Part 12 out of 12
I dreamed of her. When I awoke again her image was in my mind, and I let
it rest there in contemplation. But presently I thought of the fan,
turned my head, and it was not there. A great fear seized me. I looked
out of the open door where the morning sun threw the checkered shadows of
the honeysuckle on the floor of the gallery, and over the railing to the
tree-tops in the court-yard. The place struck a chord in my memory.
Then my eyes wandered back into the room. There was a polished dresser,
a crucifix and a prie-dieu in the corner, a fauteuil, and another chair
at my bed. The floor was rubbed to an immaculate cleanliness, stained
yellow, and on it lay clean woven mats. The room was empty!
I cried out, a yellow and red turban shot across the window, and I beheld
in the door the spare countenance of the faithful Lindy.
"Marse Dave," she cried, "is you feelin' well, honey?"
"Where am I, Lindy?" I asked.
Lindy, like many of her race, knew well how to assume airs of importance.
Lindy had me down, and she knew it.
"Marse Dave," she said, "doan yo' know better'n dat? Yo' know yo' ain't
ter talk. Lawsy, I reckon I wouldn't be wuth pizen if she was to hear I
let yo' talk."
Lindy implied that there was tyranny somewhere.
"She?" I asked, "who's she?"
"Now yo' hush, Marse Dave," said Lindy, in a shrill whisper, "I ain't
er-gwine ter git mixed up in no disputation. Ef she was ter hear me
er-disputin' wid yo', Marse Dave, I reckon I'd done git such er
tongue-lashin'--" Lindy looked at me suspiciously. "Yo'-er allus was
powe'rful cute, Marse Dave."
Lindy set her lips with a mighty resolve to be silent. I heard some one
coming along the gallery, and then I saw Nick's tall figure looming up
"Davy," he cried.
Lindy braced herself up doggedly.
"Yo' ain't er-gwine to git in thar nohow, Marse Nick," she said.
"Nonsense, Lindy," he answered, "I've been in there as much as you have."
And he took hold of her thin arm and pulled her back.
"Marse Nick!" she cried, terror-stricken, "she'll done fin' out dat
you've been er-talkin'."
"Pish!" said Nick with a fine air, "who's afraid of her?"
Lindy's face took on an expression of intense amusement.
"Yo' is, for one, Marse Nick," she answered, with the familiarity of an
old servant. "I done seed yo' skedaddle when she comed."
"Tut," said Nick, grandly, "I run from no woman. Eh, Davy?" He pushed
past the protesting Lindy into the room and took my hand.
"Egad, you have been near the devil's precipice, my son. A three-bottle
man would have gone over." In his eyes was all the strange affection he
had had for me ever since ave had been boys at Temple Bow together.
"Davy, I reckon life wouldn't have been worth much if you'd gone."
I did not answer. I could only stare at him, mutely grateful for such an
affection. In all his wild life he had been true to me, and he had clung
to me stanchly in this, my greatest peril. Thankful that he was here, I
searched his handsome person with my eyes. He was dressed as usual, with
care and fashion, in linen breeches and a light gray coat and a filmy
ruffle at his neck. But I thought there had come a change into his face.
The reckless quality seemed to have gone out of it, yet the spirit and
daring remained, and with these all the sweetness that was once in his
smile. There were lines under his eyes that spoke of vigils.
"You have been sitting up with me," I said.
"Of course," he answered patting my shoulder. "Of course I have. What
did you think I would be doing?"
"What was the matter with me?" I asked.
"Nothing much," he said lightly, "a touch of the sun, and a great deal of
overwork in behalf of your friends. Now keep still, or I will be getting
I was silent for a while, turning over this answer in my mind. Then I
"I had yellow fever."
"It is no use to lie to you," he replied; "you're too shrewd."
I was silent again for a while.
"Nick," I said, "you had no right to stay here. You have--other
He laughed. It was the old buoyant, boyish laugh of sheer happiness, and
I felt the better for hearing it.
"If you begin to preach, parson, I'll go; I vow I'll have no more
sermonizing. Davy," he cried, "isn't she just the dearest, sweetest,
most beautiful person in the world?"
"Where is she?" I asked, temporizing. Nick was not a subtle person, and
I was ready to follow him at great length in the praise of Antoinette.
"I hope she is not here."
"We made her go to Les Iles," said he.
"And you risked your life and stayed here without her?" I said.
"As for risking life, that kind of criticism doesn't come well from you.
And as for Antoinette," he added with a smile, "I expect to see something
of her later on."
"Well," I answered with a sigh of supreme content, "you have been a fool
all your life, and I hope that she will make you sensible."
"You never could make me so," said Nick, "and besides, I don't think
you've been so damned sensible yourself."
We were silent again for a space.
"Davy," he asked, "do you remember what I said when you had that
"You said a great many things, I believe."
"I told you to consider carefully the masterful features of that lady,
and to thank God you hadn't married her. I vow I never thought she'd
turn up. Upon my oath I never thought I should be such a blind slave as
I have been for the last fortnight. Faith, Monsieur de St. Gre is a
strong man, but he was no more than a puppet in his own house when he
came back here for a day. That lady could govern a province,--no, a
kingdom. But I warrant you there would be no climbing of balconies in
her dominions. I have never been so generalled in my life."
I had no answer for these comments.
"The deuce of it is the way she does it," he continued, plainly bent on
relieving himself. "There's no noise, no fuss; but you must obey, you
don't know why. And yet you may flay me if I don't love her."
"Love her!" I repeated.
"She saved your life," said Nick; "I don't believe any other woman could
have done it. She hadn't any thought of her own. She has been here, in
this room, almost constantly night and day, and she never let you go.
The little French doctor gave you up--not she. She held on. Cursed if I
see why she did it."
"Nor I," I answered.
"Well," he said apologetically, "of course I would have done it, but you
weren't anything to her. Yes, egad, you were something to be
saved,--that was all that was necessary. She had you brought back
here--we are in Monsieur de St. Gre's house, by the way--in a litter, and
she took command as though she had nursed yellow fever cases all her
life. No flurry. I said that you were in love with her once, Davy, when
I saw you looking at the portrait. I take it back. Of course a man
could be very fond of her," he said, "but a king ought to have married
her. As for that poor Vicomte she's tied up to, I reckon I know the
reason why he didn't come to America. An ordinary man would have no
chance at all. God bless her!" he cried, with a sudden burst of feeling,
"I would die for her myself. She got me out of a barrel of trouble with
his Excellency. She cared for my mother, a lonely outcast, and braved
death herself to go to her when she was dying of the fever. God bless
Lindy was standing in the doorway.
"Lan' sakes, Marse Nick, yo' gotter go," she said.
He rose and pressed my fingers. "I'll go," he said, and left me. Lindy
seated herself in the chair. She held in her hand a bowl of beef broth.
From this she fed me in silence, and when she left she commanded me to
sleep informing me that she would be on the gallery within call.
But I did not sleep at once. Nick's words had brought back a fact which
my returning consciousness had hitherto ignored. The birds sang in the
court-yard, and when the breeze stirred it was ever laden with a new
scent. I had been snatched from the jaws of death, my life was before
me, but the happiness which had thrilled me was gone, and in my weakness
the weight of the sadness which had come upon me was almost unbearable.
If I had had the strength, I would have risen then and there from my bed,
I would have fled from the city at the first opportunity. As it was, I
lay in a torture of thought, living over again every part of my life
which she had touched. I remembered the first long, yearning look I had
given the miniature at Madame Bouvet's. I had not loved her then. My
feeling rather had been a mysterious sympathy with and admiration for
this brilliant lady whose sphere was so far removed from mine. This was
sufficiently strange. Again, in the years of my struggle for livelihood
which followed, I dreamed of her; I pictured her often in the midst of
the darkness of the Revolution. Then I had the miniature again, which
had travelled to her, as it were, and come back to me. Even then it was
not love I felt but an unnamed sentiment for one whom I clothed with
gifts and attributes I admired: constancy, an ability to suffer and to
hide, decision, wit, refuge for the weak, scorn for the false. So I
named them at random and cherished them, knowing that these things were
not what other men longed for in women. Nay, there was another quality
which I believed was there--which I knew was there--a supreme tenderness
that was hidden like a treasure too sacred to be seen.
I did not seek to explain the mystery which had brought her across the
sea into that little garden of Mrs. Temple's and into my heart. There
she was now enthroned, deified; that she would always be there I
accepted. That I would never say or do anything not in consonance with
her standards I knew. That I would suffer much I was sure, but the lees
of that suffering I should hoard because they came from her.
What might have been I tried to put away. There was the moment, I
thought, when our souls had met in the little parlor in the Rue Bourbon.
I should never know. This I knew--that we had labored together to bring
happiness into other lives.
Then came another thought to appall me. Unmindful of her own safety, she
had nursed me back to life through all the horrors of the fever. The
doctor had despaired, and I knew that by the very force that was in her
she had saved me. She was here now, in this house, and presently she
would be coming back to my bedside. Painfully I turned my face to the
wall in a torment of humiliation--I had called her by her name. I would
see her again, but I knew not whence the strength for that ordeal was to
I knew by the light that it was evening when I awoke. So prisoners mark
the passing of the days by a bar of sun light. And as I looked at the
green trees in the courtyard, vaguely troubled by I knew not what, some
one came and stood in the doorway. It was Nick.
"You don't seem very cheerful," said he; "a man ought to be who has been
snatched out of the fire."
"You seem to be rather too sure of my future," I said, trying to smile.
"That's more like you," said Nick. "Egad, you ought to be happy--we all
ought to be happy--she's gone."
"She!" I cried. "Who's gone?"
"Madame la Vicomtesse," he replied, rubbing his hands as he stood over
me. "But she's left instructions with me for Lindy as long as Monsieur
de Carondelet's Bando de Buen Gobierno. You are not to do this, and you
are not to do that, you are to eat such and such things, you are to be
made to sleep at such and such times. She came in here about an hour ago
and took a long look at you before she left."
"She was not ill?" I said faintly.
"Faith, I don't know why she was not," he said. "She has done enough to
tire out an army. But she seems well and fairly happy. She had her joke
at my expense as she went through the court-yard, and she reminded me
that we were to send a report by Andre every day."
Chagrin, depression, relief, bewilderment, all were struggling within me.
"Where did she go?" I asked at last.
"To Les Iles," he said. "You are to be brought there as soon as you are
"Do you happen to know why she went?" I said.
"Now how the deuce should I know?" he answered. "I've done everything
with blind servility since I came into this house. I never asked for any
reason--it never would have done any good. I suppose she thought that
you were well on the road to recovery, and she knew that Lindy was an old
hand. And then the doctor is to come in."
"Why didn't you go?" I demanded, with a sudden remembrance that he was
staying away from happiness.
"It was because I longed for another taste of liberty, Davy," he laughed.
"You and I will have an old-fashioned time here together,--a deal of
talk, and perhaps a little piquet,--who knows?"
My strength came back, bit by bit, and listening to his happiness did
much to ease the soreness of my heart--while the light lasted. It was
in the night watches that my struggles came--though often some unwitting
speech of his would bring back the pain. He took delight in telling me,
for example, how for hours at a time I had been in a fearful delirium.
"The Lord knows what foolishness you talked, Davy," said he. "It would
have done me good to hear you had you been in your right mind."
"But you did hear me," I said, full of apprehensions.
"Some of it," said he. "You were after Wilkinson once, in a burrow, I
believe, and you swore dreadfully because he got out of the other end. I
can't remember all the things you said. Oh, yes, once you were talking
to Auguste de St. Gre about money."
"Money?" I repeated in a sinking voice.
"Oh, a lot of jargon." The Vicomtesse pushed me out of the room, and
after that I was never allowed to be there when you had those flights.
Curse the mosquitoes! He seized a fan and began to ply it vigorously.
"I remember. You were giving Auguste a lecture. Then I had to go."
These and other reminiscences gave me sufficient food for reflection, and
many a shudder over the possibilities of my ravings. She had put him
out! No wonder.
After a while I was carried to the gallery, and there I would talk to the
little doctor about the yellow fever which had swept the city. Monsieur
Perrin was not much of a doctor, to be sure, and he had a heartier dread
of the American invasion than of the scourge. He worshipped the
Vicomtesse, and was so devoid of professional pride as to give her freely
all credit for my recovery. He too, clothed her with the qualities of
"Ha, Monsieur," he said, "if that lady had been King of France, do you
think there would have been any States General, any red bonnets, any
Jacobins or Cordeliers? Parbleu, she would have swept the vicemongers
and traitors out of the Palais Royal itself. There would have been a
house-cleaning there. I, who speak to you, know it."
Every day Nick wrote a bulletin to be sent to the Vicomtesse, and he took
a fiendish delight in the composition of these. He would come out on the
gallery with ink and a blank sheet of paper and try to enlist my help.
He would insert the most ridiculous statements, as for instance, "Davy is
worse to-day, having bribed Lindy to give him a pint of Madeira against
my orders." Or, "Davy feigns to be sinking rapidly because he wishes to
have you back." Indeed, I was always in a torture of doubt to know what
the rascal had sent.
His company was most agreeable when he was recounting the many adventures
he had had during the five years after he had left New Orleans and been
lost to me. These would fill a book, and a most readable book it would
be if written in his own speech. His love for the excitement of the
frontier had finally drawn him back to the Cumberland country near
Nashville, and he had actually gone so far as to raise a house and till
some of the land which he had won from Darnley. It was perhaps
characteristic of him that he had named the place "Rattle-and-Snap" in
honor of the game which had put him in possession of it, and
"Rattle-and-Snap" it remains to this day. He was going back there with
Antoinette, so he said, to build a brick mansion and to live a
respectable life the rest of his days.
There was one question which had been in my mind to ask him, concerning
the attitude of Monsieur de St. Gre. That gentleman, with Madame, had
hurried back from Pointe Coupee at a message from the Vicomtesse, and had
gone first to Les Iles to see Antoinette. Then he had come, in spite of
the fever, to his own house in New Orleans to see Nick himself. What
their talk had been I never knew, for the subject was too painful to be
dwelt upon, and the conversation had been marked by frankness on both
sides. Monsieur de St. Gre was a just man, his love for his daughter was
his chief passion, and despite all that had happened he liked Nick. I
believe he could not wholly blame the younger man, and he forgave him.
Mrs. Temple, poor lady, had died on that first night of my illness, and
it was her punishment that she had not known her son or her son's
happiness. Whatever sins she had committed in her wayward life were
atoned for, and by her death I firmly believe that she redeemed him. She
lies now among the Temples in Charleston, and on the stone which marks
her grave is cut no line that hints of the story of these pages.
One bright morning, when Nick and I were playing cards, we heard some
one mounting the stairs, and to my surprise and embarrassment I beheld
Monsieur de St. Gre emerging on the gallery. He was in white linen and
wore a broad hat, which he took from his head as he advanced. He had
aged somewhat, his hair was a little gray, but otherwise he was the firm,
dignified personage I had admired on this same gallery five years before.
"Good morning, gentlemen," he said in English; "ha, do not rise, sir" (to
me). He patted Nick's shoulder kindly, but not familiarly, as he passed
him, and extended his hand.
"Mr. Ritchie, it gives me more pleasure than I can express to see you so
"I am again thrown on your hospitality, sir," I said, flushing with
pleasure at this friendliness. For I admired and respected the man
greatly. "And I fear I have been a burden and trouble to you and your
He took my hand and pressed it. Characteristically, he did not answer
this, and I remembered he was always careful not to say anything which
might smack of insincerity.
"I had a glimpse of you some weeks ago," he said, thus making light of
the risk he had run. "You are a different man now. You may thank your
Scotch blood and your strong constitution."
"His good habits have done him some good, after all," put in my
Monsieur de St. Gre smiled.
"Nick," he said (he pronounced the name quaintly, like Antoinette), "his
good habits have turned out to be some advantage to you. Mr. Ritchie,
you have a faithful friend at least." He patted Nick's shoulder again.
"And he has promised me to settle down."
"I have every inducement, sir," said Nick.
Monsieur de St. Gre became grave.
"You have indeed, Monsieur," he answered.
"I have just come from Dr. Perrin's, David,"--he added, "May I call you
so? Well, then, I have just come from Dr. Perrin's, and he says you may
be moved to Les Iles this very afternoon. Why, upon my word," he
exclaimed, staring at me, "you don't look pleased. One would think you
were going to the calabozo."
"Ah," said Nick, slyly, "I know. He has tasted freedom, Monsieur, and
Madame la Vicomtesse will be in command again."
I flushed. Nick could be very exasperating.
"You must not mind him, Monsieur," I said.
"I do not mind him," answered Monsieur de St. Gre, laughing in spite of
himself. "He is a sad rogue. As for Helene--"
"I shall not know how to thank the Vicomtesse," I said. "She has done me
the greatest service one person can do another."
"Helene is a good woman," answered Monsieur de St. Gre, simply. "She is
more than that, she is a wonderful woman. I remember telling you of her
once. I little thought then that she would ever come to us."
He turned to me. "Dr. Perrin will be here this afternoon, David, and he
will have you dressed. Between five and six if all goes well, we shall
start for Les Iles. And in the meantime, gentlemen," he added with a
stateliness that was natural to him, "I have business which takes me
to-day to my brother-in-law's, Monsieur de Beausejour's."
Nick leaned over the gallery and watched meditatively his prospective
father-in-law leaving the court-yard.
"He got me out of a devilish bad scrape," he said.
"How was that?" I asked listlessly.
"That fat little Baron, the Governor, was for deporting me for running
past the sentry and giving him all the trouble I did. It seems that the
Vicomtesse promised to explain matters in a note which she wrote, and
never did explain. She was here with you, and a lot she cared about
anything else. Lucky that Monsieur de St. Gre came back. Now his
Excellency graciously allows me to stay here, if I behave myself, until I
I do not know how I spent the rest of the day. It passed, somehow. If I
had had the strength then, I believe I should have fled. I was to see
her again, to feel her near me, to hear her voice. During the weeks that
had gone by I had schooled myself, in a sense, to the inevitable. I had
not let my mind dwell upon my visit to Les Iles, and now I was face to
face with the struggle for which I felt I had not the strength. I had
fought one battle,--I knew that a fiercer battle was to come.
In due time the doctor arrived, and while he prepared me for my
departure, the little man sought, with misplaced kindness, to raise my
spirits. Was not Monsieur going to the country, to a paradise?
Monsieur--so Dr. Perrin had noticed--had a turn for philosophy. Could
two more able and brilliant conversationalists be found than Philippe de
St. Gre and Madame la Vicomtesse? And there was the happiness of that
strange but lovable young man, Monsieur Temple, to contemplate. He was
in luck, ce beau garcon, for he was getting an angel for his wife. Did
Monsieur know that Mademoiselle Antoinette was an angel?
At last I was ready, arrayed in my best, on the gallery, when Monsieur de
St. Gre came. Andre and another servant carried me down into the court,
and there stood a painted sedan-chair with the St. Gre arms on the
"My father imported it, David," said Monsieur de St. Gre. "It has not
been used for many years. You are to be carried in it to the levee, and
there I have a boat for you."
Overwhelmed by this kindness, I could not find words to thank him as I
got into the chair. My legs were too long for it, I remember. I had a
quaint feeling of unreality as I sank back on the red satin cushions and
was borne out of the gate between the lions. Monsieur de St. Gre and
Nick walked in front, the faithful Lindy followed, and people paused to
stare at us as we passed. We crossed the Place d'Armes, the Royal Road,
gained the willow-bordered promenade on the levee's crown, and a wide
barge was waiting, manned by six negro oarsmen. They lifted me into its
stern under the awning, the barge was cast off, the oars dipped, and we
were gliding silently past the line of keel boats on the swift current of
the Mississippi. The spars of the shipping were inky black, and the
setting sun had struck a red band across the waters. For a while the
three of us sat gazing at the green shore, each wrapped in his own
reflections,--Philippe de St. Gre thinking, perchance, of the wayward son
he had lost; Nick of the woman who awaited him; and I of one whom fate
had set beyond me. It was Monsieur de St. Gre who broke the silence at
"You feel no ill effects from your moving, David?" he asked, with an
anxious glance at me.
"None, sir," I said.
"The country air will do you good," he said kindly.
"And Madame la Vicomtesse will put him on a diet," added Nick, rousing
"Helene will take care of him," answered Monsieur de St. Gre.
He fell to musing again. "Madame la Vicomtesse has seen more in seven
years than most of us see in a lifetime," he said. "She has beheld the
glory of France, and the dishonor and pollution of her country. Had the
old order lasted her salon would have been famous, and she would have
been a power in politics."
"I have thought that the Vicomtesse must have had a queer marriage," Nick
Monsieur de St. Gre smiled.
"Such marriages were the rule amongst our nobility," he said. "It was
arranged while Helene was still in the convent, though it was not
celebrated until three years after she had been in the world. There was
a romantic affair, I believe, with a young gentleman of the English
embassy, though I do not know the details. He is said to be the only man
she ever cared for. He was a younger son of an impoverished earl."
I started, remembering what the Vicomtesse had said. But Monsieur de St.
Gre did not appear to see my perturbation.
"Be that as it may, if Helene suffered, she never gave a sign of it. The
marriage was celebrated with great pomp, and the world could only
conjecture what she thought of the Vicomte. It was deemed on both sides
a brilliant match. He had inherited vast estates, Ivry-le-Tour,
Montmery, Les Saillantes, I know not what else. She was heiress to the
Chateau de St. Gre with its wide lands, to the chateau and lands of the
Cote Rouge in Normandy, to the hotel St. Gre in Paris. Monsieur le
Vicomte was between forty and fifty at his marriage, and from what I have
heard of him he had many of the virtues and many of the faults of his
order. He was a bachelor, which does not mean that he had lacked
consolations. He was reserved with his equals, and distant with others.
He had served in the Guards, and did not lack courage. He dressed
exquisitely, was inclined to the Polignac party, took his ease
everywhere, had a knowledge of cards and courts, and little else. He was
cheated by his stewards, refused to believe that the Revolution was
serious, and would undoubtedly have been guillotined had the Vicomtesse
not contrived to get him out of France in spite of himself. They went
first to the Duke de Ligne, at Bel Oeil, and thence to Coblentz. He
accepted a commission in the Austrian service, which is much to his
credit, and Helene went with some friends to England. There my letter
reached her, and rather than be beholden to strangers or accept my money
there, she came to us. That is her story in brief, Messieurs. As for
Monsieur le Vicomte, he admired his wife, as well he might, respected her
for the way she served the gallants, but he made no pretence of loving
her. One affair--a girl in the village of Montmery--had lasted. Helene
was destined for higher things than may be found in Louisiana," said
Monsieur de St. Gre, turning to Nick, "but now that you are to carry away
my treasure, Monsieur, I do not know what I should have done without
"And has there been any news of the Vicomte of late?"
It was Nick who asked the question, after a little. Monsieur de St. Gre
looked at him in surprise.
"Eh, mon Dieu, have you not heard?" he said. "C'est vrai, you have been
with David. Did not the Vicomtesse mention it? But why should she?
Monsieur le Vicomte died in Vienna. He had lived too well."
"The Vicomte is dead?" I said.
They both looked at me. Indeed, I should not have recognized my own
voice. What my face betrayed, what my feelings were, I cannot say. My
heart beat no faster, there was no tumult in my brain, and yet--my breath
caught strangely. Something grew within me which is beyond the measure
of speech, and so it was meant to be.
"I did not know this myself until Helene returned to Les Iles," Monsieur
de St. Gre was saying to me. "The letter came to her the day after you
were taken ill. It was from the Baron von Seckenbruck, at whose house
the Vicomte died. She took it very calmly, for Helene is not a woman to
pretend. How much better, after all, if she had married her Englishman
for love! And she is much troubled now because, as she declares, she is
dependent upon my bounty. That is my happiness, my consolation," the
good man added simply, "and her father, the Marquis, was kind to me when
I was a young provincial and a stranger. God rest his soul!"
We were drawing near to Les Iles. The rains had come during my illness,
and in the level evening light the forest of the shore was the tender
green of spring. At length we saw the white wooden steps in the levee at
the landing, and near them were three figures waiting. We glided nearer.
One was Madame de St. Gre, another was Antoinette,--these I saw indeed.
The other was Helene, and it seemed to me that her eyes met mine across
the waters and drew them. Then we were at the landing. I heard Madame
de St. Gre's voice, and Antoinette's in welcome--I listened for another.
I saw Nick running up the steps; in the impetuosity of his love he had
seized Antoinette's hand in his, and she was the color of a red rose.
Creole decorum forbade further advances. Andre and another lifted me
out, and they gathered around me,--these kind people and devoted
friends,--Antoinette calling me, with exquisite shyness, by name; Madame
de St. Gre giving me a grave but gentle welcome, and asking anxiously how
I stood the journey. Another took my hand, held it for the briefest
space that has been marked out of time, and for that instant I looked
into her eyes. Life flowed back into me, and strength, and a joy not to
be fathomed. I could have walked; but they bore me through the
well-remembered vista, and the white gallery at the end of it was like
the sight of home. The evening air was laden with the scent of the
sweetest of all shrubs and flowers.
"TO UNPATHED WATERS, UNDREAMED SHORES"
Monsieur and Madame de St. Gre themselves came with me to my chamber off
the gallery, where everything was prepared for my arrival with the most
loving care,--Monsieur de St. Gre supplying many things from his wardrobe
which I lacked. And when I tried to thank them for their kindness he
laid his hand upon my shoulder.
"Tenez, mon ami," he said, "you got your illness by doing things for
other people. It is time other people did something for you."
Lindy brought me the daintiest of suppers, and I was left to my
meditations. Nick looked in at the door, and hinted darkly that I had to
thank a certain tyrant for my abandonment. I called to him, but he paid
no heed, and I heard him chuckling as he retreated along the gallery.
The journey, the excitement into which I had been plunged by the news I
had heard, brought on a languor, and I was between sleeping and waking
half the night. I slept to dream of her, of the Vicomte, her husband,
walking in his park or playing cards amidst a brilliant company in a
great candle-lit room like the drawing-room at Temple Bow. Doubt grew,
and sleep left me. She was free now, indeed, but was she any nearer to
me? Hope grew again,--why had she left me in New Orleans? She had
received a letter, and if she had cared she would not have remained. But
there was a detestable argument to fit that likewise, and in the light of
this argument it was most natural that she should return to Les Iles.
And who was I, David Ritchie, a lawyer of the little town of Louisville,
to aspire to the love of such a creature? Was it likely that Helene,
Vicomtesse d'Ivry-le-Tour, would think twice of me? The powers of the
world were making ready to crush the presumptuous France of the Jacobins,
and the France of King and Aristocracy would be restored. Chateaux and
lands would be hers again, and she would go back again to that brilliant
life among the great to which she was born, for which nature had fitted
her. Last of all was the thought of the Englishman whom I resembled.
She would go back to him.
Nick was the first in my room the next morning. He had risen early (so
he ingenuously informed me) because Antoinette had a habit of getting up
with the birds, and as I drank my coffee he was emphatic in his
denunciations of the customs of the country.
"It is a wonderful day, Davy," he cried; "you must hurry and get out.
Monsieur de St. Gre sends his compliments, and wishes to know if you will
pardon his absence this morning. He is going to escort Antoinette and me
over to see some of my prospective cousins, the Bertrands." He made a
face, and bent nearer to my ear. "I swear to you I have not had one
moment alone with her. We have been for a walk, but Madame la Vicomtesse
must needs intrude herself upon us. Egad, I told her plainly what I
thought of her tyranny."
"And what did she say?" I asked, trying to smile.
"She laughed, and said that I belonged to a young nation which had done
much harm in the world to everybody but themselves. Faith, if I wasn't
in love with Antoinette, I believe I'd be in love with her."
"I have no doubt of it," I answered.
"The Vicomtesse is as handsome as a queen this morning," he continued,
paying no heed to this remark. "She has on a linen dress that puzzles
me. It was made to walk among the trees and flowers, it is as simple as
you please; and yet it has a distinction that makes you stare."
"You seem to have stared," I answered. "Since when did you take such
interest in gowns?"
"Bless you, it was Antoinette. I never should have known," said he.
"Antoinette had never before seen the gown, and she asked the Vicomtesse
where she got the pattern. The Vicomtesse said that the gown had been
made by Leonard, a court dressmaker, and it was of the fashion the Queen
had set to wear in the gardens of the Trianon when simplicity became the
craze. Antoinette is to have it copied, so she says."
Which proved that Antoinette was human, after all, and happy once more.
"Hang it," said Nick, "she paid more attention to that gown than to me.
Good-by, Davy. Obey the--the Colonel."
"Is--is not the Vicomtesse going with you?" I asked
"No, I'm sorry for you," he called back from the gallery.
He had need to be, for I fell into as great a fright as ever I had had in
my life. Monsieur de St. Gre knocked at the door and startled me out of
my wits. Hearing that I was awake, he had come in person to make his
excuses for leaving me that morning.
"Bon Dieu!" he said, looking at me, "the country has done you good
already. Behold a marvel! Au revoir, David."
I heard the horses being brought around, and laughter and voices. How
easily I distinguished hers! Then I heard the hoof-beats on the soft
dirt of the drive. Then silence,--the silence of a summer morning which
is all myriad sweet sounds. Then Lindy appeared, starched and turbaned.
"Marse Dave, how you feel dis mawnin'? Yo' 'pears mighty peart, sholy.
Marse Dave, yo' chair is sot on de gallery. Is you ready? I'll fotch
dat yaller nigger, Andre."
"You needn't fetch Andre," I said; "I can walk."
"Lan sakes, Marse Dave, but you is bumptious."
I rose and walked out on the gallery with surprising steadiness. A great
cushioned chair had been placed there and beside it a table with books,
and another chair. I sat down. Lindy looked at me sharply, but I did
not heed her, and presently she retired. The day, still in its early
golden glory, seemed big with prescience. Above, the saffron haze was
lifted, and there was the blue sky. The breeze held its breath; the
fragrance of grass and fruit and flowers, of the shrub that vied with
all, languished on the air. Out of these things she came.
I knew that she was coming, but I saw her first at the gallery's end, the
roses she held red against the white linen of her gown. Then I felt a
great yearning and a great dread. I have seen many of her kind since,
and none reflected so truly as she the life of the old regime. Her
dress, her carriage, her air, all suggested it; and she might, as Nick
said, have been walking in the gardens of the Trianon. Titles I cared
nothing for. Hers alone seemed real, to put her far above me. Had all
who bore them been as worthy, titles would have meant much to mankind.
She was coming swiftly. I rose to my feet before her. I believe I
should have risen in death. And then she was standing beside me, looking
up into my face.
"You must not do that," she said, "or I will go away."
I sat down again. She went to the door and called, I following her with
my eyes. Lindy came with a bowl of water.
"Put it on the table," said the Vicomtesse.
Lindy put the bowl on the table, gave us a glance, and departed silently.
The Vicomtesse began to arrange the flowers in the bowl, and I watched
her, fascinated by her movements. She did everything quickly, deftly,
but this matter took an unconscionable time. She did not so much as
glance at me. She seemed to have forgotten my presence.
"There," she said at last, giving them a final touch. "You are less
talkative, if anything, than usual this morning, Mr. Ritchie. You have
not said good morning, you have not told me how you were--you have not
even thanked me for the roses. One might almost believe that you are
sorry to come to Les Iles."
"One might believe anything who didn't know, Madame la Vicomtesse."
She put her hand to the flowers again.
"It seems a pity to pick them, even in a good cause," she said.
She was so near me that I could have touched her. A weakness seized me,
and speech was farther away than ever. She moved, she sat down and
looked at me, and the kind of mocking smile came into her eyes that I
knew was the forerunner of raillery.
"There is a statue in the gardens of Versailles which seems always about
to speak, and then to think better of it. You remind me of that statue,
Mr. Ritchie. It is the statue of Wisdom."
What did she mean?
"Wisdom knows the limitations of its own worth, Madame," I replied.
"It is the one particular in which I should have thought wisdom was
lacking," she said. "You have a tongue, if you will deign to use it. Or
shall I read to you?" she added quickly, picking up a book. "I have read
to the Queen, when Madame Campan was tired. Her Majesty poor dear lady,
did me the honor to say she liked my English."
"You have done everything, Madame," I said.
"I have read to a Queen, to a King's sister, but never yet--to a King,"
she said, opening the book and giving me the briefest of glances. "You
are all kings in America are you not? What shall I read?"
"I would rather have you talk to me."
"Very well, I will tell you how the Queen spoke English. No, I will not
do that," she said, a swift expression of sadness passing over her face.
"I will never mock her again. She was a good sovereign and a brave woman
and I loved her." She was silent a moment, and I thought there was a
great weariness in her voice when she spoke again. "I have every reason
to thank God when I think of the terrors I escaped, of the friends I have
found. And yet I am an unhappy woman, Mr. Ritchie."
"You are unhappy when you are not doing things for others, Madame," I
"I am a discontented woman," she said; "I always have been. And I am
unhappy when I think of all those who were dear to me and whom I loved.
Many are dead, and many are scattered and homeless."
"I have often thought of your sorrows, Madame," I said.
"Which reminds me that I should not burden you with them, my good friend,
when you are recovering. Do you know that you have been very near to
"I know, Madame," I faltered. "I know that had it not been for you I
should not be alive to-day. I know that you risked your life to save my
She did not answer at once, and when I looked at her she was gazing out
over the flowers on the lawn.
"My life did not matter," she said. "Let us not talk of that."
I might have answered, but I dared not speak for fear of saying what was
in my heart. And while I trembled with the repression of it, she was
changed. She turned her face towards me and smiled a little.
"If you had obeyed me you would not have been so ill," she said.
"Then I am glad that I did not obey you."
"Your cousin, the irrepressible Mr. Temple, says I am a tyrant. Come
now, do you think me a tyrant?"
"He has also said other things of you."
"What other things?"
I blushed at my own boldness.
"He said that if he were not in love with Antoinette, he would be in love
"A very safe compliment," said the Vicomtesse. "Indeed, it sounds too
cautious for Mr. Temple. You must have tampered with it, Mr. Ritchie,"
she flashed. "Mr. Temple is a boy. He needs discipline. He will have
too easy a time with Antoinette."
"He is not the sort of man you should marry," I said, and sat amazed at
She looked at me strangely.
"No, he is not," she answered. "He is more or less the sort of man I
have been thrown with all my life. They toil not, neither do they spin.
I know you will not misunderstand me, for I am very fond of him. Mr.
Temple is honest, fearless, lovable, and of good instincts. One cannot
say as much for the rest of his type. They go through life fighting,
gaming, horse-racing, riding to hounds,--I have often thought that it was
no wonder our privileges came to an end. So many of us were steeped in
selfishness and vice, were a burden on the world. The early nobles, with
all their crimes, were men who carved their way. Of such were the lords
of the Marches. We toyed with politics, with simplicity, we wasted the
land, we played cards as our coaches passed through famine-stricken
villages. The reckoning came. Our punishment was not given into the
hands of the bourgeois, who would have dealt justly, but to the scum, the
canaille, the demons of the earth. Had our King, had our nobility, been
men with the old fire, they would not have stood it. They were worn out
with centuries of catering to themselves. Give me a man who will shape
his life and live it with all his strength. I am tired of sham and
pretence, of cynical wit, of mocking at the real things of life, of
pride, vain-glory, and hypocrisy. Give me a man whose existence means
Was she thinking of the Englishman of whom she had spoken? Delicacy
forbade my asking the question. He had been a man, according to her own
testimony. Where was he now? Her voice had a ring of earnestness in it
I had never heard before, and this arraignment of her own life and of her
old friends surprised me. Now she seemed lost in a revery, from which I
forebore to arouse her.
"I have often tried to picture your life," I said at last.
"You?" she answered, turning her head quickly.
"Ever since I first saw the miniature," I said. "Monsieur de St. Gre
told me some things, and afterwards I read 'Le Mariage de Figaro,' and
some novels, and some memoirs of the old courts which I got in
Philadelphia last winter. I used to think of you as I rode over the
mountains, as I sat reading in my room of an evening. I used to picture
you in the palaces amusing the Queen and making the Cardinals laugh. And
then I used to wonder--what became of you--and whether--" I hesitated,
overwhelmed by a sudden confusion, for she was gazing at me fixedly with
a look I did not understand.
"You used to think of that?" she said.
"I never thought to see you," I answered.
Laughter came into her eyes, and I knew that I had not vexed her. But I
had spoken stupidly, and I reddened.
"I had a quick tongue," she said, as though to cover my confusion. "I
have it yet. In those days misfortune had not curbed it. I had not
learned to be charitable. When I was a child I used to ride with my
father to the hunts at St. Gre, and I was too ready to pick out the
weaknesses of his guests. If one of the company had a trick or a
mannerism, I never failed to catch it. People used to ask me what I
thought of such and such a person, and that was bad for me. I saw their
failings and pretensions, but I ignored my own. It was the same at
Abbaye aux Bois, the convent where I was taught. When I was presented to
her Majesty I saw why people hated her. They did not understand her.
She was a woman with a large heart, with charity. Some did not suspect
this, others forgot it because they beheld a brilliant personage with
keen perceptions who would not submit to being bored. Her Majesty made
many enemies at court of persons who believed she was making fun of them.
There was a dress-maker at the French court called Mademoiselle Bertin,
who became ridiculously pretentious because the Queen allowed the woman
to dress her hair in private. Bertin used to put on airs with the
nobility when they came to order gowns, and she was very rude to me when
I went for my court dress. There was a ball at Versailles the day I was
presented, and my father told me that her Majesty wished to speak with
me. I was very much frightened. The Queen was standing with her back to
the mirror, the Duchesse de Polignac and some other ladies beside her,
when my father brought me up, and her Majesty was smiling.
"'What did you say to Bertin, Mademoiselle?' she asked.
"I was more frightened than ever, but the remembrance of the woman's
impudence got the better of me.
"'I told her that in dressing your Majesty's hair she had acquired all
the court accomplishments but one.'
"'I'll warrant that Bertin was curious,' said the Queen.
"'She was, your Majesty.'
"'What is the accomplishment she lacks?' the Queen demanded; 'I should
like to know it myself.'
"It is discrimination, your Majesty. I told the woman there were some
people she could be rude to with impunity. I was not one of them.'
"'She'll never be rude to you again, Mademoiselle,' said the Queen.
"'I am sure of it, your Majesty,' I said.
"The Queen laughed, and bade the Duchesse de Polignac invite me to supper
that evening. My father was delighted,--I was more frightened than ever.
But the party was small, her Majesty was very gracious and spoke to me
often, and I saw that above all things she liked to be amused. Poor
lady! It was a year after that terrible affair of the necklace, and she
wished to be distracted from thinking of the calumnies which were being
heaped upon her. She used to send for me often during the years that
followed, and I might have had a place at court near her person. But my
father was sensible enough to advise me not to accept,--if I could refuse
without offending her Majesty. The Queen was not offended; she was good
enough to say that I was wise in my request. She had, indeed, abolished
most of the ridiculous etiquette of the court. She would not eat in
public, she would not be followed around the palace by ladies in court
gowns, she would not have her ladies in the room when she was dressing.
If she wished a mirror, she would not wait for it to be passed through
half a dozen hands and handed her by a Princess of the Blood. Sometimes
she used to summon me to amuse her and walk with me by the water in the
beautiful gardens of the Petit Triano. I used to imitate the people she
disliked. I disliked them, too. I have seen her laugh until the tears
came into her eyes when I talked of Monsieur Necker. As the dark days
drew nearer I loved more and more to be in the seclusion of the country
at Montmery, at the St. Gre of my girlhood. I can see St. Gre now," said
the Vicomtesse, "the thatched houses of the little village on either side
of the high-road, the honest, red-faced peasants courtesying in their
doorways at our berline, the brick wall of the park, the iron gates
beside the lodge, the long avenue of poplars, the deer feeding in the
beechwood, the bridge over the shining stream and the long,
weather-beaten chateau beyond it. Paris and the muttering of the storm
were far away. The mornings on the sunny terrace looking across the
valley to the blue hills, the walks in the village, grew very dear to me.
We do not know the value of things, Mr. Ritchie, until we are about to
"You did not go back to court?" I asked.
"Yes, I went back. I thought it my duty. I was at Versailles that
terrible summer when the States General met, when the National Assembly
grew out of it, when the Bastille was stormed, when the King was throwing
away his prerogatives like confetti. Never did the gardens of the
Trianon seem more beautiful, or more sad. Sometimes the Queen would
laugh even then when I mimicked Bailly, Des Moulins, Mirabeau. I was
with her Majesty in the gardens on that dark, rainy day when the
fishwomen came to Versailles. The memory of that night will haunt me as
long as I live. The wind howled, the rain lashed with fury against the
windows, the mob tore through the streets of the town, sacked the
wine-shops, built great fires at the corners. Before the day dawned
again the furies had broken into the palace and murdered what was left of
the Guard. You have heard how they carried off the King and Queen to
Paris--how they bore the heads of the soldiers on their pikes. I saw it
from a window, and I shall never forget it."
Her voice faltered, and there were tears on her lashes. Some quality in
her narration brought before me so vividly the scenes of which she spoke
that I started when she had finished. There was much more I would have
known, but I could not press her to speak longer on a subject that gave
her pain. At that moment she seemed more distant to me than ever before.
She rose, went into the house, and left me thinking of the presumptions
of the hopes I had dared to entertain, left me picturing sadly the
existence of which she had spoken. Why had she told me of it? Perchance
she had thought to do me a kindness!
She came back to me--I had not thought she would. She sat down with her
embroidery in her lap, and for some moments busied herself with it in
silence. Then she said, without looking up:--
"I do not know why I have tired you with this, why I have saddened
myself. It is past and gone."
"I was not tired, Madame. It is very difficult to live in the present
when the past has been so brilliant," I answered.
"So brilliant!" She sighed. "So thoughtless,--I think that is the
sharpest regret." I watched her fingers as they stitched, wondering how
they could work so rapidly. At last she said in a low voice, "Antoinette
and Mr. Temple have told me something of your life, Mr. Ritchie."
"It has been very humble," I replied.
"What I heard was--interesting to me," she said, turning over her frame.
"Will you not tell me something of it?"
"Gladly, Madame, if that is the case," I answered.
"Well, then," she said, "why don't you?"
"I do not know which part you would like, Madame. Shall I tell you about
Colonel Clark? I do not know when to begin--"
She dropped her sewing in her lap and looked up at me quickly.
"I told you that you were a strange man," she said. "I almost lose
patience with you. No, don't tell me about Colonel Clark--at least not
until you come to him. Begin at the beginning, at the cabin in the
"You want the whole of it!" I exclaimed.
She picked up her embroidery again and bent over it with a smile.
"Yes, I want the whole of it."
So I began at the cabin in the mountains. I cannot say that I ever
forgot she was listening, but I lost myself in the narrative. It
presented to me, for the first time, many aspects that I had not thought
of. For instance, that I should be here now in Louisiana telling it to
one who had been the companion and friend of the Queen of France. Once
in a while the Vicomtesse would look up at me swiftly, when I paused, and
then go on with her work again. I told her of Temple Bow, and how I had
run away; of Polly Ann and Tom, of the Wilderness Trail and how I shot
Cutcheon, of the fight at Crab Orchard, of the life in Kentucky, of Clark
and his campaign. Of my doings since; how I had found Nick and how he
had come to New Orleans with me; of my life as a lawyer in Louisville, of
the conventions I had been to. The morning wore on to midday, and I told
her more than I believed it possible to tell any one. When at last I had
finished a fear grew upon me that I had told her too much. Her fingers
still stitched, her head was bent and I could not see her face,--only the
knot of her hair coiled with an art that struck me suddenly. Then she
spoke, and her voice was very low.
"I love Polly Ann," she said; "I should like to know her."
"I wish that you could know her," I answered, quickening.
She raised her head, and looked at me with an expression that was not a
smile. I could not say what it was, or what it meant.
"I do not think you are stupid," she said, in the same tone, "but I do
not believe you know how remarkable your life has been. I can scarcely
realize that you have seen all this, have done all this, have felt all
this. You are a lawyer, a man of affairs, and yet you could guide me
over the hidden paths of half a continent. You know the mountain ranges,
the passes, the rivers, the fords, the forest trails, the towns and the
men who made them!" She picked up her sewing and bent over it once more.
"And yet you did not think that this would interest me."
Perchance it was a subtle summons in her voice I heard that bade me open
the flood-gates of my heart,--I know not. I know only that no power on
earth could have held me silent then.
"Helene!" I said, and stopped. My heart beat so wildly that I could hear
it. "I do not know why I should dare to think of you, to look up to
you--Helene, I love you, I shall love you till I die. I love you with
all the strength that is in me, with all my soul. You know it, and if
you did not I could hide it no more. As long as I live there will never
be another woman in the world for me. I love you. You will forgive me
because of the torture I have suffered, because of the pain I shall
suffer when I think of you in the years to come."
Her sewing dropped to her lap--to the floor. She looked at me, and the
light which I saw in her eyes flooded my soul with a joy beyond my
belief. I trembled with a wonder that benumbed me. I would have got to
my feet had she not come to me swiftly, that I might not rise. She stood
above me, I lifted up my arms; she bent to me with a movement that
conferred a priceless thing.
"David," she said, "could you not tell that I loved you, that you were he
who has been in my mind for so many years, and in my heart since I saw
"I could not tell," I said. "I dared not think it. I--I thought there
She was seated on the arm of my chair. She drew back her head with a
smile trembling on her lips, with a lustre burning in her eyes like a
vigil--a vigil for me.
"He reminded me of you," she answered.
I was lost in sheer, bewildering happiness. And she who created it, who
herself was that happiness, roused me from it.
"What are you thinking?" she asked.
"I was thinking that a star has fallen,--that I may have a jewel beyond
other men," I said.
"And a star has risen for me," she said, "that I may have a guide beyond
"Then it is you who have raised it, Helene." I was silent a moment,
trying again to bring the matter within my grasp. "Do you mean that you
love me, that you will marry me, that you will come back to Kentucky with
me and will be content,--you, who have been the companion of a Queen?"
There came an archness into her look that inflamed me the more.
"I, who have been the companion of a Queen, love you, will marry you,
will go back to Kentucky with you and be content," she repeated. "And
yet not I, David, but another woman--a happy woman. You shall be my
refuge, my strength, my guide. You will lead me over the mountains and
through the wilderness by the paths you know. You will bring me to Polly
Ann that I may thank her for the gift of you,--above all other gifts in
I was silent again.
"Helene," I said at last, "will you give me the miniature?"
"On one condition," she replied.
"Yes," I said, "yes. And again yes. What is it?"
"That you will obey me--sometimes."
"It is a privilege I long for," I answered.
"You did not begin with promise," she said.
I released her hand, and she drew the ivory from her gown and gave it me.
I kissed it.
"I will go to Monsieur Isadore's and get the frame," I said.
"When I give you permission," said Helene, gently.
I have written this story for her eyes.
AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF A MAN
Out of the blood and ashes of France a Man had arisen who moved real
kings and queens on his chess-board--which was a large part of the
world. The Man was Napoleon Buonaparte, at present, for lack of a better
name, First Consul of the French Republic. The Man's eye, sweeping the
world for a new plaything, had rested upon one which had excited the
fancy of lesser adventurers, of one John Law, for instance. It was a
large, unwieldy plaything indeed, and remote. It was nothing less than
that vast and mysterious country which lay beyond the monster yellow
River of the Wilderness, the country bordered on the south by the Gulf
swamps, on the north by no man knew what forests,--as dark as those the
Romans found in Gaul,--on the west by a line which other generations
might be left to settle.
This land was Louisiana.
A future king of France, while an emigre, had been to Louisiana. This is
merely an interesting fact worth noting. It was not interesting to
Napoleon, by dint of certain screws which he tightened on his Catholic
Majesty, King Charles of Spain, in the Treaty of San Ildefonso on the 1st
of October, 1800, got his plaything. Louisiana was French
again,--whatever French was in those days. The treaty was a profound
secret. But secrets leak out, even the profoundest; and this was wafted
across the English Channel to the ears of Mr. Rufus King, American
Minister at London, who wrote of it to one Thomas Jefferson, President of
the United States. Mr. Jefferson was interested, not to say alarmed.
Mr. Robert Livingston was about to depart on his mission from the little
Republic of America to the great Republic of France. Mr. Livingston was
told not to make himself disagreeable, but to protest. If Spain was to
give up the plaything, the Youngest Child among the Nations ought to have
it. It lay at her doors, it was necessary for her growth.
Mr. Livingston arrived in France to find that Louisiana was a mere pawn
on the chess-board, the Republic he represented little more. He
protested, and the great Talleyrand shrugged his shoulders. What was
Monsieur talking about? A treaty. What treaty? A treaty with Spain
ceding back Louisiana to France after forty years. Who said there was
such a treaty? Did Monsieur take snuff? Would Monsieur call again when
the Minister was less busy?
Monsieur did call again, taking care not to make himself disagreeable.
He was offered snuff. He called again, pleasantly. He was offered
snuff. He called again. The great Talleyrand laughed. He was always so
happy to see Monsieur when he (Talleyrand) was not busy. He would give
Monsieur a certificate of importunity. He had quite forgotten what
Monsieur was talking about on former occasions. Oh, yes, a treaty.
Well, suppose there was such a treaty, what then?
What then? Mr. Livingston, the agreeable but importunate, went home and
wrote a memorial, and was presently assured that the inaccessible Man who
was called First Consul had read it with interest--great interest. Mr.
Livingston did not cease to indulge in his enjoyable visits to
Talleyrand--not he. But in the intervals he sat down to think.
What did the inaccessible Man himself have in his mind?
The Man had been considering the Anglo-Saxon race, and in particular that
portion of it which inhabited the Western Hemisphere. He perceived that
they were a quarrelsome people, which possessed the lust for land and
conquest like the rest of their blood. He saw with astonishment
something that had happened, something that they had done. Unperceived
by the world, in five and twenty years they had swept across a thousand
miles of mountain and forest wilderness in ever increasing thousands, had
beaten the fiercest of savage tribes before them, stolidly unmindful of
their dead. They had come at length to the great yellow River, and
finding it closed had cried aloud in their anger. What was beyond it to
stop them? Spain, with a handful of subjects inherited from the France
of Louis the Fifteenth.
Could Spain stop them? No. But he, the Man, would stop them. He would
raise up in Louisiana as a monument to himself a daughter of France to
curb their ambition. America should not be all Anglo-Saxon.
Already the Americans had compelled Spain to open the River. How long
before they would overrun Louisiana itself, until a Frenchman or a
Spaniard could scarce be found in the land?
Sadly, in accordance with the treaty which Monsieur Talleyrand had known
nothing about, his Catholic Majesty instructed his Intendant at New
Orleans to make ready to deliver Louisiana to the French Commission.
That was in July, 1802. This was not exactly an order to close the River
again--in fact, his Majesty said nothing about closing the River. Mark
the reasoning of the Spanish mind. The Intendant closed the River as his
plain duty. And Kentucky and Tennessee, wayward, belligerent infants who
had outgrown their swaddling clothes, were heard from again. The Nation
had learned to listen to them. The Nation was very angry. Mr. Hamilton
and the Federalists and many others would have gone to war and seized the
Mr. Jefferson said, "Wait and see what his Catholic Majesty has to say."
Mr. Jefferson was a man of great wisdom, albeit he had mistaken
Jacobinism for something else when he was younger. And he knew that
Napoleon could not play chess in the wind. The wind was rising.
Mr. Livingston was a patriot, able, importunate, but getting on in years
and a little hard of hearing. Importunity without an Army and a Navy
behind it is not effective--especially when there is no wind. But Mr.
Jefferson heard the wind rising, and he sent Mr. Monroe to Mr.
Livingston's aid. Mr. Monroe was young, witty, lively, popular with
people he met. He, too, heard the wind rising, and so now did Mr.
The ships containing the advance guard of the colonists destined for the
new Louisiana lay in the roads at Dunkirk, their anchors ready to
weigh,--three thousand men, three thousand horses, for the Man did things
on a large scale. The anchors were not weighed.
His Catholic Majesty sent word from Spain to Mr. Jefferson that he was
sorry his Intendant had been so foolish. The River was opened again.
The Treaty of Amiens was a poor wind-shield. It blew down, and the
chessmen began to totter. One George of England, noted for his frugal
table and his quarrelsome disposition, who had previously fought with
France, began to call the Man names. The Man called George names, and
sat down to think quickly. George could not be said to be on the best of
terms with his American relations, but the Anglo-Saxon is unsentimental,
phlegmatic, setting money and trade and lands above ideals. George meant
to go to war again. Napoleon also meant to go to war again. But George
meant to go to war again right away, which was inconvenient and
inconsiderate, for Napoleon had not finished his game of chess. The
obvious outcome of the situation was that George with his Navy would get
Louisiana, or else help his relations to get it. In either case
Louisiana would become Anglo-Saxon.
This was the wind which Mr. Jefferson had heard.
The Man, being a genius who let go gracefully when he had to, decided
between two bad bargains. He would sell Louisiana to the Americans as a
favor; they would be very, very grateful, and they would go on hating
George. Moreover, he would have all the more money with which to fight
The inaccessible Man suddenly became accessible. Nay, he became
gracious, smiling, full of loving-kindness, charitable. Certain
dickerings followed by a bargain passed between the American Minister and
Monsieur Barbe-Marbois. Then Mr. Livingston and Mr. Monroe dined with
the hitherto inaccessible. And the Man, after the manner of Continental
Personages, asked questions. Frederick the Great has started this
fashion, and many have imitated it.
Louisiana became American at last. Whether by destiny or chance, whether
by the wisdom of Jefferson or the necessity of Napoleon, who can say? It
seems to me, David Ritchie, writing many years after the closing words of
the last chapter were penned, that it was ours inevitably. For I have
seen and known and loved the people with all their crudities and faults,
whose inheritance it was by right of toil and suffering and blood.
And I, David Ritchie, saw the flags of three nations waving over it in
the space of two days. And it came to pass in this wise.
Rumors of these things which I have told above had filled Kentucky from
time to time, and in November of 1803 there came across the mountains the
news that the Senate of the United States had ratified the treaty between
our ministers and Napoleon.
I will not mention here what my life had become, what my fortune, save to
say that both had been far beyond my expectations. In worldly goods and
honors, in the respect and esteem of my fellow-men, I had been happy
indeed. But I had been blessed above other men by one whose power it was
to lift me above the mean and sordid things of this world.
Many times in the pursuit of my affairs I journeyed over that country
which I had known when it belonged to the Indian and the deer and the elk
and the wolf and the buffalo. Often did she ride by my side, making
light of the hardships which, indeed, were no hardships to her, wondering
at the settlements which had sprung up like magic in the wilderness,
which were the heralds of the greatness of the Republic,--her country
So, in the bright and boisterous March weather of the year 1804, we found
ourselves riding together along the way made memorable by the footsteps
of Clark and his backwoodsmen. For I had an errand in St. Louis with
Colonel Chouteau. A subtle change had come upon Kaskaskia with the new
blood which was flowing into it: we passed Cahokia, full of memories to
the drummer boy whom she loved. There was the church, the garrison, the
stream, and the little house where my Colonel and I had lived together.
She must see them all, she must hear the story from my lips again; and
the telling of it to her gave it a new fire and a new life.
At evening, when the March wind had torn the cotton clouds to shreds, we
stood on the Mississippi's bank, gazing at the western shore, at
Louisiana. The low, forest-clad hills made a black band against the sky,
and above the band hung the sun, a red ball. He was setting, and man
might look upon his face without fear. The sight of the waters of that
river stirred me to think of many things. What had God in store for the
vast land out of which the waters flowed? Had He, indeed, saved it for a
People, a People to be drawn from all nations, from all classes? Was the
principle of the Republic to prevail and spread and change the complexion
of the world? Or were the lusts of greed and power to increase until in
the end they had swallowed the leaven? Who could say? What man of those
who, soberly, had put his hand to the Paper which declared the
opportunities of generations to come, could measure the Force which he
had helped to set in motion.
We crossed the river to the village where I had been so kindly received
many years ago--to St. Louis. The place was little changed. The wind
was stilled, the blue wood smoke curled lazily from the wide stone
chimneys of the houses nestling against the hill. The afterglow was
fading into night; lights twinkled in the windows. Followed by our
servants we climbed the bank, Helene and I, and walked the quiet streets
bordered by palings. The evening was chill. We passed a bright cabaret
from which came the sound of many voices; in the blacksmith's shop
another group was gathered, and we saw faces eager in the red light.
They were talking of the Cession.
We passed that place where Nick had stopped Suzanne in the cart, and
laughed at the remembrance. We came to Monsieur Gratiot's, for he had
bidden us to stay with him. And with Madame he gave us a welcome to warm
our hearts after our journey.
"David," he said, "I have seen many strange things happen in my life, but
the strangest of all is that Clark's drummer boy should have married a
Vicomtesse of the old regime."
And she was ever Madame la Vicomtesse to our good friends in St. Louis,
for she was a woman to whom a title came as by nature's right.
"And you are about to behold another strange thing David," Monsieur
Gratiot continued. "To-day you are on French territory."
"French territory!" I exclaimed.
"To-day Upper Louisiana is French," he answered. "To-morrow it will be
American forever. This morning Captain Stoddard of the United States
Army, empowered to act as a Commissioner of the French Republic, arrived
with Captain Lewis and a guard of American troops. Today, at noon, the
flag of Spain was lowered from the staff at the headquarters. To-night a
guard of honor watches with the French Tricolor, and we are French for
the last time. To-morrow we shall be Americans."
I saw that simple ceremony. The little company of soldiers was drawn up
before the low stone headquarters, the villagers with heads uncovered
gathered round about. I saw the Stars and Stripes rising, the Tricolor
setting. They met midway on the staff, hung together for a space, and a
salute to the two nations echoed among the hills across the waters of the
great River that rolled impassive by.
This book has been named "The Crossing" because I have tried to express
in it the beginnings of that great movement across the mountains which
swept resistless over the Continent until at last it saw the Pacific
itself. The Crossing was the first instinctive reaching out of an infant
nation which was one day to become a giant. No annals in the world's
history are more wonderful than the story of the conquest of Kentucky and
Tennessee by the pioneers.
This name, "The Crossing," is likewise typical in another sense. The
political faith of our forefathers, of which the Constitution is the
creed, was made to fit a more or less homogeneous body of people who
proved that they knew the meaning of the word "Liberty." By Liberty, our
forefathers meant the Duty as well as the Right of man to govern himself.
The Constitution amply attests the greatness of its authors, but it was a
compromise. It was an attempt to satisfy thirteen colonies, each of
which clung tenaciously to its identity. It suited the
eighteenth-century conditions of a little English-speaking confederacy
along the seaboard, far removed from the world's strife and jealousy. It
scarcely contemplated that the harassed millions of Europe would flock to
its fold, and it did not foresee that, in less than a hundred years, its
own citizens would sweep across the three thousand miles of forest and
plain and mountain to the Western Ocean, absorb French and Spanish
Louisiana, Spanish Texas, Mexico, and California, fill this land with
broad farmsteads and populous cities, cover it with a network of
Would the Constitution, made to meet the needs of the little confederacy
of the seaboard, stretch over a Continent and an Empire?
We are fighting out that question to-day. But The Crossing was in Daniel
Boone's time, in George Rogers Clark's. Would the Constitution stand the
strain? And will it stand the strain now that the once remote haven of
the oppressed has become a world-power?
It was a difficult task in a novel to gather the elements necessary to
picture this movement: the territory was vast, the types bewildering.
The lonely mountain cabin; the seigniorial life of the tide-water; the
foothills and mountains which the Scotch-Irish have marked for their own
to this day; the Wilderness Trail; the wonderland of Kentucky, and the
cruel fighting in the border forts there against the most relentless of
foes; George Rogers Clark and his momentous campaign which gave to the
Republic Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; the transition period--the coming
of the settler after the pioneer; Louisiana, St. Louis, and New
Orleans,--to cover this ground, to picture the passions and politics of
the time, to bring the counter influence of the French Revolution as near
as possible to reality, has been a three years' task. The autobiography
of David Ritchie is as near as I can get to its solution, and I have a
great sense of its incompleteness.
I had hoped when I planned the series to bring down this novel through
the stirring period which ended, by a chance, when a steamboat brought
supplies to Jackson's army in New Orleans--the beginning of the era of
steam commerce on our Western waters. This work will have to be reserved
for a future time.
I have tried to give a true history of Clark's campaign as seen by an
eyewitness, trammelled as little as possible by romance. Elsewhere, as I
look back through these pages, I feel as though the soil had only been
scraped. What principality in the world has the story to rival that of
John Sevier and the State of Franklin? I have tried to tell the truth as
I went along. General Jackson was a boy at the Waxhaws and dug his toes
in the red mud. He was a man at Jonesboro, and tradition says that he
fought with a fence-rail. Sevier was captured as narrated. Monsieur
Gratiot, Monsieur Vigo, and Father Gibault lost the money which they gave
to Clark and their country. Monsieur Vigo actually travelled in the
state which Davy describes when he went down the river with him.
Monsieur Gratiot and Colonel Auguste Chouteau and Madame Chouteau are
names so well known in St. Louis that it is superfluous to say that such
persons existed and were the foremost citizens of the community.
Among the many to whom my apologies and thanks are due is Mr. Pierre
Chouteau of St. Louis, whose unremitting labors have preserved and
perpetuated the history and traditions of the country of his ancestors.
I would that I had been better able to picture the character, the
courage, the ability, and patriotism of the French who settled Louisiana.
The Republic owes them much, and their descendants are to-day among the
stanchest preservers of her ideals.