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The Last Hope by Henry Seton Merriman

Part 6 out of 6

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"Don't call it hard names," put in Dormer Colville, generously. "It was
not a failure."

"Call it a temporary suspension of payment, then," agreed the banker,
imperturbably. "If it had not been for that, half your fortune would have
been goodness knows where by now. You wanted to put it into some big
speculation in this country, if I remember aright. And big speculations
in France are the very devil just now. Whereas, now, you see, it is all
safe and you can invest it in the beginning of next year in some good
English securities. It seems providential, does it not?"

He rose as he spoke and held out his hand to say good-bye. He asked the
question of Colville's necktie, apparently, for he smiled stupidly at it.

"Well, I do not understand business after all, I admit that," Mrs. St.
Pierre Lawrence called out gaily to him as he went toward the door. "I do
not understand things at all."

"No, and I don't suppose you ever will," Turner replied as he followed
the servant into the corridor.



Loo Barebone went back to the Chateau de Gemosac after those travels in
Provence which terminated so oddly on board "The Last Hope," at anchor in
the Garonne River.

The Marquis received him with enthusiasm and a spirit of optimism which
age could not dim.

"Everything is going _a merveille!_" he cried. "In three months we shall
be ready to strike our blow--to make our great _coup_ for France. The
failure of Turner's bank was a severe check, I admit, and for a moment I
was in despair. But now we are sure that we shall have the money for
Albert de Chantonnay's Beauvoir estate by the middle of January. The
death of Madame la Duchesse was a misfortune. If we could have persuaded
her to receive you--your face would have done the rest, mon ami--we
should have been invincible. But she was broken, that poor lady. Think of
her life! Few women would have survived half of the troubles that she
carried on those proud shoulders from childhood."

They were sitting in the little salon in the building that adjoined the
gate-house of Gemosac, of which the stone stairs must have rung beneath
the red spurs of fighting men; of which the walls were dented still with
the mark of arms.

Barebone had given an account of his journey, which had been carried
through without difficulty. Everywhere success had waited upon
him--enthusiasm had marked his passage. In returning to France, he had
stolen a march on his enemies, for nothing seemed to indicate that his
presence in the country was known to them.

"I tell you," the Marquis explained, "that he has his hands full--that
man in Paris. It is only a month since he changed his ministry. Who is
this St. Arnaud, his Minister of War? Who is Maupas, his Prefect of
Police? Does Monsieur Manpas know that we are nearly ready for our
_coup?_ Bah! Tell me nothing of that sort, gentlemen."

And this was the universally accepted opinion at this time, of Louis
Bonaparte the President of a tottering Republic, divided against itself;
a dull man, at his wits' end. For months, all Europe had been turning
an inquiring and watchful eye on France. Socialism was rampant. Secret
societies honeycombed the community. There was some danger in the
air--men knew not what. Catastrophe was imminent, and none knew where to
look for its approach. But all thought that it must come at the end of
the year. A sort of panic took hold of all classes. They dreaded the
end of 1851.

The Marquis de Gemosac spoke openly of these things before Juliette. She
had been present when Loo and he talked together of this last journey, so
happily accomplished, so fruitful of result. And Loo did not tell the
Marquis that he had seen his old ship, "The Last Hope," in the river at
Bordeaux, and had gone on board of her.

Juliette listened, as she worked, beneath the lamp at the table in the
middle of the room. The lace-work she had brought from the convent-school
was not finished yet. It was exquisitely fine and delicate, and Juliette
executed the most difficult patterns with a sort of careless ease.
Sometimes, when the Marquis was more than usually extravagant in his
anticipations of success, or showed a superlative contempt for his foes,
Juliette glanced at Barebone over her lace-work, but she rarely took part
in the talk when politics were under discussion.

In domestic matters, however, this new chatelaine showed considerable
shrewdness. She was not ignorant of the price of hay, and knew to a cask
how much wine was stored in the vault beneath the old chapel. On these
subjects the Marquis good-humouredly followed her advice sometimes. His
word had always been law in the whole neighbourhood. Was he not the head
of one of the oldest families in France?

"But, _pardieu_, she shows a wisdom quite phenomenal, that little one,"
the Marquis would tell his friends, with a hearty laugh. It was only
natural that he should consider amusing the idea of uniting wisdom and
youth and beauty in one person. It is still a universally accepted law
that old people must be wise and young persons only charming. Some may
think that they could point to a wise child born of foolish parents; to a
daughter who is well-educated and shrewd, possessing a sense of logic,
and a mother who is ignorant and foolish; to a son who has more sense
than his father: but of course such observers must be mistaken. Old
theories must be the right ones. The Marquis had no doubt of this, at all
events, and thought it most amusing that Juliette should establish order
in the chaos of domestic affairs at Gemosac.

"You are grave," said Juliette to Barebone, one evening soon after his
return, when they happened to be alone in the little drawing-room.
Barebone was, in fact, not a lively companion; for he had sat staring at
the log-fire for quite three minutes when his eyes might assuredly have
been better employed. "You are grave. Are you thinking of your sins?"

"When I think of those, Mademoiselle, I laugh. It is when I think of you
that I am grave."

"Thank you."

"So I am always grave, you understand."

She glanced quickly, not at him but toward him, and then continued her
lace-making, with the ghost of a smile tilting the corners of her lips.

"It is because I have something to tell you."

"A secret?" she inquired, and she continued to smile, but differently,
and her eyes hardened almost to resentment.

"Yes; a secret. It is a secret only known to two other people in the
world besides myself. And they will never let you know even that they
share it with you, Mademoiselle."

"Then they are not women," she said, with a sudden laugh. "Tell it to me,
then--your secret."

There had been an odd suggestion of foreknowledge in her manner, as if
she were humouring him by pretending to accept as a secret of vast
importance some news which she had long known--that little air of
patronage which even schoolgirls bestow, at times, upon white-haired men.
It is part of the maternal instinct. But this vanished when she heard
that she was to share the secret with two men, and she repeated,
impatiently, "Tell me, please."

"It is a secret which will make a difference to us all our lives,
Mademoiselle," he said, warningly. "It will not leave us the same as it
found us. It has made a difference to all who know it. Therefore, I have
only decided to tell you after long consideration. It is, in fact, a
point of honour. It is necessary for you to know, whatever the result may
be. Of that I have no doubt whatever."

He laughed reassuringly, which made her glance at him gravely, almost

"And are you going on telling it to other people, afterward," she
inquired; "to my father, for instance?"

"No, Mademoiselle. It comes to you, and it stops at you. I do not mind
withholding it from your father, and from all the friends who have been
so kind to me in France. I do not mind deceiving kings and emperors,
Mademoiselle, and even the People, which is now always spelt in capital
letters, and must be spoken of with bated breath."

She gave a scornful little laugh, as at the sound of an old jest--the
note of a deathless disdain which was in the air she breathed.

"Not even the newspapers, which are trying to govern France. All that is
a question of politics. But when it comes to you, Mademoiselle, that is a
different matter."


"Yes. It is then a question of love."

Juliette slowly changed colour, but she gave a little gay laugh of
incredulity and bent her head away from the light of the lamp.

"That is a different code of honour altogether," he said, gravely. "A
code one does not wish to tamper with."

"No?" she inquired, with the odd little smile of foreknowledge again.

"No. And, therefore, before I go any farther, I think it best to tell you
that I am not what I am pretending to be. I am pretending to be the son
of the little Dauphin, who escaped from the Temple. He may have escaped
from the Temple; that I don't know. But I know, or at least I think I
know, that he is not buried in Farlingford churchyard and he was not my
father. I can pass as the grandson of Louis XVI; I know that. I can
deceive all the world. I can even climb to the throne of France, perhaps.
There are many, as you know, who think I shall do it without difficulty.
But I do not propose to deceive _you_, Mademoiselle."

There was a short silence, while Loo watched her face. Juliette had not
even changed colour. When she was satisfied that he had nothing more to
add, she looked at him, her needle poised in the air.

"Do you think it matters?" she asked, in a little cool, even voice.

It was so different from what he had expected that, for a moment, he was
taken aback. Captain Clubbe's bluff, uncompromising reception of the same
news had haunted his thoughts. "The square thing," that sailor had said,
"and damn your friends; damn France." Loo looked at Juliette in doubt;
then, suddenly, he understood her point of view; he understood her. He
had learnt to understand a number of people and a number of points of
view during the last twelve months.

"So long as I succeed?" he suggested.

"Yes," she answered, simply. "So long as you succeed, I do not see that
it can matter who you are."

"And if I succeed," pursued Loo, gravely, "will you marry me,

"Oh! I never said that," in a voice that was ready to yield to a really
good argument.

"And if I fail--" Barebone paused for an instant. He still doubted his
own perception. "And if I fail, you would not marry me under any

"I do not think my father would let me," she answered, with her eyes cast
down upon her lace-frame.

Barebone leant forward to put together the logs, which burnt with a white
incandescence that told of a frosty night. The Marquis had business in
the town, and would soon return from the notary's, in time to dress for

"Well," said Loo, over his shoulder, "it is as well to understand each
other, is it not?"

"Yes," she answered, significantly. She ignored the implied sarcasm
altogether. There was so much meaning in her reply that Loo turned to
look at her. She was smiling as she worked.

"Yes," she went on; "you have told me your secret--a secret. But I have
the other, too; the secret you have not told me, _mon ami_. I have had it


"The secret that you do not love me," said Juliette, in her little wise,
even voice; "that you have never loved me. Ah! You think we do not know.
You think that I am too young. But we are never too young to know that,
to know all about it. I think we know it in our cradles."

She spoke with a strange philosophy, far beyond her years. It might have
been Madame de Chantonnay who spoke, with all that lady's vast experience
of life and without any of her folly.

"You think I am pretty. Perhaps I am. Just pretty enough to enable you to
pretend, and you have pretended very well at times. You are good at
pretending, one must conclude. Oh! I bear no ill-will ..."

She broke off and looked at him, with a gay laugh, in which there was
certainly no note of ill-will to be detected.

"But it is as well," she went on, "as you say, that we should understand
each other. Thank you for telling me your secret--the one you have told
me. I am flattered at that mark of your confidence. A woman is always
glad to be told a secret, and immediately begins to anticipate the
pleasure she will take in telling it to others, in confidence."

She looked up for a moment from her work; for Loo had given a short
laugh. She looked, to satisfy herself that it was not the ungenerous
laugh that nine men out of ten would have cast at her; and it was not.
For Loo was looking at her with frank amusement.

"Oh, yes," she said; "I know that, too. It is one of the items not
included in a convent education. It is unnecessary to teach us such
things as that. We know them before we go in. Your secret is safe enough
with me, however--the one you have told me. That is the least I can
promise in return for your confidence. As to the other secret, _bon
Dieu_! we will pretend I do not know it, if you like. At all events, you
can vow that you never told me, if--if ever you are called upon to do

She paused for a moment to finish off a thread. Then, when she reached
out her hand for the reel, she glanced at him with a smile, not unkind.

"So you need not pretend any more, monsieur," she said, seeing that
Barebone was wise enough to keep silence. "I do not know who you are,
_mon ami,_" she went on, in a little burst of confidence; "and, as I told
you just now, I do not care. And, as to that other matter, there is no
ill-will. I only permit myself to wonder, sometimes, if she is pretty.
That is feminine, I suppose. One can be feminine quite young, you

She looked at him with unfathomable eyes and a little smile, such as men
never forget once they have seen it.

"But you were inclined to be ironical just now, when I said I would marry
you if you were successful. So I mention that other secret just to show
that the understanding you wish to arrive at may be mutual--there may be
two sides to it. I hear my father coming. That is his voice at the gate.
We will leave things as they stand: _n'est ce pas?_"

She rose as she spoke and went toward the door. The Marquis's voice was
raised, and there seemed to be some unusual clamour at the gate.



As the Marquis de Gemosac's step was already on the stairs, Barebone was
spared the necessity of agreeing in words to the inevitable.

A moment later the old man hurried into the room. He had not even waited
to remove his coat and gloves. A few snow-flakes powdered his shoulders.

"Ah!" he cried, on perceiving Barebone. "Good--you are safe!" He turned
to speak to some one who was following him up the stairs with the slower
steps of one who knew not his way.

"All is well!" he cried. "He is here. Give yourself no anxiety."

And the second comer crossed the threshold, coming suddenly out of the
shadow of the staircase. It was Dormer Colville, white with snow, his
face grey and worn. He shook hands with Barebone and bowed to Juliette,
but the Marquis gave him no time to speak.

"I go down into the town," he explained, breathlessly. "The streets are
full. There is a crowd on the marketplace, more especially round the
tobacconist's, where the newspapers are to be bought. No newspapers, if
you please. The Paris journals of last Sunday, and this is Friday
evening. Nothing since that. No Bordeaux journal. No news at all from
Paris: absolute silence from Toulouse and Limoges. 'It is another
revolution,' they tell each other. Something has happened and no one
knows what. A man comes up to me and tugs at my sleeve. 'Inside your
walls, Monsieur le Marquis, waste no time,' he whispers, and is gone. He
is some stable-boy. I have seen him somewhere. I! inside my walls! Here
in Gemosac, where I see nothing but bare heads as I walk through the
streets. Name of God! I should laugh at such a precaution. And while I am
still trying to gather information the man comes back to me. 'It is not
the people you have to fear,' he whispers in my ear, 'it is the
Government. The order for your arrest is at the Gendarmerie, for it was I
who took it there. Monsieur Albert was arrested yesterday, and is now in
La Rochelle. Madame de Chantonnay's house is guarded. It is from Madame I
come.' And again he goes. While I am hesitating, I hear the step of a
horse, tired and yet urged to its utmost. It is Dormer Colville, this
faithful friend, who is from Paris in thirty-six hours to warn us. He
shall tell his story himself."

"There is not much to tell," said Colville, in a hollow voice. He looked
round for a chair and sat down rather abruptly. "Louis Bonaparte is
absolute master of France; that is all. He must be so by this time. When
I escaped from Paris yesterday morning nearly all the streets were
barricaded. But the troops were pouring into the city as I rode out--and
artillery. I saw one barricade carried by artillery. Thousands must have
been killed in the streets of Paris yesterday--"

"--And, _bon Dieu!_ it is called a _coup-d'etat_," interrupted the

"That was on Tuesday," explained Colville, in his tired voice--"at six
o'clock on Tuesday morning. Yesterday and Wednesday were days of

"But, my friend," exclaimed the Marquis, impatiently, "tell us how it
happened. You laugh! It is no time to laugh."

"I do not know," replied Colville, with an odd smile. "I think there is
nothing else to be done--it is all so complete. We are all so utterly
fooled by this man whom all the world took to be a dolt. On Tuesday
morning he arrested seventy-eight of the Representatives. When Paris
awoke, the streets had been placarded in the night with the decree of the
President of the Republic. The National Assembly was dissolved. The
Council of State was dissolved. Martial law was declared. And why? He
does not even trouble to give a reason. He has the army at his back. The
soldiers cried '_Vive l'Empereur_' as they charged the crowd on
Wednesday. He has got rid of his opponents by putting them in prison.
Many, it is said, are already on their way to exile in Cayenne; the
prisons are full. There is a warrant out against myself; against you,
Barebone; against you, of course, Monsieur le Marquis. Albert de
Chantonnay was arrested at Tours, and is now in La Rochelle. We may
escape--we may get away to-night--"

He paused and looked hurriedly toward the door, for some one was coming
up the stairs--some one who wore sabots. It was the servant, Marie, who
came unceremoniously into the room with the exaggerated calm of one who
realises the gravity of the situation and means to master it.

"The town is on fire," she explained, curtly; "they have begun on the
Gendarmerie. Doubtless they have heard that these gentlemen are to be
arrested, and it is to give other employment to the gendarmes. But the
cavalry has arrived from Saintes, and I come upstairs to ask Monsieur to
come down and help. It is my husband who is a fool. Holy Virgin! how many
times have I regretted having married such a blockhead as that. He says
he cannot raise the drawbridge. To raise it three feet would be to gain
three hours. So I came to get Monsieur," she pointed at Barebone with a
steady finger, "who has his wits on the top always and two hands at the
end of his arms."

"But it is little use to raise the drawbridge," objected the Marquis.
"They will soon get a ladder and place it against the breach in the wall
and climb in."

"Not if I am on the wall who amuse myself with a hayfork, Monsieur le
Marquis," replied Marie, with that exaggerated respect which implies a
knowledge of mental superiority. She beckoned curtly to Loo and clattered
down the stairs, followed by Barebone. The others did not attempt to go
to their assistance, and the Marquis de Gemosac had a hundred questions
to ask Colville.

The Englishman had little to tell of his own escape. There were so many
more important arrests to be made that the overworked police of Monsieur
de Maupas had only been able to apportion to him a bungler whom Colville
had easily outwitted.

"And Madame St. Pierre Lawrence?" inquired the Marquis.

"Madame quitted Paris on Tuesday for England under the care of John
Turner, who had business in London. He kindly offered to escort her
across the Channel."

"Then she, at all events, is safe," said the Marquis, with a little wave
of the hand indicating his satisfaction. "He is not brilliant, Monsieur
Turner--so few English are--but he is solid, I think."

"I think he is the cleverest man I know," said Dormer Colville,
thoughtfully. And before they had spoken again Loo Barebone returned.

He, like Marie, had grasped at once the serious aspect of the situation,
whereas the Marquis succeeded only in reaching it with a superficial
touch. He prattled of the political crisis in Paris and bade his friends
rest assured that law and order must ultimately prevail. He even seemed
to cherish the comforting assurance that Providence must in the end
interfere on behalf of a Legitimate Succession. For this old noble was
the true son of a father who had believed to the end in that King who
talked grandiloquently of the works of Seneca and Tacitus while driving
from the Temple to his trial, with the mob hooting and yelling
imprecations into the carriage windows.

The Marquis de Gemosac found time to give a polite opinion on John Turner
while the streets of Gemosac were being cleared by the cavalry from
Saintes, and the Gendarmerie, burning briskly, lighted up a scene of

"We have raised the drawbridge a few feet," said Barebone; "but the
chains are rusted and may easily be broken by a blacksmith. It will serve
to delay them a few minutes; but it is not the mob we seek to keep out,
and any organised attempt to break in would succeed in half an hour. We
must go, of course."

He turned to Colville, with whom he had met and faced difficulties in the
past. Colville might easily have escaped to England with Mrs. St. Pierre
Lawrence, but he had chosen the better part. He had undertaken a long
journey through disturbed France only to throw in his lot at the end of
it with two pre-condemned men. Loo turned to him as to one who had proved
himself capable enough in an emergency, brave in face of danger.

"We cannot stay here," he said; "the gates will serve to give us an
hour's start, but no more. I suppose there is another way out of the

"There are two ways," answered the Marquis. "One leads to a house in the
town and the other emerges at the mill down below the walls. But, alas!
both are lost sight of. My ancestors--"

"I know the shorter one," put in Juliette, "the passage that leads to the
mill. I can show you the entrance to that, which is in the crypt of the
chapel, hidden behind the casks of wine."

She spoke to Barebone, only half-concealing, as Marie had done, the fact
that the great respect with which the Marquis de Gemosac was treated was
artificial, and would fall to pieces under the strain of an emergency--a
faint echo of the old regime.

"When you are gone," the girl continued, still addressing Barebone,
"Marie and I can keep them out at least an hour--probably more. We may be
able to keep them outside the walls all night, and when at last they come
in it will take them hours to satisfy themselves that you are not
concealed within the enceinte."

She was quite cool, and even smiled at him with a white face.

"You are always right, Mademoiselle, and have a clear head," said

"But no heart?" she answered in an undertone, under cover of her father's
endless talk to Colville and with a glance which Barebone could not

In a few minutes Dormer Colville pronounced himself ready to go, and
refused to waste further precious minutes in response to Monsieur de
Gemosac's offers of hospitality. No dinner had been prepared, for Marie
had sterner business in hand and could be heard beneath the windows
urging her husband to display a courage superior to that of a rabbit.
Juliette hurried to the kitchen and there prepared a parcel of cold meat
and bread for the fugitives to eat as they fled.

"We might remain hidden in a remote cottage," Barebone had suggested to
Colville, "awaiting the development of events, but our best chance is
'The Last Hope.' She is at Bordeaux, and must be nearly ready for sea."

So it was hurriedly arranged that they should make their way on foot to a
cottage on the marsh while Jean was despatched to Bordeaux with a letter
for Captain Clubbe.

"It is a pity," said Marie, when informed of this plan, "that it is not I
who wear the breeches. But I will make it clear to Jean that if he fails
to carry out his task he need not show his face at the gate again."

The Marquis ran hither and thither, making a hundred suggestions, which
were accepted in the soothing manner adopted toward children. He assured
Juliette that their absence would be of short duration; that there was
indeed no danger, but that he was acceding to the urgent persuasions of
Barebone and Colville, who were perhaps unnecessarily alarmed--who did
not understand how affairs were conducted in France. He felt assured that
law and order must prevail.

"But if they have put Albert de Chantonnay in prison, why should you be
safe?" asked Juliette. To which the Marquis replied with a meaning cackle
that she had a kind heart, and that it was only natural that it should be
occupied at that moment with thoughts of that excellent young man who, in
his turn, was doubtless thinking of her in his cell at La Rochelle.

Which playful allusion to Albert de Chantonnay's pretensions was received
by their object with a calm indifference.

"When Jean returns," she said, practically, "I will send him to you at
the Bremonts' cottage with food and clothing. But you must not attempt to
communicate with us. You would only betray your whereabouts and do no
good to us. We shall be quite safe in the chateau. Marie and I and Madame
Maugiron are not afraid."

At which the Marquis laughed heartily. It was so amusing to think that
one should be young and pretty--and not afraid. In the mean time Barebone
was sealing his letter to Captain Clubbe. He had written it in the
Suffolk dialect, spelling all the words as they are pronounced on that
coast and employing when he could the Danish and Dutch expressions in
daily use on the foreshore, which no French official seeking to translate
could find in any dictionary.

Loo gave his instructions to Jean himself, who received them in a silence
not devoid of intelligence. The man had been round the walls and reported
that nothing stirred beneath them; that there was more than one fire in
the town, and that the streets appeared to be given over to disorder and

"It is assuredly a change in the Government," he explained, simply. "And
there will be many for Monsieur l'Abbe to bury on Sunday."

Jean was to accompany them to the cottage of an old man who had once
lived by ferrying the rare passenger across the Gironde. Having left them
here, he could reach Blaye before daylight, from whence a passage up the
river to Bordeaux would be easily procurable.

The boatman's cottage stood on the bank of a creek running into the
Gironde. It was a lone building hidden among the low dunes that lie
between the river and the marsh. Any one approaching it by daylight would
be discernible half an hour in advance, and the man's boat, though old,
was seaworthy. None would care to cross the lowlands at night except
under the guidance of one or two, who, like Jean, knew their way even in
the dark.

Colville and Barebone had to help Jean to move the great casks stored in
the crypt of the old chapel by which the entrance to the passage was

"It is, I recollect having been told, more than a passage--it is a ramp,"
explained the Marquis, who stood by. "It was intended for the passage of
horses, so that a man might mount here and ride out into the mill-stream,
actually beneath the mill-wheel which conceals the exit."

Juliette, a cloak thrown over her evening dress, had accompanied them and
stood near, holding a lantern above her head to give them light. It was
an odd scene--a strange occupation for the last of the de Gemosacs.
Through the gaps in the toppling walls they could hear the roar of voices
and the occasional report of a firearm in the streets of the town below.
The door opened easily enough, and Jean, lighting a candle, led the way.
Barebone was the last to follow. Within the doorway he turned to say
good-bye. The light of the lantern flickered uncertainly on Juliette's
fair hair.

"We may be back sooner than you expect, mademoiselle," said Barebone.

"Or you may go--to England," she answered.



Although it was snowing hard, it was not a dark night. There was a half
moon hidden behind those thin, fleecy clouds, which carry the snow across
the North Sea and cast it noiselessly upon the low-lying coast, from
Thanet to the Wash, which knows less rain and more snow than any in

A gale of wind was blowing from the north-east; not in itself a wild
gale, but at short intervals a fresh burst of wind brought with it a
thicker fall of snow, and during these squalls the force of the storm was
terrific. A man, who had waited on the far shore of the river for a quiet
interval, had at last made his way to the Farlingford side. He moored his
boat and stumbled heavily up the steps.

There was no one on the quay. The street was deserted, but the lights
within the cottages glowed warmly through red blinds here and there. The
majority of windows were, however, secured with a shutter, screwed tight
from within. The man trotted steadily up the street. He had an
unmistakable air of discipline. It was only six o'clock, but night had
closed in three hours ago. The coast-guard looked neither to one side nor
the other, but ran on at the pace of one who had run far and knows that
he cannot afford to lose his breath; for his night's work was only begun.

The coast-guard station stands on the left-hand side of the street, a
long, low house in a bare garden. In answer to the loud summons, a
red-faced little man opened the door and let out into the night a smell
of bloaters and tea--the smell that pervades all Farlingford at six
o'clock in the evening.

"Something on the Inner Curlo Bank," shouted the coast-guard in his face,
and turning on his heel, he ran with the same slow, organised haste,
leaving the red-faced man finishing a mouthful on the mat.

The next place of call was at River Andrew's, the little low cottage with
rounded corners, below the church.

"Come out o' that," said the coast-guard, with a contemptuous glance of
snow-rimmed eyes at River Andrew's comfortable tea-table. "Ring yer bell.
Something on the Inner Curlo Bank."

River Andrew had never hurried in his life, and like all his fellows, he
looked upon coast-guards as amateurs mindful, as all amateurs are, of
their clothes.

"A'm now going," he answered, rising laboriously from his chair. The
coast-guard glanced at his feet clad in the bright green carpet-slippers,
dear to seafaring men. Then he turned to the side of the mantelpiece and
took the church keys from the nail. For everybody knows where everybody
else keeps his keys in Farlingford. He forgot to shut the door behind
him, and River Andrew, pessimistically getting into his sea-boots, swore
at his retreating back.

"Likely as not, he'll getten howld o' the wrong roup," he muttered;
though he knew that every boy in the village could point out the rope of
"John Darby," as that which had a piece of faded scarlet flannel twisted
through the strands.

In a few minutes the man, who hastened slowly, gave the call, which
every man in Farlingford answered with an emotionless, mechanical
promptitude. From each fireside some tired worker reached out his hand
toward his most precious possession, his sea-boots, as his forefathers
had done before him for two hundred years at the sound of "John Darby."
The women crammed into the pockets of the men's stiff oilskins a piece of
bread, a half-filled bottle--knowing that, as often as not, their
husbands must pass the night and half the next day on the beach, or out
at sea, should the weather permit a launch through the surf.

There was no need of excitement, or even of comment. Did not "John Darby"
call them from their firesides or their beds a dozen times every winter,
to scramble out across the shingle? As often as not, there was nothing to
be done but drag the dead bodies from the surf; but sometimes the dead
revived--some fair-haired, mystic foreigner from the northern seas, who
came to and said, "T'ank you," and nothing else. And next day, rigged out
in dry clothes and despatched toward Ipswich on the carrier's cart, he
would shake hands awkwardly with any standing near and bob his head and
say "T'ank you" again, and go away, monosyllabic, mystic, never to be
heard of more. But the ocean, as it is called at Farlingford, seemed to
have an inexhaustible supply of such Titans to throw up on the rattling
shingle winter after winter. And, after all, they were seafaring men, and
therefore brothers. Farlingford turned out to a man, each seeking to be
first across the river every time "John Darby" called them, as if he had
never called them before.

To-night none paused to finish the meal, and many a cup raised half-way
was set down again untasted. It is so easy to be too late.

Already the flicker of lanterns on the sea-wall showed that the rectory
was astir. For Septimus Marvin, vaguely recalling some schoolboy instinct
of fair-play, knew the place of the gentleman and the man of education
among humbler men in moments of danger and hardship, which should,
assuredly, never be at the back.

"Yonder's parson," some one muttered. "His head is clear now, I'll
warrant, when he hears 'John Darby.'"

"'Tis only on Sundays, when 'John' rings slow, 'tis misty," answered a
sharp-voiced woman, with a laugh. For half of Farlingford was already at
the quay, and three or four boats were bumping and splashing against the
steps. The tide was racing out, and the wind, whizzing slantwise across
it, pushed it against the wooden piles of the quay, making them throb and

"Not less'n four to the oars!" shouted a gruff voice, at the foot of the
steps, where the salt water, splashing on the snow, had laid bare the
green and slimy moss. Two or three volunteers stumbled down the steps,
and the first boat got away, swinging down-stream at once, only to be
brought slowly back, head to wind. She hung motionless a few yards from
the quay, each dip of the oars stirring the water into a whirl of
phosphorescence, and then forged slowly ahead.

Septimus Marvin was not alone, but was accompanied by a bulky man, not
unknown in Farlingford--John Turner, of Ipswich, understood to live
"foreign," but to return, after the manner of East Anglians, when
occasion offered. The rector was in oilskins and sou'wester, like any one
else, and the gleam of his spectacles under the snowy brim of his
headgear seemed to strike no one as incongruous. His pockets bulged with
bottles and bandages. Under his arm he carried a couple of blanket
horse-cloths, useful for carrying the injured or the dead.

"The Curlo--the Inner Curlo--yes, yes!" he shouted in response to
information volunteered on all sides. "Poor fellows! The Inner Curlo,
dear, dear!"

And he groped his way down the steps, into the first boat he saw, with a
simple haste. John Turner followed him. He had tied a silk handkerchief
over his soft felt hat and under his chin.

"No, no!" he said, as Septimus Marvin made room for him on the
after-thwart. "I'm too heavy for a passenger. Put my weight on an oar,"
and he clambered forward to a vacant thwart.

"Mind you come back for us, River Andrew!" cried little Sep's thin voice,
as the boat swirled down stream. His wavering bull's-eye lantern followed
it, and showed River Andrew and another pulling stroke to John Turner's
bow, for the banker had been a famous oar on the Orwell in his boyhood.
Then, with a smack like a box on the ear, another snow-squall swept in
from the sea, and forced all on the quay to turn their backs and crouch.
Many went back to their homes, knowing that nothing could be known for
some hours. Others crouched on the landward side of an old coal-shed,
peeping round the corner.

Miriam and Sep, and a few others, waited on the quay until River Andrew
or another should return. It was an understood thing that the helpers,
such as could man a boat or carry a drowned man, should go first. In a
few minutes the squall was past, and by the light of the moon, now thinly
covered by clouds, the black forms of the first to reach the other shore
could be seen straggling across the marsh toward the great shingle-bank
that lies between the river and the sea. Two boats were moored at the far
side, another was just making the jetty, while a fourth was returning
toward the quay. It was River Andrew, faithful to his own element, who
preferred to be first here, rather than obey orders on the open beach.

There were several ready to lend a helping hand against tide and wind,
and Miriam and Sep were soon struggling across the shingle, in the
footsteps of those who had gone before. The north-east wind seared their
faces like a hot iron, but the snow had ceased falling. As they reached
the summit of the shingle-bank, they could see in front of them the black
line of the sea, and on the beach, where the white of the snow and the
white of the roaring surf merged together, a group of men.

One or two stragglers had left this group to search the beach, north or
south; but it was known, from a long and grim experience, that anything
floating in from the tail of the Inner Curlo Bank must reach the shore at
one particular point. A few lanterns twinkled here and there, but near
the group of watchers a bonfire of wreckage and tarry fragments and old
rope, brought hither for the purpose, had been kindled.

Two boats, hauled out of reach of a spring tide, were being leisurely
prepared for launching. There was no hurry; for it had been decided by
the older men that no boat could be put to sea through the surf then
rolling in. At the turn of the tide, in two hours' time, something might
be done.

"Us cannot see anything," a bystander said to Miriam. "It is just there,
where I am pointing. Sea Andrew saw something a while back--says it
looked like a schooner."

The man stood pointing out to sea to the southward. He carried an
unlighted torch--a flare, roughly made, of tarred rope, bound round a
stick. At times, one or another would ignite his flare, and go down the
beach holding it above his head, while he stood knee deep in the churning
foam to peer out to sea. He would presently return, without comment, to
beat out his flare against his foot and take his place among the silent
watchers. No one spoke; but if any turned his head sharply to one side or
other, all the rest wheeled, like one man, in the same direction and
after staring at the tumbled sea would turn reproachful glances on the
false alarmist.

Suddenly, after a long wait, four men rushed without a word into the
surf; their silent fury suggesting oddly the rush of hounds upon a fox.
They had simultaneously caught sight of something dark, half sunk in the
shallow water. In a moment they were struggling up the shingle slope
toward the fire, carrying a heavy weight. They laid their burden by the
fire, where the snow had melted away, and it was a man. He was in
oilskins, and some one cut the tape that tied his sou'wester. His face
was covered with blood.

"'Tis warm," said the man who had cut away the oilskin cap, and with his
hand he wiped the blood away from the eyes and mouth. Some one in the
background drew a cork, with his teeth, and a bottle was handed down to
those kneeling on the ground.

Suddenly the man sat up--and coughed.

"Shipmets," he said, with a splutter, and lay down again.

Some one held the bottle to his lips and wiped the blood away from his
face again.

"My God!" shouted a bystander, gruffly. "'Tis William Brooke, of the

"Yes. 'Tis me," said the man, sitting up again. "Not that arm, mate;
don't ye touch it. 'Tis bruk. Yes; 'tis me. And 'The Last Hope' is on the
tail of the Inner Curlo--and the spar that knocked me overboard fell on
the old man, and must have half killed him. But Loo Barebone's aboard."

He rose to his knees, with one arm hanging straight and piteous from his
shoulder, then slowly to his feet. He stood wavering for a moment, and
wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and spluttered. Then, looking
straight in front of him, with that strange air of a whipped dog which
humble men wear when the hand of Heaven is upon them, he staggered up the
beach toward the river and Farlingford.

"Where are ye goin'?" some one asked.

"Over to mine," was the reply. "A'm going to my old woman, shipmets."

And he staggered away in the darkness.



After a hurried consultation, Septimus Marvin was deputed to follow the
injured man and take him home, seeing that he had as yet but half
recovered his senses. This good Samaritan had scarcely disappeared when a
shout from the beach drew the attention of all in another direction.

One of the outposts was running toward the fire, waving his lantern and
shouting incoherently. It was a coast-guard.

"Comin' ashore in their own boat," he cried. "They're coming in in their
own boat!"

"There she rides--there she rides!" added Sea Andrew, almost immediately,
and he pointed to the south.

Quite close in, just outside the line of breakers, a black shadow was
rising and falling on the water. It seemed to make scarcely any way at
all, and each sea that curled underneath the boat and roared toward the
beach was a new danger.

"They're going to run her in here," said Sea Andrew. "There's more left
on board; that's what that means, and they're goin' back for 'em. If
'twasn't so they'd run in anywheres and let her break."

For one sailor will always tell what another is about, however great the
distance intervening.

Slowly the boat came on, rolling tremendously on the curve of the
breakers, between the broken water of the tideway and the spume of the

"That's Loo at the hellum," said Sea Andrew--the keenest eyes in

And suddenly Miriam swayed sideways against John Turner, who was perhaps
watching her, for he gripped her arm and stood firm. No one spoke. The
watchers on the beach stared open-mouthed, making unconscious grimaces as
the boat rose and fell. All had been ready for some minutes; every
preparation made according to the time-honoured use of these coasts: four
men with life-lines round them standing knee-deep waiting to dash in
deeper, others behind them grouped in two files, some holding the slack
of the life-lines, forming a double rank from the shore to the fire,
giving the steersman his course. There was no need to wave a torch or
shout an order. They were Farlingford men on the shore and Farlingford
men in the boat.

At last, after breathless moments of suspense, the boat turned, and came
spinning in on the top of a breaker, with the useless oars sticking out
like the legs of some huge insect. For a few seconds it was impossible to
distinguish anything. The moment the boat touched ground, the waves
beating on it enveloped all near it in a whirl of spray, and the black
forms seemed to be tumbling over each other in confusion.

"You see," said Turner to Miriam, "he has come back to you after all."

She did not answer but stood, her two hands clasped together on her
breast, seeking to disentangle the confused group, half in half out of
the water.

Then they heard Loo Barebone's voice, cheerful and energetic, almost
laughing. Before they could understand what was taking place his voice
was audible again, giving a sharp, clear order, and all the black forms
rushed together down into the surf. A moment later the boat danced out
over the crest of a breaker, splashing into the next and throwing up a
fan of spray.

"She's through, she's through!" cried some one. And the boat rode for a
brief minute head to wind before she turned southward. There were only
three on the thwarts--Loo Barebone and two others.

The group now broke up and straggled up toward the fire. One man was
being supported, and could scarcely walk. It was Captain Clubbe, hatless,
his grey hair plastered across his head by salt water.

He did not heed any one, but sat down heavily on the shingle and felt his
leg with one hand, the other arm hung limply.

"Leave me here," he said, gruffly, to two or three who were spreading out
a horse-cloth and preparing to carry him. "Here I stay till all are

Behind him were several new-comers, one of them a little man talking
excitedly to his companion.

"But it is a folly," he was saying in French, "to go back in such a sea
as that."

It was the Marquis de Gemosac, and no one was taking any notice of him.
Dormer Colville, stumbling over the shingle beside him, recognised Miriam
in the firelight and turned again to look at her companion as if scarcely
believing the evidence of his own eyes.

"Is that you, Turner?" he said. "We are all here,--the Marquis, Barebone,
and I. Clubbe took us on board one dark night in the Gironde and brought
us home."

"Are you hurt?" asked Turner, curtly.

"Oh, no. But Clubbe's collar-bone is broken and his leg is crushed. We
had to leave four on board; not room for them in the boat. That fool
Barebone has gone back for them. He promised them he would. The sea out
there is awful!"

He knelt down and held his shaking hands to the flames. Some one handed
him a bottle, but he turned first and gave it the Marquis de Gemosac, who
was shaking all over like one far gone in a palsy.

Sea Andrew and the coast-guard captain were persuading Captain Clubbe to
quit the beach, but he only answered them roughly in monosyllables.

"My place is here till all are safe," he said. "Let me lie."

And with a groan of pain he lay back on the beach. Miriam folded a
blanket and placed it under his head. He looked round, recognised her and

"No place for you, miss," he said, and closed his eyes. After a moment he
raised himself on his elbow and looked into the faces peering down at

"Loo will beach her anywhere he can. Keep a bright lookout for him," he
said. Then he was silent, and all turned their faces toward the sea.

Another snow-squall swept in with a rush from the eastward, and half of
the fire was blown away--a trail of sparks hissing on the snow. They
built up the fire again and waited, crouching low over the embers. They
could see nothing out to sea. There was nothing to be done but to wait.
Some had gone along the shore to the south, keeping pace with the
supposed progress of the boat, ready to help should she be thrown ashore.

Suddenly the Marquis de Gemosac, shivering over the fire, raised his
voice querulously. His emotions always found vent in speech.

"It is a folly," he repeated, "that he has committed. I do not
understand, gentlemen, how he was permitted to do such a thing--he whose
life is of value to millions."

He turned his head to glance sharply at Captain Clubbe, at Colville, at
Turner, who listened with that half-contemptuous silence which Englishmen
oppose to unnecessary or inopportune speech.

"Ah!" he said, "you do not understand--you Englishmen--or you do not
believe, perhaps, that he is the King. You would demand proofs which you
know cannot be produced. I demand no proofs, for I know. I know without
any proof at all but his face, his manner, his whole being. I knew at
once when I saw him step out of his boat here in this sad village, and I
have lived with him almost daily ever since--only to be more sure than at

His hearers made no answer. They listened tolerantly enough, as one
listens to a child or to any other incapable of keeping to the business
in hand.

"Oh. I know more than you suspect," said the Marquis, suddenly. "There
are some even in our own party who have doubts, who are not quite sure. I
know that there was a doubt as to that portrait of the Queen," he half
glanced toward Dormer Colville. "Some say one thing, some another. I have
been told that, when the child--Monsieur de Bourbon's father--landed
here, there were two portraits among his few possessions--the miniature
and a larger print, an engraving. Where is that engraving, one would

"I have it in my safe in Paris," said a thick voice in the darkness.
"Thought it was better in my possession than anywhere else."

"Indeed! And now, Monsieur Turner--" the Marquis raised himself on his
knees and pointed in his eager way a thin finger in the direction of the
banker--"tell me this. Those portraits to which some would attach
importance--they are of the Duchess de Guiche. Admitted? Good! If you
yourself--who have the reputation of being a man of wit--desired to
secure the escape of a child and his nurse, would you content yourself
with the mere precaution of concealing the child's identity? Would you
not go farther and provide the nurse with a subterfuge, a blind,
something for the woman to produce and say, 'This is not the little
Dauphin. This is so-and-so. See, here is the portrait of his mother?'
What so effective, I ask you? What so likely to be believed as a scandal
directed against the hated aristocrats? Can you advance anything against
that theory?"

"No, Monsieur," replied Turner.

"But Monsieur de Bourbon knows of these doubts," went on the Marquis.
"They have even touched his own mind, I know that. But he has continued
to fight undaunted. He has made sacrifices--any looking at his face can
see that. It was not in France that he looked for happiness, but
elsewhere. He was not heart-whole--I who have seen him with the most
beautiful women in France paying court to him know that. But this
sacrifice, also, he made for the sake of France. Or perhaps some woman of
whom we know nothing stepped back and bade him go forward alone, for the
sake of his own greatness--who can tell?"

Again no one answered him. He had not perceived Miriam, and John Turner,
with that light step which sometimes goes with a vast bulk, had placed
himself between her and the firelight. Monsieur de Gemosac rose to his
feet and stood looking seaward. The snow-clouds were rolling away to the
west, and the moon, breaking through, was beginning to illumine the wild

"Gentlemen," said the Marquis, "they have been gone a long time?"

Captain Clubbe moved restlessly, but he made no answer. The Marquis had,
of course, spoken in French, and the Captain had no use for that

The group round the fire had dwindled until only half a dozen remained.
One after another the watchers had moved away uneasily toward the beach.
The Marquis was right--the boat had been gone too long.

At last the moon broke through, and the snowy scene was almost as light
as day.

John Turner was looking along the beach to the south, and one after
another the watchers by the fire turned their anxious eyes in the same
direction. The sea, whipped white, was bare of any wreck. "The Last Hope"
of Farlingford was gone. She had broken up or rolled into deep water.

A number of men were coming up the shingle in silence. Sea Andrew,
dragging his feet wearily, approached in advance of them.

"Boat's thrown up on the beach," he said to Captain Clubbe. "Stove in by
a sea. We've found them."

He stood back and the others, coming slowly into the light, deposited
their burdens side by side near the fire. The Marquis, who had understood
nothing, took a torch from the hand of a bystander and held it down
toward the face of the man they had brought last.

It was Loo Barebone, and the clean-cut, royal features seemed to wear a
reflective smile.

Miriam had come forward toward the fire, and by chance or by some vague
instinct the bearers had laid their burden at her feet. After all, as
John Turner had said, Loo Barebone had come back to her. She had denied
him twice, and the third time he would take no denial. The taciturn
sailors laid him there and stepped back--as if he was hers and this was
the inevitable end of his short and stormy voyage.

She looked down at him with tired eyes. She had done the right, and this
was the end. There are some who may say that she had done what she
thought was right, and this only seemed to be the end. It may be so.

The Marquis de Gemosac was dumb for once. He looked round him with a
half-defiant question in his eyes. Then he pointed a lean finger down
toward the dead man's face.

"Others may question," he said, "but I know--I _know_."


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