on the threshold of man's busy and tumultuous theatre, ready
to plunge into the arena and struggle with the rest. My heart full of
strong and ardent passions, my imagination vivid and uncontrolled,
with some knowledge gained from books, and some shrewd sense of my
own, but with little self-government, and no experience, I set out
from Pau, to return to my paternal mansion; and as from that day I may
date the commencement of a new existence, I will pause, and begin my
manhood with a chapter to itself.



CHAPTER IV.


I was now eighteen; slim, tall, and vigorous, inheriting some portion
both of my father's and of my mother's personal beauty, and
superadding all those graces which are peculiarly the property of
youth; the flowers which partial nature bestows upon the spring of
life, and which are rarely compensated by the fruits of manhood's
summer. I know not why I should refrain from saying I was handsome.
Long before any one reads these lines, that which was so, will be dust
and ashes--a thing that creatures composed of the same sordid
materials, cemented by the same fragile medium of life, will turn from
with insect disgust. With this consciousness before me, I will
venture, then, to say, that I _was_ handsome:--if ever I was
personally vain, such a folly is amongst those that have left me.

However, with some good looks, and some knowledge that I did possess
them, it is not very wonderful that I should try to set them off to
the best advantage, on my return home after a long absence. There
might be a little native puppyism in the business; there might be,
also, some thought of looking well in the eyes of Helen Arnault, for
even at that early age I had begun to think about her a great deal
more than was necessary; and to pamper my imagination with a thousand
fine romances which need the lustrous air, the glowing skies, the
magnificent scenes, of the romance-breathing Pyrenees, to make them at
all comprehensible. Certain it is, that I did think of Helen Arnault
very often; but never was her idea more strongly in my mind than on
that morning when I was awakened for the purpose of bidding adieu to
my college studies, and of returning once more to my home, and my
parents, and the scenes of my infancy. I am afraid, that amongst all
the expectations which crowded upon my imagination, the thought of
Helen Arnault was most prominent.

At five o'clock precisely, old Houssaye, who had been trumpeter to my
grandfather's regiment of royalists in the wars of the League, and was
now promoted to the high and dignified station of my valet-de-chambre
and gouverneur, stood at my bed-side, and told me that our horses were
saddled, our baggage packed up, and that I had nothing to do but to
dress myself, mount, and set out. He was somewhat astonished, I
believe, at seeing me lie, for some ten minutes after he had drawn the
curtains, in the midst of meditations which to him seemed very simple
meditations indeed, but which were, in fact, so complicated of
thoughts, and feelings, and hopes, and wishes, and remembrances, that
I defy any mortal being to have disentangled the Gordian knot into
which I had twisted them. After trying some time in vain, I took the
method of that great Macedonian baby, who found the world too small a
plaything, and by jumping up, I cut the knot with all its involutions
asunder. But my farther proceedings greatly increased good master
Houssaye's astonishment; for instead of contenting myself with my
student's dress of simple black, with a low collar devoid of lace,
which he judged would suit a dusty road better than any other suit I
had, I insisted on his again opening the valise, and taking out my
very best slashed pourpoint, my lace collar, my white buskins, and my
gilt spurs. Then, having dressed myself _en cavalier parfait_, drawn
the long curls of my dark hair over my forehead, and tossed on my
feathered hat, instead of the prim looking conceit with which I had
covered my head at college, I rushed down the interminable staircase
into the courtyard, with a sudden burst of youthful extravagance; and,
springing on my horse, left poor Houssaye to follow as he best might.

Away I went out of Pau, like a young colt when first freed from the
restraint of the stable, and turned out to grass in the joy-inspiring
fields. Over hill and dale, and rough and smooth, I spurred on, with
very little regard to my horse's wind, till I came to the rising
ground which presents itself just before crossing the river to reach
Estelle. The first object on the height is the Château of Coarasse, in
which Henry IV. passed the earlier years of his youth, and wherein he
received that education which gave to the world one of the most noble
and generous-hearted of its kings. I had seen it often before; and I
know not what chain of association established itself between my own
feelings at the time, and the memories that hovered round its old gray
walls, but I drew in my horse's bridle on the verge, and gazed upon
the building before me, as if interrogating it of greatness, and of
fame, and of the world's applause. There was, however, a chill and a
sternness about all that it replied, which fell coldly upon the warm
wishes of youth. It spoke of glory, indeed, and of honour, and the
immortality of a mighty name; but it spoke also of the dead--of those
who could not hear, who could not enjoy the cheerless recompence of
posthumous renown. It told, too, of Fortune's fickleness--of a world's
ingratitude--of the vanity of greatness--and the emptiness of hope.

With a tightened bridle, and slow pace, I pursued my way to Estelle,
and dismounting in the yard of the post-house, I desired the saddle to
be taken off my horse, which was wearied with my inconsiderate
galloping up and down hill, and to be then placed on the best beast
which was disengaged in the stable.

While this was in execution, I walked into the kitchen with some
degree of sulkiness of mood, at not being able to press out some
brighter encouragement from a place so full of great memories as the
château of Henri Quatre, and laying my hat on the table, I amused
myself, for some time, with twisting the straws upon the floor into
various shapes with the point of my sword; and then returned to the
court to see if I had been obeyed. The saddle, it is true, had been
placed upon the fresh horse; but just as this was finished, a
gentleman rode into the yard with four or five servants--smooth-faced,
pink-and-white lackeys--with that look of swaggering tiptoe insolence
which bespeaks, in general, either a weak or an uncourteous lord.
Seeing my saddle on a horse that suited his whim, the stranger,
without ceremony, ordered the hostler to take it off instantly, and
prepare the beast for his use.

He was a tall, elegant man, of about forty, with an air of most
insufferable pride; which--though ever but tinsel quality at the
best--shone like gold in the master, when compared with the genuine
brass of his servants, who, while their lord dismounted, treated the
hostler with the sweet and delectable epithets of villain, hog, slave,
and ass, for simply setting forth that the horse was pre-engaged.

There have been many moments in my life, when either laziness, or
good-humour, or carelessness, would have prevented me from opposing
this sort of infraction of my prior right; but, on the present
occasion, I was not in a humour to yield one step to anybody. Without
seeking my hat, therefore, I walked up to the cavalier, who still
stood in the court, and informed him that the saddle must not be
removed, for that I had engaged the horse. Without turning round, he
looked at me for a moment over his shoulder, and seeing a face fringed
by no martial beard, yet insolent enough to contradict his will, he
bestowed a buffet upon it with the back of his hand, which deluged my
fine lace collar in blood from my nose.

The soul of Laure de Bigorre, my ancestress, who contended for her
birthright with a king, rose in my bosom at the affront, and drawing
my sword, without a moment's hesitation, I lunged straight at his
heart. The dazzling of my eyes from the blow he had given me just gave
him time to draw and parry my thrust, or that instant he had lain a
dead man at my feet. The scorn with which he treated me at first now
turned to rage at the boldness of my attack; and the moment he had
parried, he pressed me hard in return, thinking, doubtless, soon to
master the sword of an inexperienced boy. A severe wound in his
sword-arm was the first thing that showed him his mistake, and in an
instant after, in making a furious lunge, his foot slipped, and he
fell; his weapon at the same time flying out of his hand in another
direction, while his thunder-struck lackeys stood gaping with open
mouths and bloodless cheeks, turned into statues by a magical mixture
of fright and astonishment.

I am ashamed to say, that anger overpowered my better feelings, and I
was about to wash out the indignity he had offered me in his blood,
when I heard some one opposite exclaim, "Ha!" in an accent both of
surprise and reproach. I looked up, and immediately my eyes
encountered those of Chevalier de Montenero, standing in the yard,
with his arms crossed upon his bosom, regarding us intently.

I understood the meaning of his exclamation at once, and dropping the
point of my weapon, I turned to my adversary, saying, "Rise, sir, and
take up your sword."

He rose slowly and sullenly; and while his servants pressed round to
aid him, returned his blade into its scabbard, bending his brows upon
me with a very sinister frown:--"We shall meet again, young sir," said
he, with a meaning nod; "we shall meet again, where I may have better
space to chastise your insolence."

"I dare say we shall meet again," answered I; "what may come then, God
knows;" and I turned upon my heel towards the Chevalier, who embraced
me affectionately, whispering at the same time, "Wash the blood from
your face, and mount as quickly as you can; your adversary is not a
man who may be offended with impunity."

I did as he bade me, and we rode out of the court together, taking our
way onward towards Lourdes. As we went, the Chevalier threw back his
hat from his face, and with one of those beaming smiles that sometimes
lighted up his whole countenance, bestowed the highest praises on my
conduct.

"Believe me, my dear Louis," said he, "such is the way to pass
tranquilly through life: for with courage, and skill, and moderation,
such as you have shown to-day, bad men will be afraid to be your
enemies, and good men will be proud to be your friends." He then
informed me that my opponent was the famous Marquis de Saint Brie, who
had been strongly suspected in two instances of having used somewhat
foul means to rid himself of a successful rival. "He prevailed on the
Chevalier de Valençais to sup with him," proceeded the Chevalier. "The
supper was good, the wine excellent, the marquis fascinating; and poor
De Valençais returned home, believing that he had lost an enemy and
gained a friend. Ere he had been half an hour in bed, he called his
valet in great agony, and before morning he had lost all his enemies
together, and gone to join his friends in heaven. The physician shook
his head; but after having had an hour's conversation with the
marquis, he became quite convinced that the poor youth had died of an
inflammation.

"The other is not so distinct a tale," continued the Chevalier, "or I
have not heard it so completely; but from this man's general
character, I have no doubt of his criminality. He some years ago
proposed to marry the beautiful Henriette de Vergne, and offered
himself to her father. The old man examined his rents, and finding
that he had three hundred thousand livres per annum, he felt instantly
convinced the Marquis de St. Brie was the most noble-minded,
honourable, sweet-tempered, and amiable man in the world; and
possessed all these qualities in exactly the proportion of three to
one more than the Count de Bagnols, to whom he had before promised his
daughter, and who had but one hundred thousand livres per annum. His
calculation was soon made; and sending for the young Count, he
informed him that he was not near so good a man as the Marquis de St.
Brie, and gave him his reasons for thinking so, at the same time
breaking formally his former engagement. De Bagnols instantly sent his
cartel to the Marquis de St. Brie, who accepted it, but named a
distant day. Before that day arrived, the young Count was accused of
aiding the Huguenots at Rochelle, and was arrested; but he contrived
to escape and transfer great part of his property to Spain. Now comes
the more obscure part of the tale. The marriage of the Marquis with
Mademoiselle de Vergne approached, and great preparations were made at
her father's château; but a man was seen lurking about the park, whom
many of the servants recognised as the Count de Bagnols. They were
wise, however, and said nothing, though it was generally rumoured
amongst them that the Count had been privately married to their young
lady some weeks before his arrest. The night, however, on which
Monsieur de St. Brie arrived, and which was to precede his marriage by
one week, an uneasy conscience having rendered him restless, he by
chance beheld a man descend from the window of Mademoiselle de
Vergne's apartment. He gave the alarm, and with much fury declared he
had been cheated, deceived, betrayed; and it then appeared, they say,
that the fair Henriette had really married her lover. He was now,
however, an exile, and a wanderer; and her father declared he would
have the marriage annulled if the Marquis de St. Brie would but do him
the honour to stay and wed his daughter. The Marquis, however, sternly
refused, and that very night departed, and took up his lodging at the
village hard by. The Count de Bagnols was never heard of more. Two
mornings afterwards, there was found in the park of M. de Vergne a
broken sword, near the spot where it was supposed the lover used to
leap the wall. The ground round about was dented with the struggling
of many feet, died and dabbled with gore. Part of a torn cloak, too,
was found, and a long train of bloody drops from that place to the
bank of the river; a peasant also deposed to having seen two men fling
a heavy burden into the stream at that spot--he would not swear that
it was a dead body, but he thought it was."

"And what became of Mademoiselle de la Vergne?" demanded I.

"The Countess de Bagnols," said the Chevalier,--"for no doubt remained
of her marriage, removed, or was removed, I know not precisely which,
to a convent, where she died about five or six months afterwards."

The Chevalier ceased, and we both fell into a deep silence. The fate
of the two lovers, whose story he had just told, was one well
calculated to excite many of those feelings in my young heart, which,
when really strong, do not evaporate in words. I could have wept for
the fate of the two lovers, and my heart burned like fire to think
that such base wrongs should exist--and exist unpunished. All the
sympathy I felt for them easily changed into indignation towards him
whom I looked upon as the cause of the death of both; and I regretted
that I had not passed my sword through the heart of their murderer
when he lay prostrate on the ground before me.

"Had I known," cried I, at length--"had I known but half an hour ago,
who was the man, and what were his actions, yon black-hearted assassin
should have gone to another world to answer for the crimes he has
committed in this.

"You did wisely to refrain," replied the chevalier, with a tone of
calmness that, to my unrepressed heat, smacked of apathetic frigidity.
"Viewed by an honourable mind, my dear Louis, his very fall covered
him with a shield more impenetrable than the sevenfold buckler of
Telamon. Never regret an act of generosity, however worthless the
object. If you act nobly to one that deserves nobly, you confer a
benefit on him and a benefit on yourself: if he be undeserving, still
the very action does good to your own heart. In the present instance,
had you slain that bad man, you would probably have entailed ruin on
yourself for ever. Allied as he is to all the most powerful of the
land, the direst vengeance would infallibly follow his fall, from
whatever hand it came, and instant flight or certain death must have
been your choice. Even as it is, you have called upon yourself the
hatred of a man who was never known to forgive. When the first heat of
his rage is past, he may seem to forget the affront he has received,
but still it will be remembered and treasured up till occasion serves
for wiping it out in the most remorseless manner. At present, I would
certainly advise your father to take advantage of the temporary peace
that exists with Spain, and send you into that land, till the man you
have offended has quitted this part of the country, and it is possible
you may never meet with him again. If you do, however, beware of his
anger. Believe me, it is as imperishable as the fabled wrath of Juno.
I am going to Saragossa myself upon business of importance, and will
willingly take all charge of you, if you will join me there. Tell the
Count what has happened--tell him what I say, and bid him lose no
time--I would urge it upon him personally, but the affairs that call
me into Spain admit of no delay."



CHAPTER V.


As the chevalier concluded, he put his horse into a quicker pace, and
in a minute or two after, the road opened out into the beautiful
valley of Lourdes. It would be difficult to express the thrilling
feelings of exquisite delight with which I beheld again the scenes of
my early remembrances. One must be a mountaineer to feel that strange
attachment to one particular spot of earth which makes all the rest of
the world but a desert to the heart. I have read a thousand theories,
by a thousand philosophers, intended to show the latent causes of such
sensations, and on comparing them with the living feelings of my own
breast, I have found them what I believe the theories of philosophers
generally are, chains of reasoning as fragile and unsubstantial as
those links which the children in the country weave out of flowers,
graceful in formation and apparently firmly united, but which the
slightest touch will snap asunder. Such feelings are too fine, too
subtle for the grasp of reason; they cannot be analyzed; they cannot
be described; and even while we experience them, we can render to
ourselves no account of why they are felt. The first sight of the
Castle of Lourdes, perched upon its high rock, with its battlements,
and turrets, and watch-towers; while the mountains sweeping round it
formed a glorious purple background to its bold features, and the
sparkling stream seemed playing at its feet--the very first sight made
my heart beat like a young lover's, when he sees again after a long
absence the first inspirer of his airy dreams.

Each blue hill, each winding path, each detached rock, each ancient
tree, that my eye rested upon, was a landmark to guide the wanderer,
memory, back through the waste of years, to some joy, or some sport,
or some pleasure, long left behind. Eagerly I followed the chevalier
on, from one object to another, gleaning bright remembrances as I went
along; while the rapid mind, with every footfall of my horse, still
ran through a thousand associations, and came back like light to mark
some new theme of memory. Even the dirty, little, insignificant town
of Lourdes had greater charms, in my eyes, than a city of palaces
would, at that moment, have possessed, and I looked upon all the faces
that I saw as if I recognised them for my kinsfolk.

When we arrived at the market-place, the Chevalier, who was about to
visit the house of Arnault, his procureur, left me, and I proceeded
alone, riding rapidly on, till the path, winding through the narrow
gorge beyond Lourdes, opened out into the wide basin of Argelés. I
paused for a moment to look over its far extent, rich in sunny
magnificence. All seemed brightness, and tranquillity, and summer;
every asperity was smoothed and harmonized, and the lustrous purple of
the distant air spread a misty softness over each rough feature of the
mountains; while a thousand blue and indistinct passes wound away on
every side, promising to lead to calm and splendid lands beyond. It
was like the prospect of life to a young and ardent imagination,
before years have clouded the scene, or experience has exposed its
ruggedness. There, was the dazzling misty sunshine with which fancy
invests every distant object--there, the sweet valleys of repose where
we promise ourselves peace and enjoyment--there, the mighty steps
whereby ambition would mount unto the sky; while the dim passes, that
branched away on either hand, imaged not ill the thousand vague and
dreamy schemes of youth for reaching fancied delights which shall
never be attained.

There were, however, real and substantial joys before me, which I
hurried on to taste, and in the expectation of which was mingled no
probable alloy, although I had been so long absent from my native
home. The meeting of long-separated friends is rarely indeed without
its pain. To mark the ravages that Time's deliberate, remorseless
hand has worked upon those we love--to see a grace fled--or a
happiness--any, any change in what is dear, is something to regret.
But I was not at a time of life to anticipate sorrow; and my parents
had seen me at Pau some four months before, so that but little
alteration could have taken place.

Nothing, therefore, waited me but delight. My horse flew rather than
ran, and the dwelling of my sires was soon within sight. I sprang to
the ground in the courtyard, and, without a moment's pause, ran up the
stairs to my mother's apartments, not hearing or attending to the old
_maître d'hôtel_, who reiterated that she was in the garden.

There was delight in treading each old-accustomed step of my infancy,
of gazing round upon objects, every line of which was a memory. The
gloom of the old vestibule, the channeled marble of the grand
staircase, the immense oaken door of my mother's apartments, all
called up remembrances of the sweet past; and I hurried on, gathering
recollections, till I entered the embroidery-room, where I had sprung
a thousand times to her arms in my early boyhood.

The only person that I found there was Helen. She had risen on hearing
my step, and what was passing in her mind I know not, but the blood
rushed up through her beautiful clear skin till it covered her whole
forehead and her temples with a hue like the rose; and I could see her
lip quiver, and her knees shake, as she waited to receive my first
salutation. I was carried on by the joyful impetus of my return, or,
perhaps, I might have been as embarrassed as herself; but springing
forward towards her, without giving myself time to become agitated, I
kissed the one fair cheek she turned towards me, and was going on, in
the usual form, to have kissed the other; but in travelling round, my
lips passed hers, and they were so round, so full, so sweet, for my
life I could not get any farther, and I stopped my journey there.

Helen started back, and, gazing at me with a look of deep surprise and
even distress, sunk into the chair from which she had risen at my
coming; while I, with a brain reeling with strange and new feelings,
and a heart palpitating with I knew not what, hurried away to seek my
mother; unable even to find one word of excuse for what I had done,
and feeling it wrong, very wrong, but finding it impossible to wish it
undone.

The garden consisted of about an acre of ground, disposed in a long
parallelogram, and forced into a level much against the will of the
mountain, which invaded its rectilinear figure with several
unmathematical rocks. Luckily my mother was at the extreme end,
leaning on the arm of my father, who, with an affection that the
chilly touch of Time had found no power to cool, was supporting her in
her walk with as much attentive kindness as he had shown to his bride
upon his wedding-day.

I had thus time to get rid of a certain sort of whirl in my brain,
which the impress of Helen's lips had left, and to turn the current of
my thoughts back to those parents, for whom in truth I entertained the
deepest affection.

My mother, I found, had been ill, and was so still, though in some
degree better; so that my sorrow to see her so much enfeebled as she
appeared to be, together with many other feelings, drove my adventure
of the morning, the Marquis de St. Brie, and the advice of the
chevalier, entirely out of my thoughts, till poor Houssaye, whom I had
left at Pau, arrived, bringing a sadly mangled and magnified account
of my rencontre, gathered from hostlers and postilions at Estelle.

As his history of my exploits went to give me credit for the death of
five or six giants and anthropophagi, I thought it necessary to
interrupt him, and tell my own tale myself. The different effects that
it produced upon a brave man and a timid woman may well be conceived.
My father said I had acted right in everything, and my mother nearly
fainted. Perceiving her agitation, I thought it better to delay the
message of the chevalier till dinner, when I judged that her mind
would be in some degree calmed, for she wept over the first essay of
my sword, as if it had been a misfortune. My father and myself
conducted the Countess to her apartments, where Helen still sat,
hardly recovered from the agitation into which I had thrown her. On
seeing me again, she cast down her look, and the tell-tale blood
rushed up into her cheek so quickly, that had not my mother's eyes
been otherwise engaged in weeping, she must have remarked her sudden
change of colour. Observing the Countess's tears, Helen glided
forward, and cast her arms round the neck of her patroness, saying,
that she hoped that nothing had occurred to give her alarm or
discomfort.

"Both, Helen," replied my mother; "both!" and then proceeded to detail
the whole story, foreboding danger and sorrow, from my early
initiation into strife and bloodshed. Yet, although not knowing it, my
mother, I am sure, did not escape without feeling some small share of
maternal pride at her son's first achievement. I saw it in her face, I
heard it in her tone; and often since I have had occasion to remark,
how like the passions, the feelings, and the prejudices, which swarm
in our bosoms, are to a large mixed society, wherein the news that is
painful to one is pleasing to another, and joy and sorrow are the
results of the same cause, at the same moment. Man's heart is a
microcosm, the actors in which are the passions, as varied, as
opposed, as shaded one into the other, as we see the characters of
men, in the great scene of the world.

As my mother spoke, Helen's lovely face grew paler and paler, and I
could see her full snowy bosom, which was just panting into womanhood,
heave as with some strong internal emotion, till at length she
suddenly fell back, apparently lifeless.

It was long ere we could bring her back to sensation; but when she was
fully recovered, she attributed her illness to having remained the
whole day stooping over a miniature picture, which she was drawing of
my mother; and the Countess, whose love for her had by this time
become nearly maternal, exacted a promise from her that she would take
a mountain walk every morning before she began her task.

This may seem a trifle; but I have learned by many a rude rebuff to
know, that there is no such thing as a trifle in this world. All is of
consequence--all may be of import. Helen's mountain walks sealed my
fate. At dinner I delivered the message and advice, with which the
chevalier had charged me; and after some discussion, it was determined
that it should be followed. My father at first opposed it, and
indignantly spurned at the idea of any one attempting injury to the
heir of Bigorre in his paternal dwelling; but my mother's anxiety
prevailed, backed by the advice and persuasions of good Father Francis
of Allurdi, who offered to accompany me for the short time that my
absence might be necessary. My father soon grew weary of making any
opposition; and it was agreed that myself, Father Francis, and
Houssaye, my valet, should take our departure for Spain within two
days, and, joining the chevalier at Saragossa, should remain there
till we received information that the Marquis de St. Brie had quitted
Bearn.

That day ended, and another began, and, springing from my bed with the
vigorous freshness that dwellers in cities never know, I took my gun,
and proceeded to the mountain, purposing to search the rocks for an
izzard. Gradually, however, I became thoughtful; and, revolving the
events just past, many a varied feeling rose in my mind; and I found
that one stirring and active day had changed me more than years of
what had gone before--that it was, in fact, my first day of manhood.

I had staked and won in the perilous game of mortal strife. I had shed
blood--I had passed the rubicon--I was a man. Onward! onward! onward!
was the cry of my heart. I felt that I could not--and I wished not
that I could--go back from that I was to that which I had been.

And yet there was a regret--a feeling of undefinable clinging to the
past--a sort of innate conviction that the peaceful, the quiet, the
tranquil, was left behind for ever; and even while I joyed in the
active and gay existence that Fancy and Hope spread out before me, I
looked back to the gone, and yielded it a sigh, for the calm
enjoyments that were lost for ever.

From these ideas, my mind easily turned to the latter part of that day
which formed the theme of my thoughts, and I could not help hoping,
nay, even believing, that the fainting of Helen Arnault was linked in
some degree with concern for me. I had remarked the blush and the
agitation when first I came; I had noted her behaviour on the kiss
which I had taken; and from the whole I gathered hope.

Yet, nevertheless, I reproached myself for having used a liberty with
her, which her dependent situation might lead her to look upon less as
a token of love than as an insult, and I resolved to justify myself in
her eyes. And how to justify myself? it may be asked. By taking that
irrevocable step, which would clear all doubt from her mind. But
whether it was solely to efface any bad impression that my conduct
might have caused, or whether it was, that I gladly availed myself of
that pretext to act as my heart rather than my reason prompted, I
cannot tell. Certain it is, that I loved her with an ardour and a
truth that I did not even know myself; and such a passion could not
long have been concealed, even if the impatience of my disposition had
not hurried me on to acknowledge it to her so soon.

By the time I had taken this resolution, I had climbed high amongst
the hills, and was wandering on upon the rocky ridge that overhung the
valley of the Gave, when I caught a glimpse of some one strolling
slowly onward along the path by the riverside. It wanted but one look
to tell me that it was Helen. High above her as I was, I could
distinguish neither her figure nor her face; but it mattered not--I
felt as well convinced that it was she, as if I had stood within a
pace of her, and began descending the rocks as quickly as I could to
join her in her walk, watching her as I did so, to see that she did
not turn back before I could reach her.

After having gone some way up the valley, looking back every ten steps
towards the château, as if she had imposed on herself the task of
walking a certain distance, and would be glad when it was over, Helen
at length seated herself on a piece of rock, under the shade of an old
oak, that started out across the stream; and there, with her head bent
over the running waters, she offered one of the loveliest pictures my
eyes ever beheld. She was, as I have said, in the spring of womanhood.
Time had not laid his withering touch upon a single grace, or a single
beauty; it was all expanding loveliness--that perfect moment of human
existence, when all has been gained, and nothing has been lost; when
nature has done her utmost, and years have yet known nothing of decay.

I approached her as quietly as I could, and when I came near, only
said, "Helen," in a low tone, not calculated to surprise her. She
started up, however, and the same blush mantled in her cheeks which I
had seen the day before. The good-morrow that she gave me was confused
enough; and, in truth, my own heart beat so fast, that I did not know
how to proceed, till I saw her about to return to the château.

"Stay, Helen," said I, taking her hand, and bringing her again to the
rock on which she had been sitting--"stay for one moment, and listen
to me; for I have something to say to you, which, perhaps, I may never
have an opportunity of saying hereafter."

The colours varied in her cheek like the hues of an evening sky, and
she trembled very much, but she let me lead her back; and for a moment
raising her eyes from the ground, they glanced towards my face, from
under their long dark lashes, with a look in which fear and timidity,
and love, too, I thought, were all mingled; but it fell in a moment,
and I went on with a greater degree of boldness; for all that love
well, I believe, are, in some degree, cowards, and but gain courage
from the fears of those they seek to win.

"There is a secret, Helen," I said, assuming as calm a tone as I
could, "which I cannot go into Spain without communicating to some
one, as it is one of the greatest importance, and I have fixed upon
you to tell it to, because, I am sure, you will keep it well and
truly; without, indeed," I added, "I were by any chance to die in
Spain, when you may freely reveal it--nay, more, I request you would
do so to both my parents."

Helen was deceived, and looked up with some degree of curiosity,
brushing back the dark ringlets from her clear fair brow. "Will you
promise me, Helen," I asked, "by all you hold most sacred, never to
reveal my secret so long as I am in life?"

"Had you not better make some other person the depositary of so
serious a trust?" she answered, half afraid, half curious
still.--"Think, Count Louis, I am but a poor inexperienced girl--tell
it to Father Francis, he will both respect your secret and counsel you
as to your actions."

"He will not do," I replied. "Besides, he is going with me. Will you
promise me, Helen? It is necessary to my happiness."

"Oh, then I will," replied she, with a tone and a look that went to my
very heart, and had almost made me cast myself at her feet at once.

"You must know, then, Helen," I proceeded, "that there is, on this
earth, one sweet girl that I love more than any other thing that it
contains"--while I spoke, she turned so deadly pale, that I thought
she was going to faint again. "Listen to me, Helen," I continued,
rapidly--"listen to me, dear Helen--I love her, I adore her, and I
would not offend her for the world. If, therefore, I pained her for
one instant, by robbing her lips of a kiss in the full joy of my
return, I am here to atone it by any penance which she may think fit
to impose."

While I spoke, my arm had glided round her waist, and my hand had
clasped one of hers. Helen's head sunk upon my shoulder, and she wept
so long, that I could have fancied her deeply grieved at the discovery
of my love, but that the hand which I had taken remained entirely
abandoned in mine, and that, from time to time, she murmured, "Oh,
Louis!" in a voice indistinct to anything but the ears of love.

At length, however, she recovered herself, and raised her head, though
she still left her hand in mine:--"Oh, Louis," she said, "you have
made me both very happy and very unhappy: very happy, because I am
sure that you are too generous, too noble, to deceive, even in the
least, a poor girl that doubts not one word from your lips; but I am
very unhappy to feel sure, as I do, that neither your father nor your
mother will ever consent that you should wed any one in the class
bourgeoise, even though it were their own little Helen, on whom they
have already showered so many bounties. It cannot be, indeed it cannot
be! The very mention of it would make them wretched, and that must
never happen, on account of one who owes them so deep a debt of
gratitude."

I tried to persuade her, as I had persuaded myself, that in time they
would consent; but I failed in the endeavour, and as the first
agitation subsided, and she began to reflect upon her situation at the
moment, she became anxious to leave me.--"Let me return home," she
said; "and oh, Louis! if you love me, never try to meet me in this way
again, for I shall always feel like a guilty thing when I see your
mother afterwards. I have your secret, and as I have promised, I will
keep it: you have mine, and let me conjure you to hold it equally
sacred. Forget poor Helen Arnault as soon as you can, and marry some
lady in your own rank, who may love you perhaps as----"

The tears prevented her going on.

"Never, Helen, never!" exclaimed I, still holding her hand. "Stay yet
one moment:--we are about to part for some months; promise me before I
go, if you would make my absence from you endurable, that sooner or
later you will be my wife!"

"No, Louis, no!" answered she, firmly, "that I will not promise; for I
will never be your wife without the consent of your parents. But I
_will_ promise," she added, seeing that her refusal to accede to what
I asked had pained my impatient spirit more than she expected, "I will
_vow_, if you require it, never, never, to be the wife of another."

With these words she withdrew her hand, and left me, turning her steps
towards the château; while I, delighted to find myself loved, yet
vexed she would not promise more, darted away into the hills; and, as
if to escape the pursuit of feelings which, though in some degree
happy, were still too strong for endurance, I sprang from rock to rock
after the izzards, with agility and daring little less than their own,
making the crags ring with my carbine, till I could return home
sufficiently successful in the chase to prevent any one supposing I
had been otherwise employed.



CHAPTER VI.


We were very young to feel such passions as then throbbed within our
bosoms, so strong, so keen, so durable; but our hearts had never known
any other--they had not been hardened in the petrifying stream of
time, nor had the world engraved so many lines upon the tablets of
feeling as to render them unsusceptible of any deep and defined
impression. Our whole hearts were open to love, and we loved with our
whole hearts.

The two days of my stay soon drew to an end, and on the morning of the
third, my horse, and that of Houssaye, together with a mule for Father
Francis, were brought into the courtyard; and, after receiving my
mother's counsel and my father's blessing, I mounted and rode forth
with few of those pleasurable feelings which I had anticipated in
setting out to explore foreign lands. But love was at that moment the
predominant feeling in my bosom, and I would have resigned all,
abandoned all, to have stayed and passed my life in tranquillity
beside Helen.

It was not to be, and I went forth; but a sensation of swelling at my
heart prevented me from either conversing with Father Francis, or
noticing the beautiful country through which we travelled--a thing
seldom lost to my eyes.

By the time we reached Pierrefitte, however, a distance of about ten
miles, the successive passing of different objects, though each but
called my attention in the very slightest degree, upon the whole,
began to draw my mind from itself; and when proceeding onward we wound
our horses through the narrow gorge leading towards Luz, the
magnificent scenery of the pass, with its enormous rocks, its
luxuriant woods, and its rushing river, stole from me my feelings of
regret, and left me nothing but admiration of the grand and beautiful
works which nature had spread around. By this time the day had
somewhat waned, for we were obliged to conform our horses' pace to the
humour of Father Francis' mule, which was not the most vivacious of
animals. The sun had got beyond the high mountains on our right,
which, now robed in one vast pall of purple shadow, rose like Titans
against the sky, and seemed to cover at least one third of its extent;
but the western hills still caught the rays, and kept glowing with a
thousand varied hues as we went along, like the quick changes of hope
as man advances along the tortuous and varied path of existence.

Amongst other objects on which the sunshine still caught, was a little
woody mound projecting from the surface of the hill, and crowned with
an old round tower beginning to fall into ruins. As we passed it, the
good priest, who never loved to see me in any of those fits of gloom
which sometimes fell upon me--the natural placidity of his disposition
leading him to miscomprehend the variability of mine--pointed out to
me the mound and the crumbling tower as the spot where a great victory
had been gained over the Moors, in times long gone; and our
conversation gradually turned to war and deeds of renown: but Father
Francis had abjured the sword, and little appreciated the word
_glory_.

"Glory, my dear Louis," said he, "according to the world's acceptation
of the word, is, I am afraid, little better in general than the
gilding with which mighty robbers cover over great crimes. When I was
young, however, I thought like you, and I am afraid all young men will
think so, till reason teaches them that the only true glory which man
can have, is to be found in the love of his fellow-creatures, not in
their fears. All other glory is but emptiness. You remember the
Italian poet's lines on the field of Cannæ.


                             I.

   "Glory! alas! what is it but a name?
      Go search the records of the years of old,
    And thou shalt find, too sure, that brightest fame,
      For which hard toiled the skilful and the bold,
    Was but a magic gift that none could hold--
      A name, traced with an infant's finger in the sand,
    O'er which dark Time's effacing waves are rolled--
      A fragile blossom in a giant's hand,
    Crushed with a thousand more, that die as they expand.

                            II.

   "I stand on Cannæ:--here for endless years,
      Might fond remembrance dream o'er days pass'd by,
    Tracing this bitter place of many tears:
      But mem'ry too has flown, and leaves the eye
    To rest on nought but bleakness, and the sigh
      To mourn the frailty of man's greatest deeds--
    Oh, would he learn by truth such deeds to try,
      Lo! how devouring Time on conquest feeds;
    Forgot the hand that slays, forgot the land that bleeds.

                          III.

   "Time! mighty vaunter! Thou of all the race
      That strive for glory, o'er thine acts canst raise
    The monument that never falls, and place
      The ruins of a world to mark thy ways.
    Each other conq'ror's memory decays
      To heap the pile that comments on thy name;
    Thy column rises with increasing days,
      And desolation adds unto thy fame;
    But Cannae was forgot--Time, 'tis with thee the same."


It is astonishing how chilly the words of age fall upon the glowing
enthusiasm of youth. As we go on through life, doubtless we gather all
the same cold truths; but it is by degrees, not all at once, as when
the freezing experience of many years is poured forth, like a sudden
fall of snow upon our hearts. Lucky, most lucky is it, that we cannot
believe the lessons which the old would teach us; for certainly if we
were as wise when we come into life as we are when we go out of it,
there would be nothing great, and very little good, done in the world;
I mean that there would be no enthusiasm of wish or of endeavour.

Nevertheless, there is always some damp rests upon the mind from such
views of human existence, however warm may be the fire of the heart;
and when Father Francis had repeated his lines upon Glory, he left a
weight upon me which I found difficult to throw off.

We were now near Luz, and the good father's mule--which, by the way,
was the best epitome I ever saw of a selfish and interested spirit--as
if it entertained a presentiment of approaching hay and oats, suffered
its sober legs to be seduced into an amble that speedily brought us to
the door of the little cabaret where we were to pass the night. The
accommodations which its appearance promised, were not of the most
exquisite description, and one must have been very charitable to
suppose it contained anything better than pumpkin soup and goose's
thighs.[2] Father Francis, however, was tired and exhausted with a
longer ride than he had taken for more than fifty years. Houssaye was
an old soldier, and I was too young and in too high health to trouble
myself much about the quality of my entertainment. Dismounting then,
our horses were led into the stable, and we ourselves were shown to
the room of general reception, which we found already tenanted by a
fat monk, all grease and jollity; and a thin gentleman in black, who,
for grimness and solemnity, looked like a mourning sword in a black
scabbard. It seemed as if nature, having made a more fat and jovial
man than ordinary in the capuchin, had been fain to patch up his
companion out of the scrapings of her dish.

Father Francis did not appear to like the couple, and indeed he had
reason; for it wanted no great skill in physiognomy to read in the
jovial countenance of the monk a very plain history of the sort of
self-denial and sensual mortification which he practised on himself.
As for his companion, had I known as much of the world as I do now, I
should instantly have understood him to be one of those solemn
villains, who, if they sometimes lose a good opportunity by want of
conversational powers, often catch many a gull by their gravity, and
escape many an error into which a talkative rascal is sure to fall by
his very volubility.

However, I was at an age when every one, more or less, pays for
experience; and if I took upon me to judge the pair of worthies before
me, I did not judge them rightly. Immediately after our entrance,
Father Francis, as I have said, being very much fatigued, retired to
bed, whispering to me that I had better get my supper and follow his
example as soon as I could. To this, however, I was not very well
inclined, my stock of animal powers for the day not being yet half
exhausted; and as I saw the aubergiste beginning to place on the
table, before the monk and his companion, various savoury dishes, for
which my ride had provided an appetite, I whispered to Houssaye, and
proposed to them to join their table. The matter was soon arranged, my
Capuchin professing a taste for good cheer and good company, somewhat
opposed to his vows of fasting and meditation, and my thin cavalier,
laying his hand on his heart, and making the most solemn bow that his
stiff back-bone could achieve.

The viands set before us offered a very palatable contradiction to
what the appearance of the house had promised: and the conversation
was as savoury as the dishes, for the monk was a man whose fat and
happiness overflowed in a jocose and merry humour; and even the thin
person in black, though his mustachios were rather of a grave cast,
would occasionally venture a dry and solemn joke, which was a good
deal enhanced by his appearance. The wine, however, was the most thin,
poor, miserable abortion of vinegar that ever I tasted; and, after
having made every tooth in my head as sharp as a drawn sword by
attempting to drink it, I inquired of the Capuchin whether any better
could be procured within twenty miles for love or money.

"Most assuredly," answered he, "for money, though not for love. No one
gives any thing for love, except a young girl of sixteen, or an old
woman of seventy. But the truth is, my host tells us always that this
is the best wine in the world, till he sees a piece of silver between
the fingers of some worthy signor who desires to treat a poor Capuchin
to a horn of the best Cahors."

"Oh, if that be all," I answered, "we will soon have something
better;" and I drew a crown piece from my purse.

"Ho! aubergiste!" exclaimed the Capuchin, as soon as he saw it; "a
flagon of your best for this sweet youth; and mind, I tell you, 'tis a
mortal sin to give bad wine when 'tis well paid for, and a Capuchin is
to drink it."

I was not at the time of life to estimate very critically every
propriety in the demeanour of a companion for half an hour. Man,
unlike the insect, begins the being as a butterfly, which he generally
ends as a chrysalis. Amusement, or as it should be called, excitement,
is everything at nineteen; and the butterfly, though it destroys not
like the worm, nor hoards like the bee, still flies to every leaf that
meets its sight, if it be but for the sake of the flutter. The
Capuchin's gaiety amused me, and I saw no deeper into his character.
The wine was brought; and having passed once round and proved to all
our tastes, the jovial monk set the flagon between himself and me, and
enlivened the next half-hour with a variety of tales, at the end of
each taking a deep draught, and exclaiming, "If it be not a true
story, may this be the last drop I ever shall drink in my life!" At
length, with a story far more marvellous than any of the others, the
Capuchin emptied the flagon, adding his usual asseveration in regard
to its truth.

"I don't believe a word of it," said the man in black.

"And I say it's true," reiterated the Capuchin, laughing till a stag
might have jumped down his throat. "Order another flagon of wine, and
I will drink upon it till the death."

"Nay," replied the other, "I will play you for a flagon of the best
at trictrac, and treat the company."

The Capuchin readily accepted the defiance; the cards were brought,
the window shut, and mine host lighted six large candles in an immense
sconce, just behind the Capuchin and myself. The thin gentleman with
his mustachios was on the other side of the table with old Houssaye,
who, though an indefatigable old soldier, seemed tired out, and,
laying his head upon his folded arms, fell asleep.

In the meanwhile, the wine made its appearance, and passed round;
after which the game began, and the poor player in black lost his
flagon of wine in the space of five minutes, much to the amusement of
the Capuchin, who chuckled and drank with much profane glee.

The whole scene amused me. I flattered myself I was fond of studying
character, and I would have done a great deal to excite the two
originals before me to unfold themselves. This they seemed very well
inclined to do, without my taking any trouble to bring it about. The
thin gentleman got somewhat angry, and claimed his revenge of the
Capuchin, who beat him again, and chuckled more than ever. The other's
rage then burst forth: he attributed his defeat to ill luck, and
demanded what the monk meant by laughing, and whether he meant to say
he had played ill.

"Ay, truly!" replied the Capuchin, "and so ill, that I will answer for
it this young gentleman, even if he knows nothing of the game, will
beat you for a pistole;" and, turning round, he asked me "if I knew
the game?" or if I was afraid to play with so skilful an antagonist.

I said that I knew very little of it, but that I was willing to play,
and took the cards, only intending to sit one game, seeing that my
opponent played miserably ill. He lost as before, and, still cursing
his luck, demanded his revenge, which was worse. Nothing could be more
diverting than the fury into which he cast himself, twisting up his
mustachios, and wriggling his back into contortions, of which I had
not deemed its rigidity capable, while the Capuchin chuckled, and,
looking over my cards, advised me what to do. At length my adversary
proposed to double, to which I agreed, hoping heartily that he would
win, and thus leave us as we had sat down; but fortune was still
against him, or rather his bad playing, for he laid his game entirely
open, and suffered me to play through it. He lost, and drawing forth a
leathern pouch, was about to pay me, when the Capuchin said, that
perhaps I would play one more game for the twelve pistoles. The thin
gentleman said it would be but generous of me, but, however, he could
not demand it, if I chose to refuse. So much foolish shame did I feel
about taking his money, that, to tell the truth, I was glad to sit
down again, and we recommenced, each staking twelve pistoles. Fortune
had changed, however; the dice favoured him; he played more carefully,
and won the game, but by so slight a matter, that it showed nothing
but extraordinary luck could have made him gain it.

It was now my turn to be anxious. I had lost six pistoles out of the
money my father had given for my journey to Spain. How could I tell
Father Francis? I asked myself, especially when I had lost them in
such a manner, and in such company. My antagonist, too, had won by
such a mere trifle, that it made me angry; I therefore resolved to try
again--and again I lost. The sum was so considerable, I dared not now
stop, and I claimed my revenge. My adversary was all complaisance,
and, as before, we doubled our stake. An intolerable thirst had now
seized upon me, and pouring out a cup of wine, I set it down beside me
while I played. The game went on, and I never suspected false play,
though my opponent paused long between each of his cards; but that was
natural, as the stake was large, and I fancied that he felt the same
palpitating anxiety that I did myself. To conceal this as much as
possible, while he pondered, I fixed my eyes upon the cup of wine, in
which the lights of the sconce were reflected very brilliantly.
Suddenly, two of the flames seemed to become obscured, for I lost the
reflection in the wine. This surprised me; but I had still sufficient
presence of mind to take no notice, and keep my eyes fixed, when
presently the lights appeared again. The moment after the same eclipse
took place, and, raising my eyes to my opponent's countenance, I
perceived that his glance was fixed upon a point immediately above my
head.

The matter was now clear; my good friend, the Capuchin, who was kindly
giving me his advice and assistance, seeming all the while most
anxious that I should recover my loss, and assuring me that it was a
momentary run of ill luck, which must change within five minutes, took
care, at the same time, to communicate to my adversary, by signs above
my head, the cards I had in my hand, and what I was likely to play.

What was to be done I knew not. To be cheated in so barefaced a manner
was unendurable; and yet, how to avoid paying what I lost, unless I
could prove the fraud, was a question difficult to solve. In this
dilemma, I resolved to wake my faithful Houssaye, by touching his foot
under the table, at the moment the Capuchin was executing his fraud.
What was my joy then, when, on glancing towards the _ci-devant_
trumpeter, I perceived his eyes twinkling brightly just above his
arms, notwithstanding that he still pretended to sleep, and I
immediately saw that he had, from the first, appreciated the talents
of my companions.

My resolution was instantly taken; and letting the game proceed to its
most anxious point, I saw, in the accidental mirror that the wine
afforded me, the signs of the worthy Capuchin proceeding with vast
celerity, when, starting suddenly up, I caught his wrist, as the hand
was in the very act, and held it there with all the vigour of a young
and powerful frame, excited to unusual energy by anger and
indignation.

Houssaye was upon his feet in a moment, and, catching the collar of
the black cavalier, who was beginning to swear some very big oaths, he
flung him back upon the ground with little ceremony, at the same time
dislodging from the lawn frills which adorned his wrists a pair of
dice, that the honest gentleman kept there to meet all occasions.

For a minute or two the presence of mind, which is part of a sharper's
profession, abandoned our two amiable companions; the Capuchin,
especially, remaining without motion of any kind, his mouth open, his
eyes staring, and his hands up in the air, with three fingers
extended, exactly in the same attitude as he was when I detected his
knavery. He soon, however, recovered himself, and jerking his hand out
of my grasp with a force I knew not he possessed, he burst into a fit
of laughter--"Very good; very good indeed," cried he: "so you have
found it out. Well, are you not very much obliged to us for the
lesson? Remember it, young man; remember it, to the last day you have
to live; for you may chance to fall into the hands of sharpers, from
whom you may not escape very easily."

The impudence of the fellow was beyond my patience, especially as,
while he was speaking, I had split one of the dice produced from his
companion's sleeve, and found it loaded with a piece of lead the size
of a pea. "Whenever I meet with sharpers," said I, "I shall treat them
but one way--namely, if they do not get out of the room whenever they
are found out, I shall kick them down stairs, from the top to the
bottom."

"Suppose there are no stairs?" said the Capuchin, coolly, moving
towards the door at the same time.

"Then I shall throw them out of the window," replied I.

"I weigh two hundred weight," answered the monk, with the same
imperturbable composure. "Good night, my young Wittol; you'll be
caught yet, though your wings are so free. Come along, Count Crack!"
he continued to his companion, whom I suffered to take up his own
money after I had repossessed myself of the pistoles which he had won
before I had discovered his fraud. "Your game is over for to-night.
Goodnight, fair sirs; good night! God bless you, and keep you from
_sharpers_," and leering his small leaden eyes, with a look strangely
compounded of humour and cunning, and even stupidity, he rolled out of
the room with his companion, leaving us to our own reflections.

When they were gone, my worthy attendant and myself stood looking at
each other for some moments in silence. At length, however, he began
laughing. "I saw," cried he, "what they were about from the first, but
I did not think your young wit was sharp as my old knowledge; so I
pretended to be asleep, and lay watching them. But you served them a
famous trick, Count Louis, that you did; your father would laugh
heartily to hear it."

"Hush, hush!" cried I; "for Heaven's sake, never mention it to my
father, or to any one; but, above all, on no account to Father
Francis." I then exacted a promise to this effect from the good old
soldier, feeling heartily ashamed of my night's employment; and
turning as red as fire every time the thought crossed my mind, that I
had been sitting drinking and playing with a couple of vulgar
sharpers, who had nearly succeeded in cheating me of all the money
which my father had given me from his own limited means. To get rid of
these pleasant reflections, I hurried to bed; and meeting the rotund
form of the Capuchin on the stairs, nearly jostled him to the bottom
in pure ill-humour.



CHAPTER VII.


Early the next morning we arose, and took our departure for Gavarnie.
Mine host at Luz, however, drew me aside as we were setting out, and
said he hoped we had not suffered ourselves to be cheated by the
Capuchin or his companion, each of whom he was sure was a great rogue,
and the Capuchin, he believed, had no more of the monk about him than
the gown and shaved head. "Be cautious, be cautious," said he, "and if
ever you meet them again, have nothing to do with them." I thanked
this candid host for his information, giving him at the same time to
understand, that he had better have warned me the night before, and
that I took his tardy caution at no more than it was worth; after
which I spurred on, and joined Father Francis and Houssaye, who had
not proceeded far on their journey ere I reached them.

Our road to Gavarnie lay through scenery of that grand and magnificent
nature, which mocks the feeble power of language. The change was still
from sublime to sublime, till the heart seemed to ache at its own
expansion. The vast, the wonderful, the beautiful, the sweet, were
spread around in dazzling confusion. The gigantic rocks and
precipices, the profuse vegetation, the peculiar lustrous atmosphere
of the mountains, the thousand rare and lovely flowers with which
every spot of soil was carpeted and every rock adorned, the very
butterflies which, fluttering about in thousands, seemed like flying
blossoms; all occupied my mind with new and beautiful objects, till it
was almost wearied with the exhaustless novelty. All was lovely, and
yet I felt then, and always do feel, in such scenes, a degree of calm
melancholy, so undefined in its nature, that I know not in what to
seek its cause. Whether it is, that man feels all the weaknesses and
follies of his passions reproved by the calm grandeur of nature's
vaster works; or whether his spirit, excited by the view of things so
beautiful, seemed clogged and shackled by the clay to which she is
joined, and longs to throw off those earthly trammels which
circumscribe her powers to enjoy, to estimate, to comprehend--I know
not.

Had the scenery through which we passed needed a climax even more
sublime than itself, it could not have been more exquisitely
terminated than by the famous Circle of Gavarnie, where above
an amphitheatre of black marble fourteen hundred feet in
height--perpendicular as a wall, and sweeping round an extent of half
a league--rises the icy summit of the Pyrenees, flashing back the rays
of the sun in long beams of many-coloured light. When we arrived in
the centre of the amphitheatre, a light cloud was stretched across the
top of the cascade, while the stream, shooting over the precipice
above us, fell with one burst full fourteen hundred feet; and, before
it reached the ground, also spread out into another cloud. Gazing upon
it, as we did, from a distance, we saw it thus pouring on, between the
two, without perceiving whence it came, or whither it went; so that
the long defined line of its waters, streaming from the one indistinct
vapour to the other, offered no bad image of the course of mortal time
flowing on between two misty eternities. At the same time, the bright
diamond heads of the mountains shone out above the clouds, with a
grand, unearthly lustre, like those mighty visions of heaven seen by
the inspired apostle at Samos.

I could have gazed on it for ever, but the evening light soon began to
fail; and as we had to rise early also the next morning, our stay in
the amphitheatre was necessarily curtailed. Winding round the little
lakes[3] that the stream forms after its fall, we returned to the
filthy hut in which we were to pass the night, often looking back by
the way to catch another glance of that grand and wonderful scene,
whose very remembrance makes every other object seem small and
insignificant.

By sunrise we were once more upon our way, and passing through what is
called the Porte de Gavarnie, entered Spain, after having been
examined from top to toe by the officers of the Spanish custom-house.
A wide and wavy sea of blue interminable hills now presented
themselves; and a guide, whom we had hired at Gavarnie, pointed out a
spot in the distance which he called Saragossa. Had he called it
Jerusalem, he might have done so uncontradicted by any object visible
to our eyes, for nothing was to be seen but hill beyond hill, valley
running into valley, till the far distance and the blue sky mingled
together, with scarcely a perceptible line to mark the division.

Thitherward, however, we wended on, and some hours after reached
Jacca, where, out of complaisance to Father Francis's mule, we
remained for the night, and set off before daybreak the next morning,
hoping to escape the heat of the middle of the day. In this we were
deceived, making less progress than we anticipated, and enjoying the
scorching of a meridian sun till we reached the gates of Saragossa.

On arriving at the inn, we inquired for the Chevalier, as we had been
directed, but found that he had ridden out early in the morning. He
returned, however, soon after, and having welcomed us cordially to
Spain, as no apartments could be procured in the house, he led us out
to seek for a lodging in the immediate neighbourhood. It was some time
before we could discover one to our mind, for it is with great
difficulty that the Spaniards can be induced to receive any foreigner
into their dwelling; and even when we did so, we had to undergo as
strict an examination by the old lady of the house, as we had bestowed
upon her apartments. She said it was but just that both parties should
be satisfied, she with us as well as we with her; and not content with
asking all manner of questions, which had as much to do with her
lodgings as with her hopes of heaven, she actually turned me round to
take a more complete view of my figure.

This was carrying the ridiculous to so high a point, that I burst out
into a fit of laughter, which, far from offending the good dame,
tickled her own organs of risibility, and from that moment we were the
best friends in the world. Our baggage being brought, and it being
agreed that we should eat at the _posada_ with the Chevalier, nothing
remained but to distribute the three chambers upon the same floor,
which constituted our apartments, according to our various tastes. As
Father Francis sought more quiet than amusement, he fixed upon the
large room behind, where he certainly could be quiet enough, for if
ever even the distant voice of an amorous cat on the house-top reached
his solitude, it must have been a far and a faint sound, like the
hymns of angels said to be heard by monks in the cells of a monastery.
Houssaye took up with the small chamber between the two larger ones,
and I occupied the front room of a tall house in a narrow street,
whose extreme width of which might possibly be two ells. Nevertheless,
whatever was to be seen, was to be seen from my window; and my very
first determination was to see as much of Spain while I was in it, as
I possibly could.

At eighteen, one has very few doubts, and very few fears; much
passion, and much curiosity; and for my own part, I had resolved if I
did not view the Spaniard in all situations, it should not be my
fault. In short, by the time I arrived at Saragossa, I was willing to
enter into any sort of adventure that might present itself, and though
the memory of Helen might act as some restraint upon me, yet I am
afraid I wanted that strong moral principle, which ought ever to guide
us in all our actions. I make this acknowledgment, because I look upon
these sheets to be a sort of confession, which in making at all, I am
bound to write truly; and though I shall not dwell upon any of those
scenes of vice which might lead others by the mere detail into the
very errors that I commemorate, be it remembered, that I seek not to
show myself at any period of my life as better or purer than I was.
With regard to every feeling that came within the direct code of
honour, or even its refinements, I had imbibed them from my earliest
days; but I was a countryman of Henri Quatre, and not without a great
share of that weakness, which in the gallant monarch was redeemed by a
thousand great and shining qualities. But the love of adventure was my
principal failing, which is a sort of mental spirit drinking, as hard
to be overcome as the passion for strong waters itself.

I know not why or how, but the Chevalier seemed to have an instinctive
perception of my character which almost frightened me; and while
Father Francis was seeking in his bags for a parcel which Arnault at
Lourdes had intrusted to his care, my keen-sighted companion drew me
to the window of the front chamber, and after having, by a few brief
observations on my disposition, shown me that he saw into my bosom
even more clearly than I did myself, he warned me of many of the
dangers of a Spanish town. "Remember, my dear Louis," continued he,
"that I only tell you that such things exist--I do not tell you to
avoid them. Your own good sense, as far as the good sense of a very
young man can go, will tell you how to act, and I am afraid that all
men in this world must buy experience for themselves; for if an angel
from heaven were to vouch its truths, they would not believe the
experience of others. However, loving you as I do--and you do not know
how much I love you--there is one thing I must exact--if you want
advice, apply to me--if you want assistance, apply to me--if you want
a sword to back your quarrel, you must seek none but mine."

As he spoke, Father Francis entered the room with a look of much
consternation and sorrow. "I hope and trust," said he, advancing to
the Chevalier, "that the packet which your procureur Arnault intrusted
to me for you is of no great value, for on my honour it has been
stolen by some one out of my bags."

The pale cheek of the Chevalier grew a shade paler, and though no
other emotion was visible, that one sign led me to think that the
packet was of the utmost import, for never before did I see him yield
the least symptom of agitation to any event whatever. "I did expect,"
replied he, in a calm, unshaken voice, "some papers of much
consequence, but I know not whether this packet you mention contained
them. There is no use, my good Father Francis, of distressing yourself
upon the subject," he added, seeing the very great pain which the
accident had caused to the worthy old man; "if by calling to mind the
circumstances you can find a probability of its recovery, we will
immediately take measures to effect it. If not, the packet is lost,
and we will forget it."

"How it has been abstracted, or when," answered the good priest, "I
know not. On arriving at Luz, at the end of our first day's journey, I
opened my valise on purpose to put that packet in safety, wrapping it
up with some small stock of money that I had laid by for the purpose
of doing alms; but both are gone."

"Stolen for the sake of the money!" said the Chevalier, shutting his
teeth, and compressing his lips, as if to master the vexation he felt.
"Well," proceeded he, with a sigh, "it is in vain we struggle against
destiny. For sixteen years I have been seeking those papers, but
always by some unfortunate accident they have been thrown out of my
reach; destiny wills not that I shall have them, and I will give it
up."

"And what do you mean by destiny, my dear son?" demanded Father
Francis, with the anxious haste of an enthusiastic man, who fancies he
discovers some great error or mistake in a person he esteems. "Many
people allow their energies to be benumbed, and even their religion,
by a theory of fatalism which has its foundation in a great mistake."

"It appears to me, my good father," replied the Chevalier, with a
smile, "that fate grasps us, as it were, in a cleft stick, as I have
seen many a boor catch a viper--there we may struggle as much as we
like, but we are fixed down, and cannot escape."

"Nay, nay," said Father Francis, "it is denying the goodness of God.
Every one must feel within himself the power of choosing whatever way
or whatever conduct he thinks fit. A man standing at a spot where two
roads separate, does he not always feel within himself the power to
follow whichever he likes? and yet, perhaps, death lies on the one
road, and good fortune on the other."

"But if he is destined to die that day, that day will he die," replied
the Chevalier. "And if you allow that God foresees which the traveller
will take, of course he must take it, and his free will is at an end."

"Nay, my son, not so," replied the old man. "What you call foresight,
is in the Deity what memory would be in man, if it were perfect. It is
knowledge. Standing in the midst of eternity, all is present to the
eye of God; and he knows what man will do, as well as what man has
done; but that does not imply that man has not the liberty of choice,
for it is his very own choice that conducts him to the results which
God already knows. When a lizard runs away frightened from before your
footsteps, you may know positively that it will fly to its hole, but
your knowledge does not affect its purpose; nor would it, if your
knowledge was as certain as Omniscience. If you ask me why, if man's
choice will be bad, the Omnipotent does not will it to be good? I say,
it is to leave him that very freedom of choice which you deny.
Farther, if there were no evil in the world, morally or
physically,--and it would be easy to show that one cannot exist
without the other--what would the world be? There would be no virtue,
because there could be no possibility of vice; there would be no
passions, because there would be nothing to excite them; there would
be no wishes, because privation being an ill, no desire for anything
could possibly exist; there could be no motion, for the movement of
one thing would displace another, which was in its proper place
before; there would be no action, for there being neither passions nor
wishes, nothing would prompt action. In short, the argument might be
carried on to show that the universe would not be, and that the whole
would be God alone. No one will deny that the least imperfection
is in itself evil, and that without God created what was equal to
himself--which implies, as far as the act of creation goes, a
mathematical impossibility--whatever he created must have been subject
to imperfection, and consequently would admit of evil. Evil once
admitted, all the rest follows; and if any one dare to ask, why then
God created at all? let him look round on the splendid universe, the
thousand magnificent effects of divine love, of divine bounty, and of
divine power, and feel himself rebuked for thinking that such
attributes could slumber unexerted."

"But," said the Chevalier, "it appears to me that your argument
militates against the first principle of our religion--the divinity of
Christ: for you say it implies an impossibility that God should create
what was equal to himself."

"Christ was not created," replied the priest, and laying his hand on
his breast he bowed his head reverently, repeating the words of
Scripture: "This is my only begotten Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Whether the Chevalier retained his own opinions or not I cannot tell;
but most probably he did, for certain it is, that nothing is more
difficult to find in any man, than the _faculty_ of being convinced.
However, he dropped the subject, and never more to my knowledge,
resumed it.

Father Francis, whose whole heart was mildness and humility, began to
fancy after a few minutes that he had been guilty of some presumption
in arguing so boldly on the secrets of Providence. "God forgive me,"
said he, "if I have done irreverently in seeking, as far as my poor
intellect could go, to demonstrate by simple reasoning, that which we
ought to receive as a matter of faith; but often, in my more solitary
hours, in thinking over these subjects I would find a degree of
obscurity and confusion in my own ideas, which impelled me to
endeavour to clear and to arrange them."

"I am convinced you did very right, my good father," replied the
Chevalier, "and that one great object in the good regulations of one's
mind is to obtain fixed principles on every subject which comes under
our review, carrying to the examination an ardent desire for truth;
and to religious inquiries, that profound reverence and humble
diffidence of human reason, that so deep and so important a subject
imperatively requires."

Here dropped the conversation, leaving both parties better satisfied
with each other than usually happens after any discussion, but more
especially where religion is at all involved.



CHAPTER VIII.

My first care, after finding myself completely settled at Saragossa,
was to overcome the difficulties of the Spanish language. I had
studied it superficially long before, and, thanks to my Bearnaise
tongue, I now accomplished the hardest part of the undertaking,
namely, the pronunciation, which is very rarely acquired by Frenchmen
in general. By the time this was gained, I had been three months in
Spain, living in a state of high ease and tranquillity, very much
against my will; finding nothing to excite or to romance upon; and, at
best, meeting with but those little adventures which are unworthy, if
not unfit for detail. It was not, however, my fault. I went
continually to the Teatro, to the Plaza de Toros, and to all those
places where one may most easily get one's self into mischief, without
accomplishing my object; going from one to the other with the most
provoking, quiet, uninterrupted facility that fortune could furnish
forth to annoy me withal. Every one was calm, polite, and cold; no one
fell in love with me; no one quarrelled with me; no one took any
notice of me, and I was beginning to think the Spaniards the most
stupid, sober, mole-like race that the world contained, when some
circumstances occurred, which, from the very first excited my
curiosity, if they did not reach any more violent passion.

I have said, that the room which I had chosen looked into the street
wherein we lodged, and also that that street was very narrow. At
first, I had hoped to draw something from this circumstance, having
always entertained high ideas of the pleasures and agitations of
making love across a street, and for the whole first night after our
arrival, I amused myself with fancying some very beautiful lady, with
some very horrible guardian, who would find means of conversing with
me from the _jalousies_ on the other side.

I was soon undeceived; a very little knowledge of the localities
showing me that the windows opposite to my own were placed in the back
of a row of houses, forming one side of the principal street, to which
our own was parallel; and I had reason to believe that none but
servants and inferior persons in general dwelt in those rooms, the
windows of which might communicate with mine. This was a
disappointment, and I thought no more of it till one evening, when I
had been riding in the environs with the Chevalier de Montenero, who,
in general, gave me about an hour of his society every day. The rest
of his time was principally spent, I understood, in reading and
writing, and in bringing to a conclusion some affairs of importance,
which had accumulated during a long absence in the New World, where,
my talkative landlady assured me, he had won high honours both as a
statesman and a warrior. On the day which I speak of, however, we had
been absent nearly three hours, and, returning somewhat heated, I
threw myself down before the open window, with a book in my hand. How
I happened to raise my eyes to the opposite houses, I know not; but
doing so, I saw the fingers of a hand so fair, that it could belong to
no servant, resting on the bars of the _jalousie_, while, at the same
time, a very bright pair of eyes glittered through the aperture,
apparently rather turned down the street, as if watching for the
coming of some one.

My own _jalousie_ was drawn for the sake of the shade, so that I could
observe without being remarked; and, approaching the window, in a few
minutes after, I saw a priest enter at a small door, just below the
window, where the eyes were watching. I concluded that this was the
father confessor, and I took care to see him depart; after which I
partly opened my blind, and remarked, behind the one opposite, the
same eyes I had before seen, but now evidently turned towards myself,
and I determined not to lose, for lack of boldness, whatever good
fortune should fall in my way.

Love, of course, was out of the question: for I certainly loved Helen
now as deeply as ever; and having no excuse, I shall not seek one, nor
even try to palliate my fault. The only incentives I had, were
idleness, youth, and a passion for adventure; but these were quite
sufficient to carry me headlong on, upon the first mad scheme that
opened to my view. Every one, I believe, feels, or must have felt,
sensations somewhat similar, when the heart's wild spirit seems
rioting to be free, and hurrying on reason, and thought, and virtue
tumultuously along the mad course of passion, till each is trodden
down in turn beneath the feet of the follies that come after. What I
sought I hardly know. It was not vice--it was adventure.

From that day forward, I was more frequently at my window than
anywhere else; and I cannot say that the fair object of my watchings
seemed, after a time, to find the proximity of her own blind the most
disagreeable part of her apartment. Indeed, the weather was so warm
and so oppressive, that on more than one occasion she partially opened
her _jalousie_ to admit a freer current of air, giving me, at the same
time, an opportunity of beholding one of the loveliest faces and forms
I ever beheld, though so shadowed by the semi-darkness of the room, as
to throw over the whole a mysterious air of dimness, doubly exciting.
Of course the matter paused not here. I had heard and read a thousand
tales of such encounters; I was as deeply read in all romances of
love, as the Knight of La Mancha was in those of chivalry; and I had
recourse to the only means in my power of commencing a communication
with my fair neighbour--namely, by signs. At first she withdrew, as if
indignant; then endured them; then laughed at them; and, in the end,
somewhat suddenly and abruptly seemed to return them, though so
slightly, that all my ingenuity would not serve me to comprehend what
she sought to express. I had heard that the ladies of Spain were so
skilful in finding the means of carrying on these mute conversations,
that many a tender tale had been told in silently playing with a fan;
and I somewhat wondered to find even one Spanish girl so ignorant of
the language of signs. She had evidently, however, endeavoured to
return an answer to mine, and that was enough to make my heart beat
high.

As soon as night followed upon the day which had beheld this gracious
and favourable change, I returned to my station at the window. The
_jalousies_ were closed, and no sign or symptom announced that any one
was within for near half an hour, when suddenly I heard them move, and
beheld them slowly and cautiously open, to perhaps the extent of three
inches. I could see nothing, but that they were open, though I
strained my eyes to discover what was beyond. However, after a
moment's silence I had my recompense, by hearing a very soft and
musical voice demand, in a low tone, "Are you there?"

"I am," answered I, in the hyperbolic style usual to Spanish
gallants,--"I am, fairest of earth's creatures! and ready to serve you
with life and----"

"Hush!" said the voice. "Go instantly to the theatre, and ask for the
box marked G. Wait there, whatever betide--and say no more."

The _jalousie_ immediately closed; and snatching up my hat, I prepared
to obey the command, when my door opened, and Father Francis appeared
with a light.

"In the dark, my dear Louis!" said he, with some astonishment; "what
are you doing in the dark? Better come and read Seneca with me."

"I am just going to the play," replied I, holding up my hand to my
eyes, as if the sudden light affected them, but, in reality, to cover
a certain crimsoning of the cheek, which the mere presence of so good
and pure a being called up, in spite of my efforts to prevent it.
"They play to-night Calderon's _Cisma de Inglaterra_."

"You are all too fond of that bad place, a theatre," said Father
Francis; "but I suppose, Louis, that it will always be so at your age.
I must not forget now, when I can no longer enjoy, that you are in the
season of enjoyment, and that I was once like you. However, I hope
that your love of theatres will soon pass. They were instituted,
doubtless, to promote morality, and to do good, but they are sadly
perverted in our day. Well, God be with you!"

I could have well spared the interruption, but more especially the
good father's recommendation to God, when my purpose was not what my
own heart could fully approve. Not that I had any formed design of
evil--not that I had any wish of wronging innocence--nay, nor of
breaking my faith to Helen. 'Twas but excitement I sought; and though
perhaps I wished I had not advanced so far, I was ashamed of drawing
back, and I hurried on to the theatre.

A great crowd was going in; and, following the course of the stream, I
sought for the box marked G. On finding it, I was surprised to
discover that it was one of the curtained boxes reserved for the
principal officers of the city. An old woman had the keys of these
boxes in charge, and to her I applied for admission. The face of
surprise which she assumed I shall not easily forget. "Heyday!" she
exclaimed, "let you into the box of the corregidor! I dare say! Pray,
young sir, where is your order?"

"Here!" said I, nothing abashed, and resolved to accomplish my object;
and, putting my hand in my pocket, I seemed to search for the order
till some persons who were near had passed on. I then produced a
pistole, which the old lady found to be an order in so good and
authentic a form, that she drew forth the key, and proceeded towards
the door, saying, "The corregidor went out of town this morning, and
will not return for two days, so there can be no great harm in letting
you in; but keep the curtains close. You can see and hear very well
through the chinks, without showing yourself in the corregidor's box,
I warrant."

I promised to observe her directions, and entered the box, which was
empty. I seated myself behind the curtains, which, drawn completely
across the front, hid me from the spectators, though I had still a
good view of the stage. The play, indeed, was not what I came to see;
and at first I listened with eager and attentive ears to the sound of
every foot that passed by the door of the box. Actually trembling with
anxiety and excitement, I could hear one person after another go by,
till the tide of spectators began to slacken, and, at last, but the
solitary step of some late straggler sounded along the passage,
hurrying on to make up for his delay. Two or three times, when the
foot was lighter than the rest, or when it seemed to pause near the
door, I started up, and my heart beat till it was actually painful to
feel it throbbing against my side: but, after a while, in order to
calm such sensations, I endeavoured to fix my mind upon the play; and,
won by the cunning of the scene, I gradually entered into the passions
I saw portrayed.

The play (La Cisma de Inglaterra) contained all Calderon's rigour and
wit, and also all his extravagance. The first scene, representing the
dream of Henry VIII., King of England, and his reception of the two
letters from the pope, and from Martin Luther, was too full of petty
conceits to engage me for a moment; but the description of Anne
Bullen, as given by Carlos in the second scene, caught my young
imagination, and the exquisite wit of the court-fool, Pasquin, soon
riveted my attention. This character had been allotted to one of the
best performers of the company; and it was wonderful what point he
gave to the least word of the jester. Calderon had done much, but
every theatrical writer must leave much for the player; and, in this
instance, nothing he could have wished expressed was either omitted or
caricatured. It was all true and simple, from the broad childish
stare, half folly, half satire, with which he exclaimed, "_Que soy
galan de galanes_," to the face of moralizing meditation, half
bewildered, half severe, with which he commented on the king's
melancholy:--


    "Triste està Rey, de què sirve
     Quanto puede, quanto manda
     Si no puede, estàr alegre
     Quando quiere?"


The play had proceeded for some time, and I was listening with deep
interest to the exquisite dialogue between the king and Anne Bullen,
in which he first discovers his passion to her, when the door of the
box opened, and a lady entered, wrapped in a black mantilla. Her face
was also concealed with a black velvet mask; and though, after
shutting the door of the box carefully, she dropped the mantilla,
discovering a form on whose beauties I will not dwell, she still
retained the mask for some moments, and I could see her hand shake as
it leaned on the back of one of the seats. My heart beat so violently,
that I could scarcely speak; and I would have given worlds for one
word from her lips, to which I might have replied. Time, however, was
not to be lost, and advancing, I offered my hand to lead her forward;
but she raised her finger, saying, in a very low voice, "Hush! Is
there any one in the box to the left?"

"I have heard no one," replied I, rejoicing to recognise the same
tones in which the appointment had been made with me. "Nay, do not
tremble so," I added, laying my hand on hers; and I believe the
agitation which that touch must have told her I experienced myself,
served more to re-assure her than my words. "Why should you fear, with
a friend, a lover, an adorer? Why, too, should you hide your face from
one to whom its lightest look is joy? Will you not take off your
mask?"

The lady made no reply; but, seating herself in the back part of the
box, leaned her head for some time upon her hand, over which the
ringlets of her rich black hair fell in glossy profusion. My agitation
gradually subsided; I added caresses to tender language--I held her
hand in mine--I ventured to carry it to my lips, and I am afraid many
a burning word did passion suggest to my tongue. For a moment or two
she let me retain her hand, seeming totally absorbed by feelings which
gave no other sense power to act; but at length she gently withdrew it
from mine, and, untying a string that passed through her hair, let the
mask drop from her face. If her figure had struck me as lovely, how
transcendently beautiful did her face appear when that which hid it
was thus suddenly removed. She could not be more than eighteen, and
each clear, exquisite feature seemed moulded after the enchanting
specimens of ancient art, but animated with that living grace which
leaves the statue far below. Her lip was all sweetness, and her brow
all bland expanse; but there was a wild energetic fire in her eye,
which spoke of the strong and ardent passions of her country; and
there was also an occasional gleam in it, that had something almost
approaching the intensity of mental wandering. Let me not say that
those eyes were anything less than beautiful. They were of those full,
dark, thrilling orbs, that seem to look deep into the heart of man,
and exercise upon all its pulses a strange, attracting influence, like
that which the bright moon holds over the waters of the world; and
round them swept a long, black, silky fringe, that shaded and softened
without diminishing their lustre by a ray.

As soon as she recovered herself sufficiently to speak, she replied to
my ardent professions in language which, though somewhat wild and
undefined, left me no doubt of her feelings. She told me, too, that
she was the daughter of the corregidor; that her mother was dead, and
that her father loved her even to idolatry; that she returned his
affection; and that never, even were it to wed a monarch, would she
leave him. At the same time she spoke enthusiastically, even wildly,
of love and passion, and to what it might prompt a determined heart.
She spoke, too, of jealousy, but she said it was incompatible with
love, for that a mind which felt like hers would instantly convert its
love into hate, if it once found itself deceived: and what was there,
she asked, that such hate would not do?

On this subject she threw out some dark and mysterious hints, which,
at any other moment, might have made me estimate the dangerous excess
of all her passions; but I was infatuated, and would not see the
perils that surrounded the dim gulf into which I was plunging. We
talked long, and we talked ardently, and in the end, when, some little
time before the play was concluded, she rose to leave me, my brain was
in a whirl that wanted little but the name to be madness.

"Though I have unlimited power over my own actions," said she, "even
perhaps too much so--for, ungrateful that I am!--I sometimes wish my
father loved me less, or more wisely;--but, as I said, though I have
unlimited power over my own actions, some reasons forbade me to-night
receiving you in my own house. To-morrow night you may come. You have
remarked," she added, putting on her mask, and wrapping her mantilla
round her, "a small door under the window of my dressing-room; at
midnight it will be open--come thither, for there are many things I
wish to say." She then enjoined me not to leave the theatre till the
play was completely over, and left me, my whole mind and thoughts in a
state of agitation and confusion hardly to be expressed. I will not
say that conscience did not somewhat whisper I was doing wrong; but
the tumult of excited passion, and the gratification of my spirit of
romance, prevented me even from calculating how far I might be
hurried. There was certainly some vague point where I proposed to stop
short of vice; and I trust I should have done so, even had not other
circumstances intervened to save me therefrom. However that may be,
let it be marked and remembered, from the first, that _the steps I
took in wrong, by an extraordinary chain of circumstances, caused all
the misery of my existence_.



CHAPTER IX.


Never, perhaps, in my existence--an existence varied by dangers, by
difficulties, by passions, and by follies--never did any day seem to
drag so heavily towards its conclusion as that which lay between me
and the meeting appointed for the following night. It was not alone
that impatient expectation which lengthens time till moments seem
eternities, but it was, added to this, that I had to find occupation
for every moment, lest tardy regrets should interpose, and mingle
bitter with what was ever a sweet cup to me--excitement. Verily do I
believe that I crowded into that one day more employments than many
men bestow upon a year. I rode through the whole town; I witnessed the
bull-fight; I wrote a letter to my father--God knows what it
contained, for I know not, and I never knew; I read Plato, which was
like pouring cold water on a burning furnace; I played on my guitar--I
sung to it; I solved a problem of Euclid; I read a page of Descartes:
and thousands of other things did I do to fill up the horrid vacancy
of each long-expectant minute. At length, however, day waned, night
came, and the hour approached nearer and more near. At ten o'clock I
pretended fatigue, and leaving Father Francis, who seemed well
inclined to consume the midnight oil, I retired to my apartment as if
to bed. Old Houssaye came to assist me, but I made an excuse to send
him away, which, though perhaps a lame one, he was too old a soldier
not to take at once. He was a man that never asked any questions;
whatever the order was, he obeyed it instantly, and he was unrivalled
at the quick conception of a hint. Thus I had scarcely finished my
first sentence, explanatory of my reasons for not requiring his
services, than running on at once to the conclusion, he made his bow,
and quitted the room.

Being left alone, two more long hours did I wear out in the fever of
expectation. All noises gradually subsided in the town and in the
house, and everybody was evidently at repose before half-past eleven.
This was now the longest half-hour of all. I thought the church clock
must have gone wrong, and have stopped; and I was confirmed in this
idea when I heard the midnight round of the patrol of the Holy
Brotherhood pass by the house, as usual pushing at every door to see
that all were closed for the night. Shortly after, however, the chimes
of midnight began; and, with a beating heart, I descended the stairs,
having previously insured the means of opening the door without noise.
In a moment after, the fresh night air blew chill upon my cheek, and
conveyed a sort of shudder to my heart, which I could scarce help
feeling as a sinister omen; but, closing the door as near as I could,
without shutting it entirely, I darted across the street, pushed open
the little door, and entered. As I did so, the garments of a woman
rustled against me, and I caught the same fair soft hand I had held
the former night. It burned like a living fire; and, as I held it in
mine, it did not return or even seem sensible to the pressure, but my
fingers felt almost scorched with the feverish heat of hers.

Cautiously shutting the door, she led me by the hand up a flight
of stairs to a small, elegant dressing-room, wherein, on the
toilet-table, was a burning lamp. It shone dimly, but with sufficient
light to show me that my fair companion, though lovely as ever, was
deadly pale; and, attributing it to that agitation which she could not
but feel a thousand times more than even I did, I attempted to compose
her by a multitude of caresses and vows, which she suffered me to
lavish upon her almost unnoticed, remaining with a mute tongue and
wandering eye, as if my words scarcely found their way to the seat of
intellect. At length, laying her hand upon the hilt of my sword, with
a faint smile, she said, "What! a sword! You should never come to see
a lady with a sword;" and unbuckling it with her own hand, she laid it
on the table.

"Now," proceeded she, taking up the lamp, and leading the way into a
splendid room beyond--"now you must give me a proof of your love;" and
she shut the door suddenly behind us with a quickness which almost
made me start. Her whole conduct, her whole appearance was strange.
That a girl of such high station should appear agitated at receiving
in secret the first visit of one whom she had every right to look upon
as a lover, was not surprising; but her eye wandered with a fearful
sort of wildness, and her cheek was so deadly, deadly pale, that I
scarcely ever thought to see such a hue in anything living. At the
same time, the hand with which she held one of mine, as she led me on,
confirmed its grasp with a tighter and a tighter clasp, till every
slender burning finger seemed impressing itself on my flesh. "Have you
a firm heart?" asked she at length, fixing her eyes upon me, and
compressing her full beautiful lips, as if to master her own
sensations.

I answered that I had; and, indeed, as the agitation of passion gave
way to other feelings, called forth by her singular manner and
behaviour, the natural unblenching courage of my race returned to my
aid, and I was no longer the tremblingly empassioned boy that I
entered her house.

"It is well!" said she. "Come hither, then!" and she led me towards
what seemed a heap of cushions covered with a large sheet of linen.
For a moment she paused before them, with her foot advanced, as if
about to make another step forward, and her eye straining upon the
motionless pile before her, as if it were some very horrible object;
then, suddenly taking the edge of the cloth, she threw it back at
once, discovering the dead body of a priest weltering in its gore. He
seemed to have been a man of about thirty, both by his form and face,
which was full, and unmarked by any lines of age. It was turned
towards me, and had been slightly convulsed by the pang of death; but
still, even in the cold, meaningless features, I thought I could
perceive that look of an habitually dissolute mind, which stamps
itself in ineffaceable characters; and there was a dark determined
scowl still upon the brow of death, which, to my fancy, spoke of the
remorseless violation of the most sacred duties. The limbs were
contracted, and one of the hands clenched, as if there had been a
momentary struggle before he was mastered to his fate; while the other
hand was stretched out, with all the fingers wide extended, as while
still striving to draw the last few agonizing breaths. His gown was
gashed on the left side, and dripping with gore; and it is probable
that the wound it covered went directly to his heart, from the great
effusion of blood that had taken place.

It was a dreadful sight; and, after looking on it for a few moments in
astonishment and horror, I turned my aching eyes towards the lovely
girl that had conducted me to such a strange and awful exhibition.
She, too, was gazing at it with that sort of fixed intensity of look,
which told that her mind gathered there materials for strong and
all-absorbing thoughts. "In the name of Heaven!" cried I, "who has
done this?"

"I!" answered she, with a strange degree of calmness;--"I did it!"

"And what on earth could tempt you," I continued, "to so bloody and
horrible a crime?"

"You shall hear," she replied. "That man was my confessor. He took
advantage of his power over my mind--he won me to all that he
wished--and then--he turned to another--fairer, perhaps, and equally
weak. I discovered his treachery, but I heeded it the less, as I had
seen you, and, for the first time, knew what love was; but I warned
him never to approach me again, if he would escape that Spanish
revenge whose power he ought to have known. He came, this very
night--perhaps from the arms of another,--and he yet dared to talk to
me of passion and of love! thinking me still weak enough to yield to
him. Oh! with what patience I was endued not to slay him then! I bade
him go forth, and never to approach me again. He became enraged--he
threatened to betray me--to publish my shame--and he is--what he is!"
There was a dreadful pause: she had worked herself up by the details
to a pitch of almost frenzied rage; and, gazing upon the body of him
that had wronged her with a flushed cheek and flashing eyes, she
seemed as if she would have smote him again. "The story is told,"
cried she at length; "and now, if you love me, as you have said, you
must carry him forth, and cast him into the great fosse of the city.
Ha! you will not! You hate me!--you despise me! Then I must speak
another language. You shall! Yes, you shall! or both you and I will
join him in the grave!" and, drawing a poniard from her bosom, she
placed herself between me and the door.

"And do you think me so great a coward," replied I, hastily, "to be
frightened into doing what I disapprove, by a poniard in the hand of a
woman? No, lady, no," I continued, more kindly, believing her, as I
did, to be disordered in mind by the intensity of her feelings; "I
pity you from my heart--I pity you for the base injuries you have
suffered; and even, though I cannot but condemn the crime you have
committed, I would do much, very much, to soothe, to calm, to heal
your wounded spirit; but----"

I spoke long--gently--kindly to her. It reached her heart--it touched
the better feelings of what might have been a fine, though exquisitely
sensitive, mind; and, throwing away the poniard, she cast herself at
my feet, where, clasping my knees, she wept till her agony of tears
became perfectly fearful. I did everything I could to tranquillize
her; I entreated, I persuaded, I reasoned, I even caressed. There
was something so lovely, yet so terrible in it all--her face, her
form, her agitation, the sweetness of her voice, the despairing,
heart-broken expression of her eyes, that, in spite of her crime, I
raised her from my feet, I held her in my arms, and I promised to do
all that she would have me.

After a time she began to recover herself; and, gently disengaging
herself from me, she gazed at me with a look of calm, powerful,
painful regret, that I never can forget. "Count Louis," she said, "you
must abhor me; and you have, alas! learned to do so at a moment when I
have learned to love you the more. Your kindness has made me weep. It
was what I needed,--it has cleared a cloud from my brain, and I now
find how very, very guilty I am. Do not take me to your arms; I am
unworthy they should touch me;--but fly from me, and from this place
of horror, as speedily as you can, for I will not take advantage of
the generous offer you make, to do that which I so ungenerously asked.
I asked it in madness; for I feel that, within the last few hours, my
reason has not been with me. It slept:--I have now wept; and it is
awake to all the misery I have brought upon myself. Go--go--leave me;
I will stay and meet the fate my crime deserves. But, oh! I cannot
bear to think upon the dishonour and misery of my father's old age!"
and again she wept as bitterly as before.

Again I applied myself to soothe her; and imprudently certainly,
perhaps wrongly, insisted upon carrying away the evidence of her
guilt, and disposing of it as she had at first demanded. But two short
streets lay between the spot where we were and the old boundary of the
city, over which it was easy to cast the body into the water below. At
that hour I was not likely to meet with any one, as all the sober
inhabitants of the town were by this time in their first sleep, and
the guard had made its round some time before. I told her all this,
and expressed my determination not to leave her in such dreadful
circumstances; so that, seeing me resolved upon doing what I had
proposed, the natural horror of death and shame overcame her first
regret at the thought of implicating me, and she acquiesced.

As I approached the body for the purpose of taking it in my arms, I
will own, a repulsive feeling of horror gathered about my heart, and a
slight shudder passed over me. She saw it, and casting her beautiful
arms round my neck, held me back with a melancholy shake of the head,
saying, "No, no, no!" But I again expressed myself determined, and
suddenly pressing her burning lips to mine, she let me go. "Pardon
me!" said she; "it is the last I shall ever have, most generous of
human beings." And turning away, she kneeled by her bed-side, hiding
her face upon the clothes, while I raised the body of the priest in my
arms, and bore it down stairs.

Being fortunately of a very strong and vigorous mould, and well
hardened by athletic exercises, I could carry a very great weight, but
never did I know till then, how much more ponderous and unwieldy a
dead body is than a living one. I however gained the street with my
burden; and with a beating heart, and anxious glaring eye proceeded as
fast as I could towards the walls. Everything I saw caused me anxiety
and alarm; the small fountain at the corner of the Calle del Sol made
me start and almost drop the body; and each shadow that the moon cast
across the street, cost me many a painful throb. At length, however, I
reached the old rampart, where it looks out over the olive grounds,
and advancing hurriedly forward, I gave a glance around to see that no
one was there, and cast the corpse down into the fosse, which was full
of water; I heard the plunge of the body and the rush of the agitated
waters, and a shudder passed over me to think of thus consigning the
frail tabernacle, that not long since had enshrined a sinful but
immortal spirit, to a dark and nameless grave. All the weaknesses of
our nature cling to the rites of sepulture, and at any time I should
have felt, in so dismissing a dead body to unmourned oblivion, that I
was violating the most sacred prejudices of our nature; but when I
thought upon the how, and the wherefore, my blood felt chill, and I
dared not look back to see the full completions of that night's
dreadful deeds.

My heart was lightened, however, that it was now done, and I turned to
proceed home, having had enough of adventure to serve me for a long
while. Before I went, I gave an anxious glance around to see whether
any one was watching me, but all seemed void and lonely. I then darted
away as fast as I could, still concealing myself in the shadowy sides
of the streets, and following a thousand turnings and windings to
insure that my path was not tracked. At length, approaching the street
wherein I lived, I looked round carefully on all sides, and seeing no
one, darted up it, sprang forward, and pushed open the door of my
lodging. At that moment a figure passed me coming the other way; it
was the Chevalier de Montenero, and though he evidently saw me, he
went on without remark. I closed the door carefully, groped my way up
to my own chamber, and striking a light, examined my doublet, to see
if it had received any stains from the gory burden I had carried. In
spite of every precaution I had taken, it was wet with blood in three
places, and I had much trouble in washing out the marks, though it was
itself of murrey-coloured cloth, somewhat similar in hue.

Difficult is it to tell my feelings while engaged in this
employment--the horror, the disgust, at each new stain I discovered,
mingled with the painful anxiety to efface every trace which the blood
of my fellow-being had left. Then to dispose of the water, whose
sanguine colour kept glaring in my eye wherever I turned, as if I
could see nothing but it, became the question; and I was obliged to
open the casement, and pour it gently over the window-sill, without
unclosing the _jalousies_, so as to permit its trickling down the
front of the house, where I knew it must be evaporated before the next
morning. This took me some time, as I did it by but very cautious
degrees: but then, when it was done, all vestiges of the deed in which
I had been engaged were effaced, and to my satisfaction I discovered,
on examining every part of my apparel with the most painful
minuteness, that all was free and clear.

Extinguishing my light, I now undressed and went to bed, but of course
not to sleep. For hours and hours, the scenes in which I had that
night taken part floated upon the blank darkness before my eyes, and
filled me with horrible imaginations. A thousand times did I attempt
to banish them, and give myself up to slumber, and a thousand times
did they return in new and more horrible shapes; till the faint light
of the morning began to shine through the openings of the blinds, when
I fell into a disturbed and feverish sleep. It was no relief--it was
no oblivion. The same dreadful scenes returned with their full
original force, heightened and rendered still more terrific by a
thousand wild accessories that uncontrolled fancy brought forward to
support them. All was horror and despair; and I again woke, haggard
and worn out, as the matin bell was sounding from the neighbouring
convent: I tried it once more, and at length succeeded in obtaining a
temporary forgetfulness.



CHAPTER X.


I was still in a most profound sleep, when I was woke by some one
shaking me rudely by the arm; and starting up, I found my chamber full
of the officers of justice. By my side stood an alguacil, and at my
table, a sort of escribano was already taking a precise account of the
state of the apartment, while in conjunction with him, various members
of the Holy Brotherhood were examining without ceremony every article
of my apparel.

For a moment or two, the surprise, mingled with the consciousness of
what might be laid to my charge, confounded and bewildered me, and I
gazed about upon all that was taking place with the stupid stare of
one still half asleep. I soon, however, recovered myself, and
hurriedly determined in my own mind the line of conduct that it was
necessary to pursue, both for the purpose of saving myself, and
shielding the unfortunate girl, of whose crime I doubted not that I
should be accused.

The alguacil was proceeding, with a face in which he had concentrated
all the stray beams of transmitted authority, to question me in a very
high tone respecting my occupations of the foregoing night; when I cut
him short by demanding what he and his myrmidons did in my apartment,
and warning him, that if he expected to extort money from me by such a
display, he was labouring in vain. The worthy officer expressed
himself as much offended at this insinuation as if it had been true,
and informed me that he had come to arrest me on the charge of having
the night before murdered in cold blood one Father Acevido, and cast
him into the fosse below the old wall. He farther added, that a
messenger had been sent for the corregidor, who was at a small town
not far off, and that he was expected in an hour.

"Well, then," replied I, boldly, "wake me when he comes, and make as
little noise as possible at present," and I turned round on my other
side, as if to address myself to sleep. My real purpose, however, was
twofold: to gain time for thought, and to avoid all questions from the
alguacil, till I had learned upon what grounds I was accused.

But in this I was defeated by Father Francis, who interfered with the
best intentions in the world, and advancing, addressed me in French,
whereupon the alguacil instantly stopped him, declaring he would not
have any conversation in a foreign tongue.

"Houssaye!" cried I, turning to the old soldier, and pointing to the
alguacil, while I spoke out in Spanish,--"if that fellow meddles any
more kick him down stairs. And now, my good father, what were you
about to say?"

This conduct, impudent as it was, I well knew was the only thing that
could save me from being questioned and cross-examined by the inferior
officers before the arrival of the corregidor. If I answered, I might
embarrass myself in my after-defence, and if I refused to answer, my
contumacy would be construed into guilt; all that remained, therefore,
was to treat the alguacils with a degree of scorn which would check
their interrogation in its very commencement, and which was in some
degree justified by the well-known corruption and mercenary character
of the inferior officers of the Spanish police. This proceeding seemed
to have the full effect which I intended; for the pompous official not
only ceased his questions, but at the hint of being kicked, suffered
Father Francis to go on, judging very wisely, that, however justice
might afterwards avenge him, his posteriors would at all events suffer
in the meantime.

"My dear Louis," said the good priest, "you had better rise and clear
yourself from the accusation of these men. Every one in this house
knows your innocence; but here is an officer of the _real hacienda_
without, who swears that he saw the murderer enter this house, and we
have all suffered ourselves to be examined previous to your having
been disturbed. Rise, then, and when you have dressed yourself, permit
him to see that you are not the person, and probably by answering the
questions of these people, you may save yourself from being dragged
before the corregidor, like a culprit."

I replied with the same bold tone which I had at first assumed, and
still speaking aloud in Spanish, "In regard to answering any questions
put to me by these knaves, who are but as the skirts of the robe of
office, I shall certainly not demean myself so far; but, to whatever
the corregidor chooses to demand, I will reply instantly, for I am
sure that he will not countenance a plot of this kind, which, beyond
all doubt, has been contrived to extort money from a stranger; I will
rise, however, as you seem to wish it, and then all the world may look
at me as long as they will."

I accordingly rose and dressed myself, putting on, though I own it was
not without much reluctance, the same murrey-coloured suit I had worn
the night before. As soon as I was dressed, the officer of the _real
hacienda_ was called in, and immediately pointed me out, saying, "That
is the man!" in so positive a tone, that it required all the
resolution I possessed to demand, with a contemptuous smile, "Pray,
sir, how much is it you expect to extort from me, by averring such a
notorious falsehood?--Take notice, if it be above half a rial, you
shall not have it."

"If you were to give me all that you possess, young gentleman,"
answered the man, calmly and civilly, "I would still aver the same
thing--that you are the man who cast the dead body of Father Acevido
into the fosse last night, while I was on duty, seeing that no
contraband things were brought into the city. I tracked you through
the streets till you entered this house, and I took good care to
remark your person so as to identify it anywhere."

The man was so clear in his statement, and I knew it to be so true,
that the blood mounted up into my face, in spite of every effort I
could make to maintain my air of scornful indignation.

"Ha, ha! you colour!" said the alguacil; "what do you say to that, my
young don?"

"I say," replied I, turning upon him fiercely, "that this man's story
has been well contrived, and that he tells it coolly; but, depend on
it, my good friend, when I have cleared myself of this, my remembrance
and thanks shall light upon your shoulders in the most tangible form I
can discover. But now, take me to the corregidor; only, while I am
gone, let some honest person stay and watch these gentry who are
fingering my apparel, or they will save Senor Escribano the trouble of
making a very long catalogue."

A crowd of persons were round the door, gossiping with an alguacil,
who had been left there as a sort of guard; and the moment I was
brought out, the noise they were making very much increased with the
vociferous delight which all vulgar minds experience on beholding
criminals. It is a strange, devilish propensity that in human nature:
the child loves to torture the fly or the worm, the serf runs to see
the victim struggling at the gallows, or writhing on the wheel; and it
is in the child and the vulgar that human nature shines out in its
original metal, unsilvered over by the false hue of education. Those
who have best defended man, attribute his passion for scenes of blood
and horror to the renewed feeling which he thence derives of his own
security. And is there, then, no way of showing him not cruel, but by
proving him base? Must he ever be vilely selfish, if he is not
savagely brutal?

The populace roared, as I came forth, with such a shout as we may
suppose those refined tigers the Romans bestowed on the devoted
gladiator when he entered the arena. I felt certain the sounds must
reach another person, to whose bosom they would convey greater pangs
than even to mine; and though I could not pause to observe anything
minutely, as I was hurried on, I glanced my eye up towards the window
on the other side of the way, and I am sure I saw a female hand rest
on one of the bars of the _jalousie_.

Scarcely two minutes were occupied in bringing me round to the great
entrance of the corregidor's house; and finding that he had not
arrived, the alguacils made me sit down in a large hall, keeping every
one else out, even Father Francis and Houssaye; and enjoying my
society, uninterrupted by the presence of any one but the servants of
the corregidor.

Whether it was done on purpose, or not, I cannot say; but first one
dropped away, and then another, till I was left alone with the chief
alguacil, who, the moment they were all gone, addressed me with a
meaning sort of smile--"Now, young sir," said he, "what would you give
to get off?"

Doubtless, as many bargains are made in halls of justice as on the
exchange, and I was even then very well aware that such is the case;
but I knew not whether, if my offers did not equal the incorruptible
officer's expectation, my words might not be made use of against
myself, and therefore I simply replied, "Nothing!" At the same time, I
cannot deny that I would willingly have given my whole inheritance to
have been safe on the other side of the Pyrenees.

No long time was allowed for deliberation, for a moment after, the
corregidor arrived, and, as if by magic, I found myself instantly
surrounded by all the alguacils and servants who had before
disappeared.

The magistrate did not pass through the hall wherein I was detained,
but after a few minutes, probably spent by him in receiving an account
of the whole transaction, an officer approached, and led me to a small
audience-room, in which he was seated. Before him was a table with a
clerk, and behind him two doors leading to the domestic parts of his
dwelling.

He appeared to me about sixty, and was as noble a looking man as I had
ever beheld. In his face I could trace all his daughter's features,
raised and strengthened into the perfection of masculine beauty; and,
though his hair was as white as snow, and time had laid a long wrinkle
or two across the broad expanse of his forehead, yet age, in other
respects, had dealt mildly with him, and left the fine arch of his lip
unbroken, nor stolen one ray of light from his clear intellectual eye.

As I approached the table at which he was seated, he gazed at me with
a steady, but yet a feeling glance, and pointed to a seat:--"I am
sorry, sir," he said, "that one so young, so noble in appearance, and
especially a stranger to this country, should be accused before me of
a great and dreadful crime, by an officer who, having in all relations
of life conducted himself well, leaves no reason to suppose he acts on
culpable motives. The duty of my office is a strict one; and whatever
prepossession I may feel in your favour, all I can do is to receive
the accuser's evidence before you; and then, if no evident falsehood
appears in his testimony, to order your detention till the case can be
examined at large, and judged according to its merits."

In the calm dignity of his manner, and the mild firmness of his tone,
there was something far more appalling to my mind, knowing well, as I
did, the truth of the charge against me, than any menaces could have
been. I felt no inclination, and indeed no power, to treat the
accusation with that scorn and indignation which I had formerly
affected, but advancing towards the table at which the corregidor was
seated, I replied as calmly as I could, "You seem, sir, well inclined
to do me justice, and I must consequently leave my fate in your hands;
but before you commit me to a prison, which is in itself a punishment,
and consequently an act of injustice to an innocent man, permit me to
make one or two observations in my own defence."

"Certainly," replied the corregidor. "I hold myself bound to attend to
every reasonable argument you can adduce, although I am afraid my duty
will not permit me to interpose between an accused person and the
regular course of investigation. But proceed!"

"In the first place, then," I replied, "I have to protest my innocence
of the blood which is laid to my charge, in the most solemn manner--on
my honour as a gentleman, on my faith as a Christian. In the next
place, I have to ask whether there exists the least probability that I
should murder in cold blood a stranger, with whom I had no
acquaintance; for I defy any one to show that I knew one single priest
in this city, or was ever seen to speak to one. In addition to this,
which makes my guilt highly improbable, let me beg you to examine my
preceptor, my valet, and the proprietors of the house in which I
lodge."

"I am afraid that will be impossible in this stage of the business,"
replied the magistrate, "without some glaring discrepancy appears in
the accuser's testimony; but let him be called in."

Hitherto the audience-chamber had been occupied alone by the
corregidor, his secretary, two alguacils, and myself, but the moment
afterwards the doors were opened, and a rush of people took place from
without, filling up the space behind me. The presence of the multitude
made my heart beat, I confess, and turning my head, I beheld amongst
other faces those of Father Francis, of Houssaye, of the landlady of
our dwelling, and, lastly, of the Chevalier de Montenero. The last was
a countenance I wished not to behold, and the one glance of his eye
pained me more than all the busy whispering and observations of the
mob. The officer of the _real hacienda_ was now called forward, and
immediately swore positively to my person, as well as to having
tracked me through various turnings and windings to the end of the
street wherein I lodged, from whence he saw me enter the house in
which I was taken. He then clearly described the manner in which I had
cast the body over into the water, and its state and situation when he
found it, after having called the city guard to his assistance.

At this moment the Chevalier advanced through the crowd, and passing
round the table, took a seat beside the corregidor, who seemed to know
him well. "Will you permit me," said he, addressing the magistrate,
"to ask this man a few questions? I am deeply interested in the young
gentleman whom he accuses, and who, I feel sure, is incapable of
committing an action like that attributed to him. Do you permit me?"

The corregidor signified his assent; and the Chevalier, without a word
or a look towards me, proceeded to question my accuser with the keen
and rapid acumen of one long accustomed to hunt out truth through all
the intricacies in which human cunning can involve her. He did not,
indeed, attempt to puzzle or to frighten him, but by what he wrung
from him he gave a very different colouring to his evidence against
me. He made him own that he had but seen me in the shadow; that I had
never for a moment emerged into even the moonlight; and that when he
arrived at the end of the street where I lodged, he was so far behind
that he but caught a glimpse of my figure entering the house. The
Chevalier did more; he drew from him an acknowledgment that he had
entertained some doubts as to which house it was; and then he argued
how liable one might be to mistake the person of another under such
circumstances. "Even I myself," said the Chevalier, in a tone full of
meaning to my ears--"even I myself have been sometimes greatly
deceived in thinking I recognised those even I know best, when
circumstances have afterwards proved that it could not have been
them"--and he glanced his eye to my face with a look that I could not
misunderstand.

The man, however, still swore decidedly to my person; and my good
friend the pompous alguacil, probably to repay me for the disrespect
with which I had treated him in the morning, now advanced, and pointed
out to the corregidor that my pourpoint had been washed in more than
one place.

This was quite sufficient. A loud murmur ran through the crowd; the
Chevalier clenched his teeth and was silent, and the corregidor's brow
gathered into a heavy frown:--but as he was in the very act of
ordering me to be conveyed to the town prison, one of the doors behind
him opened, and a servant entering, whispered something in his ear.

"I cannot come now!" cried the corregidor, hastily; "I am
busy--engaged in the duties of my office--and I will not be
disturbed."

"Then I am to give you this, sir," replied the servant, and, placing
in his hand a small note, he bowed and retired.

The corregidor opened the paper, and glanced his eye over its
contents. As he did so, his cheek became deadly pale, and the ball of
his eye seemed straining from its socket. "Wait, wait!" cried he at
length to the alguacils; "wait till I come back!" and, starting from
his seat, he retired by the same door which had admitted the servant.

As soon as he was gone, the restraint which respect for his person and
office had before imposed upon the people, seemed at once thrown off,
the murmur of voices canvassing the whole affair became loud and
general, and many persons advanced to look at me, though the officers
would not allow any one to speak to me. The Chevalier turned away, and
walking to one of the windows, folded his arms upon his breast, and
continued to look into the street, without offering me even a look of
consolation. I understood all the doubts that now tenanted his bosom,
and yet, though I knew their cause, I felt hurt and offended that he
should entertain them. In the meanwhile, I heard the tongue of our
good landlady, whose favour I had won by joking with her whenever I
met her on the stairs, now loud in my defence; and however weak an
organ may seem the tongue of an old woman, it in this instance, by
continual reiteration and replication, completely effected a
revolution in the popular feeling towards me; so much so, indeed, that
two monks, who had before been whispering that I ought to be given up
to the holy Inquisition, now took a different view of the case, and
declared they believed me innocent.

Half an hour--an hour elapsed, and yet the corregidor did not return,
during which time the feelings of my heart may easily be conceived. At
length, however, he came, but never, before or since, have I beheld
such a change take place in any man so rapidly. I have seen age come
on by slow degrees, one year after another, stealing still some
faculty or some power, till all was nothing--I have seen rapid disease
wear quickly away each grace of youth, and each energy of manhood; but
never but that once have I seen the pangs of the mind, in one single
hour, change health, and vigour, and noble bearing to age, infirmity,
and almost decrepitude.

A murmur of astonishment and grief ran through the people, by whom he
was much beloved. Casting himself recklessly in the chair, he turned
to his secretary. "Call the witnesses," said he, "that the accused
proposed to adduce.--This case is an obscure one.--Take their
evidence--I am not capable."

The clerk immediately desired me, in the name of the corregidor, to
bring forward any persons who were likely to disprove the testimony
against me.

Father Francis was of course the first I called. He swore that I had
left him, and entered my own chamber for the purpose of going to bed,
at ten o'clock on the night of the murder. He farther said, that he
had remained reading till one in the morning, and must have heard me
if I had gone down the stairs--which, indeed, would have been the case
if my step had been as heavy as it usually was.

As to Houssaye, he swore through thick and thin, and, could he have
known my wishes, would have witnessed anything I liked to dictate. In
the first place, he declared he had undressed me, and seen me in bed.
In the next, he vowed he had washed out several oil spots upon my
doublet the day before: and in the third, that he lay with his door,
at the top of the stairs, open all night; that he had never closed an
eye till daybreak, and, finally, that I had certainly never passed
that way. "I might have got out at the window, it was true," he
observed; "but that, my window being forty feet from the street, it
was not very probable I should have chosen such a means of descent."

I need scarcely say, that though his deposition was assuredly a very
splendid effort of genius, yet there was, nevertheless, not a word of
truth in it.

The next person I called was the landlady, who gave evidence that she
found the door (which she had fastened the night before with various
bolts, bars, and locks, which she described,) exactly in the same
state as that in which she left it; and, in the end, availing herself
of her privilege, she turned round, and abused my accuser with great
volubility and effect.

The uncertain wind of popular opinion had now completely veered about;
and many of those who were behind me scrupled not to proclaim aloud
that I had established my innocence, the news of which, spreading to a
multitude of persons collected without, produced a shout amongst them,
which seemed painfully to affect the corregidor. "Hush!" cried he,
raising his hand,--"Hush! I entreat--I command! This young gentleman
is evidently innocent; but do not insult my sorrow. My good friends
and fellow-citizens," he proceeded, making a great effort to speak
calmly, "I have always tried to act towards you all as a common
father, and I am sure that you love me sufficiently to leave me, and
retire quietly and in silence, when I tell you, that I have now no
other children but yourselves. My daughter--is dead!" and covering his
eyes with his hands, he gave way to a passionate burst of tears.

A deep silence reigned for a moment or two amongst the people, as if
they could scarcely believe what they had heard: then one whispered to
another, and dropping gradually away, they left the audience chamber.
A momentary murmur was heard without, as the sad news was told and
commented in the crowd: it also died away, and all was silence.

But what were my own sensations? I can hardly tell. At first I stood
as one thunder-struck, with power to feel much, but not to reason on
it. It seemed as if I had killed her; and for long I could not
persuade myself that I was in no way accessory to her death. After a
moment or two, however, my thoughts were interrupted by the
corregidor, who recovered himself, and, wiping the tears from his
eyes, rose and turned towards Father Francis.

"Your pupil, sir," said he, in a calm, firm tone, "is free; but yet,
notwithstanding the melancholy event which has occurred in my family,
I will ask a few minutes' private conversation with him, as I wish to
give him some advice, which he may find of service. He shall return
home in half an hour. Signor Conde de Montenero," he proceeded,
speaking to the Chevalier, "I know you will pardon me in leaving you.
Young gentleman, will you accompany me?"

The Chevalier bowed, and retired with Father Francis and Houssaye, and
the corregidor led me into a long gallery, and thence into private
room beyond.

On the table lay my sword, which I had left behind the night before,
forgetting it in the agitation of the moment. The corregidor shut the
door, and pointed to the weapon with a look of that unutterable,
heart-broken despair, which was agonising even to behold. The thoughts
of all that had passed--the lovely enchanting girl that he had
lost--his passionate affection towards her--the knowledge he must now
have of her crime--the desolation of his age--the void that must be in
his heart--the horrid absence of love and of hope--the agony of
memory--I saw them all in that look, and they found their way to every
sympathy of my nature.

I must have been marble, or have wept--I could not help it; and the
old man cast himself upon my neck, and mingled his tears with mine.

"Count Louis," said the corregidor, after we had somewhat mastered our
first agitation, "I know all. My unfortunate child, before the poison
she had taken had completed her fatal intention, told me everything.
Her love for you--your generous self-sacrifice to her--all is
known to me. You pity me--I see you pity me. If you do, grant me
the only solace that my misery can have--respect my poor child's
memory!--Promise me--and I know your promise is inviolable--never
while you are in Spain, or to a Spaniard, on any account, or for any
reason, to divulge the fatal history, of which you are the only
depository; and even if you tell her story in other countries, oh! add
that her crimes were greatly her weak father's fault, who, with a
foolish fondness, gave way to all her inclinations, and thus pampered
the passions that proved her ruin and her death."

I could not refuse him; I promised--and was glad, at least, to see
that the assurance of my secrecy took some part, even though a small
one, from the load of misery that had fallen upon him. He spoke to me
long and tenderly, advising me to quit Spain as soon as possible, lest
the Inquisition should regard the matter as within their cognisance,
from the murdered man having been a priest. At length I took leave of
him, renewing my promise, and returned home, with a heart saddened and
rebuked, but I hope amended and improved.



CHAPTER XI.


With a slow and thoughtful step I mounted the staircase, glad to
escape, by the quiet tardiness of my return, the importunate
congratulations which my landlady, attributing my delivery entirely to
her own eloquence, was prepared to shower upon me as soon as I came
back.

Cutting her off then from this very laudable exercise of her tongue
and gratification of her vanity, I ascended the stairs, as I have
said, in silence, and was first met by Father Francis, who, after
embracing me, drew me into his own apartment, and informed me that a
letter had arrived from my father, requiring my immediate return to
France; "and, God be praised! my dear son," said the old man, "that
you are at liberty to quit this dark and fearful country, and return
to your parents and happy native land. But go," continued he, "into
your own apartment, where your good friend the Chevalier waits you. I
know not why, but he seems in a strange agitation, speaks abruptly,
and appears to me displeased, though with what I know not, without it
be your sudden recall to your own home. In truth, I never saw him so
affected."

I well understood the meaning of the Chevalier's agitation; I myself
was agitated, and embarrassed how to act, and consequently I acted
ill.

When I entered, my friend was walking up and down the room, with his
eyes fixed upon the ground; but, on hearing my step, he raised them,
and fixed them sternly on my face. The fear of appearing guilty, and
the impossibility of clearly exculpating myself, had a greater effect
upon my countenance than perhaps real guilt would have had, and the
rebellious blood flew up with provoking hurry to my cheek. Angry at my
own embarrassment, I resolved to master it; but the effort
communicated something of bitterness to my manner towards the
Chevalier, who had hitherto said nothing to call it forth. He remarked
it, and striding towards the door, which I had left open, he shut it
impatiently; then turned towards me, and with a straining eye,
demanded--"Tell me, Count Louis de Bigorre, after all the evidence
brought forward to prove that you passed last night in this
house--tell me, was it, or was it not you, that I saw enter this door
at two o'clock this morning?"

"I should think," replied I, coldly, "that what satisfied the judge
before whom I was accused, would be enough to satisfy any one really
my friend."

"Not when their own eyes were evidence against you," answered the
Chevalier, indignantly. "I thought you incapable of a subterfuge. Once
more, was it you, or was it not?"

"Though I deny your right to question me," I replied, growing heated
at the authority he assumed, "yet to show that I seek no subterfuge,
I answer it was; but, at the same time, I repeat, that I am
innocent--perfectly innocent of the crime with which I was charged."

"Pshaw!" cried the Chevalier, with an air of scorn that almost
mastered my patience--"Pshaw!" and turning on his heel, he quitted the
room and the house. When what we have done produces a disagreeable
consequence, whether we have really acted right or not, we are apt to
call to mind every line of conduct which we might have pursued, and
fix upon any other as preferable to that which we have adopted. Thus,
no sooner had the Chevalier left me, than I thought of a thousand
means whereby I might have persuaded him of my innocence, without
breaking my promise to the corregidor; and I resolved to seek him, as
soon as the preparations for my return to France were completed, and
explain myself, as far as I could, without violating the confidence
reposed in me.

My resolution, however, came too late. About an hour after his
departure, one of the servants of the house where he lodged, brought
me a letter from him, of the following tenure:--

"I leave you, and for ever. You have done me the greatest injury that
one man can inflict upon another. You have shown me what human nature
really is, and you have made me a misanthrope. I had watched you from
your infancy, and I had fancied that amongst the many faults and
errors, from which youth is never exempt, I perceived the germ of
great and shining qualities of heart and mind. I devoted myself to
cultivate them to maturity, and to train them aright. Perhaps I was
selfish in doing so; for what man is not selfish? but bitter is the
atonement which you have forced me to make. Adieu! seek me not
henceforth--know me not if we meet--be to me as a stranger. Though,
for the sake of your unhappy father, I rejoice in your escape from the
punishment your crime deserves, my interest in yourself is over; and I
would fain rase out from the tablets of memory all that concerns one
so unworthy of the esteem I once entertained for him."

This was hard to endure, especially from one that I both respected and
loved. My heart swelled with a mixture of indignation and sorrow, both
at the loss of a friend, and at his unjust suspicions; and though my
consciousness of innocence guarded me from bitterer regrets, yet it
increased my painful irritation at the wrong I suffered, and at my
disappointment in not being able to exculpate myself. Occupation,
however--in every situation of life the greatest blessing and
relief--now came to my aid, and called my attention for a time from
the dark and gloomy views that the circumstances of my fate presented
at the moment. Our departure was fixed for the next morning, and all
the thousand petty accumulations of business, which always hang about
the last day of one's sojourn in any place, now came upon me at once.

The weather had much altered since our arrival at Saragossa; for three
months had tamed the lion of the summer, and it was not, at all
events, heat that we had to fear on our journey. Cold autumn winds
were now blowing, and saluted us rudely the moment we got beyond the
sheltering walls of the city, piercing to our very bones. I would have
given a pistole for half an hour of the hot-breathed _siroc_ to warm
the air till we could heat ourselves by exercise.

As we approached the mountains, however, it became colder and more
cold, and the prospect of their snowy passes fell chill and cheerless
upon our anticipations. Yet there was something vast and majestic in
their aspect, which raised and elevated the mind above the petty cares
and sorrows of existence. I had been grave, I had been gloomy--I had
been perhaps peevish--but the contrast between the transitory
littleness of all human things, and the eternal grandeur of such
objects, reproved the impatient repinings of my heart. I felt a
consolation in looking upon them as they stretched along before me, in
the same bold towering forms that they had presented unmemoried
centuries ago. It seemed as if they said, "Ages and generations,
nations and languages, have passed away and been forgotten, with all
their idle hopes and vain solicitudes, while we have stood unmoved,
unaged, unaltered. Even Time, the inexorable enemy of all man's works,
lays not upon us his profaning finger; and while he overthrows the
arch that records man's glory, and hurls down the column that
monuments his grave, he dares not spoil the fabrics of that great God
who created him and us."

Under the influence of such thoughts, the recollections of the last
two days gradually lost themselves; and though I rode along, grave and
perhaps melancholy, my melancholy was not of that bitter and gloomy
nature produced by worldly cares and griefs. Father Francis was well
acquainted with the many changes of my mood, and, consequently, found
it not at all extraordinary that I was silent and thoughtful; but,
attributing my seriousness to the events which had happened at
Saragossa, he wisely let them sleep, hoping that they would soon pass
from my memory.

Towards the evening, on the second day of our journey, we arrived at a
little village consisting of about half a dozen shepherds' huts,
situated at the very foot of the mountains; and here we learned that
the _Port de Gavarnie_, by which we intended to have entered France,
was completely blocked up with snow; but that less had fallen near
Gabas, and that, consequently, the passes in that direction were
practicable. Thither, then, we directed our steps the next morning,
having procured a guide amongst the shepherds, who agreed to conduct
us as far as Laruns, though he often looked at the sky, which had by
this time become covered with heavy leaden-looking clouds, and shook
his head, saying, that we must make all speed. There was but little
good augury in his looks, and less in the prospect around us; for, as
we began to ascend, the whole scene appeared covered with the cold
robe of winter. All the higher parts of the mountains showed but one
mass of snow; and every precipice under which we passed seemed crowned
with an impending avalanche, which nothing but the black limbs of the
gigantic pines, in which that region abounds, held from an
instantaneous descent upon our heads.

No frost, however, had yet reached the bottom of the ravines through
which we travelled. The path was rather damp and slippy, and the
stream rushed on over the rocks without showing one icicle to mark the
reign of winter. Father Francis's mule, which had delayed us on our
former journey, now proved more sure-footed, at least, than either of
the horses; and the good priest, finding himself quite secure and at
his ease, dilated on the grandeur of the scenery and the magnificence
of nature, even in her rudest forms.

"I am nothing of a misanthrope," said he, "and yet I find in the
contemplation of the works of God a charm that man and all his
arts can never communicate. When I look upon the mighty efforts
of creation, I feel them to be all true and genuine--all
unchangeable--the effect of universal Beneficence acting with Almighty
power: but when I consider even the greatest and most splendid deeds
of man, I am never certain in what base motives they originated, or
for what bad ends they were designed; how much pain and injustice
their execution may have cost, or how much misery and vice may attend
upon their consequences. In all man does there is that germ from which
evil may ever spring, while the works of God are always beautiful in
themselves, and excellent in their purpose."

"And yet, my good father," said I, willing enough to shorten the
tedious way with conversation, "though you pronounce the flash of
glory to be but a misleading meteor, and power a dangerous precipice,
and love a volcano as full of earthquakes as fertility, yet still
there are some things amongst men's deeds which even you can
contemplate with delight and admiration,--the protecting the weak, the
assuaging grief, the dispensing joy, the leading unto virtue and
right."

"True, Louis! true!" answered he; "and yet I know not whether my mind
is saddened to-day; but though all these actions are admirable, how
rare it is we can be certain that the motives which prompted them were
good! Only, I believe, when we look into our own breast; and then--if
we examine steadfastly, clearly, accurately, how many faults, how many
weaknesses, how many follies, how many crimes, do we not find to make
us turn away our eyes from the sad prospect of the human heart! Here I
can look around me, and see beauty springing from Beneficence, and
everything that is magnificent proceeding from everything that is
wise. And oh! how happy, how full of joy and tranquillity is the
conviction, that death itself, the worst evil which can happen to this
frail body, is the work of that great Creator who made both the body
and the soul, and certainly made them not in vain."

A moment or two after, indeed, but so close upon what he said that no
other observation had been made, I heard a kind of rushing noise; and,
looking up towards the cloud above us, which hid with a thick veil the
whole tops of the mountains, I saw it agitated as if by a strong wind,
while a roar, more awful than that of thunder, made itself heard
above. I knew the voice of the _lavange_, and with an instant
perception, I know not how nor why, that it was rather behind than
before us, I laid my hand upon Father Francis's bridle, and spurred
forward like lightning. To my surprise, the obstinate mule on which he
was mounted, instead of resisting my effort to make it go on, put
itself at once into a gallop, as if it were instinctively aware of the
approaching danger. Houssaye and the guide followed with all speed;
and, in a moment after, we reached a spot where the valley, turning
abruptly to the left, afforded a certain shelter.

Here I turned to look, and never shall I forget the scene that I
witnessed. Thundering down the side of the hill, rushing, and roaring,
and devastating in its course, came an immense shapeless mass of a dim
hue, raising a sort of misty atmosphere round itself as it fell. The
mountain, even to where we stood, shook under its descent; the
valleys, and the precipices, and the caverns, echoed back the
tremendous roar of its fall. Immense masses of rock rolled down before
it, impelled by the violent pressure of the air which it occasioned;
and long ere it reached them, the tall pines tottered and swayed as if
writhing under the consciousness of approaching destruction, till at
length it touched them, when one after another fell crashing and
uprooted into its tremendous mass, and were hurled along with it down
the side of the steep.

Down, down it rushed, dazzling the eye and deafening the ear, and
sweeping all before it, till, striking the bottom of the valley with a
sound as if a thousand cannon had been discharged at once, it blocked
up the whole pass, dispersing the stream in a cloud of mist, and
shaking by the mere concussion a multitude of crags and rocks down
from the summit of the mountain. Long after it fell, the hollow
windings of the ravines prolonged its roar with many an echoing sound,
dying slowly away till all again was silence, and the mist dispersing
left the frowning destruction that the _lavange_ had caused exposed to
the sight in all its full horrors.

Father Francis raised his hands to heaven; and though I am sure that
few men were better prepared to leave this earth, and had less of
man's lingering desire still to remain upon it, yet with that
instinctive love of life, which neither religion nor philosophy can
wholly banish, he thanked God most fervently for our preservation from
the fate which had just passed us by. We had, indeed, many reasons to
be thankful, not only for our escape from the immediate danger of the
_lavange_, but also for having been enabled to accomplish our passage
before its fall had blocked up the path along which we were
proceeding. The guide, indeed, seemed little disposed to prophesy
good, even from what we had escaped. The avalanches, he said, were
very uncommon at that season of the year, and when they did happen,
they were always indicative of some great commotion likely to take
place in the atmosphere. Neither did he love, he proceeded to say,
those heavy clouds that rested halfway down the sides of the
mountains, nor the dead stillness of the air; both of which seemed to
him to forbode a snow-storm, the most certain agent of the traveller's
destruction in the winter.

Nothing remained, however, but to urge our course forward as fast as
possible; but the mule of the good priest had now resumed her
hereditary obstinacy, and neither blows nor fair words would induce
her to move one step faster than suited her immediate convenience; so
that it bade fair to be near midnight before we could reach the first
town in the valley _D'Ossau_.

After many a vain attempt upon the impassible animal, we were obliged
to yield, and proceed onward as slowly as she chose, while
occasionally a sort of low howling noise in the gorges of the mountain
gave notice that the apprehensions of the guide were likely to be
verified. A large eagle, too, kept sailing slowly before us, breaking
with its ill-omened voice, as it flitted down the ravine, the profound
death-like silence of the air. Over the whole of the scene there was a
dark, inexpressible gloom, which found its way heavily to our own
hearts. All was still, too, and noiseless, except the dull melancholy
sounds I have mentioned: it seemed as if nature had become dumb with
awe at the approaching tempest. No bird enlivened the air with its
song, no insect interrupted the stillness with the hum, no object of
life presented itself, except a hawk or a raven, shooting quickly
across, evidently not in pursuit of prey, but in search of shelter.
The hills and rocks were all cold and grey, except where the snow had
lodged in large white masses, which rendered their aspect still more
cheerless and desolate. The sky was dark, heavy, and frowning, and
every object seemed benumbed by the hand of death; so that it was
impossible, on looking around upon that sad, chill, powerless scene,
to fancy it could ever re-awaken into life, and sunshine, and summer.

Gradually the howling of the mountains increased, and the wind began
to break upon us with quick sharp gusts, that almost threw us from our
horses, while a shower of small, fine sleet drove in our faces,
fatiguing and teasing us, as well as impeding our progress. The guide
began now to grumble loudly at the slowness of Father Francis's mule,
and to declare that he would not stay and risk his life for any mule
in France or Arragon.

We were now upon the French side of the mountains, and, as the road
was sufficiently defined, I doubted not that we should be able to find
our way without his assistance. As his insolence became louder,
therefore, I told him, if he were a coward, and afraid to stay by
those persons he had undertaken to guide, to spur on his horse, and
deliver us from his tongue as speedily as possible. He took me at my
word, replying that he was no coward, but that having his wife and
children to provide for, his life was of value; that if we would go
faster, he would stay with us and guide us on; but that if we would
not, the path was straight before us, and that we had nothing to do
but follow it by the side of the stream till it led us to a town.
Seeing him thus determined, I thought it better to send forward
Houssaye along with him, giving him directions to return with some
people of the country to lead us right if we should have missed our
way, and to relieve us in case we should be overwhelmed by the snow.
Houssaye still smacked too much of the old soldier to say a word in
opposition to a received order, and though he looked very much as if
he would have willingly stayed with Father Francis and myself, yet he
instantly obeyed, and putting spurs to his horse, followed the guide
on towards Laruns.

The storm every moment began to increase, and so sharp was the wind in
our faces, that we could hardly distinguish our way, being nearly
blinded with snow, mingled with a sort of extremely fine hail. The
atmosphere, also, loaded with thin particles, was now so dim and
obscure, that it was not possible to see more than fifty yards before
us, and, while wandering on through the semi-opaque air, the objects
around appeared to assume a thousand strange and fantastic shapes, of
giants, and towers, and castles, as their indistinct forms were
changed by the hand of fancy. Even to the animals that bore us, these
transformations seemed to be visible, for more than once my horse
started from a rock which had taken the shape of some beast; and once
we were nearly half-an-hour in getting the mule past an old pine,
which the tempest had hurled down the mountain, and which, leaning
over a mass of stone, looked like an immense serpent, stretching out
its neck to devour whatever living thing should pass before it.

In the meanwhile, the ground gradually became thickly covered with
snow, and every footfall of the horse left a deep mark, telling
plainly how rapidly the accumulation was going on. Still we made but
little progress, and, what between slipping and climbing, both the
mule and the horse soon lost their vigour with fatigue, and we had now
much difficulty in making them proceed.

Not long after the guide left us, it evidently began to grow dark, and
it was with feelings I have seldom felt that I observed the gathering
gloom which grew around. The white glare of the snow did, indeed,
afford some light, but so confused and indistinct, that it served to
dazzle, but not to guide.

All vestige of a path was soon effaced, and the only means of
ascertaining in which way our road lay, was by the murmuring of the
stream that still continued to rush on at the bottom of the precipice
over which we passed. Even the black patches which had been left,
where some large stone or salient crag had sheltered any spot from the
drift, were soon lost, and it became evident that much more snow had
fallen on the French side of the mountains, even before that day, than
we had been led to expect.

Our farther progress became at every step more and more perilous, for
none of the crevices and gaps in the path were now visible, and the
tormenting dashing of the snow in our eyes, and in those of our
beasts, prevented us or them from choosing even those parts which
appeared most solid and secure. I had hitherto led the way, but Father
Francis now insisted upon going first, on account of the sure-footed
nature of the mule, whose instinctive perception of every dangerous
step was certain to secure him, he observed, from perils of the nature
we were most likely to encounter. The mule might also, he continued,
in some degree serve to guide my horse, who had more than once
stumbled upon the slippery and uneven rocks, concealed as they were by
the snow.

After some opposition, I consented to his doing so, feeling a sort of
depression of mind which I can only attribute to fatigue. It was not
fear: but there was a sort of deep despondency grew upon me, which
made me give up all hope of ever disentangling ourselves from the
dangerous situation in which we were placed. The cold, the darkness,
the chilly, piercing wind, the void, yawning expanse of the dim hollow
before me, the melancholy howling of the mountains, the rush and the
tumult of the swelling stream below, the whispering murmur of the
pine-woods above, beginning with a gentle sigh, and growing hoarser
and hoarser, till it ended in a roar like the angry billows of the
ocean--all affected my mind with dark and gloomy presentiments;--I
never hoped to save my life from the rude hand of the tempest--I
hardly know whether I wished it; despair had obtained so firm a hold
of my mind, that it had scarcely power even to conceive a desire.

After we had changed the order of our progression, however, we went on
for some time much more securely, the mule stepping on with a quiet
caution and certainty peculiar to those animals, and my horse
following it step by step, as if perfectly well understanding her
superiority in such circumstances, and allowing her to lead without
one feeling of jealousy.

Still the snow fell, and the wind blew, and the irritating howling and
roaring of the mountains continued with increasing violence, while the
blank darkness of the night surrounded us on all sides; when suddenly
the mule stopped, and showed an evident determination of proceeding no
farther. Fearful lest there should be any hidden danger which she did
not choose to pass, I dismounted as carefully from my horse as I
could, and proceeding round the spot where she stood, I went on a few
paces, trying the ground at each step I took; but all was firm and
even--indeed, much more smooth than any we had hitherto passed. The
path, it is true, ran along on the verge of the precipice, but there
wanted no room for two or three horses to have advanced abreast, and,
consequently, seeing that the beast was actuated by a fit of
obstinacy, I mounted again, and proceeded to ride round for the
purpose of leading the way, to try whether she would not then follow.
Accordingly, I spurred on my horse to pass her, but he had scarcely
taken two steps forward, when the vicious mule struck out with her
hind feet full in his chest. He reared--plunged--reared again, and in
a moment I found his haunches slipping over the precipice behind. It
was the work of a moment; but, with the overpowering instinct of
self-preservation, I let go the bridle, sprang forward from his back,
and catching hold of the rhododendrons and other tough shrubs on the
brink, found myself hanging in the air with my feet just beating
against the face of the rock. My brain turned giddy, and an agonising
cry, something between a neigh and a scream, from the depth below,
told me dreadfully the fate which I had just escaped.

Slowly, and cautiously, fearing every moment that the slender twigs by
which I held would give way, and precipitate me down into the horrid
abyss that had received my poor horse, I contrived to raise myself
till I stood once more upon firm ground; and then replied to the
anxious calls of Father Francis, who had dimly seen the horse plunge
over, and had heard his cry from below, but knew not whether I had
fallen with him or not.

My heart still beat too fast, and my brain turned round too much to
permit of our proceeding for some minutes; the loss of my horse, also,
was likely to prove a serious addition, if not to our danger, at least
to my fatigues. Nothing, however, could be done to remedy the
misfortune; and, after pausing for a while, in order to gain breath,
we attempted to recommence our journey. For the purpose of leading her
on, I laid my hand upon the mule's bridle, but nothing would make her
move; and the moment I tried to pull her forward, or Father Francis
touched her with the whip, she ran back towards the edge of the
precipice, till another step would have plunged her over. Nothing now
remained but for the good priest to descend and take his journey
forward also on foot. As soon as he was safely off the back of the
vicious beast which had caused us so much uncomfort and danger, I
again attempted to make her proceed; resolving, in the height of my
anger, if she again approached the side, rather to push her over than
save her: but with cunning equal to her obstinacy, she perceived that
we should not entertain the same fear as when her rider was upon her
back, and instead of pulling backwards as before, she calmly laid
herself down on her side, leaving us no resource but to go forward
without her.

The most painful part of our journey now began. Every step was
dangerous--every step was difficult; nothing but horror and gloom
surrounded us on all sides, and death lay around us in a thousand
unknown shapes. Wherever we ascended, we had to struggle with the full
force of the overpowering blast, and wherever the path verged into a
descent, there we had slowly to choose our way with redoubled caution,
with a road so slippery, that it was hardly possible to keep one's
feet, and a profound precipice below; while the wind tore us in its
fury, and the snow and sleet beat upon us without ceasing. For nearly
an hour we continued to bear up against it, struggling onward with
increasing difficulties, sometimes falling, sometimes dashed back by
the wind, with our clothes drenched in consequence of the snow melting
upon us, and the cold of the atmosphere growing more intense as every
minute of the night advanced. At length hope itself was wearied out;
and at a spot where the ravine opened out into a valley to the right
and left, while our path continued over a sort of causeway, with the
river on one hand, and a deep dell filled up with snow on the other,
Father Francis, who had hitherto struggled on with more vigour than
might have been expected from his age, suddenly stopped, and resting
on a rock, declared his incapacity to go any farther. "My days are
over, Louis," said he: "leave me, and go forward as fast as you can.
If I mistake not, that is the pass just above Laruns. Speed on, speed
on, my dear boy; a quarter of an hour, I know, would put us in safety,
but I have not strength to sustain myself any longer: I have done my
utmost, and I must stop."

He spoke so feebly, that the very tone of his voice left me no hope
that he would be able to proceed, especially across that open part of
the valley, where we were exposed to the full force of the wind. It
already dashed against us with more tremendous gusts than we had yet
felt, whirling up the snow into thick columns that threatened every
moment to overwhelm us, and I doubted not that the path beyond lay
still more open to its fury. To leave the good old man in that
situation was of course what I never dreamed of; and, consequently, I
expressed my own determination to wait there also for the return of
Houssaye, who, I deemed, could not be long in coming to search for us.

"No, Louis, no!" cried Father Francis; "the wind, the snow, the cold,
are all increasing. You must attempt to go on, for, if you do not, you
will perish also. But first listen to an important piece of
information which has been confided to me. As I cannot bear the
message myself, you must deliver it to your mother.--Tell her----"

I could hardly hear what he said, his voice was so faint, and the
howling of the storm so dreadful: a few more broken words were added;
but before he had concluded, a gust of wind more violent than any we
had hitherto encountered whirled round us both with irresistible
power. I strove to hold by the rock with all my force, but in vain. I
was torn from it as if I had been a straw, and the next moment was
dashed with the good priest into the midst of the snow that had
collected in the dell below. We sunk deep down into the yielding
drift, which, rising high above our heads, for a moment nearly
suffocated me. Soon, however, I found that I could breathe, and though
all hope was now over, I contrived to remove the snow that lay between
myself and Father Francis, of whose gown I had still retained a hold.
I told him I was safe, and called to him to answer me. He made no
reply--I raised his head--he moved not--I put my hand upon his
heart--it had ceased to beat!



CHAPTER XII.


I have told all that I remember of that night,--a night whose horrible
events still haunt my memory like the ghosts of the unburied on the
banks of Styx, often flitting across my mind's eye, when it would fain
turn to scenes of happiness and joy. If ever a horrible dream disturbs
my slumber, it is also sure to refer to that night, and I find myself
labouring on in the midst of wilds and darkness, rocks and precipices,
the tempest dashing in my face, and the wind hurling me into the midst
of the suffocating snow.

My recovery from the sort of stupor into which I had fallen after I
had discovered the death of poor Father Francis was very different in
all its sensations from my resuscitation after drowning. I remember
nothing of the actual return to life, and it must, indeed, have been
some weeks before I regained my powers of reason and perception in
their full force, passing the interval in a state of delirium, brought
on by the cold, and also, perhaps, by the excessive excitement in
which I had been for some hours previous to my losing my recollection.

When I first woke, as it were, from this state of mental alienation, I
found myself lying on a bed, stretched in my mother's toilet chamber.
I believe I had been asleep, and felt excessively enfeebled--so much
so, indeed, that, though I plainly saw my mother just rising from
beside me, I could not summon sufficient energy to speak to her, and I
reclosed my eyes. I heard her say, however, "He wakes! try, dear
Helen, to soothe him to sleep again, while I go and endeavour to rest
myself, for I am very much worn with watching last night." Her steps
retreated, for she fancied me still delirious; and I could hear some
one else glide forward--though the footfall was, perhaps, the lightest
that ever touched the earth--and take the seat my mother had left. So
acute had become my sense of hearing, that the least sound was
perceptible to my ears, even for many weeks afterwards, to such a
degree as to be positively painful to me.

I was well aware that it was Helen Arnault--my beloved Helen--that sat
beside me; and yet, though I can scarcely say my senses were
sufficiently restored for me positively to exercise that faculty which
is called _thinking_, there was upon my mind a vague dreamy
remembrance that I had acted wrong in her regard, which made me still
keep my eyes closed, trying to call up more clearly the images of all
my adventures at Saragossa. As I lay thus, I felt a soft sweet breath
fan my cheek, like the air of spring, and then a warm drop or two fall
upon it, like a spring shower. I opened my eyes, and saw Helen gazing
upon me and weeping. She raised her head slightly, for her lips had
been close to my cheek; but thinking that my mind was still in the
same wandering state, she continued to gaze upon my face, and I could
see in her eyes the look of that deep, devoted, resolute affection,
with which woman is pre-eminently endowed--her blessing or her curse!
I laid my hand gently upon one of hers which rested on the side of my
bed, and drawing it towards me, I pressed it to my lips. She instantly
started up, and looked at me with a glance of surprise and joy that I
can see even now.

"Oh, is it possible!" cried she: "are you better really?" and she
seemed as if to start away to convey the tidings to my mother; but I
beckoned her to bend her head down towards me, and when she had done
so, I thanked her, in a low voice, but with energetic words, for her
care, her kindness, and for her love. Her blushing cheek was close to
my lips, but sickness, which had rendered all my sensations morbidly
acute, had also made my feelings of delicacy much more refined, and
had given a degree of timidity I did not often otherwise feel. I would
not for the world have taken advantage of the opportunity which her
kindness and confidence afforded; and though, as I have said, her
cheek, looking like the summer side of a blooming peach, was within
the reach of my lips, I let her raise it without a touch, when I had
poured forth my thanks into her ear; and I then suffered her to do her
joyful errand to my mother, only venturing to tell her, ere she went,
how much I loved, and how much I would love her to the end of my
existence.

A moment after, my mother returned herself, her eyes streaming with
tears of joy; and, kneeling by my bedside, she covered my cheek with
those fond maternal kisses, whose unmixed purity gives them a sweet
and holy balm, which love with all its fire and brightness can seldom,
seldom attain.

My convalescence was tedious, and months elapsed before I regained
anything like the robust health which I had formerly enjoyed. Months
of sickness are very apt to make a spoilt child; and had I not lately
received some lessons hard to be forgot, such might have been the case
with me, when I saw the whole happiness of the three persons I myself
loved best depending upon my slightest change of looks. My father's
delight at my recovery was not less than my mother's; and every day
that I met Helen, I could see her eye rest for an instant upon my
face, as if to watch what progress returning health had made since the
day before; and when, by chance it gained a deeper touch of red, or my
eyes had acquired a ray of renewed fire, the happiness of her heart
raised the blood into her cheek, and made her look a thousand times
lovelier than ever.

We now also met oftener than formerly. The ties which she had entwined
round my mother's heart had been, during my illness, drawn more
tightly than ever. That restraint no longer existed which had formerly
proved so irksome to me; Helen was in every way treated as a child of
the family; and, had she chosen it, might have yielded me many an hour
of that private conversation which I was not remiss in seeking. But
far from it; with an ingenuity, which mingled gentleness, perhaps even
affection, with reserve, she avoided all opportunity of hearing what
her heart forbade her to reprove, and to which she yet felt it wrong
to listen.

When before my father or mother, instead of appearing to feel a
greater degree of timidity, it seemed as if the restraint was removed,
and she would behave towards me as a gentle and affectionate sister;
but if ever she encountered me alone, she had still some excuse to
leave me, ere I could tell her all that was passing in my heart, or
win from her any reiteration of her once acknowledged regard.

Her conduct made me grave and melancholy. My bosom was full of a
passion that I burned to pour forth with all the ardour of youth, and
it drove me forth to solitude to dream over the feelings I was denied
the power to communicate. My father observed my long and lonely
rambles; and remonstrated with me on giving way to such melancholy
gloom, when I had so many causes for happiness and for gratitude to
Heaven. "Not," said he, "that I contemn an occasional recourse to the
commune of one's own thoughts; it enlarges, it elevates, it improves
the mind; and I am convinced that the beautiful Roman fable of Numa
and Egeria was but a fine allegory, to express that the Roman king
learned wisdom by a frequent intercourse with the divine and
instructive spirit of solitude. But your retirement, my dear Louis,
seems to me of a gloomy and dissatisfied nature; perhaps it originates
in a desire to see more of courts and cities than you have hitherto
done. If so, it is easy to gratify you, however painful it may be to
your mother and myself to lose your society."

In reply, I assured him that I entertained no desire of the kind; but
he had persuaded himself that such was the case, and still retained
his first opinion, though God knows to leave Helen was the last thing
I sought. He continued, however, to turn in his own mind his project
of sending me to the court, notwithstanding which, it is probable that
the whole would have gradually passed away from his memory, had not my
mother, to whom he had communicated his wishes, from other motives,
determined upon the same proceeding; and with her calm but active
spirit, while my father spoke of it every day, yet took no step
towards its accomplishment, she hardly mentioned the subject, but
carried it into effect.

As I recovered my health, there was of course much to hear concerning
all that had occurred, both during my absence in Spain, and my illness
after my return.

In regard to the first, I shall merely notice the circumstance which
occasioned my father to recal me: this was nothing else than a visit
from the Marquis de St. Brie, of whom the Chevalier had instilled into
our minds so unfavourable an opinion.

On his presenting himself at the château, my father received him
coldly and haughtily; but the Marquis soon, by the polished elegance
of his manners, and the apparent frankness of his character, did away
the evil impression which had been created against him. He spoke of
his rencontre with me, and he praised my conduct in the highest
manner. Courage, and skill, and generous forbearance, were all
attributed to me; and the ears of the parent were easily soothed by
the commendation bestowed upon his child. Besides, my father was too
lazy to hold his opinion steadfastly, when any one strove to steal it
from him; and he gradually brought himself to believe that the Marquis
de St. Brie was a very much slandered person, and that, so far from
having any evil intent towards me, the Marquis was my very good friend
and well-wisher.

My mother was slower to be convinced; but the language of my former
adversary was so high whenever he spoke of me, that she also gradually
yielded her unfavourable impressions, and willingly consented to my
recal--the Marquis having promised to revisit the Château de l'Orme in
the spring, and expressed a wish to see me, offering at the same time,
if his interest could be of service to my views, to use it to the
utmost in my behalf. My mother looked upon this, at the worst, as an
empty profession, and my father almost believed him to be sincere.

Thus I was recalled; and my adventures on my return being already
told, I have only farther to relate the means by which I was saved
from the fate that menaced me. Immediately on quitting Father Francis
and myself, my faithful Houssaye had ridden on with the guide to
Laruns, as hard as he could. The wind, however, and the snow had
delayed them far longer than he had anticipated; and, anxious for my
safety, he galloped to the little cabaret in search of some one to
return and lend their assistance in finding me out, and rescuing me
from the peril in which he had left me.

The first persons whom he encountered in the auberge were Arnault, the
procureur of Lourdes, and his son, the latter of whom instantly
proffered to join the party, and aid with all his heart. But the old
procureur was thereupon immediately smitten with a fit of paternal
tenderness, such as had not visited him for many years before; and he
not only positively prohibited Jean Baptiste from encountering the
dangers of the snow himself, but he also pronounced such a pathetic
oration upon the horrors and dangers of the undertaking, that of the
whole party collected in the cabaret not one could be found to
venture.

Houssaye's next resource was amongst the cottagers round about, and,
by promises and persuasion, he induced eight sturdy mountaineers to
accompany him with the resin torches for which they are famous in that
part of the country, and which are almost as difficult to extinguish
as the celebrated fire of Callinicus. With these they began their
search on the road towards Gabas; but scarcely had they passed the
defile immediately above Laruns, than the light of the torches flashed
over a spot where the snow had evidently been disturbed, and on
examining they found a part of my clothes not yet covered with the
drift which had come down since the wind had swept Father Francis and
myself from the path. We were soon extricated, and carried to Laruns
apparently dead.

Here all means were applied to recall us to life, but they proved
successful only with me; on Father Francis they had no effect, though
Houssaye assured me that everything which could be devised was
employed in vain.

Amongst the most active in rendering me every assistance after I was
extricated was the good youth who had saved me before from a watery
grave; but in the midst of his endeavours, his father checked him, and
calling him on one side, spoke to him for long in a low voice.

"The old fox thought I could hear nothing," said Houssaye; "but enough
reached me to make me understand he would rather have had you die than
live. If he dies, I heard him say, you shall have both--something
which I did not hear--and all the property; but if he lives, mark if
he do not thwart us, though I will take care to throw obstacles enough
in his way! The lad seemed well enough inclined to help you still,"
proceeded Houssaye, "but his father would not let him; though he came
the next morning himself, fawning and asking if he could bear any
message back to Lourdes, whither he was about to return, finding that
he could not pass into Spain as he had intended."

This latter part of the worthy old trumpeter's narration astonished
and embarrassed me a good deal; and after turning it in every way that
my imagination could suggest, without being able to discover any
solution of the mystery, I was obliged to conclude that, in what the
narrator declared he had overheard, fancy had full as great a share as
matter of fact. Arnault might dislike me--indeed, I was very sure that
he did so--but how my life might thwart his views, or my death might
profit him, I was at a loss to discover.

One thing, however, I remarked--Arnault, after my recovery, came more
than once to see his daughter, which he had not done more than twice
before, since she had been at the château. Her brother, also, was more
frequently with her; and on these occasions, the father, if he met any
member of my family, was humble and fawning, the son awkward and
sheepish; and it struck me that the behaviour of the latter was very
much changed towards myself, as if he were playing a part learned by
rote, which neither assimilated with his character nor suited his
inclination.

I also perceived a change take place in Helen--she grew silent, pale,
thoughtful. When she looked at me, it seemed as if her eyes would
overflow with tears, were it not for the restraint imposed upon her by
the presence of others. Her gaiety was gone; and even the servants,
amongst whom she was almost adored, began to remark the sadness of
_Mademoiselle Helene_, and comment on its cause. All this was to me a
mystery; and doubt of any kind, even concerning a trifle, has ever
been to me a thousand times more painful than evident danger or real
misfortune. Doubt is to my mind what the darkness of night is to a
ghost-frightened school-boy--I go on gazing anxiously about me on
every side, conjuring up a thousand ideal spectres, and distorting
every dim object that I see into the likeness of some fearful phantom
of the imagination. Nor can all the reasoning in my power divest my
mind of the credulity with which I listen either to hope or to
apprehension: though I well know that apprehension is to sorrow what
hope is to joy--a sort of _avant courier_, who greatly magnifies the
importance of the personage whom he precedes.

In the present instance, I determined to change my doubts to
certainties, if human ingenuity might do so. Probably I should have
accomplished it, but passion--which generally interferes with the best
laid schemes of human wisdom, suggesting that the gratification which
the heart seeks may easily be blended with the designs which the brain
has formed--was ingenious enough to persuade me that the very best
thing I could do for the accomplishment of my object was suddenly to
explain myself with Helen. She avoided giving me any opportunity of
doing so. I persisted with all the ardour of my nature, watching with
unwearied assiduity even to gain a quarter of an hour; but I watched
in vain.

Thus lapsed first a week, and then another, at the end of which the
Marquis de St. Brie arrived at the château, full ten days before he
had been expected. He came, however, with no train which could
incommode his host and hostess. Two servants were all that accompanied
him; and the seeming frankness of this conduct even won much upon my
opinion. I found him a different person from what I had conceived. He
was proud, perhaps, in manner, but not haughty; he was witty--he was
well informed--he was pleasing. In short, he was the opposite to that
Marquis de St. Brie whom I had more than once regretted not having
sent to his long account at the time it was in my power to do so.

Was he changed--or was I? Perhaps both; and I am afraid that a degree
of pique towards the Chevalier did certainly make me easily receive
every favourable impression that the manners and appearance of my
former adversary were calculated to produce. In latter years I have
tried to judge my own motives in the various events of life--I have
judged them strictly--as strictly as it is possible for a man to do;
but not too much so, for it is impossible that any one can be too
severe upon himself. The result of my self-investigation on this point
has been, that had my friendship for the Chevalier been as lively as
ever, I should have found less charms in the society of the Marquis de
St. Brie.



CHAPTER XIII.


By a long system of exact economy, my mother had, by this time,
repaired, in some degree, the ravages which many generations of
extravagance had committed on our family estates; and though the
pimple-nosed _maître d'hôtel_ and old Houssaye, with two other
septuagenarian lackeys, who might be considered as heirlooms in the
family, still maintained their faces in the hall, yet four other more
youthful attendants had been added to the number; and on the first day
of the Marquis de St. Brie's arrival, all eight figured in new bright
liveries of green and gold, with well-starched ruffs, and white sword
scabbards. This was an expansion of liberality on the part of my
mother which I had not expected; not that for a moment I mean to
insinuate that the spirit of frugality was in her the effect of a
sordid heart--far, far from it; it was an effort of her mind, and had
ever been a painful one. She had herself experienced all the
uncomforts of that miserable combination, a great name and an inferior
fortune; and she was resolved, if possible, to save her son from the
same distresses.

In the present instance, she was actuated by a feeling of that refined
delicacy towards her husband, which ever taught her not only to
respect him herself, but to throw a veil even round his foibles, for
the purpose of hiding them from the eyes of the others. She had heard
my father calmly talk to the Marquis de St. Brie, on the former visit,
of his retinue and his vassals; and a slight smile had played about
the guest's lip, which my father never saw, but which wounded my
mother for him. She instantly determined to sacrifice some part of her
system of economy, without attempting any vain display, or going
beyond what she could reasonably afford; and the present effect was
that which I have described.

We dined in general a little after noon; but on the day of the
Marquis's arrival, which was looked upon by the servants as one of
those occasions of ceremony, when their rights and privileges were to
be as strictly enforced as the official tenures at a royal coronation,
the announcement of dinner was somewhat delayed by a contest between
Houssaye and the _maître d'hôtel_, in regard to which should sound the
trumpet. Houssaye grounded his claim upon patent of office, as the
trumpeter-general to the Counts of Bigorre; and the _maître d'hôtel_,
contended for the honour as a right prescriptive, which he had
exercised for thirty years. The _maître d'hôtel_ would certainly have
carried the day, being in possession of the brazen tube in dispute;
but Houssaye, like a true old soldier, hung upon his flanks,
embarrassed his man[oe]uvres, and at length defeated him by a _coup de
main_. The _maître d'hôtel_ having possession, as I have said,
resolved to exercise his right; and, at the hour appointed, raised the
trumpet to his lips, and prepared an energetic breath. His red cheeks
swelled till they looked like a ripe pomegranate; his eyes stared as
if they would start from their sockets; his long, pimpled nose was
nearly eclipsed by its rubicund neighbours, the cheeks, and would
hardly have been seen but for a vibratory sort of movement about the
end, produced, probably, by the compression of his breath. All
announced a most terrible explosion, when suddenly the undaunted
Houssaye stepped up, and applying his thumb to the cheek of this
unhappy aspirant to _tubicinal_ honours, expelled the breath before
the lips were prepared. The cheeks sunk, the eyes relapsed, the nose
protruded, and a hollow murmur died along the resonant cavities of the
brass--a sort of dirge to the pseudo-trumpeter's defeat.

The whole scene was visible to me through the open door of the
vestibule, and so irresistibly comic was it altogether, that I could
not refrain from staying to witness its termination. Again the _maître
d'hôtel_ essayed the feat, and again the malicious Houssaye rendered
his efforts abortive; upon which the discomfited party declared he
would carry his cause before a higher tribunal, and was proceeding
towards my father's apartments to state his grievances. But he
committed one momentous oversight which completed his defeat.

In the agitation of the moment he laid the trumpet down; Houssaye
pounced upon it like lightning, started upon a chair, and applied the
brass to his lips. The _maître d'hôtel_ threw his arms round him to
pull him down, but Houssaye's weight overbalanced his adversary, and
both rolled upon the floor together.

The old trumpeter, however, had blown many an inspiring blast on
horseback and on foot, in the charge, in the retreat, in the camp, or
in the rage of the battle; all situations were alike to him, and as he
rolled over and over with the _maître d'hôtel_, he still kept the
trumpet to his lips, and blew, and blew, and blew, till such a call to
the standard echoed through the château as had never before disturbed
its peaceful halls.

After I had seen the conclusion of this doughty contention, I was
proceeding towards my father's library, when I was met in the corridor
by the whole party coming from their various apartments. My father
resigned to no one the honour of handing down the Countess; and the
Marquis turned to offer his hand to Helen, who followed her, giving a
slight sort of start as his eye fell upon so much loveliness.

"I did not know, madam," said he, "that you had so fair a daughter."

"She is no farther my daughter," replied the Countess, looking back to
Helen with a smile, "than in being the daughter of my love.
Mademoiselle Arnault, Monsieur le Marquis de St. Brie!"

The hall, as we entered it, looked more splendid than ever I had seen
it. With infinite labour, the old banners, that flaunted in the air
above the table, had been cleared of their antique dust; all our
family plate was displayed upon the buffet; and the eight liveried
lackeys, in their new suits, gave an air of feudal state to the hall,
that it had not possessed since the days of Henri Quatre.

During the first service but little was said by any one. After the
grave employment of half an hour, however, the mind would fain have
its share of activity; and, though somewhat impeded by the gross
aliments of the body, found means to issue forth and mingle with the
banquet.

"The bird of Juno," said the Marquis, pointing to a peacock that, with
its spread tail and elevated crest, ornamented the centre of the
table, "is a fitting dish in such a proud hall as this. I love to dine
in a vast and antique room, with every haughty accessory that can give
solemnity to the repast."

"And is it," demanded my father with a smile, "from a conviction of
the importance, or the littleness of the employment?"

"Oh, of its meanness, certainly!" replied the Marquis; "it needs, I
think, all the ingenuity of man's pride--all that he can collect of
grand or striking, associated with himself--to soothe his vanity under
the weight of his weaknesses and necessities; and what can be more
painfully degrading than this propensity to devour!"

"It is a philosophy I can hardly admit," replied my father; "the
simple act of eating is surely not degrading, and, when employed but
as the means of support, it becomes dignified by the great objects to
which it tends--the preservation of life, the invigorating the body,
and, consequently, the liberation of the mind from all those
oppressive chains with which corporeal weakness or ill health is sure
to enthral it. In my eyes, everything that nature has given or taught,
is beautiful; and never becomes degrading but by the corruption with
which it is mingled by man himself."

"I know not," answered the Marquis, smiling at the enthusiasm with
which my father sustained what was one of his most favourite theses,
"but I can conceive no dignity in eating the mangled limbs of other
animals slaughtered for our use."

"You look not so cynically, I hope, on all other failings of
humanity?" demanded my mother, willing to change the subject; and
changing it to one on which every Frenchwoman thinks or has thought a
great deal, she added, "Love for instance?"

The Marquis bowed. "No one can be more devoted," replied he, "to the
lovelier part of the creation than I am, and yet I cannot but think
that the ancients did well to represent Venus as springing from the
foam of the sea."

"Somewhat light, you would say, in her nature," rejoined my father,
"and variable as her parent waves----"

"And sometimes as cold and as uncertain too," said I; but, as I did
so, I saw a slight flush pass over Helen's brow, and I added, "But you
forget, Monsieur le Marquis, or rather, like a skilful arguer, you do
not notice, that the blood of C[oe]lus, which we translate, almost
literally, a drop from heaven, was mingled with the foam of the sea to
produce the goddess."

"Happily turned!" replied the Marquis with a smile; "but I trust, my
young friend, you are aware that the queen of love is only to be won
by thes god of arms, as our sweet and tumid Raccan would put it. Have
you yet entered the path in which you are born to distinguish
yourself; I mean the service of your king?"

With somewhat of a blush, I replied that I had not, and the Marquis
proceeded:--"Fie, now! 'tis a shame that a sword, which I know, to my
cost, is a good one, should rust in its scabbard. Every gentleman,
whatever may be his ultimate objects in life, should serve his country
for at least one campaign. It is rumoured that our wars in Italy will
infallibly be renewed: in that case, I shall of course take the
command of my regiment; and if your noble father will allow you to
accompany me, we will turn the two good swords, that once crossed upon
a foolish quarrel, against the enemies of our king and our country."

Without a moment's hesitation I should have accepted the proposal; but
my mother interposed. "I have already," said she, after having
expressed her thanks to the Marquis for the honour he proposed to her
son--"I have already written to her highness the Countess de Soissons,
who honoured me in my youth with her favour and affection, soliciting,
if it be possible, that Louis may, for a short period, enjoy the
advantage of being near Monsieur le Comte, her son. I have no doubt
that she will comply with my request; and, at all events, we must, of
course, suspend every other plan till her highness's answer is
received."

The Marquis appeared somewhat mortified, but immediately changed the
conversation to other subjects, and certainly no man I ever met could
render himself more fascinating when he chose to do so. His language
was as elegant as his manners, and he mingled, with a playful,
shining, unforced wit, a slight degree of cynical bitterness, which
rendered it more exciting by its pungency. He had the great art, too,
of suiting his conversation exactly to those with whom he conversed;
not precisely as the cameleon, taking its hue from the object next to
it, but rather like a fine piece of polished china, receiving a
sufficient reflection from whatever salient colour was placed near,
without losing the original figures with which it was itself marked.
Thus he never lost in manner a certain degree of pride, which was the
great master-passion of his soul; but when he wished to please or win,
he made even this pride subservient to his purpose, by acting as an
opposition to his courtesy and condescension. Nor did he ever in the
fits of that cynical humour, which he either affected or possessed
from nature, go beyond the exact point at which it could amuse or
stimulate those that listened to him; and he calculated, with
wonderful insight into their characters, the precise portions that
each could bear or relish.

With whatever feelings one entered his society, one quitted it struck
and fascinated. I did so myself, notwithstanding the warning I had
received with regard to him--notwithstanding a strong prepossession
against him. I felt attracted, amused, and pleased; and every minute
that I passed in his company, I had to recall the demoniacal passions
his countenance had expressed at Estelle, and ask myself--Can this be
the same man? It was; and when closely observed, there was a glance of
malignity in the eye, which, if rightly read, would have told that
there the real man shone out, and that the rest was all a mask. The
nations of the East have a superstition, that their _Dives_, _Afrits_,
and other evil spirits, have the power of transforming themselves into
the most beautiful and enticing shapes; but that some one spot of
their body is always exempt from this change, and remains in its
original hideousness. Thus I believe it is with the human character;
give it what gracious form you will, there is still some original
feature will rest unchanged, to show what shape it has at first
received from Nature.

The Marquis de St. Brie, however, maintained the doubtful favour he
had gained with the inhabitants of the Château de l'Orme as long as he
remained within its walls, which was during the space of three days.
Each passed much like the former, with the exception of the second, in
the course of which we went out upon the mountains to shoot the
izzard.

At the hour appointed for setting forth, it so happened that I was a
moment later than my father and the Marquis. My mother, too, was in
the court seeing the preparations for our departure; when, on going
from my bedchamber into the corridor, I was met by Helen, who, instead
of passing me hastily, as she usually did, paused a moment, as if
anxious to speak. Her cheek was rather flushed, and never did I behold
her looking more lovely. The temptation to delay was not to be
resisted, and besides, such a moment might never come again. "Helen!"
said I, taking her hand, "dearest Helen, I would give a world to speak
with you alone, for but five minutes. You once said you loved me--you
promised you would always love me. Helen, you must have seen how much
I have wished for such an opportunity, and yet you have never, since
my return, given me one moment of your private time."

"Indeed, Louis," she answered, still letting me keep her hand, "I
could not then--I thought it would be wrong. Now, perhaps, I may think
differently; and I will no longer avoid you as I have done. But what I
sought you for now, was to say, beware of that Marquis de St. Brie. I
am sure--I _feel_ sure--that he is a villain. And oh, Louis, beware of
him! for your sake--for mine." So saying, she waited for no reply, but
drawing away her hand, glided back to the Countess's apartments.

Oh what a nicely balanced lever is the mind of youth! a breath will
depress it, or a breath will raise. For days before, I had been gloomy
and desponding. Existence, and all that surrounded it, I had looked
upon with a jaundiced eye, which saw only defects. I could have
quarrelled with the sunbeam for ever casting a shade--the summer
breeze for ever bearing a vapour on its wings; and now I went away
from Helen with a heart beating high with expectation and delight! One
kind word, one affectionate look, one expression of interest and love,
and every cloud was banished from my mind; and all was again sunshine,
and summer, and enjoyment. My father and the Marquis had already set
out, but a few steps brought me to their side; and, speeding on
towards the heights above the valley of Argelez, we separated, to beat
a narrow lateral dell, while the servants, spreading in a larger
circle, drove the game in towards us. My father took his range along
one side of the hollow, and I on the other; while the Marquis chose a
path above mine, having a view of the whole side of the hill.

For some time we met with little success, when suddenly an izzard
bounded away along the path, about three hundred yards in advance.
Before I could fire, it was out of shot; but springing after it, I
followed eagerly along the shelf of rock, knowing that a little
farther a precipice intervened, which I did not believe the animal
could leap; and consequently, if it escaped me, it must run up the
hill and cross the Marquis, or go down into the valley and come within
my father's range. As I went on, circling round the mountain, a piece
of rock jutted out across the path about thirty yards in advance, and
hid the precipice from my view. The izzard I doubted not was there,
hesitating on the brink, as they often do when the leap is dangerous;
and hoping to obtain a shot at it before it turned, I was hurrying on,
when suddenly I heard the ringing of a carbine, and a bullet whistled
close to my ear. Its course must have lain within two inches of my
head; and, not a little angry, I turned, and saw the Marquis standing
on a rock a little way above me.

"There! there!" cried he, pointing with his hand: "there, I have
missed him! Why don't you fire?"

At that moment I caught a sight of the izzard actually springing up
the most perpendicular part of the mountain. It was almost beyond the
range of my carbine, but, however, I fired, and the animal rolled down
dead into the valley. Neither the Marquis nor myself alluded to the
shot which he had discharged, and it remains a very great doubt in my
mind whether he had missed me or the izzard.



CHAPTER XIV.


It may seem strange, very strange, that with such suspicions on my
mind, I should accept an invitation to visit the man who had excited
them. Nevertheless I did, and what is perhaps still more strange,
those very suspicions were in some degree the cause of my doing so.

When the Marquis first proposed that I should spend a day or two with
him at his _pavilion de chasse_, in the neighbourhood of Bagneres, I
felt a doubt in regard to it, of which I was ashamed--I was afraid of
feeling afraid of anything, and I instantly accepted his invitation. I
know not whether this may be very comprehensible to every one, but let
any man remember his feelings when he was nineteen--an age at which we
have not learned to distinguish between courage and rashness, prudence
and timidity--and he will, at least, in some degree, understand,
though he may blame my having acted as I did.

I would willingly have suffered the Marquis to be a day in advance
before I fulfilled my engagement, longing for that promised half-hour
of conversation with Helen, which was to me one of those cherished
anticipations on which the heart of youth spends half its ardour. Oh,
how often I wish now-a-day that I could long for anything as I did in
my childhood, and fill up the interval between the promise and the
fulfilment with bright dreams worth a world of realities. But, alas!
the uncertainty of everything earthly gradually teaches man to crowd
the vacancy of expectation with fears instead of hopes, and to guard
against disappointment instead of dreaming of enjoyment. However, as
the Marquis was only to remain three days at his _pavilion_ ere he set
out for Paris, he insisted on my accompanying him when he left the
Château de l'Orme.

The ride was delightful in itself, but he contrived to withdraw my
attention from the scenery by the charms of his conversation. The
first subject that he entered upon was my proposed visit to the court;
and he drew a thousand light, yet faithful sketches of all the
principal courtiers of the day.

"Amongst others," said he, after specifying several that I now forget,
"you will see the Duke of Bouillon, brave, shrewd, yet hasty, always
hurrying into danger with fearless impetuosity, and then finding means
of escape with a coolness which, if exerted at first, would have kept
him free from peril. He puts me in mind of a rope-dancer, whose every
spring seems as if it would be his last, and yet he catches himself
somehow when he appears inevitably gone. In his brother, Turenne, a
very different character is to be met with, or rather, perhaps, the
same character without its defects. What in Bouillon is rashness, in
Turenne is courage; what is cunning in the one is wisdom in the other.
I believe Turenne would sacrifice himself to his country; but if
Bouillon were to erect an altar to any deity, it would be, I am
afraid, to himself. Then there is the young and daring Jean de Gondi,
who is striving for the archbishopric of Paris; the most talented man
in Europe, but gifted or cursed with that strange lightness of soul
which sports with everything as if it were a trifle--who would
overthrow an empire but to re-model it, or raise an insurrection but
to guide the wild horses that draw the chariot of tumult. Had he lived
in the ancient days, he would have burnt the temple of the Ephesian
goddess to build, in one olympiad, what cost two hundred years. His
mind, in short, is like the ocean, deep and profound; that plays with
a feather, or supports a navy; that now is rippling in golden
tranquillity, and now is raging in fury and in tumult; that now scarce
shakes the pebble on the shore, and now spreads round confusion,
destruction, and death. In regard to the Count de Soissons, to whom
you go, his character is difficult to know: but yet I think I know it.
He has many high and noble qualities, and though at present he appears
intolerably proud, yet that is a fault of his education, not of his
disposition; he has it from his mother, and will conquer it, I doubt
not. But there is one virtue he wants, without which talents, and
skill, and courage are nothing--he wants resolution. He is somewhat
obstinate, but that does not imply that he is resolute; and a man
without resolution may be looked upon in the light of a miser: all the
riches that nature can give are useless to him, because he has not the
courage to make use of them."

"You must have been a very keen observer," said I, "of those persons
with whom you have mingled, and doubtless also of human life in
general."

"Life," replied he, "as life, is very little worth considering. It is
a stream that flows by us without our knowing how. Its turbulence or
its tranquillity, I believe, depend little upon ourselves. If there be
rain in the mountains, it will be a torrent; if it prove a dry season,
it will be a rivulet. We must let it flow as it will till it come to
an end, and then we have nothing to do but die."

"And of death," said I, "have you not thought of that? As it is the
very opposite of life it may have merited some more thought."

"Less, far less!" said he: "with some trouble, we may change the
course of the rivulet, but with all our efforts we cannot alter the
bounds of the sea. Look on death how we will, we can derive nothing
from it. The pleasures and pains of existence are so balanced, we
cannot tell whether death be a relief or a deprivation; and as to the
bubble of something after death, it is somewhat emptier than that now
floating down the stream."

I started, and said nothing, and gradually the conversation dropped of
itself. After a pause, he again turned it into other channels,
speaking of pleasure, and the excesses and gratifications of a court;
and though he recommended _moderation_, as the most golden word that
any language possessed, yet it was upon no principle of virtue, either
moral or religious. It was for the sake of pleasure alone--that it
might be more durable in itself, and never counterbalanced by painful
consequences.

My mind naturally turned to my many conversations with the Chevalier,
and, by comparison, I found his morality of a very different quality.
I merely replied, however, that I believed, if people had no stronger
motives to moderation than the expectation of remote effects, they
would seldom put much restraint upon their passions.

Soon after, we arrived at the _pavilion de chasse_; and, I must own,
that never did a more exquisitely luxurious dwelling meet my eye. It
was not large, but all was disposed for ease and pleasure. Piles of
cushions, rich carpets, easy chairs, Persian sofas, exquisite
tapestries, filled every chamber. Books, too, and pictures were there,
but the books and the pictures were generally of one class. Catullus,
Ovid, Petronius, or Tibullus, lay upon the tables or on the shelves;
while the walls were adorned with many a nymph and many a goddess,
liberal of their charms: though, at the same time, Horace and Virgil
appeared cast upon one of the sofas; and, every now and then, the eye
would fall on one of the sunshiny landscapes of Claude de Lorraine,
and dream for a moment amidst the sleepy splendour of his far
perspectives.

"And is it possible," said I, turning to the Marquis as he led me
through this luxurious place--"is it possible that you can quit such a
spot willingly, for the dangers and hardships of war?"

"There are various sorts of pleasure," replied he, "and without
varying, and changing, and opposing them one to another, we cannot
enjoy any long. Every man has his particular pleasures, and his
particular arrangement of them. I, for instance, require the stimulus
of war, to make me enjoy these luxuries of peace. But you have yet
seen little of the beauties of the place. Let us go out into the park.
The perfection of a house of this kind depends, almost entirely, upon
the grounds that surround it."

The two days that I spent at the pavilion of Monsieur de St. Brie
passed like lightning. Not a moment paused, for he contrived to fill
every hour with some pleasure of its own; but it was all too sweet.
One felt it to be luscious. Like the luxurious Romans, he mingled his
wine with honey, and the draught was both cloying and intoxicating.

On the third morning, I rose early from my bed to take a review of the
beautiful grounds which surrounded the house; and after wandering
about for half-an-hour, I turned to a river that ran through the park,
resolving to take my way towards the house by the side of the waters.
The path that I followed was hidden by trees, but there was a
transverse alley that came down to the water, and joined the one in
which I walked, about one hundred yards farther on. As I advanced, I
heard the voice of the Marquis talking earnestly with some other
person; and though at first what he said was very indistinct, yet I
soon heard more without seeking to do so, or, indeed, wishing it.
"Hold him down," said the Marquis, "when you have got him safely on
the ground, and cut his throat just under the jaws--if you go deep
enough he is dead in a moment."

As he gave this somewhat bloody direction, he turned into the same
path with myself, accompanied by another person, whose appearance is
worthy of some description. He was about my own height, which is not
inconsiderable, but, at the same time, he was remarkably stout--I
should say even fat, with a face in which a great degree of jollity
and merriment was mingled with a leering sort of slyness of eye, and a
slight twist of the mouth, that gave rather a sinister expression to
the drollery of his countenance. He wore short black mustachios, and a
small pointed beard; and from his head hung down upon his shoulders a
profusion of black wavy hair. His dress also was somewhat singular.
Instead of the broad, low-crowned plumed hats which were then in
fashion, his head was surmounted with an interminable beaver, whose
high-pointed crown resembled the steeple of a church. We have seen
many of them since amongst the English and the Swiss, but, at that
time, such a thing was so uncommon, and its effect appeared so
ridiculous, that I could scarce refrain from laughing, though my blood
was somewhat chilled with the conversation I had just overheard. The
rest of this stout gentleman's habiliments consisted of a somewhat
coarse brown pourpoint, laced with tarnished gold, and a slashed _haut
de chausse_, tied with black ribands; while a huge sword and dagger
ornamented his side, and a pair of funnel-shaped riding-boots
completed his equipment.

The Marquis's eye fell upon me instantly, and, advancing without
embarrassment, he embraced me, and gave me the compliments of the
morning. Then turning, he introduced his friend, Monsieur de Simon.
"The greatest fisherman in France," said he: "we were speaking just
now about killing a carp," he continued, "which, you know is
dreadfully tenacious of life. Are you a fisherman at all?"

I answered, "Not in the least;" and the conversation went on for some
time on various topics, till at length Monsieur de Simon took his
leave.

"I am sorry you cannot take your breakfast with us," said the Marquis;
"but remember, when I am gone, you are most welcome to fish, whenever
you think fit, upon my property."

"I thank you, I thank you, most noble Marquis," said the other, with a
curious sort of roguish twinkle of the eye; "I will take you at your
word, and will rid your streams of all those gudgeons which you
dislike so much, but which I dote upon. Oh, 'tis a dainty fish--a
gudgeon!"

At about one o'clock my horse was ready, and I took leave of the
Marquis--I cannot say with feelings either of reverence or regard; and
I have always found it an invariable fact, that when a man has amused
us without gaining our esteem, and pleased without winning our
confidence, there is something naturally bad at the bottom of his
character, which we should do well to avoid.

As I mounted my horse, I remarked that my worthy valet, Houssaye, had
imbibed as much liquor as would permit him to stand upright, and that
it was not without great difficulty and scrupulous attention to the
equipoise that he at all maintained his vertical position.

"Your servant is tipsy," said the Marquis; "you had better leave him
here till he recovers his intellects."

"I am as sober as a priest," hickupped Houssaye, who overheard the
accusation the Marquis brought against him, and repelled it with the
most drunken certainty of his own sobriety. "Monseigneur, you do me
wrong. I am sober, upon my conscience and my trumpet!" So saying, he
swung himself up to his horse's back, and forgetting to wait for me,
galloped on before, sounding a charge through his fist, as if he was
leading on a regiment of horse.

The Marquis laughed; and once more bidding him adieu, I followed the
pot-valiant trumpeter, who, without any mercy on his poor horse, urged
him on upon the road to Lourdes as fast as he could go. Very soon, I
doubt not, he quite forgot that I was behind, for, following much more
slowly, as I did not choose to fatigue my jennet at the outset, I soon
lost sight of him, and for half an hour perceived no traces of him
whatever.

I have heard that the effect of the fresh air, far from diminishing
the inebriation of a drunkard, greatly increases it. Probably this was
the case with Houssaye; for at the distance of about four miles from
the park of the Marquis, I found him lying by the side of the road,
apparently sound asleep, while his horse was calmly turning the
accident of his master to the best account, by cropping the grass and
shrubs at the roadside.

This accident embarrassed me a good deal, for I had set out late; and,
of course, I could not leave the poor drunkard to be gnawed by the
bears, or devoured by the wolves, whose regard for a sleeping man
might be found of somewhat too selfish a nature. After having shaken
him, therefore, two or three times for the purpose of recalling him to
himself, without producing any other effect than an inarticulate
grunt, I returned to a village about a mile nearer Bagneres, and
having procured the aid of some cottagers, I had the overthrown
trumpeter carried back, and left him there in security, till he should
have recovered from the state of intoxication in which he had plunged
himself.

All this delayed me for some time, so that it was near four o'clock
before I again resumed my journey. Nor was I sorry, indeed, that the
sun had got behind the mountains, whose long shadows saved my eyes
from the horizontal rays, which, as my way lay due west, would have
dazzled me all along the road had I set out earlier. In about two
hours it began to grow dusk, and I put my horse into a quicker pace,
lest the family at the château should conclude that I intended to
remain another night. There was one person also that, I knew, would be
anxious till they saw me return safe; and, for the world, I would not
have given Helen a moment's unnecessary pain. What made her suspect
the Marquis of any evil designs towards me I knew not, but I knew that
she did suspect him, and that was sufficient to make me hurry on to
assure her of my safety.

There is a thick wood covers the side of the mountain about five miles
from the Château de l'Orme, extending high up on the one hand, very
nearly to the crest of the hill, and spreading down on the other till
the stream in the valley bathes the roots of its trees. In a few
minutes after I had entered this wood, I suddenly heard the clatter of
a horse's hoofs close behind me--so near, it must have sprung out of
the coppice. I instantly turned my head to ascertain what it was, when
I received a violent blow just above the eyebrow, which nearly laid my
skull bare, and struck me headlong to the ground, before I could see
who was the horseman.

Though bruised and dizzied, I endeavoured to struggle up; but my
adversary threw himself from his horse, grappled with me, and cast me
back upon the ground with my face upwards. Oh how shall I describe the
fearful struggle for life that then ensued?--the agonising grasp with
which I clenched the hands wherewith he endeavoured to reach my
neck--the pressure of his knees upon my chest--the beating of my heart
as I still strove, yet found myself overmastered, and my strength
failing--the dreadful, eager haste with which he tried to hold back my
head, and gash my throat with the knife he held in his hand--and the
muttered curses he vented, on finding my resistance so long
protracted.

Five times he shook off my grasp, and five times I caught his hands
again, as they were in the act of completing his object. At the same
time, I could hear his teeth cranching against each other with the
violence of his efforts. My hands were all cut and bleeding, his dress
was nearly torn to pieces, the strength of both was well nigh
exhausted, when we heard the sounds of voices advancing along the
road. Though our struggle had hitherto been silent, I now called
loudly for assistance. He heard the noise also. "This then shall
settle it," cried he, raising his arm to plunge the knife into my
chest, but I interposed my hand; and though the force with which he
dealt the blow was such as to drive the point through my palm, yet
this saved my life, for before he could repeat the stroke the horsemen
had come up, attracted by the cries I continued to utter. One of them
sprang from his horse, beheld the deathly struggle going on, and not
knowing which was the aggressor, but seeing that one held the other at
a fatal disadvantage, called to my assailant instantly to desist or
die. The assassin again raised his arm: the horseman saw him about to
strike--levelled a pistol at his head--fired--and the murderer,
dropping the weapon from his hand, staggered up upon his feet--reeled
for a moment, and then fell dead across my chest.



CHAPTER XV.


Oh, life! thou strange mysterious tie between the spirit and the clay;
what is it makes the bravest of us shrink from that separation which
the small dagger or the tiny asp can so easily effect.

For a moment I lay to recover myself from all the agitated feelings
that hurried through my heart, and then struggling up, I rolled the
ponderous mass of the dead man from off my breast, and rose from the
ground.

"Is it Count Louis de Bigorre?" said the voice of the Chevalier de
Montenero. I answered that it was; and he proceeded,--"I thought so:
infatuated young man, why would you trust yourself in the hands of
your enemy, when you were warned of his cruelty and his baseness?"

"Because," I answered, "I thought that a person who had done injustice
to me, might also do injustice to him."

"When a man has the means of clearing himself, and does not choose to
do so," replied the Chevalier, well understanding to what I alluded,
"he must rest under the imputation of guilt till he does. Now, sir, I
leave you. Arnault, give him your assistance, and rejoin me to-morrow
morning;" and so saying, without farther explanation, he turned his
horse and galloped away.

Though the evening light was of that dim and dusky nature which
affords, perhaps, less assistance to the eye than even the more
positive darkness of the night, yet I could very well distinguish by
the height and form, that the person the Chevalier called Arnault was
not the little, large-headed procureur of Lourdes, but rather his son;
and as soon as we were alone, he confirmed my conjecture by his voice
asking if I were hurt.

"Not much, Jean Baptiste," replied I: "my hands are cut, and he has
grazed my throat with his knife; but he has not injured me seriously.
Catch my horse, good Arnault," I continued, "and ride on to the
cottage, about half a mile on the road--bring some one with lights,
that we may see who this is--though, in truth I guess."

"You had better take my pistols, Monsieur le Comte," said the honest
youth, "lest there should be a second of these gentlemen in the wood."

I took one, and leaving him the other for his own defence, sent him on
as fast as possible to the cottage; for although, from the manner in
which my assailant had attempted to effect my death, so like the
Marquis de St. Brie's directions for killing the carp, I had little
doubt in regard to whom I should find in the person of the dead man,
yet I wished to ascertain the fact more precisely, that no doubt
should remain upon my mind in regard to Monsieur de St. Brie himself.

Soon after Jean Baptiste was gone, the moon began to raise her head
over the mountain; and, streaming directly down the road, showed me
fully the person of the dead man, through whose head the ball of the
Chevalier's pistol had passed in a direct line, causing almost
instantaneous death.

All doubt was now at an end: there lay the large heavy limbs of the
man, who had been called Monsieur de Simon, while his steeple-crowned
hat appeared rolled to some distance on the road. The effects of the
dreadful struggle between us were visible in all his apparel. His
doublet was torn in twenty different places with the straining grasp
in which I had held him, and an immense black wig, which he had worn
as a sort of disguise, had followed his hat, and left his head bare.
In rising I had rolled him off me on his back, so that he was lying
with the beams of the moon shining full in his face.

I advanced and gazed upon him for a moment; and now, as he appeared
with his shaved head, and the fraise, or ruff torn off his neck, I
could not help thinking that his countenance was familiar to me. The
mustachios and the beard, it was true, made a great alteration, but in
every other respect it was the face of the Capuchin who had joined in
attempting to plunder me at Luz. I looked nearer, and remembering that
in six months his beard would have had full time to grow, I became
convinced that it was the same.

As I examined him attentively, I perceived a sort of packet protruding
from a pocket in the breast of his doublet, and taking it out I found
it to be a bundle of old, and somewhat worn papers, wrapped in a piece
of sheep's skin, and tied round with a leathern thong.

Amongst these I doubted not that I should find some interesting
correspondence between the subordinate assassin and his instigator,
and, consequently, took care to secure them; after which I waited
quietly for the return of Jean Baptiste, who I doubted not would
relieve me from my troublesome guard over the dead body, as soon as he
could procure lights and assistance. His absence, of course, appeared
long; but after the lapse of about ten minutes I began to perceive
some glimmering sparks through the trees, and a moment after the
inhabitants of the cottage appeared, men and children, with as many
resin candles as their dwelling could afford.

Jean Baptiste was with them; but another personage of much more
extraordinary mien led the way, bearing in his hand a candle about the
thickness of his little finger, but which he brandished above his head
in the manner of a torch, striding on at the same time with enormous
steps, and somewhat grotesque gestures. "Where is the body?" exclaimed
he with a loud tone and vast emphasis,--"Where is the body of the
sacred dead?"

The person who asked this question was a man of about five feet three
in height, fluttering in a pourpoint, whose ribands and rags vied in
number, while the brass buttons with which it was thickly strewed
might, by their irregularity of position, have induced me to believe
him to be a poet, had not his theatrical tone and air stamped him as a
disciple of Thespis.


                    "'Percé jusqu'au fond du c[oe]ur
     D'une atteinte imprévue, aussi-bien que mortelle,'"


cried he, when he beheld the dead body. "Oh what would I have given to
have been here when he was killed. Did he fall so at once--I beseech
you tell me, did he fall thus?" and down he cast himself upon his
back, in the attitude of the dead body.

If anything could have rendered so dreadful a sight as the corpse of
the murderer with his blackened temples, clenched hands, and cold
meaningless glare of eye, in any degree ridiculous, it would have been
to see the little player cast upon the ground beside the vast bulk of
the dead man, striving to imitate the position in which he lay; and
every now and then raising his pert head from his mockery of death's
stillness, and peeping over the corpse to see how the arm or the hand
had fallen in dying.

I was in no mood, however, for such fooleries; my head ached violently
from the blow I had received above the eye; my hands, especially the
one that had intercepted the stab of the knife, gave me intolerable
pain. I was fatigued also, and fevered with the struggle and the
agitation, so that my corporeal sensations were not at all favourable
to the wretched player's buffoonery, even had the scene been one that
admitted of merriment.

Stirring him then rather rudely with my foot, I bade him rise and
assist in carrying the body to the cottage. Up started the actor in a
moment, and, taking the corpse by the feet, replied he was ready to do
anything the manager bade him: one of the cottagers lent his aid, and
we soon reached the cottage with our burden. Here all the women made a
vast outcry at the sight of the dead body, but more still on beholding
the state in which the assassin's efforts had left their young Count
Louis, for I was now within the old domain of our own château.

I know not whether from the loss of blood, or the irritating pain of
the wounds, but I certainly felt very faint, and probably my
countenance showed how much I was suffering, for while the young
Arnault and some others were examining the person of the dead man, and
taking what papers and effects he had upon him, the player stepped
forward, and offered to render me his assistance as a surgeon.
Thinking that the devil of buffoonery still possessed him, I repulsed
him somewhat rudely; but yet unrepelled, he laid his hand upon his
heart, made me a low bow, and said, "Listen, noble youth, scion of an
illustrious house, and you shall hear that which shall make you yield
yourself to my hands, as willingly as Maladine gave herself up to
Milsenio. Know then, before my superior genius prompted me to fit on
the buskin, I trod the stage of life in a high-heeled shoe--not,
indeed, the Cothurnus; far, far from it, for in those days, alas!
though I was clothed in tragic black, and held the dagger and the
bowl, I shed real blood behind the curtain, and inflicted my cruelties
on the real flesh and blood."

"I begin somewhat to understand you," I replied; "but if you would
have me attend to you seriously, my friend, you must drop that exalted
style, and speak common sense in common language."

"Well, then, sir, I will," he answered, instantly changing his tone,
and taking one which strangely blended in itself insignificance and
sharpness, but which harmonized much better with his little eager
countenance and twinkling black eyes, than his tumid, bombastic
loudness had done. "What I mean is, that before I went on the stage, I
studied under an apothecary. My disposition is not naturally cruel,
and I was not hard-hearted enough to succeed in that profession. Now,
though, with the devil's assistance and my master's skill, I aided in
conveying many a worthy patient from their bed to their coffin, yet I
think I remember some few simples which would allay the irritation of
your wounds, and I will undertake for their innocuousness."

No surer aid was at hand, and therefore I willingly allowed the
metamorphosed apothecary to bandage up my forehead with such
applications as he thought fit, as well as to use his skill upon my
hands; and certainly the ease which I derived from his assistance
fully repaid the confidence I had placed in him.

In the meanwhile, the body of the murderer had been searched, and the
various objects found upon him being brought to me, proved to consist
of nothing more, besides the packet of papers which I had already
taken, than a few pieces of gold, one or two licentious letters and
songs, a pack of cards, some loaded dice, a missal, two short daggers,
and a rosary, all articles very serviceable in one or other of his
callings. One of the cottage-boys had by this time caught the horse
which this very respectable person had ridden, and strapped upon it
behind was found what at first appeared a cloak, but which proved,
upon examination, to be a Capuchin's gown, confirming my opinion in
regard to the owner's identity with the card-player at Luz.

When this examination was over, I prepared to mount my horse and
proceed home, but before I went, I turned to gaze once more upon the
lifeless form of my dead adversary; and in looking upon his clumsy
limbs and obesity of body, I could not understand how he could have so
easily overcome me, endowed, as I felt myself to be, with equal
strength and far superior agility. The sudden surprise could alone
have been the cause, and I resolved through my future life, to
struggle for that presence of mind which in circumstances of danger
and difficulty is a buckler worth all the armour of Achilles. After
this, I bestowed a gold piece upon the player-apothecary for the ease
he had given me, and bade him come over to the Château de l'Orme the
next day for a farther reward, and then escaping as fast as I could
from his hyperbolical thanks, I mounted, and, accompanied by Jean
Baptiste, rode on towards my home.

My first question, as we went, was how long the Chevalier had returned
from Spain, and what had brought him on the road towards Lourdes at
that time of night. At first, Jean Baptiste seemed somewhat reserved,
but upon being pressed closely on the subject, his frank nature would
not let him maintain his silence; and he informed me, that the
Chevalier had returned that very morning from Spain; but on hearing
that the Marquis de St. Brie had been received as a visitor at the
château, and that I, in return, had gone to pass some time with him,
he had desired the young procureur to accompany him and set out for
Bagneres without delay, saying that I must be saved at all risks. "But
still," continued Jean Baptiste, "you have done something in Spain to
lose the Chevalier's love; for though he would come away after you
to-night, in spite of all my father could do to prevent him, he always
took care to say, 'for his father's sake--for his mother's sake, he
would rescue Count Louis from the dangers into which he was plunged.'"

The gloomiest knell that rings over the fall from virtue must be to
hear of the lost esteem of those we love. That must be the dark, the
damning scourge which drives on human weakness to despairing crime.
Could the great fallen angel ever have returned? I do not believe it.
The glorious confidence of Heaven was lost, and mercy would have been
nothing without oblivion.

I felt that my friend did me wrong, but even that did not save me from
the whole bitterness of having lost his regard. And I internally asked
myself, what would my feelings have been, had I really merited his bad
opinion?

"Where is the Chevalier?" demanded I. "Is he at his own house?"

"No," answered the young man; "he is at my father's, at Lourdes."

My determination was taken immediately, to ride over to Lourdes the
next day, and explain to the Chevalier my conduct, as far as I could
with honour; to represent to him, that I was under a most positive
promise not to disclose to any Spaniard the events of that night
wherein his suspicions had been excited, and to add my most solemn
asseverations to convince him of my innocence. My pride, I will own,
struggled against this resolution, but still I saw, in the Chevalier's
conduct towards me, a degree of lingering affection, which I could not
bear to lose. The good spirit triumphed; and I determined to sacrifice
my pride for the sake of his esteem.

These thoughts kept me silent till our arrival at the Château de
l'Orme, where my appearance in such a state, I need not say, created
the most terrible consternation. But I will pass by all that; suffice
it, that I had to tell my story over at least one hundred times,
before I was suffered to retire to bed. Helen, happily, was not
present when I arrived, but my mother's embroidery woman did not fail
to wake her, as I afterwards heard, for the purpose of communicating
the agreeable intelligence, and doubtless made it a thousand times
worse than it really was. My poor Helen's night, I am afraid, was but
sadly spent.

However, when I had satisfied both my father and mother that I was not
dangerously injured, and related my story to every old servant in the
family, who thought they had a right to be as accurately informed in
regard to all that occurred to Count Louis as his confessor, I retired
to my chamber; and while the _maître d'hôtel_ fulfilled the functions
of Houssaye in assisting to undress me, I opened the packet I had
found upon the monk, and examined the papers which it contained, but
to my surprise I found nothing at all relating directly to the Marquis
de St. Brie.

The first thing that presented itself was a regular certificate of the
marriage of Gaston Francois de Bagnol, Count de Bagnol, with Henriette
de Vergne, dated some seventeen years before, with the names of
several witnesses attached. Then followed a paper of a much fresher
appearance, containing the names of these witnesses, with the word
_dead_ marked after one, and the address of their present residence
affixed to each of the others. Then came a long epistolary
correspondence between the above Count de Bagnol and various persons
in the town of Rochelle, at the time of its siege; by reading which I
clearly found that though influenced by every motive of friendship or
relationship to give his aid to the rebellious Rochellois, had
constantly refused to do so, and, that in consequence, the accusation
which the Chevalier informed me had been brought against that young
nobleman, must have been false. On remembering, also, the cause of
enmity which the Marquis de St. Brie had against him, and associating
that fact with the circumstance of my having found these papers on the
body of an assassin hired by the same man, I doubted not for a moment
that the charge had been forged by the Marquis himself, and these
letters withheld on purpose to prevent the Count from establishing his
innocence. Why the Marquis had let them pass from his own hands I
could not divine; without, indeed, he considered them as valueless,
now he had taken care that the justice or injustice of this world
could no way affect his victim. I knew that he was far too much a
lover of this life alone, to value, in his own case or that of others,
the cold meed of posthumous renown.

Long before I had finished these reflections and the reading of the
letters, the _maître d'hôtel_, who, as I have said, supplied
Houssaye's place, had done his part in undressing me; and soon, after
ordering my horse to be ready early, I dismissed him and slept.

Before closing this chapter, however, I must remark that, for many
reasons, I had restricted to the safe guardianship of my own breast
the various reasons that led me to suppose the Marquis de St. Brie had
instigated the attack under which I had so nearly fallen. The
suspicions of both my parents turned naturally in that direction; but
I well knew that if my father had possessed half the knowledge which I
did upon the subject, he would have allowed no consideration to
prevent his pursuing the Marquis with the most determined vengeance,
to the destruction, perhaps, of all parties. I therefore merely
described the attack, but withheld the circumstances which preceded
it; and though there are few actions in a man's life which do not
either afford him regret or disappointment, this piece of prudence is
amongst the scanty number I have never had cause to wish undone.



CHAPTER XVI.


I slept soundly, and I rose refreshed, although my hands were very
stiff, and my head was not without its pains from the rude treatment
that each had undergone. No one in the house was up when I woke, and
saddling my own horse as well as I could, I left word with the old
gardener that I should return before the hour of breakfast, and set
out for Lourdes.

If I was not always very considerate in forming my resolutions, as the
wise axiom recommends, I was certainly not slow in executing them; and
I now proceeded at full speed to fulfil my determination of the night
before in regard to the Chevalier. Stopping at Arnault's house, I
threw myself off my horse, and entered his _étude_, which appeared to
be just opened; nor did the least doubt enter my mind that the person
I sought was still there.

The first thing, however, that I perceived was the enormous head of
the old procureur himself, looking through the sort of barred screen
that surrounded his writing-table, like some strange beast in a
menagerie. I was not very much inclined to treat this incubus of the
law with any great civility on my own account, as I was aware that,
for some reason to himself best known, he bore me no extraordinary
love; but as Helen's father, he commanded other feelings, and I
therefore addressed him as politely as I could.

In answer to my inquiries for the Chevalier, he bowed most profoundly,
replying that the Monsieur de Montenero would be quite in despair when
he found that I had come to honour him with a visit only five minutes
after his departure.

"What! is he gone already?" cried I. "When did he go?--where did he go
to?"

"He is indeed, I am sorry to say, gone, Monsieur le Comte," replied
the procureur; "and in answer to your second interrogatory, I can
reply, that he has been gone precisely nine minutes and three
quarters; but in regard to the third question, all I can depone is,
that I do not at all know--only that he spoke of being absent some
three months or more."

Angry, vexed, and disappointed, I turned unceremoniously on my heel;
and as I went out, I heard a sort of suppressed laugh issue through
the wide, unmoved jaws of the procureur, whose imperturbable
countenance announced nothing in the least like mirth; and yet I am
certain that he was at that moment laughing most heartily at the
deceit he had put upon me; for, as I afterwards learned, the Chevalier
was in his house at the very time.

The distance between Lourdes and the château was narrowed speedily;
and on my arrival, I found the domestic microcosm I had left behind
sound asleep an hour before, now just beginning to buzz. My father had
not yet quitted his own room, but the servants were all bustling about
in the preparations of the morning; and as I rode up, old Houssaye
himself, recovered from his drunkenness, sneaked into the court like a
beaten dog--not that he was at all ashamed of having been drunk--it
was a part of his profession; but upon the road he had heard my
adventures of the night before detailed in very glowing language; and
he justly feared that the indignation of the whole household would
fall upon his head for having been absent in the moment of danger.

Beckoning him to speak to me, I gave him a hint that I had been tender
of his name, and that, if he chose to keep his own counsel, he might
yet pass scathless from the rest of the family. "I shall punish you
myself, Maître Houssaye," continued I; "for I _will_ teach you to get
drunk at proper times and seasons only."

"As I hope to live," answered the trumpeter, "I did but drink two
cups; and you well know, monsieur, that two cups of wine to me, or the
_maître d'hôtel_, who have drunk so many hundred tuns in our lives, is
but as a cup of cold water to another man. They must have been drugged
those two cups--for a certainty, they must have been drugged."

At breakfast, I found Helen with my father. They were alone; for my
mother was ill from the agitation of the night before, and had
remained in her own chamber, desiring not to be disturbed. The moment
my step sounded in the vestibule, Helen's eyes darted towards the
door, and I could see the flush of eagerness on her cheek, and the
paleness that then overspread it, as she saw my head bound up; and
then again the blood mounting quickly, lest any one should see the
busy feelings of her swelling heart. It was a mute language which I
could read as easily as my own thoughts; but still I would have given
worlds to have been permitted to hear and speak to her with the
openness of acknowledged love. The breakfast passed over. Helen left
the hall; and after a few minutes' conversation, my father went to the
library, while I gazed for a moment from the window, meditating over a
thousand hopes, in all of which Helen had her part--letting thought
wander gaily through a thousand mazy turns, like a child sporting in a
meadow without other object than delight, roaming heedlessly here and
there, and gathering fresh flowers at every step.

As I gazed, I saw the figure of Helen glide from the door of the
square tower, and take her way towards the park.--Now, now then was
the opportunity. She had promised not to avoid me any longer. Now then
was the moment for which my heart had longed, more than language can
express; and snatching a gun to excuse the wanderings, which indeed
needed no excuse, I was hastening to pour forth the multitude of
accumulated feelings, and thoughts, and dreams, and wishes, which had
gathered in my bosom during so many months of silence, when I was
called to speak with my father, just as my foot was on the step of the
door.

I will own, that if ever I felt undutiful, it was then. However, I
could not avoid going, and certainly with a very unwilling heart I
mounted the stairs, and entered the library. My father had a letter in
his hand, which I soon found came from the Countess de Soissons, and
contained a reply favourable to my mother's request, that I might be
placed near the person of the prince, her son, so well known under the
name of _Monsieur le Comte_. My father placed it in my hands, and
seemed to expect that I should be very much gratified at the news; but
I could only reply, as I had done before, that I had not the least
inclination to quit my paternal home, without, indeed, it was for the
purpose of serving for a campaign or two in the armies of my country.
"Well, Louis," replied my father, thinking me doubtless a wayward and
whimsical boy, "if you will look at the _proscriptum_, you will
perceive that you are likely to be gratified in that point at least,
for the Countess states that his highness, her son, though at present
at Sedan, from some little rupture with the court, is likely to
receive the command of one of the armies. However, take the letter,
consider its contents, and at dinner let me know when you will be
prepared to set out."

Glad to escape so soon, I flew out into the park in search of my
beautiful Helen. It was now a fine day in the beginning of May, as
warm as summer--as bright, as lovely. Nature was in her very freshest
robe of green: the air was full of sweetness and balm; and as I went,
a lark rose up before my steps, and mounting high in the sunshine,
hung afar speck upon its quivering wings, making the whole air thrill
with its melodious happiness. I love the lark above all other birds.
Though there is something more tender and plaintive in the liquid
music of the nightingale, yet there seems a touch of repining in its
solitude and its gloom: but the lark images always to my mind a happy
and contented spirit, who, full of love and delight, soars up towards
the beneficent heaven, and sings its song of joy and gratitude in
presence of all the listening creation.

All objects in external nature have a very great effect upon my mind;
whether I will or not, they are received by my imagination as omens.
And catching the lark's song as a happy augury, I sped on upon my way.
As much had been done as possible to render the park, which extended
behind the château, regular and symmetrical; but the ground was so
uneven in its nature, so broken with rocks, and hills, and streams,
and dells, that it retained much more of the symmetry of nature than
anything else; which, after all, to my taste, is more beautiful than
aught man can devise.

If Helen had wandered very far from the house, it would have been a
difficult matter to have found her; but a sort of instinct guided me
to where she was. I thought of the spot, I believe, which I myself
would have chosen for lonely musing--a spot where a bower of high
trees arched over a little cascade of about ten feet in height, whose
waters, after escaping from the clear pool into which they fell,
rushed quickly down the slanting ravine before them, nourishing the
roots of innumerable shrubs, and trees, and flowers, and spreading a
soft murmur and a cool freshness wherever they turned.

Helen was sitting on the bank over which the stream fell; and though
she held in her hand some piece of female work, which, while my mother
slept, she had brought out to occupy herself in the park, yet her eyes
were fixed upon the rushing waters of the fall. At that moment,
catching a stray sunbeam that found its way through the trees, the
cascade had decorated itself with a fluttering iris, which, varied
with a thousand hues, waved over the cataract like those changeful
hopes of life, which, hanging bright and beautiful over all the
precipices of human existence, still waver and change to suit every
wind that blows along the course of time. My footstep was upon the
greensward, so that Helen heard it not; and she continued to sit with
her full dark eyes fixed upon the waterfall, her soft downy cheek
resting upon the slender, graceful hand, which might have formed a
model for the statuary or the painter, and her whole figure leaning
forward with that untaught elegance of form and position, which never
but once _did_ painter or statuary succeed in representing.

When she did hear me she looked up; but there was no longer the quick
start to avoid me, as if she feared a moment's unobserved
conversation. Her cheek, it is true, turned a shade redder, and I
could see that she was somewhat agitated; but still those dear, tender
eyes turned upon me; and a smile, that owned she was happy in my
presence, broke from her heart itself, and found its way to her lips.

"Dear, dear Helen," said I, seating myself beside her, "thank you for
the promise that you would not avoid me, and thank you for its
fulfilment; and thank you for that look, and thank you for that smile.
Oh, Helen! you know not how like a monarch you are, in having the
power, by a word, or a glance, or a tone, to confer happiness, and to
raise from misery and doubt, to hope, and life, and delight."

"Indeed, Louis," answered she, in a very different manner from that
which I had ever seen in her before--"if I do possess such power, I am
not sorry that it is so; for I am sure that while it remains with me
to make you happy, you shall never be otherwise.--You think it very
strange," she added, with a smile, "to hear me talk as I do now; and I
would never, never have done so had not circumstances changed. But
they have changed, Louis; and as I now see some hope of----" she
paused a moment, as if seeking means to express herself, and I saw a
bright, ingenuous blush spread over her whole countenance. "Why should
I hesitate to say it?" she added, "as I see some hope now of becoming
your wife, without entering into a family unwilling to receive me, I
know not why I should not tell _you_ also _this_ that has made me so
happy."

"A thousand and a thousand thanks, dearest Helen," answered I; "but
tell me on what circumstance you, who once doubted my parents' consent
so much more than I ever did, now found expectations so joyful--let me
say, for us both."

"You must not ask me, Louis," answered Helen; "the only reason
that could at all have influenced me to withhold from you what I
hoped--what I was sure would make you happy--was, that I felt myself
bound to be silent on more than one subject. You cannot fancy how I
dislike anything that seems to imply mystery and want of confidence
between two people that love one another; and, indeed, it is the
greatest happiness I anticipate in being yours, that then I shall have
neither thought, nor feeling, nor action, that you may not know--but
in the present case you must spare me. Do not ask me, Louis, if you
love me."

Of course, however much my curiosity might be excited, I put no
farther question, merely asking, as calmly as I could, fearful lest I
should instil some new doubts in Helen's mind, if she was sure, very
sure, that the joyful news she gave me was perfectly certain; for I
owned that it took such a burden from my heart, I could scarce believe
my own hopes.

"All I can say, Louis," answered she, "is, that I feel sure neither
your father nor your mother will object to our union, when the time
arrives to think that it may take place--of course we are yet far too
young."

"Too young!" said I; "why too young, dear Helen?"

"Oh, for many reasons," she answered, smiling. "You have yet to mingle
with the world; at least, so I have heard people, who know the world,
say that it is necessary for a young man to do before he dreams of
marriage. You have to see all the fair, and the young, and the gay,
which that world contains, before you can rightly judge whether your
poor Helen may still possess your heart."

"And do you doubt me?" demanded I. "Helen, you have promised me never
to give your hand to another; and, without one doubt, or one
hesitation, do I promise the same to you--by yourself--by my hopes of
happiness in this world or the next--by all that I hold sacred----"

"Hush, hush, dear Louis!" replied she; "do not swear so deeply. There
are many, many temptations, I have heard, in the great world, which
are difficult for a young man to resist. Louis, have you not found it
so already?"

There was a peculiar emphasis in her question, which surprised and
hurt me; but in a moment it flashed through my mind--the Chevalier had
communicated his suspicions of me to Arnault, and Arnault had taken
care to impart them to his daughter. I stood for a moment as one
stupified--then, taking her hands in mine, I asked, "Helen, what is
it that you mean? Can you--do you in the least believe me guilty?"

"No, Louis--no, dear Louis!" answered she, with a look of full,
undoubting, unhesitating confidence; "if all the world were to declare
you guilty, mine should be the dissenting voice; and I would never,
never believe it.--I will not deny that tales have reached me, which I
do not dwell on, because I am sure they are false--basely,
ungenerously false, or originating in some mistake which you can
correct when you will, and will correct when you ought. Do not explain
them to me--do not waste a word or a thought upon them, as far as I am
concerned," she added, seeing me about to speak, "for I believe not a
word of them--not one single word."

Oh, woman's love! It is like the sunshine, so pure, so bright, so
cheering; and there is nothing in all creation equal to it! I threw my
arms round her unopposed--I pressed my lips upon hers; but the
kiss that I then took was as pure as gratitude for such generous
affection could suggest--I say not that it was brotherly, for it was
dearer--sweeter; but if there be a man on earth who says there was one
unholy feeling mingled therein, I tell him, in his throat, he lies!

At that moment the figure of a man broke at once through the boughs
upon us. Helen turned, and, confused and ashamed at any one having
seen her so clasped in my arms, fled instinctively like lightning,
while the intruder advanced upon me in a menacing attitude.--It was
Jean Baptiste Arnault; and with a flushed cheek and a raised stick he
came quickly upon me, exclaiming, "Villain, you have seduced my
sister, and, by the God above, your nobility shall not protect you!"

"Hear me, Arnault!" cried I; but he still advanced with the stick
lifted, in an attitude to strike. My blood took fire. "Hear me,"
repeated I, snatching up my carbine,--"hear me, or take the
consequences;" and I retreated up the hill, with the gun pointed
towards his breast. Mad, I believe--for his conduct can hardly be
attributed to anything but frenzy--he rushed on upon me without giving
time for any explanation, and struck a violent blow at my head with
his stick. I started back to avoid it; my foot struck against an angle
of the rock; I stumbled; the gun went off; and Arnault, after reeling
for a moment with an ineffectual effort to stand, pressed his hand
upon his bosom, and fell lifeless at my feet.



CHAPTER XVII.


There is nothing like remorse:--it is the fiery gulf into which our
passions and our follies lash us with whips of snakes. What language
can tell the feelings of my bosom, while I stood and gazed upon the
lifeless form of Helen's brother, as he lay before me slain by my
hand? And oh! what words of horror and of agony did I not read in
every line of that cold, still, mindless countenance, as it glared at
me with an expression still mingled of the anger which had animated
him, and the pang with which he had died.

It was terrible beyond all description. My whole heart, and mind, and
brain, and soul, was one whirl of dreadful sensations. I had done that
which it was impossible to recal--I had taken from my fellow-being
that which I could never restore--I had extinguished the bright
mysterious lamp of life; and where, oh, where, could I find the
Promethean flame wherewith to light it again to action and to being?

In vain! The irrevocable deed had gone forth; and sorrow, and tears,
and regret, and agony could have no more effect upon it than on the
granite of the mountains that surrounded me. It was done! It was
written on the book of fate! It was between me and my God,--a dreadful
account, never to pass from my memory. I felt the finger, that had
branded _murderer!_ on the brow of Cain, tracing the same damning word
in characters of fire upon my heart. And yet I gazed on, upon the
thing that I made, with horror amounting to stupefaction. Like the
head of the Gorgon, it seemed to have turned me into stone; and though
I would have given worlds to have banished it for ever from my sight
and my memory, I stood with my eyes fixed upon it as if I sought to
impress every lifeless lineament on my remembrance with lines that
time should never have power to efface.

A heavy hand, laid upon my shoulder, was the first thing that roused
me; and turning round, I beheld Pedro Garcias, the Spanish smuggler,
standing by my side. The discharged gun was still in my hand; the
bleeding corpse lay before me; and had he had occasion to ask who had
done the deed, whose consequences he beheld, I am sure that my
countenance would have afforded a sufficient reply. No one but a
murderer could have looked and felt as I did.

"How did this happen?" asked he bluntly, and without giving me either
name or title; for no one could look upon the humbling object before
us, and cast away one name of honour upon earthly rank. For a moment,
I gazed upon the smuggler wildly and vacantly; for the strong
impression of the thing itself had almost banished from my mind the
circumstances that preceded it; but recollecting myself at length, I
gave him a scarcely coherent account of what had happened.

"You should not have seduced his sister," replied the smuggler, fixing
his large dark eye upon me. "You men of rank think that the plain
_bourgeois_ feels not such a stain upon his honour as the loss of his
child's or of his sister's virtue. But they do--they do, as bitterly,
as keenly, as madly, as the proudest count that ever spread his banner
to the wind."

"Seduce his sister!--seduce Helen!" cried I, turning quickly upon him.
"It is false! Who dares to say it? I would not wrong her for a
world--not for a thousand worlds!"

"That changes the case," replied the smuggler. "He wronged you then,
and deserved to die. But come away from this spot. Fie! do not look so
ghastly. We shall all wear his likeness one day, and it matters little
whether it be a day sooner or a day later. But come along to the mill.
Harm may come of this; for his father will not want friends to pursue
this deed to the utmost. Come, come! You shall not stay here, and risk
your life too. One dead man is enough for one day at least. Come!"

So saying, he hurried me away to the mill, where we found the door
apparently locked, the wheel at rest, and the miller out; but on
tapping three times, thrice repeated, we were admitted by the miller,
who seemed somewhat surprised to see me with Garcias. The event that
had driven me there was soon told; and after a consultation between
the two, it was agreed that, beyond all doubt, I might compromise my
own life, and the security of my family, by remaining in France. How
far they were right would have been difficult to determine, even had
my mind been in a state to have examined the question. The privileges
of the nobility were great, but not such as to have secured my
immunity, if it could have been proved that the homicide had been
intentional. Nothing remained for me, according to their showing, but
once more to try the air of Spain, till such time as my pardon could
be obtained, which might, indeed, be long; for it had lately been the
policy of the prime minister to strike every possible blow at the
power of the nobility, and to show less lenity towards any member of
their body, than to those of the common classes. Little did I heed
their reasoning on the subject. The conclusion was all that reached my
mind; and the idea of there being an absolute necessity for my
quitting the country was in itself a relief. Even to think of
remaining in those scenes was horror, and to have met Helen's eyes,
after slaying her brother, would have been a thousand times worse than
death.

"Come, cheer up, Count Louis!" cried Garcias; "I did not think to see
so brave a heart as yours overset by a thing that happens to every one
now and then. Give him a horn of La Mancha brandy, Señor Miller;
'twill comfort his heart, and get rid of such foolish qualms. In the
meanwhile, I will go out and see after the body. If no one has come
near it, and I can get it down to the river, I will cast it in below
the fall. The waters are full, and it may go down for ten or fifteen
miles, so that nobody will hear more of it, and the Count may stay in
his own land. But if they have discovered the business, our young
Seigneur must lie here till midnight, and then be off with me into
Spain. I shall meet my good fellows in the mountains; and then the
_douaniers_ who would stop us must have iron hands and a brazen face."

I let them do with me whatsoever they liked. It seemed that those fine
ties which connect the mind and the body were so far broken or
relaxed, that the sensations of the one had no longer their effect
upon the other. My heart was on fire, and my thoughts were as busy as
hell could wish; but I scarcely saw, or heard, or knew what was
passing around me; and I let Garcias and the miller manage me as if I
had been an automaton, without exerting any volition of my own. I
drank the raw spirit that the miller gave me; and indeed it might as
well have been water. I suffered him, when Garcias was gone, to pour
on his consolations, which fell cold and heavy upon my ear, but found
not their way to my heart. Nor, indeed, did he seem to understand the
cause of that despairing melancholy in which I was plunged,
attributing my grief to fear of the consequences, or to dislike to
quit my country. I had not the spirit even to repel such a
supposition, though my feelings were very, very different. The
absorbing consciousness of guilt prevented me at first from even
remembering or thinking of the impassable barrier now placed between
me and Helen. That was an after-thought, infinitely painful, it is
true, but it came not at once. The only thought which occupied me--if,
indeed, thought it can be called,--was the mental endeavour to qualify
the bitterness of my feelings, by remembering that the act which had
so suddenly plunged me into misery was not a voluntary one; and I had
continually to reiterate, to press upon my own mind, that it was
accidental, and to call up the memory of every painful circumstance,
in order to assure myself that I was practising no self-deception.
Then, too, came the consciousness that I had pointed the gun; and a
thousand times I asked myself, what would have been my conduct had I
not stumbled over the rock?--Would I have fired? Would I have
refrained? I know not; and still my own heart condemned me, and
branded me with the name of murderer.

It seemed long, long ere Garcias came back; for to those who despair,
as well as to those who hope, each minute lingers out an age. When he
came, he brought the news that the body had been removed before he had
arrived at the spot; and that, by creeping on behind the trees, he had
caught a glimpse of the persons that bore it, who were evidently
proceeding towards the château.

As he spoke, I covered my eyes with my hands, as if to shut out the
view of Helen's first sight of her brother's corpse. She had fled so
fast at the first sound of footsteps, that she could not have known
who it was had approached; but now she would see him, bleeding from a
wound by my hand; and by the place where he was found, she would
easily divine who was the murderer. It wanted but that thought to work
up my agony to the highest pitch, and it burst forth in a torrent of
passionate tears.

"Fie! fie!" cried Garcias. "Señor, are you a man? I would not, for
very shame, have any one see you look so womanly. You have slain a
man!--good! Had you not good cause? Were he alive again, and were to
offer you a blow, would you not slay him again? If you would not, you
are yourself unworthy to live; for the man that outlives his honour,
is a disgrace to existence. A man once told me I lied," continued the
smuggler, advancing and laying his gigantic hand upon my arm, to call
my attention, while the dark fire flashed out of his eyes, as if his
heart still flamed at the insult. "He told me, I lied! We were sitting
in a peaceful circle upon the green top of the first step of the
Maladetta, where it juts out over the plain, with a precipice two
hundred feet high. He told me, I lied, in the presence of the girl I
loved--he told me, I lied; and I pitched him as far into the open air
as I have seen a hurler cast a disk. I can see him now, sprawling
midway between heaven and earth, till he fell dashed to atoms on the
rocks below. And think you that I give it one vain regret, one weak
womanish thought? Did he and I stand there again, with the same
provocation, I would send him again as far--ay, farther, were it
possible. Come come," he added, "no more of this! Miller, give him
another cup of consolation."

The smuggler took, perhaps, the best way of teaching me to bear the
weight of what I had done, by showing me that there were others who
walked under it so lightly. Wondering at his coolness, yet envying it,
I took another and another cup of the spirit, till I began to find
some relief, and could look around me and gain some knowledge of the
external objects. It was then I perceived the reason why the miller
had been so slow in admitting us. The whole place was strewed with
various contraband goods, which had not yet been deposited in their
usual receptacle, which was apparently an under-chamber, reached by a
trap-door in the floor of the mill, so artfully contrived that it had
escaped even my eyes in my frequent visits to the place.

It now stood open; and no sooner did Garcias perceive that the brandy
and his conversation had produced some effect upon me, than, pointing
to a low bed in one corner, he advised me to lie down and go to sleep,
while he helped the miller to conceal the salt and other prohibited
articles, with which the floor was encumbered. I said I could not
sleep; and he made me take a fourth cup of brandy, which soon plunged
me at least into forgetfulness.

How long I lay I know not; but when I woke, the interior of the mill
was quite dark, except where a moonbeam streamed in through a high
window and fell upon the dark gigantic figure of Garcias standing with
the miller near the door, apparently in the act of listening. At the
same time a high pile of salt, moved to the edge of the trap-door, but
not yet let down, proved that the smugglers had been interrupted in
their employment. In an instant a tremendous knocking, which had most
probably been the cause of my waking, was repeated against the
mill-door, and a voice was heard crying, "If you do not open the door,
take the consequences, for I give you notice that I shall break it
open: I am François Derville, officer of his majesty's _douane_; and I
charge you to yield me entrance."

"Ay, I know you well!" muttered Garcias to himself, "and a bold fellow
you are too.--See, miller, by the loop hole," he continued in the same
under-tone,--"see whether there is any one with him?"

The miller climbed up to a small aperture high in the wall, which
apparently commanded a view of the door; and after looking through it
for a moment, while the blows were reiterated on the outside, he
descended, saying, "He is alone: I have looked all up the valley, and
no one is near him; but I see he has got an iron crow to break open
the door."

"He will not try that when he knows I am here," said Garcias; and
elevating his voice to a tone that drowned the knocking without, he
added, "Hold! Derville, hold! I am here,--Pedro Garcias:--you know me,
and you know I am not one to be disturbed; so go away about your
business, if you would not have worse come of it.

"Pedro Garcias, or Pedro Devil!" replied the man without, "what
matters it to me? I will do my duty. Therefore, let me in, or I will
break open the door;" and a heavy blow of his crow confirmed this
expression of his intention.

"The man is mad!" said Garcias, with that calm, cold tone which very
often in men of stormy passions announces a more deadly degree of
wrath than when their anger exhausts itself in noisy fury;--"the man
is mad!" and stooping down he took up one of the heavy wooden mallets
with which he had been breaking the salt.

In the meanwhile, the blows without were redoubled, and the door
evidently began to give way. "Take care what you are doing!" cried
Garcias, in a voice of thunder; "you are rushing into the lion's den!"
Another and another blow were instantly struck: the door staggered
open, and the douanier stood full in the portal.

Garcias raised his arm--the mallet fell, and the unhappy officer
rolled upon the floor with his scull dashed to atoms, like an ox
before the blow of the butcher. He made no cry or sound, except a sort
of inarticulate moan, but fell dead at once, without a struggle.

"Good God! what have you done?" cried I, starting from the bed where I
had hitherto lain, and approaching Garcias.

"Punished a villain for breaking the law of every civilized land,"
replied the smuggler; "for no country authorizes one man to
infringe the dwelling of another without authority; and he had no
authority, or he would have shown it. At least," he added in a lighter
tone,--though, perhaps, what he did add, proceeded from a more serious
feeling--for that dark and wily thing, the human heart, thus often
covers itself, even from ourselves, with a disguise the most opposite
to its native character,--"at least, I hope he had none. At all
events, he knew well what he was about: I warned him beforehand: and
now--I think he will never break into any one's house again.--Shut the
door, miller, and let us have a light."

The coolness with which he contemplated the body of his victim
produced very strange and perhaps evil impressions in my breast.
Certainly, in that small, silent court of justice which every man
holds within his own breast, both upon his and upon other people's
actions, I condemned the deed I had seen committed; and I found
myself, too, guilty; but his crime seemed so much more enormous than
mine, that the partial judge was willing, I am afraid, to pardon the
minor offender. But it was the example of his calmness that had
strongest effect upon me; and I began to value human life at less,
since I saw it estimated so low by others.

Neither Garcias nor the miller seemed to give one thought of remorse
to the deed; the miller speaking of it in his cool, placid manner, and
Garcias treating it as one of those matters which every man was called
to perform at some time of his life. Both of them also justified it to
themselves as an act of absolute necessity for their own security.

To what crime, to what folly has not that plea of necessity pandered
at one time or another in this world? From the statesman to the
pick-purse, from the warrior to the cut-throat, all, all shield
themselves behind necessity from the arrows which conscience vainly
aims at the rebellious heart of man.

The question now became how to dispose of the body; but the smuggler
soon arranged his plan, with an art in concealing such deeds, which,
though doubtless gained in the wild hazardous traffic he carried on, I
own, made me shudder with associations I liked not to dwell upon.
Without any apparent reluctance, he raised the corpse in his arms, and
carried it out to a crag that overhung the stream, having an elevation
of about a hundred yards perpendicular. Underneath this point were
several masses of rock and stone, a fall on which would infallibly
have produced death, with much the same appearances as those to be
found on the body of the douanier. But without trusting to this,
Garcias carried the body to the top of the rock, and cast it down
headlong upon the stones below, which it spattered with its blood and
brains, and then, rolling over into the river, was carried away with
the stream. The next thing was to cast down the iron crow, which might
have been supposed to drop from his hand in falling; and then the
smuggler broke away a part of the mould and turf that covered the top
of the rock, leaving such an appearance as the spot would have
presented had the ground given way under the officer's feet.

All this being done, he returned to the mill; and telling me that it
would soon be time for us to set out, he applied himself to concluding
the work in which he had been disturbed by the arrival of the
douanier, as calmly as if the fearful transactions of the last
half-hour had left no impress upon his memory. The only thing that
might perchance betray any regret or remorse was the dead silence with
which he proceeded, as if his thoughts were deeply occupied with some
engrossing subject.

At length, however, he turned to the miller: "Come, give me a horn of
the _aguardente!_" cried he, with a sigh that commented on his demand;
"and stow away those two lumps of salt yourself.--Have you put the
door to rights? It will tell tales to-morrow if you do not take heed;
and wipe up that blood upon the floor."

So saying, he cast his gigantic limbs upon a seat, mused a moment or
two with a frowning brow; and I thought I could see that he strove to
summon up again, in his bosom, the angry feelings under which he had
slain his fellow-creature, to counterbalance the regret that was
gaining mastery over his heart. His lip curled, and his eye flashed,
and, tossing off the cup of spirits which the miller proffered, he
cast his mantle across his shoulders and prepared to set out.

Had he shown no touch of remorse, there would have existed no link of
association between his feelings and mine; but I saw that though his
heart had been hardened in scenes of danger and guilt, it was still
accessible to some better sensations. There was also a similarity in
the events which had that day happened to us both, that created a
degree of sympathy between us; and I rose willingly to accompany the
smuggler, when he announced that he was ready to depart.

To my surprise, however, he turned not towards the door by which we
had entered, but going into a small sort of closet, in which appeared
a variety of sacks, and measures, and other accessories of a miller's
trade, he bade me do precisely as he did. For my part, I saw no means
of exit from that place; but I found that there were more secrets in
the mill than I had dreamed of. Choosing out a large spare millstone,
that lay upon the floor of the closet, Garcias mounted thereon, and
dropped his arms by his sides, when instantly the stone began to sink
under his weight, and he disappeared by degrees like some gigantic
genius in a fairy tale. The miller handed him a lantern the moment he
had descended sufficiently to be clear of the hole through which the
stone had sunk. He then jumped off the millstone, which rose up
rapidly in its place, counterbalanced by some other weight; and on my
stepping upon it, it again descended with me, when I found myself in a
sort of cave, whether artificial or natural I know not, but which ran
some way into the rock under the mill. The miller followed with a key,
and a gourd fashioned into a bottle, which he bestowed upon me, and
which I afterwards found to be full of brandy. He then opened a small
door which gave us egress close to the water-wheel; and bidding him
farewell, we issued forth, and in a moment stood in the moonlight by
the side of the river.



CHAPTER XVIII.


With a quick step Garcias led the way towards that side of the hill
which from its position was cast into shadow, and taking an upward
path, that we both knew, he soon arrived in those high and lonely
parts of the mountain, where solitude and silence reigned undisturbed.
High above earth's habitations, nothing looked upon us but the clear
blue sky and the bright calm moon, whose beams fell soft and silvery
upon the tall mountain peaks around--poured into every valley--danced
in every stream, and contrasted the broad, deep shadows thrown by each
projecting rock, with the bright effulgence of those spots whereon she
glowed with her full power.

It was a grand and solemn scene; and there was something inexpressibly
awful in the calm, sublime aspect of the giant world in which we
stood--in the silence--in the moonlight--in the deep, clear expanse of
the profound blue sky, especially when each of those who contemplated
it had heavy on his heart the weight of human blood. It felt as if we
were more immediately in the presence of Heaven itself--as if the
calm, bright eye of eternal Justice looked sternly into the deepest
recesses of our bosoms.

Garcias seemed to feel nearly as much as I did; and bending his eyes
upon the ground, he pursued his way silently and fast, till,
descending for some hundred yards, and turning the angle of the hill,
we came under a group of high trees, which formed a beautiful object
on the mountain side when viewed from the windows of the Château de
l'Orme, and from which I could now discern the dwelling of my
ancestors.

Here the smuggler stopped as if to allow me a last view of the scenes
of my infancy; and my eye instantly running down the valley, rested on
the grey towers and pinnacles of my paternal mansion with a lingering
regret impossible to describe.

There lay all that I loved on earth, the objects of every better
affection of my nature--there lay the scenes amongst which every
happier hour had passed--there lay the spot where every early dream
had been formed--where hope had arisen--where every wish returned; and
I was leaving it--leaving it, perhaps, for ever, with a stain upon my
name, and the kindred blood of her most dear upon my hand. My heart
swelled as if it would have burst, my brain burned as with fire, and
my eyes would fain have wept.

I struggled long to prevent them, and I should have succeeded; but
just while I was gazing--while a thousand overpowering remembrances
and bitter regrets seemed tearing my heart to pieces, a nightingale
broke out in the trees above my head, and poured forth so wild, so
sweet, so melancholy a song, that my excited feelings would bear no
more, and the tears rolled over my cheeks like the large drops of a
thunder-storm.

"Poor boy!" said Garcias, "I am sorry for thee! I can feel now, more
than I could this morning, what thou feelest, for, in truth, I would
that I had not slain that Derville so rashly: and, I know not why, but
I wish what I never wished before, that the moon was not so bright--it
seems as if that poor wretch were looking at me. But come, 'tis no use
to think of these things. When we are in Spain we will get us
absolution, and that is all that we can do. Pardon me, monseigneur,"
he added, suddenly resuming that peculiar sort of haughtiness which
leads many a proud man in an inferior station to give a full portion
of ceremonious deference to his superior--"pardon me, if now, or in
future, I treat you, too, like a companion of Pedro Garcias, the
smuggler. During this day, my wish to check your grief has made me
unceremonious, and till you can return, perhaps you had better waive
that respect which your rank entitles you to require, for it may not
please you hereafter, to have many of those with whom you now consort
for a time, boast of having been your very good friends and fellow
adventurers."

I told him to call me what he liked, and to use his own discretion in
regard to what account he gave of me to those, whose companion I was
about to become. Little, indeed, cared I for any part of the future:
it had nothing for hope to fix upon; and once having withdrawn my eyes
from that valley, and turned upon the path before me, I was reckless
about all the rest.

It seemed, however, that Garcias had found a relief in breaking the
dead silence which had hung upon us so long, for he continued speaking
on various topics as we went, and gradually succeeded in drawing my
mind from the actual objects of my regret. Not that I forgot my grief;
far from it. It still lay a dead and heavy weight upon my heart; but
my thoughts did not continue to trace every painful remembrance with
the agonizing minuteness which they had lately done. Such is ever the
first effect of that balm which Time pours into every wound. It
scarcely seems to lessen the anguish, but it renders it less defined.

Gradually I listened and replied, and though each minute or two my
mind reverted to myself, yet the intervals became longer, and I found
it every time more easy than the last to abstract my thoughts from my
own situation, and to apply them to the subjects on which he spoke.

For more than two hours we continued walking on till we arrived at the
heights nearly opposite to Argelez, during which time we had climbed
the hills and descended into the valleys more than once. We were now
again upon the very crest of the mountain, and the moon was just
sinking behind the hills to the west of the Balindrau, when Garcias
paused and pointed down the course of a stream that burst
precipitately over the side of the hill with so perpendicular a fall
that it almost deserved the name of a cataract.

The body of water, though then but a rivulet, was at some part of the
year undoubtedly considerable, for it had channelled for itself a deep
ravine, which, for some space, wound away from the valley, as if
obstinately resolved to bear its tribute in any other direction than
towards the principal river that flowed in the midst: but, after
pursuing these capricious meanderings for a considerable way, it was
obliged at length to follow the direction of the hills, and turn
towards the valley in its own despite, as we often see, in some far
province, a stubborn contemner of established authorities pursue for a
while his own wilful way, fancying himself a man of great spirit and
an independent soul, till comes some stiff official of the law, who
turns him sneaking back into the common course of life.

The bottom of the ravine, left free by the shrinking of the stream,
was lined on either hand with the most luxuriant verdure, and overhung
by a thousand shrubs and trees, now in their ruffling dresses of
summer green. Where we then stood, however, many hundred yards above,
with the moon, as I have said, sinking behind the opposite mountains,
all that I could see was a dark and fearful chasm below, at the bottom
of which I caught every now and then the flash and sparkle of the
stream, whose roar, as it broke from fall to fall, reached my ear even
at that height.

Down this abyss it was that Garcias pointed, saying that our journey's
end lay there, for the present.

"If you are a true mountaineer," added he, "you will be able to follow
me; but attempt it not if you feel the least fear; for I have seldom
seen a place more likely to break the neck of any but a good
cragsman."

"Go on," replied I, "I have no fear;" and, indeed, I had become so
reckless about life, that had it been the jaws of hell, I would have
plunged in. And yet it appeared I was even then in the act of flying
from death. Man is so made up of inconsistencies, that this would not
have been extraordinary, granting it to have been the case--but it was
not so. I was not flying from death, but from ignominy and shame, and
the reproachful eyes of those I loved.

Garcias led the way; and certainly never did a more hazardous and
precarious path receive the steps of two human beings. Its course lay
down the very face of the precipice over which the stream fell, and
the only tenable steps that it afforded were formed by the broken
faces of the schistus rock, without one bough of shrub or tree to
offer a hold for the hands. The river at the same time kept roaring in
our ears, within a yard of our course; and every now and then, where
it took a more furious bound than ordinary, it dashed its spray in our
faces, and over our path, confusing the sight, whose range was already
circumscribed by the darkness, and rendering the rock so slippy that
nothing but the talons of an eagle would have fastened steadily upon
it.

At length we came to a spot of smooth turf, with still the same degree
of perpendicular declination; and to keep one's feet became now almost
impossible; so that nothing seemed left but to lie down and slip from
the top to the bottom. It was a dangerous experiment, for the descent
might probably have terminated in a precipice which would have been
difficult to avoid; but I little cared: and, with the usual success of
boldness, I lighted on a small round plot of turf, crowning another
turn of the ravine. A man anxious for life would, most probably, have
avoided the course of the stream, slipped past the spot on which I
found a safe resting place, and been dashed over the precipice which
lay scarce two yards from me.

In a moment Garcias was by my side, and asked, with some concern lest
his place of retreat had been discovered, whether I had ever visited
that spot before, for I seemed to know it, he said, as well as he did
himself. Having assured him I never had, and that my fortunate descent
was entirely accidental, he laid his hand on my arm, as if to stay me
from any farther trial of the kind. "You have escaped strangely," said
he: "but never make the same experiment again, unless you are
something more than merely careless about life. We are now close upon
my men," he added, "and we must give them notice of our approach or we
may risk a shot;" and he stooped over the edge of the cliff looking
down into the ravine.

It was here that the trees and shrubs, which lined thickly the lower
parts of the dell first began to sprout; and, forming a dark screen
between our eyes and the course of the stream, they would have cut off
all view of what was passing below, had it been day; but at that hour,
when all was darkness around us, and no glare of sunshine outshone any
other light, we could just catch through the foliage the sparkling of
a fire, about forty yards below us; and as we gazed, a very musical
voice broke out in a Spanish song. Being directly above the singer,
the sounds rose distinctly to our ears, so that we could very well
distinguish the words that he sang, which were to the following
tenour, as near as I can recollect:--


SONG.

   Tread thou the mountain, brother, brother!
     Tread thou the mountain wild!
   In each other land men betray one another;
     Be thou then the mountain's child.

                         I.

   Hark! how hidalgo to hidalgo vows,
     To serve him he'd hazard his life--
   But woe to the foolish and confident spouse
     If he leave him alone with his wife.--
       Tread then the mountain, brother, brother!
         Tread then the mountain wild!
       In each other land men betray one another;
         Be thou then the mountain's child.

                         II.

   Lo! how the merchant to merchant will say,
     His credit and purse to command:
   But let him fall bankrupt, I doubt, well-a-day!
     No credit he'll have at his hand.
       Tread then the mountain, brother, brother!
         Tread then the mountain wild!
       In each other land men betray one another;
         Be thou then the mountain's child.

                        III.

   Lo! how the statesman will promise his tool,
     To raise him to honours some day:
   But when he's done all he would wish, the poor fool
     Will regret taking fine words for pay.
       Tread then the mountain, brother, brother!
         Tread then the mountain wild!
       In each other land men betray one another;
         Be thou then the mountain's child.

                         IV.

   Hark! what the courtier vows to his king,
     To serve him whatever befal;
   But if evil luck dark misfortune should bring,
     The courtier turns sooner than all.
       Tread then the mountain, brother, brother!
         Tread then the mountain wild!
       In court, crowd, and city, men cheat one another;
         Be thou then the mountain's child.


"He says true! By Saint Jago, he says true!" cried Garcias, who had
been listening as well as myself. "Thank God, for being born a
mountaineer!"

He ended his self-gratulation with a long whistle, so shrill that it
reached the ears of the singer, to whom the noise of our voices had
not arrived from the height we were above him, although his song by
the natural tendency of sounds had come up to us. He answered the
signal of his captain immediately, and we instantly began to descend,
making steps of the boles and roots of the trees, till lighting once
more on somewhat level ground, we stood beside his watch-fire. The
singer was a tall, fine Arragonese, about my own age, or perhaps
somewhat older, who had been thrown out as a sentinel to guard the
little encampment of the smugglers, which lay a couple of hundred
yards farther down the ravine. He bore a striking resemblance to
Garcias, whom he called cousin, and also seemed to possess some
portion of his gigantic strength, if one might judge by the swelling
muscles of his legs and arms, which were easily discernible through
the tight netted silk breeches and stockings he wore in common with
most of his companions.

He gazed upon me for a moment or two with some surprise, and I
returned his look with one of equal curiosity. In truth, I should not
particularly have liked to encounter him as an adversary; for with his
long gun, his knife, and his pistols, added to the vigour and activity
indicated by his figure, he would have offered as formidable an
opponent as I ever beheld. No questions, however, did he ask
concerning me. Not a word, not an observation did he make; but
resuming the characteristic gravity of the Spaniard, from which,
perhaps, he thought his song might have somewhat derogated in the eyes
of a stranger, he merely replied to a question of his cousin, that all
had passed tranquilly during his absence, and cast himself down upon
his checkered cloak, by the side of the watch-fire, with an air of the
most perfect indifference.

At another time I might have smiled to see how true it is that nations
have their affectations as well as individuals, but I was in no
smiling mood, and were I to own the truth, I turned away with a
feeling of contemptuous anger at his arrogation of gravity, fully as
ridiculous in me as even his mock solemnity. What had I to do to be
angry with him? I asked myself, after a moment's reflection: I was not
born to be the whipper of all fools; and if I was, I thought my
castigation had certainly better begin with myself.

Garcias led me on to the rest of his companions, who were stretched
sleeping on the ground; some wrapped in their cloaks, some partly
sheltered from the winds, which in those mountains lose not their
wintry sharpness till summer is far advanced, by little stone walls,
built up from the various masses of rock that from time to time had
rolled down the mountain, and strewed the bottom of the ravine. The
younger men, though engaged in a life of danger and risk, slept on
with the fearless slumber of youth; but four or five of the elder
smugglers, whom ancient habits of watchful anxiety rendered light of
sleep, started up with musket and dagger in their hands, long before
our steps had reached their halting-place.

The figure of Garcias, however, soon quieted their alarm; and I was
astonished to see how little agitation the return of their absent
leader, from what had been, and always must be, a dangerous part of
their enterprise, caused amongst them; nor did my presence excite any
particular attention. Garcias informed them simply, that I was a
friend he had long known, who now came to join them; on which they
welcomed me cordially, without farther inquiry, giving me merely the
_Buenas noches tenga usted caballero_, and assigning me a spot to
sleep in, near the horses, which was indeed the place of honour, being
more sheltered than any other.



CHAPTER XIX.


Sleep--calm, natural sleep--was not, however, to be procured so soon;
and though I laid down and remained quiet, in imitation of the
smugglers, what, what would I not have given for the slumber they
enjoyed! I need not go farther into my feelings--I need not tell all
the bitter and agonising reflections that reiterated themselves upon
my brain, till I thought reason would have abandoned me. What I had
been--what I was--what I was to be--each one of them had some peculiar
pang; so that on neither the past, the present, nor the future, could
my mind rest without torture; and yet I could not sleep.

It may easily be conceived, then, that the two hours which elapsed,
between our arrival at the rendezvous and the break of day, was a
space too dreadful to be rested on without pain, even now, when
the whole has been given over to the more calm dominion of
remembrance:--remembrance, that has the power to rob every part of the
past of its bitter, except remorse; and to mingle some sweet with even
the memory of pain and misfortune, provided our own heart finds
nothing therein for reproach.

As soon as the very first faint streaks of light began to interweave
themselves with the grey clouds in the east, the smugglers were upon
their feet, and, gathering round Garcias and myself, began to ask a
great many more questions than they had ventured on the night before.
My dress and my person became objects of some curiosity among them;
and it so unfortunately happened that more than one of the smugglers,
who had seen me at the mill in former days, instantly recognised me at
present. However, as probably no one of them would have found it
agreeable himself to assign his exact reasons for joining the lawless
band with which he consorted, I escaped all questions as to the cause
of my appearing amongst them. Each, probably, attributed it to some
separate imagination of his own; but the high favour in which our
house stood with this honourable fraternity, assured me the most
enthusiastic reception; and they mutually rivalled one another in
their endeavours to serve me, and render my situation comfortable.

It was in vain now to attempt concealing from any one of the band my
rank in life; but in order that accident should not extend my real
name beyond the mere circle of those who knew me, I followed a custom
which I found they generally adopted themselves--that of
distinguishing themselves, each by a different appellation, when
actually engaged in any of their hazardous enterprises, from that by
which they were ordinarily known in the world. I therefore took the
name of De l'Orme, to which I was really entitled by birth; the Comté
de l'Orme having been in our family from time immemorial.

These arrangements, the quick questions of the smugglers, their wild,
strange manners, and picturesque appearance, all formed a relief to a
mind anxious to escape from itself; and perhaps no society into which
I could have fallen would have afforded me so much the means of
abstracting my thoughts from all that was painful in my situation.
After having satisfied their curiosity in regard to me, the Spaniards,
to the number of twenty, gathered round Garcias to hear how he had
disposed of the smuggled goods, which had been deposited at the mill;
and certainly, never did a more picturesque group meet my view, than
that which they presented, with their fine muscular limbs, rich
coloured dresses, deep sun-burnt countenances, and flashing black
eyes; while each cast himself into some of those wild and picturesque
attitudes, which seem natural to mountaineers; and the form of Garcias
towering above them all, looked like that of the Farnesian Hercules,
fresh from the garden of the Hesperides.

Garcias' story was soon told. He informed them simply, that all was
safe, produced the little bag which contained the profits of their
last adventure, and told them how much the miller expected to gain for
the goods at present in his hands. I remarked, however, he wisely said
not a word of the death of Derville the douanier, although undoubtedly
it would have met with the high approbation of his companions; and
probably would have given him still greater sway, than even that which
he already possessed, over the minds of a class of men, on whom
anything striking and bold is never without its effect.

All this being concluded, instant preparation was made for our
departure. A horse was assigned to me from amongst those which had
borne the smuggled wares across the mountains; and all the worthy
fraternity being mounted, we had already begun to wind down the
ravine, in an opposite direction from that on which Garcias and myself
had arrived, when the sound of voices, heard at a little distance
before us, made us halt in our march. In a moment after, one of the
smugglers, who had been sent out as a sort of piquette in front, and
whose voice we had heard, returned, dragging along a poor little man,
in whom I instantly recognised the unfortunate player apothecary, who
had given me so much relief by his chirurgical applications a day or
two before. He had a small bundle strapped upon his back, as if
equipped for travelling; and seemed to be in mortal fear, holding back
with all his might, while the smuggler pulled him along by the arm, as
we often see a boy drag on an unwilling puppy by the collar, while the
obstinate beast hangs back with its haunches, and sets its four feet
firmly forward, contending stoutly every step that it is forced to
make in advance.

"Here is a spy," cried the smuggler, pulling his prisoner forward into
the midst of the wild group, that our halt had occasioned; "I caught
him dodging about in the bushes there, at the entrance of the ravine;
and, depend on it, the _gabellateurs_ are not far off."

The poor player, who understood not one word of this Spanish
accusation, gazed about, with open mouth, and starting eyes, upon the
dark countenances of the smugglers, who, I believe, were only
meditating whether it would be better to throw him over the first
precipice, or hang him up on the first tree; and whose looks, in
consequence, did not offer anything re-assuring.

"_Messieurs! messieurs! respectable messieurs!_" cried he, gazing
round and round in an agony of terror, without being able to say any
more; when suddenly his eye fell upon me, and darting forward with a
quick spring, that loosed him from the smuggler's hold, he cast
himself upon his knees, embracing my stirrup; while half-a-dozen guns
were instantly pointed at his head, from the idea that he was about to
make his escape. The clicking of the gun-locks increased his terror
almost to madness; and, creeping under my horse's belly, he made a
sort of shield for his head, with my foot and the large clumsy
stirrup-iron, crying out with the most doleful accents, "Don't fire!
don't fire! pray don't fire!--Monseigneur!--Illustrious scion of a
noble house!--pray don't fire--exert thine influence benign, for the
preservation of a lowly supplicant."

By this time, one of the smugglers had again got the player by the
collar; and, dragging him out with some detriment to his doublet, he
placed him once more in the midst. "Garcias," cried I, seeing them
rather inclined to maltreat their captive, "do not let them hurt him;
your companion is under a mistake. This poor little wretch, depend on
it, had no more idea of spying upon your proceedings, than he had of
spying into the intrigues of the moon. He is a miserable player, who
is unemployed, and half starving, I believe. I will answer for his
being no spy."

At my intercession, Garcias interfered to prevent any further
annoyance being inflicted upon the hero of the buskin, and questioned
him, in French, in regard to what he did there. For a moment or two,
his terror and agitation deprived him of the power of explaining
himself; but soon beginning to perceive that the storm had in some
degree subsided, he took courage, and summoning up his most elevated
style, he proceeded to explain his appearance amongst them, mingling,
as he went on, a slight degree of satire with his bombast, which I was
afraid might do him but little service with his hearers.

"Gentlemen!" cried he, "if ye be--as, from your gay attire and
splendid arms, your noble bearing and your bronzed cheeks, I judge ye
are--lords of the forest and the mountain--knights, wanderers of the
wild--magistrates, executors of your own laws, and abrogators of the
laws of every other person--I beseech ye, show pity and fellow-feeling
towards one who has the honour of being fully as penniless as
yourselves; who, though he never yet had courage enough to cut a
purse, or talent enough to steal one, has ever been a great admirer of
those bold and witty men, who maintain the blessed doctrine of the
community of this world's goods at the point of the sword, and put
down the villanous monopoly of gold and silver with a strong hand and
a loaded pistol."

"Make haste, good friend!" cried Garcias, smiling; "we are not what
you take us for, but we have as much need of concealment as if we
were. Therefore, if you would escape hanging on that bough, give a
true account of yourself in as few words as possible. Such active
tongues as yours sometimes slip into the mire of falsehood. See that
it be not the case with you. Say, how came you in this unfrequented
part of the country, at this early hour?"

"Admirable captain!" cried the player, again beginning to tremble for
his life, "you shall hear the strange mysterious turns of fate that
conducted me hither, to a part of which, that noble scion of an
illustrious house--who seems either to be your prisoner or your
friend, I know not which; but who, in either capacity, is equally
honourable and to be honoured--can bear witness. Know, then,
magnanimous chief, no later than yesterday morning, towards the hour
of noon, according to that illustrious scion's express command, I
proceeded to the principal gate of the mighty Château de l'Orme, where
I had expected a certain further fee or reward, which he promised me
for having solaced and assuaged the pains of those wounds still
visible upon his brow and hands. But judge of my surprise when, on
entering the court-yard, I found the whole place in confusion and
dismay; men mounting in haste, women screaming at leisure, dogs
barking, horses neighing, and asses braying; and on my addressing
myself to an elderly gentleman with a long nose, for all the world
like a sausage of Bigorre, asking him, with a sweet respectful smile,
if he could show me to my lord the young count, he bestowed a buffet
on my cheek, which had even a greater effect than the buffet which
Moses gave the rock, for it brought fire as well as water out of my
eyes both at once."

"And what was the cause of all this tumult? Did you hear?" demanded
Garcias, who had observed my eye, while the player told what he had
seen at the Château de l'Orme, straining up his countenance with an
anxiety that would bear no delay.

"To speak the truth, most mighty potentate of the mountains," replied
the stroller, "I asked no farther questions where such answers seemed
amongst the most common forms of speech. I thought the striking reply
of my first respondent quite sufficient, though not very satisfactory;
and, judging he might like my back better than my face, I got my heels
over the threshold, and came away as fast as possible. I did not
return to the cottage where I had spent the last six weeks, for I had
happily my pack on my back, and my worthy host and hostess were so
much obliged to me for boarding and lodging with them all that time,
that I doubt they would have retained my goods and chattels as a
keepsake, if I had ventured myself within reach of their affectionate
embraces; though, God help me! they had already kept, as a
remembrance, the gold piece which monseigneur gave me at first. I,
last night, made my way to Argelez, and liberally offered the
gross-minded _aubergiste_ of the place, to treat himself and his
company to the whole of 'The Cid,' to be enacted by myself alone, for
the simple consideration of a night's lodging and a dinner; but he,
most grovelling brute! fingered my doublet with his cursed paw, and
said he was afraid the dresses and decorations would be too expensive,
as they must evidently all be new. Indignantly I turned upon my heel,
and walked on till I came to this valley, where I found a nice warm
bush, and slept out my night after Father Adam's fashion. This
morning, hearing voices, and knowing not whence they came, I began to
look about with some degree of caution, when suddenly pounces upon me
this dark-browed gentleman, and drags me hither, to the manifest
injury of my poor doublet, which, God help it! has had so many a pull
from old mischievous Time, that it can ill bear the rude touch of any
other fingers. This is my tale, renowned sir; and if it be not true,
may the buskin never fit my foot, may the dagger break in my grasp,
and the bowl tumble out of my fingers!"

The latter part of the poor player's speech had been sufficiently long
to give me the time necessary for recovering from the effect of that
portion of it which had personally affected myself, and I pointed out
to Garcias that his tale must undoubtedly be true, begging him at the
same time, to free the poor little man and send him away.

"No, no!" replied the smuggler, "that must not be. He has found his
way to a retreat which none but ourselves knew; such secrets are heavy
things to carry, and he might drop his burden at some _douanier's_
door who would pay for it in gold. No, no! willing or unwilling, he
must come with us to Spain, and we will teach him a better trade than
ranting other people's nonsense to amuse as great fools as himself."

The little player at first seemed somewhat astounded at such an
unexpected alteration in his prospects; but learning that, in the very
first place, board and lodging was to be provided for him, and a horse
as soon as one could be procured, his countenance brightened up, and
he trudged contentedly after the band of smugglers, eating a large
lump of cheese and a biscuit, which Garcias had given him as
occupation on the road. Strange, strange world, where the most abject
poverty is the surest buckler against misfortune! When I stood and
considered that wretched player's feelings and my own, and saw how
little he was affected by things which would have pained me to the
very soul--how little he heeded being torn from his native land, with
nothing but blank uncertainty before him--and how he enjoyed the crust
which fortune had given him--I could hardly help envying his very
misery, which so armoured him against all the shafts of adversity to
which I stood nakedly opposed.

My present journey through the Pyrenees, though tending very nearly in
the same direction as the first, lay amongst scenes of a still wilder
description, for the smugglers carefully avoid all the ordinary paths,
and, though now unburdened with any seizable goods, as heedfully
guarded against a meeting with the officers of the _douane_ as if they
were escorting a whole cargo. They seemed to take a delight in the
mystery and secrecy of their ways; but, in truth they found it
necessary to keep the whole world, except those concerned, in perfect
ignorance of the great extent to which their contraband traffic was
carried on, and for this purpose, glided along through the deepest
shades of the pine forests, and over the highest and least frequented
parts of the hills, by paths impracticable to any but themselves.

Towards the close of the first day, we halted by the side of a small
mountain-lake, whose calm, still, shadowy waves, I almost hoped were
the waters of oblivion. Round about, the mountains rose up on every
side, seeming to shelter it from a world, and not a breath of wind
rippled the surface of the water, so that the reflections of the high
snowy peaks of the hills above, the dark rocks that dipped themselves
in its waves, and the gloomy pines that skirted it to the east, were
all seen looking up like ghosts from below, while ever and anon a
light evening cloud skimming over the sky found there its reflection
too, and was seen gliding over the bosom of the calm expanse. The turf
that spread from the margin of the lake to the bases of the mighty
rocks that towered up around, was covered with every kind of flower,
though at so great an elevation; and the rhododendron in full blossom,
vied with the beautiful pink saffron, as if striving which should most
embellish that favoured spot of green that nature seemed to have
fancifully placed there, as a contrast between the cold dark waters
and the stern grey rock.

When, after alighting from my horse, I gazed round on the whole scene,
and then thought of returning to the world, with its idle bustle, and
its thronging pains, and its vain babble, and unbroken discontent, I
was tempted to cast it all from me at once, and become a hermit even
there, spending my time in the contemplation of eternity; but the
thoughts that thronged upon me during one brief half hour of solitude,
while the smugglers were occupied in making their arrangements for the
night, showed me that the gayest scenes of the busy world would still
leave me, perhaps, more time for memory than I could wish memory to
fill.

At length my meditations were disturbed by the approach of the little
player, who seemed quite contented with his fate. As he came near, he
stretched forth his hand, threw back his head, and was beginning with
his usual emphasis to address me as "_Illustrious scion of a noble
house_," when I stopped him in the midst somewhat peevishly, bidding
him drop his high-flown style if he would have me listen to him, and
never to use it to me again if he wished not such a reply as had been
bestowed upon him by my father's _maître d'hôtel_. This warning and
threat had a very happy effect, for he seldom afterwards poured forth
any of his rodomontade upon me; and when denuded of its frippery, his
conversation was not without poignancy.

"Well, sir," said he, after my rebuff, "I will treat you to plain
prose, as you love not the high and metaphorical. Be it known then
unto your worship, that our friends with the dark faces have prepared
something for dinner, and invite you to partake of some excellent
Bayonne ham, and some unfortunate young trout, that an artful vagabond
with an insinuating countenance has seduced out of the protecting
bosom of their parent lake, and abandoned to the vile appetite of his
companions. Added to this, you will find some excellent _botargis_,
which you doubtless are aware is manufactured out of the roe of the
mullet, and provokes drinking, a propensity that you may satisfy at
discretion, out of certain skins of wine for that purpose made and
provided--as my poor dear supposed father used to say, who turned me
out of his house when I was nine years old."

I had too little love for my own thoughts to remain any longer alone
than I could avoid, and rising, I followed the little player to a spot
where the smugglers had spread out their supper upon Nature's table.
This was the first meal I had seen amongst them, and I found that they
ate but once a day: but to do them all manner of justice, when they
did apply themselves to satisfy their hunger, they amply compensated
for their abstinence; and as they intended to proceed no farther that
night, they were not more sparing of their wine than of their other
viands. Gradually, as the potent juice of the grape began to warm
their veins, all Spanish reserve wore away, and mirth and jocularity
succeeded. Jest, and tale, and song went round; and even Garcias
seemed to banish every circumstance of the past, and to enjoy himself
as fully, as forgetfully as the rest.

To what was this owing? I asked myself.--To the wine-cup!--It had
taught them forgetfulness!--it was temporary oblivion!--it was
happiness!--and I drained it, and redrained it, to obtain the same
blessing for myself. Strange how one error ever brings on another! and
thus it is that amendment is still so difficult to those who have done
wrong--'tis not alone that they have to renounce the fault they have
once committed, but that they have also to struggle against all those
which that one brings in its train.

I drank deep for forgetfulness; and certainly, amongst the companions
into whose society circumstances had thrown me, I was not without
encouragement. The wine they had brought with them was excellent and
abundant; and when any one began to flag in his potation, the rest
seemed to cry him on, as soldiers encourage one another in a march.
Sometimes it was a story, sometimes a jest, sometimes a song; and of
the latter, they had more amongst them than I had supposed could be
invented on one subject. The last that I remember, was sung by the
same musical youth whom Garcias and myself had found acting as
sentinel when we joined the smugglers near Argelez. His single voice
gave out the separate verses of the song to a merry Spanish air, while
all the rest joining in at the end, raised a deafening din with the
very absurd chorus.


SONG.

   "Woman first invented wine,
     Ere man found out to drink it;[4]
    If otherwise she wer'n't divine,
     For this we're bound to think it.

                 CHORUS.

       Malaga and Alicant,
         Xeres and La Mancha!
       Whatever cup she offers man,
         We'll take it, and we'll thank her!

     Cold water's but a sober thing,
       That's only fit for asses--"
      *    *    *    *    *    *

But before he had concluded, or his companions began roaring again
about Malaga and Alicant, my cup fell out of my hand, and I slept.



CHAPTER XX.

I believe my sleep would have lasted longer than the night, had
Garcias not woke me towards daybreak, and told me that they were
preparing to depart. Amongst the smugglers, every one took care of his
own horse, and of course I could not expect to be exempt from the same
charge in their wandering republic, where the only title to require
service oneself was the having shown it to others. I started up,
therefore, in order to repair, as much as I could, my negligence of
the night before. To my surprise, however, I found that the horse had
been already rubbed down and saddled by the little player; who, having
drunk more cautiously than myself, had woke early in the morning; and,
after having shown this piece of attention to me, was engaged in
tricking out, for his own use, an ass, which one of the smugglers had
procured from some acquaintance at the foot of the mountain. I thanked
the little man for his civility; when, laying his hand upon his heart,
he professed his pleasure in serving me, and begged, in humble terms,
if I had any thought of engaging a servant in the expedition wherein
we were both engaged, that he might be preferred to that high post.

"The post would certainly be more honourable than profitable, my good
friend," replied I, with some very melancholy feelings concerning my
own destitute condition, for my whole fortune consisted of about
thirty Louis d'ors and a diamond ring, the value of which I did not
know. "I must tell you thus much concerning my situation," I added; "I
am now quitting my father's house and my native land, from
circumstances which concern me alone, but which may render my absence
long; and during that absence, I expect no supply or pecuniary aid
from any one. You may now judge," I proceeded, with somewhat of a
painful smile, "whether such a man's service be the one to suit you."

"Exactly!" replied the little player, to my surprise; "for during the
time you have nothing to give me, you will judge whether I am like to
suit you when you can pay me well. I ask no wages but meat and drink.
That, I am sure, you will give me while you can get any for yourself;
and if a time should come when you can get none, perhaps it may be my
turn to put my hand in fortune's bag, and pull out a dinner. Alone,
and with no one to help me, I have never wanted food, but that one day
at Argelez; and, God knows, I never knew from day to day where I
should fill my cup or load my platter, but in company with your
lordship--never fear, we shall always find plenty. Two people can
accomplish a thousand things that one cannot. You can do a thousand
that I do not know how to do, and I can do a thousand that you would
be ashamed to do. Thank God, for having been turned out upon the world
at nine years old, without a sous in my pocket. 'Twas the best school
in nature for finishing my education."

I was hurt, I own, at the sort of companionship which the miserable
little player seemed to have established, in his own mind, so
completely between himself and me; and the haughty noble was rising
with some acrimony to my lips, when I suddenly bethought me, what a
thing I was to be proud over my fellow-worm! It was a thought to take
down the high stomach of my nobility, and after a moment's pause, I
merely replied, "Your life must afford a curious history, and
doubtless has been full both of turns of fate and turns of ingenuity."

"Oh, 'tis a very simple history," answered the player, "as brief as
the courtship of a widow. When your lordship has got on horseback, and
I have clambered on my ass, I will tell it to you as we go along.
'Twill at least spend a long five minutes."

His proposal was not disagreeable to me, for my mind was in that state
when anything which could fill up a moment with some external feeling
or interest was in itself a blessing. Had he told such a tale as those
with which they amuse children in a nursery, I should have been
contented; and accordingly, as soon, after having mounted, as we were
once more on our journey, I begged he would proceed, which he complied
with as follows:--

"My mother's husband, who had the credit--if any honour was thereunto
attached--of being my father, was, when I can first remember him,
intendant to the estates of M. le Comte de Bagnols. He had originally
studied the law; but not having money enough to purchase any charge at
the bar, he was very glad to take the management of a young nobleman's
estates, who, though not indeed careless and extravagant, was still
young--consequently inexperienced--consequently plunderable, and
consequently a hopeful speculation for one in my father's situation.
The Count was liberal, and therefore the appointments were in
themselves good, consisting of a separate house half a mile from the
château, a considerable glebe of land, and a salary of a thousand
crowns. I must remark here, that the intendant was the ugliest man in
Christendom, but he had the advantage of possessing in my poor dear
mother a very handsome wife, whose beauties he considered as a certain
means of performing the curious alchymical process of the
transmutation of metals; that is to say, the changing his own brass
into the Count's gold.

"Now I should be most happy could I claim any kindred with the noble
family of Bagnols, but sorry I am to say, I was several years old when
the young Count returned to the château from his campaigns with the
army. Nor, indeed, should I have been much better off had fortune
decreed me to be born afterwards; for though the worthy intendant was
as liberal as Cato in many respects, and the most decided foe to all
sorts of jealousy, and though my mother also was a complete prodigal
in the dispensation of her smiles, the Count was as cold as ice.
Indeed, as his marriage with the beautiful Henriette de Vergne was
soon after brought on the carpet, I can hardly blame him for thinking
of no one else. All went on well for two years, during which time my
mother had twice occasion to call upon Lucina, and the intendant was
gratified by finding himself the father of two other sturdy children.
At the end of that time, however, the marriage of the Count was broken
off with Mademoiselle de Vergne, and the young lady was promised to
the Marquis de St. Brie. You have heard all that sad story, I dare
say! The Marquis not liking a rival at liberty--for they began to
whisper that the Count still privately saw Mademoiselle de Vergne, and
some even said was married to her--had him arrested and thrown into
prison, on an accusation of aiding the rebels at Rochelle. The count,
however, found means to write to the intendant a letter from the
Bastille, containing two orders: one was to send him instantly a
certain packet of papers containing the proofs of his innocence; the
other, to sell as speedily as possible all the alienable part of his
property, and to transmit the amount to a commercial house at
Saragossa. The worthy intendant set himself to consider his own
interests, and finding that it would be best to keep his lord in
prison, he could never discover the papers. At the same time, the
buying and selling of a large property is never without its advantage
to the steward, and therefore he punctually obeyed the Count's command
in this particular, selling all that he could sell, and transmitting
the money to Spain, at the end of which transaction he found himself
very comfortably off in the world. One night, while he sat counting
his gains, however, he was somewhat surprised by a visit from the
count, who had made his escape from the Bastille, and came to make his
intendant a call, much more disagreeable than interesting.

"So much did the intendant wish his lord at the devil, that he was
civil to him beyond all precedent; and having gone up in the dark
to the château, they spent two hours in diligent search for the
papers, which they unfortunately could not find, for this very good
reason--the intendant had taken care to remove them three or four
days before, and had given them in charge to his dear friend and
co-labourer, the Count's apothecary, to keep them as a sacred deposit
as much out of the Count's way as possible."

"After all this, sorry to have lost the papers, but glad to find he
had a considerable fortune placed securely in Spain, the Count set out
to seek his fair Henriette, resolving to carry her to another land;
and thinking all the while that his intendant was the honestest man in
the world. Under this impression, he made him his chief agent in all
his plans, told him of his private marriage, and, in short, did what
very wise men often do, let the greatest rogue of his acquaintance
into all his most important secrets.

"The Marquis de St. Brie very soon found out the proceedings of his
friend the Count. The Count was of course assassinated, and thrown
into the river; the Countess was put into a convent, where she died in
childbirth, and God knows what became of the money in Spain. Matters
being thus settled to the satisfaction of every one, the intendant
found he had quite enough money to set up procureur, and went to live
in the same town with his dear friend the apothecary."

"But what became of the papers?" demanded I; "and why do you always
call him the intendant? Were you a son by some former marriage of your
mother?"

"Be patient! be patient! Monsieur le Comte, and you shall hear,"
replied the little player. "I was just about to return to my mother,
with regard to whom a man may feel himself tolerably certain. There is
a proverb against human presumption in speaking of one's father,
'_Sage enfant qui connoit son père!_' However, my mother was, as I
have said, a very handsome woman, and she made use of her advantages;
but, at the same time, she was a very superstitious one, and though
she governed her husband in all domestic matters with a rod of iron,
she suffered herself to be governed by her confessor in a manner still
more despotic. Never used she to fail in her attendance at the
confessional, and yet I never heard the good priest complain she
troubled him unnecessarily.

"At length it so happened that she fell ill, and the only thing that
could have saved her, namely, the physicians giving her up, having
been tried in vain, and she being both in the jaws of death and in a
great fright, her priest would not give her absolution except upon a
very hard condition, which she executed as follows--She sent for her
husband, and having bade him adieu in very touching terms, upon which
he wept--he could always weep when he liked--she sent for his dear
friend the apothecary, for a worthy goldsmith of the city, and for a
couple of young gentlemen our neighbours, and having brought them all
into her bedroom, she acknowledged to her husband all her faults and
failings, comprising many which I, in my filial piety, will pass over;
after which she begged his forgiveness, and obtained it--requested and
received in so touching a manner, that every one wept. She then made
her excellent spouse embrace his injurers, which he did like a
charitable soul and a sensible man, with a most solemn and edifying
countenance. After this she called all her children, of which there
were by this time four, round her, and having given us her blessing
and her last advice in a very striking and instructive manner, she
allotted us severally to the care of her friends. My next brother she
bequeathed to the fatherly tenderness of the intendant himself; though
there was an unfortunately small degree of likeness between them. I
fell to the portion of the apothecary; the youngest son was assigned
to the protection of the goldsmith, and so on. When this distribution
was concluded, she found herself very much exhausted, and, sending us
all away, fell into a profound sleep, from which she woke the next
morning in a fair way for recovery. The confessor declared that it was
the special interposition of Heaven, as a reward for her punctual
obedience to his commands; but her husband thought it the handiwork of
the devil; on which difference of conclusion I shall not offer an
opinion. Suffice it, my mother recovered, and finding that the story
had got abroad, and that every one she met laughed at or avoided her,
she insisted on her husband changing his abode and carrying her and
her family to another town. At length, however, her malady returned
upon her after a year's absence, and she died for good and all,
leaving her husband inconsolable for her loss. The moment the breath
was out of her body, the excellent procureur took me to the door of
his house, and told me tenderly to get along for a graceless little
vagabond, and none of his. 'Go to Auch! go to Auch!' cried he, 'and
tell that villain of an apothecary I have sent him his own.' To Auch I
accordingly went, and delivered the procureur's message to the
apothecary, who held up his hands and eyes at the hard-heartedness of
his former friend, and giving me a silver piece of a livre tournois,
he bade me go along, and not trouble him any more.

"The next morning, when my livre was spent, and I began to grow
hungry, I naturally turned my steps towards the apothecary's, and hung
about near his door without daring to enter, when suddenly I saw him
driving out in fury the boy that carried his medicines, who had been
guilty, I found afterwards, of drinking the wine set apart for making
antimonial wine; and so great was the rage of my worthy parent, that
he threw both the pestle and the mortar into the street after the
culprit.

"Having had all my life a sort of instinctive dislike to the society of
an angry man, I was in the act of gliding away as fast as I could,
when his eye fell upon me, and beckoning me to him, he called me to
come near, in a tone that made me obey instantly. 'Come hither,' cried
he, 'come hither! Now I wager an ounce of kermes to a grain of jalap
that thou hast been well taught to thieve and to lie! Hey? Is it not
so?'--'No, your worship,' answered I, trembling every limb, 'but I
dare say I shall soon learn under your teaching.'--'Holla! thou art
malapert,' cried he; 'but come in; out of pure charity I will give
thee the place of that thief I have just kicked out. But remember, it
is out of pure charity--thou hast no claim on me whatever! mark that!
But if thou servest me truly, and appliest thyself to my lessons, I
will make thee a rival to Galen and Hippocrates.' Thus was I
established as medicine-boy at my father the apothecary's, after
having been turned out of my father the procureur's, and soon learned
his mood and his practice. The first was somewhat arbitrary but
despotic, and, by taking care never to contradict him, except where he
wished to be contradicted, I soon ingratiated myself with him to a
very high degree.

"His practice also was very simple. Whenever he was called in to any
patient, he began by giving them an emetic, to clear away all
obstructions, as he said. He next inquired if the complaint was local,
and where? If it was in the head he put a blister on the soles of the
feet; if it was in the lower extremities he placed one on the crown of
the head; if it was between the two he took care to blister both. When
the malady was general, he began by bleeding, and went on by bleeding,
till the patient died or recovered; declaring all the while, that let
the disease be as bad as it would, he would have it out of him one way
or other. He had a good deal of practice when I came, and it rapidly
increased, for he was always called in by poor dependents, who
expected legacies, to their rich relatives; by young heirs of estates
to old annuitants; by the expectants of abbeys, and persons possessing
survivorships to their dear friends the long-lived incumbents: and he
was also applied to frequently by young wives for their old husbands,
and other cases of the kind, wherein he was supposed to practise very
successfully. As I grew up, he initiated me into all the secrets of
his profession, took me to the bedside of his patients; and, in fact
gave me many a paternal mark of his regard! Nor did he confine his
confidence in me entirely to professional subjects. It was from him
that I learned the earlier part of my own history, and that of the
Count de Bagnols, whose papers I had many an opportunity of seeing,
for they lay wrapped in a piece of old sheepskin in the drawer with
the syringes. Thus passed the time till a company of players visited
Auch; and as every night of their performance I went to see them, I
speedily acquired a taste--I may say a passion, for the stage, which
evidently showed that nature had destined me to wear the buskin. From
that moment I was seized with horror at the indiscriminate slaughter
which I daily aided in committing, and I resolved to quit Auch the
very first opportunity. This, however, did not occur immediately, for
before I could prepare my plans the players had left the place, and I
was obliged to remain in my sanguinary profession for another year,
during which I learned by heart every play that had ever been written
in the French language. One day, while I was sitting alone reading
Rotrou, a man came in and addressed me with an air of cajolery which
instantly put me on my guard; but when he gave me to understand, after
a thousand doublings, that he wished to know if ever I had heard my
father, or, as he called him, 'master,' talk of certain papers
belonging to the late Count de Bagnols, which might be of the greatest
service in clearing the honour of his family; and when, at the same
time he offered me ten Louis d'ors if I could find the papers, I
became as pliant as wax, slipped one hand into the drawer, took the
money with the other, delivered the papers, and recommenced my book.
My father never missed the papers; and when the players returned I
lost no time, but addressed myself to their manager, who made me
recite some verses, applauded me highly, declared he wanted a new
star, and that if I would steal away from my gallipots and join the
company a mile from Auch, I should meet with my desert. I took him at
his word, and easily executed my plan during the apothecary's absence.
My name was soon changed to Achilles Lefranc, and the provincial
spectators found out that I was a genius of a superior class.
Ambition, the fault of gods, misled our little troop; and thinking to
carry all before us, we went to Paris, obtained permission to perform,
and chose a deep tragedy, at which the malicious Parisians roared with
laughter from beginning to end. We slunk out of Paris in the middle of
the night, but the bond of union was gone amongst us, and we
dispersed. Since then I have hawked my talents from village to
village, and from company to company; sometimes I have risen to the
highest flights of tragedy, and have trod the stage as a king or a
hero, and at others I have descended to the lowest walk of comedy,
and, for the sake of a mere dinner, performed the part of jester
at a marriage entertainment or a _fête de village_; I have been
applauded and hissed, wept at and laughed at, but I have always
contrived to make my way through the world, till here I am at last
your lordship's--humble servant."



CHAPTER XXI.


The player's account of himself had interested me more than he knew,
especially that part of it which referred to the unfortunate Count de
Bagnols. There seemed something extraordinary in the chance, which
threw circumstance after circumstance of his history upon my
knowledge; and I felt a superstitious sort of feeling about it, which
was weak, I own, but which was pardonable perhaps in a mind labouring
like mine under a high degree of morbid excitement.

I fancied that I was destined to be the Count's avenger; and I felt,
at the same time, that I should be doing human nature good service in
ridding the world of such a man as the Marquis de St. Brie; nor did I
believe that the eye of Heaven could look frowningly upon so signal an
act of justice. I reasoned, finely too, upon the right of an
individual to execute that retributive punishment which either the
laws of his country were inadequate to perform, or its judges
unwilling to enforce. But where was there ever yet a deed
unsusceptible of fine reasoning to justify it to the doer? Acts well
nigh as black as the revolt of Satan have met able defenders in their
day; and in the prejudiced tribunal of my own bosom I easily found a
voice to sanction what I had already determined.

In regard to the papers of the Count de Bagnols, which had fallen into
my possession by so curious a train of circumstances, I had them still
about me; but I did not think fit to mention the circumstance to
Monsieur Achilles Lefranc, upon whose judgment I had no great reason
to rely. I determined, however, if fortune should ever permit me to
revisit my own country, to seek out the nearest relations of the
count, and to deliver the papers into their hands as an act of justice
to the memory of that unhappy nobleman; and I also felt a sort of
stern pleasure in the hope of once more measuring my sword with the
daring villain whose many detestable actions seemed to call loudly for
chastisement. There might be a touch of over-excited enthusiasm--of
that sort of exaltation of mind which men call fanaticism in religion,
and which borders upon frenzy, when it relates to the common affairs
of life, but I hope--I believe--nay, I am sure that there was no
thirst of personal revenge in that wish. I felt indignant that such a
man should have been allowed to live so long, and that neither private
vengeance nor public justice should yet have overtaken him with the
fate he so well merited; and my sensations, which were at all times
irritable enough, had been worked up, by the scenes and circumstances
I had lately gone through, to a pitch of excitement which not every
man could feel, and none perhaps can describe.

While little Achilles had been engaged in recounting his history, he
had kept close by my side, jogging on upon his ass, looking like a
less corpulent and more youthful Sancho Panza, accompanying a less
gaunt and grimly Quixote. Not that I believe my appearance had been
much improved by two such nights as I had passed, nor indeed was the
bandage round my head very ornamental; and in this respect was I but
the better qualified to represent the doughty hero of La Mancha. No
adventures, however, of any kind attended our journey; and we passed
the mountains and descended into Spain undisturbed. Towards three
o'clock, after having proceeded near ten miles in an eastern
direction, we reached a little village, which seemed a great resort of
the smugglers; for here every one of them was known, and several of
them had their habitations--if indeed such a name could be applied to
the spot where they only rested a few brief days in the intervals of
their long and frequent absences. The moment our cavalcade was seen
upon the hill above the village, a bustle made itself manifest amongst
the inhabitants; and we could perceive a boy running from house to
house spreading the glad news. A crowd of women and children assembled
in an instant, and coming out to meet us, expressed their joy with a
thousand gratulatory exclamations. The rich golden air of a spring
afternoon in Spain; the picturesque cottages covered with their young
vines, and scattered amongst the broken masses of the mountain; the
gay dresses of the Spanish mountaineers, the graceful forms of the
women and children, and the beautiful groups into which they fell as
they advanced to greet us,--all offered a lovely and interesting sight
to the eyes of a stranger. It was one of the pictures of Claude Gelée
wakened into life.

Every one sprang to the ground, and a thousand welcomes and embraces
were exchanged; the sight of which made my heart swell with feelings I
cannot describe. There were none to embrace or welcome me!

Amongst the foremost of those who came to meet us on our arrival, was
a beautiful young woman of the most delicate form and feature I ever
beheld; exquisitely lovely in every line; but so slight, so fragile,
it seemed as if the very breath of the mountain wind would have torn
her like a butterfly. She ran on, however, with a quicker step than
all the rest, and casting herself into the gigantic arms of Garcias,
gazed up in his face with a look of that tender affection not to be
mistaken, while a glistening moisture in her eye told how very, very
glad she was to see him returned in safety. She was the last person on
earth one would have imagined the wife of the fierce and daring man to
whom her fate was united. But Garcias with her was not fierce; it
seemed as if to him her tenderness was contagious; and the moment his
eye met hers, its fire sunk and softened, and it only seemed to
reflect the tender glance of her own.

After giving a delicious moment or two to the first sweet feelings of
his return, the smuggler appeared suddenly to remember me, and taking
me by the hand, he presented me to his wife as a French gentleman, to
whom he and his were indebted for much; adding, that all the
hospitality she could show me would not repay the kindness and
patronage he had received from my house. She received me with a
modesty, and a grace, and a simple elegance, I had hardly expected to
meet in an insignificant mountain village; and led the way to their
dwelling, which was by far the best in the place, not even excepting
that of the principal officer of the Spanish customs, who, somewhat to
my surprise, came out of his house to welcome back Garcias, with more
friendship than I could have supposed to exist between a smuggler and
a _douanier_.

Our arrival was the signal for feasting and merriment. Some of the
youths of the village had been very successful in the chase; and the
delicate flesh of the izzard, with fine white bread and excellent
wine, were in such abundance, that my poor little follower, Achilles
Lefranc, ate, and drank, and sang, and gesticulated, seeming to think
himself quite in the land of promise. He busied himself about
everything; and though he neither understood nor spoke one word of the
language, he was so gay, and so lively, and so well pleased himself,
that he won the goodwill of the whole village.

After affording us shelter till we had supped, as soon as the sun
began to sink behind the mountains every house in the place poured
forth its inhabitants upon a little green. In the centre stood a group
of high ash trees, under which the great majority seated themselves,
notwithstanding the disagreeable odour of the cantharides which were
buzzing about thickly amongst the branches; the rest took it in turns
to dance to the music of a guitar, which was played by the young
smuggler whose vocal powers I had already been made acquainted with.

Never in court or drawing-room did I see more grace or more beauty
than on that village green; while the awful masses of the mountains,
stretching blue and vast behind, offered a strange grand contrast to
the light figures of the gay ephemeral beings that were sporting like
butterflies before me. The mingling of the two scenes, and the calm
placidity which both tended to inspire, did not fail to find its way
to my heart, and to soothe and quiet the anguish which had not yet
left it. In the meanwhile, the musician joined his voice to the notes
of his guitar, and sang one of their village songs.


                                 SONG.

                                  I.

    "Dance! dance! dance! Life so quick is past,
       Seize ye its minutes for joy as they fly:
     Existence' flowers so brief a space may last,
       'Twere pity to see them but blossom and die.

                                  II.

    "Dance! dance! dance! On the roses tread,
       That swift-fleeting Time shall let fall ere he go;
     He's now in his spring, but full soon shall he shed
       On every dark ringlet his wintry snow.

                                 III.

    "Dance! dance! dance! Cheat the heavy hours,
       They're tyrants would bind us to Time's chariot fast;
     Weave then a chain of gay summer flowers,
       And make them our slaves while youth's reign shall last."


He had scarcely ended, and was still continuing the air upon his
guitar, when a horse's feet were heard clattering up over the stones
of the village, and in a minute or two after, a young man rode up,
dressed in a costume somewhat different from that of the villagers,
but still decidedly Spanish. On his appearance, the dance instantly
stopped, several voices crying, "It is Francisco from Lerida. He
brings news of Fernandez! What news of Fernandez?" together with a
variety of other exclamations and interrogatories, making a quantum of
noise and confusion sufficient to prevent his answering any one
distinctly for at least five minutes after his arrival. The horseman,
however, seemed but little disposed to reply to any one, slowly
dismounting from his horse with what appeared to me an air of assumed
importance.

"Ah! he is playing his old tricks," cried one of the merry boys of the
village; "he wants to frighten us about Fernandez."

"No, indeed!" cried Francisco, with a sigh; "I have, as the old
story-book goes, so often cried out _wolf!_ that perhaps you will not
believe me now when it is true: but I bring you all sad news, and with
a heavy heart I bring it. To you, my cousin, especially," he
continued, speaking to Garcias' wife, who sat beside her husband, with
her elbow leaning on his knee--"I know not well how to tell you what I
have got to relate; but I came off in speed this morning, to see what
we could all do to mend a bad business. Your brother Fernandez is now
in prison at Lerida, and I am afraid that worse may come of it."

"In prison! Why? How? What for?" exclaimed Garcias, starting up; "he
shall not be in prison long!"

"I fear me he will," replied the other, shaking his head,--"I fear me
he will, if ever he come out of it. You all know the dreadful state of
our province of Catalonia since that tyrant villain the count-duke has
filled it with the most lawless and undisciplined soldiers in Spain.
For the last three months our minds have been worked up to a pitch of
desperation which every day threatened to plunge us into anarchy and
revolt; wrong upon wrong, exaction after exaction, oppression outdoing
oppression----"

"But Fernandez--what of him?" cried Garcias. "Speak of him, Francisco.
We well know what you have endured."

"Well, then, all I can tell you of him is this," proceeded the
Catalonian, apparently not well pleased at having been interrupted in
the fine oration he was making: "as far as I could hear, for I was not
present, he interfered to prevent one of the base soldados from
maltreating a woman in the street. The soldier struck him. Fernandez
is not a man to bear a blow, and he plunged his knife some six inches
into his body. He was immediately arrested, disarmed, and carried to
the castle. If the soldier dies, he will, they say, be shot off from
one of the cannons' mouths; if he recovers, the galleys are to be
Fernandez's doom for life."

The wife of the smuggler had listened to this account of her brother's
situation without proffering a word either of inquiry or remark; but I
saw her cheek, like a withering rose, growing paler and paler as the
incautious narrator proceeded, till at length, as he mentioned the
horrible fate likely to befall the hero of his tale, she fell back
upon the turf totally insensible.

The effect of the history had been different upon Garcias; his brow
became bent as the speaker went on, it is true; but the passionate
agitation, which at first seemed to affect him, wore away, and he
assumed a cold sort of calmness, which remained uninterrupted even
upon the fainting of his wife. He raised her in his arms, however, and
bidding Francisco wait a moment till he could return, he carried her
away towards their own dwelling, accompanied by all the women of the
place, in whose care he left her. On coming back, he questioned the
Catalonian keenly to ascertain whether his brother-in-law had been in
any degree to blame; but from all the replies he could obtain, it
appeared that the conduct of the soldier had been gross and outrageous
in the extreme; that Fernandez, as they called him, had merely
interfered, when no man but a coward or a pander could have refrained,
and that he actually stabbed the soldier in defence of his own life.

Garcias made no observation, but he held his hand upon the pommel of
his sword; and every now and then his fingers clasped upon it, with a
sort of convulsive motion, which seemed to indicate that all was not
so quiet within as the tranquillity of his countenance bespoke.

"Well," said he, at length looking up to the sky, which by this time
began to show more than one twinkling star, shining like a diamond
through the blue expanse;--"well, it is too late tonight to think of
what can be done. Come, Francisco, you want both food and rest--come,
you must lodge with us. Monsieur de l'Orme," he added, turning to me,
and speaking in French, "you will find our lodging but hard, and our
fare but poor, but if you will take the best of welcomes for seasoning
to the one, and for down to the other, you could not have more of it
in a palace."

I returned home with him to his cottage; but not wishing to intrude
more than I could help upon his privacy, when I knew his wife was both
ill in body and in mind, and fearful also of interrupting any
conversation he might wish to have with his companion, I retired to a
room which had been prepared for me, and undressing myself with the
assistance of my little follower Achilles, who made a most excellent
extempore valet-de-chambre, I cast myself on the bed, hardly hoping to
sleep. A long day of fatigue had been friendly to me, however, in this
respect; and I scarcely saw my little attendant nestle himself into a
high pile of dried rosemary, with which the mountains abound, and
which, with the addition of a cloak, forms the bed of many a
mountaineer, before I was myself asleep. My slumbers remained unbroken
till I was awakened by Garcias shaking me by the arm. It was still
deep night, and starting up, I saw by the light of a lamp which he
carried, that he was completely dressed, and armed with more
precaution than even during his excursions into France.

"I have to ask your pardon, monseigneur," said he, in a low deep tone,
as soon as I was completely awake, "for thus disturbing you, and,
indeed, it was my intention not to have done so; but I am about to set
out for Lerida, and before I go, I wish to lay before you such plans
as are most feasible for your comfort and safety in Spain. In the
first place, you can remain here, if a poor village, and poor fare,
and mountain sports, may suit you; but if you do, your time may hang
heavy on your hands, and beware of lightening it with the smiles of
our women--remember, the Spaniard is jealous by nature, and
revengeful, too; and there is not a black-eyed girl in this village
that has not some one to watch and to protect her."

The blood rose in my cheek, and I replied somewhat hastily, "Were she
as unprotected as a wild flower, do you think I would take advantage
of her friendlessness? You do me wrong, Garcias; and by Heaven, were I
so willed, it would be no fear of a revengeful Spaniard would stand in
the way of my pursuit! But, as I said, you do me wrong,--great wrong!"

"Be not angry, my noble Count," replied the smuggler, with a calm
smile; "I know what youth and idleness may do with many a one, even
with the best dispositions? I warned you for your own good, and I am
not a man who values any of this earth's empty bubbles so highly as
not to say my mind when I am sure that it is right. But hear me
still:--humble as I am in station, I have one or two friends of a
higher class, and I can give you a letter to the new corregidor of
Saragossa, who will easily obtain you rank in the Spanish armies, if
you choose to employ yourself in war, which I know is the only
occupation that you nobles of France can hold."

"Not to Saragossa," replied I; "no, not to Saragossa; I cannot go
there. But you say the new corregidor; what has become of the former
one?"

"He died this last month," replied Garcias; "and a good man he
was--God rest his soul! He was much beloved by all classes of the
people. He died, they say, of grief for the loss of his only child.
But if you love not Saragossa, hark to another plan. I go to Lerida.
You can accompany me as far as the town gates, but you must not go
with me farther. You have heard of the fate of my wife's brother--he
must, he shall be saved, or I will light such a flame in Catalonia as
shall burn up these mercenary sworders by whom it is consumed, as by a
flight of devastating locusts--ay, shall burn them up like stubble!
What may come of my journey, I know not--death, perhaps, to many; and
therefore, though you may go with me to Lerida, turn off before you
enter the town, and make all speed to Barcelona, where you will find
many a vessel ready to sail for France. You will easily find your way
to Paris, where you may conceal yourself as well as if you were in
Spain; and as you will land in a different part of the country from
that where your appearance might prove dangerous to yourself, you will
run no risk of interruption in your journey; at the same time, you
will be able more easily to communicate with your family and friends,
and negotiate at the court for your pardon."

I did not hesitate in regard to which I should choose of the three
plans that Garcias propounded. At once, and without difficulty, I
fixed upon that course which, by carrying me directly to Paris, would
give me a thousand facilities that I could not possess in Spain.
Though so far from the capital, of course, a frequent communication
existed between my native province and Paris, and I thus hoped soon to
satisfy myself in regard to all the circumstances which had followed
my flight from the Château de l'Orme; I should also be in the
immediate neighbourhood of the Count de Soissons; and I doubted not,
that, by putting myself under his protection, I could easily obtain
those letters of grace which would insure me from all the painful
circumstances of a trial for murder: for although the severities which
the Cardinal de Richelieu had exercised upon the nobles, in every case
where they laid themselves open to the blow of the law, showed
evidently that my nobility would be no protection, yet, knowing little
of the politics of the court, I fancied that he would not reject the
intercession of a prince of the blood royal. There is no reason why I
should not acknowledge that, in these respects, I was most anxious
about that life which I would have cast into the most hazardous
circumstances--ay, even thrown away in any honourable manner; but to
die the death of a common felon, or even to be arraigned as one, was
what I could not bear to dream of. There is something naturally more
valuable to man than life itself--something more fearful than death;
for though my whole mind was bent on saving myself from the fate that
menaced me, at the same time with every thought came the remembrance
that it was Helen's brother I had slain--that she could never, never
be mine; and I cursed the life I struggled for.

As soon as my determination was expressed, Garcias pressed me to
hasten my movements; and as the little player had awoke, and, seeing
me about to depart, insisted on accompanying me, the next
consideration became, how to mount him, so as to enable him to keep up
with the quick pace at which we proposed to proceed. Horses, however,
were plentiful in the village; and the smuggler, although it was now
midnight, took upon himself to appropriate the beast of one of his
companions, for which I left three gold pieces as payment. I was soon
dressed; and Garcias having supplied me with some articles of apparel,
of which I stood in some need, we proceeded to the green, where we
found Francisco, who had brought the news of his kinsman's arrest,
together with the horses, and four or five of Garcias' associates,
armed like himself, and prepared to mount.

We were instantly in our saddles, and set off at all speed, greatly to
the annoyance of poor little Achilles; who, not much accustomed to
equestrian exercise, and perched upon the ridge of a tall strong
horse, looked as if he was riding the Pyrenees, and riding them ill. I
kept him close to myself, however, and contrived to maintain him in
his seat, till such time as he had in some degree got shaken into the
saddle; after which he began to feel himself more at his ease, and to
play the good horseman.

Little conversation took place on the road, the mind of Garcias
labouring evidently under a high degree of excitement, which he was
afraid might break forth if he spoke, and I myself being far too much
swallowed up in the selfishness of painful thoughts to care much about
the schemes or wishes of others. I gathered, however, from the
occasional questions which Garcias addressed to Francisco, and the
replies he received, that the whole of Catalonia was ripe for revolt;
that the sufferings of the people, and the outrages of the Castilian
soldiery, had arrived at a point no longer to be endured; and that the
murmurs and inflammatory placards which had lately been much spoken
of, were but the roarings of the volcano before an eruption. Several
private meetings of the citizens and the peasantry had been held,
Francisco observed; and at more than one of these, aid, arms,
ammunition, money, and co-operation, had been promised on the part of
France. All was ready for revolt; the pile was already laid whereon to
sacrifice to the god of liberty, and it wanted but some hand to apply
the torch.

"That hand shall be mine," muttered Garcias;--"that hand shall be
mine, if they change not their doings mightily;" and here the
conversation again dropped.

For three hours we rode on in darkness, by rough and narrow paths,
which probably we might not have passed so safely had it been day; for
we went on with that sort of fearlessness which is almost always sure
to conduct one securely through the midst of danger. Although I felt
my horse make many a slip and many a flounder as we went along, I knew
not the real state of the roads over which we passed, till I found him
plunge up to his shoulders in a pit of water that lay in the midst. By
spurring him on, however, I forced him up the other side; and shortly
after the day broke, showing what might, indeed, be called by courtesy
a road, but which seemed in truth but an old watercourse, obstructed
with large stones and deep holes, and, in short, a thousand degrees
worse in every respect than any path we had followed through the
gorges of the Pyrenees.

No feeling, I believe, is more consistently inconsistent than
cowardice. Children shut their eyes in the dark to avoid seeing
ghosts; and as long as my little companion Achilles could not exactly
discover the dangers of the path, he proceeded very boldly; but no
sooner did he perceive, by the light of the dawn, the holes, the
rocks, and the channels, which obstructed the road at every step, than
he fell into the most ludicrous trepidation, and called down upon his
head many an objurgation from Garcias for hanging behind in the worst
parts, floundering like a fish left in the shallows.

During the whole of our journey hitherto we had passed neither house
nor village, as far as I could discover; and we still went on for
about an hour before we came even to a solitary cottage, where Garcias
drew in his rein to allow our horses a little refreshment.

Here he paced up and down before the door, seemingly anxious and
impatient to proceed, knitting his brows and gnawing his lip with an
air of deep and bitter meditation. I interrupted his musings,
nevertheless, to inquire whether he could convey a few lines to their
destination, which I had written to inform my father that I was, at
least, in safety.

"To be sure," replied he hastily, taking the letter out of my hand.
"Did I not deliver the packet safely to Mademoiselle Arnault, at the
château? and doubt not I will deliver yours too, if I be alive; and if
I be dead," he added with a smile, "I will send it."

"What packet did you deliver to Mademoiselle Arnault?" demanded I,
somewhat surprised; "I never heard of any packet."

"Nay, I know not what it contained," answered the smuggler; "it was
brought to me by a friend at Jaca, and I know nothing farther than
that I delivered it truly. That is all I have to do with it, and fully
as much as any one else has."

I turned upon my heel, again feeling the proud blood of the ancient
noble rising angrily at the careless tone with which a peasant
presumed to treat my inquiries; but the overpowering passions which,
under the calm exterior of the Spaniard, were working silently but
tremendously, like an earthquake preceded by a heavy calm, levelled in
his eyes all the unsubstantial distinctions of rank. Nor did I, though
struck by a breach of habitual respect, give above a thought to the
manner of his speech; the matter of it soon occupied my whole mind,
and for the rest of the journey I was as full of musing as the
smuggler himself. A packet from Spain!--for Helen Arnault! What could
it mean? She, who had no friends, no acquaintances beyond the circle
of our own hall! A new flame was added to the fires already kindled in
my bosom; I suppose that my mind was weakened by all that I had lately
suffered, for I cannot otherwise account for the wild, vague, jealous
suspicions that took possession of me. But so it was--I was jealous!
At other times my character was anything but suspicious; but now I
pondered over the circumstance which had just reached my knowledge,
viewed it in a thousand different lights, regarded it in every aspect,
and still the jaundiced medium of my own mind communicated to Helen's
conduct a hue that, however extraordinary, it did not deserve.

With thoughts thus occupied, I scarcely perceived the length of the
way, till, as we climbed a slight eminence, Garcias pulled in his
rein, and looking forward, I perceived at no great distance a group of
towers and steeples, announcing Lerida.



CHAPTER XXII.


The irritable suspicions which, without his own knowledge, he had
excited in my bosom, made me still regard the careless manner in which
Garcias had treated my inquiries concerning the packet he had conveyed
to Helen, as matter of some offence. I forgot that he knew not my
feelings on this subject, and I am afraid I made no allowance for his,
excited and overwrought as they were. Notwithstanding the degree of
irritation that I felt, however, I could not resist the frankness of
manner with which he addressed me, when we came within sight of
Lerida.

"Here, Monsieur le Comte," said he, "you had better leave us. That
path will take you into the high road to Barcelona, whither, if I
might advise, you would make all possible speed. My way is towards
those towers, where my poor Catelina's brother lies in bonds. What may
come of it, I do not know; but either this night shall see him once
more a freeman, or my head shall lie lower than it ever yet has done.
Farewell, Monsieur le Comte! I doubt not we shall meet again. Do not
forget me till then: and ever believe that a warm and grateful heart,
however rude, may dwell in the bosom even of a Spanish smuggler; and
that if this arm, or this sword, ever can serve you, you may command
it. Are you too proud to accept that horse you ride, as a present from
one who is under many a debt of gratitude to your house?"

I hardly know what it was, for there was certainly very little in his
words to change the angry feelings with which I had regarded him a
moment before; but the manner wherewith a thing is said, more than
the thing itself, has often the power to let us into the dark
council-chamber of man's bosom, and show us the motives which govern
his actions. Gleaming through the very coldness of Garcias' demeanour,
I saw the wish to act towards me in the kindest and most grateful
manner, only overpowered by the excitement of his own circumstances;
and I instantly made those allowances which I should have done at
first.

"I will accept it, Garcias, with pleasure," replied I, "because I hope
hereafter to repay it, with other debts to you, in a way that I have
not now the means of doing." A word or two more passed, and then,
bidding him adieu, I rode along the path he pointed out, followed by
Achilles Lefranc, and soon reached the highroad of which he had
spoken. Here my poor little companion, who had hitherto smothered the
torments of St. Bartholomew rather than risk being left behind, found
it impossible to contain his expostulations any longer.

"Monseigneur," said he, in a tone which mingled the doleful and the
theatrical in a very ludicrous degree, "God knows that I am willing to
follow on your steps to the last grain of my sand, to serve you with
my best service to my last breath--but indeed! indeed! it must be on
foot. Horseback becomes me not--I am already worn to the bone! So help
me Heaven! as I would rather ride a grindstone by the hour together,
than the stiff ridge of this hard-backed charger! Consider, my lord,
consider, that my business has ever been on foot; and that never but
once before did I venture to cast my legs across that iron-spined
beast called a horse. At least, in pity, give me half an hour's repose
at the first cottage we pass, for I can get no farther!"

The request of the poor little man was but reasonable; and after
proceeding about half a league farther on our way, we stopped at a
small sort of inn, where I suppose the carriers from Lerida ordinarily
paused to water their horses. Here, with rest, and food, and wine, I
strove to put Achilles into a fit state for proceeding on his journey;
but none of these applications seemed to touch the part affected, and
the ludicrous stiffness that supervened when he had sat still for a
few minutes, almost made me abandon the hope of going forward that
day. After about an hour, however, a very powerful incentive to motion
came in aid of my wishes, and soon induced Monsieur Achilles to start
from his settle, and though every joint seemed made of wood, and
creaked in the moving, he nevertheless got to his horse even more
quickly than myself. The cause of this revolution in his feelings was
very simple, and consisted in nothing more than a sound, somewhat
disagreeable to one of his peculiar temperament.

The morning was clear and the wind high, coming in quick gusts from
the side of Lerida, which, as near as I could judge, lay at the
distance of two miles. It was not far enough, however, to prevent our
hearing, after having rested, as I said, near an hour, the beating of
a drum, mingled with the retreat-call upon the trumpet. At this
Achilles pricked up his ears, and the good dame of the house shrugged
up her shoulders, saying, "The soldiers again! They will never stop
till they have taken our all!"

A pause then ensued; but the moment after, an irregular fire of
musketry made itself heard, and close again upon that, burst after
burst, came the roaring of some heavy pieces of cannon. The good
hostess, who was alone in the house, threw herself upon her knees
before a picture of St. Jago, and beseeched him so heartily for
protection, that I could hardly divert her attention to receive
payment for what ourselves and our horses had consumed.

In the meanwhile, Achilles, who seemed heartily to sympathise with the
hostess, though his feelings urged him in another direction, had moved
to his horse with a very white face; and before I could mount, was
already on the road. "Let us make haste," cried he, "in God's name! To
my ears, the noise of cannon is no way harmonious. Let us make haste,
monseigneur--I am sure I hear them coming! I do not even love the
sound of a firelock. The only drum that should be tolerated is that of
a charlatan; for though he may kill as many people or more than a
soldier, he does it quietly, promising to cure them all the while.
Don't you hear a noise behind us, monseigneur?--I am sure I hear a
drum, of which sound the drum of my ear has all the jealousy of a
rival:--_Morbleu!_ what a roar of cannon! That must have killed a
great many people!"

Such broken exclamations did he continue to pour forth from time to
time, as fast as the jolts of his horse admitted, till we had placed a
good many miles between us and Lerida. We were then obliged to slacken
our pace, though we still heard occasionally the distant roaring of
the cannon, proving incontestably that the struggle between the
populace and the soldiery continued unabated.

Though from very different motives, I was as glad to avoid taking any
part in the transactions which, I had reason to believe, were going on
at Lerida, as little Achilles himself. I had gathered from the
conversation of Francisco and Garcias, that the Catalonian peasantry
had been instigated to revolt, in no slight degree, by secret agents
of the French government; and I had but little inclination to be
identified with schemes which I could not look upon as highly
honourable. To have been mistaken for one of these agents by the
populace, would have placed me in a very embarrassing situation,
unacquainted, as I was with the designs and measures of my own
government; and I well knew, that to disclaim a character with which
the multitude chose to invest one, was the surest way to provoke,
without convincing them. I was therefore anxious on every account to
reach Barcelona as speedily as possible, and to quit a country where
no pleasing part was left me to play, before the first news of the
insurrection caused an embargo to be laid upon the ports. But,
unfortunately, our horses had by this time become so jaded, that I was
obliged to slacken my pace and proceed more slowly, lest they should
fail us altogether.

About an hour more elapsed before we reached any place that could give
shelter and rest for our horses; for I remarked here, as in the
country near Saragossa, though Catalonia is better peopled than many
parts of Spain, that the towns and villages are sadly distant from one
another, when compared with the overflowing population of France.

At length, however, the road wound up the side of a gentle hill, upon
whose green and velvet top a group of old rough cork-trees, scarcely
yet bearing a blush of tardy verdure upon their branches, were mingled
with a number of earlier trees, all clothed in the thousand bright
hues of spring. Amongst these, as we rode up, we could every now and
then discern the straight lines of a cottage, diversifying the wild
and irregular masses of the foliage, and offering here and there a
hard outline, cutting upon the clear back-ground of the sky. Yet the
whole was the more picturesque and beautiful for those very stiff
lines of the buildings--whether from the contrast of the forms
alone--or from the mingled associations called up in the mind by the
sight of man's habitations combined with the more graceful productions
of simple nature--or from both, I know not. However, there was an air
of calm tranquillity in that little village and its group of trees,
raised up upon the soft green hill, and standing clear and defined in
the pure sunshiny sky, which formed a strange mild contrast with the
distant roar that the wind bore in sullen gusts from Lerida. There is
a latent moral in every look of nature's face, which--did man but
study it--would prove a great corrector of the heart; and when I
thought of the carnage and the crime which that far-off roar
announced, the peaceful aspect of the scene before me made me shudder
at the effect of excited human passions, and I hurried on upon my way
to escape as fast as possible from the tumults which I doubted not
were then in action at Lerida.

Knowing, as I did, that horses are cheap in this part of the country,
I resolved to venture some portion of my remaining money, rather than
delay my progress to Barcelona. Accordingly, as soon as I perceived
the least appearance of hospitable walls, I asked poor little Achilles
if he thought he could muster strength to continue his journey,
representing to him that any delay might probably prevent us from
quitting Spain, if it did not induce still more disagreeable
consequences. A tear of pain and fatigue actually rose in the weary
player's eye, as he abandoned the hope of repose with which the sight
of the village had inspired him; but the sound of the cannon, and the
beating of the drum, still rung in his ears, and he professed his
willingness to go on, as long as he was able--to do anything, in
short, to get out of hearing of such sounds as the wind had borne from
Lerida.

The village, however, was but a poor one, and on inquiring at the
posada whether we could exchange our horses for two fresh ones,
offering at the same time a suitable repayment for the accommodation,
I was informed that no horse could be obtained in the place for love
or money, except those employed in agriculture, which were not
precisely suited to my purpose. Nothing remained then but to stay
where we were, to give our horses food, and four hours' rest, and to
take what repose we could ourselves obtain.

So nearly balanced had been the wishes of poor little Achilles,
between fear in the one scale, and fatigue in the other, that I do not
believe he was at all sorry to hear that a halt was inevitable; and
while I acted as the groom, and took care that every means was
employed to renovate the vigour of our beasts, he cast himself upon a
truckle-bed, and within two minutes was sound asleep. I followed his
example as soon as I had provided for the renewal of our journey; for,
though well calculated to bear no ordinary portion of exercise, I was
now considerably exhausted, having ridden more than thirty leagues
that day, in addition to all that I had undergone before. My sleep,
however, was feverish and interrupted, and before the four hours were
concluded I was again upon my feet. It was about the hour that the
Spaniards generally devote to sleeping, during the great heat of the
middle of the day, but on going to seek for my horse, I found the
villagers collected in various groups at the different doors, all
eagerly talking upon some subject that seemed to excite their feelings
to the uttermost. I easily conceived that some news had reached them
from Lerida; but judging it best to remain as innocent of all
knowledge concerning any tumults that might have occurred as possible,
I asked no questions, but proceeded towards the stable for the purpose
of preparing for our departure, leaving my weary follower to enjoy his
slumbers till the last moment.

Before I reached the door, however, a clattering of horses' hoofs made
me turn my head, and I saw a Castilian trooper galloping as fast as
his horse would bear him into the village. He was armed with a steel
headpiece, cuirass, and gauntlets, and mounted on a horse which,
though wounded and bloody, still bore him on stoutly. His offensive
arms consisted of his long heavy sword, a case of large pistols, a
dagger, and two musketoons, so that considering him as an opponent,
his aspect would have been somewhat formidable. As he came up, he
glanced his eye ferociously over the various groups of peasantry,
amongst whom two or three muskets were visible, but without taking
farther notice of any one, he cut in between me and the stable-door,
and springing to the ground, in a moment led out the horse which had
borne my little follower thither, evidently with the purpose of
transferring his heavy _demipique_ saddle from his own wounded charger
to its back.

This, however, did not at all suit my purposes, and laying my hand
upon the halter, I told him the horse was mine, and that he must stand
off. This information brought upon my head a torrent of Castilian
abuse, and thrusting himself in between me and the horse, he struggled
to make me quit my hold, raising his gauntleted hand as if to strike
me in the face. He was a smaller man than myself in every respect, and
also embarrassed with the weight of his arms, so that it was with ease
I caught his wrist with one hand to prevent his striking me, while
with the other I grasped the lower rim of his cuirass, and threw him
back clanking upon the pavement. In an instant, half a dozen young
villagers sprang out of the houses, surrounded the prostrated trooper
before he could make an attempt to rise, and would, I believe, have
despatched him with their long knives, had not I interfered to save
his life.

"_Viva la Francia! Viva la Francia!_" cried half a dozen voices at
once. "Let him rise! let him rise! The French caballero commands it.
Let him rise! let him rise!"

Some of the Catalonians, however, were for opposing this piece of
clemency, and, evidently animated by the same spirit of hatred to the
soldiery as their countrymen of Lerida, cried aloud to kill the tiger.
"How many of ours has he killed!" exclaimed they. "How often has he
plundered our houses, assaulted ourselves, insulted our women!--Let
him die! let him die!"

But the discussion had for a moment diverted their attention from
their prisoner, and though one of the strongest villagers had his foot
upon the soldier's corslet, he contrived suddenly to throw him off,
and, springing up, to catch his wounded horse, which still stood nigh.
Half a dozen blows with musket-stocks and knives were now aimed at him
in an instant; but leaping into the saddle, he spurred his horse
through the crowd, and, saved by his corslet and morion from many a
random stroke, galloped down the road like lightning.

At the distance of about a hundred yards, however, he turned in the
saddle, and while his horse went on, aimed one of his musketoons
calmly at the group assembled round me, and fired.

The ball whizzed close by me, and grazed the cheek of a villager near,
leaving a long black wound along that side of his face. Fortunately
for the fugitive, none of the muskets were loaded which graced the
hands of those he left behind, otherwise his flight would have been
but short. As it was, he departed undisturbed, and the whole of the
group around turned to me, inquiring, as of one who had some title to
command them, what was to be done next? "Were they," they asked, "to
collect and join the patriots at Lerida, or to march forward upon
Barcelona, collecting what troops they could on the road, and at once
attack the tyrants in their head-quarters?"

I of course disclaimed not only all right to direct them, but all
knowledge of the subject, telling them that I had merely cast the
soldier from me in defence of my own property, and that I was not
aware what patriots they spoke of at Lerida, or what tyrants at
Barcelona.

"What!" cried one of the young men, with a look divided between
surprise and incredulity; "do you not know that the inhabitants of
Lerida have risen, and cast off the yoke of the Castilian tyrants? Do
you not know the glorious news, that they have beat the mercenary
soldados of Castile through every street of the city wherever they
dared to make a stand, till the few that escaped have shut themselves
up in the citadel? Do you pretend not to know that they have well
avenged the death of the poor youth that the bloody-minded
slaughterers fired off last night from a cannon's mouth? Pshaw! you
know it well enough; and we know too, that it is with arms and
ammunition from France, that all this has been done: so, '_Viva la
Francia! Viva el Francés!_'"

It was in vain I protested my ignorance of the whole; they were
determined to believe me an agent of the French government, and
nothing I could say had any effect in persuading them to the contrary.
The only means I could devise for extricating myself from the
unpleasant situation in which I was placed, without violating the
truth, was to tell them, that I was going on myself to Barcelona, but
that I thought the best thing they could do, would be to remain quiet
till they heard more particularly from Lerida, taking care to be
prepared for whatever event might occur.

They received this advice as if it had come from the Delphic Oracle.
"Yes, yes, he is right," cried one; "we will wait for orders from
Lerida."--"He will get to Barcelona before the Castilian now!" cried a
second: "Quick! saddle the cavalier's horse!"--"Send us off a despatch
as soon as all is safe at Barcelona," cried a third; but to this last
I did not think fit to make any reply, as I had not the least
intention of complying with the request. All was soon ready to set
out, but a sudden difficulty delayed me some time, which was, that
when about to depart, I could nowhere discover Monsieur Achilles
Lefranc, whom I had left up stairs sound asleep. To leave the poor
little man alone, in a country, the language of which was as unknown
to him as Hebrew, was a piece of cruelty I could not think of
committing. I was nevertheless nearly obliged to do so, for after
looking for him in vain in the room where he had slept, and in every
other place I could think of, with the assistance of half a dozen
Spaniards, men, women, and children, he was drawn out from below the
bed, where he had ensconced himself on hearing the sound of a musket,
with the various shouts of the Spaniards in the street.

He seemed, however, in no degree ashamed of his cowardice. "I own it!
I own it!" cried he; "I have nothing of Achilles about me but the
name. I am vulnerable from top to toe; and so great a coward into the
bargain, that I think the only wise thing my great namesake ever did,
was in staying away so long from the fields of Troy; and the most
foolish thing in going back again at all."



CHAPTER XXIII.


The horses of the smugglers were accustomed to hard service, and
therefore soon refreshed, so that when we again mounted, they wanted
but little of the vigour with which they had at first set out. Still,
however, twenty leagues lay between us and Barcelona, and since my
unfortunate encounter with the trooper, the necessity became more
urgent of arriving there with all speed. Nevertheless, it was in vain
that we spurred on as rapidly as we could, even little Achilles
exerting himself in proportion to his ideas of the danger; night fell
upon our journey ere it was more than two thirds finished, and as we
could not arrive before the gates were shut, we were obliged to pause
and await the return of day at a small town about ten miles from
Barcelona. Here, however, all was quiet, and I judged from the
tranquillity that no news had yet reached this place from Lerida;
concluding, also, that the soldado, whose wounded horse must have been
soon exhausted, had not yet passed through. In this case there was
still hope of arriving at the city before the insurrection was known,
so that we might embark on board any vessel about to quit the port
immediately, or even hire one of the light boats that are continually
running across the Gulf of Lyons, between Barcelona and Marseilles.
The next morning, an hour before day-break, we were again upon our
journey, and arrived at the gates of the city not long after they were
opened. A crowd of country people were going in, carrying fruit and
milk, and other articles of consumption to the town, and mingling
amongst the horses and mules that bore these supplies, we endeavoured
to pass in unnoticed. All proceeded very well for some way, till we
passed the guard-house near the inner gate: in fact, we had proceeded
a few paces beyond, when suddenly a couple of soldiers rushed out,
half a dozen more followed, and I was knocked off my horse by a
violent blow on my head, which they chose to bestow upon me with a
prospective view to prevent my resisting.

As soon as I was on my feet again, the cause of this brutal conduct
became evident, without question, as my good friend, the trooper, from
Lerida, was the first person that met my eyes. "Ha! ha!" cried he,
coming before me, while the others pinioned my arms behind, and
shaking his clenched hand in my face, with a grin of unutterable
rage--"Ha! ha! we have thee now; and, by the soul of a Castilian, I
would pluck thy heart out with my own hands, did not the viceroy wish
to examine thee himself. But never fear! before two hours be over,
thou, too, shalt have a flight from a cannon's mouth!"

My situation was not a very agreeable one, but yet it was not one that
impressed me with much fear. Indeed, it was never any circumstances of
mere personal danger that much agitated me. Anything that touched me
through my affections, or through my imagination, ever had a great and
visible effect upon my mind; but to all which came in the simple form
of bodily danger, I was, I believe, constitutionally callous.

While the soldiers were engaged in pinioning my arms with cords, which
they drew so tight as almost to tear my flesh, some of their
companions dismounted my trembling little companion, and as his
excessive fear and non-resistant qualities were very evident, they did
not think it necessary to decorate his wrists with the same sort of
strict bracelets which they had adapted to mine, but simply led him
along after me in a kind of procession towards the arsenal; whither,
it seems, the viceroy had removed from his own palace the night
before, on the news of the insurrection at Lerida. The way was long,
and I believe the brutal Castilians found a sort of pleasure in
parading us through the various streets, and showing to the populace a
new instance of the height to which the daring authority they assumed
might be carried. Their insolence, however, seemed to me, even from
the glances of the people as we passed, to be likely to receive a
check sooner than they imagined. Not a Catalonian did we approach, but
I recognised that flash in his eye, which told of a burning and
indignant heart within; and though they suffered themselves to be
shouldered by the licentious and ill-disciplined soldiers as we went
along, it was with a bent brow and clenched teeth, which seemed to
say, "The day of retribution is at hand!"

As we approached the arsenal, I caught a glimpse of the wide, grand
ocean; and there was something in the sight of its vast free waves,
which seemed to reproach me with the bonds I suffered to rest upon my
hands. I believe, involuntarily, I made an effort to burst them
asunder, for one of the guard, seeing some movement of my hands,
struck me a violent blow with the pommel of his sword, exclaiming,
"What! trying to escape! Do so again, and I will send a ball through
your brains!"

I was silent, giving him a glance of contempt, which only excited his
laughter, and calling to his companions, he bade them look at the
proud Frenchman. Patience was the only remedy; and still maintaining
my silence, though I own it cost me no small effort, I suffered them
to lead me on, with many a taunt and insult, till we arrived at the
port and arsenal. Here I was dragged through two large courts, and
conducted into a stone hall, where I was subjected, for near an hour,
to the insolent jeering of the soldiery, while the Count de Saint
Colomma, then Viceroy, finished his breakfast.

To all they could say, however, I answered nothing, which enraged them
more than anything I could have replied.

"Have you cut out his tongue, Hernan?" asked one of the soldiers.

"No," replied the other, "though he well deserves it; I spared it to
speak to the Viceroy."

"Slit it then, as they do the magpies to make them speak," said a
third.

"Ob, the viceroy will find him a tongue," replied the first. "Mind you
that sullen boor, that would not betray the conspiracy at Taragona;
and how the Count of Molino, who then commanded our _tercia_, found a
way to make him speak?"

"How was that?" demanded one of the others; "I served in the tenth
_legero_ then, and was not present."

"Why, he made us tie him on a table," answered the first, "and then
fix a nice wet napkin over his face, pricking some holes in it,
however, or it would have smothered him altogether, they say. As it
was, every breath was like the gasp of a dying man, it was so hard to
draw it through the cloth! and one might see his fists clenching with
the agony, and his feet drawn up every time we poured a fresh ladleful
of water over his face. Every now and then, Don Antonio told him to
stretch out his hand when he would confess; but he bore it stoutly,
till the blood began to ooze out of his eyes and ears, and then he
could not hold to it any longer, but stretched out his hand, and
betrayed the whole story; after which, the conde was merciful, and had
him hanged without more ado."

It was fortunate for poor little Achilles, who sat beside me, that his
knowledge of Spanish did not extend to the comprehension of a single
word that passed, or this story would probably have bereft him of the
little life he had left. Terror had already made him as silent as the
grave--for which quality of silence he had never been very conspicuous
before--and he sat with his eyes staring and meaningless, his mouth
half open, his feet drawn up under the bench, and his hands laid flat
upon his knees--the very image of folly struck dumb with fright. There
was something so naturally small and unmeaning in his whole
appearance, that the soldiers seemed to look upon him altogether as a
cipher; and, in this respect, his insignificance for some time stood
him in as good stead as the armour of his namesake; but at length,
finding that they could draw nothing from me, my companion's look of
terror caught the Castilians' attention, and they were proceeding to
exercise their guard-room wit at the expense of poor little Achilles,
when suddenly the noise of drums and trumpets was heard, announcing,
as I found by their observations, that the viceroy was retiring from
the great hall to his own cabinet.

In a few minutes, a messenger arrived with orders for the officer of
the guard to conduct the prisoners to his presence; but in the lax
state of discipline which seemed to reign amongst the Castilian troops
in Catalonia, it was not surprising that no officer could be found. I
was placed, however, between two soldiers, and, with some attention to
military form, led up the grand staircase towards the cabinet of the
viceroy, at the door of which I was detained till the messenger had
announced my attendance.

The pause was not long; for shortly the door again opened, and I was
told in a harsh tone to go in, which I instantly complied with,
followed by little Achilles, while the soldiers and the Viceroy's
officer remained without.

The scene which presented itself was very different from that which I
had anticipated. The room was large and lofty, lighted by two high
windows, commanding a view of the sea, and altogether possessing an
air of cheerfulness rarely found in the interior of Spanish houses.
The furniture was luxurious, even amidst a luxurious nation. Fine
arras and tapestry, carpets of the richest figures, cushions covered
with cloth of gold, tables and chairs inlaid with silver, and a
thousand other rare and curious objects that I now forget, met the eye
in every direction; while on the walls appeared some of the most
exquisite paintings that the master-hand of Velasquez ever produced.
It put me strongly in mind of the saloon in the Marquis de St. Brie's
_pavilion de chasse_; but the lords of these two splendid chambers
were as opposite, at least in appearance, as any two men could be.

Seated in an ivory chair,[5] somewhat resembling in form the curule
chair of the ancient Romans, appeared a short fat man, not unlike the
renowned governor of Barataria, as described by Cervantes; I mean in
his figure; the excessive rotundity of which was such, that the paunch
of Sancho himself would have ill borne the comparison. His face,
though full in proportion, had no coarseness in it. The skin was of a
clear pale brown, and the features small, but rather handsome. The
eyebrows were high, and strongly marked, the eyes large and calm, and
the expression of the countenance, on the whole, noble and dignified,
but not powerful. It offered lines of talent, it is true, but few of
thought; and there was a degree of sleepy listlessness in the whole
air of the head, which to my mind spoke a luxurious and idle
disposition. The dress of the Viceroy--for such was the person before
me--smacked somewhat of the habits which I mentally attributed to him.
Instead of the stiff _fraise_, or raised ruff, round the neck, still
almost universally worn in Spain, he had adopted the falling collar of
lace, which left his neck and throat at full liberty. His
_justaucorps_ of yellow silk had doubtless caused the tailor some
trouble to fashion it dexterously to the protuberance of his stomach;
but still many of the points of this were left open, showing a shirt
of the finest lawn. His hat and plume, buttoned with a sapphire of
immense value, lay upon a table before him; and as I entered, he put
it on for an instant, as representative of the sovereign, but
immediately after, again laid it down, and left his head uncovered,
for the sake of the free air, which breathed sweetly in at one of the
open windows, and fanned him as he leaned back on the cushions of his
chair.

Behind the viceroy stood his favourite negro slave, splendidly dressed
in the Oriental costume, with a turban of gold muslin on his head, and
bracelets of gold upon his naked arms. He was a tall, powerful man;
and there was something noble and fine in the figure of the black,
with his upright carriage, and the free bearing of every limb, that
one looked for in vain in the idle listlessness of his lord. His
distance from the viceroy was but a step, so that he could lean over
the chair and catch any remark which his lord might choose to address
to him, in however low a tone it was made, and at the same time, he
kept his hand resting upon the rich hilt of a long dagger; which
seemed to show that he was there as a sort of guard, as well as a
servant, there being no one else in the room when we entered.

I advanced a few steps into the room, followed, as I have said, by
Achilles alone, and paused at a small distance from the Viceroy, on a
sign he made me with his hand, intimating that I had approached near
enough. After considering me for a moment or two in silence, he
addressed me in a sweet musical voice. "I perceive, sir," said he,
"notwithstanding the disarray of your dress, and the dust and dirt
with which you are covered, that you are originally a gentleman--I am
seldom mistaken in such things. Is it not so?"

"In the present instance your excellence is perfectly right," replied
I; "and the only reason for my appearing before the Viceroy of
Catalonia in such a deranged state of dress, is the brutal conduct of
a party of soldiery, who seized upon me while travelling peacefully on
the high road, and brought me here without allowing me even a moment's
repose."

"I thought I was right," rejoined the viceroy, somewhat raising his
voice: "but do you know, young sir, that your being a gentleman
greatly aggravates the crime of which you are guilty. The vulgar herd,
brought up without that high sense of honour which a gentleman
receives in his very birth, commit not half so great a crime when they
lend themselves to base and mean actions, as a gentleman does, who
sullies himself and his class with anything dishonourable and wrong.
From the mean, what can be expected but meanness, and consequently the
crime remains without aggravation? but when the well born, and the
well educated, derogate from their station, and mingle in base
schemes, their punishment should be, not only that inflicted by
society on those that trouble its repose, but a separate punishment
should be added, for the breach of all the honourable ties imposed
upon a gentleman--for the stigma they cast upon high birth--and from
the certainty, in their case, that they fall into error with their
eyes open--what say you, sir?"

"I think your excellence is perfectly right," replied I, the Viceroy's
observations having given me time to lay down a line of conduct for
myself; "I have always thought so, from the time I could reason for
myself; and such have been always the principles instilled into my
mind."

"Then what excuse, sir, have you," demanded the viceroy, rather
surprised at the calmness with which I agreed to all his
corollaries--"what excuse have you for meanly insinuating yourself
into another country, and, by the basest arts, stirring up the people
to sedition and revolt?"

"If I had done so, my lord," replied I, "I should be without excuse,
and the severest punishment you could inflict would not be more than I
merited. But I deny that I ever did so; and more! I can prove it
impossible that I should have done so, from the short space of time
which I have been in Spain, not allowing opportunity for such a crime
as has been imputed to me. This is the third day I have been in this
country."

The viceroy looked over his shoulder to his slave, who, stooping
forward, listened, while his lord said, in a low tone, "You were
right, Scipio--I am glad I looked to this myself--I am afraid I must
exert myself, or these rude soldados will stir up the people to worse
than even that of Lerida:" then turning to me, he added, in a louder
voice, "I looked upon your guilt, sir, as so evident a matter, that I
did not think you would have had the boldness even to deny it; but as
you do, it is but just that you hear the charge against you. It is
this, that you, a subject of Louis the French king, have, together
with many others, found your way into this province of Catalonia, and,
as spies and traitors, have instigated the people to revolt against
their liege lord and sovereign Philip the Fourth; in evidence of
which, a Castilian trooper of the eleventh _tercia_ deposes to having
seen you with the rebels now in arms at Lerida, and that, moreover,
you overtook him on the road hither, and with other rebels at the
village of Meila, would have slain him, had it not been for the
goodness and speed of his horse. What can you reply to this?"

"Merely that it is false," replied I; "and if your Excellence will
permit, I will tell my tale against his, and leave it to your wisdom
to find means of judging which is false and which is true."

"Proceed! proceed!" said the viceroy, throwing himself back in his
chair, seemingly tired with an exertion that was probably not usual
with him, and had only been called up by the pressing circumstances of
the times--circumstances which his own inactivity had suffered to
become much more dangerous than he thought them even now. "Proceed,
sir; but do not make your tale a long one, for I have many important
things to attend to."

"It shall be a very short one, my Lord," I replied: "my reason for
quitting my own country, Bearn, was that I had slain a man who
attempted to strike me----"

"A gentleman, or a serf?" demanded the Viceroy.

"He was in the _classe bourgeoise_," replied I.

"You did very right," said the Viceroy; "go on."

"To escape the immediate consequences," I continued, "I fled across
the Pyrenees, guided by some Spanish smugglers, who conducted me to a
village not far from Jacca, whence I intended to proceed to Barcelona,
and thence embark for Marseilles. From Marseilles, I intended to
proceed to Paris, and there negotiate my pardon, so that I might
eventually return to my own country in security."

"But," said the Viceroy, "what did you at Lerida? That town lies not
in your road from Jacca to Barcelona."

"My Lord, I never was at Lerida," replied I; "though I have been in
Spain before, I never was within the gates of Lerida in my life." The
viceroy looked over his shoulder to his African confidant, saying, in
the same low tone with which he had formerly addressed him, "Mark his
words, Scipio!" then, turning to me, he asked, with rather a heedless
air, "Then I am to believe, young sir, that the whole tale of the
soldier who accuses you is false, and that you and he never met till,
for the purpose of plundering you, or something of the same nature, he
seized you this morning at the city gates?"

"Not so, my Lord," I answered; "far be it from me to say so, for I
have a heavy charge myself to lay against that soldier. He overtook me
yesterday on the high road, seized upon my attendant's horse, and
raised his hand to strike me for opposing him."

"Good!" exclaimed the Viceroy. "Had you denied meeting him you were
undone, for he gave last night a full description of your person. I
now hear you with more confidence. Explain to me how, then, you
happened to be on the road between Barcelona and Lerida, which is
quite as much out of your way from Jacca as Lerida itself."

"Your Excellence will remember, that I said I was guided by
smugglers," I replied; "these smugglers were bound to Lerida; but they
assured me that they would put me in the high road to Barcelona, after
which I could not miss my way. They kept their word; and I proceeded
safely and quietly on my journey, till, arriving at a village which
your Excellence calls, I think, Meila, I stopped for a few hours to
rest my horses. Here I was overtaken by this soldier, who, without
asking permission, or making an excuse, seized upon my servant's
horse, and on my opposing him, raised his hand to strike me. I threw
him back on the pavement, and the villagers, rushing out of their
houses, would, I believe, have murdered him, had I not interfered; for
which good office, no sooner was he on horseback, than he fired his
carbine at my head, the ball of which missed me, but wounded one of
the peasants in the face."

The viceroy paused for a moment, while the African whispered to him
over his shoulder, in so low a tone that the words did not reach me.

"Did you, then, not hear any report of a revolt at Lerida?" demanded
the viceroy, at length.

"I did," replied I, "at Meila; and before that I heard the sound of
cannon and musketry from the side of Lerida."

"Can your attendant speak Spanish?"

"Not a word."

"Does he understand it?"

"No."

The Viceroy, while he spoke, looked steadfastly at Achilles, whose
face happily betrayed nothing but the most confirmative stupidity of
aspect; he then called him forward in French, and bade him detail what
had occurred during the course of the foregoing day. The little player
had by this time, in some degree, recovered his intellects, and
hearing the mild tone in which the viceroy had hitherto questioned me,
as well as the calmness with which he addressed him himself, his
_penchant_ for bombast was excited by the solemnity of the occasion,
and the presence of a representative of royalty, and he poured forth a
stupendous piece of eloquence, such as he thought the ears of a
Viceroy required.

"May it please your sublime Highness," said he, "the following is a
true account of what occurred to my noble and estimable lord, and to
myself, during our woful peregrinations of yesterday; and if it is not
the exact and simple verity, may all the stars of the golden firmament
fall upon my head and crush me into atoms!"

The viceroy looked back to the African and laughed; but the slave,
whose Oriental imagination was perhaps more in harmony with the
tumidity of little Achilles's style, than the more refined taste of
his lord, opened his large eyes, and seemed to think it very fine
indeed. Neither of them interrupted him, however, and the player
proceeded.

"Shortly after Aurora had drawn back the curtains of the Sun, and
Ph[oe]bus himself jumped out of bed and began running up the arch of
heaven, the illicit dealers, who had been hitherto our guides, our
guards, and our suttlers, all in one, left us, to proceed themselves I
know not where. We were now upon the broad and substantial causeway
which leads from the far-famed city of Lerida--as I am given to
understand, for I never was there--to this renowned metropolis of
Catalonia, when, I being much fatigued with the unwonted extension of
my legs across the back of my equine quadruped, my noble and
considerate lord permitted me to stop and repose my weary limbs at a
small pot-house by the road-side. Suddenly, after we had been there
about an hour, loud roared the cannon, and quick beat the drum; and my
lord not loving tumults amongst the people, as he said, and I not
loving tumults amongst the cannon, we got upon horseback, and rode on
till our horses could go no farther. Truly, I was thankful that their
weariness came to back my own, or verily, I believe, that my lord,
whose thighs must be made of cast iron, would not have left a bit of
skin upon me, by riding on till night. However, we stopped; and, by
the blessing of God, I lay down to take what the people of this land
call a _siesta_, but what I call a nap; when, after having lain in the
arms of Somnus for about half an hour, (four hours, he should have
said,) I was startled by the tremendous sound of a musket, and
incontinent, crept under the bed, from whence I was dragged out
shortly after by my master, mounted on the awful pinnacle of my
horse's back, and compelled to ride on to another village, where we
slept in quiet until day this morning. After that, we proceeded to
these hospitable walls, where a generous soldier rushed forth upon us,
and invited us in with a pressing courtesy which was not to be
resisted. He bestowed upon my lord a long piece of cord, which your
sublime majesty may observe upon his wrists. Me he decorated not in
the same manner, but they took care of both our horses and----"

"Hold!" said the Viceroy, "I have heard enough.--You said," continued
he, turning to me, "that you had been in Spain before. Where did you
then reside, and to whom were you known?"

"I resided at Saragossa," replied I, "and was known to the corregidor,
and to the Chevalier de Montenero."

"The Conde de Montenero!" said the Viceroy. "Good! I expect him here
this very day, or to-morrow at the farthest. If he witness in your
favour, your history needs no other confirmation; for though a
foreigner, all Spain knows his honour."

"A foreigner!" exclaimed I: "is he not a Spaniard?"

"Certainly not," answered the Viceroy; "knew you not that? But to
speak of yourself; mark me, young sir, you are safe for the present,
for your story bears the air of truth; but woe to you if you have
deceived me, for you shall die under tortures such as you never
dreamed of; and to show you that in such things I will no longer be
trifled with between these cut-throat soldiers and the factious
peasantry, I will instantly order your accuser to have the strappado
till his back be flayed. By the Mother of Heaven! I will no longer
have my repose troubled at every hour with the rapacity of these base
soldados, and the turbulence of the still baser serfs." And the full
countenance of the Count took on an air of stern determination, which
I had not before imagined that it could assume. "Scipio," continued he
to the negro, "see that these two be placed in security, where they
may be well treated, but cannot escape; bid my secretary, when he
arrives from the palace, take both their names in writing, and note
down their separate stories from their own mouths. Henceforth, I will
investigate each case to the most minute particular; and, be it
peasant or be it soldier that commits a crime, he shall find that I
can be a Draco, and write my laws in blood."

His resolution unfortunately came somewhat too late, for his indolence
and inactivity had permitted the growth of a spirit that no measures
could now quell. The hatred between the soldiery and the people had
been nourished by the incessant outrages which the former had been
suffered to commit under the lax government of the Count de St.
Colomma; and now that the populace had drawn the sword to avenge
themselves, they were not likely to sheath it till they had done so
effectually.

When he had finished speaking, the viceroy threw himself back in his
chair, fatigued with the unwonted exertion he had made, and waving his
hand, signed to us to withdraw, with which, as may be supposed, we
were not long in complying. The African followed us; and being again
placed between two soldiers, we were conducted to a small low-roofed
room, which filled up the vacancy between the two principal floors in
that body of the building. The soldier who had been my accuser did not
fail to follow, addressing many a triumphant jest upon our situation
to the negro. The slave affected to laugh at them all heartily, but
was, I believe, amusing himself with very different thoughts; for the
moment we were safely lodged in the room he had chosen, he beckoned
our good friend the soldier forward, and made him untie my hands. As
he did so, an impulse I could scarcely resist almost made me seize him
and dash his head against the floor; but the negro avenged me more
fully, for he instantly commanded the other soldiers, with a tone of
authority they dared not disobey, to bind the delinquent with the same
cord, and taking him down into the court, to give him fifty blows of
the strappado, and farther, to keep him in strict confinement till the
Viceroy's farther pleasure was known. "Ha, ha, ha!" cried he to the
soldier, with a grin, that showed every milk-white tooth in his head;
"Ha, ha, ha! why do you not laugh now?" And having placed a guard at
our door, he left us.



CHAPTER XXIV.


The chamber in which we were now placed was not an unpleasant one, nor
was it ill furnished, It had probably been heretofore occupied by some
of the inferior officers on duty at the arsenal; and there were still
to be seen hanging up above the bed, a head-piece and pair of
gauntlets of steel, and an unloaded musketoon. The walls, which were
entirely destitute of hangings, were, however, ornamented with sundry
curious carvings, the occupation, possibly, of many an idle hour,
representing battles, and tournaments, and bull-fights, wherein
neither perspective nor anatomy had been very much consulted; and
mingled with these rare designs, appeared various ciphers and
initials, together with Christian names, both male and female, in
great profusion.

The windows of the apartment were little better than loopholes, with a
strong iron bar down the centre. They possessed, however, a view over
the whole of the lower part of the city; and being situated in the
south-western side of the principal _corps de logis_ of the arsenal,
faced the inner gate communicating with the town, and commanded both
the inner and outer walls, with a part of the counterscarp and glacis.

On approaching one of these scanty apertures, to reconnoitre the
objects which surrounded the place of our detention, I heard a party
of soldiers conversing under the windows, and stopping the babbling of
little Achilles by a motion of my hand, I listened to gain any
information that I could, considering my present situation as one of
the very few in which eaves-dropping was not only justifiable but
necessary.

They were merely speaking, however, of some military movements which
had just taken place, by order of the Viceroy, for quelling the
insurrection at Lerida; and they did not at all scruple to censure
their commander in their discourse, for detaching so great a force
from Barcelona, at a moment it might be required to overawe the city.

This conversation soon ceased, and after some coarse vituperation of
the Catalonians, they separated, and I heard no more. Notwithstanding
their departure, I continued to stand at the window, as if I were
still listening, in order to collect and arrange my own thoughts,
uninterrupted by the merciless tongue of my attendant, who now having
recovered his speech, of which fright had deprived him for a time,
seemed resolved to make up by redoubled loquacity for the time he had
been obliged to waste in silence. I had, in truth, much to think of.
The whole circumstances which had lately happened to me, as well as my
present situation, would have afforded sufficient matter for
reflection; but, nevertheless, the news which I had heard from the
viceroy concerning the Chevalier de Montenero engaged my thoughts
perhaps more than all the rest, and made me look upon the chance which
brought me to Barcelona, rather than to any other Spanish town, and
even my detention there, as rather fortunate than otherwise,
notwithstanding all the unpleasant circumstances by which it had been
accompanied.

I doubted not for an instant, that, however the Chevalier might be
prepossessed against me in some respects, he would instantly do me
justice in the matter of the present charge, and show the viceroy that
it was impossible I could be guilty; which none could know better than
himself. At the same time, the knowledge that I had now obtained of
his not being Spanish by birth, freed me at once from the difficulty
under which I had before laboured, and left me at liberty to exculpate
myself from every circumstance which had before appeared suspicious in
his eyes, without violating my promise to the unfortunate corregidor
of Saragossa. After considering these points for a minute or two, I
applied myself to calculate how long it would take him to arrive at
Barcelona, supposing that he travelled with all speed from the place
where I last saw him; and I judged that, passing by Bagneres and
Venasque, he might have already arrived, as I doubted not that when he
left Lourdes he had directed his course immediately towards Spain.

Nothing did I long for more ardently than his coming; not alone from
the desire of obtaining my liberation, but because I longed to
re-establish myself in his good opinion--I longed to be near one that
I esteemed and loved--to confide in him all my thoughts, my feelings,
my sorrows, my regrets--to tell him my own tale--to ask for
consolation, and to seek for advice; and, certainly, never, never did
I feel so much as at that moment the desolate solitariness of man,
when, with none to aid him, he stands in the midst of sorrow and
misfortune by himself.

With all his follies and his weaknesses, I will own, I had even clung
to the society of the little player, merely because it was something
human that seemed to attach itself to me; and while he was near, I did
not appear so totally abandoned to myself and my evil fate; but when I
thought of the coming of the Chevalier, of clearing myself from all
suspicions, regaining his regard, and walking by his counsel, my heart
was lightened of half its load, and I felt as if I had again entered
within the magic circle of hope, that had long been shut against me.

While I was thus reflecting, the door of the chamber opened, and the
Viceroy's favourite negro slave entered, followed by a servant, loaded
with various kinds of viands, and a flask of wine. The servant put his
burden down on the table, and withdrew; but the negro remained, and
shutting the door, invited me in a civil tone to partake of the
provisions which his Excellence had ordered to be brought me. "My lord
the Viceroy," said he, "has given me in charge to see that you be
hospitably treated, and I have pleasure in the task, young sir; for I
hope, through your means, to rouse my master to a just sense of the
oppression which these poor Catalonians suffer from the unruly and
insolent soldiers."

There was something in this speech so different from what might be
expected in a negro slave and a favourite, that I did him the wrong of
suspecting that he wished to entrap me into some avowal of opinions
contrary to the Viceroy's government; and I therefore replied, "You
must know more of the subject than I do; I have been but three days in
Catalonia, and therefore have had but little opportunity of judging
whether the people be oppressed or not, even if I had any interest in
the matter."

"Interest! Spoke like a white man!" muttered the black to himself.
"Ah, young sir, young sir! If you had known oppression as I have, you
would find an _interest_ in every one you saw oppressed."

"I should have imagined," replied I, still doubting him, though I own
most unworthily, "that your situation was as happy a one as well might
be; and that your service on his Excellence the Viceroy was not very
oppressive?"

He laid his jet black finger upon the rich golden bracelet that
surrounded his arm. "Think you," asked he, "that that chain, because
it happens to be gold, does not weigh as heavily as if it were of
iron? It does--I tell you, Frenchman, it does. True, I am slave to the
best of masters, the noblest of lords--true, if I were free this
moment, I would dedicate my life to serve him. But still I am a
slave--still I have been torn from my home and my native land--still I
have been injured--wronged--oppressed; and every one I see injured,
every one I see wronged, becomes my fellow and my brother. But you
understand not that!"

"I do, my good friend, more than you think," replied I, convinced by
the earnestness of his manner that what he said was genuine.

"Whether you do or not," said he, "there is one principle on which you
_will_ understand me. You can fancy that I love my benefactor. I love
him; but I also know his faults. He is of a soft and idle humour, so
that his virtues, like jewels cast upon a quicksand, are lost,
unknown, and swallowed up. His idleness is a disease of the body, not
a defect of the mind--though the mind suffers for the fault of the
body--and so much does he value repose, that nothing seems to him of
sufficient importance to embitter its sweetness. Fearless as a lion of
death or of danger, he is a very coward when opposed to trouble and
fatigue; he is just, honourable, and wise, but this invincible apathy
of nature has brought him to the brink of a precipice, over which he
would sooner fall than make one strong effort to save himself. For two
years he has governed Catalonia, and during those two all the reports
of the brute soldiery have been believed--few of the complaints of the
injured peasants have reached him. Those few have been through me, for
his guards and his officers, who all join in the pillage of the
people, take care to cut off from him every other source of
information. Thus the soldiers have heaped wrong upon wrong, till the
people will bear no more; till at Lerida, at Taragona--over half the
country, in short, they are already in revolt. Barcelona still remains
quiet; and, by the exertion of proper authority--by showing the
Catalonians that the viceroy will do equal justice between them and
the soldiery, that in future he will be the defender of their rights
and liberties--the province--his government--perhaps even his life,
may be saved. For this object, when the news reached him last night of
the insurrection at Lerida, and, at the same time, the charge against
you, I persuaded him to examine you himself, without the presence of
his officers or his council. You answered wisely, and saved yourself.
When next he shall examine you, do more--answer nobly, and save him,
and perhaps a whole people! Tell him the oppression you have seen,
tell him the murmurs you have heard; aid me to stir him up to
exertion, and you may, if it be not too late, avert the evils that are
gathering round so thickly!"

"I will willingly do what you wish," replied I; "but I fear, unless he
can send one obnoxious regiment after another out of Catalonia, and
supply their place with troops whose discipline is more strict, and
who have not yet made themselves abhorred by the populace, that your
viceroy will do but little to allay this fermentation among the
people."

The negro shook his head. "They will never be changed," said he,
"while Olivarez, the Count-duke, governs both Spain and the king. Why
did he send them here at first? He knew them to be the worst
disciplined, the most cruel, turbulent, rapacious troops that all
Spain contained; but he wished to punish the Catalonians for holding a
junta on one of his demands, and he sent them these locusts as a
scourge. However, I have your promise. Before night the Count will
send for you again; he will ask you what rumours you heard--how the
Castilian troops were looked upon by the people--and other questions
to the same effect. Conceal nothing! Let him hear the truth from
_your_ lips at least. Will you do so?"

"I will!" replied I, decidedly.

"Then fare you well!" said the negro, "and fall to your meat with the
consciousness of doing what is noble and right." And thus saying he
left the chamber.

"Good faith! monseigneur," said little Achilles, who had already
settled upon the basket of provisions, and was making considerable
progress through the contents, "I could not resist this charming sight
had you been the king, and my master into the bargain. I must have
fallen to. Hunger, like love, levels all conditions."

"You did right, my good Achilles," replied I; "but hold a moment, I
must join the party;" and sitting down with my little attendant, I
aided him to conclude what he had so happily begun. The wine-flask
succeeded, and we neither of us spared it, proceeding to the bottom
with very equal steps, for though, as his lord, Achilles always
conceded to me two draughts for his one, he found means to compensate
for this forbearance, by making his draught twice as long as mine.
Indeed, when the bottle reached his mouth (for the negro had supplied
us with no cup), the matter became hopeless, so long did he point it
at the sky.

During one of these deep draughts, which occupied him so entirely,
that he neither heard nor saw anything else, a distant shout reached
my ear, and then all was silent. There was something ominous in the
sound, for it contained a very different tone from that which bursts
from a crowd on any occasion of mirth or rejoicing. It was a cry
somewhat mingled of horror and hate; at least my fancy lent it such a
character. At the same time, I heard the soldiers in the court below
running out to the gates, as if they had been disturbed by the same
sound, and went to inquire into its cause. Little Achilles had not
heard it, so deeply was he engaged in the worship of the purple god,
and the moment he dismissed the bottle, he recommenced his attack upon
a fine piece of mountain mutton which still remained in the basket;
but in a moment or two his attention was called by a renewal of the
shouts, and by the various exclamations of the soldiers in the court,
from which we gathered that, most unhappily, some new outrage had been
offered to the people, who, encouraged probably by the news of a
revolt at Lerida, had resisted, and were even then engaged with the
soldiery.

"Let them fight it out," cried my companion, encouraged by the good
viands, and still better wine of the Viceroy--"Let them fight it out!
By my great namesake's immortal deeds, methinks I could push a pike
against one of those base soldados myself. Pray Heaven the peasants
cut them up into mincemeat! But while you look out of the window,
monseigneur, I will lie down, and, in imitation of that most wise
animal, an ox, will ruminate for some short while after my dinner."

As he said, I had placed myself at the window, and while he cast
himself on the bed, and I believe fell asleep, I continued to watch
the various streets within the range of my sight, to discover, if I
could, the event of the tumult, the shouts and cries of which were
still to be heard, varying in distance and direction, as if the crowds
from which they proceeded were rapidly changing their place. After a
moment or two, some musket-shots were heard mingling with the outcry,
and then a whole platoon. A louder shout than ever succeeded, and then
again a deep silence. In the meanwhile, several officers came running
at all speed to the arsenal; and in a few minutes, two or three small
bodies of troops marched out, proceeding up a long street, of which I
had a view almost in its whole length. About half way up, the soldiers
defiled down another street to the right, and I lost sight of them.
The shouts, however, still continued, rising and falling, with
occasional discharges of musketry; but in general, the noise seemed to
me farther off than it had been at first. Shortly it began to come
rapidly near, growing louder and louder; and straining my eyes in the
direction in which the tumult seemed to lie, I beheld a party of the
populace driven across the long street I have mentioned by a body of
pikemen.

The Catalonians were evidently fighting desperately; but the superior
skill of the troops prevailed, and the undisciplined mob was borne
back at the point of the pike, notwithstanding an effort to make a
stand at the crossing of the streets.

This first success of the military, however, did not absolutely infer
that their ascendency would be permanent. The tumult was but begun;
and far from being a momentary effervescence of popular feeling,
which, commencing with a few, is only increased by the accession of
idlers and vagabonds, this was the pouring forth of long-suppressed
indignation--the uprising of a whole people to work retribution on the
heads of their oppressors, and every moment might be expected to bring
fresh combatants, excited by the thirst of vengeance, and animated by
the hope of liberty.

All was now bustle and activity in the arsenal. The gates were shut,
the soldiers underarms, the officers called together, the walls
manned; and, from the court below, the stirring sounds of military
preparation rose up to the windows at which I stood, telling that the
pressing danger of the circumstances had at length roused the viceroy
from his idle mood, and that he was now taking all the means which a
good officer might, to put down the insurrection that his negligence
had suffered to break out. From time to time, I caught the calm full
tones of his voice, giving a number of orders and directions--now
ordering parties of soldiers to issue forth and support their
comrades--commanding at the same time that they should advance up the
several streets, which bore upon the arsenal, taking especial care
that their retreat was not cut off, and that a continual communication
should be kept up--pointing out to the inferior officers where to
establish posts, so as to best guard their flanks and avoid the
dangers of advancing through the streets of the city, where every
house might be considered as an enemy's fort; and finally directing
that in such and such conjunctures, certain flags should be raised on
the steeples of the various churches, thus establishing a particular
code of signals for the occasion.

In the meanwhile the tumult in the city increased, the firing became
more continuous, the bells of the churches mingled their clang with
the rest, and the struggle was evidently growing more and more fierce,
as fresh combatants poured in on either party. At length I saw an
officer riding down the opposite street at full speed, and dashing
into the arsenal, the gates of which opened to give him admission, he
seemed to approach the viceroy, whose voice I instantly heard,
demanding, "Well, Don Ferdinand, where are the cavalry? Why have you
not brought up the men-at-arms?"

"Because it was impossible," replied the officer: "the rebels, your
Excellence, have set fire to the stables--not a horse would move, even
after Don Antonio Molina had dispersed the traitors that did it. Not
ten horses have been saved. What is to be done, my lord?"

"Return instantly," answered the Viceroy, promptly, "collect your
men-at-arms,--bid them fight on foot for the honour of Castile--for
the safety of the province--for their own lives. Marshal them in two
bodies. Let one march, by the Plaza Nueva down to the port, and the
other by the Calle de la Cruz to the Lerida gate."

"I am sorry to say, the Lerida gate is in the possession of the
rebels," replied the officer. "A large body of peasants,[6] well armed
and mounted, attacked it and drove in the soldiers half an hour ago.
They come from Lerida itself, as we learn by the shouts of the
others."

"The more need to march on it instantly," replied the Viceroy. "See!
The flag is up on the church of the Assumption! Don Francisco is
there, with part of the second _tercia_. Divide as I have said--send
your brother down with one body to the port--with the other, join Don
Francisco, at the church of the Assumption; take the two brass cannon
from the Barrio Nuevo, and march upon the gate of Lerida. Drive back
the rebels, or die!"

The Viceroy's orders were given like lightning, and turning his horse,
the officer rode away with equal speed to execute them. I marked him
as he dashed through the gates of the arsenal, and a more soldier-like
man I never saw. He galloped fast over the drawbridge, and through the
second gate, crossed the open space between the arsenal and the houses
of the town, and darted up the street by which he had come, when
suddenly a flash and some smoke broke from the window of a house as he
passed; I saw him reel in the saddle, catch at his horse's mane, and
fall headlong to the ground; while the charger, freed from his load,
ran wildly up the street, till he was out of sight.

The sentinel on the counterscarp had seen the officer's fall, and
instantly passed the news to the Viceroy. "Pedro Marona!" cried the
Count, promptly:--"Quick! mount, and bear the same orders to Don
Antonio Molina. Take the Calle de la Paz. Quick! One way or another,
we lose our most precious moments. Don Ferdinando should have seen his
corslet was better tempered. However, let half a dozen men be sent out
to bring him in, perhaps he may not yet be dead."

The gates of the arsenal were thrown open accordingly, and a small
party carrying a board to bring home the body issued out; but they had
scarcely proceeded half way to the spot where the officer had fallen,
when the sound of the tumult, the firing, the cheers, the cries, the
screams, mingled in one terrific roar, rolled nearer and nearer. A
single soldier then appeared in full flight in the long street on
which my eyes were fixed; another followed, and another. A shout
louder than all the rest rang up to the sky; and rolling, and rushing,
like the billows of a troubled ocean, came pouring down the street a
large body of the Castilian soldiery, urged on by an immense mass of
armed peasantry, with whom the first rank of the Castilians was
mingled.

Though some of the soldiers were still fighting man to man with the
Catalonians, the mass were evidently flying as fast as the nature of
the circumstances would permit, crushing and pressing over each other;
and many more must have been trampled to death by the feet of their
comrades than fell by the swords of their enemies. In the meanwhile,
the pursuers, the greater part of whom were on horseback, continued
spurring their horses into the disorderly mass of the fugitives,
hewing them down on every side with the most remorseless vengeance;
while from the houses on each hand a still more dreadful and less
noble sort of warfare was carried on against the flying soldiery.
Scarce a house, but one or two of its windows began to flash with
musketry, raining a tremendous shower of balls upon the heads of the
unfortunate Castilians, who, jammed up in the small space of a narrow
street, had no room either to avoid their own fate or avenge their
fellows.

Just then, however, the pursuers received a momentary check from the
cannon of the arsenal, some of which being placed sufficiently high
for the balls to fall amidst the mass of peasantry, without taking
effect upon the nearer body of the flying soldiers, began to operate
as a diversion in favour of the fugitives. The very sound caused
several of the horsemen to halt. At that moment, my eye fell upon the
figure of Garcias the smuggler, at the head of the peasantry, cheering
them on; and by his gestures, appearing to tell them that those who
would escape the cannon-balls must close upon those for whose safety
they were fired; that now was the moment to make themselves masters of
the arsenal; and that if they would but follow close, they would force
their way in with the flying soldiers.

So animated, so vehement was his gesticulation, that there hardly
needed words to render his wishes comprehensible. The panic, however,
though but momentary, allowed sufficient time for greater part of the
soldiers to throw themselves into the arsenal. Some, indeed, being
again mingled with the peasantry, were shut out, and slaughtered to a
man; the rest prepared to make good the very defensible post they now
possessed, knowing well that _mercy_ was a word they had themselves
blotted out from the language of their enemies.

In the meanwhile, my little companion Achilles had evinced much more
courage than I had anticipated; whether it was that he found, or
rather fancied, greater security in the walls of the arsenal; or
whether it was that necessity produced the same change in his nature,
that being in a corner is said to effect upon a cat; or whether the
quantity of wine which he had drunk had conveyed with itself an equal
portion of valour, I do not know; but certain it is, that he lay quite
quiet for the greater part of the time, without attempting to creep
under the bed, and only took the precaution of wrapping the bolster
round his head to deaden the sound of the cannon. Once he even rose,
and approaching the other window, stood upon tiptoes to take a
momentary glance at what was proceeding without. The scene he beheld,
however, was no way encouraging, and he instantly retreated to the
bed, and settled himself once more comfortably amongst the clothes,
after having drained the few last drops of wine that remained in the
flask.

It may easily be supposed, that the viceroy was not particularly
anxious to spare the houses of a town which had shown itself so
generally inimical, and, consequently, every cannon which could be
brought to bear upon the point where the insurgents were principally
collected, was kept in constant activity, and the dreadful havoc which
they made began to be evident both amongst the insurgents and upon the
houses round about.

Garcias, however, who was now evidently acting as commander-in-chief
of the populace, was prompt to remedy all the difficulties of his
situation; and animating and encouraging the peasantry by his voice,
his gestures, and his example, he kept alive the spirit which had
hitherto carried them on to such great deeds.

It is not to be imagined that any regular fascines should have been
prepared by the peasantry for the assault of the arsenal, but they had
with them six small pieces of cannon which they had taken, and which
they hastily brought against the gate.

The murderous fire, however, both of cannon and musketry, kept up upon
the only point where they could have any effect, would have prevented
the possibility of working them, had not the fire of the arsenal
itself, by demolishing the wall of one of the houses opposite,
discovered the inside of a wool warehouse. Fascines were no longer
wanting; the immense woolpacks were instantly brought forward and
arranged, by the orders of Garcias, into as complete a traverse as
could have been desired, supported from behind by the stones of the
streets, which the insurgents threw up with pickaxes and spades. Their
position being now much more secure, a movement took place amongst the
people; and, while Garcias with a considerable body continued to ply
the principal gate with his battery, two large masses of the
insurgents moved off on either hand, and presently after, re-appeared
at the entrance of the various streets which surrounded the arsenal,
rolling before them their woolpacks, which put them in comparative
security.

It was evident that a general attack was soon to be expected; and,
exerting himself with an activity of which I had not thought him
capable, the viceroy put himself forward in every situation of danger.
From time to time I caught a glimpse of his figure, toiling,
commanding, assisting, and slackening not in his activity, though the
marks of excessive fatigue were sufficiently evident in his
countenance.

Of course, the gate could not long resist the continued fire of the
insurgents' battery; and as soon as it gave way, upon some signal
which I did not perceive, the whole mass of the peasantry poured forth
from every street, and advancing steadily under a most tremendous fire
from the guns of the arsenal, ran up the glacis, and easily effected a
lodgment on the counterscarp with the woolpacks.

The moment was one of excessive interest, and I was gazing from the
window, marking with anxiety every turn of a scene that possessed all
the sublime of horror, and danger, and excited passion, when I heard a
step behind me, and a cry from my little friend Achilles, which
instantly made me turn my head.

I had but time to see the Spanish soldier who had accused me to the
viceroy, with his broadsword raised over my head, and to spring aside,
when the blow fell with such force, as to dash a piece out of the
solid masonry of the window-frame.

"By the eyes of St. Jeronimo!" cried the man, "thou shalt not escape
me--though I die this day, thou shalt go half an hour before me!"--and
darting forward he raised his weapon to aim another blow at my head.

Unarmed as I was, my only chance was to rush in upon him, and getting
within his guard, render the struggle one of mere personal strength;
and making a feint, as if I would leap aside again, I took advantage
of a movement of his hand, and cast myself into his chest with my full
force.

He gave way sooner than I had expected, and we both went down; but
somehow, though in general a good wrestler, certainly infinitely
stronger than my adversary, and though at first also I was uppermost,
I soon lost my advantage. I believe it was that in attempting to place
my knee on his breast, it slipped from off his corslet, flinging me
forward, so that my balance being lost, he easily cast me off and set
his own knee upon me. His sword he had let fall, but he drew his long
poniard, and threw back his arm to plunge it into my bosom: when
suddenly he received a tremendous blow on the side of the head, which
dashed him prostrate on the floor; and to my surprise and
astonishment, I saw little Achilles in the person of my deliverer.

My pressing danger had communicated to his bosom a spark of generous
courage which he had never before felt, and, seizing the unloaded
musketoon, he had come behind my adversary and dealt him the blow
which had proved my salvation. Nor did he stop here; for what with joy
and excitement at his success, and fear that our enemy should recover
from the stupefaction which the blow had caused, he continued to
belabour his head and face with strokes of the musketoon, with a
silent vehemence and rapidity which not all my remonstrances could
stop. Even after the man was evidently dead, he continued to reiterate
blow upon blow; sometimes pausing and looking at him with eyes in
which horror, and fear, and excitement, were all visible; and then
adding another and another stroke, as I have often seen a dog after he
has killed a rat, or any other noisome animal, every now and then
start back and look at him, and then give it another bite, and
another, till he has left it scarce a vestige of its original form.

Seizing his arm, however, during one of these pauses, I begged him to
cease; and would have fain called his attention by thanking him for
his timely aid; but the little man could not yet overcome the idea
that his enemy might still get up and take vengeance on him for the
unheard of daring which he had exercised.

"Let me kill him! monseigneur! Let me kill him!" cried he. "Don't you
see he moves? look, look!"

And, with straining eyes, he struggled forward to make quite sure that
his victory wanted nothing of completion, by adding another blow to
those he had already given.

"He will never move again, Achilles," replied I; "spare your blows,
for you bestow them on a dead man, and well has he merited his
fate----"

"Had we not better tie his hands, at least?" cried the little player.
"He lies still enough too. Only think of my having killed a man--I
shall be a brave man for all the rest of my life. But if I had not
killed him, you would have been lying there as still as he is."

I expressed my gratitude as fully as I could, but objected to the
proposal of tying a dead man's hands. No doubt, indeed, could remain
of his being no longer in a state to endanger any one; for having no
helmet on at the time he entered, the very first blow of the musketoon
must have nearly stunned him, and several of the after ones had driven
in his skull in various places. It is probable, that, having been kept
in confinement by the order of the viceroy, he had been liberated at
the moment the danger became pressing, and that, instead of presenting
himself where he might do his duty, his first care had been to seek
the means of gratifying his revenge, no doubt attributing to me the
punishment he had received. Such an event as my death, in the
confusion and danger of the circumstances, he most probably imagined,
would pass unnoticed; and no one, at all events, could prove that it
had been committed by his hands. Whether his comrade, who had been
placed as sentinel at the door where we were confined, had been
removed for the more active defence of the place, or whether he had
connived at the entrance of the assassin, I know not; but at all
events, if he was there, he must have been an accomplice, and
consequently would not have betrayed his fellow.

Such, however, was a strange fate for a daring and ferocious man--to
fall by the hands of one of the meekest cowards that ever crept
quietly through existence! and yet I have often remarked that bad
actions, the most boldly undertaken, and the best designed,
often--nay, most frequently--fall back upon the head of their
projectors, repelled from their intended course by something petty,
unexpected, or despised.



CHAPTER XXV.


While this was taking place within, the tumult without had increased a
thousand-fold; and the din of cries, and screams, and blows, and
groans, mingled in one wild shriek of human passion, hellish, as if
they rose from Phlegethon. But to my surprise, the roar of the cannon
no longer drowned the rest, and looking again from the window, I saw
all the outward defences in the hands of the populace. The
fortifications of the arsenal had only been completed, so far as
regarded the mere external works; but even had they been as perfect as
human ingenuity could have devised, the small number of soldiers which
were now within the gates would never have sufficed to defend so great
a space from a multitude like that of the insurgents. At the moment
that I returned to my loophole, the peasantry were pouring on every
side into the inner court; and the Viceroy, with not more than a
hundred Castilians, was endeavouring in vain to repel them. If ever
what are commonly called prodigies of valour were really wrought, that
unhappy nobleman certainly did perform them, fighting in the very
front, and making good even the open court of the arsenal against the
immense body of populace which attacked it, for nearly a quarter of an
hour.

At length, mere fatigue from such unwonted exertions seemed to
overcome him, and, in making a blow at one of the peasants, he fell
upon his knees. A dozen hands were raised to despatch him; but at the
sight of his danger the Castilians rallied, and closing in, saved him
from the fury of the people; while his faithful negro, catching him in
his arms, bore him into the body of the building.

Though certainly but ill-disposed towards the soldiery, there was
something in the chivalrous valour which the viceroy had displayed in
these last scenes, combined with the lenity he had shown to myself
when brought before him, which created an interest in my bosom that I
will own greatly divided my wishes for the success of the oppressed
Catalonians. The idea, too, entered my mind, that by exerting my
influence with Garcias, whom I still saw in the front of the
insurgents, I might obtain for the viceroy some terms of capitulation.

Calling to little Achilles to follow me, then, I snatched up the sword
of the dead Castilian; and proceeding to the door, which, as I had
expected, was now open, I ran out into the long corridor, and thence
began to search for the staircase that led down to the gate by which
the viceroy must have entered. On every side, however, I heard the
cries of the soldiery, who had now retreated into the building, and
were proceeding to take every measure for its defence to the utmost.
Several times these cries misled me; and it was not till I had
followed many a turning and winding, that I arrived at the head of a
staircase, half way down which I beheld the Viceroy, sitting on one of
the steps, evidently totally exhausted; while Scipio, the negro,
kneeling on a lower step, offered him a cup of wine, and seemed
pressing him to drink.

At the sound of my steps the slave started up and laid his hand upon
his dagger; but seeing me, he gave a melancholy glance towards his
lord, and again begged him to take some refreshment. Unused to all
exertion, and enormously weighty, the excessive toil to which the
Viceroy had subjected himself had left him no powers of any kind, and
he sat as I have described, with his eyes shut, his hand leaning on
the step, and his head fallen heavily forward on his chest, without
seeming to notice anything that was passing around him. It was in vain
that I made the proposal to parley with Garcias: he replied nothing;
and I was again repeating it, hoping by reiteration to make him attend
to what I said, when one of his officers came running down from above.

"My lord," cried he, "the galleys answer the signal, and from the
observatory I see the boats putting off. If your Excellence makes
haste, you will get to the shore at the same moment they do, and will
be safe."

The viceroy raised his head. "At all events I will try," said he:
"they cannot say that I have abandoned my post while it was tenable.
Let the soldiers take torches."

The officer flew to give the necessary directions, and taking the cup
from the negro, the viceroy drank a small quantity of the wine, after
which he turned to me:--"I am glad you are here," said he: "they talk
of my escape--I do not think I can effect it; but whether I live or
die, Sir Frenchman, report me aright to the world. Now, if you would
come with us, follow me--but you might stay with safety--they would
not injure _you_."

I determined, however, to accompany him, at least as far as the boats
they talked of, though I knew not how they intended to attempt their
escape, surrounded as the arsenal was by the hostile populace. I felt
convinced, however, that I should be in greater personal safety in the
open streets than shut up in the arsenal, where the first troop of the
enraged peasantry who broke their way in might very possibly murder
me, without at all inquiring whether I was there as a prisoner or not.
At the same time I fancied, that in case of the viceroy being
overtaken, if Garcias was at the head of the pursuers, I should have
some influence in checking the bloodshed that was likely to follow.

While these thoughts passed through my brain, half a dozen voices from
below were heard exclaiming, "The torches are lighted, my lord! the
torches are lighted!" and the Viceroy, rising, began to descend,
leaning on the negro. I followed with Achilles, and as we passed
through the great hall, sufficient signs of the enemies' progress were
visible to make us hasten our flight. The immense iron door was
trembling and shivering under the continual and incessant blows of
axes and crows, with which it was plied by the people, in spite of a
fire of musketry that a party of the most determined of the soldiery
was keeping up through the loopholes of the ground story, and from the
windows above. A great number of the soldiers, whose valour was
secondary to their discretion, had already fled down a winding
staircase, the mouth of which stood open at the farther end of the
hall, with an immense stone trap-door thrown back, which, when down,
doubtless concealed all traces of the passage below. When we
approached it, only two or three troopers remained at the mouth
holding torches to light the viceroy as he descended.

"Don Jose," said the viceroy, in a faint voice, addressing the officer
who commanded the company which still kept up the firing from the
windows, "call your men together--let them follow me to the galleys--but
take care, when you descend, to shut down the stone door over the
mouth of the stairs--lock it and bar it as you know how;--and make
haste."

"I will but roll these barrels of powder to the door, my lord,"
replied the officer, "lay a train between them, and place a minute
match by way of a spigot, and then will join your Excellence with my
trusty iron hearts, who are picking out the fattest rebels from the
windows. Should need be, we will cover your retreat, and as we have
often tasted your bounty, will die in your defence."

In dangerous circumstances there is much magic in a fearless tone; and
Don Jose spoke of death in so careless a manner, that I could not help
thinking some of the soldiers who had been most eager to light the
Viceroy were somewhat ashamed of their cowardly civility. About forty
of the bravest soldiers in the garrison, who remained with the officer
who had spoken, would indeed have rendered the Viceroy's escape to the
boats secure, but Don Jose was prevented from fulfilling his design.
We descended the stairs as fast as the Viceroy could go; and, at the
end of about a hundred steps, entered a long excavated passage leading
from the arsenal to the sea-shore, cut through the earth and rock for
nearly half a mile, and lined throughout with masonry. At the farther
extremity of this were just disappearing, as we descended, the torches
of the other soldiers who had taken the first mention of flight as an
order to put themselves in security, and had consequently led the way
with great expedition. In a moment or two after--by what accident it
happened I know not--an explosion took place that shook the earth on
which we stood, and roared through the cavern as if the world were
riven with the shock.

"God of heaven! they have blown themselves up!" cried the Viceroy,
pausing; but the negro hurried him on, and we soon reached the sands
under the cliffs to the left of the city. To the cold chilliness of
the vault through which we had hitherto proceeded, now succeeded the
burning heat of a cloudless sun in Spain. It was but spring, but no
one knows what some spring-days are at Barcelona, except those who
have experienced them; and by the pale cheek, haggard eye, and
staggering pace of the Viceroy, I evidently saw that if the boats were
far off, he would never be able to reach them. We saw them, however,
pulling towards the shore about three quarters of a mile farther up,
and the very sight was gladdening. Four or five soldiers remained, as
I have said, with their commander, and lighted us along the gallery;
but the moment they were in the open air, the view of the boats,
towards which their companions who had gone on before were now
crowding, was too much for the constancy of most of them, and without
leave or orders, all but two ran forward to join the rest.

The tide was out; and stretching along the margin of the sea, a smooth
dry sand offered a firm and pleasant footing; but a multitude of large
black rocks, strewed irregularly about upon the shore, obliged us to
make a variety of turns and circuits, doubling the actual distance we
were from the boats. The cries and shouts from the place of the late
combat burst upon our ears the moment we had issued from the passage,
and sped us on with greater rapidity. Seeing that he could hardly
proceed, I took the left arm of the viceroy, while his faithful negro
supported him on the right, and hurried him towards the boats; but the
moment after, another shout burst upon our ear. It was nearer--far
nearer than the rest; and turning my head, I beheld a body of the
peasantry pursuing us, and arrived at about the same distance from us
that we were from the boats.

The Viceroy heard it also, and easily interpreted its meaning. "I can
go no farther," said he; "but I can die here as well as a few paces or
a few years beyond;" and he made a faint effort to draw his sword.

"Yet a little farther, my lord, yet a little farther," cried the
African; "they are a long way off still--we are nearing the
boats.--See, the head boat is steering towards us! Yet a little
farther, for the love of Heaven!"

The unfortunate Viceroy staggered on for a few paces more, when his
weariness again overcame him; his lips turned livid, his eyes closed,
and he fell fainting upon the sand. Running down as fast as I could to
the sea, I filled two of the large shells that I found with water; and
carrying them back, dashed the contents on his face, but it was in
vain; and I went back again for more, when, on turning round, I saw a
fresh party of the insurgents coming down a sloping piece of ground
that broke the height close by. It would have been base to have
abandoned him at such a moment, and I returned to his side with all
speed. The first of the peasantry were already within a few paces, and
their brows were still knit, and their eyes still flashing with the
ferocious excitement of all the deeds they had done during the course
of that terrible morning. As they rushed on, I saw Garcias a step or
two behind, and called to him loudly in French to come forward and
protect the viceroy, assuring him that he had wished the people well,
and even had been the means of saving my life.

The smuggler made no reply, but starting forward, knocked aside the
point of a gun that one of the peasants had levelled at my head, and
catching me firmly by the arm, held me with his gigantic strength,
while the people rushed on upon their victim.

The negro strode across his master and drew his dagger--one of the
insurgents instantly rushed upon him, and fell dead at his feet.
Another succeeded, when the dagger broke upon his ribs--the noble
slave cast it from him, and throwing himself prostrate on the body of
his master, died with him, under a hundred wounds.



CHAPTER XXVI.


"Beware how you stand between a lion and his prey," said Garcias,
releasing my arm; "and let me tell you, Sir Count, it were a thousand
times easier to tear his food from the hungry jaws of the wild beast,
than to save from the fury of this oppressed people the patron and
chief of all their oppressors."

"You are wrong, Garcias! you are wrong!" replied I: "since I have been
a prisoner here at the arsenal, I have had full opportunity to see and
judge whether he wished to be your oppressor or not; and, on my
honour, no man would more willingly have done you justice, and
punished those who injured you, had he been allowed to hear the evils
that were committed under the name of his authority."

"That, then, was his crime!" replied Garcias. "He _should_ have
heard--he _should_ have known the wrongs and miseries of the people he
governed. All in life depends on situation, and in his, indolence was
a crime--a crime which has been deeply, but not too deeply expiated.
Believe me, Count Louis, that kings and governors, who suffer
injustice to be committed, deserve and will ever meet a more tragic
fall than those even who commit it themselves."

"But see," cried I, "they are going to mutilate the bodies; for
Heaven's sake, stop them, and let them not show themselves utterly
savages."

"What matters it?" asked he; "the heads they are about to strike off
will never feel the indignity; but speak to them if you will, and try
whether you can persuade them from their wrath.--Ho! stand back, my
friends," he continued, addressing the people, who even glared upon
him with somewhat of fierceness in their look, as he interrupted their
bloody occupation;--"hear what this noble Frenchman has to say to you,
and respect him, for he is my friend."

"_Viva Garcias!_" shouted the people. "_Viva el Librador!_" and,
standing forward, I endeavoured, as well as I could, to calm their
excited feelings.

"My good friends," said I, "you all know me to be sincerely the
well-wisher of Catalonia and the cause of freedom. Many who are here
present, saw me dragged through the streets of Barcelona, no later
than this morning; tied like a slave, and insulted, as I went, by the
brutal soldiery, your enemies and mine, for no other cause but that I
was a Frenchman, and that the French are friendly to the Catalonians.
I therefore have good cause to triumph in your success, and to
participate in your resentment; but there is a bound, my friends,
within which resentment should always be confined, to mark it as
grand, as noble, as worthy of a great and generous people. It is just,
it is right, to punish the offender, to smite the oppressor, and to
crush him with is own wrong."

A loud shout announced that this was the point where the angry flame
still burned most furiously.

"But," continued I, "is it right, is it just, is it noble, to insult
the inanimate clay after the spirit has departed? Is it dignified? Is
it grand? Is it worthy of a great and free people like the
Catalonians?"

"No, no," cried one or two voices amongst the better class of the
insurgents; "do not insult the body."

"No, indeed!" proceeded I; "it is beneath a people who have done such
great and noble deeds. The moment you attempt to degrade that corpse
by any unbecoming act, what was an act of justice becomes an act of
barbarity; and instead of looking on that unhappy man as a sacrifice
to justice, all civilized people must regard him as the victim of
revenge. You, my friend--you," I continued, addressing the man who had
been kneeling on the body for the purpose of cutting off the head with
a long girdle knife, and who still glared at it like a wolf
disappointed of its prey--"you, I am sure, would be the last to sully
the justice of the Catalonians with a stain of cruelty. A few hours
ago this unhappy man possessed riches, and power, and friends, and
kindred--all the warm blessings of human existence--you have taken
them from him--all! Is not that punishment enough? You have sent him
to the presence of God to answer for his sins--let God then judge him;
and reverencing the sanctity of that tribunal to which you yourselves
have referred him, take up the frail remains of earth, and laying them
side by side with the faithful, the noble, the generous-hearted slave,
whose self-devotion we all admire, and whose death we all regret, bear
them silently to the high church, and deliver them into the hands of
some holy priest, to pray that God may pardon him in heaven the faults
which you have punished upon earth. Thus shall you show, my friend,
that it is justice you seek, not cruelty. Thus shall your friends
esteem you, your enemies fear you, and your deeds of this day descend
as an example to nations yet unborn."

In a multitude there is always a latent degree of good feeling amongst
the majority, which, in moments of tumult and action, is overborne by
the more violent and excitable passions of human nature; but once get
the people to pause and listen, and mingle with your speech a few of
those talismanic words which compel the evil spirit, vanity, to the
side of good, and every better sentiment, thus encouraged, will come
forth, and often lead them to the greatest and noblest actions. When I
began to address the Catalonians, all I could obtain was bare
attention; but, as they heard their own deeds spoken of and commended,
they gathered round me, pressing one another for the purpose of
hearing. I gained more boldness as I found myself listened to; and,
seeming to take it for granted that they possessed the feelings I
sought to instil into them, I gradually brought them to the sentiments
I wished.

The great majority received with shouts the proposal of carrying the
bodies to the cathedral, and the rest dared not oppose the opinion of
the many.

I had fancied Garcias cold--nay, savage, from the check he had laid
upon me at first; but the energy with which he pressed the execution
of my proposal, before the fickle multitude had time again to change,
cleared him in my opinion, and we prepared to return to the city as
friends. At this moment, however, I perceived the loss of my little
companion, Achilles, and mentioned the circumstance to Garcias, who
gave orders to search for him; but the poor player was to be found
nowhere, and I began to entertain serious apprehensions, that, in case
of his having fled, he might be massacred by the first body of the
insurgents he encountered.

Garcias instantly took advantage of this possibility, making it an
excuse for positively prohibiting all promiscuous slaughter; and so
great seemed his influence with the people, from the very
extraordinary services he had rendered to their cause, that I doubted
not his orders would be received as a law. The news of the Viceroy
having been taken, had by this time collected the great body of the
insurgents round us; and on a proposal from Garcias, they proceeded,
in somewhat a tumultuous manner, to elect a council of twelve, who
were to have a supreme command of the army, as they called themselves,
and to possess the power of life and death over all prisoners who
might hereafter be taken.

Garcias, as might naturally be expected, was appointed president of
this council, and commander-in-chief of the army; and as a
representative of the town of Lerida, the alcayde of that city was
chosen, he having joined the insurgents from the first breaking out of
the insurrection. Added to these were several popular and respectable
citizens of Barcelona, with a wealthy merchant of Taragona; and much
to my surprise, I was myself eventually proposed to the people, and my
name received with a shout, which, from having opposed the fury of the
populace in its course, I had not at all expected. Though whoever has
once guided a popular assembly even against their inclination, becomes
in some degree a favourite with them, this was not, I believe, the
sole cause of the confidence they reposed in me. The idea of
assistance from France was their great support in their present
enterprise; and without staying to inquire whether he possessed any
official character, the very knowledge that they had a Frenchman in
their councils gave them a sort of confidence in themselves, which
their ill-cemented union required not a little. Involved as I now was
in the insurrection, I did not refuse the office they put upon me, and
my reason was very simple: I hoped to do good, and to act as a check
upon men whose passions were still excited.

When all this was concluded, a sort of bier was formed of pikes bound
together, and the bodies of the viceroy and his slave placed thereon.
Six stout Barcelonese porters raised it from the ground and marched
on: the insurrectionary council followed next; and then the populace,
armed with a thousand varied sort of weapons; and thus, in
half-triumphant, half-funereal procession, we returned towards the
city.

As we went, Garcias, with a rapidity of thought and clearness of
arrangement which eminently fitted him for a leader in such great, but
irregular, enterprises as that in which he was now engaged, sketched
out to me his plans for organizing the people, maintaining the civil
government of the province, repelling any attempt to reimpose the yoke
which the nation had cast off, raising funds for the use of the common
weal, and gradually restoring that order and tranquillity which had of
course been lost in the tumultuous scenes of the last two days.

He took care, also, to despatch messengers in every direction through
the town, bearing strict commands to all the various posts of the
insurgents, that no more blood should be spilt without form of trial;
and two of the members of the council also were detached on a mission
to the corregidor and other civil officers of the city, requiring
their union with the great body of the Catalonian people, for the
purpose of maintaining and cementing the liberties which they had that
day reconquered. His wise conduct, in both respects, produced the most
beneficial effects. The news of the cessation of bloodshed spread like
lightning through the city, and induced many of the Catalonian
nobility, who previously had not known whether the insurrection was a
mere democratical outrage, or a really patriotic effort for the good
of all, to come forth from their houses and give their hearty
concurrence to an enterprise, whose leaders showed so much moderation.
At the gate of the cathedral, also, we were met by the corregidor and
all the chief officers of the city, accompanied by a large _posse_ of
alguacils and halberdiers attached to their official station. These
officers, as a body, declared their willingness to co-operate with the
liberators of their country; for though they had received their
offices from the King of Spain, they were Catalonians before they were
Spaniards. This annunciation produced a shout from the people, which
gave notice to the Chapter of the Cathedral of our approach, and
coming forth in their rich robes, they received with the solemn chant
of the church the bodies of the unhappy Viceroy and his slave. When
the corpses had been laid before the high altar, the Bishop himself
came forward to the portal, and addressed the people, who heard him
with reverential attention; while the leaders of the revolution which
had just been effected, clothed indeed in wild and various vestments,
but dignified in air and look, by the consciousness of great deeds,
spread on one side of the gate, and the nobility and high municipal
officers ranged themselves on the other, leaving room for the populace
to catch the words of the prelate.

"My children," said the old man, "you have this day done great and
fearful deeds; and sure I am, that the motives which impelled ye
thereunto were such as ye could in conscience acknowledge and
maintain. I myself can witness how long ye endured oppressions and
injuries, almost beyond the patience of mortal men--your children and
brothers slaughtered, your wives and sisters insulted, and God's
altars overturned and profaned. May Heaven forgive ye for the blood ye
have spilt; but as some of the innocent _must_ have perished with the
guilty, I enjoin you all to keep to-morrow as a strict and rigorous
fast, to confess you of your sins, and to receive absolution; after
which, may God bless and prosper you, and strengthen you in the
right."

The good Bishop's speech was received with shouts by the populace, who
took it for granted that it proceeded entirely from love and affection
towards them, though, individually, I could not help thinking that
there was a slight touch of fear in the business, as the prelate was
well aware that in pulling down one house the neighbouring ones are
very often injured; and perhaps he might think, that in overthrowing
the edifice of Castilian dominion in Catalonia, the populace might
shake the power of the church also. I know not whether I did him
wrong, but of course I did not give the benefit of my thoughts to any
of the rest; and when he had done, we took our departure from the
Cathedral, and proceeded towards the Viceroy's palace, which Garcias
named for his head-quarters.

As we went, we were encountered by a large body of the insurgents who
had just concluded the pillage of a house in the same street,
belonging to the Marquis de Villafranca, general of the galleys. They
were of the lowest order of the populace; and we heard that a good
deal of blood had been shed, and various enormities committed by them,
which, as yet, it would have been dangerous to punish. Advancing with
loud shouts, they hailed us as their brother patriots, from which
appellation the better part of the insurgents were somewhat inclined
to shrink, receiving their fraternal salutations with much the shy air
of a _parvenu_ when visited by his poor relations.

I must say, however, that never did a more brutal rabble meet my
sight. Amongst other instances of their savage ignorance was one,
which at the same time strongly displayed the spirit of the vulgar
Catalonians. In rifling the Marquis de Villafranca's house, they had
found, amongst other rare and curious articles which that officer took
great delight in collecting, a small bronze figure, representing a
negro, the body of which contained a clock. At the same time, the
works were so contrived, as to make the eyes of the figure move; and
when the mob surrounded the table on which it was placed, the little
negro continued to roll his eyes round and round upon them, in so bold
and menacing a manner, that the whole multitude were frightened, and
dared not approach! From his love of study, and search for everything
that was curious and antique, it had long been rumoured, amongst the
lower orders, that the marquis had addicted himself to magic, and they
instantly fixed upon this ingenious piece of clockwork as his familiar
demon. Under this impression, it was long before any one dared to
touch it, as, after having signed it with the cross, and even held up
a crucifix before it, it still continued to roll its eyes upon them
with most sacrilegious obstinacy. At length, one more courageous than
the rest dashed to pieces the glass which covered it, and seizing hold
of the unfortunate clock, tied it to the end of a pike, and carried it
out into the street. When we encountered them, the first thing we
beheld was this bronze figure, borne above the heads of the people.
They instantly exhibited it to us with great triumph, assuring us that
they had caught the Marquis de Villafranca's familiar, and were about
to carry it to the chief inquisitor, that it might be consigned to its
proper place, with all convenient despatch. For my own part, I could
scarcely refrain from laughing; and as Garcias seemed to take the
matter quite seriously, I explained to him in French that the supposed
familiar was nothing but a piece of mechanism, ingenious enough, but
not at all uncommon. He cut me short, however, praised the crowd for
their zeal, and bade them by all means carry the demon to the
inquisitor, and then disperse for the night.

"Reasoning with such a mob as that," said he, as he went on, "is as
vain as talking to the winds or the seas. The only way of managing
them, is to leave them in possession of all their prejudices and
follies, but to turn those prejudices and follies to the best purposes
one can. You see that cart, Monsieur de l'Orme, with its great clumsy
wheels, which are not half so good as the light wheels that we have in
Navarre and Arragon, but if I wanted to send a load quickly to the
port, I would not think of sitting down to take off those wheels--to
make lighter, and to put them on--but would, of course, make use of
the cart as I found it. Thus, when you want to guide a multitude,
never attempt to give them new ideas, but take advantage of those
which they have already got."

We had now arrived at the viceregal palace; and, leaving Garcias to
make what arrangements he thought proper for the accommodation of the
five hundred men which he had brought with him from Lerida, and for
organizing the people of Barcelona into a sort of irregular militia,
the insurrectionary council repaired to the great hall, and, with the
corregidor and alcayde, sat till midnight, deciding on the fate of all
those persons that the various parties of the armed multitude thought
fit to bring before it. The task was somewhat a severe one; for every
person that did not know another brought him before the council, if he
could, and if he could not he was himself brought. Their zeal,
however, in this respect, began to slacken as night fell; and it was
only the more resolute and exasperated part of the insurgents that
continued their perquisitions for Castilians, and other suspected
persons, patrolling the streets of the city in bodies of tens and
twelves, and making every one they met give an account of himself and
his occupations.

As it was the sincere wish of every member of the council to allay the
popular fury, and stop the effusion of blood, various extraordinary
shifts were we obliged to make for the purpose of saving many of the
poor wretches that were brought before us, from the more inveterate
and bloodthirsty of the insurgents. The part we had to play was
certainly a very difficult one; for we were surrounded by men over
whom we had not the check of long established control, and whose
inflamed passions and long-smothered revenge was not half quenched
with all the gore that had already drenched the streets of Barcelona.
Blood was still their cry, and they contrived to find out almost every
individual who had been in any way connected with the Castilian
government of the province, and drag him before us. Our very principal
object was to check their indiscriminate cruelty, and yet, if we
refused in every instance to gratify them in their revenge, it was
likely we should annul our own authority, and that the populace would
betake themselves again to the massacres which we sought to prevent.

Under these circumstances, upon the plea of weariness and want of time
to examine thoroughly, we committed greater part of the unfortunate
wretches, whom we were called to notice, to the government prison,
sending off the most violent of the insurgents to renew their patrol
in the streets, upon the pretence of fearing that during their absence
some of the more obnoxious persons should escape. The prison we took
care to surround with a strong guard of the men from Lerida, the major
part of whom had served in the old Catalonian militia, and were
consequently in a very good state of subordination, looking up also to
Garcias almost as a god, from his having led them on to two such
signal victories as that which they had achieved that day, and the
morning of the day before.

At midnight the corregidor rose, and addressing me by the name which
Garcias had given me, the Count de l'Orme, requested me to lodge at
his house, as most probably I had not apartments prepared in the city.
I willingly accepted his hospitality, and, escorted by a strong body
of alguacils, we proceeded to his dwelling, where a very handsome
chamber was assigned to me, and I was preparing to go to rest after a
day of such excessive excitement and fatigue, when I was interrupted
by some one knocking at the door. I bade him come in, and to my great
surprise I beheld my little attendant, Achilles, completely dressed in
Spanish costume; though, to own the truth, his _haut de chausse_ came
a good way below his knees, and his _just-au-corps_ hung with rather a
slovenly air about his haunches. His hat, too, which was ornamented
with a high plume, fell so far over his forehead as to cover his
eyebrows, which were themselves none of the highest; and, in short,
his whole suit seemed as if it intended to eat him up.

"Ah, my dearly beloved lord and master!" cried the little player,
"thank God, that when I celebrate my _februa_ in memory of my deceased
friends, I shall not have to call upon your name among the number;
though I little thought that you would get out of the hands of that
dreadful multitude so safely as you have done."

I welcomed my little attendant as his merits deserved; and
congratulating him on his fine new feathers, asked him how he had
contrived to escape the fury of the people, without even having been
brought before the council.

"Why, to speak sooth, I escaped but narrowly," answered little
Achilles; "and but that my lord loves not the high and tragic style, I
could tell my tale like Corneille and Rotrou--ay, and make it full,
full of horrors. But to keep to the lowly walk in which it is your
will to chain my soaring spirit; when I saw that poor unhappy Viceroy
faint, and a great many folks coming along the shore with lances, and
muskets, and knives, and a great many other things, which are
occasionally used for worse purposes than to eat one's dinner, I
looked out for a place where my meditations were not likely to be
interrupted by the clash of cold iron, and seeing none such upon the
shore, I betook me to a small piece of green turf that came slanting
down from the hill to the beach, and there I began to run faster than
I ever plied my legs on an upland before. The exercise I found very
pleasant, and God knows how long I should have continued it,
especially as some of the folks on the beach, seeing me run, pointed
me out with their muskets, that their friends might admire my agility,
and I began to hear something whistle by my head every now and then in
a very encouraging manner; but just when I got to the top of the
hill--plump--I came upon a mob twice as big as the other. Instantly
they seized me, and asked me a thousand questions, which I could not
answer, for I did not understand one of them; when suddenly one fellow
got hold of me, threw me down, and--blessed be the sound from
henceforth for ever, Amen!--though he held a knife to my throat, and
stretched out his arm in a very unbecoming manner, he at the same time
muttered to himself,--'_Diantre!_' between his teeth, in a way that
none but a true-born Frenchman could have done it.--'_Diantre!_'
cried he, grasping my throat.--'_Diantre!_' replied I, in the same
tone.--'_Diantre!_' exclaimed he, letting go his hold, and opening his
mouth wider than before.--'_Diantre!_' repeated I, devilish glad to
get rid of him.--'_Foutre!_ the fellow mocks me!' cried he, drawing
back his knife to run it into my gizzard.--'Ah!' exclaimed I, 'if your
poor dear father could see you now about to murder me, what would he
say?'--'_Diable!_' cried he, 'are you a Frenchman?'--'Certainly,'
answered I, 'nothing less, though a little one.'--'And do you know my
father?' exclaimed he, catching me in his arms, and hugging me very
fraternally.--'Not a whit,' answered I: 'I wish I did, for then
possibly you would for his sake show me how I can save my throat from
these rude ruffians.'--'That I will, for our country's sake,' answered
he, and helping me up, he told some half dozen dogged-looking fellows,
who had remained to help him to stick me, a long story, full of
Spanish _oses_ and _anoses_, which seemed to satisfy them very well,
for instead of running me through, they hugged me till I was nearly
strangled, crying out, _Viva la Francia!_ all the while.

"After this, my companion, who is the corregidor's French cook, gave
me a green feather, which has ever since proved the best feather in my
cap; for this green, it seems, is the colour of the Catalonians, and
since I put it in my hat, every one I have met has made me a low bow.
The cook and myself swore eternal amity on the field of battle, and
instead of going on to murder the Viceroy, by which nothing was to be
got, we went back, and joined the good folks who had just broken into
the palace of the general of the galleys. There had been a little
assassination done before we came up; but the general himself had got
off on board his ships, and the multitude were taking care of his
goods and chattels for him. I entered into their sentiments with a
fellow feeling, which is quite surprising; and while great part of
them were standing staring at a foolish little black figure that
rolled its eyes, and were swearing that it was first cousin to
Beelzebub, I got hold of a drawer, in which were these pretty things,"
and he produced a string of clear-set diamonds of inestimable value:
"these I brought away for your lordship," he added; "they are too good
for me, and I had just heard you were safe and sound, and a great man
amongst the rebels. For my part, I satisfied myself with a handful or
two of commoner trash in the shape of gold pieces, and this suit of
clothes, with a few lace shirts and other articles of apparel, which I
thought you might want."

I had by this time got into bed, but I could not refrain from
examining the diamonds, which were certainly most splendid. After I
had done, I returned them to Achilles, telling him, of course, that I
could not accept of anything so acquired; upon which he took them back
again very coolly, saying, "Very well, my lord, then I will keep them
myself. Times may change, and your opinion too. If I had not taken
them, some Catalonian rebel would, and therefore I will guard them
safely as lawful plunder," and so saying, he left me to repose.



CHAPTER XXVII.


So fatigued was I, that the night passed like an instant; and when
Achilles came to wake me the next morning, I could scarcely believe I
had slept half an hour. The good little player returned instantly, as
he began to dress me, to the subject of the diamonds, with the value
of which he seemed well acquainted; and as he found me positive in my
determination to appropriate no one article of his plunder, except a
rich laced shirt or two, which had belonged to the Marquis de
Villafranca, and was a very convenient accession to my wardrobe, he
requested that, at all events, I would mention his possession of the
diamonds to no one.

With this I willingly complied, as I felt that I had no right to use
the generous offer he had made me against himself.

Before I was dressed, a message was conveyed to me from the
corregidor, stating that, as we should probably be occupied at the
council till late, he had ordered some refreshment to be prepared for
us before we went; and farther, that he waited my leisure for a few
minutes' conversation with me. I bade the servant stay for a moment,
and then followed him to the corregidor's eating room, where I was not
at all displeased to find a very substantial breakfast; for not having
eaten anything since the meal which the Viceroy's negro had conveyed
to me in prison, I was not lightly tormented with the demon of hunger.
The corregidor received me with a great deal more profound respect
than I found myself entitled to; and, seating me at the table, helped
me to various dishes, which did great honour to the skill and taste of
Achilles' friend, the cook. After a little, the servants were sent
away, and the officer addressed me with an important and mysterious
tone, upon the views and determinations of France.

"I am well aware, Monsieur le Comte de l'Orme," said he, "that the
utmost secrecy and discretion are required in an agent of your
character; and that, of course, you are bound to communicate with no
one who cannot show you some authority for so doing; but if you will
look at that letter from Monsieur de Noyers, one of your ministers,
and written also, as you will see, by the express command of his
eminence of Richelieu, you will have no longer, I am sure, any
hesitation of informing me clearly, what aid and assistance your
government intends to give us in our present enterprise."

I took the letter which he offered, but replied without opening it, "I
am afraid, sir, that you greatly mistake the character in which I am
here. You must look upon me simply as a French gentleman whom accident
has conducted to your city, unauthorized, and, indeed, incompetent to
communicate with any body upon affairs of state, and probably more in
the dark than yourself, in regard to what aid, assistance, or
countenance the French government intends to give to the people of
Catalonia."

The corregidor shook his head, and opened his eyes, and seemed very
much astonished. After falling into a reverie, however, for a moment
or two, he began to look wiser, and replied, "Well, sir, I admire your
prudence and discretion, and doubtless you act according to the orders
of your government; but at the same time I must beg that, when you
write to France, you will inform his eminence of Richelieu, that the
Catalonian people are not to be trifled with, and that having, under
promises of assistance from the French government, thrown off the
Castilian yoke, we expect that France will immediately realize her
promises, or we must apply to some other power for more substantial
aid."

"Although I once more inform you, my dear sir," answered I, "that you
entirely mistake my situation, yet at the same time, I shall be very
happy to bear any communication you may think fit to the Cardinal de
Richelieu, and in the meantime set your mind quite at ease about the
assistance you require. The French government, depend upon it, will
keep to the full every promise which has been made you. It is too much
the interest of France to alienate Catalonia from the dominions of
King Philip, to leave a doubt of her even surpassing your expectations
in regard to the aid you hope for."

"Nay, this is consoling me most kindly!" cried the corregidor,
persisting in attributing to me the character of a diplomatist, in
spite of all my abnegation thereof; "may I communicate what you say to
the members of the council, and the chief nobility of the province?"

"As my private opinion, decidedly," replied I; "but not in the least
as coming from one in a public capacity, which would be grossly
deceiving them."

"My dear young friend," said the corregidor, rising and embracing me
with the most provoking self-satisfaction in all his looks, "doubt not
my discretion. I understand you perfectly, and will neither commit you
nor myself, depend upon it. As to your return to France, there is not
a merchant in the town who will not willingly put the best vessel in
the harbour at your command when you like; but if you wish to set out
instantly, there is a brigantine appointed to sail for Marseilles this
very day, at high water, which takes place at noon. Our despatches for
the cardinal shall be prepared directly. I will superintend the
embarkation of your sea-store, and though sorry to lose the assistance
of your wise counsel, I am satisfied that your journey will produce
the most beneficial effects to the general cause."

As I now saw that the corregidor had perfectly determined in his own
mind that I should bear the character of an agent of the French
government, whether I liked it or not, I was fain to submit, and take
advantage of the opportunity of returning to my own country with all
speed. It was therefore arranged that I should depart by the
brigantine for Marseilles; and having seen Achilles, and ascertained
that he would rather accompany me to France than stay beside the
flesh-pots of Egypt, I gave him twenty louis from my little stock, and
bade him embark with all speed, after having bought me some clothes,
through the intervention of his friend the cook. I then proceeded with
the corregidor to the viceregal palace.

On each side of the grand entrance were tied a number of horses,
apparently lately arrived, heated and dusty, and, it appeared to me,
stained with blood. There was a good deal of bustle and confusion,
too, in the halls and passages--persons pushing in and out, parties of
six and seven gathered together in corners, and various other signs of
some new event having happened. We passed on, however, to the hall in
which the council had assembled the night before, and here we found
that it was again beginning to resume its sitting.

"Have you heard the news?" cried the alcayde of Lerida; "our horsemen
have defeated a party of a hundred Arragonese cavalry, who were coming
to the city, not knowing the revolution which had taken place. The
whole troop has been slain or dispersed, and its leader brought in a
prisoner."

At this moment Garcias beckoned me across the room, and leading me to
one of the windows, he spoke to me with a rambling kind of manner,
very different from the general clearness of his discourse, asking me
a great many questions concerning the corregidor, his treatment of me,
and all that had passed, of which I gave him a clear account, telling
him my determination to depart for France immediately.

"You do right," said he, somewhat abruptly; "you might become involved
more deeply than you could wish with the politics of our province. Did
you look into the strong-room, to the right, at the bottom of the
stairs, as you came up?"

"No," replied I, somewhat surprised at his strange manner. "Why do you
ask?"

"Because if you had done so you would have seen an old friend,"
replied Garcias, biting his lip; "the Chevalier de Montenero, who
lives near you at the white house below----"

"I know, I know whom you mean," cried I. "What of him?"

"Why he has been taken prisoner this morning," replied Garcias, "by
one of the most deeply injured and most cruelly revengeful of our
cavaliers. He is known to have been a dear friend of the late Viceroy,
with whom he served in New Spain, and they demand that he be brought
out into the square, and shot without mercy."

"They shall shoot me first!" replied I.

"Indeed!" said Garcias, composedly, and then added, a moment after,
"and me too. I owe the Chevalier thanks for having sheltered me when I
was pursued by the douaniers; and though he spake harshly of my trade,
he shall not find me ungrateful. But see, the council are seating
themselves! Go to them, make them as long a speech as you can about
your going to France; avoid, if possible, denying any more that you
are an agent of that government. You have done so once, which is
enough. Let the corregidor persuade them and himself of what he
likes--but, at all events, keep them employed till I come back, upon
any other subject than the prisoners. I go to collect together some of
my most resolute and trusty fellows, to back us in case of necessity.
Quick! to the table! The alcayde is rising to speak."

I advanced; and while Garcias left the hall, I addressed the council
without seating myself, apologizing to the alcayde, who was already on
his feet, for pre-engaging his audience, and stating the short time I
had to remain amongst them as an excuse for my doing so. I then, with
as lengthy words and as protracted emphasis as I could command, went
on, offering to be the bearer of any message, letter, or
communication, to the government of France; at the same time promising
to carry to my own country the most favourable account of all their
proceedings. I dilated upon their splendid deeds, and their generous
sentiments, but I fixed the whole weight of my eulogy upon their
moderation in victory, and then darted off to a commendation of mercy
and humanity in general; showing that it was always the quality of
great and generous minds, and that men who had performed the most
splendid achievements in the field, and evinced the greatest sagacity
in the cabinet, had always shown the greatest moderation to their
enemies when they were in their power. Still Garcias did not come; and
I proceeded to say, that by evincing this magnanimous spirit, the
Catalonians bound all good men to their cause, and that it would
become not only a pleasure, but an honour and a glory to the nation
who should assist them in their quarrel, and maintain them in their
freedom. At the end of this tirade my eyes turned anxiously towards
the door, for both topics and words began to fail me; but Garcias did
not appear, and I was obliged to return to my journey to France. I
begged them, therefore, to consider well the despatches they were
about to send, and at the same time to have them made up with all
convenient despatch; requesting that they would themselves give a full
detail of what had already been done, of what they sought to do, and
what they required from France; and after having exhausted my whole
stock of sentences, I was at last obliged to end, by calling them "the
brave, the moderate, the magnanimous Catalonians!"

What between the acclamation that was to follow this--for men never
fail to applaud their own praises--and any discussion which might
arise concerning the despatches, I hoped that Garcias would have time
to return; but, at all events, I could not have manufactured a
sentence more, if my own life had been at stake.

I was, however, disappointed in my expectations. The magnanimous
Catalonians did not, indeed, neglect to shout; but the alcayde of
Lerida, who was one of those men whose own business is always more
important than that of any one else, rose, immediately after the noise
had subsided, and represented to the council that they were keeping
one of their most active and meritorious partisans, Gil Moreno,
waiting with his prisoner; and that from the nature of the case, as he
conceived it, five minutes would be sufficient to decide upon their
course of action. He then ended with proposing, that before any other
business whatever was entered upon, the prisoner should be brought
before the council.

This was received with such a quick and cordial assent from all the
members of the council, that it would have been worse than useless to
resist it, and I was compelled to hear, unopposed, the order given for
Gil Moreno to bring his prisoner to the council-chamber.

The Catalonian had probably been waiting with some impatience for this
summons; and the moment after it was given, he presented himself
before the council. If ever relentless cruelty was expressed in a
human countenance, it was in his. He was a short man, very quadrate in
form, with large, disproportioned feet and hands, and a wide, open
chest, over which now appeared a steel corslet. His complexion was as
dingy as a Moor's, and his features in general large, but not
ill-formed. His eyes, however, were small, black as jet, and sparkling
like diamonds; and his forehead, though broad and high, was extremely
protuberant and heavy, while a deep wrinkle running between his
eyebrows, together with a curve downwards in the corners of his mouth,
and a slight degree of prominence of the under jaw, gave his face a
bitter sternness of expression, which was not at all softened by a
sinister inward cast of his right eye. Behind him was brought in,
between two armed Catalonians, and followed by a multitude of others,
the Chevalier--or, as the Spaniards designated him, the Conde de
Montenero. His arms were tied tightly with ropes, but the tranquillity
of his looks, the calmness of his step, and the dignity of his whole
demeanour were unaltered; and he cast his eyes round the council
slowly and deliberately, scanning every countenance, till his look
encountered mine. The expression of surprise which his countenance
then assumed is not easily to be described. I thought even that the
sudden sight of one he knew, amongst so many hostile faces, called up,
before he could recollect other feelings, even a momentary glance of
pleasure, but it was like a sunbeam struggling through wintry clouds,
lost before it was distinctly seen; and his brow knit into somewhat of
a frown, as he ran his eye over the other members of the council.

"Speak, Gil Moreno," said the alcayde of Lerida, who being the first
person that had received the news of the Chevalier's capture, had
appropriated it to himself, as an affair which he was especially
called upon to manage:--"what report have you to make to the supreme
council of Catalonia?"

"A short one," answered Moreno, roughly. "On my patrol this morning,
two miles from the city gate, I met with a body of Arragonese horse. I
bade them stand, and give the word, when they gave the king; and I
instantly attacked them--killed some--dispersed the rest, and took
their captain. According to the orders given out last night, I brought
him to the council, and now, because he is a known friend of the
tyrant who died yesterday, was taken in arms against Catalonian
freedom, and is in every way an enemy to the province, I demand that
he be turned out into the Plaza, and shot, as he deserves."

"And what reason can the prisoner give, why this should not be the
case?" demanded the alcayde, turning to the Chevalier.

"Very few," answered he, with somewhat of a scornful smile, "and those
of such a nature that, from the constitution of this self-named
council, they are not very likely to be received. The laws of
arms--the common principles of right and justice--the usages of all
civilized nations, and the feelings and notions of all men of honour."

It may easily be supposed, that such a speech was not calculated,
particularly, to prejudice the council in favour of the speaker, and I
would have given much to have stopped it in its course; but just as
the Chevalier ended, my mind was greatly relieved by the reappearance
of Garcias, who now took his seat by the side of the corregidor, while
the alcayde replied: "Such reasons, sir," answered he, "must remain
vague and insignificant, without you can show that they apply to your
case, which as yet you have not attempted to prove."

"The application is so self-evident," said I, interposing, "that it
hardly requires to be pointed out. If the Catalonians are a separate
people, as they declare themselves, and at war with Philip, King of
Castile, they are bound to observe the rights of nations, and to treat
well those prisoners they take from their enemy. The common principles
of right and justice require that every man should be proved guilty of
some specific crime before he be condemned. The usages of all
civilized nations sufficiently establish that no man is criminal for
bearing arms, except it be against the land of his birth, or the
government under which he lives; and the feelings of men of honour
must induce you to respect, rather than to blame, the man who does his
utmost endeavour in favour of the monarch whom he serves."

"Ho! ho! Sir Frenchman!" cried Moreno, glaring upon me with eyes, the
cast in which was changed to a frightful squint by the vehemence of
his anger--"come you here to prate to us about the laws of nations,
and the feelings of honour? Know, that the Catalonians feel what is
due to themselves, and their own honour, better than you or any other
of your country can instruct them. Know, that they will have justice
done upon their oppressors; and if you, Frenchman, do not like it, we
care not for you, and can defend our own rights with our own hands.
Once, and again, I demand the death of this prisoner, and if the
council, as they choose to call themselves, do not grant it----"

"What then?" thundered Garcias. "The council, as they choose to call
themselves! I say, the council as the Catalonian people have called
them--and if they do not grant the death of the prisoner, what then?"

"Why then his life is mine, and I will take it," answered Moreno,
drawing a pistol from his belt, and aiming at the head of the
Chevalier, who stood as firm and unblenching as a rock. I was at the
bottom of the table--opposite to me stood Moreno and the Chevalier:
and without the thought of a moment, I vaulted across and seized the
arm of the Catalonian. It was done like lightning--almost before I
knew it myself, and feeling that he could no longer hit the Chevalier,
the bloodthirsty villain struggled to turn the muzzle of the pistol
upon me. A good many people pressed round us, embarrassing me by
striving to aid me; and getting the pistol near my head, Moreno fired.
The ball, however, did not injure me, but just grazing my neck, went
on, and struck the alcayde of Lerida on the temple. He started up from
his chair--fell back in it, and expired without uttering a word.

"By Heaven, he has killed one of the council!" cried Garcias. "Seize
him! He shall die, by St. James!"

But Moreno turned to the crowd who filled that end of the hall. "Down
with this self-elected council!" cried he; "down with them! They would
make worse slaves of us than the Castilians had done. Who will stand
by Moreno?"

"I will! I will!" cried each of the two who had entered with him to
guard the Chevalier. "I will," uttered another voice behind him; but
at the same instant the whole crowd, upon whom he had mistakingly
relied, but who were, in fact, the most certain followers of Garcias,
threw themselves upon Moreno, and those that had expressed themselves
of his party, and in a moment the whole four were tied hand and foot,
as surely as they had tied the Chevalier.

"I say, down with those who would introduce dissension and
insubordination into the new government of Catalonia!" cried Garcias.
"Members of the council," he added, "whatever services I may have
rendered, and which I trust somewhat surpass those of this rebel to
your authority, I seek no more than that share of influence which the
people have bestowed upon me, in common with yourselves; and when I
propose that the Conde de Montenero shall be well treated and his life
spared, I do so merely as one of your own body, possessing but a
single voice out of twelve. Let us, however, determine upon this
directly, that we may proceed to the more important business of the
despatches to be sent to France. Give me your votes."

Whatever might be the tone of moderation which Garcias assumed, his
influence with the people was evidently so powerful, that of course it
extended in some degree to the council; and their votes were instantly
given in favour of what he proposed. The next consideration became how
to dispose of the Chevalier. Every one present knew the unstable basis
on which their authority rested; and in case of any change in the
popular feeling, it was evident that the lives of all the prisoners
would be the first sacrifice offered at the shrine of anarchy.

A good deal of vague conversation passed upon the subject, and finding
that every one hesitated to make the proposition, which probably every
one wished, I took it upon myself, and proposed, that, as an act of
magnanimity, which a whole world must admire and respect, they should
liberate the Chevalier de Montenero, and every other person attached
to the Castilian government; merely taking the precaution of conveying
them to the frontier of Catalonia. "At the same time," I said, "those
Catalonians who were last night committed to prison upon frivolous
accusations can be again examined. If not guilty of serious crimes,
let them also be freed. Thus, the last thing I shall see, before
returning to my own country, will be the greatest act of moderation
which a victorious nation ever performed in the first excitement of
its success."

While I spoke, the eyes of Gil Moreno, who had not been removed from
the hall, glared upon me as if he could have eaten my heart; and when
the council gave a general assent to the proposal, he turned away with
a groan of disappointed rage, biting his upper lip with the teeth of
the under jaw, till the contortion of his face was actually frightful.

On hearing the decision of the council, the Chevalier advanced a step,
and addressed a few words to them. "Catalonians," said he, "you have
acted in a different manner from that which I expected, and I
therefore tell you, what I never would have done while the sword was
suspended over my head--that I came not here with intentions hostile
to your liberties. I knew not of any revolt having taken place in this
province, although I had heard rumours that many galling oppressions
had been inflicted on the people. My object in coming was to see an
ancient companion in arms, who was the viceroy of this province; and I
came by his own invitation, to assist him with my poor advice in
controlling the irregularities and enormities of the undisciplined
soldiery with which a bad minister had encumbered his government. By
his request, also, I brought with me from Arragon a troop of guards,
on whose good conduct he could rely, they having served under my
command in Peru. Were my hands free, I could show you a letter from
the viceroy, in which he commiserates your sufferings, and bitterly
complains of the insubordination of the troops. I hear that you have
slain him. If so, God forgive you, for he wished you well! In regard
to your revolt from the crown of Spain, depend upon it you will be
compelled, sooner or later, to return to the dominion of King Philip.
It is not that I would speak in favour of the Count Duke Olivarez," he
continued, seeing an irritable movement in the council; "that bad
minister has injured me as well as you, and has been the cause of my
having for years quitted Spain, wherein I had once hoped to have made
my country: but still, by language, by manners, by geographical
situation, Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and----"

"We will spare you the trouble, sir," interrupted the corregidor, "of
saying any more. We have cast off the yoke of Spain, and, by the aid
of God, we will maintain our independence as a separate people; but
should not that be granted us, we would have King Philip know, that
sooner than return to the dominion under which we have suffered so
much, we will give ourselves to any other nation capable of supporting
by force of arms our division from Spain. Let the alguacils untie the
prisoner's hands."

Shortly after the Chevalier had begun to speak, Garcias had quitted
the hall, and he now returned, announcing that he had (with that
prompt energy which peculiarly characterized him) already prepared a
horse and escort for the Conde de Montenero, which would carry him
safely to the limits of Catalonia. The Chevalier bowed to the council,
glanced his eyes towards me, of whom, since his first entrance, he had
taken no more notice than he bestowed on the person least known to him
at the table, and then followed Garcias from the hall. I could not
resist my desire to speak to him, and making a sudden pretence to
leave the council, I pursued the steps of the Chevalier and his
conductor to the small room in which he had been formerly confined.
Garcias was turning away from him as I approached, saying, "The horse
shall be up in an instant, but do not show yourself to the people till
the last moment."

As he went I entered, and the Chevalier turned immediately to me, with
that sort of frigid politeness, that froze every warmer feeling of my
heart.

"I have to thank you, sir," said he, "for my life, which is valuable
to me, not merely as life, but from causes which you may one day know;
a few years, just now, are of more consequence to me than I once
thought they ever could be. I therefore, sir, return you my thanks,
for interposing both your voice and your person, this day, to save me
from death."

"Monsieur de Montenero," replied I, "there has been a time, when your
manner to me would have been very different; but I must rest satisfied
with the consciousness of not meriting your regard less than I did
then."

"I am sorry, sir," replied he, "that you compel me to look upon you in
any other light than as a stranger who has interposed to save my life;
but as it is so, allow me to say, that something else than mere
assertion is necessary to convince me, on a subject which we had
better not speak upon. Could you give anything better than assertion,
I declare to Heaven, that your own father would not have the same joy
in your exculpation from guilt--nay, not half so much, as I should!"
and there shone in his eye a momentary beam of that kindness with
which he once regarded me, that convinced me what he said was true.

"Monsieur de Montenero," replied I, "the reasons for my silence are
removed, and I can give you something better than assertion."

"Then do, in God's name!" cried he, "and relieve my mind from a load
that has burdened it for months. How you came here, or what you do
here, I know not; but there is certainly some mystery in your conduct,
which I cannot comprehend. Explain it all then, Louis, if ever the
affection with which you once seemed to regard me was real."

I grasped his hand, for that one word Louis re-awakened, by the magic
chain of association, all that regard in my bosom which his coldness
and suspicion had benumbed; and in a moment more I should have told
him enough to satisfy him that his doubts had been unfounded. But it
seemed as if Heaven willed that that story was never to be told, for
just as I was about to speak, Garcias returned in haste. "The horse is
at the gate," said he, "and the guard prepared; mount, Señor, with all
speed, and out by the Roses' gate, for Moreno's people have heard of
his arrest, and are gathering at the other end of the town."

"Louis," said the Chevalier, turning to me, "if you will proceed with
the explanation you were about to give, and can really satisfy my mind
on that subject, I will stay and take my chance, for I shall no longer
fear death for a moment."

This declaration, as may easily be supposed, surprised me not a
little, after the value which he had before allowed that life
possessed in his eyes; for whatever might be the interest which he
took in me personally, and whatever might be the enthusiasm that
characterized his mind, I could not conceive that, without some strong
motive superadded, he would offer to risk so much for the sake of one,
in regard to whose innocence he had shown himself almost unwilling to
be convinced.

Garcias, however, permitted no hesitation on the subject. "Stay!"
cried he, in an accent of almost indignant astonishment.--"When we
have perilled both our lives to gain you the means of going, do you
talk of staying? Señor de Montenero, you are not mad; and if you are,
I am not; therefore I say, you must go directly, without a moment's
pause;" and not allowing another word, he hurried him away, saw him
mount, commanded the escort of twenty men, who accompanied him, to
defend him with their lives; and then returning to me, led the way
back to the council-hall.

"Members of the Supreme Council of Catalonia," said he abruptly as we
entered, "our first duty is to show to the nation, that though we have
cast off the yoke of Castile, we have not cast off the restraint of
law. A member of this honourable body has been shot at the very
council table, by a man acting in open rebellion to the authority
committed to us by the people--we require no evidence of the fact,
which was committed before our eyes. If we let the punishment slumber,
justice and order are at an end; anarchy, slaughter, and confusion,
must inevitably follow. Give me your voices, noble Catalonians. I
pronounce Gil Moreno guilty of murder, aggravated by treason towards
the nation, and therefore worthy of death! My vote is given!" He spoke
rapidly and sternly; and after a momentary hesitation, and whispering
consultation, the rest of the council unanimously agreed in his award.

"Take away the prisoner," said Garcias, and Moreno was removed. "Now
let some noble Señor write the sentence," continued he: "I am no clerk,
but I will attend to the execution of it."

The sentence was accordingly written; and having been signed by all
the members of the council, Garcias took it, as he said, to have it
fixed upon the front of the palace, and left us. His absence, however,
had, beyond doubt, another object, for while the corregidor was,
according to the direction of the council, writing a despatch from the
provisional government of Catalonia, to the prime minister of France,
the stern voice of the insurrectionary leader was heard in the square,
giving the word of command, "Fire!" The report of a platoon was
instantly heard; and it was not difficult to guess that Moreno had
tasted of that fate which he had been so willing to inflict on others.

The despatches were soon prepared; and the council, willing to assume
all the pomp of established authority, ordered me to be conducted to
the port, as one of its members, with all sort of ceremony. Garcias
remained at the palace, to take measures against any movement on the
part of Moreno's partizans; but the corregidor accompanied me to the
water side: and having formally resigned the seat, to which I had been
called in the council, I embarked on board the brigantine, and took
leave, for ever of Barcelona.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The most humiliating of all the various kinds of human suffering is
undoubtedly sea-sickness, and therefore I will willingly pass over all
my sensations in crossing the Gulf of Lyons. I believe, however, that
the excessive importunity of my corporeal feelings did me good,
inasmuch as it served, for a time, to obliterate from my memory the
various strange and exciting scenes which I had lately gone through.
If we could suppose the soul itself to be in a state of ebriety, I
should say that my mind had been for several days drunk with excess of
stimulus; and the relaxation consequent upon it, during the vacant
hours of the voyage, would have been actually painful, had not the
horrors of sea-sickness so employed the body, that the mind could not
act.

We landed, then, at Marseilles, after a safe and rapid passage, and I
prepared to set out with all speed for Lyons, hoping, by being the
first to bear the Cardinal de Richelieu news, which I well divined
would be most joyful to him, that I might at all events remove some of
the dangers and difficulties of my situation--a situation which I
hardly dared to contemplate.

My father, though richly endowed with personal courage, wanted, as I
have said, that moral courage, which leads a man to look everything
that is painful or disagreeable boldly in the face. With him, indeed,
this disposition was carried to the excess of flying from the
contemplation, even of inconvenient trifles; but enough of it had
descended to me to make me willingly turn my eyes from circumstances
like those in which I was now placed.

Money, I had hardly more than would bear me to Paris; resources, I had
none before me, and I shrank from the idea of either writing to, or
hearing from, the once loved home that I had left, with a degree of
horror it is difficult to describe. What could I write, without
forcing my mind to dwell upon details that were agony to think of?
What could I hear, but reproaches, which I knew not well whether I
deserved or not; or tenderness, which would have been more painful
still? My only resource was, like the ostrich in the fable, to shut my
eyes against the evils that pursued me, and to hurry forward as fast
as I could, filling up the vacuity of each moment with any
circumstances less painful than my own thoughts, and leaving to time
and chance--the two great patrons of the unfortunate--to remove my
difficulties, and provide for my wants.

At the inn at Marseilles, as soon as my little attendant, Achilles,
had recovered what he called his powers of ambulation, the rolling of
the sea having left him, even on land, certain sensations of
unsteadiness which made him walk in various zigzag meanders during the
whole day, he unfolded to my astonished eyes the clothes which he had
bought for me at Barcelona. First, appeared a splendid Spanish riding
dress of philomot cloth, laced with silver, and perfectly new; with a
black beaver and white plumes, which, together with the untanned
riding-boots, sword, and dagger, all handsomely mounted, might cost,
upon a very moderate calculation, at least one hundred and fifty
louis-d'ors. I concluded myself ruined, of course; but what was my
surprise and horror when he dragged forth a long leathern case,
containing a rich dress suit of white silk, laced with gold; a white
sword and gold hilt, a bonnet and plume, that might have served a
prince, with collars of Flemish lace, gold-embroidered gloves of
Brussels, and shoes of Cordova.

If it had been a box of serpents I could not have gazed into it with
more horror, my purse feeling lighter by a pistole for every fold he
unplied in the rich white silk. "There! there! there!" cried he,
contemplating them with as much delight as I experienced
consternation. "What an exquisite Alexander the Great I should make in
that white silk! Never was such an opportunity lost, for fitting up
the wardrobe of a theatre--never! never! but I could not bear to part
with the little shining yellow things, that kept my pocket so warm,
and therefore I only bought what was necessary for you, _signeurie_."

"And where do you think that my _seigneurie_ is to get money to pay
for them?" demanded I, somewhat sharply. "Pray how much have you spent
more than I gave you?"

The poor little man looked up with an air of consternation that
increased my own. "Spent!" cried he; "spent more than you gave
me!--Why, none at all. I got them all for seven louis."

"Then they must have been stolen," cried I.

"To be sure!" answered he, in a tone of the most _naïve_ simplicity in
the world; "to be sure they were stolen. How did you think I should
come by them else?"

Though in no very merry mood, the tone, the air, and simplicity of the
little player overcame my gravity, and I could not help laughing while
I asked who they had really belonged to, before they came so honestly
into his possession.

"Lord! how should I know?" replied he. "If you want to hear how I got
them, that is easily told. When you went away to the council, after
bidding me buy you a riding-suit, I went out with Jaccomo, as they
call him, the cook; and as we were marching along in search of a
fripier, we passed by the ruins of the arsenal, where you and I were
confined, and where I killed the savage soldado," he continued,
drawing himself up till he fancied himself full six feet high. "But
that has nothing to do with the matter. The arsenal is now in a
terrible state; partly battered to pieces with the cannon, partly
blown up, as it seemed to me; but we just went in to take a look about
us, when suddenly out from amongst a whole heap of ruins creeps a
peasant fellow, with these two large mails on his back, and a heap of
other things in a bag round his neck. At first he looked frightened,
but after a little took heart, and told us a long story, which Jaccomo
translated for me, showing forth, that having come to town too late
for the famous plunder of the day before, he had hunted about amongst
the rooms that were yet standing in the arsenal, till he had found all
the things we saw; and added, that if we would go on we should find a
deal more. This, however, did not suit Jaccomo, who talked to him very
loudly about taking him before the council, and frightened him a good
deal, after which he made him show us what was in the mails; when,
finding they would suit your lordship, I made the cook offer the man
seven louis for them, though he said I was a great fool for offering
so much; and that if I would let him, he would frighten him so he
would give them up for nothing. But as I knew you would not wear them
without you paid for them, I gave the man the money, who was very glad
to get it, and walked away quite contented with that, and several
other suits that he had besides."

This information satisfied my conscience; and certainly if there never
were seven louis better laid out, never was apparel more needed; for
what between my journeys in the Pyrenees and my adventures in Spain,
my _pourpoint_ would have qualified me for a high rank amongst those
poor chevaliers whom we see frequenting the corners of low taverns,
and waiting patiently till some solitary traveller without
acquaintance, or indefatigable tippler abandoned by his mates, invites
them to share his tankard for the mere sake of company.

The next thing was to try them on, when, to my mortification, I found
that, though in point of length they suited me exactly, both the
_pourpoint_ and the _haut de chausse_ much required the intervention
of a pair of shears to reduce the waist to the same circumference as
my own. A small lean-shanked Marseillois, exercising the honourable
office of tailor to the inn, was soon procured; and setting him down
in the corner of the chamber, I suffered him not to depart till both
the suits were reduced to a just proportion, and I no longer looked as
if I had got into an empty balloon when I again tried them on.

One night I suffered to roll past tranquilly, though a thousand
phantoms of the last two days hovered about my pillow and disturbed my
rest. The next morning, however, a new embarrassment presented itself;
for, on inquiring for the boat to Lyons, I was informed that it did
not depart till the next day; and even then I found it would be so
long on its passage that I must abandon all hope of being the first
bearer of news from Catalonia, if I pursued so dilatory a mode of
travelling. At the same time I well knew that it was quite out of the
question to take poor little Achilles so many hundred miles on
horseback. The only way, therefore, which we could determine upon, was
for him to remain behind till the boat sailed, and then to make the
best of his way to Paris to rejoin me, while I went on as fast as
possible, and accomplished my errand in the meanwhile.

Being now in France, and having his pockets well garnished, little
Achilles did not, of course, feel himself near so much at a loss as he
would have done in Spain; but still he clung about me, and whimpered
like a baby to see me depart. I believe that he had seldom known
kindness before, and he estimated it as a jewel from its rarity. He
made one request, however, before I departed, with which, though
unwillingly, I could not refuse to comply. My scruple of conscience
about the diamonds of which he had  plundered the house of Monsieur de
Villafranca had in some degree touched his own, and he had heroically
resolved to return them if ever he found the opportunity--always,
however, reserving the right to make use of any part of them in case
either his own or my occasions should require it. But in the meantime
he remained under the most dreadful anxiety lest he should be robbed
on the way to Paris; and made it his most humble request, both as I
was the most valiant of the two, and as I should be a less space of
time on the road, that I would take charge of the packet in which they
were enveloped.

I did as he wished, though I would willingly have been excused; and
having left him to shed his tender tears over our separation, I
mounted the post-horse that had been brought me, and set out on my
journey for Paris.

The night's rest which I had taken at Marseilles served me till I
arrived at Lyons; and the one which I indulged in there carried me on
to Paris. No time was lost on my journey; a single word concerning
despatches for the minister making doors fly open and horses gallop
better than the magic rings of the Fairy Tales.

At length I began to see the villages growing nearer and nearer
together; separate houses highly ornamented and decorated, yet not
large enough to dignify themselves with the name of châteaux; troops
of people seemingly returning from some great city to their homes in
the country; strings of carts and horses; and, in short, everything
announcing the proximity of a metropolis; while at the same time the
sound of a multitude of bells came borne upon the wind towards me,
telling me that I arrived at some moment of great public rejoicing. I
will not stop to inquire why that sound fell so heavily upon my heart;
but so it did, and all the increasing gaiety I met as I began to enter
into the suburbs but rendered me the more melancholy.

It was by this time beginning to grow dusk, and directing my horse
towards the _Quartier St. Eustache_, I alighted at a small auberge
which our landlord at Marseilles had recommended as the best in Paris.
Having taken off my baggage with my own hands, and paid my postilion,
I looked about in the little courtyard for some one to show me an
apartment. It was long, however, before I could find any one; and even
at last, the only person I could meet with was an old woman, the
great-grandmother of mine host, I believe, who told me that all the
world were out at the fête, and that I might sit down in the
_salle-à-manger_ if I liked, till they came back.

This seemed but poor entertainment for the best auberge in Paris; but
I was forced to content myself with what I found, for it was too late
to seek another lodging, even had I not appointed Achilles to meet me
there. Nor, indeed, was my companion, the old woman, very
entertaining; for she was so deaf that she heard not one word I said,
and merely replied to all my inquiries, on whatever subject they were
made, by informing me that every one was at the fête, repeating the
precise words she made use of before.

Thus passed the time for an hour; but then the face of affairs
altered. The host--a jolly aubergiste as ever roasted a capon--rushed
in, in his best attire, followed by his wife and his sister, and his
sister's husband, all half inebriated with good spirits; and I was
soon at my desire shown to an apartment, which, though small, was
sufficiently clean; and having been told that supper would be ready at
the table d'hôte in an hour, I waited, while the various odours rising
up from the kitchen to my window seemed sent on purpose to inform me,
step by step, of the progress of the meal.

Alone--in Paris--unknown to a soul--with a vacant hour lying open
before me--it was impossible any longer to avoid that unkind friend,
thought. For a moment or two, I walked up and down the little chamber,
whose antique furniture--the precise allotted portion which a
traveller could not do without--called to my mind the old but splendid
garnishing of my apartments at the Château de l'Orme.

Where--I asked myself--where were all the familiar objects that habit
had rendered dear to my eye?--where all the little trifles, round
which memory lingers, even after time has torn her away from things of
greater import?--where were the grand mountains whose vast masses
would even now have been stretching dark and sublime across the
twilight sky before my windows?--where the free breeze that wafted
health with every blast?--where were the eyes whose glance was
sunshine, and the voices whose tones were music, and the hearts whose
happiness had centred in me alone? What had I instead? A petty
chamber, in a petty inn--the rank close atmosphere of a swarming city,
and the eternal clang of scolding, lying, blaspheming tongues, rising
up with a din that would have deafened a Cyclop--while misery, and
vice, and want, and sorrow, cabal, and treason, and treachery, and
crime, were working around me, in the thousand narrow, jammed-up cells
of that great infernal hive. Such was the picture that imagination
contrasted with the sweet calm scene which memory portrayed; and
casting myself down on the bed, I hid my face on the clothes, giving
way to a burst of passionate sorrow, that relieved me with unmanly but
still with soothing tears.

While I yet lay there, I heard some one move in the chamber; and
starting suddenly up, I saw a man carefully examining my baggage, with
a very suspicious and nonchalant air. "Who the devil are you?" cried
I, laying my hand on my sword.

"_Garçon de l'auberge, ne vous deplaise, Monsieur_," replied the man.

"Then Monsieur Garçon de l'auberge," said I, "beware how you touch my
baggage; for though there be nothing in it but my clothes and a packet
for his eminence the cardinal, I shall take care to slit your nose if
you finger it without orders."

The man started back at the name of the cardinal as if he had touched
a viper, gave me the _monseigneur_ immediately, and replied, that he
came to tell me supper was served, and the guests about to place
themselves at table.

Following him down, I found the _salle-à-manger_ tenanted by about ten
persons, while upon the table smoked a savoury and plentiful supper,
on which they but waited the presence of the host to fall with
somewhat wolfish appetites.

Silence reigned omnipotent at the first course; but at the second, two
or three of the guests, more loquacious than the rest, began to
entertain themselves and their neighbours with their own importance.

One, whose beard was as black and shaggy as a hawthorn tree in winter,
spoke of his exploits in war, and showed himself a very Cæsar, at
least in words.

Another was all-powerful in love, and told of many a cunning _passe_
which he had put upon jealous husbands and careful relations. No
female heart had ever resisted him, according to his account, which
was the more extraordinary, as he was the ugliest of human beings.
This he acknowledged, however, in some degree, swearing he knew not
what the poor fools found to love in him.

A third was a mighty man of state, talked in a low voice, and
told all the news. He had seen, he said, a certain great man that day,
whom it was dangerous to name; and he could tell, if he liked, a
mighty secret--but no, he would not--he was afraid of their
indiscretion;--then again, however, he changed his mind, and
would--they were all discreet men, he was sure. The news was this,--it
was undoubted, he could assure them. Portugal had again fallen under
the dominion of Spain--he had it from the best authority. The means of
the counter-revolution was this: the Viceroy of Catalonia had sent
twenty thousand men by Gibraltar, straight to Portugal, where they had
uncrowned the Duke of Braganza, and restored King Philip, for which
great service the king had appointed the Viceroy of Catalonia his
prime minister.

As I knew how much of this news was truth, I of course gave the
politician his due share of credit; and judging the rest of the
company from the specimen he afforded, I was rather inclined to
imagine that the lover's face made a truer report of his achievements
than his tongue, and that, perhaps, the beard of the soldado
constituted the most efficient part of his valour. I did not, however,
seek to inquire into particulars; but remained as silent as several
plain-looking respectable shopkeepers, who sat near me, and only
opened my mouth to ask if I could procure some one to guide me that
evening to a place I wished to visit in the town. This was addressed
to my next neighbour, who had himself shown no symptoms of loquacity;
but, it caught the ears of the man of the sword, who had been admiring
the lace upon my riding-suit, with somewhat the expression of a cat
looking into a vase of gold fish; and he instantly proposed, in a very
patronizing manner, to be my conductor himself. "I have half an hour
to spare, young sir," said he; "your countenance pleases me, and I am
willing to bestow that leisure upon you. You do not know Paris, and
the strange folks you may meet; my presence will be a protection to
you."

I replied that I wanted no protection; that I had always been able,
hitherto, to protect myself; but that I was obliged by his offer of
guiding me, and would accept it.

Having taken care to lock the door of my chamber before I came down,
and having the despatch from Barcelona about me, the moment we had
done dinner I accompanied the complaisant soldier into the street, and
then begged him to show me to the Palais Cardinal. The name seemed to
startle him a little; but he bade me follow him, which I accordingly
did. For about a quarter of an hour, he went up one street and down
another, turning and returning, like a hare pursued by the dogs, till
at length I began to perceive that the very last intention in my
worthy guide's mind was to conduct me to the Palais Cardinal, which I
well knew was not half a mile from the Quartier St. Eustache. As he
went, my honest companion amused me with the detail of a great many
adventures, in which he had proved himself a Hercules, and carried on
the conversation with such spirit that he had it all to himself.

What he intended to do with me, God knows; but getting rather tired of
walking about the streets, I fixed upon a respectable-looking grocer's
shop, which was not yet closed, and telling my companion that I wanted
to buy some pepper, I walked in.

"Pepper!" cried he, following me; "what can you want with pepper?"

"I will tell you presently," I answered, "when I have asked this good
gentleman (the grocer) a question.--Pray, sir," I continued, turning
to the master of the house, "will you inform me if I am near the
Palais Cardinal? This worthy person agreed to guide me thither from
the Rue des Prouvaires, quartier St. Eustache, and we have walked near
half an hour without finding it."

"He has taken you quite to the other end of the town," replied the
grocer. "You are now, sir, in the Rue des Prêtres St. Paul."

"On my life!" cried the soldier, "I thought I was leading you right.
By my honour, 'tis a strange mistake!"

"So strange, sir," said I, "that if you do not instantly go to the
right about, and march off, I may be tempted to cudgel you."

"_Ventre St. Gris!_" cried the bully, laying his hand on his sword.
But the grocer whispered a word or two to his shop-boy about fetching
the Capitaine du Guêt; and the great soldier, finding that his honour
was likely to suffer less by retreating than by maintaining his
ground, took to his heels, and ran off with all speed.



CHAPTER XXIX.


"That, sir, is one of the most assured rogues in Paris," said the
grocer; "he has once been at the galleys for seven years, and will
very soon be there again. How you happened to fall in with such a
fellow, I do not at all understand."

I explained to the shopkeeper the circumstances, and he shook his head
gravely at the name of the inn. "It has not a good reputation," said
he; "and as to its being the best in Paris," he added, with a laugh,
"we Parisians would be very much ashamed of it if it was. However,
sir, as you want to go to the Palais Cardinal, my boy shall conduct
you there; and though I wish to take away no one's character, be upon
your guard at your inn. There are many ways of plundering a stranger
in this good city; and if you need any assistance, send to me--though
I am very bold to say so, for a gentleman of your figure must have
many friends here, doubtless; only I know something of the good people
where you lodge, and, possibly, might manage them better than
another."

I thanked him for his kindness most sincerely; for though, perhaps,
ever too much accustomed to rely upon myself, yet I will own there was
a solitary desolateness of feeling crept about my heart in that great
city, which made it a relief to feel that there was somebody who took
even a transient interest in me, and to whom I could apply for advice
or aid, in case I needed it.

After taking down my new friend's address, I followed his shop-boy out
into the street, and we pursued our way towards the Palais Cardinal,
exactly retreading the steps which my former valiant guide had made me
take. All the way we went the lad chattered with true Parisian
activity of tongue; telling a thousand curious and horrible tales of
the great, but cruel man, that I was about to see, and relating all
the anecdotes of the day concerning his dark and mysterious policy.

"No one knows," said the boy, "why he does anything, or how he does
anything. It was only last week that the strangest thing happened in
the world. You have heard of the great wood of Marly, monsieur? Well,
one of the Cardinal's servants was ordered on Thursday, last week, to
take an ass loaded with pure gold, into that wood, and go on upon the
road till he met a man who asked him, 'If the sun shone at midnight?'
and then give him the ass's bridle and come away. So the servant went
in, and after going a mile or more, he met a tall, fine man--somewhat
dark, however--who asked him, 'Does the sun shine at midnight?' So the
servant said nothing, but gave him the bridle. The stranger was not
satisfied with that, but counted all the bags of gold upon the ass's
back, and then told the servant to take it to the person who had sent
it, and say that he had counted and watched, but the sun did not shine
at midnight yet. So then the servant did as he bade him, and took it
back to the Cardinal, who put two more sacks upon the ass, and sent
the lackey back again; when he met the same man, and every thing
passed as before, except that when he had counted the gold the
stranger shouted, 'Ha! ha! the sun shines at midnight!' and jumping
upon the donkey's back, he gave him a kick with his foot, which made
him gallop as quick as any horse, and the servant never saw them any
more! Lord! Lord! is not that very strange, monsieur?" continued the
boy; and creeping close to me, he added, "They say that the tall
stranger was the devil, and that the Cardinal had made a bargain with
him, that if he would give him all the wit he desired, hell should
have his soul at the end of twenty years. But when the twenty years
were out, he wanted very much a few years more, so that he was obliged
to make a new bargain, and pay a good round sum as interest upon his
bond."

The conclusion of the boy's story brought us to the end of the Rue St.
Honoré; and, shortly after, he pointed out to me the façade of the
Palais Cardinal. Having rewarded him with a crown, and sent him away
well contented, I gazed up at the splendid building before me, whose
grand features, massed together in the darkness, seemed almost as
frowning and gloomy as a prison. The news which I brought, however, I
was sure would be acceptable; and therefore walking on, I was about to
approach the house, when I was challenged by a sentinel. I told him my
business, and requested he would show me my way to any of the offices,
for I perceived no ready means of gaining admission. The soldier
passed me on to another, who again passed me to the corps de garde,
from whence I was taken to a small door and delivered, as a bale of
goods, into the hands of a grim-looking man, who told me at once that
I could not see the minister, who was abroad at the moment.

"Pray what is your business with his Eminence?" demanded the porter.

"It is business," replied I, "with which you, my friend, can have no
concern; and business of such import, that I must stay till I see
him."

"Come with me," said the porter, after thinking a moment; and he then
led me across a court wherein a carriage was standing, with horses
harnessed, and torches burning at the doors.

"Monsieur de Noyers, one of the secretaries of state, is here," he
added, seeing me remark the carriage, "and you can speak with him."

"My business is with his eminence the Cardinal," replied I, "and with
him alone."

"Well, come with me, come with me!" said the porter. "If your business
be really important, you must see some one who is competent to speak
on it; and if it be not important, you had better not have come here."

Thus saying, he led me into a small hall, and thence into a cabinet
beyond, hung with fine tapestry, and lighted by a single silver lamp.
Here he bade me sit down, and left me. In a few minutes a door on the
other side of the room opened, and a cavalier entered, dressed in a
rich suit of black velvet, with a hat and plume. He was tall, thin,
and pale, with a clear bright eye, and fine decided features. His
beard was small and pointed, and his face oval, and somewhat sharp;
and though there was a slight stoop of his neck and shoulders, as if
time or disease had somewhat enfeebled his frame, yet it took nothing
from the dignity of his demeanour. He started, and seemed surprised at
seeing anyone there; but then immediately advanced, and looking at me
for a moment, with a glance which read deeply whatever lines it fell
upon, "Who are you?" demanded he. "What do you want? What paper is
that in your hand?"

"My name," replied I, "is Louis Count de l'Orme; my business is with
the Cardinal de Richelieu, and this paper is one which I am charged to
deliver into his hand."

"Give it to me," said the stranger, holding out his hand. My eye
glanced over his unclerical habiliments, and I replied, "You must
excuse me. This paper, and the farther news I bring, can only be given
to the cardinal himself."

"It shall go safe," he answered in a stern tone. "Give it to me, young
sir."

There was an authority in his tone that almost induced me to comply;
but reflecting that I might be called to a severe account by the
unrelenting minister, even for a mere error in judgment, I persisted
in my original determination. "I must repeat," answered I, "that I can
give this to no one but his eminence himself, without an express order
from his own hand to do so."

"Pshaw!" cried he, with something of a smile; and taking up a pen,
which lay with some sheets of paper on the table, he dipped it in the
ink, and scrawled in a large, bold hand,--

"Deliver your packet to the bearer.

                                   "Richelieu."

I made him a low bow, and placed the letter in his hands. He read it,
with the quick and intelligent glance of one enabled by long habit to
collect and arrange the ideas conveyed to him with that clear rapidity
possessed alone by men of genius. In the meantime I watched his
countenance, seeking to detect, amongst all the lines with which years
and thought had channelled it, any expression of the stern,
vindictive, despotic passions, which the world charged him withal, and
which his own actions sufficiently evinced; it was not there,
however,--all was calm.

Suddenly raising his eyes, his look fell full upon me as I was thus
busily scanning his countenance; and I know not why, but my glance
sunk in the collision.

"Ha!" said he, rather mildly than otherwise, "you were gazing at me
very strictly, sir. Are _you_ a reader of countenances?"

"Not in the least, monseigneur," replied I; "I was but learning a
lesson:--to know a great man when I see one another time."

"That answer, sir, would make many a courtier's fortune," said the
minister; "nor shall it mar yours, though I understand it. Remember,
flattery is never lost at a court! 'Tis the same there as with a
woman. If it be too thick, she may wipe some of it away, as she does
her rouge; but she will take care not to brush off all!"

To be detected in flattery has something in it so degrading, that the
blood rushed up into my cheek with the burning glow of shame. A slight
smile curled the minister's lip. "Come, sir," he continued, "I am
going forth for half an hour, but I may have some questions to ask
you; therefore I will beg you to wait my return. Do not stir from this
spot. There, you will find food for the mind," he proceeded, pointing
out a small case of books; "in other respects, you shall be taken care
of. I need not warn you to discretion. You have proved that you
possess that quality, and I do not forget it."

Thus speaking, he left me, and for a few minutes I remained struggling
with the flood of turbulent thoughts which such an interview pours
upon the mind. This, then, was the great and extraordinary minister,
who at that moment held in his hands the fate of half Europe; the
powers of whose mind, like Niorder, the tempest-god of the ancient
Gauls, raised, guided, and enjoyed the winds and the storms,
triumphing in the thunders of continual war, and the whirlwinds of
political intrigue.

In a short time two servants brought in a small table of lapis lazuli,
on which they proceeded to spread various sorts of rare fruits and
wines; putting on also a china cup and a vase, which I supposed to
contain coffee--a beverage that I had often heard mentioned by my good
preceptor, Father Francis, who had tasted it in the East, but which I
had never before met with. All this was done with the most profound
silence, and with a gliding ghost-like step, which must certainly have
been learned in the prisons of the Inquisition.

At length one of these stealthy attendants desired me, in the name of
his lord, to take some refreshment; and then, with a low reverence,
quitted the cabinet, as if afraid that I should make him any answer.

I could not help thinking, as they left me, what a system of terror
must that be which could drill any two Frenchmen into silence like
this!

However, I approached the table, and indulged myself with a cup of
most exquisite coffee; after which I examined the bookcase, and
glancing my eye over histories and tragedies, and essays and
treatises, I fixed at length upon Ovid, from a sort of instinctive
feeling that the mind, when it wishes to fly from itself and the too
sad realities of human existence, assimilates much more easily with
anything imaginative than with anything true.

I was still reading; and, though sometimes falling into long lapses of
thought, I was nevertheless highly enjoying the beautiful fictions of
the poet, when the door was again opened, and the minister
re-appeared. I instantly laid down the book and rose; but, pointing to
a chair, he bade me be seated, and taking up my book, turned over the
pages for a few moments, while a servant brought him a cup of fresh
coffee and a biscuit.

"Are you fond of Ovid?" demanded he, at length; and then, without
allowing me time to reply, he added, "He is my favourite author; I
read him more than any other book."

The tone which he took was that of easy, common conversation, which
two persons, perfectly equal in every respect, might be supposed to
hold upon any indifferent subject; and I, of course, answered in the
same.

"Ovid," I said, "is certainly one of my favourite poets, but I am
afraid of reading him so often as I should wish; for there is an
enervating tendency in all his writings, which I should fear would
greatly relax the mind."

"It is for that very reason that I read him," replied the minister.
"It is alone when I wish for relaxation that I read, and then--after
every thought having been in activity for a whole long day--Ovid is
like a bed of roses to the mind, where it can repose itself, and
recruit its powers of action for the business of another."

This was certainly not the conversation which I expected, and I paused
without making any reply, thinking that the minister would soon enter
upon those important subjects on which I could give the best and
latest information; but, on the contrary, he proceeded with Ovid.

"There is a constant struggle," continued he, "between feeling and
reason in the human breast. In youth, it is wisely ordained that
feeling should have the ascendancy; and she rules like a monarch, with
imagination for her minister;--though, by the way," he added, with a
passing smile, so slight that it scarcely curled his lip,--"though, by
the way, the minister is often much more active than the monarch. In
after years, when feeling has done for man all that feeling was
intended to do, and carried him into a thousand follies, eventually
very beneficial to himself, and to the human race, reason succeeds to
the throne, to finish what feeling left undone, and to remedy what she
did wrong. Now, you are in the age of feeling, and I am in the age of
reason; and the consequence is, that even in reading such a book as
Ovid, what we cull is as different as the wax and the honey which a
bee gathers from the same flower. What touches you is the wit and
brilliancy of the thought, the sweetness of the poetry, the bright and
luxurious pictures which are presented to your imagination: while all
that affects me little; and, shadowed through a thousand splendid
allegories, I see great and sublime truths, robed, as it were, by the
verse and the poetry in a radiant garment of light. What can be a
truer picture of an ambitious and a daring minister, than Ixion
embracing a cloud?" and he looked me full in the face, with a smile of
melancholy meaning, to which I did not well know how to reply.

"I have certainly never considered Ovid in that light," replied I;
"and I have to thank your eminence for the pleasure I shall doubtless
enjoy in tracing the allegories throughout."

"The thanks are not my due," replied the minister; "an English
statesman, near a century ago, wrote a book upon the subject; and
showed his own wisdom, while he pointed out that of the ancients. In
England, the reign of reason is much stronger than it is with us in
France, though they may be considered as a younger people."

"Then does your Eminence consider," demanded I, "that the change from
feeling to reason proceeds apace with the age of nations, as well as
with men?"

"In general, I think it does," replied he: "nations set out bold,
generous, hasty, carried away by impulse rather than by thought;
easily led, but not easily governed. Gradually, however, they grow
politic, careful, anxious to increase their wealth, somewhat indolent,
till at length they creep into their dotage, even like men. But," he
added, after a pause, "the world is too young for us to talk about the
history of nations. All we know is, that they have their different
characters like different men, and of course some will preserve their
vigour longer than others; some will die violent deaths; some end by
sudden diseases; some by slow decay. A hundred thousand years hence,
men may know what nations are, and judge what they will be. It
suffices, at present, to know our contemporaries, and to rule them by
that knowledge. And now, Monsieur le Comte de l'Orme, I thank you for
a pleasant hour, and I wish you good night. Of course, you are still
at an inn; when you have fixed your lodging, leave your address here,
and you shall hear from me. In the meanwhile, farewell!"

Of course I rose, and, taking leave, quitted the Palais Cardinal.
What!--it may be asked,--without one word on the important business
which had brought you there?--Without a word! The name of Catalonia
was never mentioned; and yet, the very next day, large bodies of men
marched upon Rousillon. More were instantly directed thither from
every part of the country. The fleet in the Mediterranean sailed for
Barcelona; and, in a space of time inconceivably brief, Catalonia was
furnished with every supply necessary to carry on a long and an active
war.



CHAPTER XXX.


The strange interview which I have described of course yielded my
thoughts sufficient employment. Was it--could it really be, I asked
myself, that I had spent the last hour in conversation with the
greatest statesman in modern Europe? And in conversation about what?
about Ovid--the task of a school-boy in an inferior class--when I
could have afforded him minute information upon events on which the
fate of nations depended.

Could he have received prior information? Impossible! Our vessel had
sailed with the fairest wind, and the speed of our passage had been
made a marvel of by the sailors; I had lost no time upon the road, and
it was impossible--surely quite impossible--that he could have
received tidings from Catalonia in a shorter space, without, indeed,
the devil, as the vulgar did not scruple to say, sent him tidings from
all parts of the world by especial couriers of his own.

One thing, however, is certain; I went to the Palais Cardinal a very
important person in my own opinion, and I came away from it with my
self-consequence very terribly diminished.

My next reflections turned to the minister's very unclerical dress,
and I puzzled myself for some time in fancying the various errands
which might have required such a disguise--for disguise it evidently
was. Of course, I could conclude upon nothing, and was only obliged to
end in supposing, with the boy who had guided me thither, that no one
knew how, or why, he did anything.

My way home was easily found; and retiring to bed, I dreamed all
night, between sleeping and waking, of courts and prime ministers, and
woke the next morning not at all refreshed for having passed the night
in such company. I had more disagreeable society, however, before
long; for when I had been up about an hour, and was preparing to go
out and view the great and stirring bee-hive, whose hum reached me
even in my own cell, the worthy host of the _auberge_ bustled into the
room with an appearance of great terror, begging a thousand pardons
for his intrusion; but he hoped, he said, that if I had anything in my
bags which I wished to conceal, I would put it away quickly, for that
the officers of justice were in the house, and he had heard them
inquire for a person very much resembling me.

Of course, I laughed at the idea; but the landlord had hardly
concluded his tale, when in rushed two sergeants and a greffier,
dressed in their black robes of office. One stationed himself at the
door, one threw himself between me and the window, and then commanded
me in the king's name to surrender myself.

I replied that I was very willing to surrender, but that there must be
assuredly some mistake, for that I had not been in Paris sufficient
time to commit any great crime.

"No mistake, sir! no mistake!" replied one of the sergeants. "People
who have the knack, commit crimes as fast as I can eat oysters. You
are accused, sir, of filching. They say, sir, you are guilty of
appropriation. A good man, an excellent good man, Jonas Echimillia, of
the persecuted race of Abraham, avers against you, sir, that last
night, towards ten of the clock, you entered his dwelling, sir,
wherein he gives shelter to old servants cast off by ungrateful
masters--in other words, sir, his frippery--and notoriously and
abominably seduced a white silk suit, laced with gold, to elope with
you, to the identity of which suit he will willingly swear. So open
your swallow-all, or trunk mail, and let us see what it contains."

Whilst the worthy sergeant thus proceeded, the warning of my good
friend the grocer came across my mind, and I thought that there was an
affectation about the voice of the respectable officer, which made me
suspect that the whole business might be contrived to extort money;
though how they could know that I had a white silk dress, laced with
gold, in the valise before me, I could not divine. However, I affected
to be very much alarmed; and while I examined well the countenances of
my honest guests, I feigned a wish to bribe them into a connivance.

"Not for a hundred pistoles!" cried the principal sergeant.

"Nay, nay," said the landlord, who had remained in the room, "worthy
sergeant, you must not be too severe upon my young lodger. Consider
his youth and inexperience. Echimillia is a tender-hearted man, and
would not wish you to be hard upon him. Take a hundred pistoles and
let him off."

The sergeant began to show symptoms of a relenting disposition, and
expressed his pity of my youth and ignorance of the ways of Paris with
so much tender-heartedness, that it overcame my gravity, and sitting
down upon a chair I laughed till I cried. The two sergeants looked
rather confounded; but the greffier, a little man, whose risible
organs were apparently somewhat irritable, could not resist the
infectious nature of my laugh, but began a low sort of cachinnation,
which he unsuccessfully tried either to drown in a cough or stifle in
the sleeve of his robe. The sympathy next affected the landlord, who,
after looking wistfully first to one and then to another, with one
eyebrow raised, and one corner of his mouth in a grin while the other
struggled for gravity for near a minute, was at length overpowered by
the greffier's efforts to smother his laughter, and burst forth,
shaking his fat sides till the room rang. The sergeant at the door
tittered; but the principal officer affected a fury that soon brought
me to myself, though in a very different manner from that which he
expected.

Starting upon my feet, I caught him by the collar, and knocking his
bonnet off his head, exposed to view the very identical person of my
hectoring guide of the night before, though he had ingeniously
contrived to change completely the shape of his face, by cutting his
immense beard into a small peak, shaving each of his cheeks, and
leaving nothing but a light moustache upon his upper lip. "Scoundrel!"
cried I, giving him a shake that almost tore his borrowed plumes to
pieces, "what, in the name of the devil, tempted you to think you
could impose on me with a stale trick like this?"

"Because you dined at a _table d'hote_ in Flemish lace," replied the
other sergeant, continuing to chuckle at his companion's misfortune.
"But come, young sir, you must let him go, though you have found him
out." And thereupon he threw back his robe, and grasped the sword
which it concealed.

As I had imagined, my man of war was as arrant a coward as ever swore
a big oath, and he trembled violently under my hands, till he saw his
more valiant comrade begin to espouse his cause so manfully. He then,
however, thought it was his cue to bully, and exclaimed, in his
natural voice, "Unhand me, or, by the heart of my father, I'll dash
you to atoms!"

"The devil you will!" said I, seizing the foot he had raised in an
attitude calculated to menace me with a severe kick. The window was
near and open; underneath it was a savoury dunghill from the stables
at the side; the height about twelve feet from the ground; so, without
farther ceremony, I pitched the valiant soldado out head foremost, and
drew my sword upon his companion, who ventured one or two passes, in
the course of which he got a scratch in his arm, and then ran
downstairs as fast as he could after the landlord and the greffier,
who had already led the way. Running to the window, however, from
which I could see over the gate of the court into the street, I
shouted aloud to the passengers to stop the sham sergeants.

The first, who, with my assistance, had gone out the shortest
way--whether he was used to being thrown out of window and did not
mind it, or whether the dunghill was as soft as a bed of down, I know
not; but--by this time had gained his feet, and was half way down the
street. Where the greffier had slunk to I cannot say; but the more
pugnacious personage, who had drawn his sword upon me, was caught by
the people attracted by my cries, as he was in the act of making the
best use of his legs, after his arms had failed him. It would have
given me pleasure, I own, to bring even one of such a set of impostors
to justice, but I was disappointed; for, just as a porter and a
vinegar seller were bringing him back to the inn, he suddenly shook
them off, slipped the sergeant's gown over his head, and scampered
away through a dozen turnings and windings, with a rapidity and
address which smacked singularly of much practice in running off in a
hurry.

After a hot chase, the porter returned to tell me that he could not
catch the nimble-limbed cheat; and calling him up to my chamber, I
bade him take up my packages, and prepared to leave the house, after
examining the contents of each valise, from which I found nothing
missing, though sufficiently disarranged to show that they had
afforded amusement to others during my absence the night before. Had
they met with the diamonds, it is probable that they would have spared
themselves and me the trouble of the somewhat operose contrivance to
which they had recourse; but these, fortunately placed in the very
bottom of the valise, with several things of less consequence, had
escaped their search.

As we were passing into the court, the respectable landlord presented
himself cap in hand, delivered his account, and hoped I had been
satisfied with my entertainment, and would recommend his house to my
friends; while all the time he spoke there was a meaning sort of grin
upon his countenance, as if he could hardly help laughing at his own
impudence.

I answered him somewhat in his own strain, that the entertainment was
what the reputation of his house might lead one to expect; and in
regard to recommending it to my friends, that it was very possible I
should have occasion to visit shortly the criminal lieutenant, when I
would take care to commend it to his notice in the most particular
manner, and point out its deserts to him with care.

"I' faith," answered the host, calmly, "I am afraid that the
worshipful gentleman of whom you speak will find but poor
accommodation at my house; and therefore, feeling myself incompetent
to entertain him as he deserves, I would fain decline the honour of
his company."

After having paid my reckoning, I betook myself to the shop of the
honest grocer, who heard my story without surprise; and in answer to
my inquiry for a lodging, he replied that he knew of one nearly
opposite to his own house, but that he doubted whether it would suit a
person of my condition, for it was small, and kept by an old widow,
who, though very respectable, was anything but rich.

I need not say this was the very sort of situation I desired; for
after having paid mine host of the Rue des Prouvaires, my purse
offered nothing but a long and lamentable vacuity, with three louis
d'ors at the bottom, looking as lank and empty, when I drew it out of
my pocket, as an eel-skin just stripped off one of those luckless
aquatic St. Bartholomews. I was soon, then, installed in my new
apartment; and being left to myself, gazed upon my scanty stock of
riches, as many an unfortunate wretch has doubtless often gazed before
me, calculating how long each several piece would keep life and soul
together. And when they were expended, what then? I asked myself. Must
I then write to my parents--confess my attachment to Helen--own that I
murdered her brother--take from her mind any blessed doubt that might
still remain upon it--snap each lingering affection that might still
bind her to me in twain at once, and at the same time encounter the
angry expostulation of my father for loving below my degree; as well
as the calm reproaches of my mother, for having blinded her to that
love--expostulations and reproaches which for Helen's sake I could
have encountered, while there remained a chance of her being mine, but
which now I felt no strength to bear, no motive to call upon my head?
Oh! no, no! I could not write--poverty, beggary, wretchedness,
anything sooner than that; and starting up, I proceeded into the
street, hoping to drive away thought amongst all the gay sights I had
heard of in Paris.

As I passed along the Rue St. Jacques, a beggar asked me for charity;
and instinctively I put my hand in my pocket, when suddenly the
thought of my own beggary came upon my mind, and with a sickness of
heart impossible to describe, I drew my hand back, saying I had
nothing for him. "Do! my good lord, do!" cried the mendicant; "may you
never suffer such poverty as mine; and if you should--for who can tell
in this uncertain life--and if you should, may you never be refused by
those you beg of!"

I could refuse no longer. It came so painfully home to my own bosom,
that I gave him a small piece which I had received in change, and then
walked on, feeling as if I had just cast away a fortune, instead of
giving a piece of a few sols to a beggar. Oh, circumstance!
circumstance! thou art like a juggler at a fair, making us see the
same object with a thousand different hues as thou offerest thy
many-coloured glasses to our eyes.

Passing on, I found my way to the Palais Cardinal, where, after having
gazed for a moment or two at the enormous pile of building before me,
the thousand minute beauties of which the darkness had hidden from me
the night before, I mounted the steps to leave my address, as I had
been commanded. The doors of the palace, far from being guarded as I
had previously found them, now seemed open to every one. Crowds of
people of all classes were going in and coming out; and every sort of
dress was there, from the princely _justaucorps_, whose arabesqued
embroidery left scarcely an inch of the original stuff visible, to the
threadbare pourpoint, whose long experience in the ways of the world
had rendered it as polished and as smooth as the tongue of an old
courtier. All was whisper, and smiles, and hurry, and bustle; and
though every here and there an anxious face might be seen, giving
shade to the picture, no one would have imagined that through those
gates issued forth each day a thousand orders of death, of misery, and
of despair.

I entered with the rest; and as the way seemed open to every one, was
walking on, when I soon found that all who passed were known; for
hardly had I taken two steps across the vestibule, when an attendant
placed himself in my way, asking my business. It was easily explained;
and leading me into a small cabinet adjoining the hall, he took down a
ponderous folio, and desired me to write my address. When I opened it
I found it quite full; and the page took down another, wherein, at the
end of many thousands of names, I wrote my own, with ink that I
doubted not would prove true Lethe, and turned away even more hopeless
than I came.

Spare time now became my curse, and, joining with a restless and
excited spirit, drove me through everything that was to be seen in
Paris with an eagerness which soon exhausted its object. Day passed by
after day, and the minister took no notice of me. I spun out my meagre
funds, like the thread of a spider; but still every hour I saw them
diminish. Twice each day I sent to the auberge where I had lodged, to
inquire whether little Achilles had yet arrived; and still my
disappointment was renewed. Nor was this disappointment one of the
least painful of my feelings, for in the solitariness of my being in
that great city I would have given worlds for his company, even
although I could neither respect nor esteem him. And yet let me not do
him injustice; mean qualities were so mingled in him with great
ones--his folly was so strangely mixed with shrewdness, and his love
of himself so singularly contrasted with the generous attachment which
he had conceived towards me, that I hardly knew whether to look upon
him with regard or contempt. Yet certainly I longed for his coming;
and as the days went by and he came not, even while I smiled at
remembering his poltroonery, I could not help hoping that the little
coward had met with no obstruction in the road.

In the meanwhile, my frugality served to prolong the sojourn of my
three louis in my purse far longer than I could have expected, and
perhaps my pain with it, at seeing them daily decrease. It was like
the handfuls of couscousou that they give in Morocco to persons dying
of impalement, the means only of extending moments of misery. One day,
however, in passing along the Rue St. Jacques, I saw lying on a
book-stall two treatises upon very different subjects; one relating to
military tactics, and the other entitled "_The Sure Way of Winning;
or, Hazard not Chance_." The price of each was but a trifle, and in a
fit of extravagance I bought them both. I had now wherewithal to
employ my time, and I studied each of these two books with an ardour
which, had it been employed continuously on any great or important
subject, might have changed the face of my fortune for ever. The
treatise on strategy, though perhaps not the best that ever was
written, was, at all events, no detrimental employment; and on it I
bestowed one half of my time. The other half was given to "_The Sure
Way of Winning_," which was neither more nor less than an elaborate
treatise upon gaming; with all the profound calculations of chances
necessary to qualify a complete gambler. Thank God, I was not by
nature a lover of play, or by such a study I should have been
irretrievably lost. As it was, I soon began to look upon the
gaming-table as the only resource which fortune held out to me; and
with indescribable assiduity and application, I went through every
calculation in the book, working them out in my mind hundreds and
hundreds of times, till their results became no longer matters of
arithmetic, but of memory.

Three weeks elapsed before I deemed myself qualified to encounter the
well-experienced Parisians; and by this time I had but one louis
remaining. This I changed into crowns, and with an anxious heart
proceeded as soon as it was dark to a house, where I was informed that
the minor sort of gambling, in which alone I could indulge, was
carried on every night.

A narrow dirty passage conducted to a small staircase, at the bottom
of which I began to hear the voices of the throng above. At the top
were two men wrangling in no very measured terms; and passing on, I
entered a large room, where about twenty tables were set out, and most
of them occupied. A crown was demanded for admission, which I paid;
and then proceeded to examine the various groups that were scattered
through the room. Squalid misery, devouring passion, and debasing
vice, were written in every countenance I beheld.

Of course, the whole assembly were divided between losers and winners.
Of the first, some were talking high and angrily; some were
blaspheming with the insanity of disappointment; some were gazing with
the silent stupefaction of despair, and some were laughing with that
wringing, soulless mockery of mirth, with which vanity sometimes
strives to hide the bitterest pangs of the human heart. Of the
winners, some were amassing their gains with greedy satisfaction; some
were smiling with a sneering triumph at the poor fools they plundered;
and some, with the eager falcon eye of avarice, were gazing keenly at
the rolling dice or turning cards, as if they feared that chance might
yet snatch their prey from out their talons.

The whole scene came upon my heart with a sickening faintness that had
nearly made me turn and fly it all; but at that moment a very polite
personage, seeing a stranger, approached, and invited me in courteous
terms to sit at one of the vacant tables, and try a throw of the dice;
or, if I loved better the more scientific games, we would open a pack
of cards, he said. I agreed to the latter proposal, and we sat down to
piquet. He played a bold and more hazardous game, I the quiet and more
certain one; and though some fortunate runs of the cards made him
eventually the winner, my loss was but two crowns.

"One throw with these for what you have lost," said my adversary,
before we rose, offering me the dice at the same time. We threw, and I
lost two crowns more. We threw again, and I was penniless.

I bore it more calmly than I had expected; but I believe it was more
the calmness of despair, than anything else, which supported me.
However wishing my adversary good night as politely as I could, I
walked away, hearing him say in a whisper to one who stood near, "He
plays very well at piquet, that young gentleman. It was as much as I
could do to beat him."

Beyond a doubt this was meant for my hearing, and if so, it had its
effect; for my first thought was what article of my scanty stock I
could part with, to yield the means of recovering that night's loss.
The diamonds which Achilles had entrusted to me instantly suggested
themselves to my mind; and the tempter, who still lies hid in the
bottom of man's heart till passion calls him forth, did not fail to
suggest a thousand excellent and plausible motives for using them.
"Achilles," said the devil, "had himself voluntarily given them to me;
and even if he had not done so, I had just as much a right to them as
he had--but if my conscience forbade me to take them ultimately, it
would be very easy to repay the value, either when I should have
recovered my losses at the gaming-table, or when I was restored to the
bosom of my family."

Thank Heaven, however, I had honour enough left not to violate a trust
reposed in me. I had still a diamond ring of my own. My mother had
given it to me, it is true; but necessity more strong than feeling
required me to part with it, and I determined to do so the next
morning. In looking for it, for I had ceased to wear it since I set
out for Marseilles, I met with the packet of papers regarding the
Count de Bagnols, which I had almost always kept about me; and looking
over them, I was tempted again to read some of the letters. I went on
from one to another, through the whole correspondence between the
Count, then a very young man, and the rebellious Rochellois, and I
found throughout that fine discrimination between right and wrong
which is the chivalry of the mind. It was a lesson and a reproach; but
as I had passed to the brink of vice, not by the short and flowery
path of pleasure, but by a road where every step was upon thorns--as I
had been driven by errors and by accidents, rather than led by
indulgence, the road back seemed not so long as to those who have
followed every maze of enjoyment in their course from virtue to vice.
With me it wanted but one effort of the mind--but the moral courage to
communicate my true situation to those I loved, and I should at once
free myself of the enthralment of circumstances. Such reflections
passed rapidly through my mind, and I resolved to do what I should
have done. But what are resolutions?--Air.

The next morning I carried my diamond ring to a most respectable
jeweller, who bought it of me for one-fifth of its worth, and vowed
all the while that he should lose by his bargain. Six louis, however,
now swelled my purse; and as night came, my good resolutions faded
like the waning sunshine. The cursed book of games found its way into
my hands, and at seven o'clock I stood before the same house where I
had left my money the night before.

Like the gates of Dis, the doors stood ever open, and those feet which
had once trod that magic path could hardly cross it without again
turning in the same direction.

On entering the room, the society which it contained struck me as even
more ruffianly than the night before, and I fancied that many eyes
turned upon me, as on one whose appearance there on the former evening
had been remarked. My polite adversary was looking on at one of the
tables, where the parties were playing for louis; but the moment his
eye fell upon me, he came forward and offered me my revenge. "They are
playing too high at that table," said he, as we sat down. "To my mind,
it takes away all the pleasure of the game to have such a stake upon
it as would pain one to lose. No _gentleman_ ever plays for the sake
of winning a great deal of other people's money, and therefore he
ought to take care that he does not part with too much of his own. I
play for _amusement_ alone, and therefore let us begin with crowns, as
we did last night."

His moderation pleased me, and, opening the cards, we again commenced
our evening with piquet. He again played boldly, and I even more
cautiously than before; but the cards were no longer favourable to my
adversary,--he lost everything, and in an hour I had fifty crowns
lying beside me. Half-a-dozen persons had now crowded round us, and
all joined in praises of my skilful play.

"Too skilful for me, I am afraid," said my adversary, maintaining his
good temper admirably, though I thought I discovered a little vexation
in his tone. "I own, fair sir, that you are my master with the cards;
but you will not refuse me an opportunity of mending my luck with
these;" and he took up the dice-boxes.

The spirit had now seized me; I had gained enough to wish to gain
more. Bright hopes of turning Fortune's frowns to smiles, of freeing
myself of all difficulties, of rising superior to my oppressive fate,
began to swim before my eyes; and I willingly agreed to his proposal,
never doubting that my ascendancy would still continue.

We played on rapidly, and soon the pile of coin by my side
diminished--vanished--grew higher and higher on his; and with agony of
mind beyond all that I had ever felt, my golden hopes passed away, and
despair began to come fast upon me, as louis after louis of my last
and only resource melted from my touch. With the cards all had been
fair--that was evident enough; but now my suspicions began to be
awakened in regard to the dice. I remembered those which I had split
open at Luz, and as I threw I watched narrowly to see whether there
was anything in those I played with which might show them to be
loaded. But no! they rolled over and over, turning each side
alternately as fairly as possible. I next fixed my eyes on my
adversary, when suddenly I saw him, with the dexterity of a juggler,
hold the dice he took up in the palm of his hand, and slip two others
in from the frill round his hand. When about to throw again, I saw him
prepare to perform the same trick, and springing up, I pinned his hand
to the table.

A loud outcry instantly took place; "The man's mad!" "What is he
about?" "Turn him out!" "Throw him out of the window!" cried a dozen
voices.

"You shall do it, if you like, gentlemen," cried I, "provided this man
has not two false dice under his hand."

As I spoke, I lifted his hand from the table, when, to my horror and
surprise, there were no dice there.

I was dumb as if thunderstruck, and my adversary, with every feature
convulsed with rage, lifted the hand I had liberated, and struck me a
violent blow in the face. Instinctively I laid my hand upon my sword,
when every one round threw themselves upon me, and in the midst of a
thousand blows, I was hurried to the window, and though struggling
violently to save myself, pitched over into the street.



CHAPTER XXXI.


Luckily, the window from which I was thrown was on the first floor,
and not above sixteen feet raised from the ground. My fall, therefore,
was so instantaneous, that I had no time to indulge in any of the
pleasing anticipations of which a journey head-foremost from a high
window to the ground is susceptible. The fall, however, was sufficient
to stun and bewilder me; and before I had well recovered my
recollection, I found myself surrounded by a good number of lackeys
with torches, who had seen my sudden ejaculation from the gaming-house
while they were accompanying some carriage through the streets, and
had come to my assistance, with many inquiries as to whether I was
hurt.

I had fallen upon my left shoulder and hip, and my head had
fortunately escaped without the same sudden contact with the stones;
so that, though somewhat confused, I could reply that I believed I was
not much injured, but that I could not rise without assistance.

"Help him to rise," cried a voice, which very much resembled that of
the Chevalier de Montenero, "and give him what assistance you can."

The person who spoke I could not see; but the servants, who had been
hitherto gazing at me without lending me any very substantial aid, now
hurried to raise me, one taking me by each arm. This proceeding,
however, gave me such exquisite pain in my left shoulder, that after a
groan or two, and an ineffectual effort to make them comprehend that
they were inflicting on me the tortures of the damned, I lost all
recollection with the excess of agony.

When I recovered my perception of what was passing around me, I found
that the servants had procured a kind of _brancard_, or litter, and
having laid me upon it, were carrying me on, I conjectured, to the
house of some surgeon.

They stopped, however, a moment after, at the entrance of what was
evidently a very handsome private hotel, and passing through the
_porte cochère_ and the court, they bore me into an immense
_salle-à-manger_, and thence into a small chamber beyond, where I was
carefully laid on a bed, and bade to compose myself, as a surgeon had
been sent for, and would arrive, they expected, immediately.

He was not indeed long; and on examining my side, he found that my
shoulder was dislocated, but that I had sustained no other injury of
consequence. After a painful operation, the process of which I need
not detail, I was put to bed, and the surgeon having given me a
draught to procure sleep and allay the pain I suffered, recommended me
to be kept as quiet as possible, and left me. I did not, however,
suffer all the servants to quit the room without inquiring whether I
had not heard the voice of the Chevalier de Montenero.

The valet replied, that he thought I must have been mistaken, for he
never heard of such a name in all his life; but as there had been a
good many persons round about when I was taken up, it was possible one
of these might have spoken in the manner I mentioned.

I was now left alone, and I endeavoured to forget as fast as possible,
in the arms of sleep, all the unpleasant circumstances round which
memory would fain have lingered. It was in vain, however, that I did
so; the feverish aching of my bones kept slumber far away. Every noise
that stirred in the house I heard; every step that moved along its
various halls and passages seemed beating upon the drum of my ear: I
could hear my own blood rush along my veins and throb in my head, as
if Vulcan and all the Cyclops of Etna had transferred their anvils to
my brain.

While in this state, a light suddenly shone through the keyhole and
under the door, and I heard several persons enter the dining-hall
through which I had been borne thither. Everything that was said
reached my ears as distinctly as if I had been present, and I soon
found that the principal person who entered was the nephew of the
proprietor of the house. He had just returned, it seemed, from some
spectacle, and bringing a friend with him, demanded supper with the
tone of a spoiled boy, who knew that his lightest word was law to all
who surrounded him. The supper was brought, with apparently all the
delicacies he demanded, for he made no complaint; and having sent for
all the most excellent wines in his uncle's cellar, he dismissed the
servants, and remained alone with his friend.

Tossing about, restless and irritable, I was nearly frantic with their
mirth and their gaiety, and could have willingly murdered them both to
make them silent; but soon their conversation began to take a turn
which interested even me. The youth, who was evidently the
entertainer, and whom his companion named Charles, had for several
minutes been expatiating with all the hyperbolical enthusiasm of
youthful passion on some beautiful girl whom he had determined, he
said, to marry, let who would oppose it. Her name was mentioned by
neither of the speakers, their conversation referring to something
that had passed before. With the very natural pleasure which most
people experience in finding all sorts of obstacles to whatever
another person proposes, the friend seemed bent upon suggesting
difficulties in opposition to his companion's passion. "Consider, my
dear Charles," said he, "this girl may be as beautiful as the day,
but, from her father's situation, her education must have been very
much neglected."

"Not at all! not at all!" replied the lover. "Her education, as far as
learning and accomplishments go, will shame the whole court, and her
manners are those of a princess of Eldorado. Why, I told you, she has
been brought up all her life by the Countess de Bigorre."

It may easily be supposed that such words did not tend to calm the
beating of my heart; and in the agitation caused by thus suddenly
discovering that Helen was the subject of their conversation, I lost
what passed next. In a moment after, however, the lover replied to
some question of his companion. "I do not very well know why her
father took her away from the Countess and brought her to Paris; I
should have supposed that it would have been much more convenient to
him in every respect to have left her where she was. However, I am his
most humble and very obedient servant, for I should never have seen
her otherwise; and marry her I will, if I should carry her off for
it."

"But her birth, Charles, her birth!" said his companion. "What will
your uncle think of that?--he who is so proud of his own."

"Oh!" replied the hot-brained youth, "you know I can do anything with
my uncle; and besides, this father of hers has been quietly
accumulating a large fortune, it seems, one way or another; and so
that must cover the sin of her birth in my uncle's eyes. But say what
you will, or what he will, or what any one will, I will marry her if I
live to be a year older."

"What! and discharge the little Epingliere, Jeannette?" asked his
companion, with a laugh.

"Oh, that does not follow," answered the other; "'tis always well to
have two strings to one's bow; and Jeannette is too charming to be
parted with for these three years at least: but _madame ma femme_ will
know nothing of _mademoiselle ma bonne amie_, and I shall find her
proud beauty the more delightful by contrasting it with the more
modest charms of Jeannette."

"The more simple charms, you mean, not the more modest," replied his
companion; "I never heard that Jeannette was famous for her modesty!"

The opium draught which I had taken, counteracted in its effects by
the pain of my body, and the irritation of my mind, began to make me
somewhat delirious. Strange shapes seemed flitting about my bed--I saw
faces looking at me out of the darkness, and insulting me with
fiendish grins. At the same time, the light way in which the weak
young man in the next chamber spoke of Helen--of my sweet, my
beautiful Helen--worked me up to a pitch of frantic rage, which,
mingling with the delirium of opium, made me resolve to get up and
avenge her upon the spot. I accordingly raised myself in bed, and
after sitting upright for a moment or two, with my brain seeming to
whirl like the eddy of a stream, I got out with infinite difficulty,
when the cold air, and the chill of the stones to my feet, in some
degree recalled me to my senses, and instead of groping for my sword,
as I intended, I returned towards my bed; but coming upon it sooner
than I had expected, I struck it with my knee, fell over upon it, and,
with the sort of despairing heedlessness of fever and wretchedness,
lay still where I had fallen, till the opium overpowering me, I lost
all recollection of my misery in a deep and deathlike slumber.

It was late ere I woke, and when I did so, it was with one of those
dreadful headachs, which seem to benumb every faculty of the mind and
body; while at the same time, the bruises all over my left side were
even more sensitively painful than the night before.

The first thing I heard was a woman's voice, inquiring how I found
myself; and looking round, I perceived a good-looking, fattish nun, of
one of the charitable sisterhoods, sitting in a chair by my bedside.
She seemed one of those good dames who attach themselves to great
families, and act as an inferior sort of almoner, performing the part
of charitable go-betweens; attending the sick servants with somewhat
more skill than an apothecary, and more attention than a physician;
serving as head nurse to the lady of the mansion, and acquiring much
consequence with the poor, by dispensing the bounty of the rich.

In answer to her question, I replied that I was in very great pain,
both from a violent headach, and the bruises I had received; whereupon
she immediately produced the phial, from which the surgeon had the
night before administered his sleeping draught, intimating that I must
take another portion to relieve me from what I suffered; and informing
me, at the same time, in a very oracular tone, that it was not at all
wonderful that my bones ached, after sleeping all night naked on the
outside of the bed.

As I attributed the excessive aching of my head entirely to the
contents of the bottle she held in her hand, I resisted magnanimously
all her persuasions to take more of its contents for some time; but at
length her offended authority instigated her to such an outcry, that I
would have drunk Phlegethon red-hot to have quieted her. I took,
accordingly, what she gave, and was about to have asked some questions
in regard to my situation, when she stopped me, with a profoundly
patronising air, and told me, that if I would promise to keep myself
quite quiet, and not agitate myself, I should be favoured with a visit
from a young lady who took an interest in me.

"Who, who? in the name of Heaven!" cried I, the idea of Helen
instantly flashing across my mind. "Tell me, tell me who!"

"Use not Heaven's name for such vanities, young gentleman," said the
nun. "Who the young lady is, you will see directly; and I have only to
tell you, that her father has granted her five minutes to converse
with you, for old friendship's sake, and she has promised that it
shall be no more; therefore you must not seek to stay her." So saying,
she left me, and in a moment after the door again opened, and Helen
herself, my own beautiful Helen, came forward towards me, with a look
of eager gladness, that, while it surprised me, took a heavy load from
off my heart.

She glided forward to my bedside, laid her dear soft hand in mine:
after gazing for a moment on my worn and haggard features, burst into
a flood of tears.

"Dear, dear Helen!" said I, "then yon love me still?"

"And ever will, Louis!" answered she, speaking through her tears.
"Whatever they may say, whatever they may think, I will love you
still, Louis, and none but you.--Only tell me that you love me also,
and not another, as they would have me believe, and nothing shall
shake the affection that I have ever borne towards you."

"Love another!" cried I. "Helen, you have never believed them for a
moment. For Heaven's sake tell me, that such a base suspicion never
for an instant made any impression on your heart."

"I never believed it, Louis," answered she; "for I never believed that
anything base could for a moment harbour in your bosom; and yet it
gave me pain, I knew not why.--But let me tell you what has happened
to me personally during your absence. I cannot tell you my father's
motives, for I do not know them, but I can tell you----"

"Oh no, no, Ellen!" cried I, shrinking from the detail of what must
have followed the discovery of her brother's death, and beginning to
doubt that she attributed it to me. "Oh no, no, dear Helen! spare me
all that unhappy detail. I chanced to overhear last night, from some
persons speaking in that chamber, that your father had come and
taken you from the protection of my mother. I easily conceived his
reasons--I heard all--I heard everything, by that conversation last
night; and all that now needs explanation is, how any one could dare
to tell you that I loved another."

"Indeed, Louis, many believed it--everyone, I may say, but myself,"
Helen replied; "but the time I am allowed to remain grows short.
Before anything else, let me communicate to you what my father bade me
say for him. If you wish to see him, he says, he will see you; but you
must be prepared, if he does so, to explain to him every part of your
conduct; and to show him that the blood which he cannot help
attributing to you rests not on your head. Forgive me, Louis! oh,
forgive!" she continued, seeing me turn deadly pale: "I pain you, I
see I pain you; but it was only on condition that I would deliver this
cruel message, that they would permit me to see you. It is not I that
ask you, Louis, to do anything that is painful to you. I am sure--I am
certain, you are not guilty. I cannot--I will not believe it. But my
father will not see you without you can explain it all. Can you then,
dear Louis--will you see him?"

"Helen, I cannot," replied I.

She gazed at me for a moment in silence.

"Hark! they call me," said she at length. "Oh, Louis, before I go, say
something to comfort me; say something to sustain in my breast that
confidence of your innocence which has been my consolation and my
hope."

"All I can say, dear Helen," replied I, "is, that in wish, and
intention, I was as innocent as you are; but that accident has made me
appear culpable, and that I have nothing but my own word to prove that
I was not purposely guilty."

"But your own word is enough for me," answered Helen, catching, I
believe gladly, at any assurance that could maintain her belief in my
innocence; "I will believe it myself, and I will try and make others
believe it. But I must leave you, Louis; they are calling me again.
Adieu, adieu!"

"But, Helen, dear Helen, you will see me again?" cried I, struggling
to raise myself. "Promise me that."

"Most assuredly," answered Helen, "if they will allow me;" and
obedient to a sign from the nun, who had returned to the room while I
was speaking, she glided away and left me. A thousand questions did I
now ask the good sister, but with a curious felicity of evasion she
parried them all; now with an affectation of mistaking me, now with an
ambiguous reply; now with a refusal to answer, like a skilful fencer,
who, whether his adversary lunges straightforward or feints, still
finds some parade to guard his own breast, and repel the attack in all
its forms. Not a word could I extract from her on any subject
whereupon I wished information, and gradually the drowsiness of the
opium began to take away the power of questioning her any farther.

From what I have learned since, I am led to believe that the good
lady, in administering the sleeping potion, which she had deafened me
into taking, had poured out at least double what was ordered by the
surgeon. At all events, its effect was much more rapid and powerful
than the night before; for, with all the busy thoughts which my
interview with Helen might well suggest, with all the bitter
remembrances it called up, with all the painful anticipations to which
it gave rise, slumber came rapidly upon me; and before half an hour
had passed after her departure, I fell into a deep sleep, which a
little more of the same sedative would probably have converted into
the sleep of death.



CHAPTER XXXII.


When I again awoke it was night, but the darkness was not disagreeable
to me. I was easier in bodily sensation than I had been in the
morning; and I pleased myself with calling to mind every gentle word
which my beloved Helen had spoken, with conjuring up again every sweet
look, and dreaming over that fond devoted affection which, in the
midst of the sorrows and uncomforts that surrounded me, was like some
guiding star to a voyager on the inhospitable ocean. But then came the
idea of seeing her father; and I thought, even if she could convince
him of my innocence, how could I clasp his hand with that which had
slain his child. I remembered my feelings towards him when, entirely
abandoning his sweet child to the care of my mother, he seemed to have
resigned all his paternal rights, and it had been only my respect for
Helen which had saved him from my unconcealed contempt.--I remembered,
too, his long nourished dislike towards me, and I asked myself whether
he would feel it less now, that he could not but suspect me of the
death of his son.

Yet still his pride might be gratified to ally his child to the house
of Bigorre, and to see his descendants attached to that noble class to
which he could not himself aspire. But then again, if he had really
accumulated so much wealth, as the conversation I had overheard had
intimated, he could easily match his daughter, with so rich a dower of
beauty as well as gold, amongst families as noble as my own, where no
such fearful objections existed as that which interposed between Helen
and myself. What needed I more? The weak youth, of whose passion for
her I had been made an unwitting confidant, with evidently high-birth
and proud connections, stood ready to unite himself to the daughter of
the low procureur of Lourdes, and give her that rank and station which
I doubted not that Arnault coveted. Helen, I was sure, would never
consent; and yet I teased myself with the dread, fancying all that
perseverance and the persuasions and commands of a parent might do
against an almost hopeless love.

While I thus alternately solaced myself with dwelling upon all the
sweetness, the beauty, the affection of her I loved, and tormenting
myself with imagining all that might separate us; epitomising in one
short hour the many fluctuating hopes and fears of a long human life;
to my surprise the darkness became less opaque, and by the grey which
gradually mingled with the black, I found that morning was
imperceptibly stealing upon night, so that my slumber must have lasted
more than twenty hours.

But a still greater surprise awaited me. Gradually as the day dawned,
one object after another struck me as resembling the furniture of the
little room which I had tenanted ever since I quitted the inn after my
arrival in Paris. Was I dreaming still? or had I dreamed? I asked
myself. Had all I had seen during the last two days been but a
delusion, or was I still labouring under some deception of my
imagination? But no! with the clear daylight it became evident that I
was there--in the little chamber I had hired in the Rue des Prêtres
St. Paul. There was the carved scrutoire, with its thousand grotesque
heads; there the old table which had acknowledged more than one
dynasty; there lay my clothes, my hat, my sword, as if I had left them
there on going to bed the night before; and nothing served to show
that the whole I have lately described was not a dream, except the
bruises on my shoulder and side, which smacked somewhat painfully of
reality. In about an hour afterwards, my good landlady came in, to ask
if I wanted anything; and from her I learned that I had been brought
home on a litter still sound asleep, by some persons she did not know,
who told her I had met with an accident, and bade her take great care
of me, enforcing their injunction with a piece of gold.

This was an effort of liberality on the part of Arnault which I had
not expected, either from his own character, which was notedly
avaricious, or from the general rule of nature, that the long habit of
accumulating small sums narrows the heart and leaves no room for any
generous feeling. I began to believe that I had been mistaken in his
character, and I tried, fondly, to persuade myself with a theory as
fallacious as any other of those fallacious things, theories, that the
father of so noble-spirited a girl as Helen, whose whole soul was
liberality, and her every thought a feeling, must, in some degree,
partake of the same nature, and possess hidden qualities which, when
called into action, would shine out and assert their kindred.

My good landlady, in common with all old women, had a strange
prejudice in favour of keeping those she looked upon as sick in bed;
but in spite of all her persuasions, I got up and dressed myself. My
first care was to examine what money I had left after the sad
dilapidation which the gaming-table had effected on my purse, though,
indeed, I expected to find that the tender-hearted gentleman who had
thrown me out of the window had charitably taken care that the few
crowns which had remained in my pocket should not weigh me down in my
descent.

My own purse, indeed, was gone; but in its place, to my no small
surprise, I found one containing a hundred louis d'ors. This, of
course, had come from Arnault, though how he came to know that I stood
in need of such supply I could not divine. For some time I remained
undetermined whether I should make use of the sum or not. Pride
whispered that Arnault had removed me from the neighbourhood of his
daughter, possibly to marry her to some one else; and should I then,
accept the vile roturier's bounty--his charity! At the same time
necessity urged that I had nothing but that for the daily wants of
life; that if I hoped ever to discover Helen's dwelling in that great
city, and having done so, never again to lose sight of her, I must
have the aid of that talismanic metal, whose touch discovers, and
secures, and perfects everything.

But a moment's reflection made me regard the question with better
feelings; Arnault had removed me from his daughter--true! but it was
because he believed me to be the murderer of his son; and he was
therefore justified in doing so. He had placed the money where I found
it, probably not out of charity, for he knew that I could easily repay
it ultimately, but to relieve me from a temporary necessity. There was
yet another supposition--perhaps Helen had placed it there herself.
Pride between me and Helen was out of the question; and there was
something so sweet in the very idea of following her wishes, even
though she knew it not, that I should have looked upon hesitation
after that supposition crossed my mind as the meanest of vanities. I
determined then to make use of the money thus placed at my disposal,
and to reimburse the donor, if Arnault, at a future period--if Helen
had been the giver, to repay her whenever I could discover her abode
by telling her I had used it well.

The effort of dressing had caused me a great deal of pain; and while I
sat down to rest myself afterwards, I sent a boy to inquire at my inn
in the _Rue du Prouvaires_, whether my little friend Achilles had
appeared there during my absence. In about an hour I heard the rush of
feet galloping up the stairs, with the rapidity of joy; the door flew
open, and in rushed Achilles--but no longer the Achilles I had left
him. The smart Spanish dress of which he had possessed himself at
Barcelona was gone. The hat, the plume, the sword, had given way to
all the external signs of poverty and want. His head was as bare as
when he came into the world; and his shoulders were covered with a
grey gown which had once belonged to a monk. The fashion of it,
indeed, had been somewhat altered, for the cowl had been made
serviceable in patching several momentous rents, which might otherwise
have exposed the little man's person somewhat more than decency
permitted.

"Well, Achilles," said I, when, the first transport of his joy at
finding me having passed away, I could find an opportunity of
speaking, "you seem to have been engaged in traffic since I saw you,
and not to have gained upon the exchange."

"Oh, you will pardon me, monseigneur!" replied he, grinning as merrily
as ever, "I have gained a vast fund of experience. I know that is a
sort of commodity the returns upon which are slow, but they are very
sure; and I will try to make the most of it."

"But from what I see," rejoined I, with somewhat, I am afraid, of a
cynical sneer at the light-heartedness which I could not myself
acquire, "I am afraid you paid very dear for your bargain."

"Not cheap, I confess," replied he: "somewhere about three hundred
pistoles, a good suit, a dozen of shirts, and a whipping through the
streets of Lyons--that is all."

"A whipping!" cried I; "that is a part of the account I did not reckon
upon, and not one of the most pleasant, I should conceive. But come,
Achilles, let us hear your story. It must be somewhat curious."

"Not very," answered Achilles; "but it is short, which is something in
favour of a story. After your lordship's departure, I embarked in the
boat for Lyons, as soon as it thought fit to sail, and we began our
long slow voyage up the river, which at first was very tedious. Soon,
however, I hit upon a way of amusing myself; for, seeing a respectable
old merchant of Lyons with a young lady, whom I took to be his
daughter, I went up and introduced myself to them as Monsieur le Comte
de Grilmagnac; told them that, preferring the easy gliding motion of
the river to the rumbling of a carriage, or the jolting of a horse, I
had sent my equipage and servants by land, and instantly began to make
love to the daughter.

"The old gentleman seemed so uneasy at the advances that I made in her
favour, that I began to fear he suspected me; and to do away all
doubt, when we stopped to dine, I took a handful of gold out of my
pocket, and asked what was to pay, with the air of a prince. The young
lady seemed ravished with the sight of the gold pieces; but my old
merchant grew more uneasy than ever, and always got between me and the
young lady when I wanted to speak with her, so that I began to grow
suspicious in my turn, and to doubt whether the tie between them was
not somewhat more tender than the relationship. This doubt induced me
to watch the pair more diligently than ever; for she was as beautiful
a girl as ever your worship set your worshipful eyes upon, and the old
gentleman as venerable an old piece of withered bamboo as ever fell
into sin in his dotage; so you may easily conceive I could not bear to
see such a rosebud withering upon such a desert.

"Well, this went on with various success till we arrived at Lyons, and
I cannot say my fair Phillis was at all inclined to second her
guardian's efforts to repulse me; so that we had time to arrange that
I should go to the _auberge_ of the _Lion d'or_, on our
disembarkation, and there wait a note from my fair enslaver. To the
_Lion d'or_ I went, and soon received a summons to fly to my charmer,
whom I found, as her _billet-doux_ intimated, waiting for me in a very
respectable lodging in the Rue St. Pierre.

"Here--her face half in tears, half in smiles, like the opening of an
April morning--she told me that she had now no friend but me; for that
her cruel tyrant, the instant of their arrival, had commanded her to
abandon me for ever. This the passion I had inspired her with would
not permit; and being too frank, she said, to deceive any one, she had
at once refused. A quarrel ensued--he had cast her off penniless; and
though she could instantly fly to the Baron d'Ecumoir, or the Marquis
de la Soupierre, she had preferred putting herself under my
protection; for she owned that she never loved any one but me.

"Though this was as sweet as honey, yet, as I well perceived that with
such a charmer's assistance my dearly beloved pistoles would soon fly
half over Lyons, I bethought myself seriously of the best means of
transferring her, with all speed, to the Marquis de la Soupierre.
However, to lull all suspicion of the waning state of my affection, I
prepared to entertain her handsomely, till good luck should furnish me
with the means of beating a quiet retreat; and accordingly sent to the
traiteur's for a good dinner, as the very best means of consoling a
distressed damsel.

"Over rich ragouts and heady burgundy the hours slipped lightly by,
and I could see in my little Phillis's sparkling eye her satisfaction
with the conquest she had made. Alas! that mortal joy should be so
transitive! In the midst of our happiness, care, and melancholy, and
gloom, and despite rushed suddenly upon us, in the form of four
ferocious archers, who pitilessly arrested Phillis on the charge of
having robbed her former venerable protector, and hurried me to prison
along with her as an accomplice.

"Phillis had taken care to hide the place of her retreat, but she knew
not the cunning of archers; and though, when they came, she protested
her innocence in terms that would have convinced the hard heart of
Minos, and won the unwilling ears of Rhadamanthus, yet, as the whole
of the stolen goods were found in her valise, the unfeeling archers
would not believe a word; and, as I have said before, we were both
hurried to prison, without any farther ceremony than taking from us
every farthing that we had in the world.

"The next morning we were brought before a magistrate, who reserved
Phillis's case for his private consideration. As to mine, as nothing
could be proved against me, except that I had called myself the Count
de Grilmagnac without being able clearly to prove all my quarters of
nobility, I was ordered to be whipped through the town for my
ignorance of heraldry, and then discharged. My whipping I bore with
Christian fortitude; but the loss of my doublet, which the executioner
kept for his fee, and the loss of my money, which the archers kept
because they liked it, tore my heartstrings; and setting out from that
accursed town of Lyons, where injustice and cruelty walk hand-in-hand,
I begged my way to Paris, and reached the famous hotel where you had
appointed me to meet you. There the landlord told me no such person as
your lordship resided, and bade me get out for a lazy beggar. A black
dog, that stood in the yard, instantly took up the matter where the
landlord left off, and I was in the act of making my escape from them
both when the boy you sent arrived, inquiring for me.

"The joy which took possession of my heart, I need not tell; suffice
it that I made the boy run all the way here, and that, having now
found you, I have determined never to leave you, or let you leave me
again; for while we were together nothing but good fortune attended
us, and since we have been separated nothing but ill-luck has been my
share; so that the only consolation I can have, will be to hear, that
while my scale was down, yours has been up, and that Dame Fortune has
at least befriended one of us."

I could not refuse to tell my history also to my little attendant,
though it occasioned less amusement to him than his had done to me;
and his face grew longer and longer at every incident I detailed, till
at last, passing over all that regarded Helen, I informed him that, on
being conveyed home I found my pocket encumbered with a hundred louis.

This news instantly cleared his countenance. "Who would not be thrown
out of window for a hundred louis?" cried he; "but Vive Dieu! your
excellency has suffered yourself to be desperately cheated in regard
to your ring. Six louis! If I know anything of diamonds, it was well
worth thirty. However, first let me exercise my chirurgical skill upon
your eminence's shoulder, and after that I will see whether the ring
cannot be recovered."

"Nay, nay," cried I, "my good Achilles, give me what titles of honour
you like, except your eminence; that is a rank which it might be
dangerous to usurp. Call me your majesty, if you like, but not your
eminence. As to the ring, I believe you are right, and I will
willingly give double what I received to recover it again."

"Less than that will do," replied Achilles; "a louis for me to buy
myself a suit at a fripier's, a louis for an _archer de la cour_, and
the sum you had originally received, and I think I can manage it."

I warned him, if I may use the homely proverb, not to go forth to
shear and come home shorn; and having suffered him to examine my
shoulder, gave him the address of the jeweller, and let him depart.

From my lodging, as he told me afterwards, he went to the shop of a
fripier, where he furnished himself with a decent suit of livery, and
thence proceeded to find out an archer of one of the courts of
justice, to whom he explained the affair, and gave half a louis as
earnest, promising the other half if the ring should be recovered. The
eloquence of the little player touched the tender heart of the archer,
at the same moment that the money touched his palm; and, shouldering
his partisan, without more ado he followed to the shop of the
jeweller. Achilles entered alone, and desiring to see some diamond
rings, made up a slight allegory to suit the occasion, informing the
jeweller that his master, the Count de l'Orme, had commissioned him to
buy him a handsome jewel, as a present for his mistress. The jeweller
instantly produced a case of rings, which he spread out before the
eyes of Achilles, commenting on their beauty. Achilles instantly
pitched upon the one I had sold, and asked the price. "Forty louis!"
replied the jeweller, "and I only sell it so cheap because I bought it
second-hand. I require no more than a fair profit. If I gain five per
cent., may I be branded for a rogue!"

"I will tell you a secret, jeweller," replied Achilles. "You are very
likely to be branded for a rogue. You bought this ring, knowing it to
be stolen." The jeweller stared. "It was taken from the person of my
noble lord the Count de l'Orme," proceeded Achilles, "when he was
knocked down and robbed in the Rue St. Jacques. One of the thieves is
taken--the very one who sold it to you--a tall, dark young man, with
curling hair, black moustache, and a beard not six months old. He says
you gave him six louis for it; and as you know it to be worth forty,
you must have been very well aware, when you bought it, that it was
stolen."

"Ho, ho!" cried the jeweller; "so you wish to cheat me out of my ring.
But come, my little man," he continued, catching Achilles by the
collar, "I will send for an archer, and see you safe lodged in prison,
without farther to do."

Achilles, according to his own account, took the matter very calmly.
"As to the archer," said he to the jeweller, "I thought to myself
before I came here, that a man who gave but six louis for a diamond
worth thirty might be somewhat refractory, and, therefore, I brought
one with me. Ho! archer! Without there?"

The jeweller, not a little confounded, instantly let go Achilles's
collar; and, as the archer marched in with his partisan, began to
shake in every limb, doubtless well aware that all his dealings would
not bear that strict examination which they were likely to undergo, if
chance should call the prying eyes of the law upon them.

"I take you to witness, archer," said Achilles, addressing his ally,
"that I have offered this jeweller the same price which the young man
swears he got for this ring, namely, six louis; and that he, the
jeweller, will not sell it for less than forty, which proves that he
knew it to be stolen."

"Certainly," said the archer, in a solemn tone.

"You never offered me the six louis," said the jeweller. "I never said
I would not part with it under forty. Give me the six, and take it,
and the devil give you good for it; for it is not worth more."

"Then you are a great rogue for having asked forty," replied Achilles,
with imperturbable composure: and, thereupon, he entered into solemn
consultation with the archer, as to whether he could safely and
legally give the money and take back the ring; as it was evident the
jeweller was an accomplice of thieves, and ought to be brought to
justice.

"Gentlemen," cried the terrified jeweller at length, alarmed at all
the awful catalogue of pros and cons which Achilles and the archer
banded about between them, "I declare, on my salvation, I knew nothing
of the ring being stolen. I thought the person who brought it here was
some poor gentleman, pressed for money, who would sell it for
anything; and, therefore, I offered six louis for it. All I ask back
is what I gave, and I am content to present this worthy archer with a
gold piece to compensate the trouble he has had."

"Give him the money," said the archer, "give him the money, and take
the ring, we must not be too hard upon the poor devil."

The money was accordingly given, the archer received his fee, and
Achilles carried off the ring to me in triumph; not only having had
the satisfaction of biting the biter, but also having won the warm
friendship of an archer of the Court of Aides, which, to a man of his
principles and practice, was a most invaluable acquisition.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


Achilles, on his return, amused me with the account I have just given,
while he rubbed my shoulder with some unguent, bought for the purpose;
and, though I was not over well pleased at having been played off as a
robber, with so particular a description also as he had given of my
person, yet I was not at all sorry that the jeweller had been pinched
for his roguery, and not a little rejoiced with the recovery of my
ring.

As I have before said, the little player, though as cunning as a
sharper in some matters, was in others as simple as a child; and, like
a boy with his first crown-piece, fortune never gave him any sum,
however small, but he seemed to think it inexhaustible. Thus, from
time to time, he found so many delightful ways of employing my hundred
louis, that, had I followed his advice, one single day would have seen
me at the end of all my riches: but I soon put a stop to the building
of his castles in the air, by informing him that I intended to live
with the most rigid economy, till such time as I had an opportunity of
writing to my father; at the same time begging him to make up his mind
to follow my example, if he still held his intention of remaining with
me.

"Oh, very well, monseigneur, very well," cried he, gaily, "anything
contents me. I _can_ live upon ortolans and stewed eels, but I do not
object to onion soup and a crust of bread. Nay, when the soup cannot
be had, the crust must serve."

Having arranged in my own mind all my plans for pursuing my economical
system as strictly as possible, I sat down to the long-deferred task
of writing to my father: for now that I had seen Helen, half the
difficulty was removed. No matter what were the contents of the letter
which I wrote; it never went. Posts, in those days, were not the
regular mechanical contrivances which our present glorious monarch has
instituted for the purpose of facilitating the communication of every
part of his dominions with the others. Couriers, indeed, passed to and
fro from one part of the empire to another, carrying the letters of
individuals, as well as the despatches of the state; but all the
arrangements concerning them were much in the same state as Louis XI.
had left them. Their departure from Paris was at uncertain and
irregular times; and their journeys were generally directed towards
the principal cities, having either commercial or political relations
with the capital. The difficulty, therefore, of conveying anything to
a remote and little frequented part of the empire delayed my letter
for some time; and before an opportunity presented itself,
circumstances had changed.

In the meanwhile, I employed my mornings in searching for the mansion
wherein I had seen Helen; but, although aided by all the wit of little
Achilles, to whom I communicated enough information to guide him on
the search, I wandered through the streets of Paris in vain, watching
the opening gates of every large hotel I saw, in the hope of beholding
the livery in which the servants I had seen were dressed, and forcing
my recollection to recall the appearance of the archway under which I
had been carried, till a thousand times I deceived myself into hope,
and as often encountered disappointment.

Once only I thought myself sure of the discovery. The porte-cochère of
a house near the Place Royale struck me as the very same I had passed,
while borne upon the _brancard_ by the servants. Every ornament, every
pillar was there, as far as I could remember. There were the curious
Gothic mouldings upon which the torch-light had flashed as we passed
through--there were the two immense couchant bears carved in stone on
each side of the arch, on the back of one of which the bearers had
rested the litter, while their companions opened the gates. Everything
seemed the same; and, taking my stand under the porch of the monastery
of the Minims, I kept watch for two hours, till a servant coming out,
showed me, to my surprise, a livery totally different from that which
I had both hoped and expected to see.

It may be asked what was my object in thus seeking for Helen, when I
knew, when I felt that my union with her was impossible--when at the
very thought her brother's spirit seemed to rise up before me, and,
with the same ghastly look which he had worn in death, bid me forget
such hopes for ever. Why did I seek her? No one that has loved will
ever ask. I sought her for the bright brief happiness which the
presence of the loved still gives, after every expectation is crushed
and withered. I sought her with that dreamy sort of lingering with
which a mother hangs over the frail clay of her dead child. My hopes
were blighted, my happiness was gone; and yet the very object that
most nourished my regret was that on which I could look most fondly,
and which I sought with the most anxious, most unremitting care.

Thus passed my mornings, in fruitless search and continual
disappointment. My evenings flew in a different manner, not in
studying "_The Sure Way of Winning_," or in practising its precepts,
for such a horror had seized me of that hell-invented vice, gaming,
and of all that appertains to it, that my first care had been to throw
the book I had bought into the fire. The temporary passion which had
seized me, I looked upon, and can almost look upon now, as a fit of
insanity; for taught as I had been from my infancy to abhor its very
name, nothing but absolute madness could have hurried me to a vice at
once so degrading and so dangerous--which, as far as regards the mind,
is in fact, at best, a combination of avarice and frenzy. I had now
bought myself a variety of books on military tactics, and, without any
defined purpose in the study, I spent my whole evenings in poring over
these treatises of attack and defence--a greater and a nobler species
of gambling than that which I had quitted, it is true, but only less
mad, inasmuch as it is a game which any one nation can compel another
to play, and where those must lose who have not studied to win.

I also went occasionally to a hall that an Italian fencer had fitted
up in the Rue Pavée for the purpose of turning a high reputation he
had acquired in Europe into ready money. Here the room, which was
furnished with all sorts of arms offensive and defensive, was well
lighted every night, and the assembled company either formed
practising parties amongst themselves, or took lessons from the
Italian himself, who was one of the most athletic men I ever beheld,
and certainly a most complete master of his weapons.

My father, I have said, was perhaps the most skilful swordsman of his
day; and he had taken care that his son should not be wanting in an
accomplishment in which he was such a proficient. I was, therefore,
certainly more than equal in point of skill to any one who frequented
the Italian's hall, and very nearly a match for himself. This,
however, seemed rather to give him pleasure than otherwise; and
whenever I entered he saluted me with the respect which he
enthusiastically imagined due to every one skilful in the noble
science of arms, frequently inviting me to stretch my limbs with him
in an assault, and taking a delight in showing me all the minute
refinements of his art.

This was the sole diversion I allowed myself, though while I mingled
with the crowds where I knew no one, and wandered through the streets
where I was a stranger, a sad feeling of loneliness--of miserable
desolation--crept over my heart, and I returned to my lodging in the
evening, grave, melancholy, and discontented.

Although there were now several companies of actors continually at
Paris, to the play I never went, that being a sort of amusement too
costly for the narrow bounds to which I had restrained my expenses;
and, indeed, so strictly economical was I in all my habits, that my
good landlady began to fancy me in want, and to show her commiseration
for my condition by all those little delicate pieces of charity which
a person who has felt both pride and suffering knows how to evince
towards those whose spirit has not yet wholly bowed to its fate. Any
little delicacy which fell in her way, she would add it to the
breakfast that Achilles brought me from the traiteur's. Nor did she
ever ask for her rent, but rather avoided me on those days when it
became due; though I believe, in truth, she needed it not a little.

I understood her motives; and though I did not choose to undeceive
her, I took care that she should not be a loser by the kindness which
she showed me. Finding in her also a delicacy of feeling and
refinement of conversation which were above her station, I would
sometimes, when any chance led me to speak with her, endeavour to
ascertain whether her situation had ever been more elevated than that
which she at present filled; and on one of these occasions, she told
me gratuitously that she had been in former years governante to the
beautiful Henriette de Vergne, whose private marriage with the Count
de Bagnols I have already mentioned more than once.

She was surprised to find that I was acquainted with so much of the
history, of which she knew very little more herself. "As I was found
to have been privy to the marriage," said she, "I was sent away
directly, and denied all communication with my young lady, after it
was discovered; but I saw the bloody spot where the poor count was
slain, and the dents of the feet where the struggle had passed; and a
fearful struggle it must have been, for two of the Marquis of St.
Brie's men remained ill at the village for weeks afterwards, and no
one was allowed to see them but his own surgeon. One of them died
also; and his confession was said to be so strange, that the priest
sent to Rome to know how far he was justified in keeping it secret.
After that I came to Paris; and I heard no more of the family, which
all went to ruin, except, indeed, some one told me that my young lady
died shortly afterwards in a convent at Auch."

As I was, of course, anxious to transmit the papers which chance had
placed in my hands, to any of the surviving members of the Count de
Bagnols' family, I inquired particularly what information she could
give me concerning them; but she was more ignorant of everything
relating to them than even myself.

One morning, on my return from my vain searching after Helen, I was
surprised on being informed that a stranger had inquired for me during
my absence, and had begged the landlady to inform me that he would
call again in the evening.

Where reason has no possible clue to guide her through the labyrinth
of any doubt she pauses at the gate, while imagination seems to step
the more boldly in; and, as if in mockery of her timid companion,
sports through every turning till she either finds the track by
accident, or, tired of wandering through the inexplicable maze, she
spreads her Dædalian wings and soars above the walls that would
confine her. I had no cause to believe that one person sought me more
than another, and yet my fancy set to work as busily as if she had the
most certain data to reason from. My first thoughts immediately turned
to Arnault, and my next to the Chevalier de Montenero; and so strange
was the ascendency which the last had gained over my mind, that the
very idea of meeting with him inspired me with as much joy as if all
my difficulties had been removed; but the description given in answer
to my inquiries at once put to flight such a supposition. The
stranger, my landlady informed me, was evidently a clergyman by his
dress, and by his manner and appearance she guessed him to be one of a
distinguished rank. It was, therefore, evidently neither the Chevalier
nor Arnault, and the only supposition I could form upon the subject
was that the Cardinal de Richelieu had at length deigned to take some
notice of me.

My disposition was naturally impatient of all expectation, and the
dull heaviness of the last week, which I had passed day after day in
the same fruitless pursuit, had worked me up to a pitch of irritable
anxiety, which people of a different temperament can hardly imagine. I
wearied imagination, I exhausted conjecture; I hoped, I feared, I
doubted, till day waned and night came; and, giving up all expectation
of seeing the stranger that evening, I cursed him heartily for having
said he would come, and not keeping his word, and sat down once more
to my theory of tactics. I had scarcely, however, got through one
quarter of a campaign, when the rapid motion of Achilles' feet on the
stairs announced news of some kind, and in a moment after he threw
open the door, giving admission to a stranger.

The person who entered was not much older than myself; he was tall and
apparently well-made, but his clerical dress served him a good deal in
this respect, concealing a pair of legs which were somewhat clumsy,
and not the straightest in the world. His head was one of the finest I
have ever seen; and his face, without, perhaps, possessing, one
feature that was regularly handsome, except the full rounded chin and
the broad expanse of forehead, instantly struck and pleased, giving
the idea of great powers of mind joined with a light and brilliant wit
that sparkled playfully in his clear dark eye. He bowed low as he
entered, and advanced towards a seat, which I begged of him to take,
with that quietness of motion which, without being stealthy, is silent
and calm, and is ever a sign of high breeding and good society. I made
Achilles a sign to withdraw; and expressing myself honoured by the
stranger's visit, begged to know whether I was to attribute it to any
particular object, or merely to his kind politeness towards a
stranger.

"If there were any kindness in doing a pleasure to oneself," replied
the stranger, "I would willingly take the credit of it; but in the
present instance, as the gratification is my own, I cannot pretend to
any merit."

This answer was somewhat too vague to satisfy me; and I replied, that
"I was fully sensible of the honour done me; and would have much
pleasure in returning his visit, when I knew where I might have the
opportunity."

My method of receiving him, as equal with equal, seemed, I thought,
somewhat to surprise him; for, half closing his eyes, in a manner
which seemed common to him, he glanced round my small apartment with a
scrutinizing look, too brief to be impertinent, and yet too remarking
to escape my notice. "I shall esteem myself honoured by your visit,"
replied he, at length; "I am but a poor abbé,--my name Jean de Gondi,
and you will find me for the present at the house of my uncle, the
Duke de Retz."

It was, indeed, the famous abbé, afterwards Cardinal de Retz, with
whom I was then in conversation. Not yet three and twenty years of
age, he had already acquired one of the most singular reputations that
ever man possessed. Daring, intriguing, and ambitious, nothing daunted
him in his enterprises, nothing repelled him in their course. Storms
and tumults were his element; and when, before he was seventeen, he
wrote his famous "_Conjuration de Fiesque_," he seemed to point out
the scene in which he was himself destined to act, to which nature
prompted him from the first, and circumstances called him in the end.
In his manner, there was a strange mixture of calm suavity,
thoughtless vivacity, policy, frankness, and pride, which, combined
together, served perhaps better to cover his immediate motives, and
hide his real character, than the appearance of any uniform habit of
mind which he could have assumed.

All men contain within themselves strange contradictions; but he was
the only one I ever knew, who, upon the most mature reflection, acted
in continual contradiction to himself. He would often put in practice
the most consummate strokes of policy to gain a trifle, or to satisfy
an appetite; and he would commit the most egregious follies and affect
the most extravagant passions, to hide the shrewdest political schemes
and conceal the best calculated and most subtle enterprises. He was a
man on whom one could never calculate with certainty. It seemed his
pleasure to disappoint whatever expectations had been formed of him;
and yet, to hear him reason, one would have judged that the slightest
action of his life was regulated by strong conclusions from fixed
unvarying principles.

I had heard his character from many others, as well as from the
Marquis de St. Brie; but as this last gentleman had calculated, when
he sketched it to me, that my life would be limited to three days at
the utmost, he could have had no possible motive in deceiving me.

With this knowledge of his character, then, it required no great
discernment to see that the visit of De Retz was not without an
object; and resolving, if it were possible, to ascertain precisely
what that object was, I bowed on his announcing himself, and said, "Of
course, Monsieur de Retz, it is needless for me to give you my name.
You were certainly aware of that before you did me the honour of this
visit."

"No, indeed!" replied he; "I am perfectly ignorant both of your name
and rank, though, by your appearance, and by all I have heard of you,
I can have no doubt in regard to the latter. The truth is, I was
informed by persons on whom I could depend, that a young gentleman of
singularly prepossessing appearance and manners had taken this
apartment, and was supposed to be under some temporary difficulty."

I turned very red, I believe; but he proceeded. "People will talk of
their neighbours' affairs, you know; and 'tis useless to be angry with
them--but hearing this, as I have said, I felt an irresistible impulse
to visit you, and to render you any assistance in my power. Nor will I
regret it, even if I have been misinformed, inasmuch as it has gained
me the pleasure of your acquaintance."

With such a speech there was no possible means of being offended,
though I felt not a little angry at my affairs having been made
matters of commiseration throughout the town. I was rather inclined to
believe also, that the trouble which M. de Retz had given himself did
not originate entirely in benevolence. I did not doubt that charity
might have some part therein, for he had acquired a reputation, which
I believe he deserved, for generous feeling towards the sufferings of
his fellow-creatures; but the motives of men are so mixed that it is
in vain tracing their original source. Like a great stream, the course
of human action arises very often in five or six different fountains,
each of which has nearly the same right as the others to be considered
the head: and besides this, in flowing on from its commencement to its
end, it receives the accession of a thousand other different currents,
so that at the last not one drop in a million is the pure water which
welled from any individual source.

I was very sure, therefore, of doing Monsieur de Retz no great
injustice in supposing that his benevolence might be tinged with other
feelings; and I replied, "I should be sorry, sir, that a mistake had
given you the trouble of coming here, did I not derive so much benefit
from that false rumour. My name is the Count de l'Orme, and I am happy
that the bounty you proposed to exercise upon me may be turned towards
some other person more needing and deserving it than I do."

"Be not offended, Monsieur de l'Orme," replied De Retz, "at a mistake
which has nothing in it dishonouring. Poverty is much oftener a virtue
than wealth. But your name strikes me--De l'Orme!--Surely that was not
the name of the young gentleman that his highness the Count de
Soissons expected to join him from Bearn--oh, no, I remember! it was
Count Louis de Bigorre."

"But no less the same person," replied I, with an unspeakable joy at
seeing the clouds break away that had hung over my fate--at finding
myself known and expected where I had fancied myself solitary amongst
millions. I felt as if at those few words I leapt over the barrier
which had confined me to my own loneliness, and mingled once more in
the society of my fellows. "I have always," continued I, "been called
Count Louis de Bigorre; but circumstances induced me, when I left my
father's house, to assume the title which really belongs to the eldest
son of the Counts of Bigorre."

Monsieur de Retz saw that there was some mystery in my conduct, and he
applied himself to discover my secret with an art and industry which
would have accomplished much greater things. Nor did I take any great
pains to conceal it from him. It is astonishing how weakly the human
heart opens to any one who brings it glad news. The citadel of the
mind throws wide all its gates to receive the messenger of joy, and
takes little heed to secure the prisoners that are within. In the
course of half an hour my new acquaintance had made himself acquainted
with the greater part of my history; and when I began to think of
putting a stop to my communication, I found that the precaution was of
no use.

The moment, however, that he saw me begin to retire into myself, he
turned the conversation again to the Count de Soissons, whom he
advised me to seek without loss of time. "You will find in him," said
he, "all that is charming in human nature. In his communion with
society, he had but one fault originally; which was great haughtiness.
He knew that it was a fault, and has had the strength of mind to
vanquish it completely; so that you will see in him one of the most
affable men that France can boast. In regard to his private character,
you must make your own discoveries. The great mass of a man's mind,
like the greater part of his body, he takes care to cover, so that no
one shall judge of its defects except they be very prominent; and
there are, thank God, as few that have hump-backed minds, as
hump-backed persons! Indeed, it has become a point of decency to
conceal every thing but the face even of the mind, and none but
tatterdemalions and sans culottes ever suffer it to appear in its
nakedness. To follow my figure, then, Monsieur le Comte is always
well-dressed, so that you will find it difficult to know him; but,
however, it is not for me to undress him for you. Take my advice, set
out for Sedan to-morrow, where, of course, you know he is--driven from
his country by the tyrannizing spirit of our detested and detestable
cardinal. I rather think the Count intends to initiate you somewhat
deeply into politics, but that must be his own doing also. Break your
fast with me to-morrow, and I will give you letters and more
information. Is it an engagement?"

I accepted the invitation with pleasure; and having answered one or
two questions which I put to him, M. de Retz left me for the night.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


Before I proceed farther with my own narrative, it may be as well to
take a slight review of the history of the Count de Soissons, whose
fate had a great effect upon the course of my whole future life. Nor
is it here unworthy of remark, how strangely events are brought about
by Providence, while we walk blind and darkling through this misty
existence, groping our way onward on a path from which we cannot
deviate. An accidental word, a casual action, will change the whole
current of life, make a hermit of a monarch, and a monarch of a
shepherd: as we sometimes see near the head of a stream a small
hillock that a dwarf could stride turn the course of a mighty river
far from the lands it flowed towards at first, and send its waters
wandering over other countries to kingdoms, and oceans, and
hemispheres afar.

The ancient county of Vendome was in the year 1515 erected into a
duchy by Francis I., in favour of Charles de Bourbon, a direct lineal
descendant from Robert Count de Clermont, fifth son of Saint Louis.
Charles de Bourbon, thus Duke of Vendome, left five sons, only two of
whom had children, Antoine the elder, and Louis the younger. The
first, by his marriage with Jeanne d'Albret, became King of Navarre,
and left one only son, who, by default of the line of Valois,
succeeded to the crown of France, under the title of Henri Quatre.
Louis, the younger brother, became Prince of Condé; and having been
twice married, left a family by each wife. By his first marriage
descended the branch of Condé, and by the second, he left one son,
Charles Count de Soissons, whose son Louis is the Prince referred to
in the foregoing pages.

Setting out in life with great personal activity and address, immense
revenues, considerable talents, and high rank, it is little to be
wondered at that the young Count de Soissons, under the management of
a weak, an indulgent, and a proud mother, should grow up with the most
revolting haughtiness of character. From morning till night he heard
of nothing but his own praises or his own rank; and by the time he was
eighteen, his pride of demeanour was so repulsive and insupportable,
that it was a common saying, that "No one saw the Count de Soissons
twice; for if he did not dislike them and forbid them to return, they
were disgusted with him and would not go back."

But as the fault was more in his education than in his disposition,
its very excess corrected itself.

He gradually found himself avoided by those whom Heaven had designed
for his companions, and sometimes even deserted by his very servants;
so that he was often left alone to enjoy his rank and dignity by
himself. Under these circumstances he evinced qualities of mind far
superior to the petty vice which shrouded it. He had equally the
wisdom to see that the fault lay in himself, the judgment to discover
in what that fault consisted, and the energy to conquer it entirely.
Not a trace of it remained in his manners; nor did any of his actions,
but upon one occasion, ever give cause to suppose that a touch of his
former haughtiness rested even in the inner recesses of his heart.
With a rare discrimination, also, of which few are master, in the
examination to which he subjected his own character, he separated
completely the good from the bad, and took the utmost care to preserve
that dignity of mind which is the best preservation against base and
petty vices, even while he cast from him the pride which is in itself
a meanness.

Many men, in correcting themselves of the vices of a bad education,
would have felt some degree of bitterness towards the person to whose
weakness that education and its vices were owing; but towards his
mother the Count de Soissons ever remained a pattern of filial
affection, consulting her wishes and inclination on every occasion
where his own honour and character were not interested in opposing
her.

The consequences of the change which he had effected in himself were
not long in rewarding him for the effort he had made, and in a very
few years he found that affection followed him every where instead of
hate. The bright qualities of his mind, and the graces of his person,
shone out with a new light, like the glorious sun bursting through a
cloud. He was adored by the army, loved by the people; and princes
were proud to be his friends.

At this time, however, the councils of France became embarrassed and
disordered; and it was difficult even to run one's course quietly
through life, so many were the dangers and evils that lurked about on
all sides. Every step was upon an earthquake, and few could keep their
footing steadily to the end. The Cardinal de Richelieu had already
snatched the reins of government from the feeble hands that should
have held them, and saw before him a wide field of power and
aggrandisement, with few to oppose his putting in the sickle and
reaping to his heart's content. The power, the wealth, the popularity
of the Count de Soissons, gave him the opportunity of so opposing, had
he been so minded; and Richelieu was not a man to live in fear. He
resolved, therefore, to win him, or to crush him. To win him offered
most advantages, if it could be accomplished; and deeming also that it
would be more easy than the other alternative, Richelieu resolved to
attempt it. For this purpose he united, in one Circean cup, everything
that he fancied could tempt the ambition or passions of him he sought
to gain. By a confidential messenger he proposed to the Count the hand
of his favourite niece, the Duchess d'Aquillon, offering as her dower
an immense sum of ready money, the reversion of all his own enormous
possessions, the sword of Constable of France, and what provincial
government the Count might choose; and doubtless he deemed such an
offer irresistible.

Not so the Count de Soissons, who conceived himself insulted by the
proposal; and the only spark of his ancient haughtiness that remained
breaking forth into a flame, he struck the messenger for daring to
propose the hand of Marie de Vignerot, widow of a mean provincial
gentleman, to a prince of the blood-royal of France.

Contemned and rejected, personal resentment became added to the other
motives which urged Richelieu to the destruction of the Count de
Soissons. Personal resentments never slept with him; they lived while
he lived, nor were they even weakened by sickness and approaching
death. No means but one existed of gratifying his animosity towards
the Count de Soissons; which was, to implicate him with some of the
conspiracies which were every day breaking forth against the tyranny
of the government. But even this was difficult; for, though living
with princely splendour, the Count continued to reside in the midst of
the court, where all his actions were open, and nothing could be
attributed to him on which to found an accusation. Hatred, however, is
ingenious; a thousand petty vexations were heaped upon him, and, in
the end, even personal insult was added, but without effect.

The Count firmly resisted all the temptations which were held out to
him to sully himself with any of the intrigues of the day. The
solicitations of his friends, or the persecutions of his enemies, were
equally in vain; and, when human patience could no longer endure the
grievances to which he was subjected at the court of France, he left
it for Italy, bearing with him the love and regret of the noblest of
his countrymen.

A retreat, however, which left him free, unstained, and happy, neither
quieted the fears, nor appeased the hatred of Richelieu; but, forced
to dissemble, he gradually appeared to abandon his evil intentions,
invited the Count to return, and one by one made him such proposals as
were likely to efface his former conduct, without exciting suspicion
by a sudden change. The Prince was not competent to cope with so deep
an adept in the art of deceit; and, though still remembering with
indignation the insults that had been offered him, he suffered himself
to be persuaded that they would not be repeated, and returned to the
court of France.

The minister lost no time, and at length effected his object. On his
return, the Count found the best laws of the state defeated,
individual liberty lost, and the public good sacrificed to the
particular interests of one ambitious man. Richelieu took care that a
thousand new affronts should mix a full portion of personal enmity
with the Count's more patriotic feelings, and in the end the prince
suffered himself to be led into the conspiracy of Amiens.

The weak and fickle Duke of Orleans had been placed in command over
the Count de Soissons, at the siege of Corbie; and, brought in closer
union from this circumstance than they had ever been before, the two
princes had various opportunities of communicating their grievances,
and concerting some means of crushing the tyranny which at once
affected themselves personally, and the whole kingdom. There were not
wanting many to urge that the assassination of the cardinal was the
only sure way of terminating his dominion; but as the consent of the
Count de Soissons could never be obtained to such a measure, it was
determined to arrest the minister at the council at Amiens, and submit
his conduct to the judgment of a legal tribunal. The irresolution of
the Duke of Orleans suspended the execution of their purpose at the
moment most favourable for effecting it, and before another
opportunity presented itself the conspiracy was discovered; and the
Duke of Orleans fled to Blois, while Monsieur le Comte (as the Count
de Soissons was usually called) retired across the country to the
strong town of Sedan, the gates of which were willingly thrown open to
him by the Duke of Bouillon, who, though a vassal of France, still
held that important territory between Luxembourg and Champagne, in
full and unlimited sovereignty.

Here the prince paused in security, well aware that Richelieu would
never dare to attempt the siege of so strong a place as Sedan, while
pressed on every side by the wars he himself had kindled; and here
also he was, at the time of my arrival in Paris, though in a very
different situation from that in which he at first stood in Sedan.[7]



CHAPTER XXXV.


The memory of what we have done, without the aid of vanity, would be
little better, I believe, than a congregation of regrets. Even in the
immediate review of a conversation just passed, how many things do we
find which we have forgotten to say, or which might have been said
better, or ought not to have been said at all! After Monsieur de Retz
was gone, I looked back over the half hour he had spent with me, and
instantly remembered a thousand questions which I ought to have asked
him, and a thousand things on which I had better have been silent. I
felt very foolish, too, on remembering that I had proposed to draw
from him all his purposes; and yet that he had made himself master of
the greater part of my history, while I remained as ignorant of the
real object of his visit as if he had never come at all.

My resolution, however, was taken to follow his advice in the matter
of going to Sedan. My reasons for so doing--or rather my motives, for
reasons, nine times in ten, are out of the question in man's
actions--were manifold. I despaired of finding Helen. I was a-weary of
that great heap of stones called Paris, where I knew no one; and I had
upon me one of those fits of impatience, which would have made me run
into the very jaws of destruction to cast off the listlessness of
existence.

My eyes had been fixed upon the table while making these reflections;
and, on raising them, I found Achilles standing opposite to me,
looking in my face with much the air of a dog who sees his master
eating his dinner, and standing upon its hind-legs begs for its share
too. I could as plainly read in the twinkling little grey eyes of the
ci-devant player, and the lack-a-daisical expression of his mouth,
"Pray let me hear the news," as if it had been written in large
letters on his forehead.

"Achilles!" said I--willing to gratify him in the most unpleasant way
possible--a thing one often feels inclined to do to another, after
having somewhat severely schooled oneself--"Achilles, I am going to
leave you."

"I beg your pardon, monseigneur," replied he, calmly, "but that is
quite impossible. You can hardly go anywhere, where I will not follow
you."

"But listen," rejoined I--"I am about to set off for Sedan. I ride
post; and you can as much ride post as you can----"

"Ride to the devil," said Achilles, interrupting me. "I should not
find that very difficult, monseigneur; but I will ride the devil
himself, sooner than part with you again; so, make your noble mind up
to be hunted like a stag from Paris to Sedan, unless you let me ride
quietly by your side."

Though it required no augur's skill to foresee that little Achilles
would prove a great incumbrance on the road, yet, as I found him so
determined on going, I did not object; and bidding him prepare
everything the next morning to set out as soon as I returned from the
Hôtel de Retz, I went to bed and slept soundly till the dawn.

At the hour appointed, I proceeded to keep my engagement; and on
entering the court of the Hôtel de Retz, I found myself suddenly
immersed in all the noise and bustle of a great family's household. It
put me in mind of the tales which our old _maître d'hôtel_ used to
tell of the Château de l'Orme, in the days which he remembered; when,
as he expressed it, there were always a hundred horses in the stable,
and fifty gentlemen in the hall ready to mount at a word of my
grandfather's mouth, and there was nothing but jingling of spurs
except when there was jingling of glasses; and the glittering of arms
in the courtyard was only succeeded by glittering of knives at the
table.

I was immediately shown to the apartments of the Abbé de Retz, where I
found him surrounded by the servants and gentlemen of his own suite,
which was numerous and splendid, in exactly the same proportion as his
personal appearance was simple and unostentatious.

On my arrival, he rose and embraced me; and dismissing his attendants,
presented me with two letters addressed to the Count de Soissons,
which he requested me to deliver--the one from himself, the other from
the Duke of Orleans. "I need not bid you be careful of them," said he,
as he gave the two packets into my hands: "each of them contains as
much treason as would make the executioner's axe swing merrily."

This was rather a startling piece of information; and I believe that
my face, that unfaithful betrayer of secrets, showed in some degree
how much heavier the letters appeared to me after I had heard such
news of their contents. "You seem surprised," said De Retz; "but you
have lived so far from the court that you know not what is going on
there. I do not suppose that there is one man of rank besides yourself
in this great city, who has not qualified himself for the Bastile, or
the Place de Grève. Do you not know that everything with Frenchmen
depends upon fashion? and, let me tell you, that treason is now the
fashion; and that a man that could walk across the court of the Palais
Cardinal, with his head steady upon his shoulders, would be looked
upon by our _belles dames_ as either mean-spirited or under-bred, and
scouted from society accordingly."

"I am afraid that I am within the category," replied I, "for I do not
know anything which should make my head tremble there, or in any other
place."

"Oh, fear not! fear not!" answered Monsieur de Retz. "You will
find Monsieur le Comte de Soissons surrounded by persons who will
speedily put you in the way of as much treason as is necessary to
good-breeding. But let them not lead you too far. Our breakfast is by
this time served in my private dining-hall," he added: "I will send
away the servants; and while we satisfy our hunger, I will give you so
much insight into the characters of the party assembled at Sedan, as
may be necessary to your safety." Thus saying, he led me to a room on
the same floor, where we found a small table spread with various
delicacies, and covers laid for three.

"Remove that cover," said Monsieur de Retz to one of the servants;
"Monsieur de Lizieux is so much past his time that I am afraid he will
not come--and now leave us!" he added; and then, as soon as the room
was clear, "The truth is," said he, "I never expected the good Bishop
of Lizieux, but I told the servants to place a cover for him, because
he is a great friend of the Cardinal de Richelieu; and it could not
get abroad that I was plotting with a stranger, when it is known that
I expected the great enemy of all plots in the person of the worthy
prelate." And he smiled while he told me this piece of art, piquing
himself more upon such petty cunning than upon all the splendid
qualities which his mind really possessed. Yet such perhaps is man's
nature, valuing himself upon things that are contemptible, and very
often affecting, himself, the same follies he condemns in others.

"I give you nothing but fish, you will perceive," said Monsieur de
Retz, as we sat down, "this being a meagre day of our church. Though,
indeed, neither the fasting nor mortification are very great, yet I
always keep these fish days. It is a very reputable method of
devotion, and gains friends amongst the _poissardes_,--no
insignificant class."

As we proceeded with our meal, he gave me the sketches he had
promised. "Of Monseigneur le Duc de Bouillon," he said, "I shall say
nothing, except that, being a great man and sovereign in his town of
Sedan, I would advise you to show him all respect and attention;
without, however, attaching yourself too strongly to what I may call
his party. Near the person of the count himself, you will find
Monsieur de Varicarville, a man of talent and of sense, moderate in
his passions, firm in his principles, and devotedly attached to the
interest of his lord. A very few days' communication with him will
show you that this statement is correct; and in the meanwhile I will
give you a note to him, which will lead him to open himself to you
more than he would do to a stranger. Another person you will meet is
Monsieur de Bardouville, a man of very good intentions, but with so
muddy a brain, that whatever is placed there, good or bad, sticks so
tenaciously that there is no getting it out. He has been converted to
a wrong party, and does all in his power to hurry Monsieur le Comte
into schemes that would prove his ruin."

"But if his intentions are so good," said I, "were it not worth while
to attempt, at least, to bring him over to better opinions by reason?"

"No, no!" answered De Retz. "One makes a very foolish use of reason
when one employs it on those who have none. Let him alone, Monsieur de
l'Orme. The only man who ever made anything of his head, was the man
that cut it in marble; and then, as Voiture said, he had better have
left it alone, as the bust was not a bit softer than the original.
But to proceed: take notice of Campion, one of the chief domestics
of Monsieur le Comte. He is a man of great probity and sound
judgment--one that you may confide in. You have now _my opinion_ of
the principal persons with whom you will be brought in contact, but of
course you will form your own;" and drawing in his eyes, he considered
me for a moment through the half-closed lids, as if he would have read
in my face what impression all he had said had made upon me.

I could not help smiling, for I saw that the facility with which he
had drawn my history from me the night before had given him no very
high idea of my intellectual powers, and I replied, still smiling, "Of
course, Monsieur de Retz, I _shall_ form my own opinion. I always do,
of every one I meet with."

He did not well understand the smile; and, never contented unless he
read all that was passing in the mind of those with whom he spoke, he
opened his eyes full, and with a frank laugh asked me what I thought,
then, of himself.

I have often remarked that perfect candour sometimes puts the most
wily politician to fault, more than any imitation of his own
doublings; and I replied at once--though I believe there was some
degree of pique in my doing so too--"If you would know frankly what I
think of you, Monsieur de Retz, you must hear what I think of your
conduct since we first met, for that is all that I can personally
judge of."

"Well, well!" replied he, "speak of that, and I will confess if you
are right."

"In respect to your coming to me last night, then," replied I, "I
think you had some motive of which I am not aware." A slight flush
passed over his face, and then a smile, and he nodded to me to go on.
"In regard to the valuable information you have given me to-day, and
for which you have my thanks, I think that the cause of your giving it
is something like the following:--you have some interest in the
proceedings of his highness the Count de Soissons."

"None but his own, upon my honour," interrupted De Retz.

"Granted!" replied I. "Of that I do not pretend to judge; but there
are evidently two parties about the prince, one urging him one way,
and one another. You, Monsieur de Retz, are attached to one of these
parties; and you are very glad of the opportunity of our accidental
meeting, to bias me in favour of that side to which you yourself
adhere, and to throw me--though a person of very little
consequence--into the hands of those with whom you yourself
co-operate. I doubt not," I added, with a smile and a bow, "that your
opinion is perfectly correct, and that to your party I shall finally
adhere, if his highness thinks fit to retain me near his person; but
of course it will be the more gratifying to you to find that I embrace
your opinions more from conviction than persuasion."

I am afraid my politeness had taken somewhat of a triumphant tone,
upon the strength of my supposed discernment; and, even before I had
done speaking, I was aware of my error, and felt that I might be
making an enemy instead of securing a friend; but, as I have said, he
always contrived to disappoint expectation. For a moment he looked
mortified, but his face gradually resumed its good humour; and he
replied with, I believe, real frankness, "Monsieur de l'Orme, you are
right. I own that I have undervalued you, and you make me feel it, for
that is what your conversation points at. But you must give me back
that letter to Monsieur le Comte--I must not mislead him in regard to
your character."

I gave him back the letter, saying, jestingly, that I should much like
to see the reputation which I had acquired on a first interview, and
which was doubtless there written down at full.

"Nay, nay!" replied he, tearing it, "that were useless, and perhaps
worse; but you shall see what I now write, if you will, and I will
write it frankly."

He accordingly led the way again to his library, where he wrote a
short note to the count, which he handed to me. After a few lines of
the ambiguous language in which the politicians of that day were wont
to envelope their meaning, but which evidently did not at all refer to
me, I found the following:--

"This letter will be delivered to your Highness by Count Louis de
Bigorre, whom you have expected so long. I met with him by accident,
and for a time undervalued him; but I find, upon farther knowledge,
that he can see into other people's secrets better than he can conceal
his own. Whether he is capable of discretion on the affairs of his
friends, your highness will judge; for it does not always follow that
a man who gossips of himself will gossip of his neighbours: the same
vanity which prompts the one, will often prevent the other."

I do not believe that I should have been able to maintain the same
appearance of good humour under Monsieur de Retz's castigation, that
he had evinced under mine, had I not observed his eye fix on me as he
gave me the paper, and felt certain that while I read, it was
scrutinizing every change of my countenance, with the microscopic
exactness of a naturalist dissecting a worm. I was upon my guard,
therefore, and took care that my brow should not exhibit a cloud even
as light as the shadow that skims across a summer landscape. "A fair
return in kind," replied I, giving him back the letter, with as calm a
smile as if I had been looking at the portrait of his mistress. "And
as I shall be obliged of necessity to let Monsieur le Comte into _all_
my secrets, he will be able to judge, when he comes to compare notes
with you, how much your ingenuity drew from me last night, and how
much my poor discretion managed to conceal."

"Excellent good!" cried De Retz, rising and taking me by the hand.
"So, you would have me think that you had not told me all, my dear
count; and would thus leave the devil of curiosity and the fiend of
mortified vanity to tease me between them during your absence; but you
are mistaken. The only use of knowing men's histories is to know their
characters, and I have learned more of yours to-day than I did even
last night. However, it is time for you to depart. There are the
letters," he continued, after having added a few words to that
addressed to the Count. "Travel as privately as you can; and fare you
well. Before we meet again, we shall know enough of each other from
other sources, to spare us the necessity of studying that hard
book--the human mind, without a key."

I accordingly took leave of Monsieur de Retz; and in my way home,
found out the dwelling of a horse-dealer, for the purpose of buying
two nags for Achilles and myself; the necessity of travelling as
privately as possible having induced me to change my intention of
taking the post.

Though in his whole nature and character there is not, I believe, an
honester animal in the world than a horse, yet there must be something
assuredly in a habitual intercourse with him which is very detrimental
to honesty in others, for certainly--and I believe in all ages it has
been so--there cannot be conceived a race of more arrant cheats and
swindlers than the whole set of jockeys, grooms, and horse-dealers.
The very first attempt of the man to whom I at present applied, was to
sell me an old broken-down hack, with a Roman nose which at once
indicated its antiquity, for a fine, vigorous, young horse, as he
called it, well capable of the road. The various ingenious tricks had
been put in practice of boring his teeth, blistering his pasterns,
&c., and his coat shone, as much as fine oil could make it; but still
he stood forth with his original sin of old age rank about him, and I
begged leave to decline the bargain, though the dealer and the
_palfrenier_ both shrugged their shoulders at my obstinacy, and
declared upon their conscience there was not such another horse in the
stable.

After several endeavours to cheat me in the same manner, which they
would not abandon, or by habit could not abandon, although they saw I
was somewhat knowing in the trade, I fixed upon a strong roan horse
for myself, and a light easy going pad for Achilles. The question now
became the price I was to pay, and after the haggling of half an hour,
the dealer agreed to take forty louis for the two, which was about
five more than their value. He declared, however, so help him God,
that he lost by it, and only let me have them in hope of my future
custom.

"I never intend to buy a horse of you again as long as I live,"
replied I, sharply; "so do not suffer that hope to bias you."

"Well, well, take them," said he. "They would soon eat out the money
in corn, and so I should lose it any way."

This matter being settled, I directed them to be brought immediately
to my lodging; making a bargain beforehand for the necessary saddles
and bridles, of which the good dealer kept a store at hand; and then
sped on to see that all was prepared for our departure.

It was already past mid-day; but everything having been made ready
during my absence by the activity of my little attendant, as soon as
the horses were brought, we loaded them with our bags and our persons,
and set out for Sedan. Be it remarked, however, that I still
maintained my little lodging in the Rue des Prêtres Saint Paul, as
from some words dropped by the Abbé de Retz, I fancied that I might
have occasion to return to Paris on the affairs of Monsieur le Comte.

The ambling jennet which I had bought for Achilles was so much easier
than any horse whose back he had ever yet honoured, that the poor
little man, after having anticipated the pains of hell, found himself
in elysium; and declared that he could ride to Jerusalem and back
without considering it a pilgrimage. I was resolved, however, to put
his horsemanship to the proof; for though I did not seek to call
attention to myself, by galloping like an express, in that age when
even one's horse's pace was matter of suspicion, yet, as the way was
long, I calculated that we might at least reach Jouarre that night.

This we accomplished easily. Stopping but half an hour at Meaux to
feed our horses, and then proceeding with all speed, we saw La Ferté
not far off, at about an hour before sunset, with its beautiful abbey
standing out clear and rich against the evening sky; and the sweet
valley of the Morin winding away in the soft obscurity of the
declining light.

Turning out of one of the byroads, a horseman overtook us, and
saluting us civilly, joined himself to our party. From the hint
Monsieur de Retz had given me concerning the letter of the Duke of
Orleans, I thought it best to avoid all communication with strangers,
and therefore gave but very cold encouragement to our new companion's
advances. He was a small, keen, resolute-looking little man, and not
to be repulsed easily, as I very soon found; for, perceiving that I
was not inclined to continue the conversation which he had commenced,
he took the whole burden of it upon himself; and with a peculiar
talent for hypotheses, he raised as many conjectures concerning the
point to which our journey tended, and our particular object in
journeying, as would have found employment for at least a hundred, if
they had all been true.

I remembered that Cæsar, in some part of his Commentaries, attributes
particularly to the Gauls a bad habit of stopping strangers and asking
them impertinent questions; and I could not help thinking that the
valiant Roman, in some of his adventures, must have met with the
ancestors of our new companion. We jogged on, however, I maintaining
my silence, and Achilles _playing_ the stranger, as I have seen a
skilful fisherman play a large trout.

When the horseman discovered that our nature was not of a very
communicative quality, he seemed to think that perhaps we required him
to open the way, and therefore he told us that he was going to La
Ferté to buy grind-stones, and that he always lodged at the auberge of
the _Ecu_, which he begged to recommend to us as the best in the town.
It was the very best, he said, beyond dispute: we should find good
beds, good victuals, and good wine, all at a reasonable rate; and he
farther hinted, that, if we desired such a thing, we might have the
advantage of his company, to give us an account of the town, and point
out to us its beauties and curiosities. Only if we desired it--he
said--he was not a man to force his society upon any one!

I replied by a bow, which I intended to be very conclusive; but our
new friend was not a man to be satisfied with bows, and therefore he
asked straightforward whether I intended to go to the _Ecu_. I replied
that it would depend on circumstances. And as we were by this time in
the town of La Ferté, no sooner did I see him draw his rein, as if
about to proceed to his favourite auberge, than I drew mine the
contrary way, and was galloping off, when, to my horror and
astonishment, he turned after me, declaring, with a smile of
patronising kindness, that I was so sweet a youth, he could not think
of parting with me, and therefore, as I would not come to his auberge,
he would come to mine.

The matter was now beyond endurance. "Sir!" said I, pulling in my
rein, and eying him with that cold sort of contemptuous frown which I
had generally found a sufficient shield against impertinence, "be so
good as to pursue your own way, and allow me to pursue mine; I neither
require your society, nor is it agreeable to me; and therefore I wish
you good morning."

"Ho, sir--ho!" replied the stranger, "I am not a man to force my
society upon any one. But you cannot prevent my going to the same inn
with yourself. I read something fortunate in your countenance, and
therefore I am sure that no accident will happen to me while I am
under the same roof with you. The inn where you sleep will not be
burnt down, thieves will not break into it, the rafters will not give
way, and the walls fall in. Sir, I am a physiognomist, a chiromancer,
and astrologer. I am no necromancer, however--I neither evoke spirits,
nor use magic, white or black."

"No, no," replied Achilles, grinning till an improper connection
seemed likely to take place between his mouth and his ears--"no, no,
you may be chiromancer and astrologer, but you are no conjurer; that
is clear enough."

"Silence, Achilles," cried I; "let him pursue his own follies, and
follow me on." Thus saying, I rode forward, resolved rather to climb
the hill to Jouarre than expose myself to encounter any more of the
babbling old fool's impertinence: but this effort was as vain as the
former; for, determined not to be shaken off, he kept close behind me,
till we had reached the beautiful little town of Jouarre, and were
safely lodged in the only auberge which it contained.

The moment after I had entered, in he marched into the kitchen; and,
though the landlord treated him as a stranger, yet there was a
something--I know not what--which impressed upon my mind that there
was some sort of understanding between them. Odd suspicions crossed my
imagination, and I resolved to be upon my guard. At the same time, I
knew that too great an appearance of reserve might excite suspicion,
and consequently I spoke a few quiet words to the landlord, such as a
somewhat taciturn traveller might be supposed to exchange with his
host on his arrival, and then went with Achilles to see that the
horses were properly provided for. In regard to the stranger, he
talked with every one who would talk with him, always taking care,
however, to keep me and my fortunate face in sight; and, indeed, he
seemed gifted with ubiquity, for no sooner did I leave him in the
kitchen than I met him in the stable; and the next moment I found him
again bustling about in the kitchen, ordering his supper with a tone
of great authority.

For his part, the landlord, who acted also as cook, and who seemed
himself stewed down to nothing from his continual commerce with
stew-pans, showed the stranger a thousand times more submissive
respect than to any one else, bending his elastic knees with an
infinitely lower cringe when the stranger addressed him than when I
did.

As soon as I had supped, we retired to our sleeping-chamber, Achilles
having his allotted place in a small truckle-bed, which must have been
made for him, it fitted so nicely. Before retiring to rest, however, I
took care to secure the letters to the Count de Soissons under my
bolster, fastening the door, which had no lock, with what was perhaps
better, a large heavy bolt.

I slept soundly till the next morning, but on waking I found my poor
little attendant almost speechless with fear. As soon as he could
speak, however, he declared that, in the grey of the morning, he had
seen a ghost glide in he knew not how, proceed to the leathern bags
which contained our effects, and fumble them for a moment or two in a
very mysterious manner. It then glided out, he added, just as I woke,
but with so little noise, that it could not have been the cause of
dissipating my slumber.

"By Heaven! it was a dangerous undertaking!" cried I in a loud voice,
for the benefit of any one within hearing. "Had I chanced to wake I
would have shot it, had it been the best ghost that ever was born.
Examine the bags, Achilles, and see if anything has been stolen."

At the same time, I proceeded to ascertain whether the bolt had been
drawn back by any contrivance from without, but all appeared as I had
left it, and nothing seemed gone from the bags, so that I was obliged
to conclude that either Achilles' imagination had deceived him, or
that some one had gained admission into the chamber (by means I could
not discover) for some other purpose than simple robbery. After the
utmost scrutiny, however, I could not perceive any possible way of
entering the room; and dressing myself as quickly as possible, I
descended, in order to pay my reckoning, and set out immediately.

The landlord stated the sum, and I laid down the money on the table,
piece by piece, which he took up in the same manner, bending his head
over it till it was close to mine, when suddenly he said, in a low
whisper, seeming to count the silver all the time, "You are
accompanied by a spy. If you want to conceal whither you go, mount and
begone with all speed, and take care of your road."

I replied nothing, but hurried the preparation of the horses as much
as possible, and was in hopes of escaping before my persecutor of the
night made his appearance; but just as I had my foot in the stirrup,
his visage presented itself at the door, crying with the most
indomptible impudence, "Wait for me! wait for me! I will not be a
moment." As may be well supposed, I did not even wait to reply; but
putting spurs to my horse, I set off down the hill, begging Achilles
to seduce his beast into a gallop, if possible. The little man did his
best; and so successful were we in our endeavours, that we soon left
Jouarre far behind us: and on turning to look back on the road after
half-an-hour's hard riding, I could see nothing but a blessed void,
which gave me more pleasure than anything I could have beheld.

I slackened not my pace, however, but rode on towards Montmirail as
fast as possible, thinking over the circumstances which had given rise
to my galloping. The minister, I knew, with the jealous suspicion of
usurped power, maintained a complete regiment of spies, scattered all
over the kingdom, and invested with every different character and
appearance which could disguise their real occupation; and I doubted
not that, according to the landlord's hint at Jouarre, our talkative
companion was one of this respectable troop. The character which he
assumed was certainly a singular one, but it must be confessed he
played it to admiration; and I congratulated myself not a little on
having escaped the pursuit of such a vampire.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


As I wished much to arrive at Chalons that night, we remained no
longer at Montmirail than was absolutely necessary to refresh the
horses; but before we arrived at Chaintrix, the ambling nag which had
borne Achilles began to appear jaded; and, for fear of knocking him up
altogether, I determined to halt at that little village for the night,
never doubting that we had left our persecutor far behind. What was my
surprise, then, on descending to the courtyard the next morning, to
see the same identical little man, with his brown pourpoint, and his
immense funnel-shaped riding boots, standing in the court ready to
mount his horse.

I drew back instantly, hoping he had not seen me, but to see
everything was a part of his profession; and quitting his horse's
bridle, he ran into the house after me, pulled off his beaver with the
lowest possible bow, giving me the compliments of the morning, and
declaring himself the happiest man in the world to have met with me
and my fortunate countenance again. "I saw your horse standing in the
stable," added he, "and was resolved not to be too late to-day."

His persevering impudence was so ridiculous, that I could not help
laughing; and as I saw no way of getting rid of him at the time, I
resolved to tolerate him for a while, till I could find some means
either of putting him on a wrong scent, or of casting him off more
effectually.

"Well, then," replied I, "if you are resolved to follow my fortunate
face all over the world, you will have to ride fast and far, for I am
going to Metz, and am pressed for time."

"Sir," replied the stranger, "I am delighted at the opportunity of
riding with you so far. If you had ever been in the East, sir, you
would have no difficulty in divining my motive in accompanying you."

"Without having been in the East," I muttered to myself, "I have no
difficulty in divining your motive;" but taking care not to allow him
to suppose I entertained any suspicions of him, I begged he would
explain how a journey to the East could have enlightened me upon such
a subject.

"Why you must know, sir," replied he, "that all Oriental nations
hold--and I profess myself of their opinion--that good and bad fortune
are infectious; and that by keeping company with a fortunate man, we
very often may mend our own luck. Now, sir, I read in your countenance
that you were born under a fortunate star, and, therefore, I resolved
not to leave you till I was certain I had caught something of the
same."

"But I hope you are not an unfortunate man," rejoined I, "for if you
are, on your own principle, you shall ride no farther with me."

"Oh no," replied the other, "my fortune is neither good nor bad; I am
just in that indifferent state, wherein a man is most liable to be
affected by the fortune of the company he falls into."

"Then, Lord deliver you!" said I, "for you have fallen in with one
whose whole existence hitherto has been nothing but a tissue of
mischances; and if I find, as I am afraid I shall, my aunt at Metz has
died without making a will, my misfortunes will be complete; for I
shall have hardly bread to eat, without his Eminence of Richelieu
gives me a place, in recompence of a little service I once rendered
him."

I tried hard to make this annunciation in as natural a tone as art
could furnish me with; and I succeeded in evidently bewildering all
the preconceived ideas of the spy, who, while I discharged my
reckoning and mounted my horse, which was now ready, stood with his
foot in the stirrup, and his face full of incertitude, not knowing
whether to believe me or not.

It luckily so happened that Achilles, who stood by, was totally
ignorant of what motive induced me to quit Paris; and I might, for
aught he knew, have had as many _aunts_ at Metz as Danaüs had
daughters; so that his countenance was not likely to contradict me.

The spy, however, knowing that suspicion is the best rule of action
for gentlemen of his cloth under all circumstances, thought he could
not do wrong in throwing his other leg over his horse's back, and
following me, even at the risk of my having an aunt really dying at
Metz. Accordingly, he was instantly by our side, keeping up with
admirable perseverance the chattering, inquisitive character he had
assumed; and never ceasing to ask one question or another, till we
arrived at St. Ménéhould, where I again stopped for the night.

Wherever we had occasion to pause, even to water our horses, I
observed that my new companion was evidently known, though every one
affected to treat him as a stranger. Determined to get rid of him some
way, from this confirmation of the suspicions I entertained respecting
the honourable capacity he filled, as I was about to retire for the
night, I whispered to the host of St. Ménéhould, sufficiently low to
pass for a secret, yet sufficiently loud to be heard, to wake me at
half-past four the next morning. After this I proceeded to my room,
undressed myself, went to bed, and made Achilles extinguish the light,
as if I were about to sleep soundly through the night; but I took care
to abstain from closing an eye, though the temptation was very great
to do so; especially as I was entertained from the bed of my little
companion with a sort of music, which, however unmelodious, was very
soporific.

I had previously ascertained, that at one o'clock in the morning the
king's ordinary courier was expected to pass from Verdun; and,
consequently, that somebody would sit up in the inn to provide for his
accommodation. At midnight, therefore, I rose; and, waking Achilles,
bade him dress himself, and carry down the bags, all of which we
executed with the most marvellous silence, paid the landlord, who was
sleeping by the fire, saddled our own horses, and very soon were far
upon the road to Verdun, laughing over the surprise which our
talkative companion would feel the next morning, when he woke and
found us irretrievably gone. Achilles thought it a very good joke, and
I a very happy deliverance; and the dawn broke and found us
congratulating ourselves still: but what was my horror and surprise,
when, turning my head in the grey light of the morning, I saw the
brown pourpoint and the funnel-shaped riding boots, and the strong
little horse, and the detestable little man, not a hundred yards
behind me, cantering on as composedly as if nothing had occurred to
separate him for a moment from my fortunate face, as he called it.

"Ho, ho!" cried he, as he rode up, "I am not a man to force my society
upon any one; but I must say, it was a very ungentlemanlike thing to
get up in the night, and leave me behind, without so much as giving me
warning, or wishing me good evening; and I have ridden all this way,
sir, to tell you so."

We had already passed Clermont en Argonne, and were in the heart of
the wood that stretches round the village of Domballe, and which is
generally called the long wood of Domballe. I knew not what might be
the consequence of suffering this old man to follow me to Verdun,
where it was more than probable he would meet with many persons armed
with sufficient authority either to detain us, or to search our
persons, should he think fit to instigate such a proceeding; but I was
well aware that the life or death, the safety or destruction, of many
of the first persons in the realm depended on my passing free, and,
therefore, I took my determination at once. Glancing up and down the
road, to see that all was clear, I suddenly turned my horse upon him,
caught his bridle-rein with one hand, and his collar with the other,
and attempted to pull him off his horse. But I soon found that I had
to do with one who, though weak in comparison with myself, was
nevertheless skilful in the management of his horse and the use of his
arms.

In spite of my efforts, he contrived to bring his horse's head round,
to shake off my grasp, and drawing his sword, to stand upon the
defensive in so masterly a manner, that the farther attack became a
matter of no small difficulty.

I was now, however, too far committed to recede; but while I
considered the best means of mastering without injuring him, he seemed
to think I was daunted, and cried out, in a jeering tone, "Ho, ho!
your fortunate face is likely to get scratched, if you come near me.
Better ride on to see your aunt at Metz; or back to Paris, and
persuade the Cardinal to give you a place. See that it be not in the
Bastile, though."

"Ride in, Achilles, on your side," cried I, "while I ride in on mine.
Quick, we have no time to lose."

No sooner, however, did the old spy hear this order, and see it likely
to be executed, than turning his horse back towards Clermont, he gave
him full rein, and spurred off at all speed. This did not very well
answer my purpose, and dashing my spurs into my beast's sides, I made
him spring on like a deer, overtook the fugitive before he had gone
twenty yards, and once more catching his collar, brought him fairly to
the ground. It was no longer difficult to master his sword, and this
being done, he begged most pitifully for mercy.

"Mercy you shall have," replied I; "but, by Heaven! I will no longer
be teased with such detestable persecution. 'Tis insupportable, that a
peaceable man cannot ride along the high road on his own affairs,
without having a chattering old dotard sticking to him like a
horse-leech!"

Achilles had by this time ridden up, and taking some strong cord which
he happened to have with him, I pinioned the arms of my indefatigable
pursuer; and, leading him a little way into the wood, I tied him tight
to a tree, near a pile of faggots, which showed that the spot was so
far frequented, that he would not be left many hours in such an
unpleasant situation. My only object was to get rid of him; and this
being effected, I again mounted my horse, and pursued my journey to
Verdun, though, as I went, I could not help every now and then turning
my head and looking down the road, not a little apprehensive of seeing
the brown pourpoint and funnel-shaped boots pursuing me once more.

I arrived, however, unannoyed; and notwithstanding the prayers and
entreaties of Achilles, that I would but stay a quarter of an hour to
satisfy the cravings of an empty stomach, I instantly haled one of the
flat boats that lie below the bridge. The little man judging of my
intentions, spurred his horse as quick as light up to a _traiteur's_
on the opposite side of the way; and, before I had concluded a bargain
with the boatman to take us and our two horses to Sedan, he had
returned with an immense roasted capon and half a yard of bread.

Once in the boat, and drifting down the Meuse, I felt myself in
safety; and a full current and favourable wind bore us rapidly to
Sedan.

It was night, however, before we arrived, and we found the gates
closed and drawbridge raised; and all the most rigorous precautions
taken to prevent the entrance of any unknown person into the town
during the night.

"If you will disembark, sir," said the boatman, "and go round to the
land-gate, they will soon let you in; for there are parties of fifty
and sixty arriving every day; and Sedan will be too small to hold them
before long. However, they refuse no one admittance, for they say the
Count will soon take the field."

"Take the field!" said I, "and what for, pray?"

"Ah, that I don't know," answered the boatman; "folks say it is to
dethrone the Cardinal, and make the King prime-minister."

Whether this was a jest or a blunder, I did not well know; but bidding
the man put me on shore, I led out my roan, and mounting on the bank,
rode round to a little hamlet which had gathered on each side of the
road, at about a hundred yards from the Luxembourg gate. As I was
going to inquire at one of the houses, I saw a sentinel thrown out as
far as the foot of the glacis, and riding up to him, I asked if
admission was to be procured that night. He replied in the
affirmative, and proceeding to the gate, I was soon permitted to
enter, but immediately my bridle was seized on each side by a pikeman;
and the same being performed upon Achilles, we were led on to a small
guard-house, where we found a sleepy officer of the watch, who asked,
with a true official drawl, "Whom seek you in the good town of Sedan,
and what is your business here?"

"I seek his Highness the Count de Soissons," replied I; "and my
business with him is to speak on subjects that concern himself alone."

"Your name and rank?" demanded the officer.

"Louis de Bigorre, Count de l'Orme," replied I; "and this is my
servant, Achilles Lefranc."

"We shall soon have need of Achilles," said the officer, grinning. "I
wish, Monsieur le Comte, that you had brought a score or two such,
though he seems but a little one.--Mouchard, guide these two gentlemen
up to the castle. There is a pass."

There is almost always something sad and gloomy in the aspect of a
strange town at night. We seem in a dark, melancholy world, where
every step is amongst unknown objects, all wrapped up in a cold
repulsive obscurity; and I felt like one of the spirits of the
unburied, on the hopeless borders of Styx, as I walked on amidst the
tall, dark houses of Sedan, which, as far as any interest that I had
in them, were but so many ant-hills. Lighted by a torch that the
soldier who guided us carried, and followed, as I soon perceived, by
two other guards, we were conducted to the higher part of the town,
where the citadel is situated; and there, after innumerable signs and
countersigns, I was at last admitted within the walls, but not
suffered to proceed a step in advance, till such time as my name had
been sent in to the principal officer on guard.

I was thus detained half an hour, at the end of which time a page,
splendidly dressed, appeared, and conducted me to the interior of the
building, with a display of reverence and politeness which augured
well as to my farther reception. Achilles followed along the turnings
and windings of the citadel, till we came to a chamber, through the
open door of which a broad light streamed out upon the night, while a
hundred gay voices chattered within, mingled with the ringing,
careless laugh of men who, cutting off from themselves the regrets of
the past, and the fears of the future, live wise and happy in the
existence of the day.

"If you will do me the honour, sir," said the page, turning to my
little attendant, "to walk into that room, you will find plenty of
persons who will make you welcome to Sedan, while I conduct your
master to another chamber."

Achilles bowed to the ground, and answered the page in a speech
compounded suddenly from twenty or thirty tragedies and comedies; and
though, to confess the truth, it hung together with much the same sort
of uniformity as a beggar's coat, yet the attendant seemed not only
satisfied, but astonished, and made me, as master of such a learned
Theban, a lower reverence than ever, while he begged me to follow him.

Meet it as one will, there is always a degree of anxiety attached to
the first encounter with a person on whom our fate in any degree
depends, and I caught my heart beating even as I walked forward
towards the apartments of the Count de Soissons. We mounted a flight
of steps, and at the top entered an antechamber, where several
inferior attendants were sitting, amusing themselves at various games.
In the room beyond, too, the same sort of occupation seemed fully as
much in vogue; for, of twenty gentlemen that it contained, only two
were engaged in conversation, with some written papers between them;
while all the rest were rolling the dice, or dealing the cards, with
most industrious application. Several, however, suffered their
attention to be called off from the mighty interests of their game,
and raising their heads, gazed at me for a moment as I passed through
the room; and then addressed themselves to their cards again, with a
laugh or an observation on the new-comer, which, with the irritable
susceptibility of youth, I felt very well inclined to resent, if I
could have found any specious plea for offence.

The page still advanced; and, throwing open a door on the other side
of the room, led me through another small antechamber, only tenanted
by a youth who was nodding over a book, to a door beyond, which he
opened for me to pass, and left me to go in alone.

The room which I entered was a large, lofty saloon, hung with rich
tapestry, and furnished with antique chairs and tables, the dark hues
of which, together with the sombre aspect of the carved oak plafond,
gave a gloomy air of other days to the whole scene, so that I could
have fancied myself carried back to the reign of Francis I. A large
lamp, containing several lights, hung by a chain from the ceiling, and
immediately under this, leaning back in a capacious easy chair, sat a
gentleman with a book in his hand, which he was reading, and evidently
enjoying, for at the moment we entered he was laughing till the tears
rolled over his cheeks. As soon as he heard a step, however, he laid
down his book, and turned towards the door, struggling to compose his
countenance into some degree of gravity. As I advanced, he rose and
addressed me with that frank and pleasing affability which is the best
and surest key to the human heart.

"Count Louis de Bigorre, I believe?" he said; "you catch me in an
occupation which the proverb attributes to fools--laughing by myself;
but with such a companion as Sancho Panza, one may be excused, though
the same jest has made my eyes water a hundred times. However, be you
most welcome, for you have been a long-expected guest at Sedan. Yet
now you are arrived," he added, "however great the pleasure may be to
me, perhaps it would have been better for yourself had you remained
absent."

I replied, as a matter of course, that I could not conceive anything
better for myself, than the honour of being attached to the Count de
Soissons.

"Heaven only knows," said he, "what may be the event to you or me. But
sit down, and tell me when you left Paris--whom you saw there--and
what news was stirring in that great capital?"

"I have been four days on the road," replied I, bringing forward one
of the smaller chairs, so as to be sufficiently near the prince to
permit the conversation to flow easily, without approaching to any
degree of familiar proximity. "Perhaps," I continued, "as I rode my
own horses, I might not have had the honour of seeing your highness
till to-morrow, had I not found it necessary to hurry forward to avoid
a disagreeable companion."

"How so?" demanded the Count. "I hope no attempt was made to impede
your progress hither; for if that has been the case, it is time that I
should look to my communications with my other friends in France."

I gave the Count a somewhat detailed account of my adventures on the
road, that he might judge what measures were necessary to insure the
secrecy of his correspondence with Paris.

"So," cried he, laughing, "you have met with an old friend of ours
here, Jean le Hableur, as he is called. He is one of the Cardinal's
most daring and indefatigable spies; and few are there who have had
address and courage enough to baffle him as you have done. He traced
my poor friend Armand de Paul to the very gates of Sedan, found out
that he was carrying despatches to me, filched a letter from his
person containing much that should have remained secret, and having
made himself acquainted with his name, laid such information against
him, that Armand, at his return to Paris, was instantly arrested and
thrown into the Bastile. Why, the whole country between Verdun and
Paris is so famous, or rather infamous, from his continual presence,
that no one here dare pass by that road for fear of meeting with _Jean
le Hableur_. You should have gone by Mezières: but where are these
letters you speak of?"

I instantly produced them, and gave them into the hands of the count,
who read the letter from the Duke of Orleans with a sort of smile that
implied more scorn than pleasure. He then laid it down, saying aloud,
with rather a bitter emphasis, "My good cousin of Orleans!" He then
perused the epistle of Monsieur de Retz, and from time to time as he
did so turned his eyes upon me, as if comparing the character which he
therein found written down, with those ideas which he had already
begun to form of me himself, from that outward semblance that almost
always finds means to prejudice even the wisest and most cautious.
When he had concluded, he rose and walked once or twice across the
saloon, thoughtfully running his hand up and down the broad rich
sword-belt which hung across his breast, which I afterwards found was
habitual with him, when any consideration occupied him deeply.

I had risen when he rose, but still stood near the table, without,
however, turning my eyes towards it; for the letter of the Duke of
Orleans lying open upon it, I did not choose to be suspected of even
wishing to know its contents.

"Sit, sit, Count Louis!" said the prince, resuming his seat, and then
adding in a serious tone, but one of great kindness, "Monsieur de
Retz, I find, has not made you aware of all the circumstances of my
present situation; and perhaps has done wisely to leave that
communication to myself. From the great friendship and esteem--I may
say affection--with which my mother regards yours, I had not a
moment's hesitation in saying, that if you would join me here, you
should have the very first vacant post in my household, suitable to
your own high rank and the antiquity of your family. Since then, the
place of first gentleman of my bedchamber is void, and I have reserved
it for you; but as that is a situation which brings you so near my own
person, an unlimited degree of confidence is necessary between us.
Your rank, your family, the high name of your father and grandfather,
the admirable character which my mother attributes to yours, all seem
to vouch that you are--that you must be--everything noble and
estimable; but still there are two or three circumstances which you
must explain to me, before I can feel justified in trusting you with
that entire confidence I speak of. Monsieur de Retz says, you have
given him your history, which is a strange one--though how that can
be, I do not know, for you are but a young man, and can have, I should
imagine, but little to tell. He says, farther, that he met with you by
accident, and seems to hint that, when he did so, you had not intended
to join me here, as my mother informed me you would. He insinuates,
also, that you were somewhat indiscreet towards him, in speaking of
your own affairs. Explain all this to me, for there is something
evidently to be told. Make me your confidant without reserve, and, in
return, I will confide to you secrets perhaps of greater importance.
If you have nothing to tell but youthful errors, or imprudence, speak
without fear, as you would to a friend and brother; but," he added
more gravely, "if there is anything which affects your honour--which,
I may say, I am sure there is not--I ask no confidence of the kind."

"Had your highness not required it," replied I, "I should not have
presumed to intrude my private affairs upon your attention; but now
that I find you, most justly, think it right to assure yourself of the
character of one to whom you design the honour of being near your
person, I may be permitted to express what happiness and consolation I
feel, in being allowed to repose all my griefs and misfortunes in the
bosom of a prince universally beloved and esteemed." When I spoke thus
I did not flatter; and I concluded by giving as brief a sketch, but as
accurate a one as possible, of all the events which fill the foregoing
pages of these memoirs. "I will own, my lord," I added, "that I told a
part of this story to Monsieur de Retz, but only a small part; and
that was in a moment of joy, when, after having lived lonely and
miserable in a large city, for upwards of a month, I suddenly found
that I was expected and would be welcomed by a prince possessed of a
treasure which few princes, I am afraid, can boast--a generous and a
feeling heart. I was perhaps indiscreet in communicating even a part
to any one but your Highness; but you will not find that in your
service, I will be either indiscreet or unfaithful."

"I believe you," said the Count, "on my honour, I believe you; and De
Retz was too hasty in even calling you indiscreet; for your conduct
towards our friend Jean le Hableur proves sufficiently that you can
keep counsel. Your history has interested me more than I will tell you
at present. I feel for all you have suffered, and I would not for the
world barter that power of feeling for others, against the most
tranquil stoicism. Sympathy, however, though always agreeable to him
that excites it, is little pleasing to him who feels it, without he
can follow it up by some service to the person by whom it has been
awakened. I will try whether that cannot be the case with you;--but
you are tired with your long journey, and the night wears. Ho, without
there! send Monsieur de Varicarville hither. We will talk more
to-morrow, Monsieur de l'Orme, since such is the name you choose."

I rose to depart, but at the same time one of the gentlemen whom I had
seen in the outer chamber, conversing while the rest were gaming,
entered, and the Count introduced me to him, begging him to show me
all kindness and attention, as a person whom he himself esteemed and
loved.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


The manners of Monsieur de Varicarville were at once simple and
elegant--there was none of the superfluous hyperbole of courts; there
was little even of the common exaggeration of society, in anything he
said. He neither expressed himself _ravished_ to make my acquaintance,
nor _delighted_ to see me; all he said was, that he would do
everything that depended upon him, to make me comfortable during my
stay at Sedan. And thus I always found him afterwards--neither what is
in general called blunt, which is more frequently rude, nor what is
usually called polite, which is in general hollow. He had too much
kindness of heart ever to offend, and too much sincerity ever to
flatter. But the goodness of his disposition, and the native grace of
his demeanour, gave, conjoined, that real _bienséance_, of which
courtly politeness is but an unsubstantial shadow. Poor Varicarville!
I owe thee such a tribute, best and most excellent of friends! And
though no epitaph hangs upon the tomb where thou sleepest, in the
hearts of all who knew thee thy memory is treasured and beloved.

After a few words of kindness, and having received the note addressed
to him from the Abbé de Retz, he gave me into the hands of the Count's
_maître d'hôtel_, telling him that I was the gentleman who had been so
long expected; and desiring him to see that I wanted nothing, till
such time as I was sufficiently familiarized with the place and its
customs to take care of myself. He then left me, and I was conducted
to a neat chamber with an anteroom, containing three truckle beds for
lackeys, a small writing or dressing cabinet, and several other
conveniences, which I had hardly expected in a castle so completely
full as the citadel of Sedan appeared to be. Before the _maître
d'hôtel_ left me, I requested that my horses might be taken care of,
and that my servant might be sent to me, hinting at the same time,
that if he brought me a cup of wine and something to eat, I should not
at all object, as I had tasted nothing all day except a wing of the
capon which Achilles had carried off from Verdun. My little attendant
soon appeared, loaded with a great many more provisions than I needed,
and congratulating both himself and me upon our sudden transposition
from Paris, and the meagre diet we had there observed, to such a land
of corn, wine, and oil.

While I was undressing, some thoughts would fain have intruded, which
I was very sure would have broken up my rest for the night. The
agitation of being in new, strange scenes, acting with people of whom
I yet knew hardly anything, and involved in schemes which at best were
hazardous, was quite enough to make sleep difficult, and I felt very
certain, that if I let my mind rest one moment on the thought of
Helen, and of the circumstances in which she might at that moment be
placed, all hope of repose--mental repose, at least--was gone--and
where is any exercise so exhausting to the body, as that anxious
occupation of the mind? The next morning I was hardly awake, when
Monsieur de Varicarville entered my chamber, and informed me that
Monsieur le Comte wished to see me; and dressing myself as fast as
possible, I hurried to the Prince's apartments, where I found him
still in bed. Varicarville left us, and the Count made me sit down by
his bedside.

"I have been thinking, De l'Orme," said he, "over the history you gave
me last night, and I again assure you that I sympathize not a little
with you. I am much older than you, and the first hasty torrent of
passion has passed away at my time of life; but I can still feel, and
know, that love such as you profess towards this young lady, whom your
mother has educated, is not a passion easily to be rooted out. Nor is
the death of her brother by your hand an insurmountable obstacle. She
evidently does not know it herself; and it would be a cruel piece of
delicacy in you either to let her know it, or to sacrifice both her
happiness and your own for such a scruple."

The picture of Helen in the arms of her brother's murderer, and the
horror she would feel at his every caress, if she did but know that he
was so, rose up frightfully before my imagination, as the Count spoke;
and, without replying, I covered my eyes with my hands, as if to shut
the image out.

"This is an age, Monsieur de l'Orme," said the Count, "in which few
people would suffer, as you seem to do, for having shed their
fellow-creature's blood; and yet, I would not have you feel less.
Feel, if you will, but still govern your feelings. Every one in this
world has much to suffer; the point of wisdom is to suffer well. But
think over what I have said. Time may soon bring about a change in the
face of affairs. If fortune smiles upon me, I shall soon have the
power of doing greater things than obtaining letters of nobility for
your fair lady's father. Thus the only substantial objection to your
marriage will be removed. From what you said of the house where you
last saw her, and the liveries of the servants, it must have been the
hotel of the Maréchal de Chatillon; and the youth whose conversation
you overheard was probably his nephew; but fear not for that. He is a
hair-brained youth, little capable of winning the heart of a person
such as you describe. The only thing that surprises me is, that
Arnault, her father, should have acquired any degree of intimacy with
so proud a man as Chatillon; but that very circumstance will be some
excuse for asking nobility for him; and the favour will come with the
more grace, as Chatillon is somewhat a personal enemy of my own."

I thanked the Prince for his kind intentions, though I saw no great
likelihood of their fulfilment, and fancied that, like the cottager in
the fairy tale, Monsieur le Comte imagined himself a great conqueror,
and gave away crowns and sceptres, though he had not two roods of land
himself. But I was mistaken: the Count's expectations were much more
likely to be accomplished than I had supposed, as I soon perceived,
when he began to explain to me his views and situation.

When a man's mind is in doubt upon any subject, and he has heard
reiterated a thousand times the various reasonings of his friends,
without being able to choose his part determinately, it is wonderful
with what eagerness he seeks for any new opinion to put him out of
suspense--the most painful situation in which the human mind can
remain. Thus the Count de Soissons, after having entertained me
shortly with my own affairs, entered full career upon his; and briefly
touching upon the causes which originally compelled him to quit the
court of France, and retire to Sedan, he proceeded:--

"Here I would willingly have remained quiet and tranquil, till the
course of time brought some change. I neither sought to return to a
court where the king was no longer sovereign, nor to cabal against the
power of a minister upheld by the weakness of the monarch. All I
required was to be left at peace in this asylum, where I could be free
from the insult and degradation which had been offered me at the court
of France. I felt that I was sufficiently upholding the rights and
privileges which had been transmitted to me by my ancestors, and
maintaining the general cause of the nobility of France, by submitting
to a voluntary exile, rather than yield to the ambitious pretensions
of a misproud minister; and nothing would have induced me to raise the
standard of civil war, even though the king's own good was to be
obtained thereby, if Richelieu had but been content to abstain from
persecuting me in my retirement. Not the persuasions of the Dukes of
Vendome and La Valette, nor the entreaties of my best friend the Duke
of Bouillon, nor the promises and seductions of the house of Austria,
would have had any effect, had I been left at peace: but no! never for
a day has the cardinal ceased to use every measure in his power to
drive me to revolt. The truth is this: he calculates upon the death of
my cousin Louis, and upon seizing on the regency during the dauphin's
minority. He knows that there is no one who could and would oppose him
but myself. The Duke of Orleans is hated and despised throughout
France--the house of Condé is bound to the cardinal by alliance. He
knows that he could not for a moment stand against me, without the
king's support and authority; and he has resolved to ruin me while
that support still lasts. For this purpose, he at one time offers me
the command of one of the armies, that I may return and fall into his
power; he at another threatens to treat me as a rebel and a traitor.
He now proposes to _me_, a prince of the blood royal of France, a
marriage with his upstart niece; and then menaces me with confiscation
and attainder; while at the same time my friends on every side press
me to shake off what they call apathy--to give my banner to the wind,
and, marching upon Paris, to deliver the country, the king, and
myself, of this nightmare cardinal, who sits a foul incubus upon the
bosom of the state, and troubles its repose with black and frightful
dreams."

As he went on, I could see that Monsieur le Comte worked himself up
with his own words to no small pitch of wrath; calling to mind, one by
one, the insults and injuries that the cardinal had heaped upon him,
till all his slumbering anger woke up at once, and with a flashing
eye, he added, "And so I will. By Heaven! I will hurl him from his
usurped seat, and put an end to this tyranny, which has lasted too
long." But very soon after, relapsing again into his irresolution, he
asked, "What think you, Monsieur de l'Orme? Should I not be justified?
Am I not called upon so to do?"

"I would pray your Highness," replied I, "not to make me a judge in so
difficult a point; I am too young and inexperienced to offer an
opinion where such great interests are concerned."

"Fie, fie!" cried he with a smile; "you, who have already acted the
conspicuous part of member of the insurrectionary council of
Catalonia! We are all inexperienced, in comparison with you.--Tell me,
what had I better do?"

"If I must give an opinion, monseigneur," I replied, "I think you had
better endure as long as you can, so as to leave no doubt in your own
eyes--in those of France--in those of the world--that you are
compelled to draw the sword for the defence of your own honour, and
for the freedom of your country. But once having drawn the sword, cast
away the scabbard."

"Then I am afraid the sword is half drawn already," said the Count.
"There are eight thousand armed men in Sedan. Fresh troops are pouring
in upon me every day. The news has gone abroad that I am about to take
the field; and volunteers are flocking from every quarter to my
standard. Yesterday, I had letters from at least sixty different parts
of France, assuring me that, one battle gained, but to confirm the
fearful minds of the populace, and that scarce a province will refrain
from taking arms in my cause. De Retz is in hopes even of securing the
Bastile; and he has already, with that fine art which you have
remarked in him, bound to my cause thousands of those persons in the
capital who in popular tumults, guide and govern the multitude. I mean
the higher class of paupers--the well-educated, the well-dressed,
sometimes even the well-born, who are paupers the more, because they
have more wants than the ostensible beggar; these De Retz has found
out in thousands, has visited them in private, relieved their wants,
soothed their pride, familiarized himself with their habits and
wishes, and, in short, has raised up a party for me which almost
insures me the capital."

This last part of the Count's speech instantly let me into the secret
of Monsieur de Retz's first visit to me. My good landlady's tongue had
probably not been idle concerning what she conceived my necessitous
situation; and, upon the alert for all such cases of what Monsieur le
Comte called higher pauperism, De Retz had lost no time in seeking to
gain me, as he had probably gained many others, by a display of
well-timed and discriminating charity.

God knows, I was not a man to look upon wealth and splendour as a
virtue in others, nor to regard misfortune and poverty as a vice; and
yet, with one of those contradictory weaknesses with which human
nature swarms, I felt inexpressibly hurt and mortified at having been
taken for a beggar myself.

Monsieur le Comte saw a sudden flush mount up into my cheek, and
judging from his own great and noble heart, he mistook the cause. "I
see what you think, Monsieur de l'Orme," said he; "you judge it mean
to work with such tools; but you are wrong. In such an enterprise as
this, it is my duty to my country to use every means, to employ all
measures, to insure that great and decisive preponderance, which will
bring about success, without any long protracted and sanguinary
struggle."

I assured him that I agreed with him perfectly, and that I entertained
no such thoughts as he suspected. "So far from it," replied I, "that
if your highness will point out to me any service I can render you, be
it of the same kind you have just mentioned, or not, you will find me
ready to obey you therein, with as much zeal as Monsieur de Retz."

"There is a candour about you, my good De l'Orme," replied the Count,
"which I could not doubt for a moment, if I would: but what would all
my sage counsellors say--the suspicious Bouillon, the obdurate
Bardouville--if I were to intrust missions of such importance to one
of whom I know so little?--one who, they might say, was only
instigated to seek me by a temporary neglect of Richelieu, and who
would easily be led to join the other party, by favour and
preferment?"

"I am not one to commit such treachery, my lord," replied I, hastily.
"I am ready to swear before God, upon his holy altar, neither to
abandon nor betray your Highness.

"Nay, nay," said the Count de Soissons, smiling at my heat, "swear
not, my dear count! Unhappily, in our days, the atmosphere which
surrounds that holy altar you speak of, is so thick with perjuries,
that an honest man can hardly breathe therein. I doubt you not, De
l'Orme; your word is as good to me as if you swore a thousand oaths;
and I am much inclined to give you a commission of some importance,
both because I know I can rely upon your wit and your honour, and
because your person is not so well known in Paris as the other
gentlemen of my household. But to return to what we were saying; still
give me your opinion about drawing the sword, as you have termed it;
ought I, or ought I not?"

"By my faith, your Highness," replied I, "I think it is drawn already,
as you yourself have admitted."

"Not so decidedly," answered the Count, "but that it can be sheathed
again; and if this cardinal, alarmed at these preparations, as I know
he is, will but yield such terms of compromise as may insure my own
safety and that of my companions, permit the thousands of exiles who
are longing for their native country to return, and secure the freedom
and the peace of France, far, far be it from me ever to shed one drop
of Gallic blood."

"But does not your highness still continue your preparations, then?"
demanded I.

"Most assuredly," replied the Count. "The matter must come to a
conclusion speedily, either by a negotiation and treaty, which will
insure us our demands, or by force of arms; and therefore it is well
to be prepared for the latter, though most willing to embrace the
former alternative."

"And does the minister seem inclined to treat?" asked I.

"He always pretends that he is so," replied Monsieur de Soissons. "But
who can judge of what his inclinations are by what he says? his whole
life is a vizard--as hollow--as false--as unlike the real face of the
man. We all know how negotiations can be protracted; and he has used
every means to keep this in suspense till he could free himself from
other embarrassments. He asked our demands, and then misunderstood
them; and then required a fuller interpretation of particular parts;
and then mistook the explanation--then let a month or two slip by; and
then again required to know our demands, as if he had never heard
them; and then began over again the same endless train of irritating
delay. But, however, there is one of our demands which we will never
relinquish, and which he will never grant, except he be compelled,
which is the solemn condemnation and relinquishment of all special
commissions."

"I am not very well aware of the meaning of that term," said I: "may I
crave your highness to explain it to me?"

"I do not wonder at your not knowing it," answered the Count: "it is
an iniquity of his own invention, totally unknown to the laws of
France. When any one was accused of a crime formerly, the established
authorities of the part of the country in which it was averred to have
been committed took cognisance of the matter, and the accused was
tried before the usual judges; but now, on the contrary, on any such
accusation, this cardinal issues his special commission to various
judges named by himself, uniformly his most devoted creatures, and
often the personal enemies of the accused. Under such an abuse, who
can escape? False accusers can always be procured; and where the
judges are baser still, justice is out of the question. The law of
France is no longer administered, but the personal resentments of
Richelieu."

The conversation continued for some time in the same course, and
turned but little to the advantage of the minister. The Count de
Soissons had real and serious cause of indignation against Richelieu,
on his own account; and this made him see all the public crimes of
that great but cruel and vindictive minister in the most unfavourable
light. The stimulus of neglect had, in my mind, also excited feelings
which made me lend an attentive ear to the grievances and wrongs that
the prince was not slow in urging, and my blood rose warmly against
the tyranny which had driven so many of the great and noble from their
country, and spilt the most generous blood in France upon the
scaffold.

I have through life seen self-interest and private pique bias the
judgment of the wisest and the best intentioned; and I never yet in
all the wide world met with a man who, in judging of circumstances
wherein he himself was any way involved, did not suffer himself to be
prejudiced by one personal feeling or another. The most despotic lords
of their own passions have always some favourite that governs them
themselves. Far be it from me, then, to say, I was not very willing
and easy to be convinced that the man who had neglected me had also
abused his power, tyrannized over his fellow-subjects, and wronged
both his king and his country. I was in the heat of youth, soon
prepossessed, and already prejudiced; and whatever I might think
afterwards, I, at the moment, looked upon the enterprise which was
contemplated by Monsieur le Comte as one of the most noble and
justifiable that had ever been undertaken to free one's native country
from a tyrant.

There was also in the manners of the Count de Soissons that
inexpressible charm which leaves the judgment hardly free. It is
impossible to say exactly in what it consisted. I have seen many men
with the same princely air and demeanour, and with the same suavity of
manner, who did not in the least possess that sort of fascination
which, like the cestus of the goddess, won all hearts for him that was
endowed with it. I was not the only one that felt the charm. Everybody
that surrounded the prince--everybody that, in any degree, came in
contact with him, were all affected alike towards him. Even the common
multitude experienced the same; and the shouts with which the populace
of Paris greeted his appearance on some day of ceremony, are said to
have been the first cause of the Cardinal's jealous persecution of
him. One saw a fine and noble spirit, a generous and feeling heart
shining through manners that were at once dignified while they were
affable, and warm though polished; and it might be the conviction of
his internal rectitude, and his perfect sincerity, which added the
master-spell to a demeanour eminently graceful. Whatever it was, the
fascination on my mind was complete; and I hardly know what I would
have refused to undertake in the service of such a prince. At the end
of our conversation, scarcely knowing that I did so, I could not help
comparing in my own mind my present interview with the Count de
Soissons, and that which I had formerly had with the Cardinal de
Richelieu; and how strange was the difference of my feelings at the
end of each! I left the minister, cold, dissatisfied, dispirited; and
I quitted the Count de Soissons with every hope and every wish ardent
in his favour; with all my best feelings devoted to his service, and
my own expectations of the future raised and expanded by my communion
with him, like a flower blown fully out by the influence of a genial
day of summer.

On leaving the Count's apartments, I passed through a room in which I
found Monsieur de Varicarville with several other gentlemen, to whom
he introduced me; and we then proceeded to the grand hall of the
château, where we were met by the personal suite of the Duke of
Bouillon, who divided the interior of the citadel equally with his
princely guest. The duke had this morning made some twinges of the
gout an excuse for taking his breakfast with the Duchess in his own
apartment, and the Count did so habitually; but for the rest of the
party, two long tables were spread, each containing fifty covers,
which were not long in finding employers. The table soon groaned with
the breakfast, and every one drew his knife and fell to, with the more
speed, as it had been announced that the tilt-yard of the castle would
be open at eight of the clock, to such as chose to run at the ring.
After which there would be a _course des têtes_. Neither of these
exercises I had ever seen, and consequently was not a little eager for
the conclusion of the meal, although I could but hope to be a
spectator.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


Immediately after breakfast I returned to the apartments of the
Count de Soissons, to attend him with the rest of his suite to the
tilt-yard; and in a few minutes after was called to his chamber by his
valet. I found him already dressed, and prepared to take his share in
the sports. He was fitting himself with a right-hand glove of strong
buff leather, which covered his arm to the elbow, and in regard to the
exact proportions of which, he seemed as curious as a young lordling
of a new pourpoint.

"What, De l'Orme," cried he, "not gloved! You can never hold your
lance without such a supplementary skin as this. Choose one from this
heap; and see that the flap fall clear over the inner part of your
fore-arm."

I endeavoured to excuse myself, by informing his highness that I was
quite unused to such exercises; but he would not hear of my being
merely a spectator, and replied, laughing--"Nonsense, nonsense! I must
see how you ride, and how you use your sword, to know whether I can
give you a regiment of cavalry with safety. Ho, Gouvion! order
Monsieur de l'Orme's horse to be saddled instantly!"

There was of course no way of opposing the Count's command; and though
I was very much afraid that I should do myself no great credit, I was
obliged to submit, and accompanied Monsieur le Comte to the little
court at the foot of the staircase, with somewhat nervous feelings at
the idea of exhibiting myself before two or three hundred people, in
exercises which I had never even seen. I had quite sufficient vanity
to be timid, where failure implied the slightest touch of ridicule.

The tilt-yard consisted of a large piece of level ground, within the
walls, of perhaps a couple of acres in extent, the centre of which was
enclosed with barriers surrounding an oblong space of about two
hundred feet in length by fifty in breadth.

The distance was so small from the court before the Count's apartments
to the barriers, that he had sent on the horses, and walked thither,
followed by myself and about a dozen other gentlemen of his suite. As
we approached, the people who had assembled to witness the exercises,
and amongst whom were a number of soldiers, received the Count with a
shout sufficiently indicative of his popularity, and separating
respectfully as he advanced, permitted him to meet a small knot of the
more distinguished exiles, who had flocked to his standard at the
first report of his having determined to take arms against the
cardinal.

The Count proceeded onward, bowing to the people in recognition of
their welcome, with that bland smile which sits so gracefully on the
lips of the great; and then advancing with somewhat of a quicker step,
as he perceived the group of nobles I have mentioned hurrying to meet
him, he spoke to them all, but selected two for more particular
attention. The first was a man of about fifty; and, after I had heard
him named as the Duke of Vendome, I fancied I could discover in his
face a strong likeness to the busts of Henri Quatre. The second was
the Duke of Bouillon; and certainly never did I behold a countenance
which, without being at all handsome, possessed so pre-eminently
intellectual an expression. To me it was not pleasing, nor was it what
is called shrewd--nay, nor thoughtful; and yet it was all mind--mind
quick to perceive, and strong to repel, and steady to retain, and bold
to uphold. The whole was more impressive than agreeable, and gave the
idea of all the impulses springing from the brain, and none arising in
the heart.

After he had returned the embrace of the Count de Soissons, his quick
dark eye instantly glanced to me with an inquiring look.

The Prince saw and interpreted his glance; and making me a sign to
advance, he introduced me to his ally as Louis Count de l'Orme, only
son of the noble house of Bigorre, and first gentleman of his
bedchamber. The Duke bowed low, and, with what I judged rather an
unnecessary ostentation of politeness, welcomed me to Sedan; while the
Count, with a smile that seemed to imply that he read clearly what was
passing in his friend's mind, said in a low tone, "Do not be afraid,
Bouillon: if he is not for you, he is not against you."

"He that is not for me," replied the Duke of Bouillon, with that
irreverent use of scriptural expressions which was so common in those
days--"he that is not for me is against me. I love not neutrals. Give
me the man who has spirit enough to take some determinate side, and
support it with his whole soul."

All the blood in my body, I believe, found its way up into my cheek;
but I remained silent; and the Count, seeing that Monsieur de Bouillon
was in an irritable mood, and judging that I was not of a disposition
patiently to bear many such taunts as he had most undeservedly
launched at me, led the way to the barriers.

Monsieur de Riquemont, the Count's chief _ecuyer_, having been
appointed _mestre de camp_ for the time, opened the barriers and
entered the field first, followed by a crowd of valets and
_estaffiers_, carrying in a number of lances and pasteboard blocks,
made to represent the heads of Moors and Saracens, which were
deposited in the middle of the field. The Prince then mounted his
horse, and followed by the Dukes of Bouillon, Vendôme, and La Valette,
rode through the barrier, turning to me as he did so, and calling me
to keep near him.

I instantly sprang upon my horse, which little Achilles held ready for
me, and galloped after the count. All those whose rank entitled them
to pass did the same. A certain number of grooms and lackeys also were
admitted, to hold the horses, amongst whom Achilles contrived to place
himself; and the barriers being closed, the rest of the people ranged
themselves without, which was indeed the best situation for viewing
the exercises.

At about two-thirds of the course from the entrance, raised above one
of the posts which upheld the wooden railing of the enclosure, was a
high pillar of wood, with a cross-bar at the top, in form of a
gallows, and which was in fact called _la potence_. From this was
suspended a ring, hanging about a foot below the beam; and, during the
course, one of the Prince's domestics was mounted on the barrier,
supporting himself by the pillar of wood, to ascertain precisely
whether those who missed hitting the inside of the ring, and so
carrying it away, might not touch its edge, which was counted as an
inferior point.

The _mestre de camp_ now arranged us in the order in which we were to
run, and I was glad to find that I should be preceded by five
cavaliers, from each of whom I hoped to receive a lesson. The Prince,
of course, took the lead; and I observed that a great deal of
dexterity was necessary to couch the lance with grace and ease. After
pausing for a moment with the lance erect, he made a _demi-volte_,
and, gradually dropping the point, brought his elbow slowly to his
side; while putting his horse into a canter, and then into a gallop,
he kept the point of the weapon steadily above the right ear of his
horse, exactly on a line with his own forehead, till coming near the
pillar with his charger at full speed, he struck the ring and bore it
away. The marker now cried loudly, "_Un dedans! un dedans!_" and some
of the _estaffiers_ ran to place another ring.

In the mean while, amidst the applauses which multitudes always so
unscrupulously bestow upon success, the count, without looking behind,
rode round the field, slowly raising the point of his lance, on which
he still bore the ring he had carried away. The Duke of Bouillon,
notwithstanding his gout, proceeded next to the course; and, without
taking any great pains respecting the grace of his movements, aimed
his lance steadily, and carried away the ring. The Duke of Vendôme had
declined running; and Monsieur de la Valette, though managing his
horse and his lance with the most exquisite grace, passed the ring
without hitting it at all. De Varicarville missed the centre, but
struck it on the outside, when the marker cried loudly, "_Une
atteinte! line atteinte!_" and the Marquis de Bardouville, who, like a
great many other very hard-headed men, was famous for such exercises,
spurred on and carried it away like lightning.

It now became my turn; and I will own that I wished myself anywhere in
the wide world but there. However, there was no remedy; and I was very
sure that, though I might not be able to carry away, or even touch the
ring, I could manage my horse as well as any man in the field. But I
had forgotten, that to every such compact as that between a man and
his horse, there are two parties, both of whom must be in perfect good
humour. The roan horse which had borne me from Paris was an excellent
strong roadster, and sufficiently well broke for all common purposes;
but for such exercises as those in which both he and his master were
so unwillingly engaged, he had no taste whatever. It was with the
greatest difficulty, therefore, that I compelled him to make his
_demi-volte_, before beginning the course. This accomplished, he
galloped on steadily enough towards the pillar; but, just at the
moment that I was aiming my lance to the best of my power, the
_potence_, the ring, and the man standing on the railing, all seemed
to catch his sight at once; and thinking it something very
extraordinary, and not at all pleasant, he started sideways from the
course, and dashed into the very centre of the field, scattering the
_estaffiers_ and valets like a flock of sheep, and treading upon the
pasteboard heads of Moors and Turks with most pitiless precipitation.
Spurs and bridle were all in vain; I might as well have spurred a
church-steeple; and, in the end, down he came upon his haunches in the
most ungraceful posture in the world, while a loud shout of laughter
from the Duke of Bouillon and several others, announced that my
misfortune had not afforded the smallest part of the morning's
amusement.

God forgive me! I certainly could have committed more than one murder
in the height of my wrath; and, digging my spurs into my horse's sides
with most unjustifiable passion, till the blood streamed from them, I
forced him up, and rode round to the spot where the Duke of Bouillon
stood, with intentions which I had luckily time to moderate before I
arrived.

I passed on, therefore, to the Count de Soissons, merely giving the
duke a glance as I passed, in which he might well read what was
passing in my heart. He returned it with a cold stare, and then turned
to Bardouville with a sneering smile, which had nearly driven me mad.

"Your Highness sees," said I, as I came near the Count, "the
unfortunate issue of my attempt to give you pleasure. Perhaps you will
now condescend to excuse my farther exposing myself to the laughter of
Monsieur de Bouillon and his friends."

"Fie! you are angry, my dear De l'Orme," replied the Count, with a
degree of good humour I hardly deserved. "I will certainly not excuse
you going on with the exercises. You managed that horse as well as
such a horse could possibly be managed; and a great deal better than
any of the laughers would have done: but, though a good strong beast,
he is not fit for such games as these; and, therefore, as soon as I
saw him start, I sent one of my grooms for a managed horse of my own,
that has a mouth like velvet, and will obey the least touch of the
leg. Mount, my good De l'Orme, and shame these merry fools, by showing
them some better horsemanship than they can practise themselves."

The Count then, turning to the rest, kindly amused a few moments in
conversation, till such time as he saw his groom trotting down the
beautiful charger he proposed to lend me. I made a sign to Achilles to
hold the horse I was upon; and alighting, the moment the other passed
the barrier, I laid my hand lightly on his shoulder, and sprang into
the saddle without touching the stirrup. The courses recommenced, and
Monsieur le Comte again carried away the ring: not so the Duke of
Bouillon, who merely touched it on the outer edge. The Duke de la
Valette also gained an _atteinte_; and both Varicarville and
Bardouville carried it away.

As may be supposed, I had watched narrowly every motion of the other
cavaliers; and had remarked, and endeavoured to appropriate, all that
sat gracefully upon them. Habituated from my infancy to almost every
other corporeal exercise and game, I found no great difficulty in
acquiring this; and mounted as I was upon a horse that seemed almost
instinctively to know its rider's will, and obey it, I had every
advantage. The noble animal performed his _demi-volte_ with the utmost
grace and precision; and now, finding by the very touch of the bridle
that I had a different creature to deal with, I easily balanced the
lance, as I had seen the Count de Soissons, kept the point over my
horse's right ear, and, somewhat imitating the swiftness with which De
Bardouville had run his course, I galloped on at full speed, struck
the ring right in the centre, and bore it away at once.

The feelings of a multitude, unlike the feelings of most individuals,
do not seem mixed and blended with each other, but each appears
separate and distinct, reigns its moment, and then gives way to
another, like the passions of an ardent and hasty man; and this,
probably, because the sensations of all the parts of the crowd act in
the aggregate, while any counteracting principle is confined to one or
two, and does not appear. Thus the spectators outside the barriers,
who had laughed with the Duke of Bouillon at my former failure, were
as ready to triumph _with_ me, as _over_ me, and greeted my success
with a loud shout; while suddenly bringing my horse into a walk, I
proceeded round the field, slowly raising my lance with the ring still
upon the point.

The Count de Soissons fixed his eyes upon me, and gave me a glance
expressive of as much pleasure as if he had been the person
interested; while the Duke of Bouillon looked on with an air of the
most perfect indifference, and talked aloud with Bardouville upon the
pleasures of a barbecued pig. Mixed feelings of indignation and
triumph excited me to a pitch of exertion which brought with it
greater success than I could have expected. I again carried away the
ring; and, at the end of the third course, found myself only exceeded
in the number of points I had made by the Count de Soissons, who had
carried the ring twice, and struck it once.

The different pasteboard heads were now placed in the positions
assigned for them; and the Count de Soissons, who generously entered
into all my feelings, and saw that anger had made success a matter of
importance to me, now beckoning me to him, bade me, in a whisper, to
remark well the man[oe]uvres of those who preceded me; and, above all
things, to take care that I neither dropped my hat, nor withdrew my
foot from the stirrup; as, though merely a matter of etiquette, the
course was considered lost by such an occurrence. I thanked his
Highness for his caution; and fixing my hat more firmly on my head,
and myself more steadily in the saddle, I left him to run his course.

The heads had been placed, at various distances, along the line of the
barriers. One, a most ferocious-looking Saracen, was fixed upon an
iron stand at about one hundred and twenty-feet from the beginning of
the course, and raised about eight feet from the ground. This was made
to turn upon a pivot; and near it, in the exact centre of the course,
was placed a target painted with a head of Medusa. As soon as all was
arranged, the Count couched his lance and ran full speed at the
Saracen; but not being hit exactly in the centre, the head turned upon
its pivot, and the lance passed off.

The Prince, however, rode on; and tossing the lance to an _estaffier_
who stood ready to catch it, turned with a _demi-volte_ at the corner,
and drawing one of his pistols from the saddle-bow, galloped towards
the Medusa in the centre of the barrier. The crowd on the outside now
ran in every direction; and the Count, discharging his pistol, hit the
face upon the target exactly in the middle of the brow. Without
pausing, he urged his horse forward; and making the same turn nearly
where I stood, he came back upon the head, and fired his second pistol
at it with the same success. He then made a complete _volte_, during
which he replaced his pistol, drew his sword, and, galloping past the
third head, which was placed upon a little mound of earth about two
feet high, near the opposite barrier, he gave point with his sword in
tierce, struck it on the forehead, and raising his hand in quarte,
held up the head upon his sword's point.

I found that the groom who had brought down the Count's horse for me
had taken care to provide pistols also; and, as the principal feats in
this course were performed with weapons which I was accustomed to, I
did not fear the result. The gentlemen who preceded me met with
various success; but Bardouville, who was certainly the most stupid of
them all in mind, was the most expert in body, and carried every
point. I followed his example, and succeeded in bearing off the
Saracen's head upon the point of my lance, making both my shots tell
upon the head of Medusa, and bringing up the third head upon the point
of my sword.

Accidental, or not accidental, my success changed the posture of
affairs, for the Duke of Bouillon from that moment seemed to regard me
in a very different light from that which he had done at first; and as
we rode out of the barriers, he kept the Prince in close conversation,
which, from the glancing of his eye every now and then towards me, I
could not doubt had some reference to myself.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


On our arrival at the citadel, the two princes separated; and Monsieur
le Comte retired to his own apartments, whither I followed him in
company with the principal officers of his household. As he passed on
into his own saloon, he made me a sign to enter also; and while a
valet pulled off his boots, congratulated me upon my success in the
tilt-yard. "Nor must you be discontented, De l'Orme," continued he,
"because there was some little pain mingled with the first of your
feats: it rendered your after-triumph the greater."

"Certainly, monseigneur," replied I, "I would rather it had not
happened; but yet, of course, I do not look upon it as any very
serious misfortune."

"And yet," said he, with a smile, "you looked at the time as if you
felt it one. We are apt, my dear Count, to fancy in our youth that the
sweet cup of life has not a drop of bitter; but we all soon discover
that it is not so. With life, as with everything else, we find the
bright and delightful scattered thinly amidst an immensity of baser
matter. Those who seek pearls are obliged to plunge into the deep
briny sea to drag them up, and even then perchance, out of every
shell, ten will be worthless; but did we find pearls hanging amongst
grapes, or diamonds at the roots of roses, we should value neither one
nor the other as they merit. As it is, the threads of pain are woven
so intimately in the web of life, that they form but one piece; and
wise was the hand that ordered it so."

The Count being by this time disembarrassed of his boots, he dismissed
the lackey, and then proceeded: "Now that we are alone," said he, "I
will give up my homily, for I have other matter to consult you upon.
This morning you said, in speaking of De Retz, that you would
willingly undertake and execute for me any commission similar to that
which he so dexterously exercises. Are you still so inclined?--Mark
me, De l'Orme," he added suddenly, "you are bound by nothing that you
said this morning. Men of a quick and ardent temperament like yours,
are often led from one step to another in the heat of conversation,
till they promise, and feel willing to perform at the time, many
things that, upon mature consideration, they would be very sorry to
undertake. Their feelings go on like the waves of the sea, each
hurrying forward the one before it, till the ripple becomes a billow
that dashes over every obstacle in its way. Then comes consideration,
like the ebb of the tide, and their wishes flow gradually back, far
from the point at which they had arrived at first. Should this be your
case, you are free to retract; and I tell you beforehand, that the
service upon which I would put you is one of difficulty, and also of
some personal danger to yourself."

I replied by assuring the Count that what I had said in my former
conversation with him, unlike most conversations on earth, contained
nothing that I could wish unsaid--that my offer to serve him had
originated in personal attachment, and that of course that attachment
had much increased, instead of diminishing, by all that had passed
during the morning. Danger and difficulty, I farther said, were hardly
to be looked upon as objections, when by encountering them we could
prove our sincerity; and, therefore, that he had nothing to do but
point out the course he wished me to follow, and he might feel assured
I would do so to the best of my abilities.

"Be it so then," replied the Count; "and I entertain no doubt of
either your discretion or success. Before your arrival, I had
intrusted to Monsieur de Retz all that a man of his profession could
do for me in the capital; but still there is much more to be done. He
has undertaken to win one part of society to our cause; but you must
know that in Paris there is a complete class of men, distinct and
separate from all the rest of the people, whom it concerns me much to
gain, for the purpose of securing the metropolis. You will be curious
to know what class I speak of:--I mean," he added with a smile, "the
honourable body of bravoes, swash-bucklers, swindlers, and, in short,
the whole company of those who, having no property of their own, live
at the expense of others. I am credibly informed that these persons
form one great body, and have certain means of corresponding and
communicating with each other throughout the kingdom. The number in
Paris is said to be twenty thousand. You may well look surprised; but
it is an undoubted fact; and it is to gain these respectable allies
that I now intend to send you back to the capital. The mission, truly,
is not a very elevated one; but when I do not disdain to treat with
such a body, you must not scorn to be my ambassador. In the conduct of
this business, you and De Retz must be in constant correspondence; for
though his clerical character stands in the way of his taking any
active part in the negotiation itself, his knowledge of Paris, and all
that it contains, may be of the greatest service to you in
facilitating your communication with these gentry, who are not in
general very fond of trusting their secrets with strangers."

The Prince was then proceeding once more to give the motives which
induced him to look upon nothing as mean which could insure the most
speedy termination to an enterprise on which the fate of France
depended--reasoning with all the eloquence of a man who, not very sure
of being in the right, hopes to persuade himself thereof, while he is
persuading another; but I assured him in reply, that I was perfectly
convinced of the propriety of the conduct which he pursued, and only
required to be made perfectly aware of the nature of my mission, what
I was to demand, and what I might promise on his part.

"Much must be left to your own discretion," replied the Count: "the
object is to insure that these men will instantly rise in my favour,
on a given signal; but not to commit me to them so far, that I cannot
retract should any change of circumstances induce me to abandon the
enterprise."

The sketch of Monsieur le Comte, as drawn by the Marquis de St. Brie,
instantly rose to my recollection at these words; and I saw how truly
he had spoken, when he said, that want of resolution was the great
defect of the Count's character. How dangerous such irresolution must
ever be in the conduct of great undertakings was at once evident; and
I almost shuddered to think what might be the possible consequences to
all concerned, if the struggle that was likely to ensue could not be
terminated at a blow. This, more than any other consideration, made me
resolve to exert the utmost energies of my mind, in the part that was
allotted to me, for the purpose of preparing everything to act upon
the same point at the same moment, and produce one great and
overpowering effect. I promised, therefore, to do my best, according
to the views his highness entertained; and said that I doubted not of
my success with the persons to whom I was sent, provided I was
furnished with the necessary means to touch their hearts, through the
only points in which the hearts of such men are vulnerable.

"You shall have it, De l'Orme! you shall have it!" replied the Count,
"though money is one of those things of which we stand most in need.
But you will not set out till to-morrow morning; and before that time,
I will try to furnish you with a few thousand crowns, for I know it is
absolutely necessary; especially as I trust you will, on your return,
bring with you two or three hundred recruits; for should you find any
of our friends the swash-bucklers, who have a grain or two more
honesty than the rest, you must enlist them in our good cause, and
send them one by one over to Mouzon. But now hie you to the rest till
dinner; and accept, as a first earnest of my friendship, the good
horse on whose back you were so successful just now. No thanks! no
thanks, my good De l'Orme! Take him as he stands; and he may perhaps
recall me to your memory when Louis de Bourbon is no more."

There was a touch of sadness in the Count's tone that found its way to
the heart, and, like the whole of his manners, won upon the affection.
It seemed to familiarise one with his inmost feelings, and any
coldness in his cause would have been like a breach of confidence. A
prince binds himself to his inferior, by making him the sharer of his
pleasures or his follies; but he binds his inferior to him by
admitting him into the solemn tabernacle of the heart.

On retiring from the prince's apartments, I felt no inclination to
join any of the merry, thoughtless parties of his friends that were
roving about the town and the citadel, some running to the mall, some
to the tennis court, and all eager to chase away those precious hours,
which man the prodigal squanders so thoughtlessly in his youth, to
covet with so much avarice in his latter days. On the stairs, however,
that conducted to my own apartments, I met Monsieur de Varicarville,
who gave me the good morning, and stopped to speak with me. "I know
not, Monsieur de l'Orme," said he, "whether I am about to take a
liberty with you, but I have just seen your servant conducted to the
private cabinet of the Duke of Bouillon. It appeared to me this
morning that you were not inclined to attach yourself to the Duke's
party; and that, from that or some other cause, he seemed somewhat
ill-disposed towards you at first. I therefore presume to tell you of
your servant's having gone to him, that if you did not yourself send
him, you may make what inquiries you think fit. You are still young in
the intrigues of this place, or I should not give you this warning."

This took place not above ten steps from my own chamber; and after
thanking Varicarville for his information, I asked him to wait with me
for Achilles' return, and we would question him together concerning
his absence. This mark of confidence on my part opened the way for the
same on the part of the Marquis; and after proceeding cautiously step
by step for a few minutes, both fearful that we might betray in some
degree the trust reposed in us by Monsieur le Comte, if we spoke
openly, and neither wishing to intrude himself into the private
opinions of the other, we gradually found that there was nothing to be
concealed on either side, and that our opinions tended immediately
towards the same point.

This once established, and the communication instantly became easy
between us. Varicarville spoke his sentiments freely concerning the
situation and character of the Count, and the schemes and wishes of
the Duke of Bouillon, whose endeavours to hurry the Prince into a
civil war were every day becoming more active and more successful.

"Notwithstanding the advantages which may accrue to himself," said
Varicarville, "and which are certainly very many, I do believe that
the duke seeks principally the good and honour of Monsieur le Comte;
and did I feel sure that the event we desire could be procured by a
single battle, or even a single campaign, I should not oppose him;
for, an excellent soldier and even a skilful general, the Count would
be almost certain to overcome the only disposable force which the
cardinal could oppose to him. This, however, would not be the only
arms with which the wily minister would fight him:--he would employ
negotiations, treaties, and intrigues; and thus he would conquer, and
even intimidate, a man who has really ten times more personal courage
than those who most eagerly urge him to war. From what you have said,
I easily see that you have discovered the Prince's defect:--he has no
resolution. He has the courage of a lion; but still he has not
resolution. The first, to use the words of the Abbé de Retz, is an
ordinary, and even a vulgar quality; the second is rare even in great
men; but yet there are two situations in which it is eminently
necessary--the ministry of a great country, and the chief of a
conspiracy. Richelieu has it in the most eminent degree; and the man
who would oppose him with success must not therein be deficient."

While he spoke, the door of the chamber opening, Achilles made his
appearance, and was running up to me, when he perceived Monsieur de
Varicarville, and suddenly stopped.

"What were you going to say, Achilles?" demanded I. "You may speak
freely:--this is a friend."

"But what I have to say is a state secret, which I shall communicate
to none but your lordship," replied the little player, with a look of
vast importance. "Deep in the bottom of my profound heart will I hide
it, till opportunity shall unlock the door and draw it forth from its
dungeon."

Varicarville looked somewhat surprised; but I, who better understood
my attendant's vein, merely replied, "You had better draw it forth
immediately yourself, my good Achilles, for fear I should break the
dungeon door, as you call it, and your head both in one."

"Oh, if your lordship insists," replied the little player, not
displeased at the bottom of his heart to be delivered of his secret at
once, "I have nothing for it but to obey. Know then, illustrious scion
of a noble house, that as I was returning from that famous field,
wherein you this morning covered yourself with victory, one of the
domestic servants of the great and puissant Prince, Frederic Maurice,
Duke of Bouillon and Sovereign of Sedan, pulled me by the tags of my
doublet, and insinuated, in a low and solemn voice, that his master
wanted to speak with me: to which I replied, that duty is the call
which generous souls obey, and therefore that I must see whether you
stood in need of anything, before I could follow him. Finding,
however, that you were closeted with Monsieur le Comte, I proceeded to
the lodging of the high and puissant Prince, who asked me if I were
much in your private secrets. To this I answered, that I did not
believe there was a thought on earth which you concealed from me."

"You were either a great fool or a great knave to say so," replied I,
"and I do not very well know which."

"A knave, a knave! please your worship," replied Achilles, with a low
bow. "A fool has something degrading in it. I would rather at any time
be supposed to exercise the profession of Hermes than that of
Æsculapius.--But listen! He next asked me how long I had been in your
worship's service. On which I replied, all my life--that we had been
brought up together from the cradle. My mother, I assured him, was
your worship's wet-nurse, so that we were foster-brothers."

"A pretty apocrypha truly!" replied I; "but go on."

"His highness then asked me," proceeded Achilles, "whether your
lordship leaned really to peace or war. To which I replied, that as
yet, I believed, you were quite undecided, although your natural
disposition led you to war, for which you had so strong a turn, that
you must needs go fighting in Catalonia, when you had no occasion in
life. At this I thought he looked pleased; but I was afraid of going
any farther, for fear of committing your Excellence. So then, his
majesty proceeded to say that I must try and determine you to war, and
that you must try and determine Monsieur le Comte; and on the back of
this he gave me at least one hundred excellent reasons why men should
cut one another's throats, all which I have forgot; but doubtless your
Eminence can imagine them. He then gave me a purse, not at all as a
bribe, he said, but merely for the trouble he had given me; and made
me promise at the same time not to reveal one word of what had passed
to any one, which I vowed upon my honour and my reputation, and came
away to tell your grace as fast as possible."

"And your honour and your reputation, _mon drole!_" said Varicarville,
"what has become of them?"

"Oh, your worship!" replied Achilles, "I stretched them so often in my
youth, that they cracked long ago; and then, instead of patching them
up as many people do, which is but a sorry contrivance, and not at all
safe, I threw them away altogether, and have done ever since quite as
well without."

After having sent Achilles away, I consulted with Varicarville in
regard to the proper course of proceeding under such circumstances.

"All you can do," replied he, "is to take no notice, and remain
firm--if I understand you rightly, that you are determined to join
with those who would dissuade the Count from proceeding to so
dangerous an experiment as war."

"I am certainly so far determined," replied I, "that I will continue
to oppose such a proceeding, till I see the Count once resolved upon
it; but after that, I will, so far from endeavouring to shake his
resolution, do all in my power to keep him steady in it, and to
promote the success of the enterprise; for I am convinced that after
that, hesitation and conflicting opinions in the party of the Prince
might bring about his ruin, but could do no good."

"Perhaps you are right," replied Varicarville, "and that is all that I
could hope or require. When I see you alone with the Count, I shall
now feel at ease, convinced that, as long as he continues undecided,
you will continue to oppose any act of hostility to the government;
and when he is decided, and the die cast, we must both do our best to
make the issue successful."

Thus ended my conference with Varicarville, and nothing farther
occurred during the day affecting myself personally. I heard of the
arrival of several fresh parties, both from the interior of France and
from the adjacent countries, which were almost peopled with French
exiles; and Achilles also brought me news that the Baron de Beauvau
had returned from the Low Countries, accompanied by a Spanish
nobleman, as plenipotentiary from the Archduke Leopold and the
Cardinal Infant of Spain; but nothing of any consequence happened till
the evening, in which I was at all called to take part.

I strolled, however, through the town of Sedan; and from the labours
which were hurrying forward at various points of the fortifications, I
was led to conclude that the Duke of Bouillon himself anticipated but
a short interval of peace. At length, as I approached an unfinished
hornwork on the banks of the Meuse, a sentinel dropped his partisan to
my breast, bidding me stand back; and, my walk being interrupted in
that direction, I returned to the citadel and proceeded to my own
chamber.



CHAPTER XL.

I was standing at the window of my bedchamber, in one of those
meditative, almost sad moods, which often fill up the pauses of more
active and energetic being, when the mind falls back upon itself,
after the stir and bustle of great enterprises, and the silent moral
voice within seems to rebuke us for the worm-like pettiness of our
earthly struggles, and the vain futility of all our mortal endeavours.

Nothing could be more lovely than the scene from the window. The sun
was setting over the dark forest of Ardennes, which, skirting all
round the northern limits of the view, formed a dark purple girdle to
the beautiful principality of Sedan; but day had only yet so far
declined as to give a rich and golden splendour to the whole
atmosphere, and his beams still flashed against every point of the
landscape, where any bright object met them, as if they encountered a
living diamond. Running from the south-east to the north were the
heights of Amblemont, from the soft green summit of which, stretching
up to the zenith, the whole sky was mottled with a flight of light
high clouds, which caught every beam of the sinking sun, and blushed
brighter and brighter as he descended. A thousand villages and hamlets
with their little spires, and now and then the turrets of the
châteaux, scattered through the valley, peeped out from every clump of
trees. The flocks of sheep and the herds of cattle, winding along
towards their folds, gave an air of peaceful abundance to the scene;
and the grand Meuse wandering through its rich meadows with a thousand
meanders, and glowing brightly in the evening light, added something
both solemn and majestic to the whole. I was watching the progress of
a boat gliding silently along the stream, whose calm waters it
scarcely seemed to ruffle in its course; and, while passion, and
ambition, and pride, and vanity, and the thousands of irritable
feelings that struggled in my bosom during the day were lulled into
tranquillity by the influence of the soft, peaceful scene before my
eyes, I was thinking how happy it would be to glide through life like
that little bark, with a full sail, and a smooth and golden tide, till
the stream of existence fell into the dark ocean of eternity--when my
dream was broken by some one knocking at my chamber-door.

Though I wished them no good for their interruption, I bade them come
in; and the moment after, the Duke of Bouillon himself stood before
me.

"Monsieur de l'Orme," said he, advancing, and doffing his hat, "I hope
I do not interrupt your contemplations." I bowed, and begged him to be
seated; and after a moment or two he proceeded: "I am happy in finding
you alone; for, though certainly one is bound to do whatever one
conceives right before the whole world, should chance order it so, yet
of course, when one has to acknowledge one's self in the wrong, it is
more pleasant to do so in private--especially," he added with a smile,
"for a sovereign prince in his own castle. I was this morning,
Monsieur de l'Orme, both rude and unjust towards you; and I have come
to ask your pardon frankly. Do you give it me?"

Although I believed there was at least as much policy as candour in
the conduct of the Duke, I did not suffer that conviction to affect my
behaviour towards him, and I replied, "Had I preserved any irritation,
my lord, from this morning, the condescension and frankness of your
present apology would of course have obliterated it at once."

I thought I saw a slight colour mount in the Duke's cheek at the word
apology; for men will do a thousand things which they do not like to
hear qualified by even the mildest word that can express them; and I
easily conceived, that though the proud lord of Sedan had for his own
purposes fully justified me in the use of the term, it hurt his ears
to hear that he had apologised to any one.

He proceeded, however: "I was, in truth, rather irritable this
morning, and I hastily took up an opinion, which I since find, from
the conversation of Monsieur le Comte, was totally false; namely, that
you were using all your endeavours to dissuade him from the only step
which can save himself and his country from ruin. Our levies were
nearly made, our envoy on his very return from the Low Countries, all
our plans concerted, and the Count perfectly determined, but the very
day before your arrival. Now I find him again undetermined; and though
I am convinced I was in error, yet you will own that it was natural I
should attribute this change to your counsels."

"Your Excellence attributed to me," I replied, with a smile, at the
importance wherewith a suspicious person often contrives to invest a
circumstance, or a person who has really none--"Your Excellence
attributed to me much more influence with Monsieur le Comte than I
possess: but, if it would interest you at all to hear what are the
opinions of a simple gentleman of his Highness's household, and by
what rule he was determined to govern his conduct, I have not the
slightest objection to give you as clear an insight into my mind, as
you have just given me of your own."

The Duke, perhaps, felt that he was not acting a very candid part, and
he rather hesitated while he replied that such a confidence would give
him pleasure.

"My opinion, then, my lord," replied I, "of that step which you think
necessary to the Count's safety, namely, a civil war, is, that it is
the most dangerous he could take, except that of hesitating after once
having fully determined."

"But why do you think it so dangerous?" demanded the Duke: "surely no
conjuncture could be more propitious. We have troops, and supplies,
and allies, internal and external, which place success beyond a doubt.
The Count is adored by the people and by the army--scarcely ten men
will be found in France to draw a sword against him. He is courage and
bravery itself--an able politician--an excellent general--a man of
vigorous resolution."

This was said so seriously, that it was difficult to suppose the Duke
was not in earnest; and yet to believe that a man of his keen sagacity
was blind to the one great weakness of the Prince's character was
absolutely impossible. If it was meant as a sort of bait to draw from
me my opinions of the count, it did not succeed, for I suspected it at
the time; and replied at once, "Most true. He is all that you say; and
yet, Monsieur de Bouillon, though my opinion or assistance can be of
very little consequence, either in one scale or the other, my
determination is fixed to oppose, to the utmost of my power, any step
towards war, whenever his highness does me the honour of speaking to
me on the subject--so long, at least, as I see that his mind remains
undetermined. The moment, however, I hear him declare that he has
taken his resolution, no one shall be more strenuous than myself in
endeavouring to keep him steady therein. From that instant I shall
conceive myself, and strive to make him believe, that one retrograde
step is destruction; and I pledge myself to exert all the faculties of
my mind and body, as far as those very limited faculties may go, to
assist and promote the enterprise to the utmost of my power."

"If that be the case," replied the Duke, "I feel sure that I shall
this very night be able to show that war is now inevitable; and to
determine the Count to pronounce for it himself. A council will be
held at ten o'clock to-night, on various matters of importance; and I
doubt not that his highness will require your assistance and opinion.
Should he do so, I rely upon your word to do all that you can to close
the door on retrocession, when once the Count has chosen his line of
conduct."

The noble duke now spoke in the real tone of his feelings. To do him
justice, he had shown infinite friendship towards his princely guest;
and it was not unnatural that he should strive by every means to bring
over those who surrounded the Prince to his own opinion. When as now
he quitted all art as far as he could, for he was too much habituated
to policy to abandon it ever entirely, I felt a much higher degree of
respect for him; and, as he went on boldly, soliciting me to join
myself to his party, and trying to lead me by argument from one step
to another, I found much more difficulty in resisting than I had
before experienced in seeing through and parrying his artifices.

It is in times of faction and intrigue, when every single voice is of
import to one party or the other, that small men gain vast
consequence; and, apt to attribute to their individual merit the court
paid to them for their mere integral weight, they often sell their
support to flattery and attention, when they would have yielded to no
other sort of bribery. However much I might overrate my own importance
from the efforts of the Duke to gain me--and I do not at all deny that
I did so--I still continued firm: and at last contenting himself with
what I had at first promised, he turned the conversation to myself,
and I found that he had drawn from the Count so much of my history as
referred to the insurrection of Catalonia, and my interview with
Richelieu.

I felt, as we conversed, that my character and mind were undergoing a
strict and minute examination, through the medium of every word I
spoke; and, what between the vanity of appearing to the best
advantage, and the struggle to hide the consciousness that I was under
such a scrutiny, I believe that I must have shown considerably more
affectation than ability. The conviction that this was the case, too,
came to embarrass me still more; and, feeling that I was undervaluing
my own mind altogether, I suddenly broke off at one of the Duke's
questions, which somewhat too palpably smacked of the investigation
with which he was amusing himself, and replied, "Men's characters,
monseigneur, are best seen in their actions, when they are free to
act; and in their words, when they think those words fall unnoticed;
but, depend upon it, one cannot form a correct estimate of the mind of
another by besieging it in form. We instantly put ourselves upon the
defensive when we find an army sitting down before the citadel of the
heart; and whatever be the ability of our adversary, it is very
difficult either to take us by storm, or to make us capitulate."

"Nay," replied the Duke, "indeed you are mistaken. I had no such
intention as you seem to think. My only wish was to amuse away an hour
in your agreeable society, ere joining his highness, to proceed with
him to the council: but I believe it is nearly time that I should go."

The Duke now left me. I was not at all satisfied with my own conduct
during the interview that had just passed; and, returning to my
station at the window, I watched the last rays of day fade away from
the sky, and one bright star after another gaze out at the world
below, while a thousand wandering fancies filled my brain, taking a
calm but melancholy hue from the solemn aspect of the night, and a
still more gloomy one from feeling how little my own actions were
under the control of my reason, and how continually, even in a casual
conversation, I behaved and spoke in the most opposite manner to that
which reflection would have taught me to pursue.

Sick of the present, my mind turned to other days. Many a memory and
many a regret were busy about my heart, conjuring up dreams, and
hopes, and wishes passed away--the throng of all those bright things
we leave behind with early youth and never shall meet again, if it be
not in a world beyond the tomb. All the sounds of earth sunk into
repose, so that I could hear even the soft murmur of the Meuse, and
the sighing of the summer-breeze wandering through the embrazures of
the citadel. The cares, the labours, the anxieties, and all the
grievous realities of life, seemed laid in slumber with the day that
nursed them; while fancy, imagination, memory, every thing that lives
upon _that which is not_, seemed to assert their part, and take
possession of the night. I remembered many such a starry sky in my own
beautiful land, when, without a heart-ache or a care, I had gazed upon
the splendour of the heavens, and raised my heart in adoration to Him
that spread it forth; but now, I looked out into the deep darkness,
and found painful, painful memory mingling gall with all the sweetness
of its contemplation. I thought of my sweet Helen, and remembered how
many an obstacle was cast between us. I thought of my father, who had
watched my youth like an opening flower, who had striven to instil
into my mind all that was good and great, and I recollected the pain
that my unexplained absence must have given. I thought of my mother,
who had nursed my infant years, who had founded all her happiness on
me--who had watched, and wept, and suffered for me, in my illness; and
I called up every tone of her voice, every glance of her eye, every
smile of her lip, till my heart ached even with the thoughts it
nourished; and a tear, I believe, found its way into my eye--when
suddenly, as it fixed upon the darkness, something white seemed to
glide slowly across before me. It had the form--it had the look--it
had the aspect of my mother. My eyes strained upon it, as if they
would have burst from their sockets. I saw it distinct and plain as I
could have seen her in the open day. My heart beat, my brain whirled,
and I strove to speak; but my words died upon my lips; and when at
length I found the power to utter them, the figure was gone, and all
was blank darkness, with the bright stars twinkling through the deep
azure of the sky.

I know--I feel sure, now, as I sit and reason upon it--that the whole
was imagination, to which the hour, the darkness, and my own previous
thoughts, all contributed: but still, the fancy must have been most
overpoweringly strong to have thus compelled the very organs of vision
to co-operate in the deceit; and, at the moment, I had no more doubt
that I had seen the spirit of my mother than I had of my own
existence. The memory of the whole remains still as strongly impressed
upon my mind as ever; and certainly, as far as actual impressions
went, every circumstance appeared as substantially true as any other
thing we see in the common course of events. Memory, however, leaves
the mind to reason calmly; and I repeat, that I believe the whole to
have been produced by a highly excited imagination; for I am sure that
the Almighty Being who gave laws to nature, and made it beautifully
regular even in its irregularities, never suffers his own laws to be
changed or interrupted, except for some great and extraordinary
purpose.

I do not deny that such a thing has happened--or that it may happen
again; but, even in opposition to the seeming evidence of my senses, I
will not believe that such an interruption of the regular course of
nature did occur in my own case.



CHAPTER XLI.


Still, at the time I believed it fully; and, after a few minutes given
to wild, confused imaginings, I sat down and forcibly collected my
thoughts, to bend them upon all the circumstances of my fate. My
mother's spirit must have appeared to me, I thought, as a warning,
probably of my own approaching death: but death was a thing that in
itself I little feared; and all I hoped was, that some opportunity
might be given me of distinguishing myself before the grave closed
over my mortal career. Now, all the trifles, which we have time to
make of consequence when existence seems indefinitely spread out
before us, lost their value in my eyes, as I imagined, or rather as I
felt, what we ought always to feel, that every hour of being is
limited. One plays boldly when one has nothing to lose, and carelessly
when one has nothing to gain; and thus, in the very fancy that life
was fleeting from me fast, I found a sort of confidence and firmness
of mind, which is generally only gained by long experience of our own
powers as compared with those of others.

While the thoughts of what I had seen were yet fresh in my mind, a
messenger announced to me that the prince desired my presence in the
great hall of the château as speedily as possible; and, without
staying to make any change of dress, I followed down the stairs. As I
was crossing the lesser court, I encountered my little attendant. He
had been straying somewhat negligently through the good town of Sedan,
and had been kept some hours at the gates of the citadel on his
return.

I had not time, however, to give him any very lengthened reprehension;
but bidding him go to my chamber and wait for me, I followed the
Count's servant to the council-hall.

It was a vast vaulted chamber in the very centre of the citadel; and
the candles upon the table in the midst, though they served
sufficiently to light the part of the room in which they were placed,
left the whole of the rest in semi-obscurity; so that when I entered I
could but see a group of dark figures, seated irregularly about a
council board, with several others dispersed in twos and threes,
talking together in various parts of the room, as if waiting the
arrival of some other person.

The words "Here he is, here he is!" pronounced more than once, as I
entered, made me almost fancy that the council had delayed its
deliberations for me; but the vanity of such an idea soon received a
rebuff, for a moment after, the voice of the Count de Soissons
himself, who sat at the head of the table, replied, "No, no, it is
only the Count de l'Orme. Monsieur de Guise disdains to hurry himself,
let who will wait."

Advancing to the table, I now found Monsieur le Comte, with
Bardouville, Varicarville, St. Ibal, and several others whom I did not
know, seated round the table, while the Duke of Bouillon was
conversing with some strangers at a little distance. But my greatest
surprise was to find Monsieur de Retz near the Count de Soissons,
though I left him so short a time before at Paris. He seemed to be in
deep thought; but his ideas, I believe, were not quite so abstracted
as they appeared: and on my approaching him, he rose and embraced me
as if we had known each other for centuries, saying at the same time
in my ear, "I hear you have received the true faith. Be a martyr to it
this night, if it be necessary."

I now took a seat next to Varicarville, who whispered to me, "We have
here an ambassador from Spain, and you will see how laudably willing
we Frenchmen are to be gulled. He will promise us men and money, and
what not, this Marquis de Villa Franca; but when the time comes for
performance, not a man nor a stiver will be forthcoming."

"Perhaps I may thwart him," replied I, remembering, at the sound of
his name, that I had in my hands a pledge of some worth in the
diamonds which Achilles had pilfered at Barcelona. Varicarville looked
surprised; but at that moment our conversation was interrupted by the
Duke of Bouillon turning round, and observing that the conduct of
Monsieur de Guise was unaccountable in keeping such an assembly
waiting in the manner which he did.

"To council, gentlemen!" said the Count, hastily. "We have waited too
long for this noble Prince of Loraine. To council!"

The rest of the party now took their seats, and the Baron de Beauvau
rising, informed the Count that he had executed faithfully his embassy
to the Archduke Leopold and the Cardinal Infant, who each promised to
furnish his highness with a contingent of seven thousand men, and two
hundred thousand crowns in money, in case he determined upon the very
just and necessary warfare to which he was called by the voice not
only of all France but all Europe--a war which, by one single blow,
would deliver his native country from her oppressor, and restore the
blessing of peace to a torn and suffering world. He then proceeded to
enter into various particulars and details, which I now forget; but it
was very easy to perceive from the whole that Monsieur de Beauvau was
one of the strongest advocates for war. He ended by stating that the
Marquis de Villa Franca, then present, had been sent by the Cardinal
Infant to receive the final determination of the Prince.

My eyes followed the direction of his as he spoke, and rested on a
tall, dark man, who sat next to the Duke of Bouillon, listening to
what passed, with more animation in his looks than the nobility of
Spain generally allowed to appear. He was simply dressed in black; but
about his person might be seen a variety of rich jewels, evidently
showing that the pillage which I had seen committed on his house at
Barcelona had not cured him of his passion for precious stones.

After the Baron de Beauvau had given an account of his mission, the
Duke of Bouillon rose, and said, that now, as the noble princes of the
house of Austria had made them such generous and friendly offers, and
sent a person of such high rank to receive their determination, all
that remained for them to do was, to fix finally whether they would,
by submitting to a base and oppressive minister, stoop their heads at
once to the block and axe, and add all the most illustrious names of
France to the catalogue of Richelieu's murders; or whether they would,
by one great and noble effort, cast off the chains of an usurper, and
free their king, their country, and themselves.

The Duke spoke long and eloquently. He urged the propriety of war upon
every different motive--upon expediency, upon necessity, upon
patriotism. He addressed himself first to the nobler qualities of his
hearers--their courage, their love of their country, their own honour,
and dignity; and then to those still stronger auxiliaries, their
weaknesses--their vanity, their ambition, their pride, their avarice;
but while he did so, he artfully spread a veil over them all, lest
shame should step in, and, recognising them in their nakedness, hold
them back from the point towards which he led them. He spoke as if for
the whole persons there assembled, and as if seeking to win them each
to his opinion; but his speech was, in fact, directed towards the
Count de Soissons, on whose determination of course the whole event
depended.

Varicarville did not suffer the Duke's persuasions to pass, without
casting his opinion in the still wavering balance of the Count's mind,
and urging in plain but energetic language every motive which could
induce the Prince to abstain from committing himself to measures that
he might afterwards disapprove.

It is a common weakness with irresolute people always to attach more
importance to a new opinion than to an old one; and Monsieur le Comte,
turning to De Retz, pressed him to speak his sentiments upon the
measure under consideration. The Abbé declined, protesting his
inexperience and incapability, as long as such abnegation might set
forth his modesty to the best advantage, and enhance the value of his
opinion; but when he found himself urged, he rose and spoke somewhat
to the following effect:--

"I see myself surrounded by the best and dearest friends of Monsieur
le Comte; and yet I am bold to say that there is not one noble
gentleman amongst them who has a warmer love for his person, or a
greater regard for his dignity and honour, than myself. Did I see that
dignity in danger, did I see that honour touched, by his remaining in
inactivity, my voice should be the first for war; but while both are
in security, nothing shall ever make me counsel him to a measure by
which both are hazarded. I speak merely of Monsieur le Comte, for it
is his interests that we are here to consider; it is he that must
decide our actions, and it is his honour and reputation that are
risked by the determination. To me it appears clear that, by remaining
at peace, his dignity is in perfect safety. His retreat to Sedan
guarded him against the meannesses to which the minister wished to
force him. The general hatred borne towards the Cardinal turns the
whole warmth of popular love and public admiration towards the Count's
exile. The favour of the people, also, is always more secure in
inactivity than in activity, because the glory of action depends upon
success, of which no one can be certain: that of inaction, in the
present circumstances, is sure, being founded on public hatred towards
a minister--one of those unalterable things on which one may always
count. The public always have hated, and always will hate the
minister, be he who he will, and be his talents and his virtues what
they may. He may have, at first, a momentary popularity, and he may
have brief returns of it; but envy, hatred, and malice towards the
minister are always at the bottom of the vulgar heart: and as they
could never get through life without having the devil to charge with
all their sins, so can they never be contented without laying all
their woes, misfortunes, cares, and grievances to the door of the
minister. Thus then, hating the Cardinal irremediably, they will
always love the Count as his enemy, unless his highness risks his own
glory by involving the nation in intestine strife. It is therefore my
most sincere opinion, that as long as the minister does not himself
render war inevitable, the interest, the honour, the dignity of the
Prince, all require peace. Richelieu's bodily powers are every day
declining, while the hatred of the people every day increases towards
him; and their love for Monsieur le Comte augments in the same
proportion. In the meanwhile, the eyes of all Europe behold with
admiration a Prince of the blood royal of France enduring a voluntary
exile, rather than sacrifice his dignity; and, with the power and
influence to maintain himself against all the arts and menaces of an
usurping minister, still patriotically refraining from the hazardous
experiment of war, which, in compensation for certain calamities,
offers nothing but a remote and uncertain event. Peace, then! let us
have peace! at least till such time as war becomes inevitable."

While De Retz spoke, the Duke of Bouillon had regarded him with a calm
sort of sneer, the very coolness of which led me to think that he
still calculated upon deciding the Prince to war; and the moment the
other had done, he observed, "_Monsieur le Damoisau, Souverain de
Commerci_"--one of the titles of De Retz--"methinks, for so young a
man, you are marvellously peaceably disposed."

"Duke of Bouillon!" said De Retz, fixing on him his keen dark eye,
"were it not for the gratitude which all the humble friends of
Monsieur le Comte feel towards you on his account, I should be tempted
to remind you, that you may not always be within the security of your
own bastions."

"Hush, hush, my friends!" cried the Count, "let us have no jarring at
our council-table. Bouillon, my noble cousin, you are wrong. De Retz
has surely as much right to express his opinion, when asked by me, as
any man present. Come, Monsieur de l'Orme, give us your counsel."

I replied without hesitation, that my voice was still for peace, as
long as it was possible to maintain it; but that when once war was
proved to be unavoidable, the more boldly it was undertaken, and the
more resolutely it was carried on, the greater was the probability of
success, and the surer the honour to be gained.

"Such also is my opinion," said the Prince; "and on this, then, let us
conclude to remain at peace till we are driven to war, but to act so
as to make our enemies repent it when they render war inevitable."

"Whether it is so or not, at this moment," said the Duke of Bouillon,
"your highness will judge, after having cast your eyes over that
paper"--and he laid a long written scroll before the Count de
Soissons.

The Count raised it, and all eyes turned upon him while he read. After
running over the first ordinary forms, the Count's brow contracted,
and, biting his lip, he handed the paper to Varicarville, bidding him
read it aloud. "It is fit," said he, "that all should know and
witness, that necessity, and not inclination, leads me to plunge my
country in the misfortunes of civil war. Read, Varicarville, read!"

Varicarville glanced his eyes over the paper, and then, with somewhat
of an unsteady voice, read the following proclamation:--

"_In the king's name!_[8] Dear and well-beloved. The fears which we
entertain, that certain rumours lately spread abroad of new factions
and conspiracies, whereby various of our rebellious subjects endeavour
to trouble the repose of our kingdom, should inspire you with vain
apprehensions, you not knowing the particulars, have determined us to
make those particulars public, in order that you may render thanks to
God for having permitted us to discover the plots of our enemies, in
time to prevent their malice from making itself felt, to the downfall
of the state.

"We should never have believed, after the lenity and favour which we
have on all occasions shown to our cousin the Count de Soissons, more
especially in having pardoned him his share in the horrible conspiracy
of 1636, that he would have embarked in similar designs, had not the
capture of various seditious emissaries, sent into our provinces for
the purpose of exciting rebellion, of levying troops against our
service, of debauching our armies, and of shaking the fidelity of our
subjects, together with the confessions of the said emissaries, fully
proved and established the criminality of our said cousin's designs.

"The levies which are publicly made under commissions from our said
cousin--the hostilities committed upon the bodies of our faithful
soldiers, established in guard upon the frontiers of Champagne--the
confession of the courier called Vausselle, who has most
providentially fallen into our hands, stating that he had been sent on
the part of the said Count de Soissons, the dukes of Guise and
Bouillon, to our dearly beloved brother, Gaston Duke of Orleans, for
the purpose of seducing our said brother to join and aid in the
treasonable plans of the said conspirators; and the farther confession
of the said Vausselle, stating that the Count de Soissons, together
with the dukes of Guise and Bouillon, conjointly and severally, had
treated and conspired with the Cardinal Infant of Spain, from whom
they had received and were to receive notable sums of money, and from
whom they expected the aid and abetment of various bodies of troops
and warlike munition, designed to act against their native country of
France, and us their born liege lord and sovereign;--these, and
various other circumstances having given us clear knowledge and
cognisance of that whereof we would willingly have remained in doubt,
we are now called upon, in justice to ourself and to our subjects, to
declare and pronounce the said Count de Soissons, together with the
dukes of Guise and Bouillon, and all who shall give them aid,
assistance, counsel, or abetment, enemies to the state of France, and
rebels to their lawful sovereign; without, within the space of one
month from the date hereof, they present themselves at our court,
wherever it may be for the time established, and humbly acknowledging
their fault, have recourse to our royal clemency. (Signed) LOUIS."

No paper could have been better devised for restoring union to the
councils of the Count de Soissons. War was now inevitable; and, after
a good deal of hurried, desultory conversation, in which no one but
the Duke of Bouillon showed any great presence of mind, my opinion, as
the youngest person at the table, was the first formally called for by
the Count de Soissons. I had not yet spoken since the King's
proclamation had been read, and had been sitting listening with some
surprise to find that men of experience, talents, and high repute,
carried on great enterprises in the same desultory and irregular
manner that schoolboys would plot a frolic on their master. I rose,
however, with the more boldness, while Varicarville muttered to
himself "the Spaniard will carry the day." I resolved, however, that
this prognostication should not be wholly fulfilled, if I could help
it; and addressing Monsieur le Comte, I said, "Your highness has done
me the honour of asking my opinion. There can be now, I believe, but
one. War appears to me to be now necessary, not only to your dignity,
but to your safety; and whereas I before presumed to recommend
inaction, I now think that nothing but activity can insure us success.
For my own part, I am ready to take any post your highness may think
fit to assign me. One of the first things, however, I should conceive,
would be to secure the capital; and the next, to complete the levies
of troops, so that the regiments be filled to their entire number.
Neither of these objects are to be effected without money; and as the
Cardinal Infant has promised a considerable sum, and the minister in
his proclamation gives you credit for having received it, I hope the
Marquis de Villa Franca comes prepared to fulfil, at least in part,
the expectations held out by his royal principal."

"Most unfortunately," replied the Marquis, in very good French, "at
the time of my departure, no idea was entertained that the French
government would so precipitate its measures, otherwise his highness,
the Cardinal Infant, would have sent the promised subsidy at the time,
and I know that no one will regret so much as he does, this
unavoidable delay."

Varicarville looked at me with a meaning smile; and indeed it was
evident enough, as it was afterwards proved by her conduct, that Spain
was willing to hurry us into war, without lending us any aid to bring
it to a successful determination. I therefore rejoined without
hesitation, feeling that the proverbial rashness of youth would excuse
some flippancy, and that I could not carry through my plan without--

"Under these circumstances, it seems to me very likely that Spain, our
excellent ally, will save both her money and her troops, for probably,
before her tardy succour arrives, we shall have struck the blow and
gained the battle."

"But what can be done, young sir?" demanded Villa Franca, hastily:
"Spain will keep her promise to the very utmost. On my honour, on my
conscience, had I the means of raising any part of the sum in time to
be of service, I would myself advance it, notwithstanding the immense
losses I sustained by the Catalonian rebels."

Many a man's honour and his conscience would be in a very
uncomfortable situation if the means of taking them out of pawn were
presented to him on a sudden. That consideration, however, did not
induce me to spare Monsieur de Villa Franca, whom I believed, from all
I had heard of him, to be as tergiversating a diplomatist as ever the
subtle house of Austria had sent forth. I replied, therefore, "If that
be the case--and who can doubt the noble Marquis's word?--I think I
can furnish the means whereby Monsieur de Villa Franca can fulfil his
generous designs, and put it in his power instantly to raise great
part of the sum required."

Every one stared, and no one more than the Marquis himself; but rising
from the council-table, I whispered to Varicarville to keep the same
subject under discussion till I returned; and flying across the courts
of the arsenal, I mounted to my own chamber. "Achilles," cried I, as
soon as I entered, "the Marquis de Villa Franca is here in the
arsenal; are you still resolved to restore him the diamonds?"

"I am resolved to have nothing to do with them myself," replied
Achilles; "for since the adventure at Lyons, I find that I had better
give up both gold and diamonds, and content myself with simple silver
for the rest of my life, if I would not be whipped through the
streets, and turned out in a grey gown: but as to giving them back,
all I can say is, your sublimity is a great fool, if you do not keep
them yourself."

"It will be of more service to me to give them than to keep them,"
replied I; "but I will not do so without your consent;" and having by
this time drawn them out of the valise, I held them out towards him.

"Give them, give them then, in God's name!" cried the little man,
shutting his eyes; "but do not let me see them, for their sparkling
makes my resolution wax dim. Take them away, monseigneur! if you love
me, take them away. My virtue is no better than that of Danäe of old."

I did as he required, and hurried back to the council chamber, where
all eyes turned upon me as I entered; and I found that the five
minutes of my absence had been wasted on conjectures of what I could
mean. "Monsieur de Villa Franca," said I, as soon as I had taken my
seat, "you said, I think, that if you had any means of raising even a
part of the sum required, in time to be of service, you would advance
it yourself, upon your honour and conscience. Now it so happened, that
a person with whom I am acquainted, was at Barcelona when your house
was plundered, and in that city bought this string of diamonds, which
were said to have belonged to you," and I held them up glittering in
the light, while the eyes of the Marquis seemed to sparkle in rivalry.
"He gave them to me," I proceeded; "and I am willing to return them to
you, upon condition that you instantly pledge them to three quarters
of their value, to the jewellers of this city; the money arising
therefrom to be poured into the treasury of Monsieur le Comte; and you
shall also give farther an hundred pistoles to the person who saved
them from the hands of the rabble of Barcelona, he being a poor and
needy man."

The proposal was received with loud applause by every one, except the
Marquis de Villa Franca, whose face grew darker and darker at every
word I spoke. "This is very hard!" said he, with the most evident
design in the world to retreat from his proposal. "Those diamonds are
family jewels of inestimable value to me."

"They are nevertheless diamonds which you shall never see again,"
replied I, "except upon the conditions which I mention. Nor do I see
that it _is_ hard. Monsieur le Comte will give you an acknowledgment
for so much as they produce, as a part of the subsidy from Spain,
advanced by you. Upon the sight of that, your own Prince will repay
you, deducting that sum from the amount which he is about to transmit
to Monsieur le Comte."

"Monsieur de l'Orme's observation is just," said the Duke of Bouillon.
"You expressed the most decided conviction, Monsieur le Marquis, that
his royal highness would instantly send us the subsidy; if so, the
Count de Soissons' acknowledgment will be as good as a bill of
exchange upon your own prince."

"But the proverb says," replied the Marquis, "Put not your faith in
princes."

"It should have said, Put not your faith in Marquises," rejoined I,
somewhat indignant at his attempts at evasion. "However, Monsieur le
Marquis, the matter stands thus: if you consent to what I propose, we
will send for the jewellers, the sum shall be paid, and you shall have
the Count's acknowledgment; then, if you can get the money from your
prince, you have the means of regaining the diamonds, with the sole
loss of a hundred pistoles. If your prince did not intend to pay the
subsidy, and you were not quite convinced that he would pay it, you
should not have promised it here, in his name, and backed it with your
most solemn assurances of your own conviction on the subject. At all
events, whether he pays it or not, you are no worse than when you
thought the diamonds were irretrievably lost; but so far the better,
that you have had an opportunity of showing how _willingly_ you
perform what you pledged your honour and conscience you would do if
you had the means."

A slight laugh that ran round the council-table at this last sentence,
I believe, determined Monsieur de Villa Franca to yield without any
more resistance, seeing very well, at the same time, that the only
existing chance of recovering his diamonds at all, was to consent to
what I proposed.

He felt well convinced, I am sure, that the Cardinal Infant had not
the slightest intention in the world of paying the sum which he had
promised; but, however, he had a better chance of obtaining his part
thereof than any one else; and therefore, as there was no other means
of insuring that his beloved brilliants would not be scattered over
half the habitable globe before six weeks were over, he signified his
assent to their being deposited with the jewellers of Sedan, in a tone
of resignation worthy of a martyr.

The syndic of the jewellers, with two or three of his most reputable
companions, were instantly sent for by the council; and during the
absence of the messengers, a variety of particulars were discussed,
and various plans were adopted for the purpose of commencing the war
with vigour, and carrying it on with success. Amongst other things,
the Prince announced his intention of intrusting all the steps
preparatory to a general rising of the people of the capital, to De
Retz and myself; and though I thought that there were one or two
dissatisfied looks manifested upon the subject, no one judged fit to
object. Probably, weighing the risk with the honour, they were quite
as much pleased to be excused the Count's enterprize, as discontented
at not having been distinguished by his selection.

At length the jewellers were brought before the council; and by their
lugubrious looks it was evident that the worthy citizens of Sedan
expected their noble and considerate Prince to wring from them a heavy
subsidy. Their brows cleared, however, when the diamonds were laid
before them, and their opinion of the value was demanded; and after
some consultation they named a hundred and fifty thousand crowns as a
fair price.

The farther arrangements were soon made; the merchants willingly
agreeing to advance a hundred thousand crowns, upon the deposit of the
jewels, before the next morning. As soon as this was concluded, the
Marquis de Villa Franca drew forth his purse, and counting out a
hundred pistoles, he pushed them across the table towards me, saying,
with a sneering smile, "I suppose, though your modesty has led you,
sir, to put the good deed upon another, it is in fact yourself whom I
have to thank for so generously saving my diamonds, amongst the
plundering banditti of Barcelona?"

The blood for an instant rushed up to my cheek, but it needed no long
deliberation to show me that anger was but folly on such an occasion;
and I therefore replied with a smile, "Your pardon, most noble sir!
the person who with his own right hand captured your diamonds is a
much more tremendous person than myself, so much so, that his enormous
size and chivalrous prowess have obtained for him the name of
Achilles. I will instantly send for him, and you shall pay him the
money yourself, when you will perceive, that had he been inclined to
keep your jewels with a strong hand, it would have been difficult to
have wrung them from him."

Achilles was brought in a minute; and when I presented the diminutive,
insignificant, little man to the Marquis, as the wonderful Achilles le
Franc, who had by the vigour of his invincible arm taken his diamonds,
the whole council burst into a laugh, in which no one joined more
heartily than Villa Franca himself.

Achilles received his pistoles with great glee, and I believe valued
them more than the diamonds themselves.

After this, it being late, the council broke up, and the Prince
retired to his own apartments, desiring to speak with De Retz and
myself, as he wished us to set out early the next morning for Paris.

When in his own chamber, he gave me an order for ten thousand crowns,
half of which he directed me to apply to his service amongst the
highly respectable persons to whom my mission was directed, and the
other half he bade me accept, as a half year's salary, advanced upon
the appointments of a gentleman of his bedchamber. It fortunately
happened, that the order directed his treasurer to pay the money out
of sums already in his hands; for I own that I should have entertained
some scruple in accepting the part destined for myself, if it had been
derived from the store of crowns which I had wrung out of the Marquis
de Villa Franca's diamonds. As it was, necessity put all hesitation
out of the question.

The Count had still a thousand cautions and directions to give, both
to myself and Monsieur de Retz, the only one of which necessary to
allude to here, was his desire that, while I remained in Paris, I
should inhabit the Hôtel de Soissons. This plan of proceeding was
suggested by De Retz, who laid it down as a maxim, that the sure means
of concealing one's actions was to act as nobody else would have done.
To insure me a kind reception, and full confidence from his mother,
the Count wrote her a short note, couched in such terms as would make
her comprehend his meaning without leading to any discovery, should it
fall into the hands of others. After this, we took our leave, and left
him to repose, retiring ourselves to make preparations for our journey
in the morning.



CHAPTER XLII.


Day had scarcely dawned, when Monsieur de Retz and myself mounted our
horses in the courtyard of the citadel, and set out on our return to
Paris. We were accompanied by but one servant each; for the decided
part which the minister had taken, left no doubt that all the avenues
to Sedan would be watched with unslumbering vigilance.

After a short discussion, it was determined that we should not attempt
the direct road; and, therefore, instead of crossing the bridge of
Sedan, we followed the course of the Meuse for some way. At a village,
however, about two miles from the city, we learned that the passages
of the rivers were guarded, and De Retz proposed to return to Sedan
and cross by the bridge. My opinion, however, was different. Where we
then stood the river was narrow and not very rapid, our horses fresh
and strong, so that it appeared to me much more advisable to attempt
the passage there, than by riding up and down the bank to call
attention to our proceedings. The only objection arose with little
Achilles, who had a mortal aversion to being drowned, and declared
that he could not, and that he would not, swim his horse over. I
decided the matter for him, however; for at a moment when he had
approached close to the bank, to contemplate more nearly the horrible
feat that was proposed to him, I seized his horse by the bridle, and
spurring in, was soon half-way across, leading him after me. His
terror and distress, when he began to feel the buoyant motion of a
horse in swimming, were beyond description; but as there was no
resource, he behaved more wisely than terrified people generally do,
and sitting quite still, let his fate take its course.

Cutting across the country, sometimes over fields, sometimes through
small bridle-paths and by-roads, we at length entered the highway, at
a point where suspicion, had she been inclined to exercise her
ingenuity upon us, might have imagined that we had come from a
thousand other places, with fully as great likelihood as Sedan; for
the road, a little higher up, branched into five others, each of which
conducted in a different direction.

Our journey now passed tranquilly, and on the evening of the third day
we arrived at Paris. It was too late to present myself to the Countess
de Soissons that night; and Monsieur de Retz offering me an apartment
in his hotel, I accepted it for the time, not ill pleased to see as
much as possible of the extraordinary man into whose society I had
been thrown, and commenting upon his character fully as much as he did
in all probability upon mine.

On our journey we had laughed over the circumstances of our former
meeting; but I found that he still entertained great doubts of my
discretion, by the frequent warnings he gave me not to communicate
anything I had seen at Sedan to the Countess de Soissons.

"It is a good general rule," said he, "never to tell a woman the
truth, in any circumstances. Praise her faults, abuse her enemies,
humour her weakness, gratify her vanity, but never, never tell her the
truth. One's deportment with a woman ought to be like a deep lake,
reflecting everything, but letting no one see the bottom."

Monsieur de Retz's policy was not always exactly to my taste; but as
the Count de Soissons had not bid me to communicate any of his affairs
to his mother, I resolved of course to keep them as secret from her as
from any other person.

As soon as I imagined that such a visit would be acceptable on the
subsequent morning, I proceeded on horseback to the Hôtel de Soissons,
wearing, for the first time, my fine Spanish dress of white silk, De
Retz having warned me, that in all points of ceremony, the Countess de
Soissons showed no lenity to offenders. To make the suit at all
harmonize with a ride on horseback, I was obliged to add a pair of
white leather buskins to the rest; but, as this was quite the mode of
the day, Monsieur de Retz declared my apparel exquisite; and, being
himself not a little of a _petit-maître_, notwithstanding both his
philosophy and his cloth, he looked with a deep sigh at his black
_soutane_, which he had resumed since our arrival at Paris, and
declared that he had no small mind to cast away the gown, and draw the
sword himself.

With a smile at human inconsistency, I left him, and rode away; and
passing by my old auberge, in the Rue des Prouvaires, soon reached the
Hôtel de Soissons. Here I delivered the Count's note of introduction
to a servant, bidding him present it to the Princess, and inform her
that the gentleman to whom it referred waited her pleasure.

I was not kept long in attendance. In a few minutes the servant
returned, and bade me follow him to the apartments of the Countess. We
mounted the grand staircase, and proceeding through a suite of
splendid rooms, the windows of which were almost all composed of
stained glass, bearing the ciphers C. S. and C. N. interlaced, for
Charles de Soissons and Catherine de Navarre, we at length reached the
chamber in which the Princess was seated with her women.

She was working at an embroidery frame, while a pretty girl of about
sixteen stood beside her, holding the various silks of which she was
making use. On my being announced, she raised her head, showing a face
in which the wreck of many beauties might still be traced, and fixed
her eyes somewhat sternly upon me; first letting them rest upon my
face, and then glancing over my whole person with a grave and
dissatisfied air.

"You come here, young sir," said she at length, "dressed like a
bridegroom; but you will go away like a mourner. Your mother is dead."

God of heaven! till that moment, I had not an idea that, on the earth,
there was a being so unfeeling as thus to communicate to a son, that
the tie between him and the Author of his being was riven by the hand
of Death!

And yet the Countess de Soissons acted not from unfeeling motives; she
fancied me guilty of follies that, in her eyes, were crimes, and she
thought, by the terrible blow that she struck, at once to reprove and
reclaim me.

At first I did not comprehend--I could not, I would not believe that
she spoke truly: when seeing my doubts in the vacancy of my
expression, she calmly repeated what she had said.

What change took place then in my countenance I know not; but,
however, it was sufficient to alarm her for the consequences of what
she had done, and starting up, she called loudly to her women to bring
water--wine--anything to relieve me. To imagine what I felt, will not
be easy for any other, even when it is remembered how I loved the
parent I had lost,--how I had left her--how deeply she had loved me,
and how suddenly, how unexpectedly I heard that the whole was at an
end, and that the cold grave lay between us for ever. My agitation was
so extreme, that totally forgetting the presence of the Princess, I
cast myself into a chair, and covering my face with my hands, remained
speechless and motionless for nearly a quarter of an hour.

During this time, the Countess de Soissons, passing from one extreme
to the other, did everything she could to soothe and calm me; and, had
I been her own son, she could not for the time have shown me more
kindness. She was frightened, I believe, at the state into which she
had thrown me, and was still endeavouring to make me speak, when a
tall, venerable old man entered the chamber, but paused, I believe, on
seeing the confusion that reigned within. She instantly called him to
her assistance, telling him what she had done, and pointing out the
consequences it had had upon me. He approached, and after feeling my
pulse, drew forth a lancet, and, calling for a basin, bled me
profusely.

"You have done wrong, my daughter," said he, turning to the Countess
with an air of authority, which she bore more meekly than might have
been expected. "Mildness wins hearts, while unkindness can but break
them. Leave me with this young gentleman, and I doubt not soon to
restore him to himself."

The Countess did as he bade her, without reply; and desiring her women
to bring her embroidery frame, she left the apartment. The bleeding
had instantly relieved me. Every drop that flowed had seemed so much
taken from an oppressive load that overburdened my heart; and when the
old man sat down by me, and asked if I was better, I could answer him
in the affirmative, and thank him for his assistance.

"I will not attempt to console you, my son," he proceeded, "for you
have met with a deep and irreparable loss. From all I hear, your
mother was one of the best and most amiable of women; and through a
long life, we meet with so very few on whom our hearts can fix, that
every time death numbers one of them for his own, he leaves a deep and
irremediable wound with us, that none but Time can assuage, and Time
himself ought never wholly to heal. I know, too, at the moment when we
find that fate has put its immoveable barrier between us and those we
loved--when the cold small portal of the grave is shut against our
communion with our friends--I know that it is then that every pain we
have given them is visited with double anguish upon our own hearts,
and a crowd of bitter, unavailing regrets fills every way of memory
with dark and horrible forms."

I wept bitterly, for he had touched a chord to which my feelings
vibrated but too sensitively. "In the gaieties of life," he proceeded,
"in the pleasures of society, in the passions, the interests, the
desires of human existence and of our earthly nature, we often forget
those finer feelings--those better, brighter, nobler sentiments, which
belong to the soul alone. Nor is it till _irretrievable_ is stamped
upon our actions, that we truly feel where we have been wanting in
duty, in gratitude, in affection; but when we do feel it, we ought to
have a care not to let those regrets pass away in vain tears and
ineffectual sorrow, thus wasting the most blessed remedy that Heaven
has given to the diseases of the soul. On the contrary, we should
apply them to our future conduct, and by gathering instruction from
the past, and improvement from remorse, should find in the
chastisement of Heaven the blessing it was intended to be."

As I recovered from the first shock of the tidings I had just heard, I
had time to consider more particularly the person who spoke to me. As
I have said, he was an old man; and, from the perfect silver of his
hair and beard, I should have supposed him above seventy; but the
erectness of his carriage, the whiteness of his teeth, and the pure
undimmed fire of his eye, took much from his look of age. His dress,
though it consisted of a long black robe, was certainly not clerical;
and from the skill with which he had bled me, I was rather inclined to
suppose that his profession tended more towards the cure of bodies
than of souls.

In reply to his mild homily, which appeared to me, notwithstanding the
gentleness of his language, to point at greater errors than any I
could charge myself with towards the parent I had lost, I could only
answer, that it was hardly possible for a being made up of human
weakness to be so continually brought in connection with another, as a
son must be with a mother, without falling into some faults towards
her; but that even now, when memory and affection joined to magnify
all I had done amiss in regard to the dead, I could recall no instance
in which I had intentionally given her pain.

An explanation ensued; and I found that my mother, when on her
death-bed, had written to the Countess de Soissons, informing her of
my disappearance from Bigorre, and attributing it to love for the
daughter of a roturier in the vicinity, who had also quitted the
province shortly after. She gave no name and no description; but she
begged the Countess de Soissons to cause search to be made for me in
Paris, and to endeavour to rescue me from the debasing connection into
which, she said, the blood of Bigorre should have held me from ever
entering.

"It is under these circumstances," proceeded the old man, "that the
princess addressed you this morning with the abrupt news of your
mother's death, hoping by the remorse which that news would occasion,
to win you at once from the unhappy entanglement into which you have
fallen."

"That the Countess de Soissons should be mistaken," replied I, "does
not surprise me, for she did not know me; but that my mother should
suppose any passion, whether worthy or unworthy, would have led me to
inflict so much pain upon her, and on my father, as my unexplained
absence must have done, does astonish and afflict me. Indeed, though
my own death might have been the consequence of my stay, I was weak to
fly as I did; nor should I have done so, had my mind been in a state
to judge sanely of my own conduct. Will you, sir, have the goodness to
inform the Countess de Soissons that the suspicions of my mother were
entirely unfounded, and that I neither fled with any one, nor for the
purpose of meeting any one, as she must evidently see, from my having
found and attached myself to Monsieur le Comte. My absence, sir, was
occasioned by my having accidentally slain one of my fellow-creatures,
and my having no means of proving that I did so accidentally."

"It has been a most unhappy mistake," replied the old man, "for
undoubtedly it has been this idea that wounded your mother to the
heart. But I hurt you; do not let me do so. If it has been a mistake,
you are no way answerable for it. I now go to give your message to the
Countess, and will bring you a few lines addressed to you from your
mother, but which, you must remember, were written under erroneous
feelings."

Thus saying, he left me; and in a few minutes returned with the letter
he had mentioned. "The Countess," said he, "is most deeply grieved at
the mistake which has arisen, and especially at having, by her
abruptness, aggravated the grief which you cannot but most poignantly
feel. This is the letter I spake of; but you had better read it in
private. If you will follow me, I will conduct you to an apartment,
which, while you remain at the Hôtel de Soissons, the Countess begs
you would look upon as your own."

I followed him in silence to a splendid suite of rooms, wherein he
left me; and I had now time to indulge in all the painful thoughts to
which the irreparable loss I had sustained gave rise. For some time I
did not open my mother's letter, letting my thoughts wander through
the field of the past, and recalling with agonizing exactness every
bright quality of the mind, and every gentle feeling of the heart now
laid in the dust. Her love for me rose up as in judgment against me,
and I felt that I had never known how much I loved her, till death had
rendered that love in vain. Memory, so still, so silent, so faithless,
in the hurry of passion, and the pursuit of pleasure, now raised her
voice, and with painful care traced all that I had lost. A thousand
minute traits--a thousand kind and considerate actions--a thousand
touches of generosity, of feeling, of tenderness--every word, every
look of many long years of affection, passed in review before me; and
sad, sad was the vision, when I thought that it was all gone for ever.
Anything was better than that contemplation; and with an aching heart,
I opened the letter. The wavering and irregular lines, traced while
life still maintained a faint struggle against death; the mark of a
tear, given to the long painful adieu, first caught my eye and wrung
my very heart, even before I read what follows.

"We shall never meet again!" she wrote. "Life, my son, and hope, as
far as it belongs to this earth, have fled; and I have nothing to
think of in the world I am leaving, but your happiness and that of
your father. I write not to reproach you, Louis, but I write to warn
and to entreat you not to disgrace a long line of illustrious
ancestors, by a marriage, which, depend upon it, will be as unhappy in
the end as it is degrading in itself. This is my last wish, my last
command, my last entreaty. Observe it, as you would merit the blessing
which I send you. Adieu, my son, adieu!--You may meet with many to
cherish, with many to love you--but, oh! the love of a mother is far
above any other that binds being to being on this earth. Adieu! once
more adieu! it is perhaps a weakness, and yet I cannot help thinking
that, even after this hand is dust, my spirit might know, and feel
consoled, if my son came to shed a tear on the stone which will soon
cover the ashes of his mother."

Every word found its way to my heart; and reverting to what I had seen
on the night previous to my departure from Sedan, I fancied that my
mother's spirit had itself come to enforce her dying words; and,
yielding to the feelings of the moment, I mentally promised to obey
her to the very utmost. Nay, more! with a superstitious idea that her
eye could look upon me even then, I kneeled and declared, with as much
fervency as ever vow was offered to Heaven itself, that I would follow
her will; and as soon as the enterprise to which my honour bound me
was at an end, would visit her tomb, and pay that tribute to her
memory which she had herself desired. Then casting myself into a seat,
I leaned my head upon my hands, and gave full rein to every painful
reflection.

Let me pass over two days which I spent entirely in the chamber that
had been allotted to me. During that time, every attention was paid to
me by the servants of the Countess de Soissons; and the old man, whom
I have before mentioned, visited me more than once, every time I saw
him gaining upon my good opinion, by the kind and judicious manner in
which he endeavoured to soothe and console, without either blaming or
opposing my grief. Still, no word that fell from him gave me the least
intimation in regard to the character in which he acted in the Hôtel
de Soissons, though, from the evident influence he possessed over the
Countess, it was one of no small authority. From him, however, I
learned that my father had written briefly to the Countess de
Soissons, informing her of my mother's death. To me he had not
written; and, though I could easily conceive from his habits and
character, that he had shrunk from a task so painful in itself, yet I
could not help imagining that displeasure had some part in his
silence.

On the evening of the second day, I received a visit from De Retz,
who, notwithstanding all that had happened, used every argument to
stimulate me to action; and, in truth, I felt that in my own griefs I
was neglecting the interest of the Prince. I accordingly promised him
that the next day I would exert myself as he wished; and, after
conversing for some time on the affairs of the Count, I described to
him the old man I had met with, and asked him if he knew him.

"Slightly," he replied. "He is an Italian by birth, and his name
Vanoni, a man of infinite talent and profound learning; but his name
is not in very good odour amongst our more rigid ecclesiastics,
because he is reported to dive a little into those sciences which they
hold as sacrilegious. He is known to be an excellent astronomer, and
some people will have it, astrologer also; though, I should suppose,
he has too much of real and substantial knowledge, to esteem very
highly that which is in all probability imaginary. Have you not
remarked, that there are fully more vulgar minds in the higher
classes, than there are elevated ones in the lower? Well, the vulgar
part of our _noblesse_ call Signor Vanoni the Countess de Soisson's
necromancer, though I believe the highest degree to which he can
pretend in the occult sciences is that of astrologer; and even that he
keeps so profoundly concealed, that their best proof of it hardly
amounts to suspicion."

After De Retz had left me, being resolved at all events to waste no
more time, every instant of which was precious in such enterprises as
that of Monsieur le Comte, I desired Achilles to find me out the
archer who had so well aided him in recovering my ring, and to bring
him to me early the next morning.

This he accordingly executed; and at my breakfast, which was served in
my own apartments, my little attendant presented to me a tall, solemn
personage, who looked wise enough to have passed for a fool, had it
not been for a certain twinkling spirit, that every now and then
peeped out at the corner of his eye, and seemed to say, that the
obtuseness of his deportment was but a mask to hide the acuter mind
within. I made these observations while I amused him for a moment or
two in empty conversation, till I could find an opportunity of
dismissing two lackeys of the Countess, who had orders to wait upon me
at my meals; and by what I perceived, I judged that it would be a
difficult matter to conceal my own purposes from such a person, while
I drew from him what information I required.

I resolved, however, to attempt it, and consequently, when the
servants were gone, I turned to the subject of my ring; and saying
that I really thought he had been insufficiently paid for the talent
and activity he had shown upon the occasion, I begged his acceptance
of a gold piece.

The man looked in my face with a dead flat stupidity of aspect, which
completely covered all his thoughts; but at the same time I very well
divined that he did not in the least attribute the piece of gold to
the affair of the ring. He followed the sure policy, however, of
closing his hand upon the money, making me a low bow, with that most
uncommitting sentence, "Monsieur is very good."

"I suppose," proceeded I, "that the strange fact of _pipeurs_,
swindlers, swash bucklers, and bravoes of all descriptions,
continually evading the pursuit of dame Justice, notwithstanding her
having such acute servants as yourself, is more to be attributed to
your humanity, than to your ignorance of their secrets."

This was put half as a question, half as a position, but in such a way
as evidently to show that it led to something else. An intelligent
gleam sparkled in the corner of the archer's eye, and I fancied that
some information concerning the worthy fraternity I inquired after was
about to follow: but he suddenly gave a glance towards Achilles; and,
resuming his look of stolidity, replied, "Monsieur is very good."

"Go to Monsieur de Retz, Achilles," said I, "and tell him, that if it
suits his convenience, I will be with him in an hour." Achilles was
not slow in taking the hint; and when he was gone, I proceeded,
spreading out upon the table some ten pieces of gold. "About these
swash bucklers," said I, "I am informed they are a large fraternity."

"Vast!" replied the archer, in a more communicative tone.

"And pray where do they principally dwell?" demanded I.

"In every part of Paris," said the archer, looking up in my face,
"from the Place Royale, to the darkest nook of the Fauxbourg St.
Antoine. But it is dangerous for a gentleman to venture amongst them."

I saw he began to wax communicative, and I pushed a piece of gold
across the table to confirm his good disposition. The gold
disappeared, and the archer went on. "I would not advise you to
venture among them, Monseigneur: but if you would tell me what sort of
men you want, doubtless I could find them for you, and I can keep
counsel."

"Why, my good friend," replied I, "I did not exactly say that I wanted
any men; but if you will call me over the names and qualities of two
or three of your most respectable acquaintances, I will see whether
they be such as may suit my service."

The archer paused for a moment, screwing up his eye into a curious air
of sharp contemplation; and then suddenly replied, "If I knew what
your lordship wanted them for, I could better proportion their
abilities."

"For general service, man! for general service!" replied I. "The men I
require must obey my word, defend my life, drub my enemies, brawl for
my friends, and in no case think of the consequences."

"I understand!" replied the archer--"I understand! There are Jean le
Mestre, and François le Nain; but I doubt they are too coarse-handed
for your purpose. They are fit for nothing but robbing a travelling
jeweller, or frightening an old woman into fits."

"They won't exactly do," replied I--"at least if we can find any
others."

"Oh, plenty of others! plenty of others!" said the archer. "Then there
are Pierre l'Agneau, and Martin de Chauline. They were once two as
sweet youths as ever graced the Place de Grève; but they have been
spoiled by bad company. They took service with the Marquis de St.
Brie, and such service ruins a man for life."

"I should certainly suppose it did," replied I; "but proceed to some
others. We have only heard of four yet."

"Don't be afraid!" said the archer, "I have a long list. Your lordship
would not like a Jesuit--they are devilish cunning--sharp hands! men
of action too! I know an excellent Jesuit, who would suit you to a
hair in many respects. He is occasionally employed, too, by Monsieur
de Noyers, one of our ministers, and would cheat the devil himself."

"But as I do not pretend to half the cunning of his infernal majesty,"
replied I, "this worthy Jesuit might cheat me too."

"That is very possible," answered the archer. "But stay!" he proceeded
thoughtfully. "I have got the very men that will do.--You need a
brace, monseigneur--of course, you need a brace. There is Combalet de
Carignan, one of our most gallant gentlemen, and Jacques Mocqueur, as
he is called, because he laughs at everything. They were both in the
secret service of his eminence the Cardinal; but they one day did a
little business on their own account, which came to his ears; and he
vowed that he would give them a touch of the round bedstead. They knew
him to be a man of his word, so they made their escape, till the
matter blew by, and now they are living here in Paris on their means."

"And pray what is the round bedstead?" demanded I; "something
unpleasant, doubtless, from its giving such celerity to the motions of
your friends?"

"Nothing but a certain wheel in the inside of the Bastille," replied
the archer, "on which a gentleman is suffered to repose himself
quietly after all his bones are put out of joint. But as I was saying,
these two gallants are just the men for your lordship's service: bold,
dexterous, cunning; and they have withal a spice of honour and
chivalry about them, which makes them marvellously esteemed amongst
their fellows. Will they suit you, monseigneur?"

"I think they will," replied I; "but I must see them first."

"Nothing so easy," answered the archer. "I will bring them here at any
hour your lordship pleases to name."

"Not here," replied I; "I must not take too many liberties with the
Hôtel de Soissons. But I have a lodging in the Rue des Prêtres St.
Paul, on the left hand going down, the fifth door from the corner,
nearly opposite a grocer's shop. Bring them there at dusk to-night,
and accept that for your trouble." So saying, I pushed him over two
more of the gold pieces; and having once more satisfied himself that
he perfectly remembered the direction I had given him, the archer took
his leave, and I proceeded to my rendezvous with De Retz.



CHAPTER XLIII.


"Welcome!" said De Retz, as I entered, "most welcome! I am just about
to proceed on an expedition wherein your assistance may be necessary.
Will you accompany me?"

"Anywhere you please," I replied, "provided I be back by dusk."

"Long before that," answered De Retz. "I am going to take you to the
Bastille."

My surprise made the Abbé explain himself. "You must know," said he,
"that there is no actual impossibility of our gaining the Bastille
itself for Monsieur le Comte de Soissons, in case his first battle
should be so successful as to give fair promise for the ultimate
event.--You like frankness," he continued, suddenly interrupting what
he was saying, "and I perceive you are already beginning to look
surprised that I, who have hitherto shown no great confidence in your
discretion, should now let you into the most dangerous secrets of this
enterprise. I will frankly tell you why I do so--it is because I need
some one to assist me; and because I judge it more dangerous to risk a
secret with two, than to confide it all to one, even should he not be
very discreet. But I am also beginning to think more highly of your
discretion. It is so bad a plan to let our first impressions become
our lords, that I make a point of changing my opinion of a man as
often as I can find the least opportunity."

It was very difficult to know, on all occasions, whether Monsieur de
Retz's frankness was spontaneous or assumed. Whichever it was, it
always flowed with a view to policy; and I found that the best way in
dealing with him was at first but to give to whatever he advanced that
sort of negative credence, which left the mind free to act as
circumstances should afterwards confirm or shake its belief. In the
present case I merely thanked him for his improved opinion of me, and
begged him to proceed, which he did accordingly.

"The Bastille," he said, "serves Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieu for
many purposes: but its great utility is, that it disposes of all his
enemies one way or another. Those he hates, or those he fears, find
there a grave or a prison, according to the degree of his charitable
sentiments towards them. There are, however, many persons whom he
fears too much to leave at liberty, yet not enough to condemn them to
the rack, the block, or the dungeon. These persons are shut up in one
prison or another through the kingdom; and on their first arrest are
treated with some severity, but gradually, as they become regular
tenants of the place, the measures against them are relaxed; and they
have, at length, as much liberty as they would have in their own house
with the door shut.

"There are at present four men within the walls of the Bastille, who,
having been there for years, are scarcely more watched than the
governor himself. The Duke de Vitry, the Count de Cramail, Marshal
Bassompierre, and the Marquis du Fargis. All these are known to me;
and Monsieur du Fargis is my uncle, so that I am very sure of the game
that I am playing. The interior discipline of the prison is at present
more than ever relaxed, under the present governor, Monsieur du
Tremblai; and his politeness towards his prisoners is such, that one
or other of the four gentlemen I have named have every day one of
their friends to dine with them, which affords them the greatest
consolation under their imprisonment. I have often thus visited the
prison; and about ten days ago, while dining with my uncle, I had an
opportunity of hinting to the Count de Cramail, who is the cleverest
man of the party, the designs of Monsieur le Comte; and, at the same
time, proposed to him a plan for rendering ourselves masters of the
Bastille. He has promised me an answer to-day, when I have engaged
myself to dine with Monsieur de Bassompierre; and the only difficulty
is to obtain an opportunity of speaking in private. You doubtless have
experienced how troublesome it is sometimes to win a secret moment,
even in a saloon; judge, therefore, whether it is easy in a prison.
You must lend your aid, and engage old Du Tremblai in conversation,
while I make the best use of the time you gain for me."

I now very well perceived that De Retz had in a manner been forced to
explain himself to me, as there was no other person in Paris
acquainted with the designs of the Count de Soissons. I therefore gave
him full credit for sincerity, and agreed to do my best to gain him
the opportunity desired. By the time this explanation was given, it
approached very near to one of the clock; and, not to commit such a
rudeness as to keep waiting for their dinner a party of prisoners,
whose principal earthly amusement must have been to eat, we set out
immediately on foot, it being required that we should give as little
_éclat_ to our visits to the Bastille as possible.

A sort of mixed government then existed within the walls of the
prison, being garrisoned with troops as a fortress, and also very well
supplied with gaolers and turnkeys, to fit it for its principal
capacity. Thus, though the gate was opened to us by an unarmed porter,
a sentinel, iron to the teeth, presented himself in the inner court,
and another at every ten steps. However, having, like the knights of
the old romances, vanquished all perils of the way, we at length
entered into the penetralia, and were ushered into the presence of the
governor.

Monsieur du Tremblai, who died about six months afterwards, was too
good a man for his situation; his reception of us was as kind as if we
had been guests of his own; and the prisoners whom we went to see
appeared to form but a part of his own family. I was now introduced in
form to the friends of Monsieur de Retz: they were all old men; and
had, in truth, nothing remarkable in their appearance. Monsieur de
Vitry, celebrated in history as the man who, at the command of Louis
XIII., shot the Maréchal d'Ancre on the very steps of the Louvre, was
the only one whose countenance promised anything like vigour; but it
was not to him that De Retz had addressed himself in his present
negotiation, but to Monsieur de Cramail, whose face at all events did
not prepossess one in favour of his intellect.

We dined; and the governor, seeing me dressed in mourning, and as
gloomy in my deportment as my garments, luckily applied himself to
console me, with so much application, that Monsieur de Cramail had an
opportunity of speaking a few words to De Retz in private, even during
dinner, while Monsieur du Tremblai endeavoured to solace me with
_alose à la martinette_, and to drive out the demon sorrow with _pieds
de cochons à la St. Menéhoulde_.

During the meal, De Retz took occasion to vaunt my skill at all games
of cards, though, Heaven knows, he could not tell, when he did so,
whether I could distinguish basset from lansquenet; but taking this
for a hint, when the old governor asked me after dinner to make one of
three at ombre, I did not refuse; and, as soon as we were seated, the
Abbé, with Monsieur de Cramail, went out to walk upon the terrace,
while Messieurs De Vitry and Du Fargis remained to look on upon our
game.

Thinking to engage the governor to go on with me, I let him win a few
pieces, though he played execrably ill; but I thus fell into the
common mistake of being too shrewd for my own purpose. Had I judged
sanely of human nature, I should have won his money, and he would have
gone on to a certainty, to win it back. As it was, after gaining a few
crowns, he resigned the cards, and asked if I would join the gentlemen
on the terrace.

There was no way of detaining him; and, therefore, after making what
diversion I could, I followed to the spot where De Retz and Monsieur
de Cramail were enjoying an unobserved _tête-à-tête_. As we came up, I
saw that the latter had a paper in his hand, which he was evidently
about to give to De Retz. The moment, however, we appeared on the
terrace, he paused, and withdrew it. The paper, I knew, might be of
consequence; but how to take off the eyes of the governor was the
question. I praised the view, hoping he would turn to look in his
astonishment; for nothing was to be seen but the smoky chimneys of the
Fauxbourg St. Antoine. But the governor only replied, "Yes, very
fine," and walked on.

I now saw that I must hazard a bold stroke; and quietly insinuating
the point of my sword between the governor's legs, which was the more
easy, as he somewhat waddled in his walk, I slipped the buckle of my
belt, the sword fell, and the governor over it. I tumbled over him;
and while the paper was given, received, and concealed, I picked him
up, begged his pardon, and brushed the dust off his coat; after which
we passed a quarter of an hour in mutually bowing and making excuses.

De Retz then took leave; and, as soon as we were once more in the
street, I left him to peruse the paper he had received at leisure, and
hurried away to my lodging in the Rue des Prêtres St. Paul, to prepare
for the reception of my archer and his recruits. In going to the
Bastille with De Retz, I fancied that I saw a man suddenly turn round
and follow us; and, on my return, I evidently perceived that I was
watched. Whatever was the object, it did not at all suit me that any
one should spy my actions; and, therefore, after various hare-like
doublings, I turned down the Rue des Minims, got into the Place
Royale, and gliding under the dark side of the arcades, made my escape
by the other end, and gradually worked my way up to my lodging. My
good landlady was somewhat surprised to see me, but I found my
apartments prepared, and in order; and sending for a couple of flagons
of good Burgundy, I waited the arrival of my new attendants.

I found that punctuality was amongst their list of qualifications; for
no sooner did twilight fall than the archer made his appearance,
followed by two very respectable-looking personages, whom he
introduced to me severally as Combalet de Carignan, and Jacques
Mocqueur. The first was a tall, well-dressed gallant, ruffling gaily,
with feathers and ribands in profusion, a steady nonchalant daring
eye, and a leg and arm like a Hercules. The face of the second,
Jacques Mocqueur, was not unknown to me; and memory, hastily running
back through the past, found and brought before me in a minute the
figure of one of those worthy sergeants who had come to examine my
valise on my first arrival at Paris. He was the one who had shown some
valour, and had ventured a pass or two with me, after his companion
had been ejected by the window.

I instantly claimed acquaintance with him, which he as readily
admitted; saying, with a grin, that the circumstances under which we
had last met would, he hoped, be quite sufficient to establish his
character in my opinion, and show that he was well fitted for my
service. Whatever reply he expected, I answered in the affirmative;
and Combalet de Carignan, finding that his friend's acquaintance with
me turned out advantageously, would fain have proved himself an old
friend of mine also. Jacques Mocqueur, however, cut him short,
exclaiming, "No, no! you were not of the party; and you just as much
remember monseigneur's face as I do the high-priest of the Jews."

"Why, I have _done_ so many sweet youths lately," replied the other,
"and broken so many heads, that I grow a strange confounder of faces."

"Ay! if you had been with us that day," answered Jacques Mocqueur,
"you would have had your own head broken. Why, monseigneur made short
work with us. He pitched Captain Von Crack out of the window like an
empty oyster-shell, and pricked me a hole in my shoulder before either
of us knew on what ground we were standing;" and he made me a low bow,
to send his compliment home up to the hilt.

"To proceed to business," said I, after I had invited my companions to
taste the contents of the flagons, which they did with truly generous
rivalry. "Let me hear what wages you two gentlemen require for
entering into my service."

"That depends upon two things," replied Combalet de Carignan: "what
sort of service your lordship demands, and what power you have to
protect us in executing it. Simple brawling for you, cheating,
pimping, lying, swearing, thrashing or being thrashed, fighting on
your part, steel to steel, and any other thing in the way of reason,
we are ready to undertake: but murder, assassination, and highway
robbery, are out of our way of business. I have been employed in the
service of the state, am come of a good family, am well born and well
educated, and would rather starve than do anything mean or
dishonourable."

"Nothing of the kind shall be demanded of you," replied I; "and the
worst you shall risk in my service shall be hard blows."

"That is nothing," replied Jacques Mocqueur. "Combalet does not fear
even a little hanging; but he dreads having a hotter place in the
other world than his friends and companions. But for general service,
such as your lordship demands, we cannot have less than sixty crowns a
month each."

To this I made no opposition; and a written agreement was drawn out
between us in the following authentic form:--

"We, Combalet de Carignan, and Jacques dit Mocqueur, hereby take
service with Monsieur le Comte de l'Orme, promising to serve him
faithfully in all his commands, provided they be not such as may put
us in danger of the great carving-knife, the road to heaven, or the
round bedstead. We declare his enemies our enemies, and his friends
our friends; all for the consideration of sixty crowns per month, to
be paid to each of us by the said Count de l'Orme, together with his
aid and protection in all cases of danger and difficulty, as well as
food and maintenance in health, and surgical assistance, in case of
our becoming either sick or wounded in his service."

In addition to the above, I stipulated that my two new retainers were
to abandon all other business than mine; and though they might lie as
much as they pleased to any one else, that they should uniformly tell
me the truth.

At this last proposal, Jacques Mocqueur burst into a fit of laughter;
and Combalet de Carignan hesitated and stammered most desperately.
"You must know, monseigneur," said he, at length, "that my friend
Jacques and I have established a high character amongst our brethren,
by never promising anything without performing it. Now, everything
that we say we will do for your lordship, be sure that it shall be
done, even to our own detriment; but as to telling you the truth, I
can't undertake it. I never told the truth in my life, except in
regard to promises; and I own I should not know how to begin. It is my
infirmity, lying, and I cannot get over it. Jacques Mocqueur can tell
the truth. Oh, I have known him tell the truth very often; but really,
monseigneur, you must excuse _me_."

"Well, then, Monsieur Combalet," said I, "your friend Jacques shall
tell me the truth; and when you lie to me, he shall correct you; and I
will set it down to your infirmity."

"Agreed, monseigneur, agreed," replied the other; "I am quite willing
that you should know the truth. I do not lie to deceive. It proceeds
solely from an exuberant and poetical imagination. But allow me to
request one thing, which is, that you would call me De Carignan. I am
somewhat tenacious in regard to my family; for you must know that I am
descended from the illustrious house of Carignan of----"

"The infirmity! the infirmity!" exclaimed Jacques Mocqueur. "His
mother was a lady of pleasure in the Rue des Hurleurs, and his father
was a footman."

The bravo turned with a furious air upon his companion; but Jacques
Mocqueur only laughed, and assured me that what he said was true.

All preliminaries were now definitively settled; and giving the archer
another piece of gold, I hinted to him that he might leave me alone
with my new attendants. This was no sooner done, than I proceeded to
my more immediate object. "You think, doubtless, my men," said I,
"that I am about to employ you, as you have hitherto been employed, in
any of those little services which require men devoid of prejudice,
and not over-burdened with morality; but you are mistaken. In the
enterprise for which I destine you, you will stand side by side with
the best and noblest of the land. If we fail, we will all lay our
bones together; if we succeed, your reward is sure, and a nobler
career is open to you than that which you have hitherto followed."

My two recruits looked at each other in some surprise. "He means a
buccaneering!" said Combalet to his companion.

"Fie! no," replied Jacques Mocqueur, after a moment's thought. "He
means a conspiracy, because he talks about its being a nobler career.
Folks always call their conspiracies noble, though lawyers call it
treason. However, monseigneur, if it is anything against our late lord
and master, his most devilish eminence of Richelieu, we are your men,
for we both owe him a deep grudge; and we make it a point of honour to
pay our debts. But who are we to fight for, and who against?"

"Hold, hold, my friend," replied I, "you are running forward somewhat
too fast. Remember that you are speaking to your lord, whom you have
bound yourself to serve; and you must obey his commands without
inquiring why or wherefore."

"Ay!" answered Combalet, "so long as they do not make us put our heads
under the great carving-knife; but when your lordship talks about
conspiracies----"

"Who talks about conspiracies, knave?" cried I, "finding that my horses
were showing signs of restiveness--who talks of conspiracies? You have
nothing to do but receive my commands; and when I propose anything to
you that brings you within the danger of the law, then make your
objection.--But to the point," proceeded I; "I am told, and indeed
know from the best authority, that all the persons exercising your
honourable profession, in any of its branches, form as it were a sort
of club or society, which is governed by its own laws to a certain
degree; and I am, moreover, informed that you have a certain place of
meeting, where the elders of your body assemble, called Swash Castle,
or Château Escroc, where you have a chief magistrate, named King of
the Huns. Is not this the fact?"

I had gained my information from various sources, but greatly from my
little attendant Achilles, who had an especial talent for finding out
things concealed. My knowledge of their secrets, however, had a great
effect upon my two attendants, who began to think, I believe, that
either as a professor or an amateur I had at some former time
exercised their honourable trade myself.

"There is no denying it, sir," replied Jacques Mocquer, at length; "we
are a regular corporation. So much I may say, for you know it already;
but ask me no farther, for we are bound by something tighter than an
oath, not to reveal the mysteries of our craft."

"I am going to ask you no questions," replied I, firmly; "but I am
going to command you to take me to your rendezvous, or Swash Castle,
and introduce me to your worthy prince, the King of the Huns."

My two respectable followers gazed in each other's eyes with so much
wonder and amazement, that I saw I had made a very unusual request;
but I was resolved to carry my point; and accordingly added, after
waiting a few moments for an answer, "Why don't you reply? Do not
waste your time in staring one at the other, for I am determined to
go, and nothing shall prevent me."

"Samson was a strong man, monseigneur," replied Jacques, shaking his
head, "but he could not drink out of an empty pitcher. Your lordship
would find it a difficult matter to accomplish your object by
yourself; and though here we stand, willing, according to our
agreement, to serve you to the best of our power, yet I do not believe
that we can do what you require."

"Mark me, Master Jacques Mocque," replied I, "my determination is
taken. I came to Paris for the express purpose of treating with your
King of the Huns, on matters of deep importance; and back I will not
go without having fulfilled my mission. If, therefore, you and your
companion can gain me admittance sinto your Château Escroc by to-morrow
night, ten pieces of gold each shall be your reward; if not, I must
find other means for my purpose; and take care that you put no trick
upon me; for be sure that I will find a time to break every bone in
your skin, if you do.--You know I am a man to keep my word."

"I do! I do! monseigneur," replied Jacques Mocqueur: "it cost me a
yard and a half of diachylon, the last bout I had with you; and I
would not wish to try it again. All I can say is, that we will do our
best to gain a royal ordonnance for your lordship's admittance; but if
you really have made up your mind to go, knowing anything of what you
undertake, you must have a stout heart of your own; that is all that I
can say. I have only farther to assure your lordship, that the more
information you can give us of your purpose, the more likely are we to
succeed."

"You may tell his majesty of the Huns," replied I, "that I come to him
as an ambassador from one prince to treat with another--that he may
find his own advantage in seeing me, for that I shall be contented to
cast ten golden pieces into his royal treasury, as an earnest of
future offerings, on my first visit; and that he need not be in the
least fear, as I come unattended, and quite willing to submit to any
precautions he may judge necessary."

After a little reflection, my two attendants did not seem to think my
enterprise quite so impracticable as they had at first imagined it.
They banded the _pros_ and _cons_, however, some time between them, in
a jargon which to me was very nearly unintelligible; and at last, once
more assuring me that they would do their best, they left me, after
having received a piece or two to stimulate their exertions. Before I
let them depart, I also took care to enforce the necessity of
despatch, and insisted upon it that a definitive answer should be
given me by dusk the day after. As soon as Messieurs Combalet de
Carignan and Jacques Mocqueur were gone, my own steps were turned
towards the Hôtel de Soissons; and revolving in my own mind the events
of the day, I walked on, like most young diplomatists, perfectly
self-satisfied with the first steps of my negotiation, even before it
showed the least probability of ultimate success.



CHAPTER XLIV.


Scarcely had I entered my apartments in the Hôtel de Soissons, ere I
received a visit from Signor Vanoni, who informed me that the Countess
was somewhat offended at my having gone forth without rendering her my
first visit of ceremony. "She invites you, however," added the old
man, "to be present to-night in the observatory of Catherine de
Medicis, which you have doubtless remarked from your window, while I
endeavour to satisfy her, as far as my poor abilities go, in regard to
the future fate of her son, which she imagines may be learned from the
stars."

"And do you not hold the same opinion?" demanded I, seeing that Vanoni
had some hesitation in admitting his own belief in astrological
science. "I suppose there are at least as many who give full credit to
the pretensions of astrologers, as there are who doubt their powers?"

"My own opinion," replied the old man, "signifies little; I certainly
must have thought there was some truth in a science, before I made it
a profound study, which I have done in regard to astrology. However,
if you will do me the honour of following me, I will show you the
interior of the magnificent column which Catherine de Medicis
constructed, for the purpose of consulting those stars which are now,"
he added, with a smile, "growing as much out of fashion as her own
farthingale."

I followed him accordingly, and crossing the gardens, at the end of
one of the alleys, came upon that immense stone tower, in the form of
a column, which may be seen to the present day, standing behind the
Hôtel des Fermes. It was night, but beautifully clear and starlight;
and, looking up, I could see the tall dark head of that immense
pillar, rising like a black giant high above all the buildings around,
and I felt that much of the credence which astrologers themselves
placed in their own dreams, might well be ascribed to the influence of
the solemn and majestic scenes in which their studies were carried on.
I understood completely how a man of an ardent imagination, placed on
an eminence like that, far above a dull and drowsy world below, with
nothing around him but silence, and no contemplation but the bright
and beautiful stars, might dream grand dreams, and fancy that, in the
golden lettered book before his eyes, he could read the secret tale of
fate, and discover the immutable decrees of destiny. I did more: I
felt that, were I long there myself, I should become a dreamer too,
and give rein to imagination as foolishly as any one.

We now entered the tower by a strong door, at which were stationed two
small negro pages, each of whom, dressed in the Oriental costume, bore
a silver lamp burning with some sort of spirit, which gave a blue
unearthly sort of light to whatever they approached. Notwithstanding
my own tendency towards imaginativeness--perhaps I might say towards
superstition--I could not help smiling to see with what pains people
who wish to give way to their fancy, add every accessory which may
tend to deceive themselves. Anything strange, unusual, or mysterious,
is of great assistance to the imagination; and the sight of the two
small negroes, with their large rolling eyes and singular dress,
together with the purple gleam of the lamps in the gloomy interior of
the tower, were all well calculated to impress the mind with those
vague sort of sensations which, themselves partaking of the wild and
extraordinary, form a good preparation to ideas and feelings not quite
tangible to the calm research of reason.

Vanoni saw me smile; and as we went up the stairs of the tower, he
said, "That mummery is none of mine. The good Countess is resolved not
to let her imagination halt for want of aid: but the belief which I
give to the science of astrology is founded upon a different
principle--the historical certainty that many of the most
extraordinary predictions derived from the stars have been verified
contrary to all existing probabilities--a certainty as clearly
demonstrable as any other fact of history, and much more so than many
things to which men give implicit credence. In the search for truth,
we must take care to get rid of that worst of prejudices, because the
vainest--that of believing nothing but what is within the mere scope
of our own knowledge. Now it is as much a matter of history as that
Julius Cæsar once lived at Rome, that in this very tower an astrologer
predicted to Catherine de Medicis the exact number of years which each
of her descendants should reign. It has been one cause of the
disrepute into which the science of astrology has fallen," he added,
"that its professors mingled a degree of charlatanism with their
predictions, which they intended to give them authority, but which has
ultimately discredited the art itself. Thus the astrologer I speak of,
not contented with predicting what he knew would happen, and leaving
the rest to fate, must needs show to the queen the images of her sons,
in what he pretended to be a magic glass; and, by this sort of juggle
diminished his own credit; though the _procès verbal_ of what
Catherine saw, taken down at the time, is now in the hands of the
Countess de Soissons."

"May I ask the particulars?" said I, growing somewhat interested in
the subject; "and also, whether this _procès verbal_ is undoubtedly
authentic?"

"Beyond all question," replied the old man, leading the way into a
circular hall, at the very top of the tower. "It has descended from
hand to hand direct; so that no doubt of its being genuine can
possibly exist. What the queen saw was as follows: being placed
opposite a mirror, in this very chamber, after various fantastic
ceremonies unworthy of a man of real science, the astrologer called
upon the genius of Francis II. to appear, and make as many turns round
the chamber as he should reign years.

"Instantly Catherine beheld a figure, exactly resembling her son,
appear in the glass before her, and with a slow and mournful step take
one turn round the chamber and begin another; but before it was much
more than half completed, he disappeared suddenly; and another figure
succeeded, in which she instantly recognised her second son,
afterwards Charles IX. He encircled the hall fourteen times, with a
quick and irregular pace. After him came Henry III., who nearly
completed fifteen circles; when suddenly another figure, supposed to
be that of the Duke of Guise, came suddenly before him, and both
disappearing together, left the hall void, seemingly intimating to the
queen that there her posterity should end. There stands the mirror,"
he added, "but its powers are gone."

I approached the large ancient mirror with its carved ebony frame, to
which he pointed, and looked into it for a moment, my mind glancing
back to the days of Catherine de Medicis and her gay and vicious
court; and binding the present to the past, with that fine vague line
of associations whose thrilling vibrations form as it were the music
of memory; when suddenly, as if the old magician still exercised his
power upon his own mirror, the stately form of a lady dressed in long
robes of black velvet rose up before me in the glass; and with a start
which showed how much my imagination was already excited, I turned
round and beheld the Countess de Soissons.

Without waiting for the reprimand which, I doubted not, she intended
to bestow upon me, I apologised for having been rude enough to go
anywhere without first having paid my respects to herself, alleging
business of an important nature as my excuse.

"And pray, what important business can such a great man as yourself
have in our poor capital?" demanded the Countess, with a look of
haughty scorn, that had well nigh put to flight my whole provision of
politeness.

"I believe, Madam," replied I, after a moment's pause, "that Monsieur
le Comte your son informed you, by a note which I delivered, that I
had to come to Paris on affairs which he thought fit to intrust to
me."

"And a pretty personage he chose," interrupted the Countess. "But I
come not here to hear your excuses, youth. Has Signor Vanoni told you
the important purpose for which I commanded you to meet me here?"

I replied that he had not done so fully; and she proceeded to inform
me, that the learned Italian, having been furnished by her with all
the astrological particulars of my birth, which she had obtained from
my mother many years before, and also having received those of the
birth of her own son the Count de Soissons, he had chosen that evening
for the purpose of consulting the stars concerning our future fate.

It is needless to go through all the proceedings of the astrologer,
his prediction being the only interesting part of the ceremony. This
he delivered without any affectation or mummery, as the mere effect of
calculations; and his very plainness had something in it much more
convincing than any assumption of mystery; for it left me convinced of
his own sincere belief in what he stated. I forget the precise terms
of his prophecy in regard to the Count de Soissons; suffice it, that
it was such as left room for an easy construction to be put upon it,
shadowing out what was really the after-fate of the Prince to whom it
related. In regard to myself, he informed me that dangers and
difficulties awaited me, more fearful and more painful than any I had
hitherto encountered; but that with fortitude I should surmount them
all; and he added, that if I still lived after one month from that
day, my future fate looked clear and smiling. All who sought my life,
he said farther, should die by my hand, or fail in their attempt, and
that in marriage I should meet both wealth, and rank, and beauty.

Absurd as I knew the whole system to be, yet I own--man's weaknesses
form perhaps the most instructive part of his history, and therefore
it is, I say it--absurd, as I knew the whole system to be, yet I could
not help pondering over this latter part of the prediction, and
endeavoured to reconcile it in my own mind with the probabilities of
the future. My Helen had beauty, I knew too well. Wealth, I had heard
attributed to her; and rank, the Prince had promised to obtain. Oh
man, man! thou art a strange, weak being; and thy boasted reason is
but a glorious vanity, which serves thee little till thy passions have
left thee, and then conducts thee to a grave!

Hope, in my breast but a drowning swimmer, clung to a straw--to
worse--a bubble.

I followed the Countess de Soissons from the tower, thoughtful and
dreamy; and I believe the old man Vanoni was somewhat pleased to
witness the effect that his words had wrought upon me; though he could
little see the strange and mingled web that fancy and reason were
weaving in my breast--the golden threads of the one, though looking as
light as a gossamer, proving fully strong enough to cross the woof of
the other, and outshine it in the light of hope.

At the foot of the staircase we found the Countess's women waiting;
and having suffered me to conduct her to the door of the Hôtel de
Soissons, she gave me my dismissal with the same air of insufferable
haughtiness, and retired into the house. As my apartments lay in one
of the wings, I was again crossing the garden to reach them, when
suddenly a figure glided past me, which for a moment rooted me to the
ground. It was in vain I accused myself of superstition, of madness,
of folly. The belief still remained fixed upon my mind, that I had
seen Jean Baptiste Arnault, whom I had shot with my own hand. The moon
had just risen--the space before me was clear; and if ever my eyes
served me in the world, it was the figure of him I had killed that
passed before me.

Without loss of time, I made my way to my own apartments; and pale,
haggard, and agitated, I cast myself on a seat, while little Achilles,
in no small surprise, gazed on me with open eyes, and asked a thousand
times what he could do for me.

"It was he!" muttered I, without taking any notice of the little
man.--"It was certainly Jean Baptiste Arnault, if ever I beheld him."

"My brother!" exclaimed Achilles; "I thought he was at Lourdes, with
that most respectable gentleman his father, my mother's husband that
was; and my parent that ought to have been--I certainly thought he was
at Lourdes."

"He is in the grave, and by my hand," replied I, scarcely
understanding what he had said; but gradually, as I grew calm, my mind
took in his meaning, and I exclaimed, "Your brother! Was Jean Baptiste
Arnault your brother?"

"That he certainly was, by the mother's side," replied the little
player, "and as good a soul he was, when a boy, as ever existed." An
explanation of course ensued; and on calling to mind the little man's
history, I found that no great wit would have been necessary to have
understood his connection with Arnault before. A more painful
narrative followed on my part, for Achilles pressed me upon the words
I had let fall. I could not tell him the circumstances of his
brother's death--that would have been too dreadful for my state of
mind at the moment; but I assured him that it had been accidental; and
I told him the regret, the horror, the grief, which it had occasioned
me ever since.

"Poor Jean Baptiste!" cried the little player, with more feeling than
I thought he possessed, "he was as good a creature as ever lived; and
now, when I hear that he is dead, all his tricks of boyhood, and all
the happy hours when we played together, come up upon my mind, and I
feel--what perhaps I never felt rightly before--what a sad thing it is
to be an outcast, denied, and forgotten, and alone, without one tie of
kindred between me and all the wide world." And the tears came up into
his eyes as he spoke. "Do not let me vex you, monseigneur," continued
he: "I am sure you would harm no one on purpose; and you have been to
me far better than kind and kindred; for you alone, on all the earth,
have borne with me, and showed me unfailing kindness; but yet I cannot
help regretting poor Jean Baptiste."

It was a bitter and a painful theme; and we both dropped it as soon as
it was possible. Ideas, however, were re-awakened in my mind, that
defied sleep; and though I persuaded myself that the figure I had seen
was but the effect of an imagination over-excited by what had passed
during the day, and the thoughts that had lately occupied me; yet, as
I lay in my bed, all the horrid memories, over which time had begun to
exercise some softening power, came up as sharp and fresh as if the
blood was still flowing that my hand had shed.

I rose late, and while Achilles was aiding me to dress, I saw that
there was something on his mind that he wished to say. At length it
broke forth. "I would not for the world speak to you, monseigneur, on
a subject that is so painful," said the little player, with a delicacy
of which I had hardly judged him capable; "but this morning something
extraordinary has happened, that I think it best to tell you. As I was
standing but now at the gate of the Hôtel de Soissons, who should pass
by but Arnault the old procureur. He stopped suddenly, and looked at
me; and as I thought he knew me, though in all probability I was
mistaken, I spoke to him, and we had a long conversation. Me he seemed
to care very little about, but he asked me a world of questions about
you; and he seemed to know all that you were doing, a great deal
better than I did myself. I assured him, however, that the death of
poor Jean Baptiste was entirely accidental, as you told me; and I
related to him all that you had suffered on that account, and how
often, even now, it would make you as grave and as melancholy as if it
were just done. I wanted him very much to tell me where he lived, but
he would not; and took himself off directly I asked the question."

It gave me some pain to hear that Achilles had now positively informed
Arnault that my hand had slain his son. Helen could never be mine; I
felt it but too bitterly, as the dreams which the astrologer's
prediction had suggested died away in my bosom--and yet I shrank from
the idea of her knowing, that he whom she had loved was the murderer
of her brother. I could not, however, blame Achilles for what he had
done. The name of Helen had never been mentioned between us; and when
I thought that she was _his_ sister--the sister of my own servant,
though it changed no feeling in my breast towards her--though it left
her individually lovely, and excellent, and graceful as ever in my
eyes, yet it gave new strength to the vow I had made to obey my
mother's last injunctions, by adding another to the objections which
she would have had to that alliance. The conviction that we were fated
never to be united took firm possession of my mind. Destiny seemed
willing to spare me even the pain of faint hopes, by piling up
obstacle on obstacle between us; but I resolved that, if I might never
call her I loved my own, I would give the place which she had filled
in my heart to no other. I would live solitary and unbound by those
ties which she alone could have rendered delightful. I would pass
through life without the touch of kindred or of wedded love, and go
down to the grave the last of my race and name.

Such were my resolutions; and, variable and light as my character was
in some degree, I believe that I should have kept them--ay!
notwithstanding the quick and ardent blood of youth, and my own
proneness to passion and excitement.

In the course of the morning, I visited Monsieur de Retz; and,
according to the commands of Monsieur le Comte, we mutually
communicated the steps we had taken--though I believe De Retz informed
me of the success which had attended his negotiations, more to force
me into a return of confidence than for any other reason.

"From the letter which Monsieur de Cramail slipped into my hand
yesterday," said he, "as well as from what he told me _vivâ voce_, I
can now safely say the Bastille is our own. Indeed, it is wonderful
with what facility this party of prisoners dispose of their place of
confinement; but the Count tells me here, that he has won the officers
of the garrison, and the officers have won the soldiers--that, in
short, all hearts are for Monsieur le Comte, and that it only wants a
first success to make all hands for him too. Oh, my dear De l'Orme,"
he burst forth, "what a wonderful thing is that same word success! But
once attach it to a man's name, and you shall have all the world kneel
to serve him, and laud him to the skies--let him but fail, and the
whole pack will be upon him, like a herd of hungry wolves. Give me the
man that, while success is doubtful, stands my friend, who views my
actions and my worth by their own intrinsic merit, and pins not his
faith upon that great impostor success, whose favour or whose frown
depends not on ourselves but circumstance."

As soon as it was dusk, I went alone to my little lodging in the Rue
des Prêtres St. Paul; and, after waiting for about half an hour,
received the visit of my two most respectable followers, Combalet and
Jacques Mocqueur. As they entered, I saw by a certain smirking air of
satisfaction on their countenances, that they had been successful in
their negotiation, which they soon informed me was the case.

"We have permission from his most acuminated majesty of the Huns,"
said Jacques Mocqueur, "to introduce Monseigneur le Comte de l'Orme
into his famous palace called Château Escroc, and to naturalise him a
Hun, upon the reasonable condition of his submitting to be
blindfolded, as he is conducted through the various passes of the
country of the Huns."

"In regard to being blindfolded," replied I, "I have not the least
objection, as it is but natural you should take means to prevent your
secret resorts from being betrayed; but I must first understand
clearly what you mean by my being naturalised a Hun, before I submit
to any such proceeding."

"'Tis a most august and solemn proceeding," replied Combalet de
Carignau, "and many of the first nobility have submitted to it without
blushing."

"His infirmity! his infirmity!" cried Jacques Mocqueur. "I pray your
lordship would not forget his infirmity! Not a noble in these
or former times ever thought of submitting to the ceremony but
yourself;--but after all, it is but a ceremony, which binds you to
nothing."

"If that be the case," replied I, "I will go; but be so good as to
remark, that I have nothing upon my person but the ten gold pieces
which I have promised your worthy monarch; and I beg that you will
give notice thereof to the worthy corporation I am going to meet, lest
the devil of cupidity should tempt them to play me foul."

"For that, we are your lordship's sureties," said Combalet. "I should
like to see the man who would wag a finger against you, while we stood
by your side."

"Your lordship does us injustice," said Jacques Mocqueur, in a less
swaggering tone. "There is honour, even to a proverb, amongst the
gentlemen you are going to meet; but if you are at all afraid, one of
us will stay till your return, at the Hôtel de Soissons, where our
friend the archer informed us you really lodged."

"I am not the least afraid," replied I: "but I spoke, knowing that
human nature is fallible; and that the idea of gold might raise up an
evil spirit amongst some of your companions, which even you might find
it difficult to lay. However, lead on, I will follow you."

"I question much whether the council has yet met," replied Combalet;
"but we shall be some time in going, and therefore we may as well
depart." We accordingly proceeded into the street, where I went on
first, followed, scarcely a step behind, by my two bravoes, in the
manner of a gentleman going on some visit accompanied by his lackeys.
At every corner of each street, either Combalet or his companion
whispered to me the turning I was to take; and thus we proceeded for
near half an hour, till I became involved in lanes and buildings with
which I was totally unacquainted, notwithstanding my manifold
melancholy rambling through Paris, when I was there alone and
tormented with gloomy thoughts that drove me forth continually, for
mere occupation. The houses seemed to grow taller and closer together,
and in many of the lanes through which we passed, I could have touched
each side of the street, by merely stretching out my hands. Darkness,
too, reigned supreme, so that it was with difficulty that I saw my way
forward; and certainly should often not have known that there was any
turning near, had it not been for the whisper of mv companions, "To
the right!" or "To the left!"

The way was long, too, and tortuous, winding in and out, with a
thousand labyrinthine turnings, as if it had been built on purpose to
conceal every kind of vice, and crime, and wretchedness, amongst its
obscure involutions.

Every now and then from the houses as I passed burst forth the sound
of human voices; sometimes in low murmurs, sometimes in loud and
boisterous merriment; and sometimes even in screams and cries of
enmity or pain, that made my blood run cold. Still, however, I pursued
my purpose. I could but lose my life--and life to me had not that
value which it possesses with the happy and the prosperous. I would
have sold it dear, nevertheless, and was well prepared to do so, for I
was armed with dagger, sword, and pistol; so that, setting the object
to be gained by murdering me, which could but be my clothes, with the
risk and bloodshed of the attempt, I judged myself very secure, though
I found clearly that I was plunging deeper and deeper every moment
among those sinks of vice, iniquity, and horror, with which some part
of every great city is sure to be contaminated.

Suddenly, as I was proceeding along one of these narrow streets, a
hand was laid firmly, but not rudely, on my breast; and a voice asked,
"Where go ye?" Jacques Mocqueur stepped forward instantly, and
whispering a word to my interrogator, I was suffered to proceed. In a
few minutes after, we arrived at a passage, where my bravoes informed
me that it would be necessary to bandage my eyes, which was soon done;
and being conducted forward, I perceived that we went into a house,
the entrance of which was so narrow, that it was with difficulty
Combalet could turn sufficiently to lead me onward by the hand. I took
care as we went to count the number of paces, and to mark well the
turnings, so that, I believe, I could have retraced my steps had it
been necessary.

After turning four times, we once more emerged into the open air, as
if we crossed an inner court, and I could hear a buzz of many voices,
seemingly from some window above. We now again entered a house; and,
having turned twice, the bravoes halted, and I heard an old woman's
voice cry in a ragged, broken tone, "They are waiting for you, you two
lazy jessame flinchers. And what new devil have you brought with
you?--A pretty piece of flesh, I declare! Why, he has a leg and an arm
like the man of bronze."

While these observations were being made upon my person, my two worthy
retainers were detaching the bandage from my eyes; and as soon as I
could see, I found myself standing in a large vestibule at the foot of
a staircase. An iron lamp hung from the ceiling, and by its light I
beheld a hideous old woman, in that horrid state where mental
imbecility seemed treading on the heels of every sort of vice. Her
high aquiline nose, her large bleared, dull eyes, swimming between
drunkenness and folly, her wide mouth, the lips of which had long
since fallen in over her toothless gums, all offered now a picture of
the most degrading ugliness; while, with a kind of gloating gaze,
she examined me from head to foot, crying from time to time, "A
pretty piece of flesh!--ay, a pretty piece of flesh!--nice devil's
food!--will you give me a kiss, young Beelzebub?" And throwing her
arms suddenly round me, she gave me a hug that froze the very blood in
my veins.

I threw her from me with disgust; and, in her state of
semi-drunkenness, she tottered back and fell upon the pavement, giving
a great scream; on which a man, who had been lying in a corner totally
unseen by me, sprang up, and drawing his sword, rushed upon me,
crying, "Morbleu, Maraud! How dare you strike Mother Marinette?"

It was a critical moment. To do anything with the wild and lawless, it
needs to show one's self as fierce and fearless as themselves. My
sword was out in an instant; and knowing that sometimes a display of
daring courage, with men like those amongst whom I was placed, will
touch the only feelings that remain in their seared and blackened
hearts, and do more with them than any other earthly quality, I cried
out to my two retainers, who were hurrying to separate us, "Let him
alone! let him alone!--We are man to man. I only ask fair play."

"Fair play! Give him fair play!" cried Combalet and his companion to
half a dozen ruffians that came rushing down the stairs at the noise.
"Give the Count fair play!"

"It's a quarrel about a lady!" cried Jacques Mocqueur. "An affair of
honour! A duello! Let no one interrupt them."

In the meanwhile my antagonist lunged at me with vain fury. He was not
unskilful in the use of his weapon, but his was what may be called
bravo-fencing, very well calculated for street brawls, where five or
six persons are engaged together, but not fit to be opposed to a
really good swordsman, calmly hand to hand. His traverses were loose,
and he bore hard against my blade, so that at last, suddenly shifting
my point, I deceived him with a half time, and not willing exactly to
kill him, brought him down with a severe wound in his shoulder.

"Quarter for Goguenard! Quarter for Goguenard!" cried the respectable
spectators, several of whom had, during the combat, served me
essentially by withholding Madame Marinette (the beldame whose
caresses I had repulsed so unceremoniously) from exercising her talons
upon my face. My sword was instantly sheathed, and my antagonist being
raised, looked at me with a grim grin, but without any apparent
malice. "You've sliced my bacon," cried he; "but, _Ventre saint
gris!_ you are a tight hand, and I forgive you."

The wounded man was now carried off to have his wound _puttied_, as he
expressed it; and I was then ushered up stairs into a large room,
wherein all the swash-bucklers, that the noise of clashing swords had
brought out like a swarm of wasps when their nest is disturbed, now
hastened to take their seats round a large table that occupied the
centre of the hall. In place of the pens, the ink-horns, and the
paper, which grace the more dignified council boards of more modern
nations, that of the worthy Huns was only covered, in imitation of
their ancestors, with swords and pistols, daggers and knives, bottles,
glasses, and flagons, symbolical of the spirit in which their laws
were conceived, and the sharpness with which they were enforced.

At the head of the table, when we entered, were seated four or five of
the sager members of the council, who had not suffered their attention
to be called from their deliberations like the rest; and in a great
arm-chair raised above the rest was placed a small old man, with sharp
grey eyes, a keen pinched nose, and a look of the most infallible
cunning I ever beheld in mortal countenance. He wore his hat buttoned
with a large jewel, and was very splendidly attired in black velvet;
so that, from every circumstance of his appearance, I was inclined to
believe I beheld in him that very powerful and politic monarch called
the King of the Huns.

As Combalet de Carignan and Jacques Mocqueur were leading me forward
in state to present me to the monarch, he rose, and stroking his short
grey beard from the root to the point between his finger and thumb, he
demanded, with an air of dignity, "What noise was that I heard but
now, and who dared to draw a sword within the precincts of our royal
palace?"

This question was answered by Jacques Mocqueur with the following
delectable sentence:--"May it please your majesty, the case was, that
old Marinette did the sweet upon the Count here, who buffed her a
swagger that earthed her marrow-bones; whereupon mutton-faced
Goguenard aired his pinking-iron upon the count, and would have made
his chanter gape, if the Count had not sliced his bacon, and brought
him to kiss his mother."

This explanation, however unintelligible to me at the time, seemed
perfectly satisfactory to the great potentate to whom it was
addressed; who, nodding to me with a gracious inclination, replied,
"The Count most justly punished an aggression upon the person of an
ambassador. Let our secretary propose the oaths to the count, our
cupbearer bring forward our solemn goblet, and let the worthy nobleman
take the oaths, and be naturalized a true and faithful Hun."

A meagre gentleman in a black suit now advanced towards me, with a
book in his hand, and proposed to me to swear that I would be
thenceforward a true and faithful subject to the mighty monarch,
François St. Maur, King of the Huns; that I would act as a true and
loyal Hun in all things, but especially in submitting myself to all
the laws of the Commonwealth, and the ordinances of the King in
council; as well as in keeping inviolably secret all the proceedings
of the Huns, their places of resort, their private signs, signals,
designs, plans, plots, and communications, with a great variety of
other particulars, all couched-in fine technical language, which took
nearly a quarter of an hour in repeating.

Greater part of this oath I took the liberty of rejecting, giving so
far in to their mockery of ceremony, as to state my reasons to the
monarch with an affectation of respect that seemed to please him not a
little; and, though one or two of the ruffians thought fit to grumble
at any concessions being made to me, it was nevertheless arranged that
the oath should be curtailed in my favour, to a solemn vow of secrecy,
which I willingly took.

An immense wrought goblet of silver was now presented to me, which I
should have imagined to be a chalice filched from some church, had it
not been for various figures of bacchanals and satyrs richly embossed
on the stalk and base. I raised it to my lips, drinking to the monarch
of the Huns, who received my salutation standing; but the very first
mouthful showed me that it was filled with ardent spirits; and
returning it to the cup-bearer, I begged that I might be accommodated
with wine, for that there was quite enough in the cup to incapacitate
me for fulfilling the important mission with which I was charged.

A loud shout at my flinching from the cup was the first reply; and one
of the respectable cut-throats exclaimed from the other side of the
table, "Give some milk and water to the chickenhearted demoiselle."

I had already had enough of brawling for the night; and as no farther
object was to be gained by noticing the ruffian's insult at the time,
I took the cup that was now presented to me filled with wine, and
drank health to the King of the Huns, without seeming to hear what had
been said.

The most delicate part of my mission still remained to be fulfilled,
namely, to explain to the chief of all the thieves, swindlers, and
bravoes in Paris, for such was the King of the Huns, the objects of
the Count de Soissons, without putting his name and reputation in the
power of every ruffian in the capital; and as I looked round the room,
which was now crowded with men of every attire and every carriage, I
found a thousand additional reasons in each villanous countenance for
being as guarded and circumspect as possible.

How I should have acquitted myself Heaven only knows; but a great deal
of trouble was taken off my hands by the King of the Huns himself;
who, after regarding me for a moment with his little grey eyes, that
seemed to enter into one's very heart, and pry about in every secret
corner thereof, opened the business himself, and left my farther
conduct comparatively easy.

"Count de l'Orme," said he, in a loud voice, while all the rest kept
silence, "you have sought an interview with us, and you have gained
it. Ordinary politicians would now use all their art to conceal what
they know of your purpose, and to make you unfold to them more perhaps
than you wished; but we, with the frankness that characterises a great
nation, are willing to show you that we are already aware of much more
than you imagine. You sent word to us that you came on a mission from
a prince. We will save you the trouble of naming him. He is Louis de
Bourbon, Count de Soissons!"

A murmur of surprise at the penetration of the king ran through the
assembly; but to me his means of information on this point were
evident enough. The archer had communicated to the bravoes that,
though I received them in the Rue Prêtres St. Paul, I lodged myself at
the Hôtel de Soissons. They had informed their chief of the same, and
by an easy chain of conclusions he had fallen upon the right person as
my principal.

How he came by the rest of his information I do not know; but he
proceeded. "His highness the Count de Soissons is universally loved,
in the same proportion that the minister, his enemy, is hated; and
there is not one man amongst my subjects who does not bear the
greatest affection to the one, and the greatest abhorrence towards the
other."

A loud shout of assent interrupted him for a moment; but when it had
subsided he went on. "The Count is, we are well informed, preparing on
all hands for open war with the cardinal; and we also know, that there
is more than one agent working privately in this city for his service.
We are not amongst those who will be most backward, or most
inefficient in his cause; and we only wish to know, in the first
instance, what he expects of us. Not that I mean to say," he added,
"that we do not intend therein to have some eye to our own interests;
yet, nevertheless, the Count will not find us hard or difficult to
deal with, as our enemies would have men believe."

In answer to this speech, I went directly to the point, finding that
all diplomatising on the subject was spared me. I therefore told the
King of the Huns that he was perfectly right in the view he had taken
of the case; and that as the Count was now driven to extremity by the
Cardinal, it was natural that he should take every means to strengthen
his own cause. Of course, under these circumstances, I added, he would
not think of neglecting so large and respectable a body as the Huns,
and had therefore sent me to pray them, in case of a rising in the
city of Paris on his part, to support his friends with all their aid
and influence, and to embarrass his enemies by all those means which
no men knew so well how to employ as themselves. I farther added, that
if, under the permission and sanction of their government, any of his
Majesty's subjects would enrol themselves as men at arms, to serve the
Count de Soissons under my command, the prospect of vast advantages
was before them; but that, of course, I should require those men who,
having some knowledge of military discipline and habits, would not
need the long and tedious drilling of young recruits.

"Such have we amongst our subjects in plenty," replied the King of the
Huns. "We are, as I need not inform you, essentially a military
nation; and for our own credit, the troops we furnish to our
well-beloved cousin, Monsieur le Comte, shall be of the best quality."

A murmuring conversation now took place through the assembly, each man
expressing to his neighbour his opinion of what had just passed, in a
low voice, that left nothing audible but the various curses and
imprecations with which they seasoned their discourse, and which
seasoning certainly predominated over the matter. This left me,
however, an opportunity of gaining some private speech of the king,
with whom, in a very short time, I contrived to settle all
preliminaries. I paid my ten louis into the treasury, and promised
twenty more, in case of his showing himself active and serviceable in
the rising of the metropolis. He, on his part, engaged to select and
send to a certain point on the frontiers, as many horsemen as he could
rely upon, who were to take service with me, and to bind themselves by
oath to obey my commands for one month. For the first month, all I
could promise in regard to pay was twenty crowns per man; but this
seemed quite satisfactory; and I believe the plunder to be expected,
whichever party gained the day, was much more tempting in their eyes
than the ostensible reward. The rendezvous was named at the little
village of Marigny, beyond Mouzon, just over the frontier; and it was
agreed that the king should send me, from time to time, a note of the
numbers he despatched; and that on my arrival at Marigny I should
disburse to each man his pay in advance, on his taking the stipulated
oath, and showing himself ready for action, armed with sword, pistol,
dagger, morion, back and breast pieces, and musketoon. The number
which his most Hun-like majesty thought he could promise was about
three hundred men; and I very naturally supposed that I should have
somewhat of a difficult command over men who had long submitted to no
law but their own will.

I knew, also, that so trifling an incident as my having refused to
pledge the King in his goblet of strong waters might do much harm to
my future authority; and, therefore, after having risen to go, I ran
my eye down the opposite side of the table, and said in aloud voice,
"Some one, about an hour ago, called me 'a chicken-hearted
demoiselle.' If he will stand out here in the free space, I will give
him the most convincing proof that my heart is as stout as his own,
and my hand not that of a girl."

A fellow with the form and countenance of an ox-slayer instantly
started up, but his companions thrust him down again, several voices
crying out, "No, no! down with him! the Count is no flincher; look at
Goguenard, the best man amongst us, floored like a sheep!"

"If any proof were wanting," said Jacques Mocqueur, stepping forward,
"to establish the noble Count's slashing qualities, I could give it. I
am known to be a tough morsel for any man's grinders; and yet, once
upon a day, the Count did for two of us singlehanded. He sent Captain
Von Crack out of the window sack-of-wheat fashion, and left me with
the flesh of my arm gaping like an empty flagon."

This matter being settled, I drank a parting cup with his majesty, to
the prosperity of the Huns, which was of course received with a loud
shout; and, conducted by Combalet de Carignan and his companion, I
left Château Escroc with my whole frame fevered and burning, from the
excitement I had undergone.

I have only farther to remark, that, according to the oath of secrecy
which I had taken, I should not now have placed even this interview on
paper, had not that respectable body with whom I passed the evening
been discovered some years since, and totally routed out of all their
dens. The fraternity of the Huns will doubtless ever exist in Paris;
but, thanks to the exertions of our late energetic criminal
lieutenant, they are now, like the Jews, a dispersed and wandering
people, each depending on his own resources, and turning the public to
his own particular profit.



CHAPTER XLV.


During the ten days which followed, I received every morning news of
some new detachment having set out for Marigny; and each despatch from
the King of the Huns gave me the most positive assurance of his
co-operation in favour of the Prince, as soon as a signal should be
given for the rising in Paris.

De Retz was enchanted with the progress I had made, and declared, with
a sneer even at the enterprise in which he was himself engaged, that
now we possessed the poor, the prisoners, and the cut-throats, our
success in Paris was certain.

"Amongst my researches," said he one day, while we were speaking over
these circumstances, "I have met with a man that puzzles me. He is
certainly poor, even to beggary, at least so my scout, who discovered
him, assures me; and yet he refused pecuniary assistance, though
offered in the most delicate manner I could devise, and repulsed me so
haughtily, that I could not introduce one word of treason or
conspiracy into my discourse. As you, my dear count, are about to
venture yourself in mortal strife, you could not have a more
serviceable follower than this man's appearance bespeaks him. He is a
Hercules; and if his eye does not play the braggart in its owner's
favour, he is just a man to kill lions and strangle serpents. You
could not do better than visit him, telling him that you are my
friend, and that I am most anxious to serve him, if he will point me
out the means."

I was very willing to follow the suggestion of Monsieur de Retz, being
at the very time engaged in searching for a certain number of personal
attendants, whose honesty might in some degree neutralise the opposite
qualities of those that waited me at Marigny. Having received the
address then, I proceeded to a small street in the _cité_, and
mounting three pair of stairs, knocked at a door that had been
indicated to me. A deep voice bade me come in; and, entering a
miserable apartment, I beheld the object of my search. The light was
dim; but there was something in the grand athletic limbs and proud
erect carriage, that made me start by their sudden call upon old
recollections. It was Garcias himself, whom I had left at Barcelona
borne high upon the top of that fluctuating billow, popular favour,
that now stood before me in apparent poverty in Paris.

He started forward and grasped my hand. "Monsieur de l'Orme!" cried
he: "God of heaven! then I am not quite abandoned."

His tale was not an extraordinary one. He had fallen as he had risen.
The nobility of Catalonia, finding that the insurgents maintained
themselves, and received aid from France, declared for the popular
party, gradually took possession of all authority; and, to secure it,
provided for the ruin of all those who had preceded them. Garcias was
the most obnoxious, because he had been the most powerful while the
lower classes had predominated. Causes of accusation are never wanting
in revolutions, even against the best and noblest; and Garcias was
obliged to fly, to save himself from those whose liberties he had
defended and saved. Spain was now all shut against him. France was his
only refuge; and, finding his way to Paris, he set himself down in
that great luxurious city, with that most scorching curse in his own
breast, a proud heart gnawed by poverty.

"But your wife, Garcias!" demanded I, after listening to his
history--"your wife! what has become of her?"

"She is an angel in heaven!" replied he, abruptly, at the same time
turning away his head. "Monsieur de l'Orme," he added, more firmly,
"do not let us speak of her--it unmans me. You have seen a fair flower
growing in the fields, have you not?--Well, you have plucked it, and
putting it in your bonnet, have borne it in the mid-day sun and the
evening chill; and when you have looked for the flower at nightfall,
you have found but a withered, formless, beautiless thing, that
perforce you have given back to the earth from which it sprang. Say no
more!--say no more!--Thus she passed away!"

Since we had parted, misfortunes had bent the proud spirit of the
Spaniard, while my own had gained more energy and power; so that now,
it was I who exercised over him the influence he had formerly
possessed over me. The aid he had refused from Monsieur de Retz, from
me he was willing to accept; and, explaining to him my situation, I
easily prevailed upon him to join himself to my fortunes, and to aid
me in disciplining and commanding the very doubtful corps I had
levied.

Upon pretence of wishing him nearer to me, I would not leave him till
I had installed him in my lodgings in the Rue des Prêtres; and there,
I took care that he should be supplied with everything that was
externally necessary to his comfort, and that his mind should be
continually employed.

I now added six trusty servants to my retinue, provided horses and
arms for the whole party, and my business in Paris being nearly
concluded, prepared to return to Sedan without loss of time; when one
morning a note was left at my little lodging, desiring my presence at
the Palais Cardinal the next evening at four o'clock, and signed
"_Richelieu_."

I instantly sent off my six servants to Meaux, keeping with me
Combalet de Carignan, his companion Jacques Mocqueur, Garcias, and
Achilles, with the full intention of bidding adieu to Paris the next
morning, and putting as many leagues as possible between myself and
his eminence of Richelieu, before the hour he had named. Time was when
I should have waited his leisure with the palpitating heart of hope,
and now I prepared to gallop away from him with somewhat more speed
than dignity. The _tempora mutantur et nos mutamur_ goes but a little
way to tell the marvels that a month can do.

My plans, however, were disarranged by very unexpected circumstances.
On returning to my apartments at the Hôtel de Soissons, I sat down for
a moment to write; when, after a gentle tap, the door opened, and in
glided the pretty embroidery girl whom, on my first arrival at the
house, I had seen holding the silks for the Countess's work. She
advanced, and gave a note into my hands, and was then retiring.

"From the Countess, my pretty maid?" demanded I.

"No, sir," she replied. "Pray do not tell the Countess that I gave it
to you;" and so saying, she glided out of the chamber faster than she
came.

I opened the note immediately, seeing that there was some mystery in
the business; and with a tumult of feelings varying at every word,
like the light clouds driven across an autumn sky, now all sunshine,
now all shadow, I read what follows:--


"Monsieur le Comte,

"I have just learned from my father, that by some strange error you
have not yet heard of my recovery, and that you have been passing the
best of your days in regret for having, as you imagined, killed me,
though we are both well aware that the wound I received was given in
your own defence. I have been misled, Monsieur le Comte, by those who
should have taught me right; but I will no longer be commanded, even
by my father, to do what is against my conscience; and, therefore, I
write you this letter, to tell you that I am still in life. So
conscious was I from the first that I had received my wound as a
punishment from Heaven for that which I was engaged in, that, on
recovering my senses at the château, I attributed my situation to the
accidental discharge of my own gun. All I can add is, that I always
loved you, and would have served you with all my heart, had not other
people put passions and wishes into my head that I ought never to have
entertained. From all that, my eyes are now cleared; and, as a proof
of it, I give you the following information--that if you will this
evening at eight o'clock, when it is beginning to grow dusk, go
sufficiently attended to the first carrefour on the road to Vincennes,
you will have the means of saving her you love best from much fear and
uncomfort. Even should you be too late, be under no dread that she
will meet with any serious evil. On that score depend upon

                                   "JEAN BAPTISTE ARNAULT.

"P.S.--The carriage in which they convey her is red, with a black boot
on each side."


I sprang up from the table, like Ixion unbound from his wheel. The
load was off my bosom--I no longer felt the curse of Cain upon me--my
heart beat with a lightness such as we know in boyhood; and the gay
blood running along my veins seemed to have lost the curdling poison
that had so long mingled with it. It was then I first fully knew how
heavily, how dreadfully the burden of crime had sat upon me, even when
my immediate thoughts were turned to other things. I felt that it had
made me old before my time--daring, reckless, hopeless. But now I
seemed to have regained the youngness, the freshness of my spirit; and
Hope once more lighted her torch, and ran on before, to illumine my
path through the years to come.

In the first tumult of my feelings, reflection upon all the collateral
circumstances was out of the question; but upon consideration, I saw
painfully how strange my absence must have appeared to my family, from
Jean Baptiste having concealed that I was the person who wounded him.
Doubtless, I thought he had told his father, who had thereupon
instantly taken Helen from the château; and thus my mother had been
led to connect my absence with her removal.

Several parts of Jean Baptiste's letter surprised me much. Of course,
however, I put my own interpretation upon them, and then bent my
thoughts upon the danger which, as he informed me, menaced my dear
Helen. What its nature could be I could not divine; but without
wasting time in endeavouring to discover that on which I had no means
of reasoning, I proceeded as fast as possible to the lodgings where I
had left Garcias; and, sending Achilles for Combalet and his
companion, prepared to set out to the place which the letter had
indicated. It was by this time wearing towards evening; but we had
still a full hour between us and the time appointed. My impatience,
however, would not brook the delay; and therefore, as soon as I had
collected all my attendants, I set off at full speed, and arrived at
the first carrefour on the road to Vincennes, about half-past seven
o'clock.

It was still quite light, and a great many of the evening strollers of
the city and its environs were passing to and fro, so that the sight
of a gentleman in mourning, with four somewhat conspicuous attendants,
planted in the middle of a crossroad, did not escape without remark.
One by one, however, the observers passed away, each leaving a longer
and a longer interval between himself and his successor, while
daylight also gradually diminished, and it became dark enough to
conceal us from any but very watchful eyes. In the meanwhile, my
imagination went throughout all the various evolutions that an
impatient spirit can impose upon it; at one time fancying that I had
mistaken the spot; at another, supposing that I had been purposely
deceived; and at another, believing that the carriage which contained
Helen had taken a different road.

At length, however, the creaking of wheels seemed to announce its
approach, and, drawing back as far as we could from observation, we
waited till it came up. At about twenty paces in advance came two
horsemen, one of whom, as soon as he arrived at the carrefour,
dismounted, and gave his horse to his companion, while he went back,
and opening the door of the carriage, got in. I could not see his
face; but he was a short man, not taller than my little servant
Achilles, which was the more remarkable, from the difficulty he had in
reaching the high step of the carriage. In a moment after, I heard
Helen's voice exclaim, "I have been deceived; I will go no farther!
Let me descend, or I will call for assistance!"

She was not obliged to call, however. Assistance was nearer than she
thought. "Seize the horses, Combalet," cried I; and rushing forward, I
tore open the door of the carriage, exclaiming, "It is I, Helen! it is
Louis!--Who has dared to deceive you?"

She sprang out at once into my arms, while the man who had entered the
carriage just before, made his escape at the other side. Swords by
this time were drawn and flashing about our heads; for some men who
had accompanied the vehicle made a momentary show of resistance; but
they were soon in full flight, and we remained masters of the field
without any bloodshed.

Whom I had delivered her from--what I had done--I knew no more than
the child unborn; but she clung to me with that dear confiding clasp,
in which woman's very helplessness is strong, and repeated over and
over her thanks, with those words, with that tone, which assured me
that every feeling of her heart was still mine. "Tell me, tell me,
dear Louis!" said she at length, "by what happy chance you came here
to deliver me!"

"It was by a note from Jean Baptiste," replied I. "But, dearest Helen,
explain to me all this; for I am still in the dark. I know not whom I
have delivered you from--I know not what danger assailed you!"

Helen now, between the confusion of the moment, and the supposition
that I knew a thousand circumstances of which I had not the slightest
idea, began a long detail which was totally unintelligible to me. She
spoke of having been at the Hôtel de Chatillon, waiting the return of
her father from Peronne, and went on to say that a forged letter had
been sent her, signed with his name, importing that a carriage and
attendants would come for her at a certain hour to bring her to where
he was; and so perfectly imitated was the signature, she said, that
not only herself, but the Countess de Chatillon had also been
deceived. She was in the act of adding a great many particulars, which
completely set my comprehension at defiance, when a party of horsemen,
galloping like madmen, arriving on the spot, interrupted her farther
narration.

"Here they are! here they are!" cried the foremost horseman, seeing
through the semi-darkness the lumbering machine which had brought
Helen thither, blocking up the road. "Here is the carriage! cut down
the villains!"

"Hold, hold!" exclaimed I, drawing my sword, and advancing before
Helen, while my sturdy retainers prepared for instant warfare. "Hold,
fair sir, a moment. Words before blows, if you please. Who are you?
and what do you seek?"

"Morbleu! Cut them down!" cried the young man, aiming a blow at my
head, which I parried and returned, with such interest, that, I
believe, he would not have struck many more had not a less hasty
personage ridden up, crying, "Hold, hold! Charles, I command you hold.
Sir stranger, hear me! You asked our name and what we seek," he added,
seeing me pause. "My name is the Maréchal de Chatillon! and now, sir,
tell me yours; and how you dare, by false pretences, to carry off a
young lady from my house, placed under my care by her father?"

"My name, sir," replied I, "is Louis Count de l'Orme; and in reply to
your second question, far from having carried off this young lady from
your house, I have just had the pleasure of rescuing her from the
hands of those who did--which you would have heard before, if this
hasty person had been willing to listen, rather than bully."

"He is, sir, as you have said, far over hasty," replied the Maréchal;
"but begging your forgiveness for his mistake, I have only farther to
thank you, on the part of the lady, for the service you have rendered
her, and to request that you would give her into my hands, as the only
person qualified to protect her for the moment."

"I must first be satisfied that you are really the Maréchal de
Chatillon, and that the lady goes with you willingly," replied I; "for
there have been so many mistakes to-night apparently, that I do not
otherwise yield her till I have seen her in safety myself."

"Yes, yes, Louis," replied Helen--I thought, with a sigh--"it is
Monsieur de Chatillon, and I must go with him--after once more giving
you a thousand thanks for my deliverance."

"Since such is the case, Monsieur de Chatillon," I rejoined, "I of
course resign a charge, which otherwise I should not easily have
abandoned; but I must claim the privilege, as one of this lady's
earliest friends, of visiting her to-morrow morning, to hear those
particulars which I have not been able to hear to-night."

"I cannot object to such an arrangement," replied the Maréchal,
alighting, while his more impetuous companion made his horse's feet
clatter with a touch of the spur. "I cannot object to such a
meeting--always understood, that the Countess of Chatillon be present.
The carriage in which the rogues carried you off, my fair Helen,"
added he, taking her hand from mine, with much gentlemanlike
frankness, "shall serve to carry you back again; and I will be your
companion."

Helen now took leave of me, with more tenderness than at least the
younger horseman liked; for he turned his beast's head and rode a
little away. The Maréchal then handed her into the carriage, and,
turning to me, he said in a low voice, "Your visit, Monsieur le Comte
de l'Orme, if it must be, had better be early, for this young lady is
about to undertake a long journey by desire of her father; but if you
would follow my advice, you would, instead of visiting her at all,
turn your horse's head from Paris as speedily as possible; for,
believe me, neither your journeys to Sedan, nor your proceedings in
this capital, have been so secret as to escape suspicion." He paused
for a moment, after having spoken, as if he waited an answer, or
watched the effect of what he had said. It came upon me, I will own,
as if some one had struck me; but I had presence of mind enough to
reply--"My proceedings in this city, seigneur, have certainly been
sufficiently open; and, consequently, should pass without suspicion,
if the actions of any one be suffered to do so. My journey to Sedan
was open enough also; but my return from that place was as much so;
and therefore, I suppose, I have nothing to fear on that score."

"My warning, sir, was given as a friend," replied the Maréchal de
Chatillon; "and I would rather meet you a few days hence in the
battle-field, as a fair enemy, than hear that you had been consigned
to the dungeons of the Bastille, or executed in the Place de Grève.
Adieu, Monsieur de l'Orme; make the best of my warning, for it is one
not to be neglected." Thus speaking, he entered the carriage; and one
of his followers, who had dismounted, shut the door and took the place
of the driver, who had fled at the sight of drawn swords. Then turning
the horses towards Paris, he drove on, followed by the train of the
Maréchal de Chatillon.

In the meantime, the warning I had received sunk deep into my mind;
and though I resolved to risk everything rather than quit Paris
without coming to a full explanation with Helen, and satisfying myself
concerning a thousand doubts that hung upon me, I despatched Garcias
with Jacques Mocqueur to Meaux that very night, with the necessary
letters of exchange to pay the troop that waited me at Marigny, and an
order for them to obey him as myself, in case of my arrest or death;
begging him at the same time, in either event, to lead them to Sedan,
and head them in the cause of the Count de Soissons. Combalet and
Achilles I took with me to the Hôtel de Soissons, but kept them there
only for a moment, while I gathered together all my papers and
effects. After which I gave the whole package into the hands of
Achilles, and sending both out of the town with their own two horses,
and a led one for me, I bade them wait for me at the village of Bondy
till dusk the next night. If I came not then, they had orders to join
Garcias at Meaux, and tell him that I was arrested.

All these precautions taken, I went to bed and slept.



CHAPTER XLVI.

It was barely light the next morning, when I was startled by hearing
some one in my sleeping chamber, and to my still greater surprise
perceived a woman.

The haughtiness and reserve with which the Countess de Soissons had
thought fit to treat me had restrained all communication between us
during my residence in her dwelling, to the mere observance of a few
ceremonious forms, and therefore it seemed strange that she should
either visit me herself at such an hour, or even send any of her
attendants. The person who, not seeing I was awake, approached quickly
towards me, was no other, however, than the pretty little embroidery
girl who had brought me the billet from Jean Baptiste the day before.

"Monsieur de l'Orme! Monsieur de l'Orme!" cried she, in a low but
anxious voice, "for God's sake, rise! The exempts are here to take you
to the Bastille. I will run round and open that door. Come through it
as quick as you can, and you can escape yet. My brother and Jean
Baptiste will keep them as long as possible."

The door to which she pointed was one that communicated with a
different part of the house, and had been locked externally ever since
I had tenanted those apartments. She now ran round to open it, taking
care, as I heard, to fasten all the doors of my suite of rooms as she
went, so that I remained locked in on all sides. I lost no time,
however, in my toilet, and was just dressed when she opened the door
on the other side, while, at the same time, I could distinguish the
noise of persons wrenching open the door of the farther ante-room.
Three more locks still stood between me and my pursuers; but without
pausing on that account, I followed my pretty guide through several
chambers and passages, till, descending a staircase, we entered the
garden, and gliding behind a tall yew hedge which masked the garden
wall, we made our way straight to the tower of Catherine de Medicis.

"They will search here, certainly," said I, pausing, when I saw she
intended to lead me into the tower. "As soon as they find I have
quitted my apartments, they will naturally examine this place of
retreat."

"Hush!" cried she, "you do not know all its contrivances,
monseigneur." Opening the door, she permitted me to enter, and
following, locked it on the inside. We now climbed the spiral
staircase, up to the very highest part of the tower, and emerged on
the stone platform at the top. Exactly opposite to the mouth of the
staircase which we had ascended, she pointed out to me one of the
large flag-stones with which the observatory was paved, saying, "You
are a strong man--you can lift that."

I knelt down, and getting my fingers underneath the edge, easily
raised it up, when I beheld another staircase precisely similar to
that which we had ascended, and which, passing round and round the
tower, exactly followed all the spires of the other, thus forming a
double staircase through the whole building. My pretty companion now
tried whether she could herself move the stone; and finding that she
could do so with ease, as it was scarcely thicker than a slate, she
followed me down, and drew it in the manner of a trap-door over us.
The whole reminded me so much of my flight with the unhappy Viceroy of
Catalonia, that I hurried my steps as much as possible, with the
remembrance vivid before my mind's eye, of the dreadful scene with
which that flight was terminated.

"We are safe now, monseigneur," said my fair guide, with a _naïvete_
which some men might have mistaken for coquetry: "by your leave, we
will not go so fast, for I lose my breath."

"If we are safe then, my pretty preserver," replied I, taking a jewel
from my finger, which I had bought a few days before for a different
purpose, "I have time to thank you for your activity in saving me, and
to beg your acceptance of this ring as a remembrance."

"I will not take it myself, my lord," replied she; "but, with your
leave, I will give it to Jean Baptiste, who has a great regard for
you, and who sent me to show you the way, as I know all the secret
places of the hotel, and neither my brother nor he are acquainted with
them."

"And I suppose that Jean Baptiste, then, is to be looked on in the
light of your lover, fair lady?" demanded I.

"He is a friend of my brother, the Countess's page," replied the girl;
and then added, after a moment, "and, perhaps, a lover too. I do not
see why I should deny it. He slept here last night with my brother, to
be out of the way of some evil that was going on, and they two lying
in the gatehouse, first discovered that they were exempts who knocked
at the gate so early, and what they wanted."

"Will you bear a message to Jean Baptiste?" said I. "Tell him that I
am not ungrateful for his kindness; and bid him tell his sister, that
nothing but that which has this day happened would have prevented me
from seeing her as I promised."

"His sister!" said the girl. "I did not know that he had a sister--but
hark! they are searching the tower."

As she spoke, I could plainly hear the sound of steps treading the
other staircase, and passing directly over our heads; and curious was
the sensation, to feel myself within arm's length of my pursuers,
without the possibility of their overtaking me.

"They have broken open the door," said my companion in a low tone. "We
had better make haste; for when they do not find you in the tower,
they may set guards in the streets round about."

We were by this time near the bottom of the stairs, and the light
which had hitherto shone in through various small apertures in the
masonry of the tower, now left us, as we descended apparently below
the level of the ground. My pretty little guide, however, seemed to
hold herself quite safe with me, though the situation was one which
might have been hazardous with many men, and led me on without seeming
to give a thought to anything but securing my safety, till we had
passed through a long passage, at the end of which she pushed open a
door, and at once ushered me into a small chamber, wherein an old
woman was in bed. Startled out of a sound sleep, the good dame sat up,
demanding who was there.

"'Tis I, aunt! 'tis I!" replied the girl; "where is my uncle's cloak?
Oh, here; wrap yourself in that, monseigneur, and take this old hat,
and no one will know you.--I will tell you all about it, aunt," she
added, in answer to a complete hurricane of questions, which the old
woman poured forth upon her--"I will tell you about it when the Count
is safe in the street."

"Is it the Count? Lord bless us!" cried the old woman, wiping her
eyes, and mistaking me for the Count de Soissons: "dear me! I thought
monseigneur was safe at Sedan."

My fair guide now beckoning me forward, I left the old lady to enjoy
her own wonderment; and leaving a piece of gold for the hat and cloak,
thrust the one over my brows, and cast the other round my shoulders,
and proceeded to a second chamber, where was an old man at work, who
looked up, but asked no questions, though probably he saw his own
cloak and hat on the person of a stranger.

Opposite to me stood an open door, evidently leading into a small
street; and taking leave of my conductress merely by a mute sign, I
passed out, and to my surprise found myself in the Rue du Four.

I had kept my own hat still under the mantle, which was, in truth,
somewhat too small to cover me entirely; the point of my sword, my
boots, and almost my knees, appearing from underneath, and betraying a
very different station in life from that which the cloak itself
bespoke. However, as thousands of intrigues of every kind are each day
adjourned by the first rays of the sun that shine upon Paris, and as
the parties to them must often be obliged to conceal themselves in
many a motley disguise, I calculated that mine would not attract much
attention dangerous to myself, if I could but escape from the
immediate vicinity of the Hôtel de Soissons. I therefore walked
straight down the Rue du Four, and passing before the new church of
St. Eustache, I gained the Rue Montmartre, and thence crossing the
Boulevards, was soon in the country. Pausing under an old elm, the
emblematic tree of my family, I cast off the cloak and hat I had
assumed, judging that I was now beyond the likelihood of pursuit, and
walked as fast as possible towards Bondy. I arrived there in about a
couple of hours, and found Achilles sauntering tranquilly before the
door, while Combalet swaggered within to the new-risen host, hostess,
and servants of the little inn, neither of my attendants expecting me
for many an hour to come.

My order to horse was soon obeyed, and before mid-day I was safe at
Meaux, where I gave but a temporary rest to my horses; and being
joined by Garcias and the rest of my suite, I set out again with all
speed towards Mouzon.

The necessity of borrowing another person's name was in those days so
frequent with every one, that on my announcing myself to my servants
as the young Baron de Chatillon, the nephew of the maréchal of that
name, I caused no astonishment, and they habituated themselves to the
new epithet with great facility.

Riding on before with Garcias, I now explained to him all that had
occurred, which I had not had time to do before. My first piece of
news, that Jean Baptiste Arnault was in existence, surprised him as
much as it had done myself.

"I would have vowed," said he, "that what I saw before me, when I
joined you on that morning in the park, was nothing but a heap of
earth, which would never move, nor breathe, nor think again. It is
very extraordinary! and now I think of it, Monsieur de l'Orme, I am
afraid that I did you some unnecessary harm in the opinion of the
Chevalier de Montenero. Do you remember that day, when we saved him
from the fury of Gil Moreno? Well, as I was hurrying him away to his
horse, I told him that his life itself depended on his speed; to which
he answered, 'I would give life itself to be assured whether Louis de
Bigorre did slay him or not;' alluding to something he had been
speaking of with you. I thought as you did, that this Jean Baptiste
was really dead; and therefore I replied at once, 'Slay him! to be
sure he did--and did right too.'"

"Good God! Garcias!" cried I. "He was speaking of another event--of
the priest at Saragossa, whose death I had no more hand in than you
had!"

I know not how it is, but often in life, one accidental mistake or
misunderstanding appears to bring on another to all eternity. There
seems occasionally to be something confounding and entangling in the
very essence of the circumstances in which we are placed, which
communicates itself to everything connected with them; and, with one
help or another, they go on through a long chain of errors from the
beginning to the end.

My vexation was evident enough to mortify Garcias deeply, without my
saying any more; and therefore, when he had told me that the
Chevalier, on receiving the news he gave him, had instantly sprung
into the saddle and ridden away in silence, I dropt a subject on which
I felt that I could not speak without irritation, and turned to the
coming events.

We continued our journey as rapidly as possible, and my _nom de
guerre_, I found, served me well at all the various places of our
halt, as I heard continually that troops were marching in all
directions towards the frontier, evidently menacing Sedan, together
with every particular that could be communicated to me respecting
their line of march, their numbers, and condition; for all of which
information I was indebted to my assumed name of Chatillon, the
Maréchal de Chatillon himself being appointed commander-in-chief of
the king's army, or rather, I might say, the minister's, for the
monarch was calmly waiting the event of the approaching contest at
Peronne, without showing that interest in favour of the cardinal which
he had hitherto evinced on all occasions.

We passed safe and uninterrupted across the whole country from Paris
till we came within a few leagues of the banks of the Meuse, where the
presence of the enemy's army rendered our movements more hazardous,
and consequently more circumspect. From time to time we met several
parties of stragglers hastening after the camp, with some of whom I
spoke for a moment or two; and finding that no suspicions were
entertained, and discipline somewhat relaxed, I ventured more boldly
to the Meuse, and presented myself for passage at the wooden bridge
above Mouzon, after ascertaining that it was but slightly guarded.
Notice had been given to all my followers, in case of the slightest
opposition to our passage, to draw their swords and force their way
across; and accordingly, on the cravatte on duty demanding a passport,
I said I would show it him, and drawing my sword, bade him give way.

He did his duty by instantly firing his carbine at me, which had
nearly brought my adventures to a termination; for the ball passed
through my hat; but spurring on our horses, we bore him back upon half
a dozen others, who came running forward to his aid, drove them over
the bridge at the sword's point, and, galloping on, gained the wood on
the other side of the river.

After this rencontre we made all speed through the least frequented
paths towards Marigny, and when we found ourselves within half a
league of the village, I sent forward Jacques Mocqueur and Achilles to
ascertain what had become of my recruits, whom I found I had posted
somewhat too near the enemy's position.

In about an hour they returned, bringing with them a single trooper,
who was without a casque of any kind, and wore a peasant's coat over
his more warlike habiliments. In addition to all this, he had
apparently taken as much care of his inward man as of his outward, for
he was considerably more than half drunk.

"Happy for this sweet youth," said Achilles, who, as may have been
observed, was fond of displaying his antique learning--"happy for
this sweet youth, that we are not amongst the Epizephrii, or he
would certainly have been hanged for drinking more wine than the
physicians recommended. But we have drawn from him, monseigneur, that
his companions, judging themselves somewhat too near the enemy,
have betaken themselves to the nearest branch of the forest of
Ardennes, hard by the village of Saule, where they are even now
celebrating their elaphobolia, or venison feasts, having left this
Bacchus-worshipper to tell us the way."

Though our horses were weary, we could of course grant them no rest
till they had carried us over the six leagues that still lay between
us and Saule, which, after many misdirections, we at last found--a
little village cradled in the giant arms of the Ardennes.

My heart somewhat misgave me, lest my respectable recruits should have
exercised any of their old plundering propensities upon the peasantry;
and the appearance and demeanour of the comrade they had left behind,
to acquaint us with their change of position, did not speak much in
favour of their regularity and discipline: but I did them injustice;
and on my arrival, though I found that they had laid many of the
antlered people of the forest low, and eke added many a magnificent
forest hog to their stores of provision, they had not at all molested
the populace of the country, who, remembering the ravages of
Mansfelt's free companions, looked upon my followers as very sober and
peaceable soldiers indeed.

When I arrived, they were in a large piece of open forest ground,
between the village and the actual wood. A great many old oaks had
been cut down there the year before, and their roots had sent out a
multitude of young shoots, amongst which the daring, hardy men I had
engaged, had gathered themselves together in picturesque groups,
roasting the venison for their evening meal, or elaphobolia, as
Achilles termed it. In the meanwhile the declining sun shone through
the long glades of the forest, sometimes catching bright upon their
corslets and morions, sometimes casting upon them a deep shadow from
any of the ancient trees that remained still standing; but,
altogether, giving one of the finest and most extraordinary pieces of
light and shade that ever I beheld. The noise of our horses' feet made
them instantly start up from their various employments; and,
recognising me for their commander, they hailed my arrival with a loud
shout.

They were all, as I soon found, old soldiers; and, well aware of the
infinite use of discipline even to themselves, they had employed the
time of my absence in choosing petty officers from amongst their own
body, and in renewing their old military habits and man[oe]uvres. The
system which they had employed was not, perhaps, entirely that which
my late military readings had taught me theoretically; but as I saw it
would cause me infinitely less trouble to adopt their plan than it
would give them to acquire mine, as well as be less liable to
mistakes, I applied myself to reviewing and man[oe]uvring them the
whole of the next day, while I sent Achilles and one of my servants to
Sedan, charged with my bills of exchange for paying my levies, and
with a letter to the Count de Soissons, informing him of my success.

I felt assured that all the news I conveyed to him would give the
Count no small pleasure, not only having fulfilled all his wishes in
Paris, but brought him a reinforcement of nearly three hundred mounted
troopers, all veterans in affairs of war from their ancient
profession, and acuminated in every point of stratagem from their more
recent pursuits.

In the evening Achilles returned, bringing me the money I required;
and a letter from the Prince, together with a reinforcement of twelve
troopers, whom the Count judged might prove serviceable to me in
disciplining my little force. The letter was as gratifying as ever
flowed from the pen of man; and the money, which I instantly
distributed amongst my followers, conjoined with the presence of the
men-at-arms the Count had sent me, contributed to establish my
authority with my recruits as firmly as I could wish; though I believe
that, before this came, they were beginning to grumble at the somewhat
childish reiteration with which I took pleasure in making my new troop
go through its evolutions. At the time, I found plentiful excuses in
my own mind for so doing; but I believe now that my feelings were
somewhat like those of a boy with a new plaything.

The next morning, according to the commands of the Count, I recrossed
the Meuse by a bridge of boats which the Duke de Bouillon had newly
caused to be constructed, and then marched my men upon a little hamlet
behind the village of Torcy; after which I left them under the command
of Garcias, as my adjutant; and accompanied by my servants, turned my
bridle towards Sedan, to communicate with the Prince, and receive his
farther commands.

I arrived at Sedan about five of the clock. All within the town was
the bustle and confusion of military preparation. Trumpets were
sounding, arms were clanging in every direction: the breastplate, the
morion, and the spur, had taken the place, in the streets, of the
citizen's sober gown, and the man of law's stiff cap; and many an
accoutred war-horse did I encounter in my way to the citadel, more
than Sedan had ever known before. The servants that accompanied me,
including Achilles, Combalet, and his companion, were nine in number;
and I had taken good care before I left Paris, that they should be
sufficiently armed, to take an active part in the warlike doings then
in preparation. My train, therefore, as I rode through the streets,
excited some attention; and amongst a knot of gentlemen that turned to
look, near the citadel, I perceived, to my surprise, the Marquis de
St. Brie! It may well be supposed that the sight was not particularly
gratifying; and I was passing on, without taking any notice, hoping
that he would not recollect me, from the great change which the few
months that had passed had wrought in my appearance. My beard, which,
when I had last seen him, had been too short to be allowed to grow,
was now longer, and cut into the fashionable point of that day; my
mustachios were long and black; my form was broader, and more manly;
and my skin, which then was pale with recent illness, was now bronzed
almost to the colour of mahogany.

But he was not one of those men who easily forget; and, after looking
at me for a moment, during which the change somewhat confused him, he
became certain of my person; and spurring forward with a smiling
countenance, in which delight to meet with an old friend was most
happily and dexterously expressed, "My dear Count Louis!" cried he, "I
am delighted to see you. This is one of those unexpected pleasures
with which that fair jilt, Fortune, sometimes treats us, to make us
bear more patiently her less agreeable caprices."

I meditated knocking his brains out, but I forbore, on reflecting that
the consequences of any violent proceeding on my part might be highly
detrimental to the interest of the Prince. A moment's farther
consideration made me pursue the very opposite course to that which I
had first proposed; and smothering my feelings towards Monsieur de St.
Brie as far as I could, I replied, that the meeting was certainly most
unexpected; but that, as I found him there, of course I supposed I was
to look upon him as a friend and partisan of Monsieur le Comte's.

"Of course!" replied he. "I am his highness's humble friend and
devoted follower; though I have yet hardly the honour of his personal
acquaintance, being far better known to the noble Duke of Bouillon.
However, here I am, to fight side by side with you, my dear Count, as
I once proposed; and we will see which will contrive to get his throat
cut soonest in the Prince's service."

"It will certainly not be I," replied I, gravely; "for wherever the
battle takes place, however I may exert myself therein, I shall come
out of it as unscathed as I went in."

"Indeed! how so?" demanded the Marquis. "Do you wear a charmed coat of
mail, or have you been dipped in Styx?"

"Neither," replied I: "but it is my fate! In the calculation of my
nativity, it has been found, that whoever seeks to take my life, their
own shall be lost in the attempt. Two persons have made the essay--and
two have already fallen. We shall see who will be the third." What I
said was simply intended to touch the marquis upon a spot where I knew
he must be sensible; but the excessive paleness that came over his
countenance was far more than I expected to behold: it was more than I
could suppose the mere fear of having been discovered would excite in
a man of such principles. Could he be superstitious? I asked
myself--he, a free-thinker, a sceptic both by an erroneous application
of his reason, and by the natural propensity of a sensualist to reject
everything but what is material--could he be superstitious?

But so, in fact, it was, as I soon found more clearly by the multitude
of questions which he asked me concerning the person who had
calculated my nativity, and given the prediction I had mentioned;
citing, as he did so, the names of all the astrologers in Europe, from
Nostradamus up to Vanoni himself. After a moment, however, he seemed
to be conscious that he was exposing himself; and looking up with a
forced laugh, "Dreams! dreams!" said he, "my dear Count. How can the
stars affect us upon the earth? If I were to choose a way of fooling
myself with prophecies, a thousand times rather would I follow the art
of the ancient Tuscans, and draw my divination from the lightning,
which at all events comes near our mortal habitation."

"I know you are a sceptic in all such matters," replied I; and riding
on, I left the Marquis to muse over the prediction as he thought fit,
reserving to myself the right of calling him to a personal account for
his former conduct towards me, when I should find a fitting
opportunity. His character was then a new one to me, and I could
hardly persuade myself that he did really believe in the dreams which
even my reason, all hag-ridden as it was by imagination, cast from it
the moment it had power to follow its direct course. But I have had
occasion to remark since, that those who reject the truth of religion
are generally as prone as devotees to the dreams of superstition.

I was immediately admitted into the citadel, and as I was dismounting
in the court, encountered Varicarville. "Welcome, welcome back!
Monsieur de l'Orme," said he. "We need all friends, now, to carry
through our enterprise; and Monsieur le Comte tells me, that you not
only bring us good news from Paris, but a considerable reinforcement.
You come from Torcy. What is the news there? Did you see the enemy?
When are we likely to prove our strength together?"

"I come to seek news myself," replied I. "No enemies have I seen, but
half a dozen soldiers, that we drove over the wooden bridge near
Mouzon. When does rumour say we shall have a battle?"

"The day after to-morrow, at farthest," replied Varicarville, "if
Lamboy with his Germans arrives in time. But hie to the Prince, De
l'Orme. He expects you, and is now waiting you in the saloon, hoping
some news from Torcy."

I proceeded to the Count's apartments accordingly, and finding no one
to announce me by the way, I entered the saloon at once. The Count de
Soissons was leaning in a large arm chair, with his head bent forward,
and one hand over his eyes, while Vanbroc, his Flemish lute-player,
was playing to him the prelude of a song. My entrance did not make the
Prince look up, and Vanbroc proceeded. After a few very sweet passages
preliminary to his voice, he sung, as nearly as I can remember, the
following, to a beautiful minor air:--

SONG.

                         I.

     Give me repose and peace! Let others prove
       The losing game of strife;
     Or climb the hill, or plough the wave;
     To find out fortune or a grave,
       Stake happiness and life.
         Oh, give me rest and peace,
         And quietude and love!

                       II.

     Give me repose and peace! The power, the sway,
       The sceptre, crown, and throne,
     Are thorny treasures, paying ill
     The sacrifice of joy and will--
       All man can call his own.
         Oh, give me rest and peace,
         To bless my humble day!

                      III.

     Give me repose and peace! I covet not
       The laurel or the wreath,
     Wars to the brave, strifes to the strong,
     Ambitions to the proud belong--
       All hand in hand with death.
         But be repose, and peace,
         And life, and joy, my lot!


The musician ceased, but still the Prince kept his hand before his
eyes, and I could see the tears roll slowly from underneath it, and
chase one another down his cheek, so great had been the power of the
music upon him.

"No more, Vanbroc--no more!" said he, at length raising his eyes. "Ha!
De l'Orme. You should not have seen me thus: but I was ever more
easily vanquished by music than by the sword. But now to business:
leave us, Vanbroc."

The lute-player withdrew, and the Prince, instantly recovering from
the momentary weakness into which he had been betrayed, proceeded to
question me respecting the minor details of my negotiation in Paris.
With all that I had done he expressed himself infinitely contented,
and showed the confidence which my conduct had inspired him with, by
making me acquainted with every particular that had taken place at
Sedan during my absence, together with all his future plans, as far as
they were formed.

"To-morrow evening," said he, "or the next morning at farthest,
Lamboy, the Imperial General, will join us with five thousand veteran
Germans. As soon as he is prepared to pass the river, I also shall
cross by the bridge, and forming our junction on the other side, we
will together offer battle to the Maréchal de Chatillon, who has been
for some days at Remilly."

"I believe your highness is misinformed," replied I; "for hardly yet
five days ago I saw Monsieur de Chatillon in Paris:" and I proceeded
to inform the Count of the circumstances which made me so positive of
the fact.

"He was there last night, however," replied the Count; "for one of our
scouts watched him pass the Meuse and advance some way to reconnoitre
Lamboy: his person was known, and there could be no doubt. At all
events, we shall fairly offer our enemy battle on the day after
to-morrow. Lamboy commands the infantry, Bouillon the cavalry, and
myself the reserve.--But what makes you look so grave on my saying
that Bouillon commands the cavalry?"

"My reason was frankly this, monseigneur," replied I; "Monsieur de
Bouillon has never shown any great regard for me; and I have farther
this day met a person on whose conduct towards me I have already
expressed myself to your highness without restraint--I mean the
Marquis de St. Brie." The Count started. "He boasts himself the friend
of Monsieur de Bouillon," continued I, "and you may easily imagine
what sort of harmony there can exist between him and me. The little
troop I have levied consisting entirely of cavalry, it will not of
course be very pleasant to me to fight side by side with a man who has
twice attempted my life; but however----"

"Stay, De l'Orme!" said the Count. "No likelihood exists of that
taking place which you anticipate. Your troop has been destined by
Bouillon and myself for a man[oe]uvre, which we are sure you will
execute well, and on which the fate of the battle may probably depend.
If we can gain the ground that we wish, the cavalry, under the command
of Bouillon, will remain in the hollow way till such time as the enemy
lose somewhat of their compact order; as soon as ever this is
ascertained, by a signal from the hill behind, where you may have
remarked an ancient pillar--the signal, remember, is the raising of a
red flag on the pillar--Bouillon advances and charges the cavalry of
the enemy; but some cooperating movement may be necessary to second
the efforts of the Duke, and, consequently, we have determined to post
a body of cavalry behind a little wood, to the left of our position.
You must have seen it. But you shall be furnished with a plan of the
country, like this on the table. Here, you see, is the great wood of
the Marfée. Here the little wood to the left, joined to the Marfée by
this low copse, which I shall take care to garnish for you with a body
of musketeers. Here the high summit, on which, if we have time to
reach it, we shall take up our position; and here the hollow way for
Bouillon's cavalry. Your body of troopers must be stationed just
behind the wood, from whence you have a full view of the pillar. The
moment you see the red flag, draw out and charge the right of the
enemy. You have before you a gentle slope, which is, in truth, the
only part of the ground fit for cavalry; and your being there will
have two great advantages;--that of seconding Bouillon; and, in case
of the enemy attempting to turn our left flank, that of making his
man[oe]uvre fall upon himself. It was for this reason that I ordered
your troop on to the hamlet behind Torcy, from whence, on the morning
of the battle, you can easily take up your position as we have
arranged. Do you fully understand?"

"Perfectly," replied I; "and the arrangement is of course most
gratifying to me. Not that any circumstances should have induced me to
pursue a private quarrel to the detriment of your Highness's service.
I have already met the Marquis de St. Brie and spoken to him, without
noticing his attempt upon my life."

"You did right, De l'Orme," replied the count, his brow knitting into
a sterner frown than I had ever seen him assume. "But if he has the
insolence to present himself before me, my conduct must be very
different. In addition to this attempt upon you, he is known to have
been the murderer of the Count de Bagnols, and strongly suspected of
having poisoned poor De Valençais. My own honour and dignity require
me to have no communion with such a man, let his rank and influence be
what it may. If I can meet with Bouillon, we will make such
arrangements as will spare me the mortification of publicly repelling
this bad man. Come with me; we will see if we can find him."

So saying, he took his hat, which lay upon the table, and passed into
the anteroom. Several of his attendants were now in waiting, and
rising, followed with me into the court, and thence into the great
square before the château.

It was a fine sunny evening in July, one of those that seem made for
loitering in the shade, with some pleasant companion, listening to
dreamy fanciful talk, and drinking the balmy breath of the summer air.
As our misfortune would have it, however, the first person we
encountered thus employed was the Marquis de St. Brie himself, who had
by this time dismounted; and, surrounded by a crowd of the most
distinguished persons at Sedan, was entertaining them with that easy
flowing conversation which no one knew so well how to display as
himself. I could tell by the countenances of the listeners, and the
smile that sat upon the lip of each, the very tone of what was
passing; and I could almost fancy I heard it all--the tart jest, the
pointed sneer, the amusing anecdote, the shrewd remark, the witty
turn, all softened and harmonized by the language, which made the
company of that infamous man so fascinating and so dangerous.

The Prince, who knew him by sight, was passing on to the other side of
the square, where the Duke of Bouillon was himself inspecting a body
of infantry; but the party of gentlemen instantly advanced towards us,
and one of them, coming a step forward, begged leave to make the
Marquis de St. Brie known to his Highness the Count de Soissons.

"Sir!" replied the Count, tossing back the plumes of his bonnet, as if
to let every one see that he did not make the least inclination to the
person thus presented to him; "thank God! I know the Marquis de St.
Brie thoroughly, and seek to know no more of him;" and thus speaking,
he turned his back upon the Marquis, and walked forward to the Duke of
Bouillon, to whom he explained in a few words his feelings in regard
to the other, without, however, at all implicating my name in the
business.

"Few people can look upon him with less respect than I do," said the
Duke of Bouillon in reply. "But he is a man of great wealth and
influence, and though he is here at present with only a few
servants--which I will own strikes me as singular--he promises me a
reinforcement of five hundred men in three days, which may be very
serviceable for the purpose of improving our victory the day after
to-morrow. Your highness must really allow me to explain away your
treatment of him, in some degree, for he is too influential a person
to be lost."

The Count would hardly hear of any qualificatory measure; but, after a
long discussion, he gave way in some degree. "Well, well," said he,
"say to him what you like, but do not let him come near me, for I
cannot receive him with civility."

"I will take care that he be kept away," replied the Duke. "The only
difficulty will be to make him remain with us at all."

We now returned to the citadel; and the rest of the evening passed in
all the bustle and activity of preparation. The service which I was to
execute was again and again pointed out to me, both by the Prince and
the Duke of Bouillon, the last of whom, probably to animate me to
still greater exertion, gave unlimited praise to all the arrangements
I had hitherto made, and expressed the utmost confidence in my
co-operation with himself in the battle that was likely to take place.

Looking on my troop as perfectly secure under the command of Garcias,
I remained at Sedan that night, spending the rest of my time, after I
had left the Princes, in fitting myself with the necessary defensive
armour which I had not been able to procure in Paris. This was not
done without some difficulty even at Sedan; for the armourers had
quite sufficient occupation with the multitude of warlike guests that
filled the city.

When this was accomplished, however, and I possessed my morion, back
and breast-pieces, taslets and gauntlets complete, I sat down to write
a letter to be delivered to my father in case of my death in the
ensuing battle, and gave full instructions concerning it to little
Achilles, whom I intended to leave at Sedan. After this, I paused for
a moment at the open window of my chamber, watching some thick clouds
that came rolling over the moon, and thinking of the strange, strong
effect of imagination, which I had there myself experienced, together
with the extraordinary coincidence of my mother's death being
announced to me so soon afterwards.

As I stood I heard a window below me open, and some voices speaking.
What they said at first was indistinct, from the noise of a tumbrel
rolling across the court; but that ceased, and I could plainly
distinguish the tone of the Marquis de St. Brie, saying, "I tell you,
I saw him myself, with the Marquis de Sourdis in the other army:
if it was not he, it was his spirit. He was paler, thinner, darker,
older--but there was every line--and yet surely it could not be."

"No, no, my lord!" replied another voice. "I saw him as dead as a
felled ox, and I gave him myself another slash across the head, to
make all sure, before I threw him into the water."

"I will trust my own hand next time, however," said the Marquis. "Not
that I doubt you, my good----"

As he spoke, I remembered that I was eaves-dropping; and though, if
ever there was an occasion where it might be justified, it was then, I
felt ashamed to do so, and retired to bed, bidding my servants,
however, lock the door of the anteroom before they slept.



CHAPTER XLVII.


Early next morning, a firing was heard in the direction of Torcy; and
springing on my horse, I galloped off for the scene of action, as fast
as possible. Before I came up, however, the firing had ceased; and I
found my troop under arms in the hamlet where I had left them, though
the village itself, not above five hundred yards in front, was in the
hands of the enemy. A regiment of infantry, which Monsieur de Bouillon
had thrown forward into the village of Torcy itself for the purpose of
covering his bridge of boats, had been attacked, it seemed, by the
advance-guard of the enemy, and, after a sharp struggle, had been
driven back upon the hamlet behind, from which Garcias had made a very
brilliant charge upon the pursuing parties of the enemy, repulsed them
with some loss, and compelled them to content themselves with the
village they had taken.

As may be imagined, I was mortified at not having been present; but I
expressed to my troop my high satisfaction at what had been done; and
told them, in a brief harangue I made them on the occasion, that his
highness the Count de Soissons reckoned greatly upon their valour for
success; and that, therefore, he proposed to intrust to them, under my
command, some of the most important man[oe]uvres which had already
been determined upon. Praise was perhaps the more palatable to them,
as their bravery had been attended with no loss, and as they had
driven back the enemy at the expense of a few slight wounds. Loud
cheers, therefore, attended me as I rode with Garcias along their
ranks; and these were repeated still more loudly when the commanding
officer of the infantry rode up to Garcias, and thanked him for the
very successful diversion which my troop had operated in his favour.

Finding that the enemy did not make any disposition for advancing
farther, which would indeed have brought them almost under the guns of
Sedan, I rode into the town to inform the Count of what had occurred;
and after a brief interview with him, I delivered the letter for my
father into the hands of little Achilles; and taking with me all my
papers, I bade adieu to my little attendant with feelings that perhaps
do not often exist between master and servant, and returned to my
troop for the night.

Before joining them, however, according to the commands of the Count,
I reconnoitred the position I was to take up the next morning, and
passed by the pillar from which the signal was to be given. It had
formed part of an old Roman arch, and probably had recorded some
victory of those wonderful barbarians, the Romans, over their still
more barbarous enemies, the Gauls; but as I looked at the broken
fragments of the structure they had probably raised, in the fond hope
of immortalizing some long-forgotten deed, the thrilling feeling of
man's mortality--of the mortality of all his works--the mortality of
his very fame, came coldly over my heart; and I turned away, repeating
to myself some of the lines which my dead friend Father Francis of
Allurdi had once cited--

   "Glory, alas! what art thou but a name?"

and returned to the post assigned me, thinking of _what might be in
another world_.

Towards six o'clock, a heavy rain began to fall; but that did not
prevent me from having several messengers from the Count de
Soissons--one bidding me make good the hamlet which I occupied, at all
risks; another informing me that Lamboy, with the Germans and the
cannon, had arrived, and would pass the next morning early; and a
third giving me orders to quit the hamlet as silently as possible,
before daybreak the next day, and to take up the position assigned to
me. This last command made me order my men to rest as soon as
possible; and I also threw myself down upon some straw, completely
armed except my casque; and after giving about half an hour to some
vague wandering thoughts regarding the morrow, I felt that thought was
of no use, and addressed myself to sleep. The fear, however, of not
waking in time, abridged my slumber to two or three hours; and rising,
I went out of the hovel in which I had been lying, to ascertain by the
appearance of the sky what o'clock it was.

All was dark and silent, though I could hear at intervals the neighing
of the horses in the enemy's army, and could see the long line of dim
watch-fires, half extinguished by the rain, which marked where the
veteran Lamboy had taken up his ground on the opposite hill.

Shortly after the clocks of Sedan struck midnight, and I resolved to
give my men yet an hour's sleep, that they might be as fresh as
possible the next day.

It was an hour of the deepest and most awful thought for me. Every one
must feel, the day before he risks his life in mortal combat,
sensations that assail him at no other time--the eager anxiety to know
the issue--the doubt, if not the fear, of the event--the thought of
earth, and all that earth has dear--the calculations of eternity--all
that is awful in our vague and misty state of being then presses on
the mind: and he is the brave man that looks upon it without
shrinking. But my feelings were deeper and more exciting than those of
most men, because my all was staked upon that battle. If it should be
won, the Count de Soissons would be master of the councils of France:
the only remaining obstacle between Helen and myself might easily be
removed. Rank, wealth, power, affection, were all within my grasp; and
never did my heart feel what love is, so much as it did that night.
But if the battle were lost, I had no longer anything to live for;--
home and country, and station, and love, and hope, were all gone; and
I resolved that life also should be cast upon the die.

It seemed but a minute since twelve o'clock had struck, when one
followed it by the clocks of Sedan--so busy had been the ideas that
hurried through my brain. But action now became my duty; and waking
Garcias, we proceeded to take the necessary measures for decamping in
silence.

No men in the broad universe could have been found better calculated
for every motion which required secrecy than my three hundred: they
provided themselves with forage and provisions for the next morning,
mounted their horses, and rode out of the hamlet, without even
disturbing the regiment of infantry that lay beside them; and the only
person, I believe, whom we woke out of his slumber, was a weary
sentinel, who, without the excuse of Mercury's wand, had followed the
example of Argus, and fallen asleep upon his watch. Woke suddenly by
our passing, he seemed to think the best thing he could do was to fire
his piece; and accordingly snapped it at my head; but luckily, the
priming had fallen out while he slept, and it missed fire. I seldom
remember a more unpleasant ride than that from Torcy to the heights of
the Marfée. The rain had come on more heavily than ever; the whole way
was a long, broken ascent, traversed by ravines, and often interrupted
by copses; and the ground was so slippery, that our horses could
scarcely keep their feet. We passed it, however, after much
difficulty; and there was some consolation in knowing that the enemy's
army would have to vanquish the same obstacles before the battle, if
they dared to attack us.

Day began to break heavily as we reached the wood, without any sign of
the rain abating; but the smaller detached part of the forest, behind
which we were posted, formed almost entirely of old beeches, gave us
better shelter than we could have hoped.

On our arrival, I found that the Count, according to his word, had
already detached a company of musketeers to take possession of the
copse wood between us and his main position; and had also sent forward
several tumbrils with provisions and ammunition in plenty. Together
with these was a letter for me, containing some farther orders, and a
very ample commission under his hand, by which I found that the
infantry beside me were also placed under my command.

As we were all new troops, there was no jealousy respecting seniority
of service; and I found the officer of the infantry well disposed to
act with me, especially as all I required was for his own security. It
appeared to me that the copse in which he was placed was of much more
importance than had been attached to it, as, in case of the enemy
possessing himself thereof, which would have been easily done by
advancing through a hollow way to our left, the left flank of the
Prince's force was completely exposed.

To render it, then, as defensible as possible, I proposed to the other
officer to employ our spare time in throwing up a strong breastwork of
earth and boughs before it; and all our men setting to work with great
eagerness, before seven o'clock we had completed a line, which placed
it in comparative security.

Towards eight the rain ceased; and for the rest of the day merely came
down in occasional showers. It had been hitherto so thick that the
line of the Meuse, and even the town of Sedan, had been scarcely
distinguishable; but now it drew up like a curtain, and I could see
the troops of Lamboy descending toward the bridge of boats, and
gradually passing the river, in as fine unbroken order as if on a
review.

Shortly after, the bridge of Sedan began to be occupied; and pennons,
and plumes, and standards, and flashing arms, and all the pageantry of
war, announced that the princes were on their march to form their
junction with the imperial army. My eye then turned anxiously towards
Torcy; but all was still in the camp of the enemy; and I saw the two
allied armies approach near and more near, and then unite, unopposed
and seemingly almost unnoticed.

Winding in and out of the ravines and over the hills, the army of the
princes now began to mount towards the heights on which I was
stationed; and it was near nine o'clock before the report of a cannon
announced that the Maréchal de Chatillon intended to take any notice
of their movements.

No time, however, was now to be lost; and making my men refresh both
themselves and their horses, I waited impatiently for the arrival of
the army. All sombre thoughts, if I had entertained any such before,
now vanished like mists before the sun. The sight of the moving
hosts--the recollection of all that was that day to be won--the
thoughtless aspiration which all young minds have for glory--the love
of daring natural to my