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Captain Fracasse by Theophile Gautier

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Captain Fracasse by Theophile Gautier


I. Castle Misery
II. The chariot of Thespis
III. The Blue Sun Inn
IV. An adventure with brigands
V. At the Chateau de Bruyeres
VI. A snow-storm and its consequences
VII. Captain Fracasse
VIII. The Duke of Vallombreuse
IX. A melee and a duel
X. A midnight adventure
XI. The Pont-Neuf
XII. The Crowned Radish
XIII. A double attack
XIV. Lampourde's delicacy
XV. Malartic at work
XVI. Vallombreuse
XVII. The amethyst ring
XVIII. A family party
XIX. Nettles and cobwebs
XX. Chiquita's declaration of love
XXI. "Hymen! Oh Hymen!"
XXII. The castle of happiness



Upon the southern slope of one of those barren hills that rise
abruptly here and there in the desolate expanse of the Landes, in
South-western France, stood, in the reign of Louis XIII, a
gentleman's residence, such as abound in Gascony, and which the
country people dignify by the name of chateau.

Two tall towers, with extinguisher tops, mounted guard at the
angles of the mansion, and gave it rather a feudal air. The deep
grooves upon its facade betrayed the former existence of a
draw-bridge, rendered unnecessary now by the filling up of the
moat, while the towers were draped for more than half their
height with a most luxuriant growth of ivy, whose deep, rich
green contrasted happily with the ancient gray walls.

A traveller, seeing from afar the steep pointed roof and lofty
towers standing out against the sky, above the furze and heather
that crowned the hill-top, would have pronounced it a rather
imposing chateau--the residence probably of some provincial
magnate; but as he drew near would have quickly found reason to
change his opinion. The road which led to it from the highway
was entirely overgrown with moss and weeds, save a narrow
pathway in the centre, though two deep ruts, full of water, and
inhabited by a numerous family of frogs, bore mute witness to the
fact that carriages had once passed that way.

The roof, of dark red tiles, was disfigured by many large,
leprous-looking, yellow patches, while in some places the decayed
rafters had given way, leaving formidable gaps. The numerous
weather-cocks that surmounted the towers and chimneys were so
rusted that they could no longer budge an inch, and pointed
persistently in various directions. The high dormer windows were
partially closed by old wooden shutters, warped, split, and in
every stage of dilapidation; broken stones filled up the
loop-holes and openings in the towers; of the twelve large
windows in the front of the house, eight were boarded up; the
remaining four had small diamond-shaped panes of thick, greenish
glass, fitting so loosely in their leaden frames that they shook
and rattled at every breath of wind; between these windows a
great deal of the stucco had fallen off, leaving the rough wall
exposed to view.

Above the grand old entrance door, whose massive stone frame and
lintel retained traces of rich ornamentation, almost obliterated
by time and neglect, was sculptured a coat of arms, now so
defaced that the most accomplished adept in heraldry would not be
able to decipher it. Only one leaf of the great double door was
ever opened now, for not many guests were received or entertained
at the chateau in these days of its decadence. Swallows had built
their nests in every available nook about it, and but for a
slender thread of smoke rising spirally from a chimney at the
back of this dismal, half-ruined mansion, the traveller would
have surely believed it to be uninhabited. This was the only sign
of life visible about the whole place, like the little cloud upon
the mirror from the breath of a dying man, which alone gives
evidence that he still lives.

Upon pushing open the practicable leaf of the great worm-eaten
door, which yielded reluctantly, and creaked dolefully as it
turned upon its rusty hinges, the curious visitor entered a sort
of portico, more ancient than the rest of the building, with
fine, large columns of bluish granite, and a lofty vaulted roof.
At the point of intersection of the arches was a stone shield,
bearing the same coat of arms that was sculptured over the
entrance without. This one was in somewhat better preservation
than the other, and seemed to bear something resembling three
golden storks (cigognes) on an azure field; though it was so much
in shadow, and so faded and dingy, that it was impossible to make
it out clearly. Fastened to the wall, at a convenient height from
the ground, were great iron extinguishers, blackened by the smoke
from torches in long by-gone years, and also iron rings, to which
the guests' horses were made fast in the olden times, when the
castle was in its glory. The dust that lay thick upon them now
showed that it was long since they had been made use of.

From this portico--whence a door on either side opened into the
main building; one leading into a long suite of apartments on
the ground floor, and the other into what had probably been a
guard-room--the explorer passed into an interior court, dismal,
damp, and bare. In the corners nettles and various rank weeds
were growing riotously amid the great heaps of rubbish fallen
from the crumbling cornice high above, and grass had sprung up
everywhere in the crevices of the stone pavement. Opposite the
entrance a flight of dilapidated, shaky steps, with a heavy stone
balustrade, led down into a neglected garden, which was gradually
becoming a perfect thicket. Excepting in one small bed, where a
few cabbages were growing, there was no attempt at cultivation,
and nature had reasserted her rights everywhere else in this
abandoned spot, taking, apparently, a fierce delight in effacing
all traces of man's labour. The fruit trees threw out
irregular branches without fear of the pruning knife; the box,
intended to form a narrow border to the curiously shaped
flower-beds and grass-plots, had grown up unchecked into huge,
bushy shrubs, while a great variety of sturdy weeds had usurped
the places formerly devoted to choice plants and beautiful,
fragrant flowers. Brambles, bristling with sharp thorns, which
had thrown their long, straggling arms across the paths, caught
and tried to hold back any bold adventurer who attempted to
penetrate into the mysterious depths of this desolate wilderness.
Solitude is averse to being surprised in dishabille, and
surrounds herself with all sorts of defensive obstacles.

However, the courageous explorer who persisted in following the
ancient, overgrown alley, and was not to be daunted by formidable
briers that tore his hands and clothing, nor low-hanging, closely
interlaced branches that struck him smart blows in the face as he
forced his way through them, would have reached at last a sort of
rocky niche, fancifully arranged as a grotto. Besides the masses
of ivy, iris and gladiolus, that had been carefully planted long
ago in the interstices of the rock, it was draped with a
profusion of graceful wild vines and feathery ferns, which
half-veiled the marble statue, representing some mythological
divinity, that still stood in this lonely retreat. It must have
been intended for Flora or Pomona, but now there were tufts of
repulsive, venomous-looking mushrooms in the pretty, graceful,
little basket on her arm, instead of the sculptured fruit or
flowers that should have filled it. Although her nose was broken,
and her fair body disfigured by many dark stains, and overgrown
in part with clinging mosses, it could still plainly be seen that
she had once been very lovely. At her feet was a marble basin,
shaped like a shell, half full of discoloured, stagnant water;
the lion's head just above it, now almost entirely concealed by a
thick curtain of leaves, no longer poured forth the sparkling
stream that used to fall into it with a musical murmur. This
little grotto, with its fountain and statue, bore witness to
former wealth; and also to the aesthetic taste of some long-dead
owner of the domain. The marble goddess was in the Florentine
style of the Renaissance, and probably the work of one of those
Italian sculptors who followed in the train of del Rosso or
Primaticcio, when they came to France at the bidding of that
generous patron of the arts, Francis I; which time was also,
apparently, the epoch of the greatest prosperity of this noble
family, now so utterly fallen into decay.

Behind the grotto rose a high wall, built of stone, crumbling and
mouldy now, but still bearing some broken remains of
trellis-work, evidently intended to be covered with creepers that
would entirely conceal the wall itself with a rich tapestry of
verdure. This was the limit of the garden; beyond stretched the
wide expanse of the sandy, barren Landes, flecked here and there
with patches of scanty heather, and scattered groves of pine

Turning back towards the chateau it became apparent that this
side of it was even more neglected and ruinous than the one we
have already described; the recent poverty-stricken owners having
tried to keep up appearances as far as possible, and concentrated
their efforts upon the front of their dilapidated abode. In the
stable, where were stalls for twenty horses, a miserable, old,
white pony stood at an empty manger, nibbling disconsolately at a
scanty truss of hay, and frequently turning his sunken,
lack-lustre eyes expectantly towards the door. In front of an
extensive kennel, where the lord of the manor used to keep a
whole pack of hounds, a single dog, pathetically thin, lay
sleeping tranquilly and soundly, apparently so accustomed to the
unbroken solitude of the place that he had abandoned all habits
of watchfulness.

Entering the chateau the visitor found himself in a broad and
lofty hall, containing a grand old staircase, with a richly
carved, wooden balustrade--a good deal broken and defaced now,
like everything else in this doleful Castle Misery. The walls had
been elaborately frescoed, representing colossal figures of
Hercules supporting brackets upon which rested the heavily
ornamented cornice. Springing from it fantastic vines climbed
upward on the arched ceiling, and above them the blue sky, faded
and dingy, was grotesquely variegated with dark spots, caused by
the water filtering through from the dilapidated roof. Between
the oft-repeated figures of Hercules were frescoed niches,
wherein heads of Roman emperors and other illustrious historical
characters had been depicted in glowing tints; but all were so
vague and dim now that they were but the ghosts of pictures,
which should be described with the shadows of words--ordinary
terms are too substantial to apply to them. The very echoes in
this deserted hall seemed startled and amazed as they repeated
and multiplied the unwonted sound of footsteps.

A door near the head of the first flight of stairs opened into
what had evidently been the great banqueting hall in the old days
when sumptuous repasts and numerous guests were not uncommon
things in the chateau. A huge beam divided the lofty ceiling into
two compartments, which were crossed at regular intervals by
smaller joists, richly carved, and retaining some traces of
gilding. The spaces between had been originally of a deep blue
tint, almost lost now under the thick coating of dust and
spiders' webs that no housemaid's mop ever invaded. Above the
grand old chimney-piece was a noble stag's head, with huge,
spreading antlers, and on the walls hung rows of ancient family
portraits, so faded and mouldy now that most of the faces had a
ghastly hue, and at night, by the dim, flickering lamp-light,
they looked like a company of spectres. Nothing in the world
is sadder than a collection of old portraits hanging thus,
neglected and forgotten, in deserted halls--representations,
half obliterated themselves, of forms and faces long since
returned to dust. Yet these painted phantoms were most
appropriate inhabitants of this desolate abode; real living
people would have seemed out of place in the death-stricken

In the middle of the room stood an immense dining-table of dark,
polished wood, much worm-eaten, and gradually falling into
decay. Two tall buffets, elaborately carved and ornamented, stood
on opposite sides of the room, with only a few odd pieces of
Palissy ware, representing lizards, crabs, and shell-fish,
reposing on shiny green leaves, and two or three delicate
wine-glasses of quaint patterns remaining upon the shelves where
gold and silver plate used to glitter in rich profusion, as was
the mode in France. The handsome old chairs, with their high,
carved backs and faded velvet cushions, that had been so firm and
luxurious once, were tottering and insecure; but it mattered
little, since no one ever came to sit in them now round the
festive board, and they stood against the wall in prim order,
under the rows of family portraits.

A smaller room opened out of this one, hung round with faded,
moth-eaten tapestry. In one corner stood a large bed, with four
tall, twisted columns and long, ample curtains of rich brocade,
which had been delicate green and white, but now were of a dingy,
yellowish hue, and cut completely through from top to bottom in
every fold. An ebony table, with some pretty gilded ornaments
still clinging to it, a mirror dim with age, and two large
arm-chairs, covered with worn and faded embroidery, that had been
wrought by the fair fingers of some noble dame long since dead
and forgotten, completed the furniture of this dismal chamber.

In these two rooms were the latticed windows seen in the front of
the chateau, and over them still hung long sweeping curtains, so
tattered and moth-eaten that they were almost falling to pieces.
Profound silence reigned here, unbroken save by occasional
scurrying and squeaking of mice behind the wainscot, the
gnawing of rats in the wall, or the ticking of the death-watch.

From the tapestried chamber a door opened into a long suite of
deserted rooms, which were lofty and of noble proportions, but
devoid of furniture, and given up to dust, spiders, and rats. The
apartments on the floor above them were the home of great numbers
of bats, owls, and jackdaws, who found ready ingress through
the large holes in the roof. Every evening they flew forth in
flocks, with much flapping of wings, and weird, melancholy cries
and shrieks, in search of the food not to be found in the
immediate vicinity of this forlorn mansion.

The apartments on the ground floor contained nothing but a few
bundles of straw, a heap of corn-cobs, and some antiquated
gardening implements. In one of them, however, was a rude bed,
covered with a single, coarse blanket; presumably that of the
only domestic remaining in the whole establishment.

It was from the kitchen chimney that the little spiral of smoke
escaped which was seen from without. A few sticks were burning in
the wide, old-fashioned fireplace, but the flames looked pale
under the bright light that streamed down upon them through the
broad, straight flue. The pot that hung from the clumsy iron
crane was boiling sleepily, and if the curious visitor could have
peeped into it he would have seen that the little cabbage bed in
the garden had contributed of its produce to the pot-au-feu. An
old black cat was sitting as close to the fire as he could
without singeing his whiskers, and gravely watching the simmering
pot with longing eyes. His ears had been closely cropped, and he
had not a vestige of a tail, so that he looked like one of those
grotesque Japanese chimeras that everybody is familiar with. Upon
the table, near at hand, a white plate, a tin drinking cup, and a
china dish, bearing the family arms stamped in blue, were neatly
arranged, evidently in readiness for somebody's supper. For a
long time the cat remained perfectly motionless, intently
watching the pot which had almost ceased to boil as the fire got
low, and the silence continued unbroken; but at last a slow,
heavy step was heard approaching from without, and presently the
door opened to admit an old man, who looked half peasant, half
gentleman's servant. The black cat immediately quitted his place
by the fire and went to meet him; rubbing himself against the
newcomer's legs, arching his back and purring loudly; testifying
his joy in every way possible to him.

"Well, well, Beelzebub," said the old man, bending down and
stroking him affectionately, "are you really so glad to see me?
Yes, I know you are, and it pleases me, old fellow, so it does.
We are so lonely here, my poor young master and I, that even the
welcome of a dumb beast is not to be despised. They do say that
you have no soul, Beelzebub, but you certainly do love us, and
understand most times what we say to you too." These greetings
exchanged, Beelzebub led the way back to the fire, and then with
beseeching eyes, looking alternately from the face of his friend
to the pot-au-feu, seemed mutely begging for his share of its
contents. Poor Beelzebub was growing so old that he could no
longer catch as many rats and mice as his appetite craved, and he
was evidently very hungry.

Pierre, that was the old servant's name, threw more wood on the
smouldering fire, and then sat down on a settle in the chimney
corner, inviting his companion--who had to wait still for his
supper as patiently as he might--to take a seat beside him. The
firelight shone full upon the old man's honest, weather-beaten
face, the few scattered locks of snow-white hair escaping from
under his dark blue woollen cap, his thick, black eyebrows and
deep wrinkles. He had the usual characteristics of the Basque
race; a long face, hooked nose, and dark, gipsy-like complexion.
He wore a sort of livery, which was so old and threadbare that it
would be impossible to make out its original colour, and his
stiff, soldier-like carriage and movements proclaimed that he had
at some time in his life served in a military capacity. "The
young master is late to-night," he muttered to himself, as the
daylight faded. "What possible pleasure can he find in these
long, solitary rambles over the dunes? It is true though that it
is so dreary here, in this lonely, dismal house, that any other
place is preferable."

At this moment a joyous barking was heard without, the old pony
in the stable stamped and whinnied, and the cat jumped down from
his place beside Pierre and trotted off towards the door with
great alacrity. In an instant the latch was lifted, and the old
servant rose, taking off his woollen cap respectfully, as his
master came into the kitchen. He was preceded by the poor old
dog, trying to jump up on him, but falling back every time
without being able to reach his face, and Beelzebub seemed to
welcome them both--showing no evidence of the antipathy usually
existing between the feline and canine races; on the contrary,
receiving Miraut with marks of affection which were fully

The Baron de Sigognac, for it was indeed the lord of the manor
who now entered, was a young man of five or six and twenty;
though at first sight he seemed much older, because of the deep
gravity, even sadness, of his demeanour; the feeling of utter
powerlessness which poverty brings having effectually chased away
all the natural piety and light-heartedness of youth. Dark
circles surrounded his sunken eyes, his cheeks were hollow, his
mustache drooped in a sorrowful curve over his sad mouth. His
long black hair was negligently pushed back from his pale face,
and showed a want of care remarkable in a young man who was
strikingly handsome, despite his doleful desponding expression.
The constant pressure of a crushing grief had drawn sorrowful
lines in a countenance that a little animation would have
rendered charming. All the elasticity and hopefulness natural to
his age seemed to have been lost in his useless struggles against
an unhappy fate. Though his frame was lithe, vigorous, and
admirably proportioned, all his movements were slow and
apathetic, like those of an old man. His gestures were entirely
devoid of animation, his whole expression inert, and it was
evidently a matter of perfect indifference to him where he might
chance to find himself at home, in his dismal chateau, or abroad
in the desolate Landes.

He had on an old gray felt hat, much too large for him, with a
dingy, shabby feather, that drooped as if it felt heartily
of itself, and the miserable condition to which it was reduced. A
broad collar of guipure lace, ragged in many places, was turned
down over a just-au-corps, which had been cut for a taller and
much stouter man than the slender, young baron. The sleeves of
his doublet were so long that they fell over his hands, which
were small and shapely, and there were large iron spurs on the
clumsy, old-fashioned riding-boots he wore. These shabby,
antiquated clothes had belonged to his father; they were made
according to the fashion that prevailed during the preceding
reign; and the poor young nobleman, whose appearance in them was
both ridiculous and touching, might have been taken for one of
his own ancestors. Although he tenderly cherished his father's
memory, and tears often came into his eyes as he put on these
garments that had seemed actually a part of him, yet it was not
from choice that young de Sigognac availed himself of the
paternal wardrobe. Unfortunately he had no other clothes, save
those of his boyhood, long ago outgrown, and so he was thankful
to have these, distasteful as they could not fail to be to him.
The peasants, who had been accustomed to hold them in respect
when worn by their old seignior, did not think it strange or
absurd to see them on his youthful successor; just as they did
not seem to notice or be aware of the half-ruined condition of
the chateau. It had come so gradually that they were thoroughly
used to it, and took it as a matter of course. The Baron de
Sigognac, though poverty-stricken and forlorn, was still in their
eyes the noble lord of the manor; the decadence of the family did
not strike them at all as it would a stranger; and yet it was a
grotesquely melancholy sight to see the poor young nobleman pass
by, in his shabby old clothes, on his miserable old pony, and
followed by his forlorn old dog.

The baron sat down in silence at the table prepared for him,
having recognised Pierre's respectful salute by a kindly gesture.
The old servant immediately busied himself in serving his
master's frugal supper; first pouring the hot soup--which was of
that kind, popular among the poor peasantry of Gascony, called
"garbure"--upon some bread cut into small pieces in an earthen
basin, which he set before the baron; then, fetching from the
cupboard a dish of bacon, cold, and cooked in Gascon fashion, he
placed that also upon the table, and had nothing else to add to
this meagre repast. The baron ate it slowly, with an absent air,
while Miraut and Beelzebub, one on each side of him, received
their full share from his kind hand.

The supper finished, he fell into a deep reverie. Miraut had laid
his head caressingly upon his master's knee, and looked up into
his face with loving, intelligent eyes, somewhat dimmed by age,
but still seeming to understand his thoughts and sympathize with
his sadness. Beelzebub purred loudly meantime, and occasionally
mewed plaintively to attract his attention, while Pierre stood in
a respectful attitude, cap in hand, at a little distance,
motionless as a statue, waiting patiently until his master's
wandering thoughts should return. By this time the darkness had
fallen, and the flickering radiance from the few sticks blazing
in the great fireplace made strange effects of light and shade in
the spacious old kitchen. It was a sad picture; this last scion
of a noble race, formerly rich and powerful, left wandering like
an uneasy ghost in the castle of his ancestors, with but one
faithful old servant remaining to him of the numerous retinue of
the olden times; one poor old dog, half starved, and gray with
age, where used to be a pack of thirty hounds; one miserable,
superannuated pony in the stable where twenty horses had been
wont to stand; and one old cat to beg for caresses from his hand.

At last the baron roused himself, and signed to Pierre that he
wished to retire to his own chamber; whereupon the servant
lighted a pine knot at the fire, and preceded his master up the
stairs, Miraut and Beelzebub accompanying them. The smoky,
flaring light of the torch made the faded figures on the wall
seem to waver and move as they passed through the hall and up the
broad staircase, and gave a strange, weird expression to the
family portraits that looked down upon this little procession as
it moved by below them. When they reached the tapestried chamber
Pierre lighted a little copper lamp, and then bade the baron
good-night, followed by Miraut as he retraced his steps to the
kitchen; but Beelzebub, being a privileged character, remained,
and curled himself up comfortably in one of the old arm-chairs,
while his master threw himself listlessly into the other, in
utter despair at the thought of his miserable loneliness, and
aimless, hopeless life. If the chamber seemed dreary and forlorn
by day, it was far more so by night. The faded figures in the
tapestry had an uncanny look; especially one, a hunter, who might
have passed for an assassin, just taking aim at his victim. The
smile on his startlingly red lips, in reality only a
self-satisfied smirk, was fairly devilish in that light, and his
ghastly face horribly life-like. The lamp burned dimly in the
damp heavy air, the wind sighed and moaned along the corridors,
and strange, frightful sounds came from the deserted chambers
close at hand. The storm that had long been threatening had come
at last, and large, heavy rain-drops were driven violently
against the window-panes by gusts of wind that made them rattle
loudly in their leaden frames. Sometimes it seemed as if the
whole sash would give way before the fiercer blasts, as though a
giant had set his knee against it, and was striving to force an
entrance. Now and again, when the wind lulled for a moment while
it gathered strength for a fresh assault, the horrid shriek of an
owl would be heard above the dashing of the rain that was falling
in torrents.

The master of this dismal mansion paid little attention to this
lugubrious symphony, but Beelzebub was very uneasy, starting up
at every sound, and peering into the shadowy corners of the
room, as if he could see there something invisible to human eyes.
The baron took up a little book that was lying upon the table,
glanced at the familiar arms stamped upon its tarnished cover,
and opening it, began to read in a listless, absent way. His eyes
followed the smooth rhythm of Ronsard's ardent love-songs and
stately sonnets, but his thoughts were wandering far afield, and
he soon threw the book from him with an impatient gesture, and
began slowly unfastening his garments, with the air of a man who
is not sleepy, but only goes to bed because he does not know what
else to do with himself, and has perhaps a faint hope of
forgetting his troubles in the embrace of Morpheus, most blessed
of all the gods. The sand runs so slowly in the hour-glass on a
dark, stormy night, in a half-ruined castle, ten leagues away
from any living soul.

The poor young baron, only surviving representative of an ancient
and noble house, had much indeed to make him melancholy and
despondent. His ancestors had worked their own ruin, and that of
their descendants, in various ways. Some by gambling, some in the
army, some by undue prodigality in living--in order that they
might shine at court--so that each generation had left the estate
more and more diminished. The fiefs, the farms, the land
surrounding the chateau itself, all had been sold, one after the
other, and the last baron, after desperate efforts to retrieve
the fallen fortunes of the family--efforts which came too late,
for it is useless to try to stop the leaks after the vessel has
gone down--had left his son nothing but this half-ruined chateau
and the few acres of barren land immediately around it. The
unfortunate child had been born and brought up in poverty. His
mother had died young, broken-hearted at the wretched prospects
of her only son; so that he could not even remember her sweet
caresses and tender, loving care. His father had been very stern
with him; punishing him severely for the most trivial offences;
yet he would have been glad now even of his sharp rebukes, so
terribly lonely had he been for the last four years; ever since
his father was laid in the family vault. His youthful pride would
not allow him to associate with the noblesse of the province
without the accessories suitable to his rank, though he would
have been received with open arms by them, so his solitude was
never invaded. Those who knew his circumstances respected as well
as pitied the poor, proud young baron, while many of the former
friends of the family believed that it was extinct; which indeed
it inevitably would be, with this its only remaining scion, if
things went on much longer as they had been going for many years

The baron had not yet removed a single garment when his attention
was attracted by the strange uneasiness of Beelzebub, who finally
jumped down from his arm-chair, went straight to one of the
windows, and raising himself on his hind legs put his fore-paws
on the casing and stared out into the thick darkness, where it
was impossible to distinguish anything but the driving rain. A
loud howl from Miraut at the same moment proclaimed that he too
was aroused, and that something very unusual must be going on in
the vicinity of the chateau, ordinarily as quiet as the grave.
Miraut kept up persistently a furious barking, and the baron gave
up all idea of going to bed. He hastily readjusted his dress, so
that he might be in readiness for whatever should happen, and
feeling a little excited at this novel commotion.

"What can be the matter with poor old Miraut? He usually sleeps
from sunset to sunrise without making a sound, save his snores.
Can it be that a wolf is prowling about the place?" said the
young man to himself, as he buckled the belt of his sword round
his slender waist. A formidable weapon it was, that sword, with
long blade, and heavy iron scabbard.

At that moment three loud knocks upon the great outer door
resounded through the house. Who could possibly have strayed here
at this hour, so far from the travelled roads, and in this
tempest that was making night horrible without? No such thing had
occurred within the baron's recollection. What could it portend?


The Baron de Sigognac went down the broad staircase without a
moment's delay to answer this mysterious summons, protecting with
his hand the feeble flame of the small lamp he carried from the
many draughts that threatened to blow it out. The light, shining
through his slender fingers, gave them a rosy tinge, so that he
merited the epithet applied by Homer, the immortal bard, to the
laughing, beautiful Aurora, even though he advanced through the
thick darkness with his usual melancholy mien, and followed by a
black cat, instead of preceding the glorious god of day.

Setting down his lamp in a sheltered corner, he proceeded to take
down the massive bar that secured the door, cautiously opened the
practicable leaf, and found himself face to face with a man, upon
whom the light of the lamp shone sufficiently to show rather a
grotesque figure, standing uncovered in the pelting rain. His
head was bald and shining, with a few locks of gray hair
clustering about the temples. A jolly red nose, bulbous in form,
a small pair of twinkling, roguish eyes, looking out from under
bushy, jet-black eyebrows, flabby cheeks, over which was spread a
network of purplish fibres, full, sensual lips, and a scanty,
straggling beard, that scarcely covered the short, round chin,
made up a physiognomy worthy to serve as the model for a Silenus;
for it was plainly that of a wine-bibber and bon vivant. Yet a
certain expression of good humour and kindness, almost of
gentleness, redeemed what would otherwise have been a repulsive
face. The comical little wrinkles gathering about the eyes, and
the merry upward turn of the comers of the mouth, showed a
disposition to smile as he met the inquiring gaze of the young
baron, but he only bowed repeatedly and profoundly, with
exaggerated politeness and respect.

This extraordinary pantomime finished, with a grand flourish, the
burlesque personage, still standing uncovered in the pouring
rain, anticipated the question upon de Sigognac's lips, and began
at once the following address, in an emphatic and declamatory

"I pray you deign to excuse, noble seignior, my having come thus
to knock at the gates of your castle in person at this untimely
hour, without sending a page or a courier in advance, to announce
my approach in a suitable manner. Necessity knows no law, and
forces the most polished personages to be guilty of gross
breaches of etiquette at times."

"What is it you want?" interrupted the baron, in rather a
peremptory tone, annoyed by the absurd address of this strange
old creature, whose sanity he began to doubt.

"Hospitality, most noble seignior; hospitality for myself and my
comrades--princes and princesses, heroes and beauties, men of
letters and great captains, pretty waiting-maids and honest
valets, who travel through the provinces from town to town in the
chariot of Thespis, drawn by oxen, as in the ancient times. This
chariot is now hopelessly stuck in the mud only a stone's throw
from your castle, my noble lord."

"If I understand aright what you say," answered the baron, "you
are a strolling band of players, and have lost your way. Though
my house is sadly dilapidated, and I cannot offer you more than
mere shelter, you are heartily welcome to that, and will be
better off within here than exposed to the fury of this wild

The pedant--for such seemed to be his character in the troupe--
bowed his acknowledgments.

During this colloquy, Pierre, awakened by Miraut's loud barking,
had risen and joined his master at the door. As soon as he was
informed of what had occurred, he lighted a lantern, and with the
baron set forth, under the guidance of the droll old actor, to
find and rescue the chariot in distress. When they reached it
Leander and Matamore were tugging vainly at the wheels, while his
majesty, the king, pricked up the weary oxen with the point of
his dagger. The actresses, wrapped in their cloaks and seated in
the rude chariot, were in despair, and much frightened as
well--wet and weary too, poor things. This most welcome
re-enforcement inspired all with fresh courage, and, guided by
Pierre's suggestions, they soon succeeded in getting the unwieldy
vehicle out of the quagmire and into the road leading to the
chateau, which was speedily reached, and the huge equipage safely
piloted through the grand portico into the interior court. The
oxen were at once taken from before it and led into the stable,
while the aciresses followed de Sigognac up to the ancient
banqueting hall, which was the most habitable room in the
chateau. Pierre brought some wood, and soon had a bright fire
blazing cheerily in the great fireplace. It was needed, although
but the beginning of September and the weather still warm, to dry
the dripping garments of the company; and besides, the air was so
damp and chilly in this long disused apartment that the genial
warmth and glow of the fire were welcome to all.

Although the strolling comedians were accustomed to find
themselves in all sorts of odd, strange lodgings in the course of
their wanderings, they now looked with astonishment at their
extraordinary surroundings; being careful, however, like
well-bred people, not to manifest too plainly the surprise they
could not help feeling,

"I regret very much that I cannot offer you a supper," said their
young host, when all had assembled round the fire, "but my larder
is so bare that a mouse could not find enough for a meal in it. I
live quite alone in this house with my faithful old Pierre; never
visited by anybody;. and you can plainly perceive, without my
telling you, that plenty does not abound here."

"Never mind that, noble seignior," answered Blazius, the pedant,
"for though on the stage we may sit down to mock repasts--
pasteboard fowls and wooden bottles--we are careful to provide
ourselves with more substantial and savoury viands in real life.
As quartermaster of the troupe I always have in reserve a Bayonne
ham, a game pasty, or something, of that sort, with at least a
dozen bottles of good old Bordeaux."

"Bravo, sir pedant," cried Leander, "do you go forthwith and
fetch in the provisions; and if his lordship will permit, and
deign to join us, we will have our little feast here. The ladies
will set the table for us meanwhile I am sure."

The baron graciously nodded his assent, being in truth so amazed
at the whole proceeding that he could not easily have found words
just then; and he followed with wondering and admiring eyes the
graceful movements of Serafina and Isabelle, who, quitting their
seats by the fire, proceeded to arrange upon the worn but
snow-white cloth that Pierre had spread on the ancient
dining-table, the plates and other necessary articles that the
old servant brought forth from the recesses of the carved
buffets. The pedant quickly came back, carrying a large basket in
each hand, and with a triumphant air placed a huge pasty of most
tempting appearance in the middle of the table. To this he added
a large smoked tongue, some slices of rosy Bayonne ham, and six
bottles of wine.

Beelzebub watched these interesting preparations from a distance
with eager eyes, but was too much afraid of all these strangers
to approach and claim a share of the good things on the table.
The poor beast was so accustomed to solitude and quiet, never
seeing any one beyond his beloved master and Pierre, that he was
horribly frightened at the sudden irruption of these noisy

Finding the feeble light of the baron's small lamp rather dim,
Matamore bad gone out to the chariot and brought back two showy
candelabra, which ordinarily did duty on the stage. They each
held several candles, which, in addition to the warm radiance
from the blazing fire,, made quite a brilliant illumination in
this room, so lately dark, cheerless, and deserted. It had become
warm and comfortable by this time; its family portmits and
tarnished splendour looked their best in the bright, soft light,
which had chased away the dark shadows and given a new beauty to
everything it fell upon; the whole place was metamorphosed; a
festive air prevailed, and the ancient banqueting hall once more
resounded with cheery voices and gay laughter.

The poor young baron, to whom all this had been intensely
disagreeable at first, became aware of a strange feeling of
comfort and pleasure stealing over him, to which, after a short
struggle, he finally yielded himself entirely. Isabelle,
Serafina, even the pretty soubrette, seemed to him, unaccustomed
as he was to feminine beauty and grace, like goddesses come down
from Mount Olympus, rather than mere ordinary mortals. They were
all very pretty, and well fitted to turn heads far more
experienced than his. The whole thing was like a delightful dream
to him; he almost doubted the evidence of his own senses, and
every few minutes found himself dreading the awakening, and the
vanishing of the entrancing vision.

When all was ready de Sigognac led Isabelle and Serafina to the
table, placing one on each side of him, with the pretty soubrette
opposite. Mme. Leonarde, the duenna of the troupe, sat beside the
pedant, Leander, Matamore, his majesty the tyrant, and Scapin
finding places for themselves. The youthful host was now able to
study the faces of his guests at his ease, as they sat round the
table in the full light of the candles burning upon it in the two
theatrical candelabra. He turned his attention to the ladies
first, and it perhaps will not be out of place to give a little
sketch of them here, while the pedant attacks the gigantic game

Serafina, the "leading lady" of the troupe, was a handsome young
woman of four or five and twenty, who had quite a grand air, and
was as dignified and graceful withal as any veritable noble dame
who shone at the court of his most gracious majesty, Louis XIII.
She had an oval face, slightly aquiline nose, large gray eyes,
bright red lips--the under one full and pouting, like a ripe
cherry---a very fair complexion, with a beautiful colour in her
cheeks when she was animated or excited, and rich masses of dark
brown hair most becomingly arranged. She wore a round felt hat,
with the wide rim turned up at one side, and trimmed with long,
floating plumes. A broad lace collar was turned down over her
dark green velvet dress, which was elaborately braided, and
fitted closely to a fine, well-developed figure. A long, black
silk scarf was worn negligently around her shapely shoulders and
although both velvet and silk were old and dingy, and the
feathers in her hat wet and limp, they were still very effective,
and she looked like a young queen who had strayed away from her
realm; the freshness and radiant beauty of her face more than
made up for the shabbiness of her dress, and de Sigognac was
fairly dazzled by her many charms.

Isabelle was much more youthful than Serafina, as was requisite
for her role of ingenuous young girl, and far more simply
dressed. She had a sweet, almost childlike face, beautiful,
silky, chestnut hair, with golden lights in it, dark, sweeping
lashes veiling her large, soft eyes, a little rosebud of a mouth,
and an air of modesty and purity that was evidently natural to
her--not assumed. A gray silk gown, simply made, showed to
advantage her slender, graceful form, which seemed far too
fragile to endure the hardships inseparable from the wandering
life she was leading. A high Elizabethan ruff made a most
becoming frame for her sweet, delicately tinted, young face, and
her only ornament was a string of pearl beads, clasped round her
slender, white neck. Though her beauty was less striking at first
sight than Serafina's, it was of a higher order: not dazzling
like hers, but surpassingly lovely in its exquisite purity and
freshness, and promising to eclipse the other's more showy
charms, when the half-opened bud should have expanded into the
full-blown flower.

The soubrette was like a beautiful Gipsy, with a clear, dark
complexion, rich, mantling colour in her velvety cheeks,
intensely black hair--long, thick, and wavy--great, flashing,
brown eyes, and rather a large mouth, with ripe, red lips, and
dazzling white teeth--one's very beau-ideal of a bewitching,
intriguing waiting-maid, and one that might be a dangerous rival
to any but a surpassingly lovely and fascinating mistress. She
was one of the beauties that women are not apt to admire, but men
rave about and run after the world over. She wore a fantastic
costume of blue and yellow, which was odd, piquant, and becoming,
and seemed fully conscious of her own charms.

Mme. Leonarde, the "noble mother" of the troupe dressed all in
black, like a Spanish duenna, was portly of figure, with a heavy,
very pale face, double chin, and intensely black eyes, that had a
crafty, slightly malicious expression. She had been upon the
stage from her early childhood, passing through all the different
phases, and was an actress of decided talent, often still winning
enthusiastic applause at the expense of younger and more
attractive women, who were inclined to think her something of an
old sorceress.

So much for the feminine element. The principal roles were all
represented; and if occasionally a re-enforcement was required,
they could almost always pick up some provincial actress, or even
an amateur, at a pinch. The actors were five in number: The
pedant, already described, who rejoiced in the name of Blazitis;
Leander; Herode, the tragic tyrant; Matamore, the bully; and
Scapin, the intriguing valet.

Leander, the romantic, irresistible, young lover--darling of the
ladies--was a tall, fine-looking fellow of about thirty, though
apparently much more youthful, thanks to the assiduous care be
bestowed on his handsome person. His slightly curly, black hair
was worn long, so that he might often have occasion to push it
back from his forehead, with a hand as white and delicate as a
woman's, upon one of whose taper fingers sparkled an enormous
diamond--a great deal too big to be real. He was rather
dressed, and always falling into such graceful, languishing
attitudes as he thought would be admired by the fair sex, whose
devoted slave he was. This Adonis never for one moment laid aside
his role. He punctuated his sentences with sighs, even when
speaking of the most indifferent matters, and assumed all sorts
of preposterous airs and graces, to the secret amusement of his
companions. But he had great success among the ladies, who all
flattered him and declared he was charming, until they had turned
his head completely; and it was his firm belief that he was
irresistibly fascinating.

The tyrant was the most good-natured, easy-going creature
imaginable; but, strangely enough, gifted by nature with all the
external signs of ferocity. With his tall, burly frame, very dark
skin, immensely thick, shaggy eyebrows, black as jet, crinkly,
bushy hair of the same hue, and long beard, that grew far up on
his cheeks, he was a very formidable, fierce-looking fellow; and
when he spoke, his loud, deep voice made everything ring again.
He affected great dignity, and filled his role to perfection.

Matamore was as different as possible, painfully thin--scarcely
more than mere skin and bones--a living skeleton with a large
hooked nose, set in a long, narrow face, a huge mustache turned
up at the ends, and flashing, black eyes. His excessively tall,
lank figure was so emaciated that it was like a caricature of a
man. The swaggering air suitable to his part had become habitual
with him, and he walked always with immense strides, head well
thrown back, and hand on the pommel of the huge sword he was
never seen without.

As to Scapin, he looked more like a fox than anything else, and
had a most villainous countenance; yet he was a good enough
fellow in reality.

The painter has a great advantage over the writer, in that he can
so present the group on his canvas that one glance suffices to
take in the whole picture, with the lights and shadows,
attitudes, costumes, and details of every kind, which are sadly
wanting in our description--too long, though so imperfect--of the
party gathered thus unexpectedly round our young baron's table.
The beginning of the repast was very silent, until the most
urgent demands of hunger had been satisfied. Poor de Sigognac,
who had never perhaps at any one time had as much to eat as he
wanted since he was weaned, attacked the tempting viands with an
appetite and ardour quite new to him; and that too despite his
great desire to appear interesting and romantic in the eyes of
the beautiful young women between whom he was seated. The pedant,
very much amused at the boyish eagerness and enjoyment of his
youthful host, quietly heaped choice bits upon his plate, and
watched their rapid disappearance with beaming satisfaction.
Beelzebub had at last plucked up courage and crept softly under
the table to his master, making his presence known by a quick
tapping with his fore-paws upon the baron's knees; his claims
were at once recognised, and he feasted to his heart's content
on the savoury morsels quietly thrown down to him. Poor old
Miraut, who had followed Pierre into the room, was not neglected
either, and had his full share of the good things that found
their way to his master's plate.

By this time there was a good deal of laughing and talking round
the festive board. The baron, though very timid, and much
embarrassed, had ventured to enter into conversation with his
fair neighbours. The pedant and the tyrant were loudly discussing
the respective merits of tragedy and comedy. Leander, like
Narcissus of old, was complacently admiring his own charms as
reflected in a little pocket mirror he always had about him.
Strange to say he was not a suitor of either Serafina's or
Isabelle's; fortunately for them he aimed higher, and was always
hoping that some grand lady, who saw him on the stage, would fall
violently in love with him, and shower all sorts of favours upon
him. He was in the habit of boasting that he had had many
delightful adventures of the kind, which Scapin persistently
denied, declaring that to his certain knowledge they had never
taken place, save in the aspiring lover's own vivid imagination.
The exasperating valet, malicious as a monkey, took the greatest
delight in tormenting poor Leander, and never lost an
opportunity; so now, seeing him absorbed in self-admiration, he
immediately attacked him, and soon had made him furious. The
quarrel grew loud and violent, and Leander was heard declaring
that he could produce a large chest crammed full of love letters,
written to him by various high and titled ladies; whereupon
everybody laughed uproariously, while Serafina said to de
Sigognac that she for one did not admire their taste, and
Isabelle silently looked her disgust. The baron meantime was more
and more charmed with this sweet, dainty young girl, and though
he was too shy to address any high-flown compliments to her,
according to the fashion of the day, his eyes spoke eloquently
for him. She was not at all displeased at his ardent glances, and
smiled radiantly and encouragingly upon him, thereby
unconsciously making poor Matamore, who was secretly enamoured of
her, desperately unhappy, though he well knew that his passion
was an utterly hopeless one. A more skilful and audacious lover
would have pushed his advantage, but our poor young hero had not
learned courtly manners nor assurance in his isolated chateau,
and, though he lacked neither wit nor learning, it must be
confessed that at this moment he did appear lamentably stupid.

All the bottles having been scrupulously emptied, the pedant
turned the last one of the half dozen upside down, so that every
drop might run out; which significant action was noted and
understood by Matamore, who lost no time in bringing in a fresh
supply from the chariot. The baron began to feel the wine a
little in his head, being entirely unaccustomed to it, yet he
could not resist drinking once again to the health of the ladies.
The pedant and the tyrant drank like old topers, who can absorb
any amount of liquor--be it wine, or something stronger--without
becoming actually intoxicated. Matamore was very abstemious, both
in eating and drinking, and could have lived like the
impoverished Spanish hidalgo, who dines on three olives and sups
on an air upon his mandoline. There was a reason for his extreme
frugality; he feared that if he ate and drank like other people
he might lose his phenomenal thinness, which was of inestimable
value to him in a professional point of view. If he should be so
unfortunate as to gain flesh, his attractions would diminish in
an inverse ratio, so he starved himself almost to death, and was
constantly seen anxiously examining the buckle of his belt, to
make sure that he had not increased in girth since his last meal.
Voluntary Tantalus, he scarcely allowed himself enough to keep
life in his attenuated frame, and if he had but fasted as
carefully from motives of piety he would have been a full-fledged

The portly duenna disposed of solids and fluids perseveringly,
and in formidable quantities, seeming to have an unlimited
capacity; but Isabelle and Serafina had finished their supper
long ago, and were yawning wearily behind their pretty, outspread
hands, having no fans within reach, to conceal these pronounced
symptoms of sleepiness.

The baron, becoming aware of this state of things, said to them,
"Mesdemoiselles, I perceive that you are very weary, and I wish
with all my heart that I could offer you each a luxurious
bed-chamber; but my house, like my family, has fallen into decay,
and I can only give to you and Madame my own room. Fortunately
the bed is very large, and you must make yourselves as
comfortable as you can--for a single night you will not mind. As
to the gentlemen, I must ask them to remain here with me, and try
to sleep in the arm-chairs before the fire. I pray you, ladies,
do not allow yourselves to be startled by the waving of the
tapestry-which is only due to the strong draughts about the room
on a stormy night like this--the moaning of the wind in the
chimney, or the wild scurrying and squeaking of the mice behind
the wainscot. I can guarantee that no ghosts will disturb you
here, though this place does look dreary and dismal enough to be

"I am not a bit of a coward," answered Serafina laughingly, "and
will do my best to reassure this timid little Isabelle. As to our
duenna,--she is something of a sorceress herself, and if the
devil in person should make his appearance he would meet his
match in her."

The baron then took a light in his hand and showed the three
ladies the way into the bed-chamber, which certainly did strike
them rather unpleasantly at first sight, and looked very eerie in
the dim, flickering light of the one small lamp.

"What a capital scene it would make for the fifth act of a
tragedy," said Serafina, as she looked curiously about her, while
poor little Isabelle shivered with cold and terror. They all
crept into bed without undressing, Isabelle begging to lie
between Serafina and Mme. Leonarde, for she felt nervous and
frightened. The other two fell asleep at once, but the timid
young girl lay long awake, gazing with wide-open, straining eyes
at the door that led into the shut-up apartments beyond, as if
she dreaded its opening to admit some unknown horror. But it
remained fast shut, and though all sorts of mysterious noises
made her poor little heart flutter painfully, her eyelids closed
at last, and she forgot her weariness and her fears in profound

In the other room the pedant slept soundly, with his head on the
table, and the tyrant opposite to him snored like a giant.
Matamore had rolled himself up in a cloak and made himself as
comfortable as possible under the circumstances in a large
arm-chair, with his long, thin legs extended at full length, and
his feet on the fender. Leander slept sitting bolt upright, so as
not to disarrange his carefully brushed hair, and de Sigognac,
who had taken possession of a vacant arm-chair, was too much
agitated and excited by the events of the evening to be able to
close his eyes. The coming of two beautiful, young women thus
suddenly into his life--which had been hitherto so isolated, sad
and dreary, entirely devoid of all the usual pursuits and
pleasures of youth--could not fail to rouse him from his habitual
apathy, and set his pulses beating after a new fashion.
Incredible as it may seem yet it was quite true that our young
hero had never had a single love affair. He was too proud, as we
have already said, to take his rightful place among his equals,
without any of the appurtenances suitable to his rank, and also
too proud to associate familiarly with the surrounding peasantry,
who accorded him as much respect in his poverty as they had ever
shown to his ancestors in their prosperity. He had no near
relatives to come to his assistance, and so lived on, neglected
and forgotten, in his crumbling chateau, with nothing to look
forward to or hope for. In the course of his solitary wanderings
he had several times chanced to encounter the young and beautiful
Yolande de Foix, following the hounds on her snow-white palfrey,
in company with her father and a number of the young noblemen of
the neighbourhood. This dazzling vision of beauty often haunted
his dreams, but what possible relations could there ever be hoped
for between the rich, courted heiress, whose suitors were legion,
and his own poverty-stricken self? Far from seeking to attract
her attention, he always got out of her sight as quickly as
possible, lest his ill-fitting, shabby garments and miserable old
pony should excite a laugh at his expense; for he was very
sensitive, this poor young nobleman, and could not have borne the
least approach to ridicule from the fair object of his secret and
passionate admiration. He had tried his utmost to stifle the
ardent emotions that filled his heart whenever his thoughts
strayed to the beautiful Yolande, realizing how far above his
reach she was, and he believed that he had succeeded; though
there were times even yet when it all rushed back upon him with
over-whelming force, like a huge tidal wave that sweeps
everything before it.

The night passed quietly at the chateau, without other incident
than the fright of poor Isabelle, when Beelzebub, who had climbed
up on the bed, as was his frequent custom, established himself
comfortably upon her bosom; finding it a deliciously soft, warm
resting-place, and obstinately resisting her frantic efforts to
drive him away.

As to de Sigognac, he did not once close his eyes. A vague
project was gradually shaping itself in his mind, keeping him
wakeful and perplexed. The advent of these strolling comedians
appeared to him like a stroke of fate, an ambassador of fortune,
to invite him to go out into the great world, away from this old
feudal ruin, where his youth was passing in misery and
inaction--to quit this dreary shade, and emerge into the light
life of the outer world.

At last the gray light of the dawn came creeping in through the
lattice windows, speedily followed by the first bright rays from
the rising sun. The storm was over, and the glorious god of day
rose triumphant in a perfectly clear sky. It was a strange group
that he peeped in upon, where the old family portraits seemed
looking down with haughty contempt upon the slumbering invaders
of their dignified solitude. The soubrette was the first to
awake, starting up as a warm sunbeam shone caressingly full upon
her face. She sprang to her feet, shook out her skirts, as a bird
does its plumage, passed the palms of her hands lightly over her
glossy bands of jet-black hair, and then seeing that the baron
was quietly observing her, with eyes that showed no trace of
drowsiness, she smiled radiantly upon him as she made a low and
most graceful curtsey.

"I am very sorry," said de Sigognac, as he rose to acknowledge
her salute, "that the ruinous condition of this chateau, which
verily seems better fitted to receive phantoms than real living
guests, would not permit me to offer you more comfortable
accommodations. If I had been able to follow my inclinations, I
should have lodged you in a luxurious chamber, where you could
have reposed between fine linen sheets, under silken curtains,
instead of resting uneasily in that worm-eaten old chair."

"Do not be sorry about anything, my lord, I pray you," answered
the soubrette with another brilliant smile; " but for your
kindness we should have been in far worse plight; forced to pass
the night in the poor old chariot, stuck fast in the mud; exposed
to the cutting wind and pelting rain. We should assuredly have
found ourselves in wretched case this morning. Besides, this
chateau which you speak of so disparagingly is magnificence
itself in comparison with the miserable barns, open to the
weather, in which we have sometimes been forced to spend the
night, trying to sleep as best we might on bundles of straw, and
making light of our misery to keep our courage up."

While the baron and the actress were exchanging civilities the
pedant's chair, unable to support his weight any longer, suddenly
gave way under him, and he fell to the floor with a tremendous
crash, which startled the whole company. In his fall he had
mechanically seized hold of the table-cloth, and so brought
nearly all the things upon it clattering down with him. He lay
sprawling like a huge turtle in the midst of them until the
tyrant, after rubbing his eyes and stretching his burly limbs,
came to the rescue, and held out a helping hand, by aid of which
the old actor managed with some difficulty to scramble to his

"Such an accident as that could never happen to Matamore," said
Herode, with his resounding laugh; "he might fall into a spider's
web without breaking through it."

"That's true," retorted the shadow of a man, in his turn
stretching his long attenuated limbs and yawning tremendously,
"but then, you know, not everybody has the advantage of being a
second Polyphemus, a mountain of flesh and bones, like you, or a
big wine-barrel, like our friend Blazius there."

All this commotion had aroused Isabelle, Serafina and the duenna,
who presently made their appearance. The two younger women,
though a little pale and weary, yet looked very charming in the
bright morning light. In de Sigognac's eyes they appeared
radiant, in spite of the shabbiness of their finery, which was
far more apparent now than on the preceding evening. But what
signify faded ribbons and dingy gowns when the wearers are fresh,
young and beautiful? Besides, the baron's eyes were so accustomed
to dinginess that they were not capable of detecting such
slight defects in the toilets of his fair guests, and he gazed
with delight upon these bewitching creatures, enraptured with
their grace and beauty. As to the duenna, she was both old and
ugly, and had long ago accepted the inevitable with commendable

As the ladies entered by one door, Pierre came in by the other,
bringing more wood for the fire, and then proceeding to make
the disordered room as tidy as he could. All the company now
gathered round the cheerful blaze that was roaring up the chimney
and sending out a warm glow that was an irresistible attraction
in the chill of the early morning. Isabelle knelt down and
stretched out the rosy palms of her pretty little hands as near
to the flames as she dared, while Serafina stood behind and laid
her hands caressingly on her shoulders, like an elder sister
taking tender care of a younger one. Matamore stood on one leg
like a huge heron, leaning against the corner of the carved
chimney-piece, and seemed inclined to fall asleep again, while
the pedant was vainly searching for a swallow of wine among the
empty bottles.

The baron meantime had held a hurried private consultation with
Pierre as to the possibility of procuring a few eggs, or a fowl
or two, at the nearest hamlet, so that he might give the
travellers something to eat before their departure, and he bade
the old servant be quick about it, for the chariot was to make an
early start, as they had a long day's journey before them.

"I cannot let you go away fasting, though you will have rather a
scanty breakfast I fear," he said to his guests, "but it is
better to have a poor one than none at all; and there is not an
inn within six leagues of this where you could be sure of getting
anything to eat. I will not make further apologies, for the
condition of everything in this house shows you plainly enough
that I am not rich; but as my poverty is mainly owing to the
great expenditures made by my honoured ancestors in many wars for
the defence of king and country, I do not need to be ashamed of

"No indeed, my lord," answered Herode in his deep, bass voice,
"and many there be in these degenerate days who hold their heads
very high because of their riches, who would not like to have to
confess how they came in possession of them."

"What astonishes me," interrupted Blazius, "is that such an
accomplished young gentleman as your lordship seems to be should
be willing to remain here in this isolated spot, where Fortune
cannot reach you even if she would. You ought to go to Paris, the
great capital of the world, the rendezvous of brave and learned
men, the El Dorado, the promised land, the Paradise of all true
Frenchmen. There you would be sure to make your way, either in
attaching yourself to the household of some great nobleman, a
friend of your family, or in performing some brilliant deed of
valour, the opportunity for which will not be long to find."

These words, although rather high-flown, were not devoid of
sense, and de Sigognac could not help secretly admitting that
there was some truth in them. He had often, during his long
rambles over the desolate Landes, thought wishfully of
undertaking what the pedant had just proposed; but he had not
money enough for the journey even, and he did not know where to
look for more. Though brave and high-spirited, he was very
sensitive, and feared a smile of derision more than a
sword-thrust. He was not familiar with the prevailing fashions in
dress, but he felt that his antiquated costume was ridiculous as
well as shabby, and sure to be laughed at anywhere but among his
own simple peasantry. Like most of those who are disheartened and
crushed by extreme poverty, he only looked at the dark side of
things, and made no allowance for any possible advantages.
Perhaps he might have been delicately as well as generously
assisted by some of his father's old friends if he would only
have let them know of his situation, but his pride held him back,
and he would have died of starvation rather than ask for aid in
any form.

"I used to think sometimes of going to Paris," he answered
slowly, after some hesitation, "but I have no friends or even
acquaintances there; and the descendants of those who perhaps
knew my ancestors when they were rich and powerful, and in favour
at court, could scarcely be expected to welcome a
Baron de Sigognac, who came swooping down from his ruined tower
to try and snatch a share of any prey that chanced to lie
within reach of his talons. And besides--I do not know why
I should be ashamed to acknowledge it--I have not any of the
appurtenances suitable to my rank, and could not present myself
upon a footing worthy of my name. I doubt if I have even money
enough for the expenses of the journey alone, and that in the
humblest fashion."

"But it is not necessary," Blazius hastened to reply, that you
should make a state entry into the capital, like a Roman
emperor, in a gilded chariot drawn by four white horses abreast.
If our humble equipage does not appear too unworthy to your
lordship, come with us to Paris; we are on our way there now.
Many a man shines there to-day in brave apparel, and enjoys high
favour at court, who travelled thither on foot, carrying his
little bundle over his shoulder, swung on the point of his
rapier, and his shoes in his hand, for fear of wearing them out
on the way."

A slight flush, partly of shame, partly of pleasure, rose to de
Sigognac's cheek at this speech. If on the one side his pride
revolted at the idea of being under an obligation to such a
person as the pedant, on the other he was touched and gratified
by this kind proposition so frankly made, and which, moreover,
accorded so well with his own secret desires. He feared also that
if he refused the actor's kindly-meant offer he would wound his
feelings, and perhaps miss an opportunity that would never be
afforded to him again. It is true that the idea of a descendant
of the noble old house of Sigognac travelling in the chariot of a
band of strolling players, and making common cause with them, was
rather shocking at first sight, but surely it would be better
than to go on any longer leading his miserable, hopeless life in
this dismal, deserted place. He wavered between those two
decisive little monosyllables, yes and no, and could by no means
reach a satisfactory conclusion, when Isabelle, who had been
watching the colloquy with breathless interest, advanced
smilingly to where he was standing somewhat apart with Blazius,
and addressed the following words to him, which speedily put an
end to all his uncertainty:

"Our poet, having fallen heir to a fortune, has lately left us,
and his lordship would perhaps be good enough to take his place.
I found accidentally, in opening a volume of Ronsard's poems that
lay upon the table in his room, a piece of paper with a sonnet
written upon it, which must be of his composition, and proves him
not unaccustomed to writing in verse. He could rearrange our
parts for us, make the necessary alterations and additions in the
new plays we undertake, and even perhaps write a piece for us now
and then. I have now a very pretty little Italian comedy by me,
which, with some slight modifications, would suit us nicely, and
has a really charming part for me."

With her last words, accompanied though they were with a smile,
she gave the baron such a sweet, wistful look that he could no
longer resist; but the appearance of Pierre at this moment with a
large omelette created a diversion, and interrupted this
interesting conversation. They all immediately gathered round the
table, and attacked the really good breakfast, which the old
servant had somehow managed to put before them, with great zest.
As to de Sigognac, he kept them company merely out of politeness,
and trifled with what was on his plate while the others were
eating, having partaken too heartily of the supper the night
before to be hungry now, and, besides, being so much preoccupied
with weightier matters that he was not able to pay much attention
to this.

After the meat was finished, and while the chariot was being made
ready for a start, Isabelle and Serafina expressed a desire to go
into the garden, which they looked down upon from the court.

"I am afraid," said de Sigognac, as he aided them to descend the
unsteady, slippery stone steps, "that the briers will make sad
work with your dresses, for thorns abound in my neglected garden,
though roses do not."

The young baron said this in the sad, ironical tone he usually
adopted when alluding to his poverty; but a moment after they
suddenly came upon two exquisite little wild roses, blooming
directly fn their path. With an exclamation of surprise de
Sigognac gathered them, and as he offered one to each lady, said,
with a smile, "I did not know there was anything of this sort
here, having never found aught but rank weeds and brambles
before; it is your gracious presence that has brought forth these
two blossoms in the midst of ruin and desolation."

Isabelle put her little rose carefully in the bosom of her dress,
giving him her thanks mutely by an eloquent glance, which spoke
more perhaps than she knew, and brought a flush of pleasure to
his cheeks. They walked on to the statue in its rocky niche at
the end of the garden, de Sigognac carefully bending back the
branches that obstructed the way. The young girl looked round
with a sort of tender interest at this overgrown, neglected spot,
so thoroughly in keeping with the ruined chateau that frowned
down upon them, and thought pityingly of the long, dreary hours
that the poor baron must have spent here in solitude and despair.
Serafina's face only expressed a cold disdain, but slightly
masked by politeness. To her mind the ruinous condition of things
was anything but interesting, and though she dearly loved a title
she had still greater respect for wealth and magnificence.

"My domain ends here," said the baron, as they reached the grotto
of the statue, "though formerly all the surrounding country, as
far as the eye can reach from the top of that high tower yonder,
belonged to my ancestors. But barely enough remains now to afford
me a shelter until the day comes when the last of the de
Sigognacs shall be laid to rest amid his forefathers in the
family vault, thenceforward "their sole possession."

"Do you know you are very much out of spirits this morning?" said
Isabelle in reply, touched by the expression of this sad thought
that had occurred to her also, and assuming a bright, playful
air, in the hope that it might help to chase away the heavy
shadow that lay upon her young host's brow. "Fortune is blind,
they say, but nevertheless she does sometimes shower her good
gifts upon the worthy and the brave; the only thing is that they
must put themselves in her way. Come, decide to go with us, and
perhaps in a few years the Chateau de Sigognac, restored to its
ancient splendour, may loom up as proudly as of old; think of
that, my lord, and take courage to quit it for a time. And
besides," she added in a lower tone that only de Sigognac could
hear, "I cannot bear to go away and leave you here alone in this
dreary place."

The soft light that shone in Isabelle's beautiful eyes as she
murmured these persuasive words was irresistible to the man who
already loved her madly; and the idea of following his divinity
in a humble disguise, as many a noble knight had done of old,
reconciled him to what would otherwise have seemed too
incongruous and humiliating. It could not be considered
derogatory to any gentleman to accompany his lady-love, be she
what she might, actress or princess, and to attach himself, for
love of her bright eyes, to even a band of strolling players. The
mischievous little boy of the bow had compelled even gods and
heroes to submit to all sorts of odd tests and means. Jupiter
himself took the form of a bull to carry off Europa, and swam
across the sea with her upon his back to the island of Crete.
Hercules, dressed as a woman, sat spinning meekly at Omphale's
feet. Even Aristotle went upon all fours that his mistress might
ride on his back. What wonder then that our youthful baron
thought that nothing could be too difficult or repulsive in the
service of the lovely being at his side! So he decided at once
not to let her leave him behind, and begging the comedians to
wait a few moments while he made his hurried preparations, drew
Pierre aside and told him in few words of his new project. The
faithful old servant, although nearly heart-broken at the thought
of parting with his beloved master, fully realized how greatly it
would be to his advantage to quit the dreary life that was
blighting his youth, and go out into the world; and while he felt
keenly the incongruity of such fellow travellers for a de
Sigognac, yet wisely thought that it was better for him to go
thus than not at all. He quickly filled an old valise with the
few articles of clothing that formed the baron's scanty wardrobe,
and put into a leathern purse the little money he still
possessed; secretly adding thereto his own small hoard, which he
could safely do without fear of detection, as he had the care of
the family finances, as well as everything else about the
establishment. The old white pony was brought out and saddled,
for de Sigognac did not wish to get into the chariot until they
had gone some distance from home, not caring to make his
departure public. He would seem thus to be only accompanying his
guests a little way upon their journey, and Pierre was to follow
on foot to lead the horse back home.

The oxen, great slow-moving, majestic creatures, were already
harnessed to the heavy chariot, while their driver, a tall,
sturdy peasant lad, standing in front of them leaning upon his
goad, had unconsciously assumed an attitude so graceful that he
closely resembled the sculptured figures in ancient Greek
bas-reliefs. Isabelle and Serafina had seated themselves in the
front of the chariot, so that they could enjoy the fresh, cool
air, and see the country as they passed along; while the others
bestowed themselves inside, where they might indulge in a morning
nap. At last all were ready; the driver gave the word of command,
and the oxen stepped slowly forward, setting in motion the great
unwieldy, lumbering vehicle, which creaked and groaned in
lamentable fashion, making the vaulted portico ring again as it
passed through it and out of the chateau.

In the midst of all this unwonted commotion, Beelzebub and Miraut
moved restlessly about the court, evidently very much perplexed
as to what could be the meaning of it. The old dog ran back and
forth from his master, who always had a caress for him, to
Pierre, looking up into their faces with questioning, anxious
eyes, and Beelzebub finally went and held a consultation with his
good friend, the old white pony, now standing with saddle and
bridle on, quietly awaiting his master's pleasure. He bent down
his head so that his lips almost touched Beelzebub, and really
appeared to be whispering something to him; which the cat in his
turn imparted to Miraut, in that mysterious language of animals
which Democritus, claimed that he understood, but which we are
not able to translate. Whatever it might have been that Bayard,
the old pony, communicated to Beelzebub, one thing is certain,
that when at last the baron vaulted into his saddle and sallied
forth from his ancient castle, he was accompanied by both cat and
dog. Now, though it was no uncommon thing for Miraut to follow
him abroad, Beelzebub had never been known to attempt such a feat

As he rode slowly out through the grand old portico de Sigognac
felt his heart heavy within him, and when, after going a few
paces from the chateau, he turned round for one last look at its
crumbling walls, he felt an acute grief at bidding them farewell
which was an astonishment to himself. As his eyes sought and
dwelt upon the roof of the little chapel where his father and
mother lay sleeping side by side, he almost reproached himself
for wishing to go and leave them, and it required a mighty effort
to turn away and ride after the chariot, which was some distance
in advance of him. He had soon overtaken and passed it, when a
gentle gust of wind brought to him the penetrating, faintly
aromatic scent of his native heather, still wet from last night's
rain, and also the silvery sound of a distant convent bell that
was associated with his earliest recollections. They both seemed
to be reproaching him for his desertion of his home, and he
involuntarily checked the old pony, and made as if he would turn
back. Miraut and Beelzebub, seeming to understand the movement,
looked up at him eagerly, but as he was in the very act of
turning the horse's head he met Isabelle's soft eyes fixed on him
with such an entreating, wistful look that he flushed and
trembled under it, and entirely forgetting his ancient chateau,
the perfume of the heather, and the quick strokes of the distant
bell, that still continued ringing, he put spurs to his horse and
dashed on in advance again. The struggle was over--Isabelle had

When the highway was reached, de Sigognac again fell behind the
chariot--which moved more quickly over the smooth, hard road--so
that Pierre might be able to catch up to him, and rode slowly
forward, lost in thought; he roused himself, however, in time to
take one last look at the towers of Sigognac, which were still
visible over the tops of the pine trees. Bayard came to a full
stop as he gazed, and Miraut took advantage of the pause to
endeavour to climb up and lick his master's face once more; but
he was so old and stiff that de Sigognac had to lift him up in
front of him; holding him there he tenderly caressed the faithful
companion of many sad, lonely years, even bending down and
kissing him between the eyes. Meantime the more agile Beelzebub
had scrambled up on the other side, springing from the ground to
the baron's foot, and then climbing up by his leg; he purred
loudly as his master affectionately stroked his head, looking up
in his face as if he understood perfectly that this was a leave-
taking. We trust that the kind reader will not laugh at our poor
young hero, when we say that he was so deeply touched by these
evidences of affection from his humble followers that two great
tears rolled down his pale cheeks and fell upon the heads of his
dumb favourites, before he put them gently from him and resumed
his journey.

Miraut and Beelzebub stood where he had put them down, looking
after their beloved master until a turn in the road hid him from
their sight, and then quietly returned to the chateau together.
The rain of the previous night had left no traces in the sandy
expanse of the Landes, save that it had freshened up the heather
with its tiny purple bells, and the furze bushes with their
bright yellow blossoms. The very pine trees themselves looked
less dark and mournful than usual, and their penetrating,
resinous odour filled the fresh morning air. Here and there a
little column of smoke rising from amid a grove of chestnut trees
betrayed the homestead of some farmer, and scattered over the
gently rolling plain, that extended as far as the eye could
reach, great flocks of sheep could be discerned, carefully
guarded by shepherd and dog; the former mounted on stilts, and
looking very odd to those unaccustomed to the shepherds of the
Landes. On the southern horizon the snow-clad tops of the more
lofty peaks of the Pyrenees rose boldly into the clear sky, with
light wreaths of mist still clinging round them here and there.

Oxen travel slowly, especially over roads where at times the
wheels sink deep into the sand, and the sun was high above the
horizon before they had gone two leagues on their way. The baron,
loath to fatigue his old servant and poor Bayard, determined to
bid adieu to them without further delay; so he sprang lightly to
the ground, put the bridle into Pierre's trembling hand, and
affectionately stroked the old pony's neck, as he never failed to
do when he dismounted. It was a painful moment. The faithful
servant had taken care of his young master from his infancy, and
he turned very pale as he said in faltering tones, "God bless and
keep your lordship. How I wish that I could go with you."

"And so do I, my good Pierre, but that is impossible. You must
stay and take care of the chateau for me; I could not bear to
think of it entirely abandoned, or in any other hands than yours,
my faithful friend! And besides, what would become of Bayard and
Miraut and Beelzebub, if you too deserted them?"

"You are right, master," answered Pierre, his eyes filling with
tears as he bade him farewell before he turned and led Bayard
slowly back by the road they had come. The old pony whinnied
loudly as he left his master, and long after he was out of sight
could be heard at short intervals calling out his adieux.

The poor young baron, left quite alone, stood for a moment with
downcast eyes, feeling very desolate and sad; then roused himself
with an effort, and hastened after the chariot. As he walked
along beside it with a sorrowful, preoccupied air, Isabelle
complained of being tired of her somewhat cramped position, and
said that she would like to get down and walk a little way for a
change; her real motive being a kind wish to endeavour to cheer
up poor de Sigognac and make him forget his sad thoughts. The
shadow that had overspread his countenance passed away entirely
as he assisted Isabelle to alight, and then offering his arm led
her on in advance of the lumbering chariot. They had walked some
distance, and she was just reciting some verses, from one of her
parts, which she wished to have altered a little, when the sound
of a horn close at hand startled them, and from a by-path emerged
a gay party returning from the chase. The beautiful Yolande de
Foix came first, radiant as Diana, with a brilliant colour in her
cheeks and eyes that shone like stars. Several long rents in the
velvet skirt of her riding habit showed that she had been
following the hounds through the thickets of furze that abound in
the Landes, yet she did not look in the least fatigued, and as
she came forward made her spirited horse fret and prance under
quick, light strokes of her riding-whip--in whose handle shone a
magnificent amethyst set in massive gold, and engraved with the
de Foix arms. Three or four young noblemen, splendidly dressed
and mounted, were with her, and as she swept proudly past our
hero and his fair companion-upon whom she cast a glance of
haughty disdain--she said in clear ringing tones, "Do look at the
Baron de Sigognac, dancing attendance upon a Bohemienne." And the
little company passed on with a shout of laughter.

The poor baron was furious, and instinctively grasped the handle
of his sword with a quick, angry movement; but as quickly
released it--for he was on foot and those who had insulted him
were on horseback, so that he could not hope to overtake them;
and besides, he could not challenge a lady. But the angry flush
soon faded from his cheek, and the remembrance of his displeasure
from his mind, under the gentle influence of Isabelle, who put
forth all her powers of fascination to make her companion forget
the affront he had received because of her.

The day passed without any other incident worthy of being
recorded, and our travellers arrived in good season at the inn
where they were to sup and sleep.


It was in front of the largest house in a wretched little hamlet
that the weary oxen drawing the chariot of Thespis stopped of
their own accord. The wooden sign that creaked distractingly as
it swung to and fro at every breath of wind bore a large, blue
sun, darting its rays, after the most approved fashion, to the
utmost dimensions of the board on which it was painted. Rather an
original idea, one would say, to have a blue orb of day instead
of a golden one--such as adorned so many other inns on the great
post-road--but originality had had nothing whatever to do with
it. The wandering painter who produced this remarkable work of
art happened to have no vestige of any colour but blue left upon
his palette, and he discoursed so eloquently of the superiority
of this tint to all others that he succeeded in persuading the
worthy innkeeper to have an azure sun depicted on his swinging
sign. And not this one alone had yielded to his specious
arguments, for he had painted blue lions, blue cocks, blue
horses, on various signs in the country round, in a manner that
would have delighted the Chinese--who esteem an artist in
proportion to the unnaturalness of his designs and colouring.

The few scrawny, unwholesome-looking children feebly playing in
the muddy, filthy, little street, and the prematurely old,
ghastly women standing at the open doors of the miserable
thatched huts of which the hamlet was composed, were but too
evidently the wretched victims of a severe type of malarial fever
that prevails in the Landes. They were truly piteous objects, and
our travellers were glad to take refuge in the inn--though it was
anything but inviting--and so get out of sight of them.

The landlord, a villainous looking fellow, with an ugly crimson
scar across his forehead, who rejoiced in the extraordinary name
of Chirriguirri, received them with many low obeisances, and led
the way into his house, talking volubly of the excellent
accommodations to be found therein.

The Baron de Sigognac hesitated ere he crossed the threshold,
though the comedians had all drawn back respectfully to allow him
to precede them. His pride revolted at going into such a place in
such company, but one glance from Isabelle put everything else
out of his head, and he entered the dirty little inn at her side
with an air of joyful alacrity. In the happy kingdom of France
the fortunate man who escorted a pretty woman, no matter where,
needed not to fear ridicule or contumely, and was sure to be

The large low room into which Maitre Chirriguirri ushered the
party, with much ceremony and many bows, was scarcely so
magnificent as he had given them reason to expect, but our
strolling players had long ago learned to take whatever came in
their way without grumbling, and they seated themselves quietly
on the rude wooden settles ranged round a rough, stone platform
in the centre of the apartment, upon which a few sticks of wood
were blazing the smoke escaping through an opening in the roof
above. From an iron bar which crossed this opening a strong chain
was suspended, and fastened to it was the crane, so that it hung
at the proper height over the fire--for this was the kitchen as
well as the reception room. The low ceiling was blackened with
the smoke that filled the upper part of the room and escaped
slowly through the hole over the fire, unless a puff of wind
drove it back again. A row of bright copper casseroles hanging
against the wall--like the burnished shields along the sides of
the ancient triremes, if this comparison be not too noble for
such a lowly subject--gleamed vaguely in the flashing of the red
fire-light, and a large, half-empty wine-skin lying on the floor
in one corner looked like a beheaded body carelessly flung down
there. Certainly not a cheerful looking place, but, the fire
being newly replenished burned brightly, and our weary travellers
were glad to bask in its genial warmth.

At the end of one of the wooden benches a little girl was
sitting, apparently sound asleep. She was a poor, thin, little
creature, with a mass of long, tangled, black hair, which hung
down over her face and almost concealed it, as she sat with her
head drooping forward on her breast. Her scanty clothing was
tattered and dirty, her feet and poor, thin, little legs brown
and bare, and covered with scratches--some still bleeding which
bore witness to much running through the thorny furze thickets.

Isabelle, who chanced to sit down near her, cast many pitying
glances upon this forlorn little figure, but took care not to
disturb the quiet sleep she seemed to be enjoying in her
uncomfortable resting-place. After a little, when she had turned
to speak to Serafina, who sat beside her, the child woke with a
start, and pushing back the mass of dishevelled hair revealed a
sad little face, so thin that the cheek bones were painfully
prominent, and pale to ghastliness. A pair of magnificent, dark
brown eyes, with heavy sweeping lashes, looked preternaturally
large in her woe-begone little countenance, and at this moment
were filled with wonderingr admiration, mingled with fierce
covetousness, as she stared at Serafina's mock jewels--and more
especially at Isabelle's row of pearl beads. She seemed fairly
dazzled by these latter, and gazed at them fixedly in a sort of
ecstasy-hving evidently never seen anything like them before,
and probably thinking they must be of immense value. Occasionally
her eyes wandered to the dresses of the two ladies, and at last,
unable to restrain her ardent curiosity any longer, she put out
her little brown hand and softly felt of Isabelle's gown,
apparently finding exquisite delight in the mere contact of her
finger-tips with the smooth, glossy surface of the silk. Though
her touch was so light Isabelle immediately turned towards the
child and smiled upon her encouragingly, but the poor little
vagabond, finding herself detected, in an instant had assumed a
stupid, almost idiotic look--with an instinctive amount of
histrionic art that would have done honour to a finished actress.
Then dropping her eyelids and leaning her shoulders against the
hard back of the wooden settle she seemed to fall into a deep
sleep, with her head bent down upon her breast in the old

Meanwhile Maitre Chirriguirri had been talking long and loudly
about the choice delicacies he could have set before his guests
if they had only come a day or two earlier, and enumerating all
sorts of fine dishes--which doubtless had existed only in his own
very vivid imagination--though he told a high-sounding story
about the noblemen and grandees who had supped at his house and
devoured all these dainties only yesterday. When at length the
flow of his eloquence was checked by a display of ferocity on the
part of the tyrant, and he was finally brought to the point, he
acknowledged that he could only give them some of the soup called
garbure--with which we have already made acquaintance at the
Chateau de Sigognac, some salt codfish, and a dish of bacon; with
plenty of wine, which according to his account was fit for the
gods. Our weary travellers were so hungry by this time that they
were glad of even this frugal fare, and when Mionnette, a gaunt,
morose-looking creature, the only servant that the inn could
boast, announced that their supper was ready in an adjoining
room, they did not wait to be summoned a second time.

They were still at table when a great barking of dogs was heard
without, together with the noise of horses' feet, and in a moment
three loud, impatient knocks upon the outer door resounded
through the house. Mionnette rushed to open it, whereupon a
gentleman entered, followed by a number of dogs, who nearly
knocked the tall maid-servant over in their eagerness to get in,
and rushed into the dining-room where our friends were assembled,
barking, jumping over each other, and licking off the plates
that had been used and removed to a low side table, before their
master could stop them. A few sharp cuts with the whip he held in
his hand distributed promiscuously among them, without
distinction between the innocent and the guilty ones, quieted
this uproar as if by magic, and the aggressive hounds, taking
refuge under the benches ranged along the walls, curled
themselves round on the floor and went comfortably to sleep, or
lay panting, with their red tongues hanging out of their mouths
and heads reposing on their fore-paws--not daring to stir.

The obstreperous dogs thus disposed of, the cavalier advanced
into the room, with the calm assurance of a man who feels
perfectly at his ease; his spurs ringing against the stone floor
at every step. The landlord followed him obsequiously, cap in
hand, cringing and bowing in most humble fashion--having entirely
laid aside his boasting air and evidently feeling very ill at
ease--this being a personage of whom he stood in awe. As the
gentleman approached the table he politely saluted the company,
before turning to give his orders to Maitre Chirriguirri, who
stood silently awaiting them.

The newcomer was a handsome man of about thirty, with curly light
hair, and a fair complexion, somewhat reddened by exposure to the
sun. His eyes were blue, and rather prominent, his nose slightly
retroussi; his small blond mustache was carefully turned up at
the ends, and scarcely shaded a well-formed but sensual mouth,
below which was a small, pointed beard--called a royal in those
days, an imperial in these. As he took off his broad felt hat,
richly ornamented with long sweeping plumes, and threw it
carelessly down on one of the benches, it was seen that his
smooth, broad forehead was snowy white, and the contrast with his
sunburnt cheeks was not by any means displeasing. Indeed it was a
very handsome, attractive face, in which an expression of frank
gaiety and good humonr tempered the air of pride that pervaded

The dress of this gay cavalier was extremely rich and elegant;
almost too much so for the country. But when we say that the
marquis--for such was his title--had been followingy the hounds
company with the beatitiful Yolande de Foix, we feel that his
costume, of blue velvet elaborately decorated with silver braid,
is fully accounted for. He was one of the gallants that shone at
court in Paris--where he was in the habit of spending a large
portion of every year--and he prided himself on being one of the
best dressed noblemen in France.

His order to the obsequious landlord was in few words. "I want
broth for my dogs, some oats for my horses, a piece of bread and
a slice of ham for myself, and something or other for my grooms"
--and then he advanced smilingly to the table and sat down in a
vacant place beside the pretty soubrette, who, charmed with such
a gay, handsome seignior, had been pleased to bestow a
languishing glance and a brilliant smile upon him.

Maitre Chirriguirri hastened to fetch what he had demanded, while
the soubrette, with the grace of a Hebe, filled his glass to the
brim with wine; which he accepted with a smile, and drank off at
a single draught. For a few minutes he was fully occupied in
satisfying his hunger--which was veritably that of a hunter--and
then looking about him at the party assembled round the table,
remarked the Baron de Sigognac, with whom he had a slight
acquaintance, seated beside the fair Isabelle--in whose company
indeed he had seen him already once before that day. The two
young people were talking together in low tones, and quite
absorbed in each other; but the language of their eyes was
unmistakable, and the marquis smiled to himself as he took note
of what he supposed to be a very promising intrigue--wherein he
did the youthful pair great injustice. As a thorough man of the
world he was not at all surprised at finding de Sigognac with
this band of vagabond players, from such a motive, and the
half-pitying contempt he had formerly felt for the shabby,
retiring young baron was straightway changed to a certain
admiration and respect by this evidence of his gallantry. When he
caught his eye he made a little gesture of recognition and
approval--to show that he understood and appreciated his
position--but paid no further attention to him, evidently meaning
to respect his incognito, and devoted himself to the soubrette.
She received his high-flown compliments with peals of laughter,
and paid him back in his own coin with considerable wit and much
merriment, to the great delight of the marquis--who was always
delighted to meet with any adventure of this sort.

Wishing to pursue this one, which opened so well, he declared
loudly that he was passionately fond of the theatre, and
complained pathetically of being deprived altogether of this, his
favourite amusement, in the country; then addressing himself to
the tyrant he asked whether the troupe had any pressing
engagements that would prevent their turning aside a little from
the usual route to visit the Chateau de Bruyeres and give one of
their best plays there--it would be an easy matter to rig up a
theatre for them in the great hall or the orangery.

The tyrant hastened to reply that nothing could be easier, and
that the troupe, one of the best that had ever travelled through
the provinces, was entirely at his lordship's disposition--"from
the king to the soubrette"--he added, with a broad grin.

"That is capital," said the marquis, "and as to money matters,
you can arrange them to suit yourself. I should not think of
bargaining with the votaries of Thalia--a muse so highly favoured
by Apollo, and as eagerly sought after, and enthusiastically
applauded, at the court of his most gracious majesty as in town
and country everywhere."

After arranging the necessary preliminaries, the marquis, who had
meantime surreptitiously squeezed the soubrette's hand under the
table, rose, called his dogs together, put on his hat, waved his
hand to the company in token of adieu, and took his departure
amid much barking and commotion--going directly home, in order to
set on foot his preparations to receive the comedians on the
morrow at his chateau.

As it was growing late, and they were to make an eariy start the
next morning, our tired travellers lost no time in going to rest;
the women in a sort of loft, where they had to make themselves as
comfortable as they could with the bundles of straw that were to
serve them for beds, whilst the men slept on the benches in the
room where they had supped.


Let us return now. to the little girl we left feigning to sleep
soundly upon a settle in the kitchen. There was certainly
something suspicious about the fierce way in which she eyed
Isabelle's pearl necklace, and her little bit of clever acting
afterwards. As soon as the door had closed upon the comedians she
slowly opened her large, dark eyes, looked sharply round the
great, dim kitchen, and when she found that nobody was watching
her, slipped quietly down from the bench, threw back her hair
with a quick movement of the head peculiar to her, crept softly
to the door, which she cautiously unlatched, and escaped into the
open air without making any more sound than a shadow, then walked
slowly and listlessly away until she had turned a corner and was
out of sight of the house, when she set off running as fleetly as
a deer pursued by the hounds--jumping over the frequent obstacles
in her path with wonderful agility, never stumbling, and flying
along, with her black hair streaming out behind her, like some
wild creature of the desolate pine barrens through which she was
skilfully threading her way.

She reached at last a little knoll, crowned by a group of pine
trees crowded closely together, and dashing up the steep bank
with undiminished speed came to a sudden stop in the very middle
of the grove. Here she stood still for a moment, peering
anxiously about her, and then, putting two fingers in her mouth,
gave three shrill whistles, such as no traveller in those
desolate regions can hear without a shudder. In an instant what
seemed to be a heap of pine twigs sfirred, and a man emerging
from beneath them rose slowly to his feet at a little distance
from the child.

"Is it you, Chiquita?" he asked. "What news do you bring? You are
late. I had given over expecting you to-night, and gone to

The speaker was a dark, fierce-looking fellow of about five and
twenty, with a spare, wiry frame, brilliant black eyes, and very
white teeth--which were long and pointed like the fangs of a
young wolf. He looked as if he might be a brigand, poacher,
smuggler, thief, or assassin--all of which he had been indeed by
turns. He was dressed like a Spanish peasant, and in the red
woollen girdle wound several times around his waist was stuck a
formidable knife, called in Spain a navaja. The desperadoes who
make use of these terrible weapons usually display as many red
stripes, cut in the steel, upon their long pointed blades as they
have committed murders, and are esteemed by their companions in
proportion to the number indicated by this horrible record. We do
not know exactly how many of these scarlet grooves adorned
Agostino's navaja, but judging by the savage expression of his
countenance, and the fierce glitter of his eye, we may safely
suppose them to have been creditably numerous.

"Well, Chiquita," said he, laying his hand caressingly on the
child's head, "and what did you see at Maitre Chirriguirri's

"A great chariot full of people came there this afternoon," she
answered. "I saw them carry five large chests into the barn, and
they must have been very heavy, for it took two men to lift

"Hum!" said Agostino, "sometimes travellers put stones into their
boxes to make them seem very weighty and valuable, and deceive
the inn-keepers."

"But," interrupted the child eagerly, "the three young ladies had
trimmings of gold on their clothes; and one of them, the
prettiest, had round her neck a row of round, shining, white
things, and oh! they were so beautiful!" and she clasped her
hands in an ecstasy of admiration, her voice trembling with

"Those must be pearls," muttered Agostino to himself, and they
will be worth having--provided they are real--but then they do
make such perfect imitations now-a-days, and even rich people are
mean enough to wear them."

"My dear Agostino, my good Agostino," continued Chiquita, in her
most coaxing tones, and without paying any attention to his
mutterings, "will you give me the beautiful, shining things if
you kill that lady?"

"They would go so well with your rags and tatters!" he answered

"But I have so often kept watch for you while you slept, and I
have run so far to tell you when any one was coming, no matter
how cold it was, nor how my poor, bare feet ached--and I have
never once kept you waiting for your food, when I used to carry
it to you in your hiding places, even when I was bad with the
fever, or my teeth chattering with the chill, and I so weak that
I could hardly drag myself along. Oh Agostino! do remember what I
have done for you, and let me have the beautiful, shining

"Yes, you have been both brave and faithful, Chiquita, I admit;
but we have not got the wonderful necklace yet, you know. Now,
tell me, how many men were there in the party."

"Oh! a great many. A big, tall man with a long beard; an old, fat
man--one that looked like a fox--two thin men, and one that
looked like a gentleman, though his clothes were very old and

"Six men," said Agostino, who had counted them on his fingers as
she enumerated them, and his face fell. "Alas! I am the only one
left of our brave band now; when the others were with me we would
not have minded double the number. Have they arms, Chiquita?"

"The gentleman has a sword, and so has the tall, thin man--a very
long one."

"No pistols or guns?"

"I didn't see any," answered Chiquita, "but they might have left
them in the chariot, you know; only Maitre Chirriguirri or
Mionnette would have been sure to send you word if they had, and
they said nothing to me about them."

"Well, we will risk it then, and see what we can do," said
Agostino resolutely. "Five large, heavy chests, gold ornaments, a
pearl necklace! they certainly are worth trying for."

The brigand and his little companion then went to a secret place
in the thick pine grove, and set to work industriously, removing
a few large stones, a quantity of branches, and finally the five
or six boards they had concealed, disclosing a large hole that
looked like a grave. It was not very deep, and Agostino, jumping
down into it, stooped and lifted out what seemed to be a dead
body--dressed in its usual every-day clothes--which he flung down
upon the ground beside the hole. Chiquita, who did not appear to
be in the least agitated or alarmed by these mysterious
proceedings, seized the figure by the feet, with the utmost
sang-froid, and dragged it out of Agostino's way, with a much
greater degree of strength than could have been expected from
such a slight, delicate little creature. Agostino continued his
work of exhumation until five other bodies lay beside the first
one--all neatly arranged in a row by the little girl, who seemed
to actually enjoy her lugubrious task. It made a strange picture
in the weird light of the nearly full moon, half veiled by
driving clouds--the open grave, the bodies lying side by side
under the dark pine trees, and the figures of Agostino and
Chiquita bending over them. But the tragic aspect of the affair
soon changed to a comic one; for when Agostino placed the first
of the bodies in an upright position it became apparent that it
was only a sort of a scarecrow--a rude figure intended to
frighten timid traveller--which being skilfully disposed at the
edge of the grove, partly hidden among the trees, looked at a
little distance exactly like a brigand--gun and all. Indeed it
really was dressed in the garments of one of his old comrades,
who had paid the penalty of his crimes on the gallows. He
apostrophized the figure as he arranged it to his liking, calling
it by name, relating some of the brave deeds of its prototype,
and bewailing the sad fate that had left him to ply his nefarious
trade single-handed, with a rude eloquence that was not wanting
in pathos. Returning to where the others lay, he lifted up one
which he reminded Chiquita, represented her father--whose valour
and skill he eulogized warmly--whilst the child devoutly made the
sign of the cross as she muttered a prayer. This one being put in
position, he carried the remaining figures, one by one, to the
places marked for them, keeping up a running commentary upon the
ci-devant brigands whose representatives they were, and calling
them each repeatedly by name, as if there were a certain sad
satisfaction in addressing them in the old, familiar way.

When this queer task was completed, the bandit and his faithful
little companion, taking advantage of a flood of moonlight as the
clouds drifted away before the wind, went and stood on the road--
not very far from their retreat--by which our travellers were to
pass, to judge of the effect of their group of brigands. It was
really very formidable, and had often been of great service to
the bold originator of the plan; for on seeing so numerous a band
apparently advancing upon them, most travellers took to their
heels, leaving the coveted spoils behind them for Agostino to
gather up at his leisure.

As they slowly returned to the pine grove he said to the child,
who was clinging to his arm affectionately as she walked beside
him, "The first stage of their journey to-morrow is a long one,
and these people will be sure to start in good season, so that
they will reach this spot just at the right time for us--in the
uncertain light of the dawn. In the darkness of night our
brigands yonder could not be seen, and in broad daylight the ruse
would be apparent; so we are in luck, Chiquita! But now for a
nap--we have plenty of time for it, and the creaking of the
wheels will be sure to wake us." Accordingly Agostino threw
himself down upon a little heap of pine branches and heather,
Chiquita crept close to him, so that the large cloak with which
he had covered himself might protect her also from the chilly
night air, and both were soon sound asleep.

It was so early when our travellers were roused from their
slumbers and told that it was time for them to resume their
journey, by the treacherous landlord of the Blue Sun Inn, that it
seemed to them like the middle of the night; to they arranged
themselves as comfortably as they could in the great, roomy

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