Part 4 out of 6
boy, his heart must beat yet, he must still retain some innocence
and natural feelings, he could blurt out follies with his mouth, he
was not a machine to utter perfect speech! At the same time, I was
beginning to outgrow the painful impressions of my interview; my
spirits were beginning to revive; and at the jolly, empty looks of
Mr. Rowley, as he ran forward to relieve me of the box, St. Ives
became himself again.
'Now, Rowley, don't be in a hurry,' said I. 'This is a momentous
juncture. Man and boy, you have been in my service about three
hours. You must already have observed that I am a gentleman of a
somewhat morose disposition, and there is nothing that I more
dislike than the smallest appearance of familiarity. Mr. Pole or
Mr. Powl, probably in the spirit of prophecy, warned you against
'Yes, Mr. Anne,' said Rowley blankly.
'Now there has just arisen one of those rare cases, in which I am
willing to depart from my principles. My uncle has given me a box-
-what you would call a Christmas box. I don't know what's in it,
and no more do you: perhaps I am an April fool, or perhaps I am
already enormously wealthy; there might be five hundred pounds in
this apparently harmless receptacle!'
'Lord, Mr. Anne!' cried Rowley.
'Now, Rowley, hold up your right hand and repeat the words of the
oath after me,' said I, laying the despatch-box on the table.
'Strike me blue if I ever disclose to Mr. Powl, or Mr. Powl's
Viscount, or anything that is Mr. Powl's, not to mention Mr. Dawson
and the doctor, the treasures of the following despatch-box; and
strike me sky-blue scarlet if I do not continually maintain,
uphold, love, honour and obey, serve, and follow to the four
corners of the earth and the waters that are under the earth, the
hereinafter before-mentioned (only that I find I have neglected to
mention him) Viscount Anne de Keroual de St.-Yves, commonly known
as Mr. Rowley's Viscount. So be it. Amen.'
He took the oath with the same exaggerated seriousness as I gave it
'Now,' said I. 'Here is the key for you; I will hold the lid with
both hands in the meanwhile.' He turned the key. 'Bring up all
the candles in the room, and range them along-side. What is it to
be? A live gorgon, a Jack-in-the-box, or a spring that fires a
pistol? On your knees, sir, before the prodigy!'
So saying, I turned the despatch-box upside down upon the table.
At sight of the heap of bank paper and gold that lay in front of
us, between the candles, or rolled upon the floor alongside, I
'O Lord!' cried Mr. Rowley; 'oh Lordy, Lordy, Lord!' and he
scrambled after the fallen guineas. 'O my, Mr. Anne! what a sight
o' money! Why, it's like a blessed story-book. It's like the
'Now Rowley, let's be cool, let's be businesslike,' said I.
'Riches are deceitful, particularly when you haven't counted them;
and the first thing we have to do is to arrive at the amount of my-
-let me say, modest competency. If I'm not mistaken, I have enough
here to keep you in gold buttons all the rest of your life. You
collect the gold, and I'll take the paper.'
Accordingly, down we sat together on the hearthrug, and for some
time there was no sound but the creasing of bills and the jingling
of guineas, broken occasionally by the exulting exclamations of
Rowley. The arithmetical operation on which we were embarked took
long, and it might have been tedious to others; not to me nor to my
'Ten thousand pounds!' I announced at last.
'Ten thousand!' echoed Mr. Rowley.
And we gazed upon each other.
The greatness of this fortune took my breath away. With that sum
in my hands, I need fear no enemies. People are arrested, in nine
cases out of ten, not because the police are astute, but because
they themselves run short of money; and I had here before me in the
despatch-box a succession of devices and disguises that insured my
liberty. Not only so; but, as I felt with a sudden and
overpowering thrill, with ten thousand pounds in my hands I was
become an eligible suitor. What advances I had made in the past,
as a private soldier in a military prison, or a fugitive by the
wayside, could only be qualified or, indeed, excused as acts of
desperation. And now, I might come in by the front door; I might
approach the dragon with a lawyer at my elbow, and rich settlements
to offer. The poor French prisoner, Champdivers, might be in a
perpetual danger of arrest; but the rich travelling Englishman,
St.-Ives, in his post-chaise, with his despatch-box by his side,
could smile at fate and laugh at locksmiths. I repeated the
proverb, exulting, Love laughs at locksmiths! In a moment, by the
mere coming of this money, my love had become possible--it had come
near, it was under my hand--and it may be by one of the curiosities
of human nature, but it burned that instant brighter.
'Rowley,' said I, 'your Viscount is a made man.'
'Why, we both are, sir,' said Rowley.
'Yes, both,' said I; 'and you shall dance at the wedding;' and I
flung at his head a bundle of bank notes, and had just followed it
up with a handful of guineas, when the door opened, and Mr. Romaine
appeared upon the threshold.
CHAPTER XVIII--MR. ROMAINE CALLS ME NAMES
Feeling very much of a fool to be thus taken by surprise, I
scrambled to my feet and hastened to make my visitor welcome. He
did not refuse me his hand; but he gave it with a coldness and
distance for which I was quite unprepared, and his countenance, as
he looked on me, was marked in a strong degree with concern and
'So, sir, I find you here?' said he, in tones of little
encouragement. 'Is that you, George? You can run away; I have
business with your master.'
He showed Rowley out, and locked the door behind him. Then he sat
down in an armchair on one side of the fire, and looked at me with
'I am hesitating how to begin,' said he. 'In this singular
labyrinth of blunders and difficulties that you have prepared for
us, I am positively hesitating where to begin. It will perhaps be
best that you should read, first of all, this paragraph.' And he
handed over to me a newspaper.
The paragraph in question was brief. It announced the recapture of
one of the prisoners recently escaped from Edinburgh Castle; gave
his name, Clausel, and added that he had entered into the
particulars of the recent revolting murder in the Castle, and
denounced the murderer:-
'It is a common soldier called Champdivers, who had himself
escaped, and is in all probability involved in the common fate of
his comrades. In spite of the activity along all the Forth and the
East Coast, nothing has yet been seen of the sloop which these
desperadoes seized at Grangemouth, and it is now almost certain
that they have found a watery grave.'
At the reading of this paragraph, my heart turned over. In a
moment I saw my castle in the air ruined; myself changed from a
mere military fugitive into a hunted murderer, fleeing from the
gallows; my love, which had a moment since appeared so near to me,
blotted from the field of possibility. Despair, which was my first
sentiment, did not, however, endure for more than a moment. I saw
that my companions had indeed succeeded in their unlikely design;
and that I was supposed to have accompanied and perished along with
them by shipwreck--a most probable ending to their enterprise. If
they thought me at the bottom of the North Sea, I need not fear
much vigilance on the streets of Edinburgh. Champdivers was
wanted: what was to connect him with St. Ives? Major Chevenix
would recognise me if he met me; that was beyond bargaining: he
had seen me so often, his interest had been kindled to so high a
point, that I could hope to deceive him by no stratagem of
disguise. Well, even so; he would have a competition of testimony
before him: he knew Clausel, he knew me, and I was sure he would
decide for honour. At the same time the image of Flora shot up in
my mind's eye with such a radiancy as fairly overwhelmed all other
considerations; the blood sprang to every corner of my body, and I
vowed I would see and win her, if it cost my neck.
'Very annoying, no doubt,' said I, as I returned the paper to Mr.
'Is annoying your word for it?' said he.
'Exasperating, if you like,' I admitted.
'And true?' he inquired.
'Well, true in a sense,' said I. 'But perhaps I had better answer
that question by putting you in possession of the facts?'
'I think so, indeed,' said he.
I narrated to him as much as seemed necessary of the quarrel, the
duel, the death of Goguelat, and the character of Clausel. He
heard me through in a forbidding silence, nor did he at all betray
the nature of his sentiments, except that, at the episode of the
scissors, I could observe his mulberry face to turn three shades
'I suppose I may believe you?' said he, when I had done.
'Or else conclude this interview,' said I.
'Can you not understand that we are here discussing matters of the
gravest import? Can you not understand that I feel myself weighed
with a load of responsibility on your account--that you should take
this occasion to air your fire-eating manners against your own
attorney? There are serious hours in life, Mr. Anne,' he said
severely. 'A capital charge, and that of a very brutal character
and with singularly unpleasant details; the presence of the man
Clausel, who (according to your account of it) is actuated by
sentiments of real malignity, and prepared to swear black white;
all the other witnesses scattered and perhaps drowned at sea; the
natural prejudice against a Frenchman and a runaway prisoner: this
makes a serious total for your lawyer to consider, and is by no
means lessened by the incurable folly and levity of your own
'I beg your pardon!' said I.
'Oh, my expressions have been selected with scrupulous accuracy,'
he replied. 'How did I find you, sir, when I came to announce this
catastrophe? You were sitting on the hearthrug playing, like a
silly baby, with a servant, were you not, and the floor all
scattered with gold and bank paper? There was a tableau for you!
It was I who came, and you were lucky in that. It might have been
any one--your cousin as well as another.'
'You have me there, sir,' I admitted. 'I had neglected all
precautions, and you do right to be angry. Apropos, Mr. Romaine,
how did you come yourself, and how long have you been in the
house?' I added, surprised, on the retrospect, not to have heard
'I drove up in a chaise and pair,' he returned. 'Any one might
have heard me. But you were not listening, I suppose? being so
extremely at your ease in the very house of your enemy, and under a
capital charge! And I have been long enough here to do your
business for you. Ah, yes, I did it, God forgive me!--did it
before I so much as asked you the explanation of the paragraph.
For some time back the will has been prepared; now it is signed;
and your uncle has heard nothing of your recent piece of activity.
Why? Well, I had no fancy to bother him on his death-bed: you
might be innocent; and at bottom I preferred the murderer to the
No doubt of it but the man played a friendly part; no doubt also
that, in his ill-temper and anxiety, he expressed himself
'You will perhaps find me over delicate,' said I. 'There is a word
'I employ the words of my brief, sir,' he cried, striking with his
hand on the newspaper. 'It is there in six letters. And do not be
so certain--you have not stood your trial yet. It is an ugly
affair, a fishy business. It is highly disagreeable. I would give
my hand off--I mean I would give a hundred pound down, to have
nothing to do with it. And, situated as we are, we must at once
take action. There is here no choice. You must at once quit this
country, and get to France, or Holland, or, indeed, to Madagascar.'
'There may be two words to that,' said I.
'Not so much as one syllable!' he retorted. 'Here is no room for
argument. The case is nakedly plain. In the disgusting position
in which you have found means to place yourself, all that is to be
hoped for is delay. A time may come when we shall be able to do
better. It cannot be now: now it would be the gibbet.'
'You labour under a false impression, Mr. Romaine,' said I. 'I
have no impatience to figure in the dock. I am even as anxious as
yourself to postpone my first appearance there. On the other hand,
I have not the slightest intention of leaving this country, where I
please myself extremely. I have a good address, a ready tongue, an
English accent that passes, and, thanks to the generosity of my
uncle, as much money as I want. It would be hard indeed if, with
all these advantages, Mr. St. Ives should not be able to live
quietly in a private lodging, while the authorities amuse
themselves by looking for Champdivers. You forget, there is no
connection between these two personages.'
'And you forget your cousin,' retorted Romaine. 'There is the
link. There is the tongue of the buckle. He knows you are
Champdivers.' He put up his hand as if to listen. 'And, for a
wager, here he is himself!' he exclaimed.
As when a tailor takes a piece of goods upon his counter, and rends
it across, there came to our ears from the avenue the long tearing
sound of a chaise and four approaching at the top speed of the
horses. And, looking out between the curtains, we beheld the lamps
skimming on the smooth ascent.
'Ay,' said Romaine, wiping the window-pane that he might see more
clearly. 'Ay, that is he by the driving! So he squanders money
along the king's highway, the triple idiot! gorging every man he
meets with gold for the pleasure of arriving--where? Ah, yes,
where but a debtor's jail, if not a criminal prison!'
'Is he that kind of a man?' I said, staring on these lamps as
though I could decipher in them the secret of my cousin's
'You will find him a dangerous kind,' answered the lawyer. 'For
you, these are the lights on a lee shore! I find I fall in a muse
when I consider of him; what a formidable being he once was, and
what a personable! and how near he draws to the moment that must
break him utterly! we none of us like him here; we hate him,
rather; and yet I have a sense--I don't think at my time of life it
can be pity--but a reluctance rather, to break anything so big and
figurative, as though he were a big porcelain pot or a big picture
of high price. Ay, there is what I was waiting for!' he cried, as
the lights of a second chaise swam in sight. 'It is he beyond a
doubt. The first was the signature and the next the flourish. Two
chaises, the second following with the baggage, which is always
copious and ponderous, and one of his valets: he cannot go a step
without a valet.'
'I hear you repeat the word big,' said I. 'But it cannot be that
he is anything out of the way in stature.'
'No,' said the attorney. 'About your height, as I guessed for the
tailors, and I see nothing wrong with the result. But, somehow, he
commands an atmosphere; he has a spacious manner; and he has kept
up, all through life, such a volume of racket about his
personality, with his chaises and his racers and his dicings, and I
know not what--that somehow he imposes! It seems, when the farce
is done, and he locked in Fleet prison--and nobody left but
Buonaparte and Lord Wellington and the Hetman Platoff to make a
work about--the world will be in a comparison quite tranquil. But
this is beside the mark,' he added, with an effort, turning again
from the window. 'We are now under fire, Mr. Anne, as you soldiers
would say, and it is high time we should prepare to go into action.
He must not see you; that would be fatal. All that he knows at
present is that you resemble him, and that is much more than
enough. If it were possible, it would be well he should not know
you were in the house.'
'Quite impossible, depend upon it,' said I. 'Some of the servants
are directly in his interests, perhaps in his pay: Dawson, for an
'My own idea!' cried Romaine. 'And at least,' he added, as the
first of the chaises drew up with a dash in front of the portico,
'it is now too late. Here he is.'
We stood listening, with a strange anxiety, to the various noises
that awoke in the silent house: the sound of doors opening and
closing, the sound of feet near at hand and farther off. It was
plain the arrival of my cousin was a matter of moment, almost of
parade, to the household. And suddenly, out of this confused and
distant bustle, a rapid and light tread became distinguishable. We
heard it come upstairs, draw near along the corridor, pause at the
door, and a stealthy and hasty rapping succeeded.
'Mr. Anne--Mr. Anne, sir! Let me in!' said the voice of Rowley.
We admitted the lad, and locked the door again behind him.
'It's HIM, sir,' he panted. 'He've come.'
'You mean the Viscount?' said I. 'So we supposed. But come,
Rowley--out with the rest of it! You have more to tell us, or your
face belies you !'
'Mr. Anne, I do,' he said. 'Mr. Romaine, sir, you're a friend of
his, ain't you?'
'Yes, George, I am a friend of his,' said Romaine, and, to my great
surprise, laid his hand upon my shoulder.
'Well, it's this way,' said Rowley--'Mr. Powl have been at me!
It's to play the spy! I thought he was at it from the first! From
the first I see what he was after--coming round and round, and
hinting things! But to-night he outs with it plump! I'm to let
him hear all what you're to do beforehand, he says; and he gave me
this for an arnest'--holding up half a guinea; 'and I took it, so I
did! Strike me sky-blue scarlet?' says he, adducing the words of
the mock oath; and he looked askance at me as he did so.
I saw that he had forgotten himself, and that he knew it. The
expression of his eye changed almost in the passing of the glance
from the significant to the appealing--from the look of an
accomplice to that of a culprit; and from that moment he became the
model of a well-drilled valet.
'Sky-blue scarlet?' repeated the lawyer. 'Is the fool delirious?'
'No,' said I; 'he is only reminding me of something.'
'Well--and I believe the fellow will be faithful,' said Romaine.
'So you are a friend of Mr. Anne's' too?' he added to Rowley.
'If you please, sir,' said Rowley.
''Tis something sudden,' observed Romaine; 'but it may be genuine
enough. I believe him to be honest. He comes of honest people.
Well, George Rowley, you might embrace some early opportunity to
earn that half-guinea, by telling Mr. Powl that your master will
not leave here till noon to-morrow, if he go even then. Tell him
there are a hundred things to be done here, and a hundred more that
can only be done properly at my office in Holborn. Come to think
of it--we had better see to that first of all,' he went on,
unlocking the door. 'Get hold of Powl, and see. And be quick
back, and clear me up this mess.'
Mr. Rowley was no sooner gone than the lawyer took a pinch of
snuff, and regarded me with somewhat of a more genial expression.
'Sir,' said he, 'it is very fortunate for you that your face is so
strong a letter of recommendation. Here am I, a tough old
practitioner, mixing myself up with your very distressing business;
and here is this farmer's lad, who has the wit to take a bribe and
the loyalty to come and tell you of it--all, I take it, on the
strength of your appearance. I wish I could imagine how it would
impress a jury!' says he.
'And how it would affect the hangman, sir?' I asked
'Absit omen!' said Mr. Romaine devoutly.
We were just so far in our talk, when I heard a sound that brought
my heart into my mouth: the sound of some one slyly trying the
handle of the door. It had been preceded by no audible footstep.
Since the departure of Rowley our wing of the house had been
entirely silent. And we had every right to suppose ourselves
alone, and to conclude that the new-comer, whoever he might be, was
come on a clandestine, if not a hostile, errand.
'Who is there?' asked Romaine.
'It's only me, sir,' said the soft voice of Dawson. 'It's the
Viscount, sir. He is very desirous to speak with you on business.'
'Tell him I shall come shortly, Dawson,' said the lawyer. 'I am at
'Thank you, sir!' said Dawson.
And we heard his feet draw off slowly along the corridor.
'Yes,' said Mr. Romaine, speaking low, and maintaining the attitude
of one intently listening, 'there is another foot. I cannot be
'I think there was indeed!' said I. 'And what troubles me--I am
not sure that the other has gone entirely away. By the time it got
the length of the head of the stair the tread was plainly single.'
'Ahem--blockaded?' asked the lawyer.
'A siege en regle!' I exclaimed.
'Let us come farther from the door,' said Romaine, 'and reconsider
this damnable position. Without doubt, Alain was this moment at
the door. He hoped to enter and get a view of you, as if by
accident. Baffled in this, has he stayed himself, or has he
planted Dawson here by way of sentinel?'
'Himself, beyond a doubt,' said I. 'And yet to what end? He
cannot think to pass the night there!'
'If it were only possible to pay no heed!' said Mr. Romaine. 'But
this is the accursed drawback of your position. We can do nothing
openly. I must smuggle you out of this room and out of this house
like seizable goods; and how am I to set about it with a sentinel
planted at your very door?'
'There is no good in being agitated,' said I.
'None at all,' he acquiesced. 'And, come to think of it, it is
droll enough that I should have been that very moment commenting on
your personal appearance, when your cousin came upon this mission.
I was saying, if you remember, that your face was as good or better
than a letter of recommendation. I wonder if M. Alain would be
like the rest of us--I wonder what he would think of it?'
Mr. Romaine was sitting in a chair by the fire with his back to the
windows, and I was myself kneeling on the hearthrug and beginning
mechanically to pick up the scattered bills, when a honeyed voice
joined suddenly in our conversation.
'He thinks well of it, Mr. Romaine. He begs to join himself to
that circle of admirers which you indicate to exist already.'
CHAPTER XIX--THE DEVIL AND ALL AT AMERSHAM PLACE
Never did two human creatures get to their feet with more alacrity
than the lawyer and myself. We had locked and barred the main
gates of the citadel; but unhappily we had left open the bath-room
sally-port; and here we found the voice of the hostile trumpets
sounding from within, and all our defences taken in reverse. I
took but the time to whisper Mr. Romaine in the ear: 'Here is
another tableau for you!' at which he looked at me a moment with a
kind of pathos, as who should say, 'Don't hit a man when he's
down.' Then I transferred my eyes to my enemy.
He had his hat on, a little on one side: it was a very tall hat,
raked extremely, and had a narrow curling brim. His hair was all
curled out in masses like an Italian mountebank--a most
unpardonable fashion. He sported a huge tippeted overcoat of
frieze, such as watchmen wear, only the inside was lined with
costly furs, and he kept it half open to display the exquisite
linen, the many-coloured waistcoat, and the profuse jewellery of
watch-chains and brooches underneath. The leg and the ankle were
turned to a miracle. It is out of the question that I should deny
the resemblance altogether, since it has been remarked by so many
different persons whom I cannot reasonably accuse of a conspiracy.
As a matter of fact, I saw little of it and confessed to nothing.
Certainly he was what some might call handsome, of a pictorial,
exuberant style of beauty, all attitude, profile, and impudence: a
man whom I could see in fancy parade on the grand stand at a race-
meeting or swagger in Piccadilly, staring down the women, and
stared at himself with admiration by the coal-porters. Of his
frame of mind at that moment his face offered a lively if an
unconscious picture. He was lividly pale, and his lip was caught
up in a smile that could almost be called a snarl, of a sheer, arid
malignity that appalled me and yet put me on my mettle for the
encounter. He looked me up and down, then bowed and took off his
hat to me.
'My cousin, I presume?' he said.
'I understand I have that honour,' I replied.
'The honour is mine,' said he, and his voice shook as he said it.
'I should make you welcome, I believe,' said I.
'Why?' he inquired. 'This poor house has been my home for longer
than I care to claim. That you should already take upon yourself
the duties of host here is to be at unnecessary pains. Believe me,
that part would be more becomingly mine. And, by the way, I must
not fail to offer you my little compliment. It is a gratifying
surprise to meet you in the dress of a gentleman, and to see'--with
a circular look upon the scattered bills--'that your necessities
have already been so liberally relieved.'
I bowed with a smile that was perhaps no less hateful than his own.
'There are so many necessities in this world,' said I. 'Charity
has to choose. One gets relieved, and some other, no less
indigent, perhaps indebted, must go wanting.'
'Malice is an engaging trait,' said he.
'And envy, I think?' was my reply.
He must have felt that he was not getting wholly the better of this
passage at arms; perhaps even feared that he should lose command of
his temper, which he reined in throughout the interview as with a
red-hot curb, for he flung away from me at the word, and addressed
the lawyer with insulting arrogance.
'Mr. Romaine,' he said, 'since when have you presumed to give
orders in this house?'
'I am not prepared to admit that I have given any,' replied
Romaine; 'certainly none that did not fall in the sphere of my
'By whose orders, then, am I denied entrance to my uncle's room?'
said my cousin.
'By the doctor's, sir,' replied Romaine; 'and I think even you will
admit his faculty to give them.'
'Have a care, sir,' cried Alain. 'Do not be puffed up with your
position. It is none so secure, Master Attorney. I should not
wonder in the least if you were struck off the rolls for this
night's work, and the next I should see of you were when I flung
you alms at a pothouse door to mend your ragged elbows. The
doctor's orders? But I believe I am not mistaken! You have to-
night transacted business with the Count; and this needy young
gentleman has enjoyed the privilege of still another interview, in
which (as I am pleased to see) his dignity has not prevented his
doing very well for himself. I wonder that you should care to
prevaricate with me so idly.'
'I will confess so much,' said Mr. Romaine, 'if you call it
prevarication. The order in question emanated from the Count
himself. He does not wish to see you.'
'For which I must take the word of Mr. Daniel Romaine?' asked
'In default of any better,' said Romaine.
There was an instantaneous convulsion in my cousin's face, and I
distinctly heard him gnash his teeth at this reply; but, to my
surprise, he resumed in tones of almost good humour:
'Come, Mr. Romaine, do not let us be petty!' He drew in a chair
and sat down. 'Understand you have stolen a march upon me. You
have introduced your soldier of Napoleon, and (how, I cannot
conceive) he has been apparently accepted with favour. I ask no
better proof than the funds with which I find him literally
surrounded--I presume in consequence of some extravagance of joy at
the first sight of so much money. The odds are so far in your
favour, but the match is not yet won. Questions will arise of
undue influence, of sequestration, and the like: I have my
witnesses ready. I tell it you cynically, for you cannot profit by
the knowledge; and, if the worst come to the worst, I have good
hopes of recovering my own and of ruining you.'
'You do what you please,' answered Romaine; 'but I give it you for
a piece of good advice, you had best do nothing in the matter. You
will only make yourself ridiculous; you will only squander money,
of which you have none too much, and reap public mortification.'
'Ah, but there you make the common mistake, Mr. Romaine!' returned
Alain. 'You despise your adversary. Consider, if you please, how
very disagreeable I could make myself, if I chose. Consider the
position of your protege--an escaped prisoner! But I play a great
game. I condemn such petty opportunities.'
At this Romaine and I exchanged a glance of triumph. It seemed
manifest that Alain had as yet received no word of Clausel's
recapture and denunciation. At the same moment the lawyer, thus
relieved of the instancy of his fear, changed his tactics. With a
great air of unconcern, he secured the newspaper, which still lay
open before him on the table.
'I think, Monsieur Alain, that you labour under some illusion,'
said he. 'Believe me, this is all beside the mark. You seem to be
pointing to some compromise. Nothing is further from my views.
You suspect me of an inclination to trifle with you, to conceal how
things are going. I cannot, on the other hand, be too early or too
explicit in giving you information which concerns you (I must say)
capitally. Your great-uncle has to-night cancelled his will, and
made a new one in favour of your cousin Anne. Nay, and you shall
hear it from his own lips, if you choose! I will take so much upon
me,' said the lawyer, rising. 'Follow me, if you please,
Mr. Romaine led the way out of the room so briskly, and was so
briskly followed by Alain, that I had hard ado to get the remainder
of the money replaced and the despatch-box locked, and to overtake
them, even by running ere they should be lost in that maze of
corridors, my uncle's house. As it was, I went with a heart
divided; and the thought of my treasure thus left unprotected, save
by a paltry lid and lock that any one might break or pick open, put
me in a perspiration whenever I had the time to remember it. The
lawyer brought us to a room, begged us to be seated while he should
hold a consultation with the doctor, and, slipping out of another
door, left Alain and myself closeted together.
Truly he had done nothing to ingratiate himself; his every word had
been steeped in unfriendliness, envy, and that contempt which (as
it is born of anger) it is possible to support without humiliation.
On my part, I had been little more conciliating; and yet I began to
be sorry for this man, hired spy as I knew him to be. It seemed to
me less than decent that he should have been brought up in the
expectation of this great inheritance, and now, at the eleventh
hour, be tumbled forth out of the house door and left to himself,
his poverty and his debts--those debts of which I had so
ungallantly reminded him so short a time before. And we were
scarce left alone ere I made haste to hang out a flag of truce.
'My cousin,' said I, 'trust me, you will not find me inclined to be
He paused in front of me--for he had not accepted the lawyer's
invitation to be seated, but walked to and fro in the apartment--
took a pinch of snuff, and looked at me while he was taking it with
an air of much curiosity.
'Is it even so?' said he. 'Am I so far favoured by fortune as to
have your pity? Infinitely obliged, my cousin Anne! But these
sentiments are not always reciprocal, and I warn you that the day
when I set my foot on your neck, the spine shall break. Are you
acquainted with the properties of the spine?' he asked with an
insolence beyond qualification.
It was too much. 'I am acquainted also with the properties of a
pair of pistols,' said I, toising him.
'No, no, no!' says he, holding up his finger. 'I will take my
revenge how and when I please. We are enough of the same family to
understand each other, perhaps; and the reason why I have not had
you arrested on your arrival, why I had not a picket of soldiers in
the first clump of evergreens, to await and prevent your coming--I,
who knew all, before whom that pettifogger, Romaine, has been
conspiring in broad daylight to supplant me--is simply this: that
I had not made up my mind how I was to take my revenge.'
At that moment he was interrupted by the tolling of a bell. As we
stood surprised and listening, it was succeeded by the sound of
many feet trooping up the stairs and shuffling by the door of our
room. Both, I believe, had a great curiosity to set it open, which
each, owing to the presence of the other, resisted; and we waited
instead in silence, and without moving, until Romaine returned and
bade us to my uncle's presence.
He led the way by a little crooked passage, which brought us out in
the sick-room, and behind the bed. I believe I have forgotten to
remark that the Count's chamber was of considerable dimensions. We
beheld it now crowded with the servants and dependants of the
house, from the doctor and the priest to Mr. Dawson and the
housekeeper, from Dawson down to Rowley and the last footman in
white calves, the last plump chambermaid in her clean gown and cap,
and the last ostler in a stable waiscoat. This large congregation
of persons (and I was surprised to see how large it was) had the
appearance, for the most part, of being ill at ease and heartily
bewildered, standing on one foot, gaping like zanies, and those who
were in the corners nudging each other and grinning aside. My
uncle, on the other hand, who was raised higher than I had yet seen
him on his pillows, wore an air of really imposing gravity. No
sooner had we appeared behind him, than he lifted his voice to a
good loudness, and addressed the assemblage.
'I take you all to witness--can you hear me?--I take you all to
witness that I recognise as my heir and representative this
gentleman, whom most of you see for the first time, the Viscount
Anne de St.-Yves, my nephew of the younger line. And I take you to
witness at the same time that, for very good reasons known to
myself, I have discarded and disinherited this other gentleman whom
you all know, the Viscount de St.-Yves. I have also to explain the
unusual trouble to which I have put you all--and, since your supper
was not over, I fear I may even say annoyance. It has pleased M.
Alain to make some threats of disputing my will, and to pretend
that there are among your number certain estimable persons who may
be trusted to swear as he shall direct them. It pleases me thus to
put it out of his power and to stop the mouths of his false
witnesses. I am infinitely obliged by your politeness, and I have
the honour to wish you all a very good evening.'
As the servants, still greatly mystified, crowded out of the
sickroom door, curtseying, pulling the forelock, scraping with the
foot, and so on, according to their degree, I turned and stole a
look at my cousin. He had borne this crushing public rebuke
without change of countenance. He stood, now, very upright, with
folded arms, and looking inscrutably at the roof of the apartment.
I could not refuse him at that moment the tribute of my admiration.
Still more so when, the last of the domestics having filed through
the doorway and left us alone with my great-uncle and the lawyer,
he took one step forward towards the bed, made a dignified
reverence, and addressed the man who had just condemned him to
'My lord,' said he, 'you are pleased to treat me in a manner which
my gratitude, and your state, equally forbid me to call in
question. It will be only necessary for me to call your attention
to the length of time in which I have been taught to regard myself
as your heir. In that position, I judged it only loyal to permit
myself a certain scale of expenditure. If I am now to be cut off
with a shilling as the reward of twenty years of service, I shall
be left not only a beggar, but a bankrupt.'
Whether from the fatigue of his recent exertion, or by a well-
inspired ingenuity of hate, my uncle had once more closed his eyes;
nor did he open them now. 'Not with a shilling,' he contented
himself with replying; and there stole, as he said it, a sort of
smile over his face, that flickered there conspicuously for the
least moment of time, and then faded and left behind the old
impenetrable mask of years, cunning, and fatigue. There could be
no mistake: my uncle enjoyed the situation as he had enjoyed few
things in the last quarter of a century. The fires of life scarce
survived in that frail body; but hatred, like some immortal
quality, was still erect and unabated.
Nevertheless my cousin persevered.
'I speak at a disadvantage,' he resumed. 'My supplanter, with
perhaps more wisdom than delicacy, remains in the room,' and he
cast a glance at me that might have withered an oak tree.
I was only too willing to withdraw, and Romaine showed as much
alacrity to make way for my departure. But my uncle was not to be
moved. In the same breath of a voice, and still without opening
his eyes, he bade me remain.
'It is well,' said Alain. 'I cannot then go on to remind you of
the twenty years that have passed over our heads in England, and
the services I may have rendered you in that time. It would be a
position too odious. Your lordship knows me too well to suppose I
could stoop to such ignominy. I must leave out all my defence--
your lordship wills it so! I do not know what are my faults; I
know only my punishment, and it is greater than I have the courage
to face. My uncle, I implore your pity: pardon me so far; do not
send me for life into a debtors' jail--a pauper debtor.'
'Chat et vieux, pardonnez?' said my uncle, quoting from La
Fontaine; and then, opening a pale-blue eye full on Alain, he
delivered with some emphasis:
'La jeunesse se flatte et croit tout obtenir;
La vieillesse est impitoyable.'
The blood leaped darkly into Alain's face. He turned to Romaine
and me, and his eyes flashed.
'It is your turn now,' he said. 'At least it shall be prison for
prison with the two viscounts.'
'Not so, Mr. Alain, by your leave,' said Romaine. 'There are a few
formalities to be considered first.'
But Alain was already striding towards the door.
'Stop a moment, stop a moment!' cried Romaine. 'Remember your own
counsel not to despise an adversary.'
'If I do not despise I hate you!' he cried, giving a loose to his
passion. 'Be warned of that, both of you.'
'I understand you to threaten Monsieur le Vicomte Anne,' said the
lawyer. 'Do you know, I would not do that. I am afraid, I am very
much afraid, if you were to do as you propose, you might drive me
'You have made me a beggar and a bankrupt,' said Alain. What
extreme is left?'
'I scarce like to put a name upon it in this company,' replied
Romaine. 'But there are worse things than even bankruptcy, and
worse places than a debtors' jail.'
The words were so significantly said that there went a visible
thrill through Alain; sudden as a sword-stroke, he fell pale again.
'I do not understand you,' said he.
'O yes, you do,' returned Romaine. 'I believe you understand me
very well. You must not suppose that all this time, while you were
so very busy, others were entirely idle. You must not fancy,
because I am an Englishman, that I have not the intelligence to
pursue an inquiry. Great as is my regard for the honour of your
house, M. Alain de St.-Yves, if I hear of you moving directly or
indirectly in this matter, I shall do my duty, let it cost what it
will: that is, I shall communicate the real name of the
Buonapartist spy who signs his letters Rue Gregoire de Tours.'
I confess my heart was already almost altogether on the side of my
insulted and unhappy cousin; and if it had not been before, it must
have been so now, so horrid was the shock with which he heard his
infamy exposed. Speech was denied him; he carried his hand to his
neckcloth; he staggered; I thought he must have fallen. I ran to
help him, and at that he revived, recoiled before me, and stood
there with arms stretched forth as if to preserve himself from the
outrage of my touch.
'Hands off!' he somehow managed to articulate.
'You will now, I hope,' pursued the lawyer, without any change of
voice, 'understand the position in which you are placed, and how
delicately it behoves you to conduct yourself. Your arrest hangs,
if I may so express myself, by a hair; and as you will be under the
perpetual vigilance of myself and my agents, you must look to it
narrowly that you walk straight. Upon the least dubiety, I will
take action.' He snuffed, looking critically at the tortured man.
'And now let me remind you that your chaise is at the door. This
interview is agitating to his lordship--it cannot be agreeable for
you--and I suggest that it need not be further drawn out. It does
not enter into the views of your uncle, the Count, that you should
again sleep under this roof.'
As Alain turned and passed without a word or a sign from the
apartment, I instantly followed. I suppose I must be at bottom
possessed of some humanity; at least, this accumulated torture,
this slow butchery of a man as by quarters of rock, had wholly
changed my sympathies. At that moment I loathed both my uncle and
the lawyer for their coldblooded cruelty.
Leaning over the banisters, I was but in time to hear his hasty
footsteps in that hall that had been crowded with servants to
honour his coming, and was now left empty against his friendless
departure. A moment later, and the echoes rang, and the air
whistled in my ears, as he slammed the door on his departing
footsteps. The fury of the concussion gave me (had one been still
wanted) a measure of the turmoil of his passions. In a sense, I
felt with him; I felt how he would have gloried to slam that door
on my uncle, the lawyer, myself, and the whole crowd of those who
had been witnesses to his humiliation.
CHAPTER XX--AFTER THE STORM
No sooner was the house clear of my cousin than I began to reckon
up, ruefully enough, the probable results of what had passed. Here
were a number of pots broken, and it looked to me as if I should
have to pay for all! Here had been this proud, mad beast goaded
and baited both publicly and privately, till he could neither hear
nor see nor reason; whereupon the gate had been set open, and he
had been left free to go and contrive whatever vengeance he might
find possible. I could not help thinking it was a pity that,
whenever I myself was inclined to be upon my good behaviour, some
friends of mine should always determine to play a piece of heroics
and cast me for the hero--or the victim--which is very much the
same. The first duty of heroics is to be of your own choosing.
When they are not that, they are nothing. And I assure you, as I
walked back to my own room, I was in no very complaisant humour:
thought my uncle and Mr. Romaine to have played knuckle-bones with
my life and prospects; cursed them for it roundly; had no wish more
urgent than to avoid the pair of them; and was quite knocked out of
time, as they say in the ring, to find myself confronted with the
He stood on my hearthrug, leaning on the chimney-piece, with a
gloomy, thoughtful brow, as I was pleased to see, and not in the
least as though he were vain of the late proceedings.
'Well?' said I. 'You have done it now!'
'Is he gone?' he asked.
'He is gone,' said I. 'We shall have the devil to pay with him
when he comes back.'
'You are right,' said the lawyer, 'and very little to pay him with
but flams and fabrications, like to-night's.'
'To-night's?' I repeated.
'Ay, to-night's!' said he.
'To-night's WHAT?' I cried.
'To-night's flams and fabrications.'
'God be good to me, sir,' said I, 'have I something more to admire
in your conduct than ever _I_ had suspected? You cannot think how
you interest me! That it was severe, I knew; I had already
chuckled over that. But that it should be false also! In what
sense, dear sir?'
I believe I was extremely offensive as I put the question, but the
lawyer paid no heed.
'False in all senses of the word,' he replied seriously. 'False in
the sense that they were not true, and false in the sense that they
were not real; false in the sense that I boasted, and in the sense
that I lied. How can I arrest him? Your uncle burned the papers!
I told you so--but doubtless you have forgotten--the day I first
saw you in Edinburgh Castle. It was an act of generosity; I have
seen many of these acts, and always regretted--always regretted!
"That shall be his inheritance," he said, as the papers burned; he
did not mean that it should have proved so rich a one. How rich,
time will tell.'
'I beg your pardon a hundred thousand times, my dear sir, but it
strikes me you have the impudence--in the circumstances, I may call
it the indecency--to appear cast down?'
'It is true,' said he: 'I am. I am cast down. I am literally
cast down. I feel myself quite helpless against your cousin.'
'Now, really!' I asked. 'Is this serious? And is it perhaps the
reason why you have gorged the poor devil with every species of
insult? and why you took such surprising pains to supply me with
what I had so little need of--another enemy? That you were
helpless against them? "Here is my last missile," say you; "my
ammunition is quite exhausted: just wait till I get the last in--
it will irritate, it cannot hurt him. There--you see!--he is
furious now, and I am quite helpless. One more prod, another kick:
now he is a mere lunatic! Stand behind me; I am quite helpless!"
Mr. Romaine, I am asking myself as to the background or motive of
this singular jest, and whether the name of it should not be called
'I can scarce wonder,' said he. 'In truth it has been a singular
business, and we are very fortunate to be out of it so well. Yet
it was not treachery: no, no, Mr. Anne, it was not treachery; and
if you will do me the favour to listen to me for the inside of a
minute, I shall demonstrate the same to you beyond cavil.' He
seemed to wake up to his ordinary briskness. 'You see the point?'
he began. 'He had not yet read the newspaper, but who could tell
when he might? He might have had that damned journal in his
pocket, and how should we know? We were--I may say, we are--at the
mercy of the merest twopenny accident.'
'Why, true,' said I: 'I had not thought of that.'
'I warrant you,' cried Romaine, 'you had supposed it was nothing to
be the hero of an interesting notice in the journals! You had
supposed, as like as not, it was a form of secrecy! But not so in
the least. A part of England is already buzzing with the name of
Champdivers; a day or two more and the mail will have carried it
everywhere: so wonderful a machine is this of ours for
disseminating intelligence! Think of it! When my father was born-
-but that is another story. To return: we had here the elements
of such a combustion as I dread to think of--your cousin and the
journal. Let him but glance an eye upon that column of print, and
where were we? It is easy to ask; not so easy to answer, my young
friend. And let me tell you, this sheet is the Viscount's usual
reading. It is my conviction he had it in his pocket.'
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said I. 'I have been unjust. I did not
appreciate my danger.'
'I think you never do,' said he.
'But yet surely that public scene--' I began.
'It was madness. I quite agree with you,' Mr. Romaine interrupted.
'But it was your uncle's orders, Mr. Anne, and what could I do?
Tell him you were the murderer of Goguelat? I think not.'
'No, sure!' said I. 'That would but have been to make the trouble
thicker. We were certainly in a very ill posture.'
'You do not yet appreciate how grave it was,' he replied. 'It was
necessary for you that your cousin should go, and go at once. You
yourself had to leave to-night under cover of darkness, and how
could you have done that with the Viscount in the next room? He
must go, then; he must leave without delay. And that was the
'Pardon me, Mr. Romaine, but could not my uncle have bidden him
go?' I asked.
'Why, I see I must tell you that this is not so simple as it
sounds,' he replied. 'You say this is your uncle's house, and so
it is. But to all effects and purposes it is your cousin's also.
He has rooms here; has had them coming on for thirty years now, and
they are filled with a prodigious accumulation of trash--stays, I
dare say, and powder-puffs, and such effeminate idiocy--to which
none could dispute his title, even suppose any one wanted to. We
had a perfect right to bid him go, and he had a perfect right to
reply, "Yes, I will go, but not without my stays and cravats. I
must first get together the nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine chestsfull
of insufferable rubbish, that I have spent the last thirty years
collecting--and may very well spend the next thirty hours a-packing
of." And what should we have said to that?'
'By way of repartee?' I asked. 'Two tall footmen and a pair of
crabtree cudgels, I suggest.'
'The Lord deliver me from the wisdom of laymen!' cried Romaine.
'Put myself in the wrong at the beginning of a lawsuit? No,
indeed! There was but one thing to do, and I did it, and burned my
last cartridge in the doing of it. I stunned him. And it gave us
three hours, by which we should make haste to profit; for if there
is one thing sure, it is that he will be up to time again to-morrow
in the morning.'
'Well,' said I, 'I own myself an idiot. Well do they say, an old
soldier, an old innocent! For I guessed nothing of all this.'
'And, guessing it, have you the same objections to leave England?'
'The same,' said I.
'It is indispensable,' he objected.
'And it cannot be,' I replied. 'Reason has nothing to say in the
matter; and I must not let you squander any of yours. It will be
enough to tell you this is an affair of the heart.'
'Is it even so?' quoth Romaine, nodding his head. 'And I might
have been sure of it. Place them in a hospital, put them in a jail
in yellow overalls, do what you will, young Jessamy finds young
Jenny. O, have it your own way; I am too old a hand to argue with
young gentlemen who choose to fancy themselves in love; I have too
much experience, thank you. Only, be sure that you appreciate what
you risk: the prison, the dock, the gallows, and the halter--
terribly vulgar circumstances, my young friend; grim, sordid,
earnest; no poetry in that!'
'And there I am warned,' I returned gaily. 'No man could be warned
more finely or with a greater eloquence. And I am of the same
opinion still. Until I have again seen that lady, nothing shall
induce me to quit Great Britain. I have besides--'
And here I came to a full stop. It was upon my tongue to have told
him the story of the drovers, but at the first word of it my voice
died in my throat. There might be a limit to the lawyer's
toleration, I reflected. I had not been so long in Britain
altogether; for the most part of that time I had been by the heels
in limbo in Edinburgh Castle; and already I had confessed to
killing one man with a pair of scissors; and now I was to go on and
plead guilty to having settled another with a holly stick! A wave
of discretion went over me as cold and as deep as the sea.
'In short, sir, this is a matter of feeling,' I concluded, 'and
nothing will prevent my going to Edinburgh.'
If I had fired a pistol in his ear he could not have been more
'To Edinburgh?' he repeated. 'Edinburgh? where the very paving-
stones know you!'
'Then is the murder out!' said I. 'But, Mr. Romaine, is there not
sometimes safety in boldness? Is it not a common-place of strategy
to get where the enemy least expects you? And where would he
expect me less?'
'Faith, there is something in that, too!' cried the lawyer. 'Ay,
certainly, a great deal in that. All the witnesses drowned but
one, and he safe in prison; you yourself changed beyond
recognition--let us hope--and walking the streets of the very town
you have illustrated by your--well, your eccentricity! It is not
badly combined, indeed!'
'You approve it, then?' said I.
'O, approve!' said he; 'there is no question of approval. There is
only one course which I could approve, and that were to escape to
'You do not wholly disapprove, at least?' I substituted.
'Not wholly; and it would not matter if I did,' he replied. 'Go
your own way; you are beyond argument. And I am not sure that you
will run more danger by that course than by any other. Give the
servants time to get to bed and fall asleep, then take a country
cross-road and walk, as the rhyme has it, like blazes all night.
In the morning take a chaise or take the mail at pleasure, and
continue your journey with all the decorum and reserve of which you
shall be found capable.'
'I am taking the picture in,' I said. 'Give me time. 'Tis the
tout ensemble I must see: the whole as opposed to the details.'
'Mountebank!' he murmured.
'Yes, I have it now; and I see myself with a servant, and that
servant is Rowley,' said I.
'So as to have one more link with your uncle?' suggested the
lawyer. 'Very judicious!'
'And, pardon me, but that is what it is,' I exclaimed. 'Judicious
is the word. I am not making a deception fit to last for thirty
years; I do not found a palace in the living granite for the night.
This is a shelter tent--a flying picture--seen, admired, and gone
again in the wink of an eye. What is wanted, in short, is a
trompe-l'oeil that shall be good enough for twelve hours at an inn:
is it not so?'
'It is, and the objection holds. Rowley is but another danger,'
'Rowley,' said I, 'will pass as a servant from a distance--as a
creature seen poised on the dicky of a bowling chaise. He will
pass at hand as a smart, civil fellow one meets in the inn
corridor, and looks back at, and asks, and is told, "Gentleman's
servant in Number 4." He will pass, in fact, all round, except
with his personal friends! My dear sir, pray what do you expect?
Of course if we meet my cousin, or if we meet anybody who took part
in the judicious exhibition of this evening, we are lost; and who's
denying it? To every disguise, however good and safe, there is
always the weak point; you must always take (let us say--and to
take a simile from your own waistcoat pocket) a snuff box-full of
risk. You'll get it just as small with Rowley as with anybody
else. And the long and short of it is, the lad's honest, he likes
me, I trust him; he is my servant, or nobody.'
'He might not accept,' said Romaine.
'I bet you a thousand pounds he does!' cried I. 'But no matter;
all you have to do is to send him out to-night on this cross-
country business, and leave the thing to me. I tell you, he will
be my servant, and I tell you, he will do well.'
I had crossed the room, and was already overhauling my wardrobe as
'Well,' concluded the lawyer, with a shrug, 'one risk with another:
a la guerre comme a la guerre, as you would say. Let the brat come
and be useful, at least.' And he was about to ring the bell, when
his eye was caught by my researches in the wardrobe. 'Do not fall
in love with these coats, waistcoats, cravats, and other panoply
and accoutrements by which you are now surrounded. You must not
run the post as a dandy. It is not the fashion, even.'
'You are pleased to be facetious, sir,' said I; 'and not according
to knowledge. These clothes are my life, they are my disguise; and
since I can take but few of them, I were a fool indeed if I
selected hastily! Will you understand, once and for all, what I am
seeking? To be invisible, is the first point; the second, to be
invisible in a post-chaise and with a servant. Can you not
perceive the delicacy of the quest? Nothing must be too coarse,
nothing too fine; rien de voyant, rien qui detonne; so that I may
leave everywhere the inconspicuous image of a handsome young man of
a good fortune travelling in proper style, whom the landlord will
forget in twelve hours--and the chambermaid perhaps remember, God
bless her! with a sigh. This is the very fine art of dress.'
'I have practised it with success for fifty years,' said Romaine,
with a chuckle. 'A black suit and a clean shirt is my infallible
'You surprise me; I did not think you would be shallow!' said I,
lingering between two coats. 'Pray, Mr. Romaine, have I your head?
or did you travel post and with a smartish servant?'
'Neither, I admit,' said he.
'Which change the whole problem,' I continued. 'I have to dress
for a smartish servant and a Russia leather despatch-box.' That
brought me to a stand. I came over and looked at the box with a
moment's hesitation. 'Yes,' I resumed. 'Yes, and for the
despatch-box! It looks moneyed and landed; it means I have a
lawyer. It is an invaluable property. But I could have wished it
to hold less money. The responsibility is crushing. Should I not
do more wisely to take five hundred pounds, and intrust the
remainder with you, Mr. Romaine?'
'If you are sure you will not want it,' answered Romaine.
'I am far from sure of that,' cried I. 'In the first place, as a
philosopher. This is the first time I have been at the head of a
large sum, and it is conceivable--who knows himself?--that I may
make it fly. In the second place, as a fugitive. Who knows what I
may need? The whole of it may be inadequate. But I can always
write for more.'
'You do not understand,' he replied. 'I break off all
communication with you here and now. You must give me a power of
attorney ere you start to-night, and then be done with me
trenchantly until better days.'
I believe I offered some objection.
'Think a little for once of me!' said Romaine. 'I must not have
seen you before to-night. To-night we are to have had our only
interview, and you are to have given me the power; and to-night I
am to have lost sight of you again--I know not whither, you were
upon business, it was none of my affairs to question you! And
this, you are to remark, in the interests of your own safety much
more than mine.'
'I am not even to write to you?' I said, a little bewildered.
'I believe I am cutting the last strand that connects you with
common sense,' he replied. 'But that is the plain English of it.
You are not even to write; and if you did, I would not answer.'
'A letter, however--' I began.
'Listen to me,' interrupted Romaine. 'So soon as your cousin reads
the paragraph, what will he do? Put the police upon looking into
my correspondence! So soon as you write to me, in short, you write
to Bow Street; and if you will take my advice, you will date that
letter from France.'
'The devil!' said I, for I began suddenly to see that this might
put me out of the way of my business.
'What is it now?' says he.
'There will be more to be done, then, before we can part,' I
'I give you the whole night,' said he. 'So long as you are off ere
daybreak, I am content.'
'In short, Mr. Romaine,' said I, 'I have had so much benefit of
your advice and services that I am loth to sever the connection,
and would even ask a substitute. I would be obliged for a letter
of introduction to one of your own cloth in Edinburgh--an old man
for choice, very experienced, very respectable, and very secret.
Could you favour me with such a letter?'
'Why, no,' said he. 'Certainly not. I will do no such thing,
'It would be a great favour, sir,' I pleaded.
'It would be an unpardonable blunder,' he replied. 'What? Give
you a letter of introduction? and when the police come, I suppose,
I must forget the circumstance? No, indeed. Talk of it no more.'
'You seem to be always in the right,' said I. 'The letter would be
out of the question, I quite see that. But the lawyer's name might
very well have dropped from you in the way of conversation; having
heard him mentioned, I might profit by the circumstance to
introduce myself; and in this way my business would be the better
done, and you not in the least compromised.'
'What is this business?' said Romaine.
'I have not said that I had any,' I replied. 'It might arise.
This is only a possibility that I must keep in view.'
'Well,' said he, with a gesture of the hands, 'I mention Mr.
Robbie; and let that be an end of it!--Or wait!' he added, 'I have
it. Here is something that will serve you for an introduction, and
cannot compromise me.' And he wrote his name and the Edinburgh
lawyer's address on a piece of card and tossed it to me.
CHAPTER XXI--I BECOME THE OWNER OF A CLARET-COLOURED CHAISE
What with packing, signing papers, and partaking of an excellent
cold supper in the lawyer's room, it was past two in the morning
before we were ready for the road. Romaine himself let us out of a
window in a part of the house known to Rowley: it appears it
served as a kind of postern to the servants' hall, by which (when
they were in the mind for a clandestine evening) they would come
regularly in and out; and I remember very well the vinegar aspect
of the lawyer on the receipt of this piece of information--how he
pursed his lips, jutted his eyebrows, and kept repeating, 'This
must be seen to, indeed! this shall be barred to-morrow in the
morning!' In this preoccupation, I believe he took leave of me
without observing it; our things were handed out; we heard the
window shut behind us; and became instantly lost in a horrid
intricacy of blackness and the shadow of woods.
A little wet snow kept sleepily falling, pausing, and falling
again; it seemed perpetually beginning to snow and perpetually
leaving off; and the darkness was intense. Time and again we
walked into trees; time and again found ourselves adrift among
garden borders or stuck like a ram in the thicket. Rowley had
possessed himself of the matches, and he was neither to be
terrified nor softened. 'No, I will not, Mr. Anne, sir,' he would
reply. 'You know he tell me to wait till we were over the 'ill.
It's only a little way now. Why, and I thought you was a soldier,
too!' I was at least a very glad soldier when my valet consented
at last to kindle a thieves' match. From this, we easily lit the
lantern; and thenceforward, through a labyrinth of woodland paths,
were conducted by its uneasy glimmer. Both booted and great-
coated, with tall hats much of a shape, and laden with booty in the
form of a despatch-box, a case of pistols, and two plump valises, I
thought we had very much the look of a pair of brothers returning
from the sack of Amersham Place.
We issued at last upon a country by-road where we might walk
abreast and without precaution. It was nine miles to Aylesbury,
our immediate destination; by a watch, which formed part of my new
outfit, it should be about half-past three in the morning; and as
we did not choose to arrive before daylight, time could not be said
to press. I gave the order to march at ease.
'Now, Rowley,' said I, 'so far so good. You have come, in the most
obliging manner in the world, to carry these valises. The question
is, what next? What are we to do at Aylesbury? or, more
particularly, what are you? Thence, I go on a journey. Are you to
He gave a little chuckle. 'That's all settled already, Mr. Anne,
sir,' he replied. 'Why, I've got my things here in the valise--a
half a dozen shirts and what not; I'm all ready, sir: just you
lead on: YOU'LL see.'
'The devil you have!' said I. 'You made pretty sure of your
'If you please, sir,' said Rowley.
He looked up at me, in the light of the lantern, with a boyish
shyness and triumph that awoke my conscience. I could never let
this innocent involve himself in the perils and difficulties that
beset my course, without some hint of warning, which it was a
matter of extreme delicacy to make plain enough and not too plain.
'No, no,' said I; 'you may think you have made a choice, but it was
blindfold, and you must make it over again. The Count's service is
a good one; what are you leaving it for? Are you not throwing away
the substance for the shadow? No, do not answer me yet. You
imagine that I am a prosperous nobleman, just declared my uncle's
heir, on the threshold of the best of good fortune, and, from the
point of view of a judicious servant, a jewel of a master to serve
and stick to? Well, my boy, I am nothing of the kind, nothing of
As I said the words, I came to a full stop and held up the lantern
to his face. He stood before me, brilliantly illuminated on the
background of impenetrable night and falling snow, stricken to
stone between his double burden like an ass between two panniers,
and gaping at me like a blunderbuss. I had never seen a face so
predestined to be astonished, or so susceptible of rendering the
emotion of surprise; and it tempted me as an open piano tempts the
'Nothing of the sort, Rowley,' I continued, in a churchyard voice.
'These are appearances, petty appearances. I am in peril,
homeless, hunted. I count scarce any one in England who is not my
enemy. From this hour I drop my name, my title; I become nameless;
my name is proscribed. My liberty, my life, hang by a hair. The
destiny which you will accept, if you go forth with me, is to be
tracked by spies, to hide yourself under a false name, to follow
the desperate pretences and perhaps share the fate of a murderer
with a price upon his head.'
His face had been hitherto beyond expectation, passing from one
depth to another of tragic astonishment, and really worth paying to
see; but at this it suddenly cleared. 'Oh, I ain't afraid!' he
said; and then, choking into laughter, 'why, I see it from the
I could have beaten him. But I had so grossly overshot the mark
that I suppose it took me two good miles of road and half an hour
of elocution to persuade him I had been in earnest. In the course
of which I became so interested in demonstrating my present danger
that I forgot all about my future safety, and not only told him the
story of Goguelat, but threw in the business of the drovers as
well, and ended by blurting out that I was a soldier of Napoleon's
and a prisoner of war.
This was far from my views when I began; and it is a common
complaint of me that I have a long tongue. I believe it is a fault
beloved by fortune. Which of you considerate fellows would have
done a thing at once so foolhardy and so wise as to make a
confidant of a boy in his teens, and positively smelling of the
nursery? And when had I cause to repent it? There is none so apt
as a boy to be the adviser of any man in difficulties such as mine.
To the beginnings of virile common sense he adds the last lights of
the child's imagination; and he can fling himself into business
with that superior earnestness that properly belongs to play. And
Rowley was a boy made to my hand. He had a high sense of romance,
and a secret cultus for all soldiers and criminals. His travelling
library consisted of a chap-book life of Wallace and some sixpenny
parts of the 'Old Bailey Sessions Papers' by Gurney the shorthand
writer; and the choice depicts his character to a hair. You can
imagine how his new prospects brightened on a boy of this
disposition. To be the servant and companion of a fugitive, a
soldier, and a murderer, rolled in one--to live by stratagems,
disguises, and false names, in an atmosphere of midnight and
mystery so thick that you could cut it with a knife--was really, I
believe, more dear to him than his meals, though he was a great
trencherman, and something of a glutton besides. For myself, as
the peg by which all this romantic business hung, I was simply
idolised from that moment; and he would rather have sacrificed his
hand than surrendered the privilege of serving me.
We arranged the terms of our campaign, trudging amicably in the
snow, which now, with the approach of morning, began to fall to
purpose. I chose the name of Ramornie, I imagine from its likeness
to Romaine; Rowley, from an irresistible conversion of ideas, I
dubbed Gammon. His distress was laughable to witness: his own
choice of an unassuming nickname had been Claude Duval! We settled
our procedure at the various inns where we should alight, rehearsed
our little manners like a piece of drill until it seemed impossible
we should ever be taken unprepared; and in all these dispositions,
you maybe sure the despatch-box was not forgotten. Who was to pick
it up, who was to set it down, who was to remain beside it, who was
to sleep with it--there was no contingency omitted, all was gone
into with the thoroughness of a drill-sergeant on the one hand and
a child with a new plaything on the other.
'I say, wouldn't it look queer if you and me was to come to the
post-house with all this luggage?' said Rowley.
'I dare say,' I replied. 'But what else is to be done?'
'Well, now, sir--you hear me,' says Rowley. 'I think it would look
more natural-like if you was to come to the post-house alone, and
with nothing in your 'ands--more like a gentleman, you know. And
you might say that your servant and baggage was a-waiting for you
up the road. I think I could manage, somehow, to make a shift with
all them dratted things--leastways if you was to give me a 'and up
with them at the start.'
'And I would see you far enough before I allowed you to try, Mr.
Rowley!' I cried. 'Why, you would be quite defenceless! A footpad
that was an infant child could rob you. And I should probably come
driving by to find you in a ditch with your throat cut. But there
is something in your idea, for all that; and I propose we put it in
execution no farther forward than the next corner of a lane.'
Accordingly, instead of continuing to aim for Aylesbury, we headed
by cross-roads for some point to the northward of it, whither I
might assist Rowley with the baggage, and where I might leave him
to await my return in the post-chaise.
It was snowing to purpose, the country all white, and ourselves
walking snowdrifts, when the first glimmer of the morning showed us
an inn upon the highwayside. Some distance off, under the shelter
of a corner of the road and a clump of trees, I loaded Rowley with
the whole of our possessions, and watched him till he staggered in
safety into the doors of the Green Dragon, which was the sign of
the house. Thence I walked briskly into Aylesbury, rejoicing in my
freedom and the causeless good spirits that belong to a snowy
morning; though, to be sure, long before I had arrived the snow had
again ceased to fall, and the eaves of Aylesbury were smoking in
the level sun. There was an accumulation of gigs and chaises in
the yard, and a great bustle going forward in the coffee-room and
about the doors of the inn. At these evidences of so much travel
on the road I was seized with a misgiving lest it should be
impossible to get horses, and I should be detained in the
precarious neighbourhood of my cousin. Hungry as I was, I made my
way first of all to the postmaster, where he stood--a big,
athletic, horsey-looking man, blowing into a key in the corner of
On my making my modest request, he awoke from his indifference into
what seemed passion.
'A po'-shay and 'osses!' he cried. 'Do I look as if I 'ad a po'-
shay and 'osses? Damn me, if I 'ave such a thing on the premises.
I don't MAKE 'osses and chaises--I 'IRE 'em. You might be God
Almighty!' said he; and instantly, as if he had observed me for the
first time, he broke off, and lowered his voice into the
confidential. 'Why, now that I see you are a gentleman,' said he,
'I'll tell you what! If you like to BUY, I have the article to fit
you. Second-'and shay by Lycett, of London. Latest style; good as
new. Superior fittin's, net on the roof, baggage platform, pistol
'olsters--the most com-plete and the most gen-teel turn-out I ever
see! The 'ole for seventy-five pound! It's as good as givin' her
'Do you propose I should trundle it myself, like a hawker's
barrow?' said I. 'Why, my good man, if I had to stop here, anyway,
I should prefer to buy a house and garden!'
'Come and look at her!' he cried; and, with the word, links his arm
in mine and carries me to the outhouse where the chaise was on
It was just the sort of chaise that I had dreamed of for my
purpose: eminently rich, inconspicuous, and genteel; for, though I
thought the postmaster no great authority, I was bound to agree
with him so far. The body was painted a dark claret, and the
wheels an invisible green. The lamp and glasses were bright as
silver; and the whole equipage had an air of privacy and reserve
that seemed to repel inquiry and disarm suspicion. With a servant
like Rowley, and a chaise like this, I felt that I could go from
the Land's End to John o' Groat's House amid a population of bowing
ostlers. And I suppose I betrayed in my manner the degree in which
the bargain tempted me.
'Come,' cried the postmaster--'I'll make it seventy, to oblige a
'The point is: the horses,' said I.
'Well,' said he, consulting his watch, 'it's now gone the 'alf
after eight. What time do you want her at the door?'
'Horses and all?' said I.
''Osses and all!' says he. 'One good turn deserves another. You
give me seventy pound for the shay, and I'll 'oss it for you. I
told you I didn't MAKE 'osses; but I CAN make 'em, to oblige a
What would you have? It was not the wisest thing in the world to
buy a chaise within a dozen miles of my uncle's house; but in this
way I got my horses for the next stage. And by any other it
appeared that I should have to wait. Accordingly I paid the money
down--perhaps twenty pounds too much, though it was certainly a
well-made and well-appointed vehicle--ordered it round in half an
hour, and proceeded to refresh myself with breakfast.
The table to which I sat down occupied the recess of a bay-window,
and commanded a view of the front of the inn, where I continued to
be amused by the successive departures of travellers--the fussy and
the offhand, the niggardly and the lavish--all exhibiting their
different characters in that diagnostic moment of the farewell:
some escorted to the stirrup or the chaise door by the chamberlain,
the chambermaids and the waiters almost in a body, others moving
off under a cloud, without human countenance. In the course of
this I became interested in one for whom this ovation began to
assume the proportions of a triumph; not only the under-servants,
but the barmaid, the landlady, and my friend the postmaster
himself, crowding about the steps to speed his departure. I was
aware, at the same time, of a good deal of merriment, as though the
traveller were a man of a ready wit, and not too dignified to air
it in that society. I leaned forward with a lively curiosity; and
the next moment I had blotted myself behind the teapot. The
popular traveller had turned to wave a farewell; and behold! he was
no other than my cousin Alain. It was a change of the sharpest
from the angry, pallid man I had seen at Amersham Place. Ruddy to
a fault, illuminated with vintages, crowned with his curls like
Bacchus, he now stood before me for an instant, the perfect master
of himself, smiling with airs of conscious popularity and
insufferable condescension. He reminded me at once of a royal
duke, or an actor turned a little elderly, and of a blatant bagman
who should have been the illegitimate son of a gentleman. A moment
after he was gliding noiselessly on the road to London.
I breathed again. I recognised, with heartfelt gratitude, how
lucky I had been to go in by the stable-yard instead of the
hostelry door, and what a fine occasion of meeting my cousin I had
lost by the purchase of the claret-coloured chaise! The next
moment I remembered that there was a waiter present. No doubt but
he must have observed me when I crouched behind the breakfast
equipage; no doubt but he must have commented on this unusual and
undignified behaviour; and it was essential that I should do
something to remove the impression.
'Waiter!' said I, 'that was the nephew of Count Carwell that just
drove off, wasn't it?'
'Yes, sir: Viscount Carwell we calls him,' he replied.
'Ah, I thought as much,' said I. 'Well, well, damn all these
Frenchmen, say I!'
'You may say so indeed, sir,' said the waiter. 'They ain't not to
say in the same field with our 'ome-raised gentry.'
'Nasty tempers?' I suggested.
'Beas'ly temper, sir, the Viscount 'ave,' said the waiter with
feeling. 'Why, no longer agone than this morning, he was sitting
breakfasting and reading in his paper. I suppose, sir, he come on
some pilitical information, or it might be about 'orses, but he
raps his 'and upon the table sudden and calls for curacoa. It gave
me quite a turn, it did; he did it that sudden and 'ard. Now, sir,
that may be manners in France, but hall I can say is, that I'm not
used to it.'
'Reading the paper, was he?' said I. 'What paper, eh?'
'Here it is, sir,' exclaimed the waiter. 'Seems like as if he'd
And picking it off the floor he presented it to me.
I may say that I was quite prepared, that I already knew what to
expect; but at sight of the cold print my heart stopped beating.
There it was: the fulfilment of Romaine's apprehension was before
me; the paper was laid open at the capture of Clausel. I felt as
if I could take a little curacoa myself, but on second thoughts
called for brandy. It was badly wanted; and suddenly I observed
the waiter's eye to sparkle, as it were, with some recognition;
made certain he had remarked the resemblance between me and Alain;
and became aware--as by a revelation--of the fool's part I had been
playing. For I had now managed to put my identification beyond a
doubt, if Alain should choose to make his inquiries at Aylesbury;
and, as if that were not enough, I had added, at an expense of
seventy pounds, a clue by which he might follow me through the
length and breadth of England, in the shape of the claret-coloured
chaise! That elegant equipage (which I began to regard as little
better than a claret-coloured ante-room to the hangman's cart)
coming presently to the door, I left my breakfast in the middle and
departed; posting to the north as diligently as my cousin Alain was
posting to the south, and putting my trust (such as it was) in an
opposite direction and equal speed.
CHAPTER XXII--CHARACTER AND ACQUIREMENTS OF MR. ROWLEY
I am not certain that I had ever really appreciated before that
hour the extreme peril of the adventure on which I was embarked.
The sight of my cousin, the look of his face--so handsome, so
jovial at the first sight, and branded with so much malignity as
you saw it on the second--with his hyperbolical curls in order,
with his neckcloth tied as if for the conquests of love, setting
forth (as I had no doubt in the world he was doing) to clap the Bow
Street runners on my trail, and cover England with handbills, each
dangerous as a loaded musket, convinced me for the first time that
the affair was no less serious than death. I believe it came to a
near touch whether I should not turn the horses' heads at the next
stage and make directly for the coast. But I was now in the
position of a man who should have thrown his gage into the den of
lions; or, better still, like one who should have quarrelled
overnight under the influence of wine, and now, at daylight, in a
cold winter's morning, and humbly sober, must make good his words.
It is not that I thought any the less, or any the less warmly, of
Flora. But, as I smoked a grim segar that morning in a corner of
the chaise, no doubt I considered, in the first place, that the
letter-post had been invented, and admitted privately to myself, in
the second, that it would have been highly possible to write her on
a piece of paper, seal it, and send it skimming by the mail,
instead of going personally into these egregious dangers, and
through a country that I beheld crowded with gibbets and Bow Street
officers. As for Sim and Candlish, I doubt if they crossed my
At the Green Dragon Rowley was waiting on the doorsteps with the
luggage, and really was bursting with unpalatable conversation.
'Who do you think we've 'ad 'ere, sir?' he began breathlessly, as
the chaise drove off. 'Red Breasts'; and he nodded his head
'Red Breasts?' I repeated, for I stupidly did not understand at the
moment an expression I had often heard.
'Ah!' said he. 'Red weskits. Runners. Bow Street runners. Two
on' em, and one was Lavender himself! I hear the other say quite
plain, "Now, Mr. Lavender, IF you're ready." They was breakfasting
as nigh me as I am to that postboy. They're all right; they ain't
after us. It's a forger; and I didn't send them off on a false
scent--O no! I thought there was no use in having them over our
way; so I give them "very valuable information," Mr. Lavender said,
and tipped me a tizzy for myself; and they're off to Luton. They
showed me the 'andcuffs, too--the other one did--and he clicked the
dratted things on my wrist; and I tell you, I believe I nearly went
off in a swound! There's something so beastly in the feel of them!
Begging your pardon, Mr. Anne,' he added, with one of his delicious
changes from the character of the confidential schoolboy into that
of the trained, respectful servant.
Well, I must not be proud! I cannot say I found the subject of
handcuffs to my fancy; and it was with more asperity than was
needful that I reproved him for the slip about the name.
'Yes, Mr. Ramornie,' says he, touching his hat. 'Begging your
pardon, Mr. Ramornie. But I've been very piticular, sir, up to
now; and you may trust me to be very piticular in the future. It
were only a slip, sir.'
'My good boy,' said I, with the most imposing severity, 'there must
be no slips. Be so good as to remember that my life is at stake.'
I did not embrace the occasion of telling him how many I had made
myself. It is my principle that an officer must never be wrong. I
have seen two divisions beating their brains out for a fortnight
against a worthless and quite impregnable castle in a pass: I knew
we were only doing it for discipline, because the General had said
so at first, and had not yet found any way out of his own words;
and I highly admired his force of character, and throughout these
operations thought my life exposed in a very good cause. With
fools and children, which included Rowley, the necessity was even
greater. I proposed to myself to be infallible; and even when he
expressed some wonder at the purchase of the claret-coloured
chaise, I put him promptly in his place. In our situation, I told
him, everything had to be sacrificed to appearances; doubtless, in
a hired chaise, we should have had more freedom, but look at the
dignity! I was so positive, that I had sometimes almost convinced
myself. Not for long, you may be certain! This detestable
conveyance always appeared to me to be laden with Bow Street
officers, and to have a placard upon the back of it publishing my
name and crimes. If I had paid seventy pounds to get the thing, I
should not have stuck at seven hundred to be safely rid of it.
And if the chaise was a danger, what an anxiety was the despatch-
box and its golden cargo! I had never had a care but to draw my
pay and spend it; I had lived happily in the regiment, as in my
father's house, fed by the great Emperor's commissariat as by
ubiquitous doves of Elijah--or, my faith! if anything went wrong
with the commissariat, helping myself with the best grace in the
world from the next peasant! And now I began to feel at the same
time the burthen of riches and the fear of destitution. There were
ten thousand pounds in the despatch-box, but I reckoned in French
money, and had two hundred and fifty thousand agonies; I kept it
under my hand all day, I dreamed of it at night. In the inns, I
was afraid to go to dinner and afraid to go to sleep. When I
walked up a hill I durst not leave the doors of the claret-coloured
chaise. Sometimes I would change the disposition of the funds:
there were days when I carried as much as five or six thousand
pounds on my own person, and only the residue continued to voyage
in the treasure-chest--days when I bulked all over like my cousin,
crackled to a touch with bank paper, and had my pockets weighed to
bursting-point with sovereigns. And there were other days when I
wearied of the thing--or grew ashamed of it--and put all the money
back where it had come from: there let it take its chance, like
better people! In short, I set Rowley a poor example of
consistency, and in philosophy, none at all.
Little he cared! All was one to him so long as he was amused, and
I never knew any one amused more easily. He was thrillingly
interested in life, travel, and his own melodramatic position. All
day he would be looking from the chaise windows with ebullitions of
gratified curiosity, that were sometimes justified and sometimes
not, and that (taken altogether) it occasionally wearied me to be
obliged to share. I can look at horses, and I can look at trees
too, although not fond of it. But why should I look at a lame
horse, or a tree that was like the letter Y? What exhilaration
could I feel in viewing a cottage that was the same colour as 'the
second from the miller's' in some place where I had never been, and
of which I had not previously heard? I am ashamed to complain, but
there were moments when my juvenile and confidential friend weighed
heavy on my hands. His cackle was indeed almost continuous, but it
was never unamiable. He showed an amiable curiosity when he was
asking questions; an amiable guilelessness when he was conferring
information. And both he did largely. I am in a position to write
the biographies of Mr. Rowley, Mr. Rowley's father and mother, his
Aunt Eliza, and the miller's dog; and nothing but pity for the
reader, and some misgivings as to the law of copyright, prevail on
me to withhold them.
A general design to mould himself upon my example became early
apparent, and I had not the heart to check it. He began to mimic
my carriage; he acquired, with servile accuracy, a little manner I
had of shrugging the shoulders; and I may say it was by observing
it in him that I first discovered it in myself. One day it came
out by chance that I was of the Catholic religion. He became
plunged in thought, at which I was gently glad. Then suddenly -
'Odd-rabbit it! I'll be Catholic too!' he broke out. 'You must
teach me it, Mr. Anne--I mean, Ramornie.'
I dissuaded him: alleging that he would find me very imperfectly
informed as to the grounds and doctrines of the Church, and that,
after all, in the matter of religions, it was a very poor idea to
change. 'Of course, my Church is the best,' said I; 'but that is
not the reason why I belong to it: I belong to it because it was
the faith of my house. I wish to take my chances with my own
people, and so should you. If it is a question of going to hell,
go to hell like a gentleman with your ancestors.'
'Well, it wasn't that,' he admitted. 'I don't know that I was
exactly thinking of hell. Then there's the inquisition, too.
That's rather a cawker, you know.'
'And I don't believe you were thinking of anything in the world,'
said I--which put a period to his respectable conversion.
He consoled himself by playing for awhile on a cheap flageolet,
which was one of his diversions, and to which I owed many intervals
of peace. When he first produced it, in the joints, from his
pocket, he had the duplicity to ask me if I played upon it. I
answered, no; and he put the instrument away with a sigh and the
remark that he had thought I might. For some while he resisted the
unspeakable temptation, his fingers visibly itching and twittering
about his pocket, even his interest in the landscape and in
sporadic anecdote entirely lost. Presently the pipe was in his
hands again; he fitted, unfitted, refitted, and played upon it in
dumb show for some time.
'I play it myself a little,' says he.
'Do you?' said I, and yawned.
And then he broke down.
'Mr. Ramornie, if you please, would it disturb you, sir, if I was
to play a chune?' he pleaded. And from that hour, the tootling of
the flageolet cheered our way.
He was particularly keen on the details of battles, single combats,
incidents of scouting parties, and the like. These he would make
haste to cap with some of the exploits of Wallace, the only hero
with whom he had the least acquaintance. His enthusiasm was
genuine and pretty. When he learned we were going to Scotland,
'Well, then,' he broke out, 'I'll see where Wallace lived!' And
presently after, he fell to moralising. 'It's a strange thing,
sir,' he began, 'that I seem somehow to have always the wrong sow
by the ear. I'm English after all, and I glory in it. My eye!
don't I, though! Let some of your Frenchies come over here to
invade, and you'll see whether or not! Oh, yes, I'm English to the
backbone, I am. And yet look at me! I got hold of this 'ere
William Wallace and took to him right off; I never heard of such a
man before! And then you came along, and I took to you. And both
the two of you were my born enemies! I--I beg your pardon, Mr.
Ramornie, but would you mind it very much if you didn't go for to
do anything against England'--he brought the word out suddenly,
like something hot--'when I was along of you?'
I was more affected than I can tell.
'Rowley,' I said, 'you need have no fear. By how much I love my
own honour, by so much I will take care to protect yours. We are
but fraternising at the outposts, as soldiers do. When the bugle
calls, my boy, we must face each other, one for England, one for
France, and may God defend the right!'
So I spoke at the moment; but for all my brave airs, the boy had
wounded me in a vital quarter. His words continued to ring in my
hearing. There was no remission all day of my remorseful thoughts;
and that night (which we lay at Lichfield, I believe) there was no
sleep for me in my bed. I put out the candle and lay down with a
good resolution; and in a moment all was light about me like a
theatre, and I saw myself upon the stage of it playing ignoble
parts. I remembered France and my Emperor, now depending on the
arbitrament of war, bent down, fighting on their knees and with
their teeth against so many and such various assailants. And I
burned with shame to be here in England, cherishing an English
fortune, pursuing an English mistress, and not there, to handle a
musket in my native fields, and to manure them with my body if I
fell. I remembered that I belonged to France. All my fathers had
fought for her, and some had died; the voice in my throat, the
sight of my eyes, the tears that now sprang there, the whole man of
me, was fashioned of French earth and born of a French mother; I
had been tended and caressed by a succession of the daughters of
France, the fairest, the most ill-starred; and I had fought and
conquered shoulder to shoulder with her sons. A soldier, a noble,
of the proudest and bravest race in Europe, it had been left to the
prattle of a hobbledehoy lackey in an English chaise to recall me
to the consciousness of duty.
When I saw how it was I did not lose time in indecision. The old
classical conflict of love and honour being once fairly before me,
it did not cost me a thought. I was a Saint-Yves de Keroual; and I
decided to strike off on the morrow for Wakefield and Burchell
Fenn, and embark, as soon as it should be morally possible, for the
succour of my downtrodden fatherland and my beleaguered Emperor.
Pursuant on this resolve, I leaped from bed, made a light, and as
the watchman was crying half-past two in the dark streets of
Lichfield, sat down to pen a letter of farewell to Flora. And
then--whether it was the sudden chill of the night, whether it came
by association of ideas from the remembrance of Swanston Cottage I
know not, but there appeared before me--to the barking of sheep-
dogs--a couple of snuffy and shambling figures, each wrapped in a
plaid, each armed with a rude staff; and I was immediately bowed
down to have forgotten them so long, and of late to have thought of
them so cavalierly.
Sure enough there was my errand! As a private person I was neither
French nor English; I was something else first: a loyal gentleman,
an honest man. Sim and Candlish must not be left to pay the
penalty of my unfortunate blow. They held my honour tacitly
pledged to succour them; and it is a sort of stoical refinement
entirely foreign to my nature to set the political obligation above
the personal and private. If France fell in the interval for the
lack of Anne de St.-Yves, fall she must! But I was both surprised
and humiliated to have had so plain a duty bound upon me for so
long--and for so long to have neglected and forgotten it. I think
any brave man will understand me when I say that I went to bed and
to sleep with a conscience very much relieved, and woke again in
the morning with a light heart. The very danger of the enterprise
reassured me: to save Sim and Candlish (suppose the worst to come
to the worst) it would be necessary for me to declare myself in a
court of justice, with consequences which I did not dare to dwell
upon; it could never be said that I had chosen the cheap and the
easy--only that in a very perplexing competition of duties I had
risked my life for the most immediate.
We resumed the journey with more diligence: thenceforward posted
day and night; did not halt beyond what was necessary for meals;
and the postillions were excited by gratuities, after the habit of
my cousin Alain. For twopence I could have gone farther and taken
four horses; so extreme was my haste, running as I was before the
terrors of an awakened conscience. But I feared to be conspicuous.
Even as it was, we attracted only too much attention, with our pair
and that white elephant, the seventy-pounds-worth of claret-
Meanwhile I was ashamed to look Rowley in the face. The young
shaver had contrived to put me wholly in the wrong; he had cost me
a night's rest and a severe and healthful humiliation; and I was
grateful and embarrassed in his society. This would never do; it
was contrary to all my ideas of discipline; if the officer has to
blush before the private, or the master before the servant, nothing
is left to hope for but discharge or death. I hit upon the idea of
teaching him French; and accordingly, from Lichfield, I became the
distracted master, and he the scholar--how shall I say?
indefatigable, but uninspired. His interest never flagged. He
would hear the same word twenty times with profound refreshment,
mispronounce it in several different ways, and forget it again with
magical celerity. Say it happened to be STIRRUP. 'No, I don't
seem to remember that word, Mr. Anne,' he would say: 'it don't
seem to stick to me, that word don't.' And then, when I had told
it him again, 'Etrier!' he would cry. 'To be sure! I had it on
the tip of my tongue. Eterier!' (going wrong already, as if by a
fatal instinct). 'What will I remember it by, now? Why, INTERIOR,
to be sure! I'll remember it by its being something that ain't in
the interior of a horse.' And when next I had occasion to ask him
the French for stirrup, it was a toss-up whether he had forgotten
all about it, or gave me EXTERIOR for an answer. He was never a
hair discouraged. He seemed to consider that he was covering the
ground at a normal rate. He came up smiling day after day. 'Now,
sir, shall we do our French?' he would say; and I would put
questions, and elicit copious commentary and explanation, but never
the shadow of an answer. My hands fell to my sides; I could have
wept to hear him. When I reflected that he had as yet learned
nothing, and what a vast deal more there was for him to learn, the
period of these lessons seemed to unroll before me vast as
eternity, and I saw myself a teacher of a hundred, and Rowley a
pupil of ninety, still hammering on the rudiments! The wretched
boy, I should say, was quite unspoiled by the inevitable
familiarities of the journey. He turned out at each stage the pink
of serving-lads, deft, civil, prompt, attentive, touching his hat
like an automaton, raising the status of Mr. Ramornie in the eyes
of all the inn by his smiling service, and seeming capable of
anything in the world but the one thing I had chosen--learning
CHAPTER XXIII--THE ADVENTURE OF THE RUNAWAY COUPLE
The country had for some time back been changing in character. By
a thousand indications I could judge that I was again drawing near
to Scotland. I saw it written in the face of the hills, in the
growth of the trees, and in the glint of the waterbrooks that kept
the high-road company. It might have occurred to me, also, that I
was, at the same time, approaching a place of some fame in Britain-
-Gretna Green. Over these same leagues of road--which Rowley and I
now traversed in the claret-coloured chaise, to the note of the
flageolet and the French lesson--how many pairs of lovers had gone
bowling northwards to the music of sixteen scampering horseshoes;
and how many irate persons, parents, uncles, guardians, evicted
rivals, had come tearing after, clapping the frequent red face to
the chaise-window, lavishly shedding their gold about the post-
houses, sedulously loading and re-loading, as they went, their
avenging pistols! But I doubt if I had thought of it at all,
before a wayside hazard swept me into the thick of an adventure of
this nature; and I found myself playing providence with other
people's lives, to my own admiration at the moment--and
subsequently to my own brief but passionate regret.
At rather an ugly corner of an uphill reach I came on the wreck of
a chaise lying on one side in the ditch, a man and a woman in
animated discourse in the middle of the road, and the two
postillions, each with his pair of horses, looking on and laughing
from the saddle.
'Morning breezes! here's a smash!' cried Rowley, pocketing his
flageolet in the middle of the Tight Little Island.
I was perhaps more conscious of the moral smash than the physical--
more alive to broken hearts than to broken chaises; for, as plain
as the sun at morning, there was a screw loose in this runaway
match. It is always a bad sign when the lower classes laugh:
their taste in humour is both poor and sinister; and for a man,
running the posts with four horses, presumably with open pockets,
and in the company of the most entrancing little creature
conceivable, to have come down so far as to be laughed at by his