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Captain Fracasse by Theophile Gautier

Part 7 out of 9

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who had carried off the fair prize before him on his horse; and,
now that the mask was thrown aside, he disclosed to view the
deathly pale face and fiery red nose of Malartic, bosom friend
and "alter ego" of Maitre Jacquemin Lampourde.


Isabelle sat for a long time perfectly motionless in her
luxurious chamber, sunk in a sad reverie, apparently entirely
oblivious of the glow of light, warmth, and comfort that closed
her in--glancing up occasionally at the portrait over the
chimney-piece, which seemed to be smiling down upon her and
promising her protection and peace, while it more than ever
reminded her of some dear face she had known and loved long ago.
After a time, however, her mood changed. She grew restless, and
rising, began to wander aimlessly about the room; but her
uneasiness only increased, and finally, in desperation, she
resolved to venture out into the corridor and look about her, no
matter at what risk. Anything would be better than this enforced
inactivity and suspense. She tried the door with a trembling
hand, dreading to find herself locked in, but it was not
fastened, and seeing that all was dark outside, she took up a
small lamp, that had been left burning on a side table, and
boldly setting forth, went softly down the long flight of stairs,
in the hope of finding some means of exit from the chateau on the
lower floor. At the foot of the stairs she came to a large double
door, one leaf of which yielded easily when she timidly tried to
open it, but creaked dolefully as it turned on its hinges. She
hesitated for a moment, fearing that the noise would alarm the
servants and bring them out to see what was amiss; but no one
came, and taking fresh courage, she moved on and passed into a
lofty, vaulted hall, with highbacked, oaken benches ranged
against the tapestry-covered walls, upon which hung several large
trophies of arms, and sundry swords, shields, and steel
gauntlets, which caught and flashed back the light from her lamp
as she held it up to examine them. The air was heavy, chilly, and
damp. An awful stillness reigned in this deserted hall. Isabelle
shivered as she crept slowly along, and nearly stumbled against a
huge table, with massive carved feet, that stood in the centre of
the tesselated marble pavement. She was making for a door,
opposite the one by which she had entered; but, as she approached
it, was horror-stricken when she perceived two tall men, clad in
armour, standing like sentinels, one on either side of it. She
stopped short, then tried to turn and fly, but was so paralyzed
with terror that she could not stir, expecting every instant that
they would pounce upon her and take her prisoner, while she
bitterly repented her temerity in having ventured to leave her
own room, and vainly wished herself back by the quiet fireside
there. Meanwhile the two dread figures stood as motionless as
herself--the silence was unbroken, and "the beating of her own
heart was the only sound she heard." So at last she plucked up
courage to look more closely at the grim sentinels, and could not
help smiling at her own needless alarm, when she found that they
were suits of armour, indeed, but without men inside of
them--just such as one sees standing about in the ancient royal
palaces of France. Passing them with a saucy glance of defiance,
and a little triumphant toss of the head, Isabelle entered a vast
dining room, with tall, sculptured buffets, on which stood many
superb vessels of gold and silver, together with delicate
specimens of exquisite Venetian and Bohemian glass, and precious
pieces of fine porcelain, fit for a king's table. Large handsome
chairs, with carved backs, were standing round the great
dining-table, and the walls, above the heavy oaken wainscot, were
hung with richly embossed Cordova leather, glowing with warm,
bright tints and golden arabesques.

She did not linger to examine and admire all the beautified
things dimly revealed to her by the feeble light of her small
lamp, but hurried on to the third door, which opened into an
apartment yet more spacious and magnificent than the other two.
At one end of it was a lordly dais, raised three steps above the
inlaid floor, upon which stood a splendid great arm-chair, almost
a throne, under a canopy emblazoned with a brilliant coat of arms
and surmounted by a tuft of nodding plumes. Still hurrying on,
Isabelle next entered a sumptuous bed-chamber, and, as she paused
for an instant to hold up her lamp and look about her, fancied
that she could hear the regular breathing of a sleeper in the
immense bed, behind the crimson silk curtains which were closely
drawn around it. She did not dare to stop and investigate the
matter, but flew on her way, as lightly as any bird, and next
found herself in a library, where the white busts surmounting the
well-filled book-cases stared down at her with their hard, stony
eyes, and made her shudder as she nervously sought for an exit,
without delaying one moment to glance at the great variety of
curious and beautiful objects scattered lavishly about, which,
under any ordinary circumstances, would have held her enthralled.

Running at right angles with the library, and opening out of it,
was the picture gallery, where the family portraits were arranged
in chronological order on one side, while opposite to them was a
long row of windows, looking into the court. The shutters were
closed, but near the top of each one was a small circular
opening, through which the moon shone and faintly lighted the
dusky gallery, striking here and there directly upon the face of
a portrait, with an indescribably weird and startling effect. It
required all of Isabelle's really heroic courage to keep on past
the long line of strange faces, looking down mockingly it seemed
to her from their proud height upon her trembling form as she
glided swiftly by, and she was thankful to find, at the end of
the gallery, a glass door opening out upon the court. It was not
fastened, and after carefully placing her lamp in a sheltered
corner, where no draughts could reach it, she stepped out under
the stars. It was a relief to find herself breathing freely in
the fresh, pure air, though she was actually no less a prisoner
than before, and as she stood looking up into the clear evening
sky, and thinking of her own true lover, she seemed to feel new
courage and hope springing up in her heart.

In one corner of the court she saw a strong light shining out
through the crevices in the shutters that closed several low
windows, and heard sounds of revelry from the same direction--the
only signs of life she had detected about the whole place. Her
curiosity was excited by them, and she stole softly over towards
the quarter from whence they came, keeping carefully in the
shadow of the wall, and glancing anxiously about to make sure
that no one was furtively watching her. Finding a considerable
aperture in one of the wooden shutters she peeped through it, and
saw a party of men gathered around a table, eating and drinking
and making merry in a very noisy fashion. The light from a lamp
with three burners, which was suspended by a copper chain from
the low ceiling, fell full upon them, and although she had only
seen them masked before, Isabelle instantly recognised those who
had been concerned in her abduction. At the head of the table sat
Malartic, whose extraordinary face was paler and nose redder than
ever, and at sight of whom the young girl shuddered and drew
back. When she had recovered herself a little, she looked in
again upon the repulsive scene, and was surprised to see, at the
other end of the table, and somewhat apart from the others,
Agostino, the brigand, who had now laid aside the long white
beard in which he had played the part of the old blind beggar so
successfully. A great deal of loud talking was going on,
constantly interrupted by bursts of laughter, but Isabelle could
not hear distinctly enough through the closed window to make out
what they were saying. Even if she had been actually in the room
with them, she would have found much of their conversation
incomprehensible, as it was largely made up of the extraordinary
slang of the Paris street Arabs and rascals generally. From time
to time one or the other of the participants in this orgy seemed
to propose a toast, whereupon they would all clink their glasses
together before raising them to their lips, drain them at a
draught, and applaud vociferously, while there was a constant
drawing of corks and placing of fresh bottles on the table by the
servant who was waiting upon them. just as Isabelle, thoroughly
disgusted with the brutality of the scene before her, was about
to turn away, Malartic rapped loudly on the table to obtain a
hearing, and after making a proposition, which met with ready and
cordial assent, rose from his seat, cleared his throat, and began
to sing, or rather shout, a ribald song, all the others joining
in the chorus, with horrible grimaces and gesticulations, which
so frightened poor Isabelle that she could scarcely find strength
to creep away from the loathsome spectacle.

Before re-entering the house she went to look at the drawbridge,
with a faint hope that she might chance upon some unexpected
means of escape, but all was secure there, and a little postern,
opening on the moat, which she discovered near by, was also
carefully fastened, with bolts and bars strong enough to keep out
an army. As these seemed to be the only means of exit from the
chateau, she felt that she was a prisoner indeed, and understood
why it had not been deemed necessary to lock any of the inner
doors against her. She walked slowly back to the gallery, entered
it by the glass door, found her lamp burning tranquilly just
where she had left it, retraced her steps swiftly through the
long suite of spacious apartments already described and flew jp
the grand staircase to her own room, congratulating herself upon
not having been detected in her wanderings. She put her lamp down
in the antechamber, but paused in terror on the threshold of the
inner room, stifling a shriek that had nearly escaped her as she
caught sight of a strange, wild figure crouching on the hearth.
But her fears were short-lived, for with an exclamation of
delight the intruder sprang towards her and she saw that it was
Chiquita--but Chiquita in boy's clothes.

"Have you got the knife yet?" said the strange little creature
abruptly to Isabelle--"the knife with three bonny red marks."

"Yes, Chiquita, I have it here in my bosom," she replied. "But
why do you ask? Is my life in danger?"

"A knife," said the child with fierce, sparkling eyes, "a knife
is a faithful friend and servant; it never betrays or fails its
master, if he is careful to give it a drink now and then, for a
knife is often thirsty you know."

"You frighten me, you naughty child!" exclaimed Isabelle, much
troubled and agitated by these sinister, extravagant words, which
perhaps, she thought, might be intended as a friendly warning.

"Sharpen the edge on the marble of the chimney-piece, like this,"
continued Chiquita, "and polish the blade on the sole of your

"Why do you tell me all this?" cried Isabelle, turning very pale.

"For nothing in particular, only he who would defend himself gets
his weapons ready--that's all."

These odd, fierce phrases greatly alarmed Isabelle, yet
Chiquita's presence in her room was a wonderful relief and
comfort to her. The child apparently cherished a warm and sincere
affection for her, which was none the less genuine because of its
having arisen from such a trivial incident--for the pearl beads
were more precious than diamonds to Chiquita. She had given a
voluntary promise to Isabelle never to kill or harm her, and with
her strange, wild, yet exalted notions of honour she looked upon
it as a solemn obligation and vow, by which she must always
abide--for there was a certain savage nobility in Chiquita's
character, and she could be faithful unto death. Isabelle was the
only human being, excepting Agostino, who had been kind to her.
She had smiled upon the unkempt child, and given her the coveted
necklace, and Chiquita loved her for it, while she adored her
beauty. Isabelle's sweet countenance, so angelically mild and
pure, exercised a wonderful influence over the neglected little
savage, who had always been surrounded by fierce, haggard faces,
expressive of every evil passion, and disfigured by indulgence in
the lowest vices, and excesses of every kind.

"But how does it happen that you are here, Chiquita? asked
Isabelle, after a short silence. "Were you sent to keep guard
over me?

"No, I came alone and of my own accord," answered Chiquita,
"because I saw the light and fire. I was tired of lying all
cramped up in a corner, and keeping quiet, while those beastly
men drank bottle after bottle of wine, and gorged themselves with
the good things set before them. I am so little, you know, so
young and slender, that they pay no more attention to me than
they would to a kitten asleep under the table. While they were
making a great noise I slipped quietly away unperceived. The
smell of the wine and the food sickened me. I am used to the
sweet perfume of the heather, and the pure resinous odour of the
pines. I cannot breathe in such an atmosphere as there is down
below there."

"And you were not afraid to wander alone, without a light,
through the long, dark corridors, and the lonely, deserted

"Chiquita does not know what it is to be afraid--her eyes can see
in the dark, and her feet never stumble. The very owls shut their
eyes when they meet her, and the bats fold their wings when she
comes near their haunts. Wandering ghosts stand aside to let her
pass, or turn back when they see her approaching. Night is her
comrade and hides no secrets from her, and Chiquita never betrays
them to the day."

Her eyes flashed and dilated as she spoke, and Isabelle looked at
her with growing wonder, not unmixed with a vague sensation of

"I like much better to stay here, in this heavenly quiet, by the
fire with you," continued the child, "than down there in all the
uproar. You are so beautiful that I love to look at you-you are
like the Blessed Virgin that I have seen shining above the altar.
Only from afar though, for they always chase me out of the
churches with the dogs, because I am so shabby and forlorn. How
white your hand is! Mine looks like a monkey's paw beside it--and
your hair is as fine and soft as silk, while mine is all rough
and tangled. Oh! I am so horribly ugly--you must think so too."

"No, my dear child,"Isabelle replied, touched by her naive
expressions of affection and admiration, "I do not think so. You
have beauty too--you only need to make yourself neat and clean to
be as pretty a little girl as one would wish to see."

"Do you really think so? Are you telling me true? I would steal
fine clothes if they would make me pretty, for then Agostino
would love me."

This idea brought a little flush of colour to her thin brown
cheeks, and for a few minutes she seemed lost in a pleasant

"Do you know where we are?" asked Isabelle, when Chiquita looked
up at her again.

"In a chateau that belongs to the great seignior who has so much
money, and who wanted to carry you off at Poitiers. I had only to
draw the bolt and it would have been done then. But you gave me
the pearl necklace, and I love you, and I would not do anything
you did not like."

"Yet you have helped to carry me off this time," said Isabelle
reproachfully. "Is it because you don't love me any more that you
have given me up to my enemies?"

"Agostino ordered me, and I had to obey; besides, some other
child could have played guide to the blind man as well as I, and
then I could not have come into the chateau with you, do you
see?--here I may be able to do something to help you. I am brave,
active and strong, though I am so small, and quick as lightning
too--and I shall not let anybody harm you."

"Is this chateau very far from Paris?" asked Isabelle, drawing
Chiquita up on her lap. "Did you hear any one mention the name of
this place?"

"Yes, one of them called it--now what was it?" said the child,
looking up at the ceiling and absently scratching her head, as if
to stimulate her memory.

"Try to remember it, my child!" said Isabelle, softly stroking
Chiquita's brown cheeks, which flushed with delight at the
unwonted caress--no one had ever petted the poor child in her
life before.

"I think that it was Val-lom-breuse," said Chiquita at last,
pronouncing the syllables separately and slowly, as if listening
to an inward echo. "Yes, Vallombreuse, I am sure of it now. It is
the name of the seignior that your Captain Fracasse wounded in a
duel--he would have done much better if he had killed him
outright--saved a great deal of trouble to himself and to you. He
is very wicked, that rich duke, though he does throw his gold
about so freely by the handfuls--just like a man sowing grain.
You hate him, don't you? and you would be glad if you could get
away from him, eh?"

"Oh yes, indeed!" cried Isabelle impetuously. "But alas! it is
impossible--a deep moat runs all around this chateau the
drawbridge is up, the postern securely fastened--there is no way
of escape."

"Chiquita laughs at bolts and bars, at high walls and deep moats.
Chiquita can get out of the best guarded prison whenever she
pleases, and fly away to the moon, right before the eyes of her
astonished jailer. If you choose, before the sun rises your
Captain Fracasse shall know where the treasure that he seeks is

Isabelle was afraid, when she heard these incoherent phrases,
that the child was not quite sane, but her little face was so
calm, her dark eyes so clear and steady, her voice so earnest,
and she spoke with such an air of quiet conviction, that the
supposition was not admissible, and the strange little creature
did seem to be possessed of some of the magic powers she claimed.
As if to convince Isabelle that she was not merely boasting, she
continued, "Let me think a moment, to make a plan--don't speak
nor move, for the least sound interferes with me--I must listen
to the spirit."

Chiquita bent down her head, put her hand over her eyes, and
remained for several minutes perfectly motionless; then she
raised her head and without a word went and opened the window,
clambered up on the sill, and gazed out intently into the

"Is she really going to take flight?" said Isabelle to herself,
as she anxiously watched Chiquita's movements, not knowing what
to expect. Exactly opposite to the window, on the other side of
the moat, was an immense tree, very high and old, whose great
branches, spreading out horizontally, overhung the water; but the
longest of them did not reach the wall of the chateau by at least
ten feet. It was upon this tree, however, that Chiquita's plan
for escape depended. She turned away from the window, drew from
her pocket a long cord made of horse-hair, very fine and
strong, which she carefully unrolled to its full length and laid
upon the floor; then produced from another pocket an iron hook,
which she fastened securely to the cord. This done to her
satisfaction, she went to the window again, and threw the end of
the cord with the hook into the branches of the tree. The first
time she was unsuccessful; the iron hook fell and struck against
the stone wall beneath the casement; but at the second attempt
the hook caught and held, and Chiquita, drawing the cord taut,
asked Isabelle to take hold of it and bear her whole weight on
it, until the branch was bent as far as possible towards the
chateau--coming five or six feet nearer to the window where they
were. Then Chiquita tied the cord firmly to the ornamental iron
railing of the tiny balcony, with a knot that could not slip,
climbed over, and grasping the cord with both hands, swung
herself off, and hung suspended over the waters of the moat far
below. Isabelle held her breath. With a rapid motion of the hands
Chiquita crossed the clear space, reached the tree safely, and
climbed down into it with the agility of a monkey.

"Now undo the knot so that I can take the cord with me," she
said, in a low but very distinct tone of voice to Isabelle, who
began to breathe freely again, "unless, indeed, you would like to
follow me. But you would be frightened and dizzy, and might fall,
so you had better stay where you are. Good-bye! I am going
straight to Paris, and shall soon be back again; I can get on
quickly in this bright moonlight."

Isabelle did as she was bid, and the branch, being no longer held
by the cord, swung back to its original position. In less than a
minute Chiquita had scrambled down to the ground, and the captive
soon lost sight of her slender little figure as she walked off
briskly towards the capital.

All that had just occurred seemed like a strange dream to
Isabelle, now that she found herself alone again. She remained
for some time at the open casement, looking at the great tree
opposite, and trembling as she realized the terrible risk
Chiquita had run for her sake--feeling warm gratitude and tender
affection for the wild, incomprehensible little creature, who
manifested such a strong attachment for herself, and a new
hope sprang up in her heart as she thought that now de Sigognac
would soon know where to find her. The cold night air at last
forced her to close the window, and after arranging the curtains
over it carefully, so as to show no signs of having been
disturbed, she returned to her easy-chair by the fire; and just
in time, for she had scarcely seated herself when the major-domo
entered, followed by the two servants, again carrying the little
table, set for one, with her supper daintily arranged upon it. A
few minutes earlier and Chiquita's escape would have been
discovered and prevented. Isabelle, still greatly agitated by all
that had passed, could not eat, and signed to the servants to
remove the supper untouched. Whereupon the major-domo himself put
some bread and wine on a small table beside the bed, and placed
on a chair near the fire a richly trimmed dressing-gown, and
everything that a lady could require in making her toilet for the
night. Several large logs of wood were piled up on the massive
andirons, the candles were renewed, and then the major-domo,
approaching Isabelle with a profound obeisance, said to her that
if she desired the services of a maid he would send one to her.
As she made a gesture of dissent he withdrew, after again bowing
to her most respectfully. When they had all gone, Isabelle, quite
worn out, threw herself down on the outside of the bed without
undressing, so as to be ready in case of any sudden alarm in the
night; then took out Chiquita's knife, opened it, and laid it
beside her. Having taken these precautions, she closed her eyes,
and hoped that she could for a while forget her troubles in
sleep; but she had been so much excited and agitated that her
nerves were all quivering, and it was long before she even grew
drowsy. There were so many strange, incomprehensible noises in
the great, empty house to disturb and startle her; and in her own
room, the cracking of the furniture, the ticking of a death-watch
in the wall near her bed, the gnawing of a rat behind the
wainscot, the snapping of the fire. At each fresh sound she
started up in terror, with her poor heart throbbing as if it
would burst out of her breast, a cold perspiration breaking out
on her forehead, and trembling in every limb. At last, however,
weary nature had to succumb, and she fell into a deep sleep,
which lasted until she was awakened by the sun shining on her
face. Her first thought was to wonder that she had not yet seen
the Duke of Vallombreuse; but she was thankful for his absence,
and hoped that it would continue until Chiquita should have
brought de Sigognac to the rescue.

The reason why the young duke had not yet made his appearance was
one of policy. He had taken especial pains to show himself at
Saint Germain on the day of the abduction--had joined the royal
hunting party, and been exceedingly and unwontedly affable to all
who happened to come in contact with him. In the evening he had
played at cards, and lost ostentatiously sums that would have
been of importance to a less wealthy man--being all the time in a
very genial mood--especially after the arrival of a mounted
messenger, who brought him a little note. Thus the duke's desire
to be able to establish an incontestable alibi, in case of need,
had spared Isabelle thus far the infliction of his hated
presence; but while she was congratulating herself upon it, and
welcoming the sunshine that streamed into her room, she heard the
drawbridge being let down, and immediately after a carriage
dashed over it and thundered into the court. Her heart sank, for
who would be likely to enter in that style save the master of the
house? Her face grew deathly pale, she reeled, and for one
dreadful moment felt as if she should faint; but, rallying her
courage, she reminded herself that Chiquita had gone to bring de
Sigognac to her aid, and determined afresh to meet bravely
whatever trials might be in store for her, until her beloved
knight and champion should arrive, to rescue her from her
terrible danger and irksome imprisonment. Her eyes involuntarily
sought the portrait over the chimney-piece, and after
passionately invoking it, and imploring its aid and protection,
as if it had been her patron saint, she felt a certain sense of
ease and security, as if what she had so earnestly entreated
would really be accorded to her.

A full hour had elapsed, which the young duke had employed in the
duties of the toilet, and in snatching a few minutes of
repose after his rapid night-journey, when the major-domo
presented himself, and asked respectfully if Isabelle would
receive the Duke of Vallombreuse.

"I am a prisoner," she replied, with quiet dignity, "and this
demand, which would be fitting and polite in any ordinary case,
is only a mockery when addressed to one in my position. I have no
means of preventing your master's coming into this room, nor can
I quit it to avoid him. I do not accept his visit but submit to
He must do as he pleases about it, and come and go when he likes.
He allows me no choice in the matter. Go and tell him exactly
what I have said to you."

The major-domo bowed low, and retired backward to the door,
having received strict orders to treat Isabelle with the greatest
respect and consideration. In a few minutes he returned, and
announced the Duke of Vallombreuse.

Isabelle half rose from her chair by the fire, but turned very
pale and fell back into it, as her unwelcome visitor made his
appearance at the door. He closed it and advanced slowly towards
her, hat in hand, but when he perceived that she was trembling
violently, and looked ready to faint, he stopped in the middle of
the room, made a low bow, and said in his most dulcet, persuasive

"If my presence is too unbearably odious now to the charming
Isabelle, and she would like to have a little time to get used to
the thought of seeing me, I will withdraw. She is my prisoner, it
is true, but I am none the less her slave."

"This courtesy is tardy," Isabelle replied coldly, "after the
violence you have made use of against me."

"That is the natural result," said the duke, with a smile, "of
pushing people to extremity by a too obstinate and prolonged
resistance. Having lost all hope, they stop at nothing--knowing
that they cannot make matters any worse, whatever they do. If you
had only been willing to suffer me to pay my court to you in the
regular way, and shown a little indulgence to my love, I should
have quietly remained among the ranks of your passionate adorers;
striving, by dint of delicate attentions, chivalrous devotion,
magnificent offerings, and respectful yet ardent solicitations,
to soften that hard heart of yours. If I could not have succeeded
in inspiring it with love for me, I might at least have
awakened in it that tender pity which is akin to love, and
which is so often only its forerunner. In the end, perhaps, you
would have repented of your cruel severity, and acknowledged that
you had been unjust towards me. Believe me, my charming Isabelle,
I should have neglected nothing to bring it about."

"If you had employed only honest and honourable means in your
suit," Isabelle rejoined, "I should have felt very sorry that I
had been so unfortunate as to inspire an attachment I could not
reciprocate, and would have given you my warm sympathy, and
friendly regard, instead of being reluctantly compelled, by
repeated outrages, to hate you instead.

"You do hate me then?--you acknowledge it?" the duke cried, his
voice trembling with rage; but he controlled himself, and after a
short pause continued, in a gentler tone, "Yet I do not deserve
it. My only wrongs towards you, if any there be, have come from
the excess and ardour of my love; and what woman, however chaste
and virtuous, can be seriously angry with a gallant gentleman
because he has been conquered by the power of her adorable
charms? whether she so desired or not."

"Certainly, that is not a reason for dislike or anger, my lord,
if the suitor does not overstep the limits of respect, as all
women will agree. But when his insolent impatience leads him to
commit excesses, and he resorts to fraud, abduction, and
imprisonment, as you have not hesitated to do, there is no other
result possible than an unconquerable aversion. Coercion is
always and inevitably revolting to a nature that has any proper
pride or delicacy. Love, true love, is divine, and cannot be
furnished to order, or extorted by violence. It is spontaneous,
and freely given--not to be bought, nor yet won by importunity."

"Is an unconquerable aversion then all that I am to expect from
you?" said Vallombreuse, who had become pale to ghastliness, and
been fiercely gnawing his under lip, while Isabelle was
speaking, in her sweet, clear tones, which fell on his ear like
the soft chiming of silver bells, and only served to enhance his
devouring passion.

"There is yet one means of winning my friendship and gratitude--
be noble and generous, and give me back the liberty of which you
have deprived me. Let me return to my companions, who must be
anxiously seeking for me, and suffering keenly because of their
fears for my safety. Let me go and resume my lowly life as an
actress, before this outrageous affair--which may irreparably
injure my reputation--has become generally known, or my absence
from the theatre been remarked by the public."

"How unfortunate it is," cried the duke, angrily, "that you
should ask of me the only thing I cannot do for you. If you had
expressed your desire for an empire, a throne, I would have given
it to you--or if you had wished for a star, I would have climbed
up into the heavens to get it for you. But here you calmly ask me
to open the door of this cage, little bird, to which you would
never come back of your own accord, if I were stupid enough to
let you go. It is impossible! I know well that you love me so
little, or rather hate me so much, that you would never see me
again of your own free will--that my only chance of enjoying your
charming society is to lock you up--keep you my prisoner. However
much it may cost my pride, I must do it--for I can no more live
without you than a plant without the light. My thoughts turn to
you as the heliotrope to the sun. Where you are not, all is
darkness for me. If what I have dared to do is a crime, I must
make the best of it, and profit by it as much as I can--for you
would never forgive nor overlook it, whatever you may say now.
Here at least I have you--I hold you. I can surround you with my
love and care, and strive to melt the ice of your coldness by the
heat of my passion. Your eyes must behold me--your ears must
listen to my voice. I shall exert an influence over you, if only
by the alarm and detestation I am so unfortunate as to inspire in
your gentle breast; the sound of my footsteps in your antechamber
will make you start and tremble. And then, besides all that, this
captivity separates you effectually from the miserable fellow
you fancy that you love--and whom I abhor; because he has dared
to turn your heart away from me. I can at least enjoy this small
satisfaction, of keeping you from him; and I will not let you go
free to return to him--you may be perfectly sure of that, my fair

"And how long do you intend to keep me captive?--not like a
Christian gentleman, but like a lawless corsair."

"Until you have learned to love me--or at least to say that you
have, which amounts to the same thing."

Then he made her a low bow, and departed, with as self-satisfied
and jaunty an air as if he had been in truth a favoured suitor.
Half an hour later a lackey brought in a beautiful bouquet, of
the rarest and choicest flowers, while the stems were clasped by
a magnificent bracelet, fit for a queen's wearing. A little piece
of folded paper nestled among the flowers--a note from the
duke--and the fair prisoner recognised the handwriting as the
same in which "For Isabelle" was written, on the slip of paper
that accompanied the casket of jewels at Poitiers. The note read
as follows:

"DEAR ISABELLE--I send you these flowers, though I know they will
be ungraciously received. As they come from me, their beauty and
fragrance will not find favour in your eyes. But whatever may be
their fate, even though you only touch them to fling them
disdainfully out of the window, they will force you to think for
a moment--if it be but in anger--of him who declares himself, in
spite of everything, your devoted adorer,

This note, breathing of the most specious gallantry, and tenacity
of purpose, did produce very much the effect it predicted; for it
made Isabelle exceedingly angry; and, without even once inhaling
the delicious perfume of the flowers, or pausing for an instant
to admire their beauty, she flung the bouquet, diamond bracelet
and all, out into the antechamber. Never surely were lovely
blossoms so badly treated; and yet Isabelle was excessively fond
of them; but she feared that if she even allowed them to remain a
little while in her room, their donor would presume upon the
slight concession. She had scarcely resumed her seat by the fire,
after disposing of the obnoxious bouquet, when a maid appeared,
who had been sent to wait upon her. She was a pretty, refined
looking girl, but very pale, and with an air of deep
melancholy--as if she were brooding over a secret sorrow. She
offered her services to Isabelle without looking up, and in a
low, subdued voice, as if she feared that the very walls had
ears. Isabelle allowed her to take down and comb out her long,
silky hair, which was very much dishevelled, and to arrange it
again as she habitually wore it; which was quickly and skilfully
done. Then the maid opened a wardrobe and took out several
beautiful gowns, exquisitely made and trimmed, and just
Isabelle's size; but she would not even look at them, and sharply
ordered that they should instantly be put back where they
belonged, though her own dress was very much the worse for the
rough treatment it had been subjected to on the preceding day,
and it was a trial to the sweet, dainty creature to be so untidy.
But she was determined to accept nothing from the duke, no matter
how long her captivity might last. The maid did not insist, but
acceded to her wishes with a mild, pitying air--just as
indulgence is shown, as far as possible, to all the little whims
and caprices of prisoners condemned to death. Isabelle would have
liked to question her attendant, and endeavour to elicit some
information from her, but the girl was more like an automaton
than anything else, and it was impossible to gain more than a
monosyllable from her lips. So Isabelle resigned herself with a
sigh to her mute ministerings, not without a sort of vague

After the maid had retired, dinner was served as before, and
Isabelle made a hearty meal--feeling that she must keep up her
strength, and also hopeful of hearing something in a few hours
more from her faithful lover. Her thoughts were all of him, and
as she realized the dangers to which he would inevitably be
exposed for her sake, her eyes filled with tears, and a sharp
pang shot through her heart. She was angry with herself for being
the cause of so much trouble, and fain to curse her own
beauty--the unhappy occasion of it all. She was absorbed in these
sad thoughts when a little noise as if a hail-stone had struck
against the window pane, suddenly aroused her. She flew to the
casement, and saw Chiquita, in the tree opposite, signing to her
to open it, and swinging back and forth the long horse-hair cord,
with the iron hook attached to it. She hastened to comply with
the wishes of her strange little ally, and, as she stepped back
in obedience to another sign, the hook, thrown with unerring aim,
caught securely in the iron railing of the little balcony.
Chiquita tied the other end of the cord to the branch to which
she was clinging, and then began to cross over the intervening
space as before; but ere she was half-way over, the knot gave
way, and poor Isabelle for one moment of intense agony thought
that the child was lost. But, instead of falling into the moat
beneath her, Chiquita, who did not appear to be in the least
disconcerted by this accident, swung over against the wall below
the balcony, and climbing up the cord hand over hand, leaped
lightly into the room, before Isabelle had recovered her breath.
Finding her very pale, and tremulous, the child said smilingly,
"You were frightened, eh? and thought Chiquita would fall down
among the frogs in the moat. When I tied my cord to the branch, I
only made a slip-knot, so that I could bring it back with me. I
must have looked like a big spider climbing up its thread," she
added, with a laugh.

"My dear child," said Isabelle, with much feeling, and kissing
Chiquita's forehead, "you are a very brave little girl."

"I saw your friends. They had been searching and searching for
you; but without Chiquita they would never have found out where
you were hidden. The captain was rushing about like an angry
lion--his eyes flashed fire--he was magnificent. I came back with
him. He rode, and held me in front of him. He is hidden in a
little wood not far off, he and his comrades--they must keep out
of sight, you know. This evening, as soon as it is dark, they
will try to get in here to you--by the tree, you know. There's
sure to be a scrimmage--pistol shots and swords clashing--oh!
it will be splendid; for there's nothing so fine as a good fight;
when the men are in earnest, and fierce and brave. Now don't you
be frightened and scream, as silly women do; nothing upsets them
like that. You must just remain perfectly quiet, and keep out of
their way. If you like, I will come and stay by you, so that you
will not be afraid."

"Don't be uneasy about that, Chiquita! I will not annoy my brave
friends, who come to save my life at the risk of their own, by
any foolish fears or demonstrations; that I promise you."

"That's right," the child replied, "and until they come, you can
defend yourself with my knife, you know. Don't forget the proper
way to use it. Strike like this, and then do so; you can rip him
up beautifully. As for me, I'm going to hunt up a quiet corner
where I can get a nap. No, I can't stay here, for we must not be
seen together; it would never do. Now do you be sure to keep away
from that window. You must not even go near it, no matter what
you hear, for fear they might suspect that you hoped for help
from that direction. If they did, it would be all up with us; for
they would send out and search the woods, and beat the bushes,
and find our friends where they lie hidden. The whole thing would
fall through, and you would have to stop here with this horrid
duke that you hate so much."

"I will not go near the window," Isabelle answered, "nor even
look towards it, however much I may wish to. You may depend upon
my discretion, Chiquita, I do assure you."

Reassured upon this important point, Chiquita crept softly away,
and went back to the lower room where she had left the ruffians
carousing. They were still there--lying about on the benches and
the floor, in a drunken sleep, and evidently had not even missed
her. She curled herself up in a corner, as far as might be from
the loathsome brutes, and was asleep in a minute. The poor child
was completely tired out; her slender little feet had travelled
eight leagues the night before, running a good part of the way,
and the return on horseback had perhaps fatigued her even more,
being unaccustomed to it. Although her fragile little body
had the strength and endurance of steel, she was worn out now,
and lay, pale and motionless, in a sleep that seemed like death.

"Dear me! how these children do sleep to be sure," said Malartic,
when he roused himself at last and looked about him. "In spite of
our carouse, and all the noise we made, that little monkey in the
corner there has never waked nor stirred. Halloa! wake up you
fellows! drunken beasts that you are. Try to stand up on your
hind legs, and go out in the court and dash a bucket of cold
water over your cursed heads. The Circe of drunkenness has made
swine of you in earnest--go and see if the baptism I recommend
will turn you back into men, and then we'll take a little look
round the place, to make sure there's no plot hatching to rescue
the little beauty we have in charge."

The men scrambled to their feet slowly and with difficulty, and
staggered out into the court as best they might, where the fresh
air, and the treatment prescribed by Malartic, did a good deal
towards reviving them; but they were a sorry looking set after
all, and there were many aching heads among them. As soon as they
were fit for it, Malartic took three of the least tipsy of them,
and leading the way to a small postern that opened on the moat,
unchained a row-boat lying there, crossed the broad ditch,
ascended a steep flight of steps leading up the bank on the other
side, and, leaving one man to guard the boat, proceeded to make a
tour of inspection in the immediate vicinity of the chateau;
fortunately without stumbling on the party concealed in the wood,
or seeing anything to arouse their suspicions; so they returned
to their quarters perfectly satisfied that there was no enemy
lurking near.

Meantime Isabelle, left quite alone, tried in vain to interest
herself in a book she had found lying upon one of the
side-tables. She read a few pages mechanically, and then, finding
it impossible to fix her attention upon it, threw the volume from
her and sat idly in front of the fire, which was blazing
cheerily, thinking of her own true lover, and praying that he
might be preserved from injury in the impending struggle.
Evening came at last--a servant brought in lights, and soon after
the major-domo announced a visit from the Duke of Vallombreuse.
He entered at once, and greeted his fair captive with the most
finished courtesy. He looked very handsome, in a superb suit of
pearl gray satin, richly trimmed with crimson velvet, and
Isabelle could not but admire his personal appearance, much as
she detested his character.

"I have come to see, my adorable Isabelle, whether I shall be
more kindly received than my flowers," said he, drawing up a
chair beside hers. "I have not the vanity to think so, but I want
you to become accustomed to my presence. To-morrow another
bouquet, and another visit."

"Both will be useless, my lord," she replied, "though I am sorry
to have to be so rude as to say so--but I had much better be
perfectly frank with you."

"Ah, well!" rejoined the duke, with a malicious smile, I will
dispense with hope, and content myself with reality. You do not
know, my poor child, what a Vallombreuse can do--you, who vainly
try to resist him. He has never yet known what it was to have an
unsatisfied desire--he invariably gains his ends, in spite of all
opposition--nothing can stop him. Tears, supplication, laments,
threats, even dead bodies and smoking ruins would not daunt him.
Do not tempt him too powerfully, by throwing new obstacles in his
way, you imprudent child!"

Isabelle, frightened by the expression of his countenance as he
spoke thus, instinctively pushed her chair farther away from his,
and felt for Chiquita's knife. But the wily duke, seeing that he
had made a mistake, instantly changed his tone, and begging her
pardon most humbly for his vehemence, endeavoured to persuade
her, by many specious arguments, that she was wrong in
persistently turning a deaf ear to his suit--setting forth at
length, and in glowing words, all the advantages that would
accrue to her if she would but yield to his wishes, and
describing the happiness in store for her. While he was thus
eloquently pleading his cause, Isabelle, who had given him only a
divided attention, thought that she heard a peculiar little noise
in the direction whence the longed-for aid was to come, and
fearing that Vallombreuse might hear it also, hastened to answer
him the instant that he paused, in a way to vex him still
further--for she preferred his anger to his love-making. Also,
she hoped that by quarrelling with him she would be able to
prevent his perceiving the suspicious little sound--now growing
louder and more noticeable.

"The happiness that you so eloquently describe, my lord, would be
for me a disgrace, which I am resolved to escape by death, if all
other means fail me. You never shall have me living. Formerly I
regarded you with indifference, but now I both hate and despise
you, for your infamous, outrageous and violent behaviour to me,
your helpless victim. Yes, I may as well tell you openly--and I
glory in it--that I do love the Baron de Sigognac, whom you have
more than once so basely tried to assassinate, through your
miserable hired ruffians."

The strange noise still kept on, and Isabelle raised her voice to
drown it. At her audacious, defiant words, so distinctly and
impressively enunciated--hurled at him, as it were--Vallombreuse
turned pale, and his eyes flashed ominously; a light foam
gathered about the corners of his mouth, and he laid hold of the
handle of his sword. For an instant he thought of killing
Isabelle himself, then and there. If he could not have her, at
least no one else should. But he relinquished that idea almost as
soon as it occurred to him, and with a hard, forced laugh said,
as he sprang up and advanced impetuously towards Isabelle, who
retreated before him:

"Now, by all the devils in hell, I cannot help admiring you
immensely in this mood. It is a new role for you, and you are
deucedly charming in it. You have got such a splendid colour, and
your eyes are so bright--you are superb, I declare. I am greatly
flattered at your blazing out into such dazzling beauty on my
account--upon my word I am. You have done well to speak out
openly--I hate deceit. So you love de Sigognac, do you? So much
the better, say I--it will be all the sweeter to call you mine.
It will be a pleasing variety to press ardent kisses upon sweet
lips that say 'I hate you,' instead of the insipid, everlasting
'I love you,' that one gets a surfeit of from all the pretty
women of one's acquaintance."

Alarmed at this coarse language, and the threatening gestures
that accompanied it, Isabelle started back and drew out
Chiquita's knife.

Bravo!" cried the duke--"here comes the traditional poniard. We
are being treated to a bit of high tragedy. But, my fierce little
beauty, if you are well up in your Roman history, you will
remember that the chaste Mme. Lucretia did not make use of her
dagger until AFTER the assault of Sextus, the bold son of Tarquin
the Proud. That ancient and much-cited example is a good one to

And without paying any more attention to the knife than to a
bee-sting, he had violently seized Isabelle in his arms before
she could raise it to strike.

Just at that moment a loud cracking noise was heard, followed by
a tremendous crash, and the casement fell clattering to the
floor, with every pane of glass in it shattered; as if a giant
had put his knee against it and broken it in; while a mass of
branches protruded through the opening into the room. It was the
top of the tree that Chiquita had made such good use of as a way
of escape and return. The trunk, sawed nearly through by de
Sigognac and his companions, was guided in its fall so as to make
a means of access to Isabelle's window; both bridging the moat,
and answering all the purposes of a ladder.

The Duke of Vallombreuse, astonished at this most extraordinary
intrusion upon his love-making, released his trembling victim,
and drew his sword. Chiquita, who had crept into the room
unperceived when the crash came, pulled Isabelle's sleeve and
whispered, "Come into this corner, out of the way; the dance is
going to begin."

As she spoke, several pistol shots were heard without, and four
of the duke's ruffians--who were doing garrison duty came rushing
up the stairs, four steps at a time, and dashed into the
room-sword in hand, and eager for the fray.


The topmost branches of the tree, protruding through the window,
rendered the centre of the room untenable, so Malartic and his
three aids ranged themselves two and two against the wall on
either side of it, armed with pistols and swords--ready to give
the assailants a warm welcome.

"You had better retire, my lord duke, or else put on a mask,"
whispered Malartic to the young nobleman, "so that you may not be
seen and recognised in this affair."

"What do I care?" cried Vallombreuse, flourishing his sword. "I
am not afraid of anybody in the world--and besides, those who see
me will never go away from this to tell of it."

"But at least your lordship will place this second Helen in some
safe retreat. A stray bullet might so easily deprive your
highness of the prize that cost so dear--and it would be such a

The duke, finding this advice judicious, went at once over to
where Isabelle was standing beside Chiquita, and throwing his
arms round her attempted to carry her into the next room. The
poor girl made a desperate resistance, and slipping from the
duke's grasp rushed to the window, regardless of danger, crying,
"Save me, de Sigognac! save me!" A voice from without answered,
"I am coming," but, before he could reach the window,
Vallombreuse had again seized his prey, and succeeded in carrying
her into the adjoining room, closing and bolting the stout oaken
door behind him just as de Sigognac bounded into the chamber he
had quitted. His entrance was so sudden, and so swiftly and
boldly made, that he entirely escaped the pistol shots aimed at
him, and the four bullets all fell harmless. When the smoke had
cleared away and the "garrison" saw that he was unhurt, a murmur
of astonishment arose, and one of the men exclaimed aloud that
Captain Fracasse--the only name by which THEY knew him--must bear
a charmed life; whereupon, Malartic cried, "Leave him to me, I'll
soon finish him, and do you three keep a strict guard over the
window there; for there will be more to follow this one if I am
not mistaken."

But he did not find his self-imposed task as easy as he
supposed--for de Sigognac was ready for him, and gave him plenty
to do, though his surprise and disappointment were overwhelming
when he found that Isabelle was nowhere to be seen.

"Where is she?" he cried impetuously. "Where is Isabelle? I heard
her voice in here only a moment ago."

"Don't ask me!" Malartic retorted. "YOU didn't give her into my
charge." And all this time their swords were flashing and
clashing, as the combat between them grew more animated.

A moment later, before the men had finished reloading their
pistols, Scapin dashed in through the window, throwing a
remarkable somersault like an acrobat as he came, and seeing that
the three ruffians had laid down their swords beside them on the
floor while attending to their other weapons, he seized upon them
all, ere their owners had recovered from their astonishment at
his extraordinary advent, and hurled them through the broken
casement down into the moat. Then, laying hold of one of the
three from behind, and pinning down his arms securely, he placed
him in front of himself for a shield--turning him dexterously
this way and that, in order to keep his body always between his
own and the enemy; so that they dared not fire upon him lest they
should kill their comrade, who was vehemently beseeching them to
spare his life, and vainly struggling to escape from Scapin's
iron grip.

The combat between de Sigognac and Malartic was still going on,
but at last, the baron--who had already wounded his adversary
slightly, and whose agony and desperation at being kept from
prosecuting his search for Isabelle were intense--wrested
Malartic's sword from his grasp, by a dexterous manoeuvre with
his own, and putting his foot upon it as it lay on the floor
raised the point of his blade to the professional ruffian's
throat, crying "Surrender, or you are a dead man!"

At this critical moment another one of the besieging party burst
in through the window, who, seeing at a glance how matters stood,
said to Malartic in an authoritative tone, "You can surrender
without dishonour to this valiant hero--you are entirely at his
mercy. You have done your duty loyally--now consider yourself a
prisoner of war."

Then turning to de Sigognac, he said, "You may trust his word,
for he is an honourable fellow in his way, and will not molest
you again--I will answer for him."

Malartic made a gesture of acquiescence, and the baron let him
go--whereupon the discomfited bully picked up his sword, and with
a crestfallen air walked off very disconsolately to a corner,
where he sat down and occupied himself in staunching the blood
that was flowing from his wound. The other three men were quickly
conquered, and, at the suggestion of the latest comer, were
securely bound hand and foot as they lay upon the floor, and then
left to reflect upon their misfortunes.

"They can't do any more mischief now," said Jacquemin Lampourde,
mockingly; for it was that famous fighting man in person, who,
in his enthusiastic admiration, or rather adoration, for
de Sigognac, had offered his services on this momentous
occasion--services by no means to be despised. As to the brave
Herode, he was doing good service in fighting the rest of the
garrison below. They had hastened out and crossed the moat in the
little row-boat as quickly as possible after the alarm was given,
but arrived too late, as we have seen, to prevent the assailants
from ascending their strange scaling ladder. So they determined
to follow, hoping to overtake and dislodge some of them. But
Herode, who had found the upper branches bending and cracking in
a very ominous manner under his great weight, was forced to turn
about and make his way back to the main trunk, where, under
cover of darkness, he quietly awaited the climbing foe. Merindol,
who commanded this detachment of the garrison, was first, and
being completely taken by surprise was easily dislodged and
thrown down into the water below. The next one, aroused to a
sense of his danger by this, pulled out a pistol and fired, but
in the agitation of the moment, and the darkness, missed his aim,
so that he was entirely at the tyrant's mercy, and in an instant
was held suspended over the deep waters of the moat. He clung
desperately to a little branch he had managed to lay hold of, and
made such a brave fight for his life, that Herode, who was
merciful by nature, though so fierce of aspect, decided to make
terms with him, if he could do so without injuring the interests
of his own party; and upon receiving a solemn promise from him to
remain strictly neutral during the remainder of the fray, the
powerful actor lifted him up, with the greatest ease, and seated
him in safety upon the tree-trunk again. The poor fellow was so
grateful that he was even better than his word, for, making use
of the password and giving a pretended order from Merindol to the
other two, who were some distance behind him and ignorant of what
had happened, he sent them off post-haste to attend to an
imaginary foe at some distance from the chateau; availing himself
of their absence to make good his escape, after heartily thanking
Herode for his clemency. The moon was just rising, and by its
light the tyrant spied the little row-boat, lying not very far
off at the foot of a flight of steps in the steep bank, and he
was not slow to make use of it to cross the moat, and penetrate
into the interior court of the chateau--the postern having been
fortunately left open. Looking about him, to see how he could
best rejoin his comrades within the building, his eyes fell upon
the porch guarded by the two huge, calm sphinxes, and he wisely
concluded that through it must lie his way to the scene of

Meantime de Sigognac, Scapin and Lampourde, having a chance to
look about them, were horrified to find that they were prisoners
in the room where the battle had been fought. In vain they tried
to burst open the stout oaken door which was their only means
of egress--for the tree had, but a moment before, given way and
fallen with a loud crash into the moat; in vain they strove to
cut through one of the panels, or force the lock from its
fastenings. To de Sigognac this delay was maddening, for he knew
that the Duke of Vallombreuse had carried Isabelle away, and that
he must still be with her. He worked like a giant himself, and
incited the others to redouble their efforts; making battering
rams of various pieces of furniture--resorting to every means
that their ingenuity could devise--but without making the least
impression on the massive barrier. They had paused in dismay,
when suddenly a slight, grinding noise was heard, like a key
turning in a lock, and the door, so unsuccessfully attacked,
opened as if by magic before them.

"What good angel has come to our aid?" cried de Sigognac; "and by
what miracle does this door open of itself, after having so
stoutly resisted all our efforts?"

"There is neither angel nor miracle; only Chiquita," answered a
quiet little voice, as the child appeared from behind the door,
and fixed her great, dark, liquid eyes calmly on de Sigognac. She
had managed to slip out with Vallombreuse and Isabelle, entirely
unnoticed by the former, and in the hope of being of use to the

"Where is Isabelle?" cried the baron, as he crossed the threshold
and looked anxiously round the anteroom, which was dimly lighted
by one little flickering lamp. For a moment he did not perceive
her; the Duke of Vallombreuse, surprised at the sudden opening of
the door, which he had believed to be securely fastened and
impenetrable, had retreated into a corner, and placed Isabelle,
who was almost fainting from terror and exhaustion, behind him.
She had sunk upon her knees, with her head leaning against the
wall, her long hair, which had come down, falling about her, and
her dress in the utmost disorder; for she had struggled
desperately in the arms of her captor; who, feeling that his fair
victim was about to escape from his clutches, had vainly striven
to snatch a few kisses from the sweet lips so temptingly near his

"Here she is," said Chiquita, "in this corner, behind the Duke of
Vallombreuse; but to get to her you must first kill him."

"Of course I shall kill him," cried de Sigognac, advancing sword
in hand towards the young duke, who was ready to receive him.

"We shall see about that, Sir Captain Fracasse--doughty knight of
Bohemiennes!" said Vallombreuse disdainfully, and the conflict
began. The duke was not de Sigognac's equal at this kind of work,
but still he was skilful and brave, and had had too much good
instruction to handle his sword like a broom-stick, as Lampourde
expressed it. He stood entirely upon the defensive, and was
exceedingly wary and prudent, hoping, as his adversary must be
already considerably fatigued by his encounter with Malartic,
that he might be able to get the better of him this time, and
retrieve his previous defeat. At the very beginning he had
succeeded in raising a small silver whistle to his lips with his
left hand--and its shrill summons brought five or six armed
attendants into the room.

"Carry away this woman," he cried, "and put out those two
rascals. I will take care of the captain myself."

The sudden interruption of these fresh forces astonished de
Sigognac, and as he saw two of the men lift up and carry off
Isabelle--who had fainted quite away--he was thrown for an
instant off his guard, and very nearly run through the body by
his opponent.

Roused to a sense of his danger, he attacked the duke with
renewed fury, and with a terrible thrust, that made him reel,
wounded him seriously in the upper part of the chest.

Meanwhile Lampourde and Scapin had shown the duke's lackeys that
it would not be a very easy matter to put them out, and were
handling them rather roughly, when the cowardly fellows, seeing
that their master was wounded, and leaning against the wall,
deathly pale, thought that he was done for, and although they
were fully armed, took to their heels and fled, deaf to his
feeble cry for assistance. While all this was going on, the
tyrant was making his way up the grand staircase, as fast as his
corpulence would permit, and reached the top just in time to see
Isabelle, pale, dishevelled, motionless, and apparently dead,
being borne along the corridor by two lackeys. Without stopping
to make any inquiries, and full of wrath at the thought that the
sweet girl had fallen a victim to the wickedness of the cruel
Duke of Vallombreuse, he drew his sword, and fell upon the two
men with such fury that they dropped their light burden and fled
down the stairs as fast as their legs could carry them. Then he
knelt down beside the unconscious girl, raised her gently in his
arms, and found that her heart was beating, though but feebly,
and that she apparently had no wound, while she sighed faintly,
like a person beginning to revive after a swoon. In this position
he was found by de Sigognac, who had effectually gotten rid of
Vallombreuse, by the famous and well-directed thrust that had
thrown Jacquemin Lampourde into a rapture of admiration and
delight. He knelt down beside his darling, took both her hands in
his, and said, in the most tender tones, that Isabelle heard
vaguely as if in a dream:

"Rouse yourself, dear heart, and fear nothing. You are safe now,
with your own friends, and your own true lover--nobody can harm
or frighten you again."

Although she did not yet open her eyes, a faint smile dawned upon
the colourless lips, and her cold, trembling, little fingers
feebly returned the tender pressure of de Sigognac's warm hands.
Lampourde stood by, and looked down with tearful eyes upon this
touching group--for he was exceedingly romantic and sentimental,
and always intensely interested in a love affair. Suddenly, in
the midst of the profound silence that had succeeded to the
uproar of the melee, the winding of a horn was heard without,
and in a moment energetically repeated. It was evidently a
summons that had to be instantly obeyed; the drawbridge was
lowered in haste, with a great rattling of chains, and a
carriage driven rapidly into the court, while the red flaring
light of torches flashed through the windows of the corridor. In
another minute the door of the vestibule was thrown open, and
hasty steps ascended the grand staircase. First came four tall
lackeys, in rich liveries, carrying lights, and directly behind
them a tall, noble-looking man, who was dressed from head to foot
in black velvet, with an order shining on his breast--of those
that are usually reserved for kings and princes of the blood, and
only very exceptionally bestowed, upon the most illustrious

When the four lackeys reached the landing at the head of the
stairs, they silently ranged themselves against the wall, and
stood like statues bearing torches; without the raising of an
eyelid, or the slightest change in the stolid expression of their
countenances to indicate that they perceived anything out of the
usual way--exhibiting in perfection that miraculous
imperturbability and self-command which is peculiar to well-bred,
thoroughly trained menservants. The gentleman whom they had
preceded paused ere he stepped upon the landing. Although age had
brought wrinkles to his handsome face, and turned his abundant
dark hair gray, it was still easy to recognise in him the
original of the portrait that had so fascinated Isabelle, and
whose protection she had passionately implored in her distress.

It was the princely father of Vallombreuse--the son bearing a
different name, that of a duchy he possessed, until he in his
turn should become the head of the family, and succeed to the
title of prince.

At sight of Isabelle, supported by de Sigognac and the tyrant,
whose ghastly pallor made her look like one dead, the aged
gentleman raised his arms towards heaven and groaned.

"Alas! I am too late," said he, "for all the haste I made," and
advancing a few steps he bent over the prostrate girl, and took
her lifeless hand in his. Upon this hand, white, cold and
diaphanous, as if it had been sculptured in alabaster, shone a
ring, set with an amethyst of unusual size. The old nobleman
seemed strangely agitated as it caught his eye. He drew it gently
from Isabelle's slender finger, with a trembling hand signed to
one of the torch-bearers to bring his light nearer, and by it
eagerly examined the device cut upon the stone; first holding it
close to the light and then at arm's length; as those whose
eyesight is impaired by age are wont to do. The Baron de
Sigognac, Herode and Lampourde anxiously watched the agitated
movements of the prince, and his change of expression, as he
contemplated this jewel, which he seemed to recognise; and which
he turned and twisted between his fingers, with a pained look in
his face, as if some great trouble had befallen him.

"Where is the Duke of Vallombreuse?" he cried at last, in a voice
of thunder. "Where is that monster in human shape, who is
unworthy of my race?"

He had recognised, without a possibility of doubt, in this ring,
the one bearing a fanciful device, with which he had been
accustomed, long ago, to seal the notes he wrote to
Cornelia--Isabelle's mother, and his own youthful love. How
happened it that this ring was on the finger of the young
actress, who had been forcibly and shamefully abducted by
Vallombreuse? From whom could she have received it? These
questions were torturing to him.

"Can it be possible that she is Cornelia's daughter and mine?"
said the prince to himself. "Her profession, her age, her sweet
face, in which I can trace a softened, beautified likeness of her
mother's, but which has a peculiarly high bred, refined
expression, worthy of a royal princess, all combine to make me
believe it must be so. Then, alas! alas! it is his own sister
that this cursed libertine has so wronged, and he has been guilty
of a horrible, horrible crime. Oh! I am cruelly punished for my
youthful folly and sin."

Isabelle at length opened her eyes, and her first look fell upon
the prince, holding the ring that he had drawn from her finger.
It seemed to her as if she had seen his face before--but in
youth, without the gray hair and beard. It seemed also to be an
aged copy of the portrait over the chimney-piece in her room, and
a feeling of profound veneration filled her heart as she gazed at
him. She saw, too, her beloved de Sigognac kneeling beside her,
watching her with tenderest devotion; and the worthy tyrant as
well--both safe and sound. To the horrors of the terrible
struggle had succeeded the peace and security of deliverance. She
had nothing more to fear, for her friends or for herself--how
could she ever be thankful enough?

The prince, who had been gazing at her with passionate
earnestness, as if her fair face possessed an irresistible charm
for him, now addressed her in low, moved tones:

"Mademoiselle, will you kindly tell me how you came by this ring,
which recalls very dear and sacred memories to me? Has it been
long in your possession?"

"I have had it ever since my infancy; it is the only thing that
my poor mother left me," Isabelle replied, with gentle dignity.

"And who was your mother? Will you, tell me something about her?"
continued the prince, with increasing emotion.

"Her name was Cornelia, and she was an actress, belonging to the
same troupe that I am a member of now."

"Cornelia! then there is no possible doubt about it,' murmured
the prince to himself, in great agitation. "Yes, it is certainly
she whom I have been seeking all these years--and now to find her

Then, controlling his emotion, he resumed his usual calm,
majestic demeanour, and turning back to Isabelle, said to her,
"Permit me to keep this ring for the present; I will soon give it
back to you."

"I am content to leave it in your lordship's hands," the young
actress replied, in whose mind the memory of a face, that she had
seen long years ago bending over her cradle, was growing clearer
and more distinct every moment.

"Gentlemen," said the prince, turning to de Sigognac and his
companions, "under any other circumstances I might find your
presence here, in my chateau, with arms in your hands,
unwarranted, but I am aware of the necessity that drove you to
forcibly invade this mansion, hitherto sacred from such scenes as
this--I know that violence must be met with violence, and
justifies it; therefore I shall take no further notice of what
has happened here to-night, and you need have no fears of any
evil consequences to yourselves because of your share in it. But
where is the Duke of Vallombreuse? that degenerate son who
disgraces my old age."

As if in obedience to his father's call, the young duke at that
moment appeared upon the threshold of the door leading into what
had been Isabelle's apartment, supported by Malartic. He was
frightfully. pale, and his clinched hand pressed a handkerchief
tightly upon his wounded chest. He came forward with difficulty,
looking like a ghost. Only a strong effort of will kept him from
falling--an effort that gave to his face the immobility of a
marble mask. He had heard the voice of his father, whom, depraved
and shameless as he was, he yet respected and dreaded, and he
hoped to be able to conceal his wound from him. He bit his lips
so as not to cry out or groan in his agony, and resolutely
swallowed down the bloody foam that kept rising and filling his
mouth. He even took off his hat, in spite of the frightful pain
the raising of his arm caused him, and stood uncovered and silent
before his angry parent.

"Sir," said the prince, severely, "your misdeeds transcend all
limits, and your behaviour is such that I shall be forced to
implore the king to send you to prison, or into exile. You are
not fit to be at large. Abduction--imprisonment--criminal
assault. These are not simple gallantries; and though I might be
willing to pardon and overlook many excesses, committed in the
wildness of licentious youth, I never could bring myself to
forgive a deliberate and premeditated crime. Do you know, you
monster," he continued approaching Vallombreuse, and whispering
in his ear, so that no one else could hear, "do you know who this
young girl is? this good and chaste Isabelle, whom you have
forcibly abducted, in spite of her determined and virtuous
resistance! She is your own sister!

"May she replace the son you are about to lose," the young duke
replied, attacked by a sudden faintness, and an agony of pain
which he felt that he could not long endure and live; "but I am
not as guilty as you suppose. Isabelle is pure--stainless. I
swear it, by the God before whom I must shortly appear. Death
does not lie, and you may believe what I say, upon the word of a
dying gentleman."

These words were uttered loudly and distinctly, so as to be heard
by all. Isabelle turned her beautiful eyes, wet with tears, upon
de Sigognac, and read in those of her true and faithful lover
that he had not waited for the solemn attestation, "in extremis,"
of the Duke of Vallombreuse to believe in the perfect purity of
her whom he adored.

"But what is the matter?" asked the prince, holding out his hand
to his son, who staggered and swayed to and fro in spite of
Malartic's efforts to support him, and whose face was fairly

"Nothing, father," answered Vallombreuse, in a scarcely
articulate voice, "nothing--only I am dying"--and he fell at full
length on the floor before the prince could clasp him in his
arms, as he endeavoured to do.

"He did not fall on his face," said Jacquemin Lampourde,
sententiously; "it's nothing but a fainting fit. He may escape
yet. We duellists are familiar with this sort of thing, my lord;
a great deal more so than most medical men, and you may depend
upon what I say."

"A doctor! a doctor!" cried the prince, forgetting his anger as
he saw his son lying apparently lifeless at his feet. "Perhaps
this man is right, and there may be some hope for him yet. A
fortune to whomsoever will save my son!--my only son!--the last
scion of a noble race. Go! run quickly! What are you about
there?--don't you understand me? Go, I say, and run as fast as
can; take the fleetest horse in the stable."

Whereupon two of the imperturbable lackeys, who had held their
torches throughout this exciting scene without moving a muscle,
hastened off to execute their master's orders. Some of his own
servants now came forward, raised up the unconscious Duke of
Vallombreuse with every possible care and precaution, and by his
father's command carried him to his own room and laid him on his
own bed,the aged prince following, with a face from which grief
and anxiety had already driven away all traces of anger. He saw
his race extinct in the death of this son, whom he so dearly
loved--despite his fault--and whose vices he forgot for the
moment, remembering only his brilliant and lovable qualities. A
profound melancholy took complete possession of him, as he stood
for a few moments plunged in a sorrowful reverie that everybody

Isabelle, entirely revived, and no longer feeling at all faint,
bad risen to her feet, and now stood between de Sigognac and the
tyrant, adjusting, with a trembling hand, her disordered dress
and dishevelled hair. Lampourde and Scapin had retired to a
little distance from them, and held themselves modestly aloof,
whilst the men within, still bound hand and foot, kept as quiet
as possible; fearful of their fate if brought to the prince's
notice. At length that aged nobleman returned, and breaking the
terrible silence that had weighed upon all, said, in severe
tones, "Let all those who placed their services at the
disposition of the Duke of Vallombreuse, to aid him in indulging
his evil passions and commiting a terrible crime, quit this
chateau instantly. I will refrain from placing you in the hands
of the public executioner, though you richly deserve it. Go now!
vanish! get ye back to your lairs! and rest assured that justice
will not fail to overtake you at last."

These words were not complimentary, but the trembling offenders
were thankful to get off so easily, and the ruffians, whom
Lampourde and Scapin had unbound, followed Malartic down the
stairs in silence, without daring to claim their promised reward.
When they had disappeared, the prince advanced and took Isabelle
by the hand, and gently detaching her from the group of which she
had formed a part, led her over to where he had been standing,
and kept her beside him.

"Stay here, mademoiselle," he said; "your place is henceforth by
my side. It is the least that you can do to fulfil your duty as
my daughter, since you are the innocent means of depriving me of
my son." And he wiped away a tear, that, despite all his efforts
to control his grief, rolled down his withered cheek. Then
turning to de Sigognac, he said, with an incomparably noble
gesture, "Sir, you are at liberty to withdraw, with your brave
companions. Isabelle will have nothing to fear under her father's
protection, and this chateau will be her home for the present.
Now that her birth is made known it is not fitting that
my daughter should return to Paris with you. I thank you, though
it costs me the hope of perpetuating my race, for having spared
my son a disgraceful action--what do I say? An abominable crime.
I would rather have a bloodstain on my escutcheon than a
dishonourable blot. Since Vallombreuse was infamous in his
conduct, you have done well to kill him. You have acted like a
true gentleman, which I am assured that you are, in chivalrously
protecting weakness, innocence and virtue. You are nobly in the
right. That my daughter's honour has been preserved unstained, I
owe to you--and it compensates me for the loss of my son--at
least my reason tells me that it should do so; but the father's
heart rebels, and unjust ideas of revenge might arise, which I
should find it difficult to conquer and set at rest. Therefore
you had better go your way now, and whatever the result may be I
will not pursue or molest you. I will try to forget that a
terrible necessity turned your sword against my son's life."

"My lord," said de Sigognac, with profound respect, "I feel so
keenly for your grief as a father, that I would have accepted any
reproaches, no matter how bitter and unjust, from you, without
one word of protest or feeling of resentment; even though I
cannot reproach myself for my share in this disastrous conflict.
I do not wish to say anything to justify myself in your eyes, at
the expense of the unhappy Duke of Vallombreuse, but I beg you to
believe that this quarrel was not of my seeking. He persistently
threw himself in my way, and I have done everything I could to
spare him, in more than one encounter. Even here it was his own
blind fury that led to his being wounded. I leave Isabelle, who
is dearer to me than my own soul, in your hands, and shall grieve
my whole life long for this sad victory; which is a veritable and
terrible defeat for me, since it destroys my happiness. Ah! if
only I could have been slain myself, instead of your unhappy son;
it would have been better and happier for me."

He bowed with grave dignity to the prince, who courteously
returned his salute, exchanged a long look, eloquent of
passionate love and heart-breaking regret, with Isabelle, and
went sadly down the grand staircase, followed by his
companions--not however without glancing back more than once at
the sweet girl he was leaving--who to save herself from falling,
leaned heavily against the railing of the landing, sobbing as if
her heart would break, and pressing a handkerchief to her
streaming eyes. And, so strange a thing is the human heart, the
Baron de Sigognac departed much comforted by the bitter grief and
tears of her whom he so devotedly loved and worshipped. He and
his friends went on foot to the little wood where they had left
their horses tied to the trees, found them undisturbed, mounted
and returned to Paris.

"What do you think, my lord, of all these wonderful events?" said
the tyrant, after a long silence, to de Sigognac, beside whom he
was riding. "It all ends up like a regular tragi-comedy. Who
would ever have dreamed, in the midst of the melee, of the sudden
entrance upon the scene of the grand old princely father,
preceded by torches, and coming to put a little wholesome
restraint on the too atrociously outrageous pranks of his
dissolute young son? And then the recognition of Isabelle as his
daughter, by means of the ring with a peculiar device of his own
engraved upon it; haven't you seen exactly the same sort of thing
on the stage? But, after all, it is not so surprising perhaps as
it seems at the first glance--since the theatre is only a copy of
real life. Therefore, real life should resemble it, just as the
original does the portrait, eh? I have always heard that our
sweet little actress was of noble birth. Blazius and old Mme.
Leonarde remember seeing the prince when he was devoted to
Cornelia. The duenna has often tried to persuade Isabelle to seek
out her father, but she is of too modest and gentle a nature to
take a step of that kind; not wishing to intrude upon a family
that might reject her, and willing to content herself in her own
lowly, position."

"Yes, I knew all about that," rejoined de Sigognac, "for Isabelle
told me some time ago her mother's history, and spoke of the
ring; but without attaching any importance to the fact of her
illustrious origin. It is very evident, however, from the
nobility and delicacy of her nature, without any other proof,
that princely blood flows in her veins; and also the refined,
pure, elevated type of her beauty testifies to her descent. But
what a terrible fatality that this cursed Vallombreuse should
turn out to be her brother! There is a dead body between us
now--a stream of blood separates us--and yet, I could not save
her honour in any other way. Unhappy mortal that I am! I have
myself created the obstacle upon which my love is wrecked, and
killed my hopes of future bliss with the very sword that defended
the purity of the woman I adore. In guarding her I love, I have
put her away from me forever. How could I go now and present
myself to Isabelle with blood-stained hands? Alas! that the blood
which I was forced to shed in her defence should have been her
brother's. Even if she, in her heavenly goodness, could forgive
me, and look upon me without a feeling of horror, the prince, her
father, would repulse and curse me as the murderer of his only
son. I was born, alas! under an unlucky star."

"Yes, it is all very sad and lamentable, certainly," said the
tyrant; "but worse entanglements than this have come out all
right in the end. You must remember that the Duke of Vallombreuse
is only half-brother to Isabelle, and that they were aware of the
relationship but for a few minutes before he fell dead at our
feet; which must make a great difference in her feelings. And
besides, she hated that overbearing nobleman, who pursued her so
cruelly with his violent and scandalous gallantries. The prince
himself was far from being satisfied with his wretched son--who
was ferocious as Nero, dissolute as Heliogabalus, and perverse as
Satan himself, and who would have been hanged ten times over if
he had not been a duke. Do not be so disheartened! things may
turn out a great deal better than you think now."

"God grant it, my good Herode," said de Sigognac fervently. "But
naturally I cannot feel happy about it. It would have been far
better for all if I had been killed instead of the duke, since
Isabelle would have been safe from his criminal pursuit under her
father's care. And then, I may as well tell you all, a secret
horror froze the very marrow in my bones when I saw that handsome
young man, but a moment before so full of life, fire, and
passion, fall lifeless, pale and stiff at my feet. Herode, the
death of a man is a grave thing, and though I cannot suffer from
remorse for this one, since I have committed no crime, still, all
the time I see Vallombreuse before me, lying, motionless and
ghastly, with the blood oozing slowly from his wound. It haunts
me. I cannot drive the horrid sight away."

"That is all wrong," said the tyrant, soothingly--for the other
was much excited--"for you could not have done otherwise. Your
conscience should not reproach you. You have acted throughout,
from the very beginning to the end, like the noble gentleman that
you are. These scruples are owing to exhaustion, to the
feverishness due to the excitement you have gone through, and the
chill from the night air. We will gallop on swiftly in a moment,
to set our blood flowing more freely, and drive away these sad
thoughts of yours. But one thing must be promptly done; you must
quit Paris, forthwith, and retire for a time to some quiet
retreat, until all this trouble is forgotten. The violent death
of the Duke of Vallombreuse will make a stir at the court, and in
the city, no matter how much pains may be taken to keep the facts
from the public, and, although he was not at all popular, indeed
very much the reverse, there will be much regret expressed, and
you will probably be severely blamed. But now let us put spurs to
these lazy steeds of ours, and try to get on a little faster."

While they are galloping towards Paris, we will return to the
chateau--as quiet now as it had been noisy a little while before.
In the young duke's room, a candelabrum, with several branches,
stood on a round table, so that the light from the candles fell
upon the bed, where he lay with closed eyes, as motionless as a
corpse, and as pale. The walls of the large chamber, above a high
wainscot of ebony picked out with gold, were hung with superb
tapestry, representing the history of Medea and Jason, with all
its murderous and revolting details. Here, Medea was seen cutting
the body of Pelias into pieces, under pretext of restoring his
youth--there, the madly jealous woman and unnatural mother was
murdering her own children; in another panel she was fleeing,
surfeited with vengeance, in her chariot, drawn by huge dragons
breathing out flames of fire. The tapestry was certainly
magnificent in quality and workmanship, rich in colouring,
artistic in design, and very costly--but inexpressibly repulsive.
These mythological horrors gave the luxurious room an intensely
disagreeable, lugubrious aspect, and testified to the natural
ferocity and cruelty of the person who had selected them. Behind
the bed the crimson silk curtains had been drawn apart, exposing
to view the representation of Jason's terrible conflict with the
fierce, brazen bulls that guarded the golden fleece, and
Vallombreuse, lying senseless below them, looked as if he might
have been one of their victims. Various suits of clothes, of the
greatest richness and elegance, which had been successively tried
on and rejected, were scattered about, and in a splendid great
Japanese vase, standing on an ebony table near the head of the
bed, was a bouquet of beautiful flowers, destined to replace the
one Isabelle had already refused to receive--its glowing tints
making a strange contrast with the death-like face, which was
whiter than the snowy pillow it rested on. The prince, sitting in
an arm-chair beside the bed, gazed at his unconscious son with
mournful intentness, and bent down from time to time to listen at
the slightly parted lips; but no fluttering breath came through
them; all was still. Never had the young duke looked handsomer.
haughty, fierce expression, habitual with him, had given place to
a serenity that was wonderfully beautiful, though so like death.
As the father contemplated the perfect face and form, so soon to
crumble into dust, he forgot, in his overwhelming grief, that the
soul of a demon had animated it, and he thought sorrowfully of
the great name that had been revered and honoured for centuries
past, but which could not go down to centuries to come. More even
than the death of his son did he mourn for the exinction of his

Isabelle stood at the foot of the bed, with clasped hands,
praying with her whole soul for this new-found brother, who had
expiated his crime with his life--the crime of loving too much,
which woman pardons so easily.

The prince, who had been for some time holding his son's icy cold
hand between both his own, suddenly thought that he could feel a
slight warmth in it, and not realizing that he himself had
imparted it, allowed himself to hope again.

"Will the doctor never come?" he cried impatiently; "something
may yet be done; I am persuaded of it."

Even as he spoke the door opened, and the surgeon appeared,
followed by an assistant carrying a case of instruments. He bowed
to the prince, and without saying one word went straight to the
bedside, felt the patient's pulse, put his hand over his heart,
and shook his head despondingly. However, to make sure, he drew a
little mirror of polished steel from his pocket, removed it from
its case, and held it for a moment over the parted lips; then,
upon examining its surface closely, he found that a slight
dimness was visible upon it. Surprised at this unexpected
indication of life, he repeated the experiment, and again the
little mirror was dimmed--Isabelle and the prince meantime
breathlessly watching every movement, and even the expression of
the doctor's face.

"Life is not entirely extinct," he said at last, turning to the
anxious father, as he wiped the polished surface of his tiny
mirror. "The patient still breathes, and as long as there is life
there is hope, But do not give yourself up to a premature joy
that might render your grief more bitter afterwards. I only say
that the Duke of Vallombreuse has not yet breathed his last; that
is all. Now, I am going to probe the wound, which perhaps is not
fatal, as it did not kill him at once."

"You must not stay here, Isabelle," said the prince, tenderly;
"such sights are too trying for a young girl like you. Go to your
own room now, my dear, and I will let you know the doctor's
verdict as soon as he has pronounced it."

Isabelle accordingly withdrew, and was conducted to an apartment
that had been made ready for her; the one she had occupied being
all in disorder after the terrible scenes that had been enacted

The surgeon proceeded with his examination, and when it was
finished said to the prince, "My lord, will you please to order a
cot put up in that corner yonder, and have a light supper sent in
for my assistant and myself? We shall remain for the night with
the Duke of Vallombreuse, and take turns in watching him. I must
be with him constantly, so as to note every symptom; to combat
promptly those that are unfavorable, and aid those that are the
reverse. Your highness may trust everything to me, and feel
assured that all that human skill and science can do towards
saving your son's life shall be faithfully done. Let me advise
you to go to your own room now and try to get some rest; I think
I may safely answer for my patient's life until the morning."

A little calmed and much encouraged by this assurance, the prince
retired to his own apartment, where every hour a servant brought
him a bulletin from the sick-room.

As to Isabelle, lying in her luxurious bed and vainly trying to
sleep, she lived over again in imagination all the wonderful as
well as terrible experiences of the last two days, and tried to
realize her new position; that she was now the acknowledged
daughter of a mighty prince, than whom only royalty was higher;
that the dreaded Duke of Vallombreuse, so handsome and winning
despite his perversity, was no longer a bold lover to be feared
and detested, but a brother, whose passion, if he lived, would
doubtless be changed into a pure and calm fraternal affection.
This chateau, no longer her prison, had become her home, and she
was treated by all with the respect and consideration due to the
daughter of its master. From what had seemed to be her ruin had
arisen her good fortune, and a destiny radiant, unhoped-for, and
beyond her wildest flights of fancy. Yet, surrounded as she was
by everything to make her happy and content, Isabelle was far
from feeling so--she was astonished at herself for being sad and
listless, instead of joyous and exultant--but the thought of de
Sigognac, so infinitely dear to her, so far more precious than
any other earthly blessing, weighed upon her heart, and the
separation from him was a sorrow for which nothing could console
her. Yet, now that their relative positions were so changed,
might not a great happiness be in store for her? Did not this
very change bring her nearer in reality to that true, brave,
faithful, and devoted lover, though for the moment they were
parted? As a poor nameless actress she had refused to accept his
offered hand, lest such an alliance should be disadvantageous to
him and stand in the way of his advancement, but now--how
joyfully would she give herself to him. The daughter of a great
and powerful prince would be a fitting wife for the Baron de
Sigognac. But if he were the murderer of her father's only son;
ah! then indeed they could never join hands over a grave. And
even if the young duke should recover, he might cherish a lasting
resentment for the man who had not only dared to oppose his
wishes and designs, but had also defeated and wounded him. As to
the prince, good and generous though he was, still he might not
be able to bring himself to look with favour upon the man who had
almost deprived him of his son. Then, too, he might desire some
other alliance for his new-found daughter--it was not
impossible--but in her inmost heart she promised herself to be
faithful to her first and only love; to take refuge in a convent
rather than accept the hand of any other; even though that other
were as handsome as Apollo, and gifted as the prince of a fairy
tale. Comforted by this secret vow, by which she dedicated her
life and love to de Sigognac, whether their destiny should give
them to each other or keep them asunder, Isabelle was just
falling into a sweet sleep when a slight sound made her open her
eyes, and they fell upon Chiquita, standing at the foot of the
bed and gazing at her with a thoughtful, melancholy air.

"What is it, my dear child?" said Isabelle, in her sweetest
tones. "You did not go away with the others, then? I am glad; and
if you would like to stay here with me, Chiquita, I will keep you
and care for you tenderly; as is justly due to you, my dear, for
you have done a great deal for me."

"I love you dearly," answered Chiquita, "but I cannot stay with
you while Agostino lives; he is my master, I must follow him. But
I have one favour to beg before I leave you; if you think that I
have earned the pearl necklace now, will you kiss me? No one ever
did but you, and it was so sweet."

"Indeed I will, and with all my heart," said Isabelle, taking the
child's thin face between her hands and kissing her warmly on her
brown cheeks, which flushed crimson under the soft caress.

"And now, good-bye!" said Chiquita, when after a few moments of
silence she had resumed her usual sang-froid. She turned quickly
away, but, catching sight of the knife she had given Isabelle,
which lay upon the dressing-table, she seized it eagerly, saying,
"Give me back my knife now; you will not need it any more," and


The next morning found the young Duke of Vallombreuse still
living, though his life hung by so slender a thread, that the
surgeon, who anxiously watched his every breath, feared from
moment to moment that it might break. He was a learned and
skilful man, this same Maitre Laurent, who only needed some
favourable opportunity to bring him into notice and make him as
celebrated as he deserved to be. His remarkable talents and skill
had only been exercised thus far "in anima vili," among the lower
orders of society--whose living or dying was a matter of no
moment whatever. But now had come at last the chance so long
sighed for in secret, and he felt that the recovery of his
illustrious patient was of paramount importance to himself. The
worthy doctor's amour propre and ambition were both actively
engaged in this desperate duel he was fighting with Death, and he
set his teeth and determined that the victory must rest with him.
In order to keep the whole glory of the triumph for himself, he
had persuaded the prince--not without difficulty--to renounce his
intention of sending for the most celebrated surgeons in Paris,
assuring him that he himself was perfectly capable to do all that
could be done, and pleading that nothing was more dangerous than
a change of treatment in such a case as this. Maitre Laurent
conquered, and feeling that there was now no danger of his being
pushed into the background, threw his whole heart and strength
into the struggle; yet many times during that anxious night he
feared that his patient's life was slipping away from his
detaining grasp, and almost repented him of having assumed the
entire responsibility. But with the morning came encouragement,
and as the watchful surgeon stood at the bedside, intently gazing
upon the ghastly face on the pillow, he murmured to himself:

"No, he will not die--his countenance has lost that terrible,
hippocratic look that had settled upon it last evening when I
first saw him--his pulse is stronger, his breathing free and
natural. Besides, he MUST live--his recovery will make my
fortune. I must and will tear him out of the grim clutches of
Death--fine, handsome, young fellow that he is, and the heir and
hope of his noble family--it will be long ere his tomb need be
made ready to receive him. He will help me to get away from this
wretched little village, where I vegetate ignobly, and eat my
heart out day by day. Now for a bold stroke!--at the risk of
producing fever--at all risks--I shall venture to give him a dose
of that wonder-working potion of mine." Opening his case of
medicines, he took out several small vials, containing different
preparations--some red as a ruby, others green as an
emerald--this one yellow as virgin gold, that bright and
colourless as a diamond--and on each one a small label bearing a
Latin inscription. Maitre Laurent, though he was perfectly sure
of himself, carefully read the inscriptions upon those he had
selected several times over, held up the tiny vials one after
another, where a ray of sunshine struck upon them, and looked
admiringly through the bright transparent liquids they
contained--then, measuring with the utmost care a few drops from
each, compounded a potion after a secret recipe of his own; which
he made a mystery of, and refused to impart to his fellow
practitioners. Rousing his sleeping assistant, he ordered him to
raise the patient's head a little, while, with a small spatula,
he pried the firmly set teeth apart sufficiently to allow the
liquid he had prepared to trickle slowly into the mouth. As it
reached the throat there was a spasmodic contraction that gave
Maitre Laurent an instant of intense anxiety--but it was only
momentary, and the remainder of the dose was swallowed easily and
with almost instantaneous effect. A slight tinge of colour showed
itself in the pallid cheeks, the eyelids trembled and half
unclosed, and the hand that had lain inert and motionless upon
the counterpane stirred a little. Then the young duke heaved
a deep sigh, and opening his eyes looked vacantly in about him,
like one awakening from a dream, or returning from those
mysterious regions whither the soul takes flight when
unconsciousness holds this mortal frame enthralled. Only a
glance, and the long eyelashes fell again upon the pale
cheeks--but a wonderful change had passed over the countenance.

"I staked everything on that move," said Maitre Laurent to
himself, with a long breath of relief, "and I have won. It was
either kill or cure--and it has not killed him. All glory be to
Aesculapius, Hygeia, and Hippocrates!"

At this moment a hand noiselessly put aside the hangings over the
door, and the venerable head of the prince appeared--looking ten
years older for the agony and dread of the terrible night just

"How is he, Maitre Laurent?" he breathed, in broken, scarcely
audible tones.

The surgeon put his finger to his lips, and with the other hand
pointed to the young duke's face-still raised a little on the
pillows, and no longer wearing its death-like look; then, with
the light step habitual with those who are much about the sick,
he went over to the prince, still standing on the threshold, and
drawing him gently outside and away from the door, said in a low
voice, "Your highness can see that the patient's condition, so
far from growing worse, has decidedly improved. Certainly he is
not out of danger yet--his state is very critical--but unless
some new and totally unforeseen complication should arise, which
I shall use every effort to prevent, I think that we can pull him
through, and that he will be able to enjoy life again as if he
had never been hurt."

The prince's care-worn face brightened and his fine eyes flashed
at these hopeful words; he stepped forward to enter the
sick-room, but Maitre Laurent respectfully opposed his doing so.

"Permit me, my lord, to prevent your approaching your son's
bedside just now--doctors are often very disagreeable, you know,
and have to impose trying conditions upon those to whom their
patients are dear. I beseech you not to go near the Duke of
Vallombreuse at present. Your beloved presence might, in the
excessively weak and exhausted condition of my patient, cause
dangerous agitation. Any strong emotion would be instantly fatal
to him, his hold upon life is still so slight. Perfect
tranquility is his only safety. If all goes well--as I trust and
believe that it will--in a few days he will have regained his
strength in a measure, his wound will be healing, and you can
probably be with him as much as you like, without any fear of
doing him harm. I know that this is very trying to your highness,
but, believe me, it is necessary to your son's well-being."

The prince, very much relieved, and yielding readily to the
doctor's wishes, returned to his own apartment; where he occupied
himself with some religious reading until noon, when the
major-domo came to announce that dinner was on the table.

"Go and tell my daughter, the Comtesse Isabelle de Lineuil--such
is the title by which she is to be addressed henceforth--that I
request her to join me at dinner," said the prince to the
major-domo, who hastened off to obey this order.

Isabelle went quickly down the grand staircase with a light step,
and smiled to herself as she passed through the noble hall where
she had been so frightened by the two figures in armour, on the
occasion of her bold exploring expedition the first night after
her arrival at the chateau. Everything looked very different
now--the bright sunshine was pouring in at the windows, and large
fires of juniper, and other sweet-smelling woods, had completely
done away with the damp, chilly, heavy atmosphere that pervaded
the long disused rooms when she was in them before.

In the splendid dining-room she found a table sumptuously spread,
and her father already seated at it, in his large, high-backed,
richly carved chair, behind which stood two lackeys, in superb
liveries. As she approached him she made a most graceful curtsey,
which had nothing in the least theatrical about it, and would
have met with approbation even in courtly circles. A servant was
holding the chair destined for her, and with some timidity,
but no apparent embarrassment, she took her seat opposite to the
prince. She was served with soup and wine, and then with course
after course of delicate, tempting viands; but she could not eat
her heart was too full--her nerves were still quivering, from the
terror and excitement of the preceding day and night.

She was dazzled and agitated by this sudden change of fortune,
anxious about her brother, now lying at the point of death, and,
above all, troubled and grieved at her separation from her
lover--so she could only make a pretence of dining, and played
languidly with the food on her plate.

"You are eating nothing, my dear comtesse," said the prince, who
had been furtively watching her; "I pray you try to do better
with this bit of partridge I am sending you.

At this title of comtesse, spoken as a matter of course, and in
such a kind, tender tone, Isabelle looked up at the prince with
astonishment written in her beautiful, deep blue eyes, which
seemed to plead timidly for an explanation.

"Yes, Comtesse de Lineuil; it is the title which goes with an
estate I have settled on you, my dear child, and which has long
been destined for you. The name of Isabelle alone, charming
though it be, is not suitable for my daughter."

Isabelle, yielding to the impulse of the moment--as the servants
had retired and she was alone with her father--rose, and going to
his side, knelt down and kissed his hand, in token of gratitude
for his delicacy and generosity.

"Rise, my child," said he, very tenderly, and much moved, "and
return to your place. What I have done is only just. It calls for
no thanks. I should have done it long ago if it had been in my
power. In the terrible circumstances that have reunited us, my
dear daughter, I can see the finger of Providence, and through
them I have learned your worth. To your virtue alone it is due
that a horrible crime was not committed, and I love and honour
you for it; even though it may cost me the loss of my only son.
But God will be merciful and preserve his life, so that he may
repent of having so persecuted and outraged the purest innocence.
Maitre Laurent, in whom I have every confidence, gives me some
hope this morning; and when I looked at Vallombreuse--from the
threshold of his room only--I could see that the seal of death
was no longer upon his face."

They were interrupted by the servants, bringing in water to wash
their fingers, in a magnificent golden bowl, and this ceremony
having been duly gone through with, the prince threw down his
napkin and led the way into the adjoining salon, signing to
Isabelle to follow him. He seated himself in a large arm-chair in
front of the blazing wood fire, and bidding Isabelle place
herself close beside him, took her hand tenderly between both of
his, and looked long and searchingly at this lovely young
daughter, so strangely restored to him. There was much of sadness
mingled with the joy that shone in his eyes, for he was still
very anxious about his son, whose life was in such jeopardy; but
as he gazed upon Isabelle's sweet face the joy predominated, and
he smiled very lovingly upon the new comtesse, as he began to
talk to her of long past days.

"Doubtless, my beloved child, in the midst of the strange events
that have brought us together, in such an odd, romantic, almost
supernatural manner, the thought has suggested itself to your
mind, that during all the years that have passed since your
infancy I have not sought you out, and that chance alone has at
last restored the long-lost child to her neglectful father. But
you are so good and noble that I know you would not dwell upon
such an idea, and I hope that you do not so misjudge me as to
think me capable of such culpable neglect, now that you are
getting a little better acquainted with me. As you must know,
your mother, Cornelia, was excessively proud and high-spirited.
She resented every affront, whether intended as such or not, with
extraordinary violence, and when I was obliged, in spite of my
most heartfelt wishes, to separate myself from her, and
reluctantly submit to a marriage that I could not avoid, she
obstinately refused to allow me to provide for her maintenance in
comfort and luxury, as well as for you and your education.
All that I gave her, and settled on her, she sent back to me with
the most exaggerated disdain, and inexorably refused to receive
again. I could not but admire, though I so deplored, her lofty
spirit, and proud rejection of every benefit which I desired to
confer upon her, and I left in the hands of a trusty agent, for
her, the deeds of all the landed property and houses I had
destined for her, as well as the money and jewels--so that she
could at any time reclaim them, if she would--hoping that she
might see fit to change her mind when the first flush of anger
was over. But, to my great chagrin, she persisted in her refusal
of everything, and changing her name, fled from Paris into the
provinces; where she was said to have joined a roving band of
comedians. Soon after that I was sent by my sovereign on several
foreign missions that kept me long away from France, and I lost
all trace of her and you. In vain were all my efforts to find you
both, until at last I heard that she was dead. Then I redoubled
my diligence in the search for my little motherless daughter,
whom I had so tenderly loved; but all in vain. No trace of her
could I find. I heard, indeed, of many children among these
strolling companies, and carefully investigated each case that
came to my knowledge; but it always ended in disappointment.
Several women, indeed, tried to palm off their little girls upon
me as my child, and I had to be on my guard against fraud; but I
never failed to sift the matter thoroughly, even though I knew
that deceit was intended, lest I should unawares reject the dear
little one I was so anxiously seeking. At last I was almost
forced to conclude that you too had perished; yet a secret
intuition always told me that you were still in the land of the
living. I used to sit for hours and think of how sweet and lovely

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