Part 2 out of 5
this they signified by the menacing front they showed the military,
abandoning their attack upon the Chateau until they should be clear
concerning the intentions of the newcomers. Of these intentions the
Captain did not leave them long in doubt. A brisk word of command
brought his men into a bristling line of attack, which in itself
should have proved sufficient to ensure the peasantry's respect.
"Citizens" cried the officer, stepping forward, "in the name of the
French Republic I charge you to withdraw and to leave us unhampered
in the business we are here to discharge."
"Citizen-captain,"answered the giant Souvestre, constituting himself
the spokesman of his fellows, "we demand to know by what right you
interfere with honest patriots of France in the act of ridding it
of some of the aristocratic vermin that yet lingers on its soil?"
The officer stared at his interlocutor, amazed by the tone of the
man as much as by the sudden growls that chorused it, but nowise
intimidated by either the one or the other.
"I proclaimed my right when I issued my charge in the name of the
Republic," he answered shortly.
"We are the Republic," Souvestre retorted, with a wave of the hand
towards the ferocious crowd of men and women behind him. "We are
the Nation - the sacred people of France. In our own name,
Citizen-soldier, we charge you to withdraw and leave us undisturbed."
Here lay the basis of an argument into which, however, the Captain,
being neither politician nor dialectician, was not minded to be
drawn. He shrugged his shoulders and turned to his men.
"Present arms!" was the answer he delivered, in a voice of supreme
"Citizen-captain, this is an outrage," screamed a voice in the mob.
"If blood is shed, upon your own head be it."
"Will you withdraw?" inquired the Captain coldly.
"To me, my children,"cried Souvestre, brandishing his sabre, and
seeking to encourage his followers. "Down with these traitors who
dishonour the uniform of France! Death to the blue-coats!"
He leapt forward towards the military, and with a sudden roar his
followers, a full hundred strong sprang after him to the charge.
"Fire!" commanded the Captain, and from the front line of his
company fifty sheets of flame flashed from fifty carbines.
The mob paused; for a second it wavered; then before the smoke had
lifted it broke, and shrieking in terror, it fled for cover, leaving
the valorous Souvestre alone, to revile them for a swarm of cowardly
The Captain put his hands to his sides and laughed till the tears
coursed down his cheeks. Checking his mirth at last, he called to
Souvestre, who was retreating in disgust and anger.
"Hi! My friend the patriot! Are you still of the same mind or will
you withdraw your people?"
"We will not withdraw," answered the giant sullenly. "You dare not
fire upon free citizens of the French Republic."
"Dare I not? Do you delude yourself with that, nor think that
because this time I fired over your heads I dare not fire into your
ranks. I give you my word that if I have to command my men to fire
a second time it shall not be mere make-believe, and I also give you
my word that if at the end of a minute I have not your reply and you
are not moving out of this - every rogue of you shall have a very
bitter knowledge of how much I dare."
Souvestre was headstrong and angry. But what can one man, however
headstrong and however angry, do against two hundred, when his own
followers refuse to support him. The valour of the peasants was
distinctly of that quality whose better part is discretion. The
thunder of that fusillade had been enough to shatter their nerve,
and to Souvestre's exhortations that they should become martyrs in
the noble cause, of the people against tyranny, in whatsoever guise
it came, they answered with the unanswerable logic of caution.
The end was that a very few moments later saw them in full retreat,
leaving the military in sole and undisputed possession of Bellecour.
The officer's first thought was for the blazing stables, and he at
once ordered a detachment of his company to set about quenching the
fire, a matter in which they succeeded after some two hours of
Meanwhile, leaving the main body bivouacked in the courtyard, he
entered the Chateau with a score of men, and came upon the ten
gentlemen still standing in the shambles that the grand staircase
presented. With the Marquis de Bellecour the Captain had a brief
and not over courteous interview. He informed the nobleman that
he was acting under the orders of a Commissioner, who had heard at
Amiens, that evening, of the attack that was to be made upon
Bellecour. Not unnaturally the Marquis was mistrustful of the ends
which that Commissioner, whoever he might be, looked to serve by so
unusual an act. Far better did it sort with the methods of the
National Convention and its members to leave the butchering of
aristocrats to take its course. He sought information at the
Captain's hands, but the officer was reticent to the point of
curtness, and so, their anxiety but little relieved, since it might
seem that they had but escaped from Scylla to be engulfed in
Charbydis, the aristocrats at Bellecour spent the night in odious
suspense. Those that were tending the wounded had perhaps the best
of it, since thus their minds were occupied and saved the torture
The proportion of slain was mercifully small: of twenty that had
fallen it was found that but six were dead, the others being more
or less severely hurt. Conspicuous among the men that remained,
and perhaps the bravest of them all was old Des Cadoux. He had
recovered his snuff-box, than which there seemed to be nothing of
greater importance in the world, and he moved from group to group
with here a jest and there a word of encouragement, as seemed best
suited to those he addressed. Of the women, Mademoiselle de
Bellecour and her sharp tongued mother, showed certainly the most
Suzanne had not seen her betrothed since the fight upon the stairs.
But she was told that he was unhurt, and that he was tending a
cousin of his who had been severely wounded in the head.
It was an hour or so after sunrise when he sought her out, and they
stood in conversation together - a very jaded pair - looking down
from one of the windows upon the stalwart blue-coats that were
bivouacked in the quadrangle.
Suddenly on the still morning air came the sound of hoof-beats, and
as they looked they espied a man in a cocked hat and an ample black
cloak riding briskly up the avenue.
"See?" exclaimed Ombreval; "yonder at last comes the great man we
are awaiting - the Commissioner of that rabble they call the
National Convention. Now we shall know what fate is reserved for
"But what can they do?"she asked.
"It is the fashion to send people of our station to Paris," he
replied, "to make a mock of us with an affair they call a trial
before they murder us."
"Perhaps this gentleman is more merciful,"was the hope she expressed.
"Merciful?" he mocked. "Ma foi, a ravenous tiger may be merciful
before one of these. Had your father been wise he had ordered the
few of us that remained to charge those soldiers when they entered,
and to have met our end upon their bayonets. That would have been
a merciful fate compared with the mercy of this so-called Commissioner
is likely to extend us."
It seemed to be his way to find fault, and that warp in his character
rendered him now as heroic - in words - as he had been erstwhile
Suzanne shuddered, brave girl though she was.
"Unless you can conceive thoughts of a pleasanter complexion," she
said, "I should prefer your silence, M. d'Ombreval."
He laughed in his disdainful way - for he disdained all things,
excepting his own person and safety - but before he could make any
answer they were joined by the Marquis and his son.
In the courtyard the horseman was now dismounting, and a moment or
two later they heard the fall of feet, upon the stairs. A soldier
threw open the door, and holding it, announced:
"The Citizen-deputy La Boulaye, Commissioner of the National
Convention to the army of General Dumouriez."
"This," mocked Ombreval, to whom the name meant nothing, "is the
representative of a Government of strict equality, and he is
announced with as much pomp as was ever an ambassador of his
Then a something out of the common in the attitude of his companions
arrested his attention. Mademoiselle was staring with eyes full of
the most ineffable amazement, her lips parted, and her cheeks whiter
than the sleepless night had painted them. The Marquis was scowling
in a surprise that seemed no whit less than his daughter's, his head
thrust forward, and his jaw fallen. The Vicomte, too, though in a
milder degree, offered a countenance that was eloquent with
bewilderment. From this silent group Ombreval turned his tired eyes
to the door and took stock of the two men that had entered. One of
these was Captain Juste, the officer in command of the military; the
other was a tall man, with a pale face, an aquiline nose, a firm
jaw, and eyes that were very stern - either of habit or because they
now rested upon the man who four years ago had used him so cruelly.
He stood a moment in the doorway as if enjoying the amazement which
had been sown by his coming. There was no mistaking him. It was
the same La Boulaye of four years ago, and yet it was not quite the
same. The face had lost its boyishness, and the strenuous life he
had lived had scored it with lines that gave him the semblance of
a greater age than was his. The old, poetic melancholy that had
dwelt in the secretary's countenance was now changed to strength
and firmness. Although little known as yet to the world at large,
the great ones of the Revolution held him in high esteem, and looked
upon him as a power to be reckoned with in the near future. Of
Robespierre - who, it was said, had discovered him and brought him
to Paris - he was the protege and more than friend, a protection
and friendship this which in '93 made any man almost omnipotent in
He was dressed in a black riding-suit, relieved only by the white
neck-cloth and the tricolour sash of office about his waist. He
removed his cocked hat, beneath which the hair was tied in a club
with the same scrupulous care as of old.
Slowly he advanced into the salon, and his sombre eyes passed from
the Marquis to Mademoiselle. As they rested upon her some of the
sternness seemed to fade from their glance. He found in her a
change almost as great as that which she had found in him. The
lighthearted, laughing girl of nineteen, who had scorned his
proffered love when he had wooed her that April morning to such
disastrous purpose, was now ripened into a stately woman of
three-and-twenty. He had thought his boyish passion dead and buried,
and often in the years that were gone had he smiled softly to
himself at the memory of his ardour, as we smile at the memory of
our youthful follies. Yet now, upon beholding her again, so
wondrously transformed, so tall and straight, and so superbly
beautiful, he experienced an odd thrill and a weakening of the
stern purpose that had brought him to Bellecour.
Then his glance moved on. A moment it rested on the supercilious,
high-bred countenance of the Vicomte d'Ombreval, standing with so
proprietary an air beside her, then it passed to the kindly old
face of Des Cadoux, and he recalled how this gentleman had sought
to stay the flogging of him. An instant it hovered on the Marquis,
who - haggard of face and with his arm in a sling - was observing
him with an expression in which scorn and wonder were striving for
the mastery; it seemed to shun the gaze of the pale-faced Vicomte,
whose tutor he had been in the old days of his secretaryship, and
full and stern it returned at last to settle upon the Marquis.
"Citizen Bellecour," he said, and his voice, like his face, seemed
to have changed since last the Marquis had heard it, and to have
grown more deep and metallic, "you may marvel, now that you behold
the Commissioner who sent a company of soldiers to rescue you and
your Chateau from the hands of the mob last night, what purpose I
sought to serve by extending to you a protection which none of your
order merits, and you least of any, in my eyes."
"The times may have wrought sad and overwhelming changes," answered
the Marquis, with cold contempt, "but it has not yet so utterly
abased us that we bring ourselves to speculate upon the purposes
of the rabble."
A faint crimson flush crept into Caron's sallow cheeks.
"Indeed, I see how little you have changed!" he answered bitterly.
"You are of those that will not learn, Citizen. The fault lies
here," he added, tapping his head, "and it will remain until we
remove the ones with the other. But now for the business that brings
me," he proceeded, more briskly. "Four years ago, Citizen Bellecour,
you laid your whip across my face in the woods out yonder, and when
I spoke of seeking satisfaction action you threatened me with your
grooms. I will not speak of your other brutalities on that same
day. I will confine myself to that first affront."
"Be brief, sir,"cried the Marquis offensively. "Since you have the
force to compel us to listen to you, let me beg that you will at
least display the generosity of detaining us no longer than you
"I will be as brief as it lies within the possibility of words,"
answered Caron coldly. "I am come, Citizen Bellecour, to demand of
you to-day the satisfaction which four years ago you refused me."
"Of me?" cried the Marquis.
"Through the person of your son, the Vicomte, as I asked for it four
years ago,"said Caron. "You are am old man, Citizen, and I do not
fight old men."
"I am yet young enough to cut you into ribbons, you dog, if I were
minded to dishonour myself by meeting you." And turning to Ombreval
for sympathy, he vented a low laugh of contemptuous wonder.
"Insolence!" sneered Ombreval sympathetically, whilst Mademoiselle
stood looking on with cheeks that were growing paler, for that this
event would end badly for either her father or her brother she never
"Citizen Bellecour,"said Caron, still very coldly, "you have heard
what I propose, as have you also, Citizen-vicomte."
"For myself,"began the youth "I am - "
"Silence, Armand!" his father commanded, laying a hand upon his
sleeve. "Understand me, citizen-deputy, or citizen-commissioner, or
citizen-blackguard or whatever you call your vile self, you are come
on a fruitless journey to Bellecour. Neither I nor my son is so
lost to the duty which we owe our rank as to so much as dream of
acceding to your preposterous request. I think, sir, that you had
been better advised to have left the mob to its work last night, if
you but restrained it for this purpose."
"Is that your last word?" asked La Boulaye, still calmly weathering
that storm of insults.
"My very last, sir."
"There are more ways than one of taking satisfaction for that
affront, Citizen Bellecour," rejoined La Boulaye, "and if the course
which I now pursue should prove more distasteful to you than that
which I last suggested, the blame of it must rest with you." He
turned to the bluecoat at the door. "Citizen-soldier, my whip."
There was a sudden movement among the aristocrats - a horrified
recoiling - and even Bellecour was shaken out of his splendid
"Insolent cur!" exclaimed Ombreval with withering scorn; "to what
lengths is presumption driving you?"
"To the length of a horsewhip,"answered La Boulaye pleasantly.
He received the whip from the hands of the soldier and he now
advanced towards Bellecour, unwinding the lash as he came.
Ombreval barred his way with an oath.
"By Heaven: you shall not!" he cried.
"Shall not?" echoed La Boulaye, his lips curling. "You had best
stand aside - you that are steeped in musk and fierceness." And
before the stern and threatening contempt of La Boulaye's glance
the young nobleman fell back. But his place was taken by the
Vicomte de Bellecour, who advanced to confront Caron.
"Monsieur la Boulaye,"he announced, "I am ready and willing to meet
you." And considering the grim alternative with which the
Republicans had threatened him, the old Marquis had not the courage
to interfere again.
"Ah!" It was an exclamation of satisfaction from the Commissioner.
"I imagined that you would change your minds. I shall await you,
Citizen, in the garden in five minutes' time."
"I shall not keep you waiting, Monsieur," was the Vicomte's answer.
Very formally La Boulaye bowed and left the room accompanied by the
officer and followed by the soldier.
"Mon Dieu!" gasped the Marquise, fanning herself as the door closed
after the Republicans. "Open me a window or I shall stifle! How
the place reeks with them. I am a calm woman, Messieurs, but, on
my honour, had he addressed any of you by his odious title of
'citizen' again, I swear that I had struck him with my own hands."
There were some that laughed. But Mademoiselle was not of those.
Her eyes travelled to her brother's pale face and weakly frame, and
her glance was such a glance as we bend upon the beloved dead, for
in him she saw one who was going inevitably to his death.
LA BOULAYE DISCHARGES A DEBT
Along the northern side of the Chateau ran a terrace bordered by a
red sandstone balustrade, and below this the Italian garden, so
called perhaps in consequence of the oddly clipped box-trees, its
only feature that suggested Italy. At the far end of this garden
there was a strip of even turf that might have been designed for a
fencing ground, and which Caron knew of old. Thither he led
Captain Juste, and there in the pale sunshine of that February
morning they awaited the arrival of the Vicomte and his sponsor.
But the minutes went by and still they waited-five, ten, fifteen
minutes elapsed, yet no one came. Juste was on the point of
returning within to seek the reason of this delay when steps
sounded on the terrace above. But they were accompanied by the
rustle of a gown, and presently it was Mademoiselle who appeared
before them. The two men eyed her with astonishment, which in the
case of La Boulaye, was tempered by another feeling.
"Monsieur la Boulaye," said she, her glance wandering towards the
Captain, "may I speak with you alone?"
Outwardly impassive the Commissioner bowed.
"Your servant, Citoyenne," said he, removing his cocked hat.
"Juste, will you give us leave?"
"You will find me on the terrace when you want me, Citizen-deputy,"
answered the officer, and saluting, he departed.
For a moment or two after he was gone Suzanne and Caron stood
confronting each other in silence. She seemed smitten with a sudden
awkwardness, and she looked away from him what time he waited, hat
in hand, the chill morning breeze faintly stirring a loose strand
of his black hair.
"Monsieur," she faltered at last, "I am come to intercede."
At that a faint smile hovered a second on the Republican's thin lips.
"And is the noblesse of France fallen so low that it sends its women
to intercede for the lives of its men? But, perhaps," he added
cynically, "it had not far to fall."
Her cheeks reddened. His insult to her class acted upon her as a
spur and overcame the irresoluteness that seemed to have beset her.
"To insult the fallen, sir, is worthy of the new regime, whose
representative you are, Enfine! We must take it, I suppose, as we
take everything else in these disordered times - with a bent head
and a meek submission."
"From the little that I have seen, Citoyenne," he answered, very
coldly, roused in his turn, "it rather seems that you take things
on your knees and with appeals for mercy."
"Monsieur," she cried, and her eyes now met his in fearless anger,
"if you persist in these gratuitous insults I shall leave you."
He laughed in rude amusement, and put on his hat. The spell that
for a moment her beauty had cast over him when first she had
appeared had been attenuating. It now broke suddenly, and as he
covered himself his whole manner changed.
"Is this interview of my seeking?" he asked. "It is your brother
I am awaiting. Name of a name, Citoyenne, do you think my patience
inexhaustible? The ci-devant Vicomte promised to attend me here.
It was the boast of your order that whatever sins you might be
guilty of you never broke your word. Have you lost even that virtue,
which served you as a cloak for untold vices? And is your brother
fled into the woods whilst you, his sister, come here to intercede
with me for his wretched life? Pah! In the old days you aroused
my hatred by your tyrannies and your injustices; to-day you weary
and disgust me by your ineffable cowardices, from that gentleman in
Paris who now calls himself Orleans-Egalite downwards."
"Monsieur,"she began But he was not yet done. His cheeks were
flushed with a reflection of the heart within.
"Citoyenne, I have a debt to discharge, and I will discharge it in
full. Intercessions are vain with me. I cannot forget. Send me
your brother within ten minutes to meet me here, man to man, and he
shall have - all of you shall have - the chance that lies in such
an encounter. But woe unto every man at Bellecour if he should
fail me. Citoyenne, you know my mind."
But she overlooked the note of dismissal in his voice.
"You speak of a debt that you must discharge," said she, with no
whit less heat than he had exhibited. "You refer to the debt of
vengeance which you look to discharge by murdering that boy, my
brother. But do you not owe me a debt also?"
"You?" he questioned. "My faith! Unless it be a debt of scorn,
I know of none."
"Aye," she returned wistfully, "you are like the rest. You have a
long memory for injuries, but a short one for benefits. Had it not
been for me, Monsieur, you would not be here now to demand this
that you call satisfaction. Have you forgotten how I - "
"No," he broke in. "I well remember how you sought to stay them
when they were flogging me in the yard there. But you came too
late. You might have come before, for from the balcony above you
had been watching my torture. But you waited overlong. I was
cast out for dead.".
She flashed him a searching glance, as though she sought to read
his thoughts, and to ascertain whether he indeed believed what
he was saying.
"Cast out for dead?" she echoed. "And by whose contrivance? By
mine, M. la Boulaye. When they were cutting you down they
discovered that you were not dead, and but that I bribed the men
to keep it secret and carry you to Duhamel's house, they had
certainly informed my father and you would have been finished off."
His eyes opened wide now, and into them there came a troubled look
- the look of one who is endeavouring to grasp an elusive
"Ma foi," he muttered. "It seems to come to me as if I had heard
something of the sort in a dream. It was - " He paused, and his
brows were knit a moment. Then he looked up suddenly, and gradually
his face cleared. "Why, yes - I have it!" he exclaimed. "It was
in Duhamel's house. While I was lying half unconscious on the couch
I heard one of the men telling Duhamel that you had paid them to
carry me there and to keep a secret."
"And you had forgotten that?" she asked, with the faintest note of
"Not forgotten,"he answered, "for it was never really there to be
remembered. That I had heard such words had more than once occurred
to me, but I have always looked upon it as the recollection of
something that I had dreamt. I had never looked upon it as a thing
that had had a real happening."
"How, then, did you explain your escape?"
"I always imagined that I had been assumed dead."
There was a brief spell of silence. Then -
"And now that you know, Monsieur - ?"
She left the question unfinished, and held out her hands to him in
a gesture of supplication. His face paled slightly and overclouded.
Her influence, against which so long he had steeled himself,
reinforced by the debt in which she had shown him that he stood
towards her, was prevailing with him despite himself. Stirred
suddenly out of the coldness that he had hitherto assumed, he
caught the outstretched hands and drew her a step nearer. That
was his undoing. Strong man though he unquestionably was, like
many another strong man his strength seemed to fall from him at
a woman's touch. He had led so austere and stern a life during
the past four years; of women he had but had the most passing of
glances, and intercourse with none save an old female who acted as
his housekeeper in Paris. And here was a woman who was not only
beautiful, but the woman who years ago had embodied all his
notions of what was most perfect in womanhood; the woman who ever
since, and despite all that was past, had reigned in his heart
and mind almost in spite of himself, almost unknown to him.
The touch of her hand now, the closeness of her presence, the faint
perfume that reached him from her, and that was to him as a symbol
of her inherent sweetness, the large blue eyes meeting his in
expectation, and the imploring half-pout of her lips, were all
seductions against which he had not been human had he prevailed.
Very white in the intensity of the long-quiescent passion she had
resuscitated, he cried:
"Mademoiselle, what shall I say to you?"
The four years that were gone seemed suddenly to have slipped away.
It was as if they stood again by the brook in the park on that April
morn when first he had dared to word his presumptuous love. Even
the vocabulary of the Republic was forgotten, and the interdicted
title of "Mademoiselle" fell naturally from his lips.
"Say that you can be generous,"she implored him softly. "Say that
you prefer the debt you owe to the injury you received."
"You do not know the sacrifice you ask," he exclaimed still fighting
with himself. "I have waited four years for this, and now - "
"He is my brother," she whispered, in so wonderful a tone that words
which of themselves may have seemed no argument at all became the
crowning argument of her intercession.
"Soit!" he consented. "For your sake, Mademoiselle, and in payment
of the debt I owe you, I will go as I came. I shall not see the
Citizen-marquis again. But do you tell him from me that if he sets
any value on his life, he had best shake the dust of France from
his feet. Too long already has he tarried, and at any moment those
may arrive who will make him emigrate not only out of France but
out of the world altogether. Besides, the peasantry that has risen
once may rise again, and I shall not be here to protect him from
its violence. Tell him he had best depart at once."
"Monsieur, I am grateful - very, very deeply grateful. I can say
no more. May Heaven reward you. I shall pray the good God to
watch over you always. Adieu, Monsieur!"
He stood looking at her a moment still retaining his hold of her
"Adieu, Mademoiselle,"he said at last. Then, very slowly - as if
so that realising his intent she might frustrate it were she so
minded - he raised her right hand. It was not withdrawn, and so
he bent low, and pressed his lips upon it.
"God guard you, Mademoiselle,"he said at last, and if they were
strange words for a Republican and a Deputy, it must be remembered
that his bearing during the past few moments had been singularly
unlike a Republican's.
He released her hand, and stepping back, doffed his hat. With a
final inclination of the head, she turned and walked away in the
direction of the terrace.
At a distance La Boulaye followed, so lost in thought that he did
not observe Captain Juste until the fellow's voice broke upon his
"You have been long enough, Citizen-deputy," was the soldier's
greeting. "I take it there is to be no duel."
"I make you my compliments upon the acuteness of your perception,"
answered La Boulaye tartly. "You are right. There is to be no
Juste's air was slightly mocking, and words of not overdelicate
banter rose to his lips, to be instantly quelled by La Boulaye.
"Let your drums beat a rally, Citizen-captain,"he commanded briskly.
"We leave Bellecour in ten minutes.".
And indeed, in less than that time the blue-coats were swinging
briskly down the avenue. In the rear rode La Boulaye, his cloak
wrapped about him, his square chin buried in his neck-cloth, and
his mind deep in meditation.
>From a window of the Chateau the lady who was the cause of the young
Revolutionist's mental absorption watched the departing soldiers.
On either side of her stood Ombreval and her father.
"My faith, little one," said Bellecour good-humouredly. "I wonder
what magic you have exercised to rid us of that infernal company."
"Women have sometimes a power of which men know nothing," was her
Ombreval turned to her with a scowl of sudden suspicion.
"I trust, Mademoiselle, that you did not - " he stopped short. His
thoughts were of a quality that defied polite utterance.
"That I did not what, Monsieur?"she asked.
"I trust you remembered that you are to become the Vicomtesse
d'Ombreval" he answered, constructing his sentence differently.
"Monsieur!" exclaimed Bellecour angrily.
"I was chiefly mindful of the fact that I had my brother's life to
save," said the girl, very coldly, her eye resting upon her
betrothed in a glance of so much contempt that it forced him into
an abashed silence.
In her mind she was contrasting this supercilious, vacillating
weakling with the stern, strong man who lode yonder. A sigh
fluttered across her lips. Had things but been different. Had
Ombreval been the Revolutionist and La Boulaye the Vicomte, how
much better pleased might she not have been. But since it was
not so, why sigh? It was not as if she had loved this La Boulaye.
How was that possible? Was he not of the canaille, basely born,
and a Revolutionist - the enemy of her order - in addition? It
were a madness to even dream of the possibility of such a thing,
for Suzanne de Bellecour came of too proud a stock, and knew too
well the respect that was due to it.
THE INVALIDS AT BOISVERT
There had been friction between the National Convention and General
Dumouriez, who, though a fine soldier, was a remarkably indifferent
Republican. The Convention had unjustly ordered the arrest of his
commissariat officers, Petit-Jean and Malus, and in other ways
irritated a man whose patience was never of the longest.
On the eve, however, of war with Holland, the great ones in Paris
had suddenly perceived their error, and had sought - despite the
many enemies, from Marat downwards, that Dumouriez counted among
their numbers - to conciliate a general whose services they found
that they could not dispense with. This conciliation was the
business upon which the Deputy La Boulaye had been despatched to
Antwerp, and as an ambassador he proved signally successful, as much
by virtue of the excellent terms he was empowered to offer as in
consequence of the sympathy and diplomacy he displayed in offering
The great Republican General started upon his campaign in the Low
Countries as fully satisfied as under the circumstances he could
hope to be. Malus and Petit-Jean were not only enlarged but
reinstated, he was promised abundant supplies of all descriptions,
and he was assured that the Republic approved and endorsed his plan
La Boulaye, his mission satisfactorily discharged, turned homewards
once more, and with an escort of six men and a corporal he swiftly
retraced his steps through that blackened, war-ravaged country.
They had slept a night at Mons, and they were within a short three
leagues of French soil when they chanced to ride towards noon into
the little hamlet of Boisvert. Probably they would have gone
straight through without drawing rein, but that, as they passed
the Auberge de l'Aigle, La Boulaye espied upon the green fronting
the wayside hostelry a company of a half-dozen soldiers playing at
bowls with cannon-balls.
The sight brought Caron to a sudden halt, and he sat his horse
observing them and wondering how it chanced that these men should
find themselves so far from the army. Three of them showed signs
of having been recently wounded. One carried his arm in a sling,
another limped painfully and by the aid of a stick, whilst the
head of the third was swathed in bandages. But most remarkable
were they by virtue of their clothes. One fellow - he of the
bandaged head - wore a coat of yellow brocaded silk, which, in
spite of a rent in the shoulder, and sundry stains of wine and oil,
was unmistakably of a comparative newness. Beneath this appeared
the nankeens and black leggings of a soldier. Another covered his
greasy locks with a three-cornered hat, richly laced in gold. A
third flaunted under his ragged blue coat a gold-broidered
waistcoat and a Brussels cravat. A valuable ring flashed from the
grimy finger of a fourth, who, instead of the military white
nankeens, wore a pair of black silk breeches. There was one - he
of the injured arm - resplendent in a redingote of crimson velvet,
whilst he of the limp supported himself upon a gold-headed cane of
ebony, which was in ludicrous discord with the tattered blue coat,
the phrygian cap, and the toes that peeped through his broken boots.
They paused in their game to inspect, in their turn, the newcomers,
and to La Boulaye it seemed that their glances were not free from
"A picturesque company on my life," he mused aloud. Then beckoned
the one in the crimson coat.
"Hola, Citizen,"he called to him.
The fellow hesitated a moment, then shuffled forward with a sullen
air, and stood by Caron's stirrup.
"In God's name, what are you and who are you?" the Deputy demanded.
"We are invalided soldiers from the army of Dumouriez,"the man
"But what are you doing here, at Boisvert?"
"We are in hospital, Citizen."
"Yonder?" asked La Boulaye derisively, pointing with his whip to
the "Eagle Inn."
The fellow nodded.
"Yes, Citizen, yonder," he answered curtly.
La Boulaye looked surprised. Then his eyes strayed to the others
on the green.
"But you are not all invalids?"he questioned.
"Many of us are convalescent."
"Convalescent? But those three braves yonder are something more
than convalescent. They are as well as I am. Why do they not
rejoin the troops?"
The fellow looked up with a scowl.
"We take our orders from our officer,"he answered sourly.
"Ah!" quoth the Deputy. "There is someone in charge here, then?
Who may it be?"
"Captain Charlot,"the fellow answered, with an impudent air, which
clearly seemed to ask: "What have you to say to that?"
"Captain Charlot?" echoed La Boulaye, in astonishment, for the name
was that of the sometime peasant of Bellecour, who had since risen
in life, and who, as an officer, had in a few months acquired a
brilliant fame for deeds of daring. "Charlot Tardivet?" he inquired.
"Is there any other Captain Charlot in the army of the Republic?"
the fellow asked insolently.
"Is he invalided too?" inquired Caron, without heeding the soldier's
offensiveness of manner.
"He was severely wounded at Jemappes,"was the answer.
"At Jemappes? But, voyons my friend, Jemappes was fought three
"Why, so all the world knows. What then? The General sent Captain
Charlot here to rest and be cured, giving him charge of the
invalided soldiers who came with him and of others who were already
"And of these,"cried La Boulaye, his amazement growing, "have none
returned to Dumouriez?"
"Have I not said that we are invalids?"
Caron eyed him with cold contempt.
"How many of you are there?"he asked. And for all that the man
began to mislike this questioning, he had not the hardihood to
refuse an answer to the stern tones of that stern man on horseback.
"Some fifty, or thereabouts."
La Boulaye said nothing for a moment, then touching the fellow's
sleeve with his whip.
"How came you into this masquerade?"he inquired.
"Ma foi," answered the man, shrugging his shoulders, "we were in
rags. The commissariat was demoralised, and supplies were not
forthcoming. We had to take what we could find, or else go naked."
"And where did you find these things?"
"Diable! Will your questions never come to an end, Citizen? Would
you not be better advised in putting them to the Captain himself?"
"Why, so I will. Where is he?"
In the distance a cloud of dust might be perceived above the long,
white road. The soldier espied it as La Boulaye put his question.
"I am much at fault if he does not come yonder." And he pointed to
"I think," said La Boulaye, turning to his men, "that we will drink
a cup of wine at the 'Eagle Inn.' "
Mean though the place was, it was equipped with a stable-yard, to
which admittance was gained by a porte-cochere on the right.
Wheeling his horse, La Boulaye, without another word to the soldier
he had been questioning, rode through it, followed by his escort.
The hostess, who came forward to receive them, was a tall, bony
woman of very swarthy complexion, with beady eyes and teeth
prominent as a rat's. But if ill-favoured, she seemed, at least,
well-intentioned, in addition to which the tricolour scarf of office
round La Boulaye's waist was a thing that commanded respect and
servility, however much it might be the insignia of a Government of
liberty, equality, and fraternity.
She bade the ostler care for their horses, and she brought them her
best wine, seeking under an assumed geniality to conceal the unrest
born of her speculations as to what might happen did Captain Charlot
return ere the Deputy departed.
Charlot did return. Scarce were they seated at their wine when the
confused sounds that from the distance had been swelling took more
definite shape. The hostess looked uneasy as La Boulaye rose and
went to the door of the inn. Down the road marched now a numerous
company from which - to judge by their odd appearance - the players
at bowls had been drawn. They numbered close upon threescore, and
in the centre of them came a great lumbering vehicle, which puzzled
La Boulaye. He drew away from the door and posted himself at the
window, so that unobserved he might ascertain what was toward. Into
the courtyard came that company, pele-mele, an odd mixture of rags
and gauds, yet a very lusty party, vigorous of limb and loud of
voice. With them came the coach, and there was such a press about
the gates that La Boulaye looked to see some of them crushed to death.
But with a few shouts and oaths and threats at one another they got
through in safety, and the unwieldy carriage was brought to a
They were clamouring about its doors, and to La Boulaye it seemed
that they were on the point of quarrelling among themselves, some
wanting to enter the coach and others seeking to restrain them,
when through the porte-cochere rode Charlot Tardivet himself.
He barked out a sharp word of command, and they grew silent and
still, testifying to a discipline which said much for the strength
of character of their captain. He was strangely altered, was this
Tardivet, and his appearance now was worthy of his followers. Under
a gaudily-laced, three-cornered hat his hair hung dishevelled and
unkempt, like wisps of straw. He wore a coat of flowered black
silk, with a heavy gold edging, and a very bright plum-coloured
waistcoat showed above the broad tricolour scarf that sashed his
middle. His breeches were white (or had been white in origin), and
disappeared into a pair of very lustrous lacquered boots that rose
high above his knees. A cavalry sabre of ordinary dimensions hung
from a military belt, and a pistol-butt, peeping from his sash,
completed the astonishing motley of his appearance. For the rest,
he was the same tall and well-knit fellow; but there was more
strength in his square chin, more intelligence in the keen blue
eyes, and, alas! more coarseness in the mouth, which bristled with
a reddish beard of some days' growth.
La Boulaye watched him with interest. He had become intimate with
him in the old days in Paris, whither Tardivet had gone, and where,
fired by the wrongs he had suffered, he had been one of the
apostles of the Revolution. When the frontiers of France had been
in danger Tardivet had taken up arms, and by the lustre which he
had shed upon the name of Captain Charlotas he was come to be
called throughout the army - he had eclipsed the fame of Citizen
Tardivet, the erstwhile prophet of liberty. Great changes these in
the estate of one who had been a simple peasant; but then the times
were times of great changes. Was not Santerre, the brewer, become
a great general, and was not Robespierre, the obscure lawyer of
Arras, by way of becoming a dictator? Was it, therefore, wonderful
that Charlot should have passed from peasant to preacher, from
preacher to soldier, and from soldier to - what?
A shrewd suspicion was being borne in upon La Boulaye's mind as he
stood by that window, his men behind him watching also, with no less
intentness and some uneasiness for themselves - for they misliked
the look of the company.
In five seconds Charlot had restored order in the human chaos
without. In five minutes there were but ten men left in the yard.
The others were gone at Charlot's bidding - a bidding, couched in
words that went to confirm La Boulaye's suspicions.
"You will get back to your posts at once,"he had said. "Because we
have made one rich capture is no reason why you should neglect the
opportunities of making others no less rich. You, Moulinet, with
twenty men, shall patrol the road to Charleroi, and get as near
France as possible. You Boligny, station yourself in the
neighbourhood of Conde, with ten men, and guard the road from
Valenciennes. You, Aigreville, spread your twenty men from Conde
to Tournay, and watch the frontiers closely. Make an inspection of
any captures you may take, and waste no time in bringing hither
worthless ones. Now go. I will see that each man's share of this
is assured him. March!"
There were some shouts of "Vive la Republique!" some of "Vive le
Captaine Charlot!" and so they poured out of the yard, and left
him to give a few hurried directions to the ten men that remained.
"Sad invalids these, as I live!" exclaimed La Boulaye over his
shoulder to his followers. "Ha! There is my friend of the red
The fellow with the bandaged head had approached Charlot and was
tugging at his sleeve.
"Let be, you greasy rascal," the Captain snapped at him, to add:
"What do you say? A Deputy? Where?" The fellow pointed with
his thumb in the direction of the hostelry.
"Sacred name of a name!" growled Charlot, and, turning suddenly
from the men to whom he had been issuing directions, he sprang up
the steps and entered the inn. As he crossed the threshold of the
common room he was confronted by the tall figure of La Boulaye.
"I make you my compliments, Charlot," was Caron's greeting, "upon
the vigorous health that appears to prevail in your hospital."
Tardivet stood a moment within the doorway, staring at the Deputy.
Then his brow cleared, and with a laugh, at once of welcome and
amusement, he strode forward and put out his hand.
"My good Caron!" he cried. "To meet you at Boisvert is a pleasure
I had not looked for."
"Are you so very sure," asked La Boulaye sardonically, as he took
the outstretched hand, "that it is a pleasure?"
"How could it be else, old friend? By St. Guillotine!" he added,
clapping the Deputy on the back, "you shall come to my room, and
we will broach a bottle of green seal."
In some measure of wonder, La Boulaye permitted himself to be led
up the crazy stairs to a most untidy room above, which evidently did
duty as the Captain's parlour. A heavy brass lamp, hanging from the
ceiling, a few untrustworthy chairs and a deal table, stained and
unclean, were the only articles of furniture. But in almost every
corner there were untidy heaps of garments Of all sorts and
conditions; strewn about the floor were other articles of apparel,
a few weapons, a saddle, and three or four boots; here an empty
bottle, lying on its side, yonder a couple of full ones by the
hearth; an odd book or two and an infinity of playing cards, cast
there much as a sower scatters his seeds upon the ground.
There may be a hundred ways of apprehending the character of a man,
but none perhaps is more reliable than the appearance of his
dwelling, and no discerning person that stepped into Captain
Tardivet's parlour could long remain in doubt of its inhabitant's
pursuits and habits.
When Dame Capoulade had withdrawn, after bringing them their wine
and casting a few logs upon the fire, La Boulaye turned his back
to the hearth and confronted his host.
"Why are you not with the army, Charlot?" he asked in a tone which
made the question sound like a demand.
"Have they not told you,"rejoined the other airily, engrossed in
filling the glasses.
"I understand you were sent here to recover from a wound you received
three months ago at Jemappes, and to take charge of other invalided
soldiers. But seemingly, your invalids do not number more than a
half-dozen out of the fifty or sixty men that are with you. How is
it then, that you do not return with these to Dumouriez?"
"Because I can serve France better here," answered Charlot, "and at
the same time enrich myself and my followers."
"In short," returned La Boulaye coldly, "because you have degenerated
from a soldier into a brigand."
Charlot looked up, and for just a second his glance was not without
uneasiness. Then he laughed. He unbuckled his sword and tossed it
into a corner, throwing his hat after it.
"It was ever your way to take extreme views, Caron," he observed,
with a certain whimsical regret of tone. "That, no doubt, is what
has made a statesman of you. You had chosen more wisely had you
elected to serve the Republic with your sword instead. Come, my
friend," and he pointed to the wine, "let us pledge the Nation."
La Boulaye shrugged his shoulders slightly, and sighed. In the end
he came forward and took the wine.
"Long live the Republic!" was Charlot's toast, and with a slight
inclination of the head La Boulaye drained his glass.
"It is likely to live without you, Charlot, unless you mend your
"Diable!" snapped the Captain, a trifle peevishly. "Can you not
understand that in my own way I am serving my country. You have
called me a brigand. But you might say the same of General
Dumouriez himself. How many cities has he not sacked?"
"That is the way of war."
"And so is this. He makes war upon the enemies of France that dwell
in cities, whilst I, in a smaller way, make war upon those that
travel in coaches. I confine myself to emigres - these damned
aristocrats whom it is every good Frenchman's duty to aid in stamping
out. Over the frontiers they come with their jewels, their plate,
and their money-chests. To whom belongs this wealth? To France.
Too long already have they withheld from the sons of the soil that
which belongs equally to them, and now they have the effrontery to
attempt to carry these riches out of the country. Would any true
Republican dare to reproach me for what I do? I am but seizing
that which belongs to France, and here dividing it among the good
patriots that are with me, the soldiers that have bled for France."
"A specious argument,"sneered La Boulaye.
"Specious enough to satisfy the Convention itself if ever I should
be called to task," answered Charlot, with heat. "Do you propose
to draw the attention of the Executive to my doings?"
La Boulaye's grey eyes regarded him steadily for a moment.
"Know you of any reason why I should not?" he asked.
"Yes, Caron, I do," was the ready answer. "I am well aware of the
extent of your power with the Mountain. In Paris I can see that
it might go hard with me if you were minded that it should, and you
were able to seize me. On the other hand, that such arguments that
I have advanced to you would be acceptable to the Government I do
not doubt. But whilst they would approve of this that you call
brigandage, I also do not doubt that they would claim that the
prizes I have seized are by right the property of the Convention,
and they might compel me to surrender them. Thus they would pass
from my hands into those of some statesman-brigand, who, under the
plea of seizing these treasures for the coffers of the nation,
would transfer them to his own. Would you rather help such an one
to profit than me, Caron? Have you so far forgotten how we
suffered together - almost in the self-same cause - at Bellecour,
in the old days? Have you forgotten the friendship that linked
us later, in Paris, when the Revolution was in its dawn? Have
you forgotten what I have endured at the hands of this infernal
class that you can feel no sympathy for me? Caron, it is a
measure of revenge, and as there is a Heaven, a very mild one.
Me they robbed of more than life; them I deprive but of their
jewels and their plate, turning them destitute upon the world.
Bethink you of my girl-wife, Caron," he added, furiously, "and of
how she died of grief and shame a short three months after our
hideous nuptials. God in Heaven! When the memory of it returns
to me I marvel at my own forbearance. I marvel that I do not take
every man and woman of them that fall into my hands and flog them
to death as they would have flogged you when you sought - alas to
so little purpose - to intervene on my behalf."
He grew silent and thoughtful, and the expression of his face was
not nice. At last: "Have I given you reason enough," he asked,
"why you should not seek to thwart me?"
"Why, yes," answered La Boulaye, "more than was necessary. I am
desolated that I should have brought you to re-open a sorrow that
I thought was healed."
"So it is, Caron. How it is I do not know. Perhaps it is my
nature; perhaps it is that in youth sorrow is seldom long-enduring;
perhaps it is the strenuous life I have lived and the changes that
have been wrought in me - for, after all, there is a little in this
Captain Tardivet that is like the peasant poor Marie took to
husband, four years ago. I am no longer the same man, and among
the other things that I have put from me are the sorrows that were
of the old Charlot. But some memories cannot altogether die, and
if to-day I no longer mourn that poor child, yet the knowledge of
the debt that lies 'twixt the noblesse of France and me is ever
present, and I neglect no opportunity of discharging a part of it.
But enough of that, Caron. Tell me of yourself. It is a full
twelvemonth since last we met, and in that time, from what I have
heard, you have done much and gone far. Tell me of it, Caron."
They drew their chairs to the hearth, and they sat talking so long
that the early February twilight came down upon them while they
were still at their reminiscences. La Boulaye had intended reaching
Valenciennes that night; but rather than journey forward in the
dark he now proposed to lie at Boisvert, a resolution in which he
did not lack for encouragement from Charlot.
Amid the sordid surroundings of Charlot's private quarters the
Captain and the Deputy supped that evening. The supper sorted well
with the house - a greasy, ill-cooked meal that proved little
inviting to the somewhat fastidious La Boulaye. But the wine,
plundered, no doubt, in common with the goblets out of which they
drank it - was more than good, and whilst La Boulaye showed his
appreciation of it, Charlot abused it like a soldier. They sat
facing each other across the little deal table, whose stains were
now hidden by a cloth, and to light them they had four tapers set
in silver candlesticks of magnificent workmanship, and most
wondrous weight, which Tardivet informed his guest had been the
property of a ci-devant prince of the blood.
As the night wore on Captain Charlot grew boisterous and more
confidential. He came at length to speak of the last capture they
"I have taken prizes, Caron,"said he, "which a king might not
despise. But to-day - " He raised his eyes to the ceiling and
wagged his head.
"Well?" quoth La Boulaye. "What about to-day?"
"I have made a capture worth more than all the others put together.
It was an indifferent-looking berline, and my men were within an
ace of allowing it to pass. But I have a nose, mon cher" - and he
tapped the organ with ludicrous significance - "and, bon Dieu, what
affair! I can smell an aristocrat a league off. Down upon that
coach I swooped like a hawk upon a sparrow. Within it sat two women,
thickly veiled, and I give you my word that in a sense I pitied them,
for not a doubt of it, but they were in the act of congratulating
themselves upon their escape from France. But sentiment may become
fatal if permitted to interfere with enterprise. Stifling my regrets
I desired them to alight, and they being wise obeyed me without demur.
I allowed them to retain their veils. I sought the sight of things
other than women's faces, and a brief survey of the coach showed me
where to bestow my attention. I lifted the back seat. It came up
like the lid of the chest it was, and beneath it I discovered enough
gold and silver plate to outweigh in value almost everything that I
had ever taken. But that was by no means all. Under the front seat
there was a chest of gold - louis d'ors they were, some two or three
thousand at least - and, besides that, a little iron-bound box of
gems which in itself was worth more than all the rest of the contents
of that treasure-casket of a coach. I tell you, Caron, I dropped
the lid of that seat in some haste, for I was not minded that my men
should become as wise as I. I stepped down and bade, the women
re-enter, and hither under strong escort I have brought them."
"And these treasures?" asked La Boulaye.
"They are still in the coach below, with the women. I have told
these that they shall spend the night there. To-morrow I shall see
to them and give them their liberty - which is a more generous
proceeding than might befall them at the hands of another. When
they are gone comes the division of the spoil." He closed one eye
slowly, in a very ponderous wink. "To my men I shall relegate the
gold and silver plate as well as the money. For myself I shall
only retain the little iron-bound box. My followers will account
me more than generous and themselves more than satisfied. As for
me, La Boulaye - by St. Guillotine, I am tempted to emigrate also and
set up as an aristocrat myself in Prussia or England, for in that
little box there is something more than a fortune. I asked you
to-day whether you were minded to lay information against me in
Paris. My faith, I am little concerned whether you do or not, for
I think that before you can reach Paris, Captain Charlot Tardivet
will be no more than a name in the Republican army. Abroad I
shall call myself Charlot du Tardivet, and I shall sleep in fine
linen and live on truffles and champagne. Caron, your health!"
He drained his glass, and laughed softly to himself as he set it
"Do you trust your men?" asked La Boulaye.
"Eh? Trust them? Name of a name! They know me. I have placed the
ten most faithful ones on guard. They answer to the rest of us
with their necks for the safety of their charge. Come hither,
He rose somewhat unsteadily, and lurched across to the window. La
Boulaye followed him, and gazing out under his indication, he
beheld the coach by the blaze of a fire which the men had lighted
to keep them from freezing at their post.
"Does that look secure?"
"Why, yes - secure enough. But if those fellows were to take it
into their heads that it would be more profitable to share the prize
among ten than among sixty?"
"Secreanom!!" swore Charlot impatiently. "You do my wits poor
credit. For what do you take me? Have I gone through so much, think
you, without learning how little men are to be trusted? Faugh!
Look at the porte-cochere. The gates are closed - aye, and locked,
mon cher, and the keys are here, in my pocket. Do you imagine they
are to be broken through without arousing anyone? And then, the
horses. They are in the stables over there, and again, the keys are
in my pocket. So that, you see, I do not leave everything to the
honesty of my ten most faithful ones."
"You have learned wisdom, not a doubt of it," laughed the Deputy.
"In a hard school, Caron,"answered the Captain soberly. "Aye, name
of a name, in a monstrous hard school."
He turned from the window, and the light of the tapers falling on
his face, showed it heavily scored with lines of pain, testifying to
the ugly memories which the Deputy's light words had evoked. Then
suddenly he laughed, half-bitterly, half humourously.
"La, la!" said he. "The thing's past. Charlot Tardivet the
bridegroom of Bellecour and Captain Charlot of Dumouriez' army are
different men-very different."
He strode back to the table, filled his goblet, and gulped down the
wine. Then he crossed to the fire and stood with his back to La
Boulaye for a spell. When next he faced his companion all signs of
emotion had cleared from his countenance. It was again the callous,
reckless face of Captain Charlot, rendered a trifle more reckless
and a trifle more callous by the wine-flush on his cheeks and the
wine-glitter in his eye.
"Caron" said he, with a half-smile, "shall we have these ladies in
"God forbid! "ejaculated La Boulaye.
"Nay, but I will,"the other insisted, and he moved across to the
As he passed him, La Boulaye laid a detaining hand upon his arm.
"Not that, Charlot," he begged impressively, his dark face very set.
"Plunder them, turn them destitute upon the world, if you will, but
remember, at least, that they are women."
Charlot laughed in his face.
"It is something to remember, is it not? They remembered it of
our women, these aristocrats!"
There was so much ugly truth in the Captain's words, and such a
suggestion of just, if bitter, retribution in his mental attitude,
that La Boulaye released his arm, at a loss for further arguments
wherewith to curb him.
"Paydi!" Charlot continued, "I have a mind for a frolic. Does not
justice give me the right to claim that these aristocrats shall
With an oath he turned abruptly, and pulled the casement open.
"Guyot!" he called, and a voice from below made answer to him.
"You will make my compliments to the citoyennes in the coach, Guyot,
and tell them that the Citizen-captain Tardivet requests the honour
of their company to supper."
Then he went to the door, and calling Dame Capoulade, he bade her
set two fresh covers; in which he was expeditiously obeyed. La
Boulaye stood by the fire, his pale face impassive now and almost
indifferent. Charlot returned to the window to learn from Guyot
that the citoyennes thanked the Citizen-captain, but that they were
tired and sought to be excused, asking nothing better than to be
allowed to remain at peace in their carriage.
"Sacred name of a name!" he croaked, a trifle thickly, for the wine
he had taken was mastering him more and more. "Are they defying us?
Since they will not accept an invitation, compel them to obey a
command. Bring them up at once, Guyot."
"At once, Captain,"was the answer, and Guyot went about the business.
Charlot closed the window and approached the table.
"They are coquettish these scented dames,"he mocked, as he poured
himself out some wine. "You are not drinking Caron."
"It is perhaps wise that one of us should remain sober," answered
the Deputy quietly, for in spite of a certain sympathy with the
feelings by which Charlot was actuated, he was in dead antipathy
to this baiting of women that seemed toward.
Charlot made no answer. He drained his goblet and set it down with
a bang. Then he flung himself into a chair, and stretching out his
long, booted legs he began to hum the refrain of the "Marseillaise."
Thus a few moments went by. Then there came a sound of steps upon
the creaking stairs, and the gruff voice of the soldier urging the
ladies to ascend more speedily.
At last the door opened and two women entered, followed by Guyot.
Charlot lurched to his feet.
"You have come, Mesdames," said he, forgetting the mode of address
prescribed by the Convention, and clumsily essaying to make a leg.
"Be welcome! Guyot, go to the devil."
For a moment or two after the soldier's departure the women remained
in the shadow, then, at the Captain's invitation, which they dared
not disobey, they came forward into the halo of candle-light.
Simultaneously La Boulaye caught his breath, and took a step forward.
Then he drew back again until his shoulders touched the overmantel
and there he remained, staring at the newcomers, who as yet, did not
appear to have observed him.
They wore no headgear, and their scarfs were thrown back upon their
shoulders, revealing to the stricken gaze of La Boulaye the
countenances of the Marquise de Bellecour and her daughter.
And now, as they advanced into the light, Charlot recognised them
too. In the act of offering a chair he stood, arrested, his eyes
devouring first one, then the other of then, with a glance that
seemed to have grown oddly sobered. The flush died from his face,
and his lips twitched like those of a man who seeks to control his
emotions. Then slowly the colour crept back into his cheeks, a curl
of mockery appeared on the coarse mouth, and the eyes beamed evilly.
They tense silence was broken by the bang with which he dropped the
chair he had half raised. As he leaned forward now, La Boulaye read
in his face the thought that had leapt into the Captain's mind, and
had it been a question of any woman other than Zuzanne de Bellecour,
the Deputy might have indulged in the consideration of what a
wonderful retribution was there here. Into the hands of the man
whose bride the Marquis de Bellecour had torn from him were now
delivered by a wonderful chance the wife and daughter of that same
Bellecour. And at Boisvert this briganding Captain was as much
to-night the lord of life and death, and all besides, as had been
the Marquis of Bellecour of old. But he pondered not these things,
for all that the stern irony of the coincidence did not escape him.
That evil look in Charlot's eyes, that sinister smile on Charlot's
lips, more than suggested what manner of vengeance the Captain would
exact - and that, for the time, was matter enough to absorb the
Deputy's whole attention.
And the women did not see him. They were too much engrossed in the
figure fronting them, and agonisedly, with cheeks white and bosoms
heaving, they waited, in their dread suspense. At last, drawing
himself to the full of his stalwart height, the Captain laughed
grimly and spoke.
"Mesdames," said he, his very tone an insult in its brutal derision,
"we Republicans have abolished God, and until tonight I have held
the Republic right, arguing that if a God there was, His leanings
must be aristocratic, since He never seemed to concern Himself with
the misfortunes of the lowly-born. But tonight, mesdames, I know
that the Republic is at fault. There is a God - a God of justice and
retribution, who has delivered you, of all people in the world, into
my hands. Look on me well, Ci-devant Marquise de Bellecour, and you,
Mademoiselle de Bellecour. Look in my face and see if you know me
again. Not you. You never heeded me as you rode by in those proud
days. But heard you ever tell of one Charlot Tardivet, a base vassal
whose wife your husband, Madame, and your father, Mademoiselle, took
from him on his bridal morn? Heard you ever tell of that poor girl
- one Marie Tardivet - who died of grief as a consequence of that
brutality? But no; such matters were too trivial for your notice
if you saw them, or for your memory if you ever heard tell of them.
What was the life of a peasant more than that of any other animal of
the land, that the concern of it should perturb the sereneness of
your aristocratic being? Mesdames, that Charlot Tardivet am I; that
Marie Tardivet was my wife. I knew not whom you were when I bade
you sup at my table but now that I know it - what do you look for at
It was the Marquise who answered him. She was deathly pale, and her
words came breathlessly: for all that their import was very bold.
"We look for the recollection that we are women and unless you are
as cowardly as - "
"Citoyenne,"he broke in harshly, answering her as he had answered
La Boulaye, "was my wife less a woman think you? Pah! There is
yet another here who was wronged," he announced, and he waved his
hand in the direction of La Boulaye, who stood, stiff and pale, by
The women turned, and at sight of the Deputy a cry escaped Suzanne.
It was a cry of hope, for here was one who would surely lend them
aid. It was a fact, she thought, upon which the Captain had not
counted. But La Boulaye stood straight and cold, and not by so much
as an inclination of the head did he acknowledge that grim
introduction. Charlot, mistaking Mademoiselle's exclamation,
"Well may you cry out, Citoyenne,"said he, "for him I see you
recognise. He is the man who sought to rescue my wife from the
clutches of your lordly and most noble father. For his pains he
was flogged until they believed him dead. Is it not very fitting
that he should be with me now to receive you?"
"But he, at least, is in my debt," cried Mademoiselle, now making a
step forward, and sustained by an excitement born of hope. "Whatever
may be my father's sins, M. la Boulaye, at least, will not seek to
visit them upon the daughter, for he owes his life to me, and he
will not forget the debt."
Charlot's brows were suddenly knit with vexation. He half-turned to
La Boulaye, as if to speak; but ere he could utter a word -
"The debt has been paid, Citoyenne," said Caron impassively.
Before that cold answer, so coldly delivered, Mademoiselle recoiled.
"Paid!" she echoed mechanically.
"Aye, paid,"he rejoined. "You claimed your brother's life in
payment, and I gave it to you. Do you not think that we are quits?
Besides," he ended suddenly, "Captain Tardivet is the master here.
Address your appeals to him, Citoyenne."
With terror written on her face, she turned from him to meet the
flushed countenance of Charlot, who, with arms akimbo and his head
on one side, was regarding her at once with mockery and satisfaction.
"What do you intend by us, Monsieur?" she questioned in a choking
He smiled inscrutably.
"Allay your fears, Citoyenne; you will find me very gentle."
"I knew you would prove generous,"she cried.
"But, yes, Citoyenne,"he rejoined, in the tones we employ to those
who fear unreasonably. "I shall prove generous; as generous as - as
was my lord your father."
La Boulaye trembled, but his face remained calmly expressionless as
he watched that grim scene.
"Monsieur!" Suzanne cried out in horror.
"You will not dare, you scum!" blazed the Marchioness.
Charlot shrugged his shoulders and laughed, whereupon Madame de
Bellecour seemed to become a being transformed. Her ample flesh,
which but a moment back had quivered in fear, quivered now more
violently still in anger. The colour flowed back into her cheeks
until they flamed an angry crimson, and her vituperations rang in
so loud and fierce a voice that at last, putting his hands to his
ears, Charlot crossed to the door.
"Silence!" he roared at her, so savagely that her spirit forsook
her on the instant. "I will put an end to this," he swore, as he
opened the door. "Hold there! Is Guyot below?"
"Here, Captain,"came a voice.
Charlot retraced his steps, leaving the door wide, his eyes dwelling
upon Suzanne until she shrank under its gaze, as she might have done
from the touch of some unclean thing. She drew near to her mother,
in whom the brief paroxysm of rage was now succeeded by a no less
violent paroxysm of weeping. On the stairs sounded Guyot's ascending
"Mother," whispered Suzanne, setting her arms about her in a vain
attempt to comfort. Then she heard Charlot's voice curtly bidding
Guyot to reconduct the Marquise to her carriage.
Madame de Bellecour heard it also, and roused herself once more.
"I will not go,"she stormed, anger flashing again from the tear-laden
eyes. "I will not leave my daughter."
Charlot shrugged his shoulders callously.
"Take her away, Guyot,"he said, shortly, and the sturdy soldier
obeyed him with a roughness that took no account of either birth or
When the Marquise's last scream had died away in the distance,
Charlot turned once more to Suzanne, and it seemed that he sought
to compose his features into an expression of gentleness beyond
their rugged limitations. But the glance of his blue eyes was kind,
and mistaking the purport of that kindness, Mademoiselle began an
appeal to his better feelings.
Straight and tall, pale and delicate she stood, her beauty rendered,
perhaps, the more appealing by virtue of the fear reflected on her
countenance. Her blue eyes were veiled behind their long black
lashes, her lips were tremulous, and her hands clasped and unclasped
as she now made her prayer to the Republican. But in the hardened
heart of Charlot no breath of pity stirred. He beheld her beauty
and he bethought him of his wrongs. For the rest, perhaps, had she
been less comely he had been less vengeful.
And yonder by the hearth stood La Boulaye like a statue, unmoved and
immovable. The Captain was speaking to her, gently and soothingly,
but her thoughts became more taken with the silence of La Boulaye
than with the speech of Charlot. Even in that parlous moment she
had leisure to despise herself for having once - on the day on which,
in answer to her intercessions, he had spared her brother's life
- entertained a kindly, almost wistful, thought concerning this man
whom she now deemed a dastard.
THE BAISER LAMOURETTE
Presently Charlot turned to La Boulaye, and for all that he uttered
no word, his glance left nothing to be said. In response to it Caron
stirred at last, and came leisurely over to the table.
"A mouthful of wine, and I'm gone, Charlot," said he in level,
colourless tones, as taking up a flagon he filled himself a goblet.
"Fill for me, too," cried the Captain; "aye, and for the Citoyenne
here. Come, my girl, a cup of wine will refresh you."
But Suzanne shrank from the invitation as much as from the tenor of
it and the epithet he had applied to her. Observing this, he
"Oh! As you will. But the wine is good-from cellar of a ci-devant
Duke. My service to you, Citoyenne," he pledged her, and raising
his cup, he poured the wine down a throat that was parched by the
much that he had drunk already, But ere the goblet was half-empty,
a sharp, sudden cry from La Boulaye came to interrupt his quaffing.
He glanced round, and at what he saw he spilled the wine down his
waistcoat, then let the cup fall to the ground, as with an oath he
flung himself upon the girl.
She had approached the table whilst both men were drinking, and
quietly possessed herself of a knife; and, but that it was too blunt
to do the service to which she put it, Charlot's intervention would
have come too late. As it was he caught her wrist in time, and in
a rage he tore the weapon from her fingers, and flung it far across
"So, pretty lady!" he gasped, now gripping both her wrists. "So!
we are suicidally inclined, are we! We would cheat Captain Charlot,
would we? Fi donc!" he continued with horrid playfulness. "To
shed a blood so blue upon a floor so unclean! Name of a name of a
Accounting herself baffled at every point, this girl, who had
hitherto borne herself so stoutly as to have stoically sought death
as a last means of escape, began to weep softly. Whereupon:
"Nay, nay, little-woman,"murmured the Captain, in such accents as
are employed to a petted child, and instinctively, in his intent to
soothe he drew her nearer. And now the close contact thrilled him;
her beauty, and some subtle perfume that reached him from her,
played havoc with his senses. Nearer he drew her in silence, his
face white and clammy, and his hot, wine laden breath coming quicker
every second. And unresisting she submitted, for she was beyond
resistance now, beyond tears even. From between wet lashes her great
eyes gazed into his with a look of deadly, piteous affright; her
lips were parted, her cheeks ashen, and her mind was dimly striving
to formulate a prayer to the Holy Mother, the natural protectress of
all imperilled virgins.
Nearer she felt herself drawn to her tormentor, in whose thoughts
there dwelt now little recollection of the vengeful character of his
purpose. For a second her wrists were released; then she felt his
arms going round her as the coils of a snake go round its prey.
With a sudden reassertion of self, with a panting gasp of horror,
she tore herself free. An oath broke from him as he sprang after
her. Then the unexpected happened. Above his head something bright
flashed up, then down. There was a dull crack, and the Captain
stopped short in his rush; his hands were jerked to the height of
his breast, and like a pole-axed beast he dropped and lay prone at
Across his fallen body she beheld La Boulaye standing impassively,
the ghost of a smile on his thin lips, and in his hand one of the
heavy silver candlesticks from the table.
Whilst a man might count a dozen they stood so with no word spoken.
"It was a cowardly blow, Citoyenne," said the Deputy in accents of
regret; "but what choice had I?" He set down the candlestick, and
kneeling beside Charlot, he felt for the Captain's heart. "The door,
Citoyenne," he muttered. "Lock it."
Mechanically, and without uttering a word, she hastened to do his
bidding. As the key grated in the lock he rose.
"It has only stunned him," he announced. "Now to prepare an
explanation for it."
He drew a chair under the old brass lamp, that hung from the ceiling.
He mounted the chair, and with both hands he seized the chain
immediately above the lamp. Drawing himself up, he swung there for
just a second; then the hook gave way, and amid a shower of plaster
La Boulaye half-tumbled to the ground.
"There," said he, as he dropped the lamp with its chain and hook
upon the floor by Charlot. "It may not be as convincing as we might
wish, but I think that it will prove convincing enough to the dull
wits of the landlady, and of such of Charlot's followers as may enter
here. I am afraid," he deplored, "that it will be some time before
he recovers. He was so far gone in wine that it needed little weight
to fell him."
Her glance met his once more, and she took a step towards him with
"Monsieur, Monsieur!" she cried. "If you but knew how in my thoughts
I wronged you a little while ago."
"You had all reason to," he answered, taking her hands, and there
came the least softening of his stern countenance. "It grieved me
to add to your affliction. But had I permitted him to do so much as
suspect that I was anything but your implacable enemy, I had no
chance of saving you. He would have dismissed me, and I must have
obeyed or been compelled, for he is master here, and has men enough
to enforce what he desires."
And now she would have thanked him for having saved her, but he cut
her short almost roughly.
"You owe me no thanks,"he said. "I have but done for you what my
manhood must have bidden me do for any woman similarly situated. For
to-night I have saved you, Citoyenne. I shall make an effort to
smuggle you and your mother out of Boisvert before morning, but after
that you must help yourselves."
"You will do this?" she cried, her eyes glistening.
"I will attempt it."
"By what means, Monsieur Caron?"
"I do not yet know. I must consider. In the meantime you had best
return to your coach. Later to-night I shall have you and your
mother brought to me, and I will endeavour to so arrange matters
that you shall not again return to your carriage.
"Not return to it?" she exclaimed. "But are we then to leave it
"I am afraid there is no help for that."
"But, Monsieur, you do not know; there is a treasure in that carriage.
All that we have is packed in it, and if we go without it we go
"Better, perhaps, to go destitute than not to go at all, Mademoiselle.
I am afraid there is no choice for you."
His manner was a trifle impatient. It irritated him that in such a
moment she should give so much thought to her valuables. But in
reality she was thinking of them inasmuch as they concerned her
mother, who was below, and her father and brother who awaited them
in Prussia, whither they had separately emigrated. The impatience
in his tone stung her into a feeling of resentment, that for the
moment seemed to blot out the much that she owed him. A reproachful
word was trembling on her lips, when suddenly he put out his hand.
"Hist!" he whispered, the concentrated look of one who listens
stamped upon his face. His sharp ears had detected some sound which
- perhaps through her preoccupation - she had not noticed. He
stepped quickly to the Captain's side, and taking up the lamp by its
chain, he leapt into the air like a clown, and came down on his heels
with a thud that shook the chamber. Simultaneously he dropped the
lamp with a clatter, and sent a shout re-echoing through the house.
The girl stared at him with parted lips and the least look of fear
in her eyes. Was he gone clean mad of a sudden?
But now the sound which had warned him of someone's approach reached
her ears as well. There were steps on the stairs, which at that
alarming noise were instantly quickened. Yet ere they had reached
the top La Boulaye was at the door vociferating wildly.
Into the room came the hostess, breathless and grinning with anxiety,
and behind her came Guyot, who, startled by the din, had hastened up
to inquire into its cause.
At sight of the Captain stretched upon the floor there was a scream
from Mother Capoulade and an oath from the soldier.
"Mon Dieu! what has happened?" she cried, hurrying forward.
"Miserable!" exclaimed La Boulaye, with well-feigned anger. "It
seems that your wretched hovel is tumbling to pieces, and that men
are not safe beneath its roof." And he indicated the broken plaster
and the fallen lamp.
"How did it happen, Citoyenne-deputy?" asked Guyot; for all that he
drew the only possible inference from what he saw.
"Can you not see how it happened?" returned La Boulaye, impatiently.
"As for you, wretched woman, you will suffer for it, I promise you.
The nation is likely to demand a high price for Captain Charlot's
"But, bon Dieu, how am I to blame?" wailed the frightened woman.
"To blame," echoed La Boulaye, in a furious voice. "Are you not to
blame that you let rooms in a crazy hovel? Let them to emigres as
much as you will, but if you let them to good patriots and thereby
endanger their lives you must take the consequences. And the
consequences in this case are likely to be severe, malheureuse."
He turned now to Guyot, who was kneeling by the Captain, and looking
to his hurt.
"Here, Guyot,"he commanded sharply, "reconduct the Citoyenne to her
coach. I will perhaps see her again later, when the Captain shall
have recovered consciousness. You, Citoyenne Capoulade, assist me
to carry him to bed."
Each obeyed him, Guyot readily, as became a soldier, and the hostess
trembling with the dread which La Boulaye's words had instilled into
her. They got Charlot to bed, and when a half-hour or so later he
recovered consciousness, it was to find Guyot watching at his bed-side.
Bewildered, he demanded an explanation of his present position and of
the pain in his head, which brought him the memory of a sudden and
unaccountable blow he had received, which was the last thing that he
remembered. Guyot, who had never for a moment entertained a doubt
of the genuineness of the mise-en-scene La Boulaye had prepared,
answered him with the explanation of how he had been struck by the
falling lamp, whereupon Charlot fell to cursing lamps and crumblings
with horrid volubility. That done he would have risen, but that La
Boulaye, entering at that moment, insisted that he should remain
"Are you mad?" the Deputy expostulated, "or is it that you do not
appreciate the nature of your hurt? Diable! I have known a man
die through insisting to be about with a cracked skull that was as
nothing to yours."
"Name of a name! gasped Charlot, who in such matters was profoundly
ignorant and correspondingly credulous. "Is it so serious?"
"Not serious if you lie still and sleep. You will probably be quite
well by to-morrow. But if you move to-night the consequences may
well be fatal."
"But I cannot sleep at this hour,"the Captain complained. "I am very
"We will try to find you a sleeping potion, then,"said La Boulaye.
"I hope the hosteen may have something that will answer the purpose.
Meanwhile, Guyot, do not allow the Captain to talk. If you would
have him well to-morrow, remember that it is of the first importance
that he should have utter rest tonight."
With that he went in quest of Dame Capoulade to ascertain whether
she possessed any potion that would induce sleep. He told her that
the Captain was seriously injured, and that unless he slept he might
die, and, quickened by the terror of what might befall her in such
a case, the woman presently produced a small phial full of a brown,
viscous fluid. What it might be he had no notion, being all unversed
in the mysteries of the pharmacopoeia; but she told him that it had
belonged to her now defunct husband, who had always said that ten
drops of it would make a man sleep the clock round.
He experimented on the Captain with ten drops, and within a quarter
of an hour of taking the draught of red wine in which it was
administered, Charlot's deep breathing proclaimed him fast asleep.
That done, La Boulaye sent Guyot below to his post once more, and
returning to the room in which they had supped, he paced up and down
for a full hour, revolving in his mind the matter of saving
Mademoiselle and her mother. At last, towards ten o'clock, he opened
the casement, and calling down to Guyot, as Charlot had done, he bade
him bring the women up again. Now Guyot knew of the high position
which Caron occupied in the Convention, and he had seen the intimate
relations in which he stood to Tardivet, so that unhesitatingly he
now obeyed him.
La Boulaye closed the window, and crossed slowly to the fire. He
stirred the burning logs with his boot, then stood there waiting.
Presently the stairs creaked, next the door opened, and Guyot
ushered in Mademoiselle.
"The elder citoyenne refuses to come, Citizen-deputy," said the
soldier. "They both insisted that it was not necessary, and that
the Citoyenne here would answer your questions."
Almost on the point of commanding the soldier to return for the
Marquise, Caron caught the girl's eye, and her glance was so
significant that he thought it best to hear first what motives she
had for thus disobeying him.
"Very well,"he said shortly. "You may go below, Guyot. But hold
yourself in readiness lest I should have need of you."
The soldier saluted and disappeared. Scarce was he gone when
Mademoiselle came hurrying forward.
"Monsieur Caron," she cried "Heaven is surely befriending us. The
soldiers are drinking themselves out of their wits. They will be
keeping a slack watch presently."
He looked at her for a moment, fathoming the purport of what she
"But," he demanded at last, "why did not the Marquise obey my
summons, and accompany you?"
"She was afraid to leave the coach, Monsieur. Moreover, she agreed
with me that it would not be necessary."
"Not necessary?" he echoed. "But it is necessary. When last you
were here I told you I did not intend you should return to the coach.
This is my plan, Citoyenne. I shall keep Guyot waiting below while
you and your mother are fortifying yourselves by supper here. Then
I shall dismiss him with a recommendation that he keep a close watch
upon the carriage, and the information that you will not be returning
to it to-night. A half-hour later or so, when things are quiet, I
shall find a way out for you by the back, after which the rest must
remain in your hands. More I cannot do."
"You can," she cried; "you can."
"If you will enlighten me,"said he, with the faintest touch of irony.
She looked at his stern, sardonic face and solemn grey eyes, and for
a moment it almost seemed to her that she hated him more than anybody
in the world. He was so passionless, so master of himself, and he
addressed her in a tone which, whilst it suggested that he accounted
himself most fully her equal, made her feel that he was really her
better by much. If one of these two was an aristocrat, surely that
one was the Citizen-deputy La Boulaye.
"If you had but the will you would do it, Monsieur,"she answered
him. "It is not mine to enlighten you; I know not how."
"I have the very best will in the world, Citoyenne," said he. "Of
that I think that I am giving proof."
"Aye, the will to do nothing that will shame your manhood," she
rejoined. "That is all you think of. It was because your manhood
bade you that you came to my rescue - so you said when you declined
my thanks. It is this manhood of yours, I make no doubt, that is
now prevailing upon you to deliver two unprotected women out of the
hands of these brigands."
"In Heaven's name, Citoyenne," quoth the astonished Deputy, "out of
what sentiment would you have me act, and, indeed, so that I save
you, how can it concern you by what sentiment I am prompted?"
She paused a moment before replying. Her eyes were downcast, and
some of the colour faded from her cheeks. She carne a step nearer,
which brought her very close to him.
"Monsieur,"she faltered very shyly, "in the old days at Bellecour
you would have served me out of other sentiments."
He started now in spite of himself, and eyed her with a sudden gleam
of hope, or triumph, or mistrust, or perhaps of all three. Then his
glance fell, and his voice was wistful.
"But the old days are dead, Mademoiselle."
"The days, yes," she answered, taking courage from his tone. "But
love Monsieur, is everlasting - it never dies, they say."
And now it was La Boulaye who drew closer, and this man who had so
rigidly schooled himself out of all emotions, felt his breath
quickening, and his pulses throbbing faster and faster. To him it
seemed that she was right, and that love never died - for the love
for her, which he believed he had throttled out of existence long
ago, seemed of a sudden to take life as vigorously as ever. And
then it was as if some breeze out of the past bore to his nostrils
the smell of the violets and of the moist earth of that April
morning when she had repulsed him in the woods of Bellecour. His
emotion died down. He drew back, and stood rigid before her.
"And if it were to live, Citoyenne," he said - the resumption of
the Republican form of address showed that he had stepped back into
the spirit as well as in the flesh "what manner of fool were I to
again submit it to the lash of scorn it earned when first it was
"But that belonged to the old days," she cried, "and it is dead
with the old days.'
"It is vain to go back, Citoyenne," he cut in, and his voice rang
harsh with determination.
She bit her lip under cover of her bent head. If she had hated him
before how much more did she not hate him now? And but a moment
back it had seemed to her that she had loved him. She had held out
her hands to him and he had scorned them; in her eagerness she had
been unmaidenly, and all that she had earned had been humiliation.
She quivered with shame and anger, and sinking into the nearest
chair she burst into a passion of tears.
Thus by accident did she stumble upon the very weapon wherewith to
make an utter rout of all Caron's resolutions. For knowing nothing
of the fountain from which those tears were springing, and deeming
them the expression of a grief pure and unalloyed - saving, perhaps,
by a worthy penitence - he stepped swiftly to her side.
"Mademoiselle,"he murmured, and his tone was as gentle and beseeching
as it had lately been imperious. "Nay, Mademoiselle, I implore you!"
But her tears continued, and her sobs shook the slender frame as if
to shatter it. He dropped upon his knees. Scarcely knowing what he
did, he set his arm about her waist in a caress of protection.
A long curl of her black, unpowdered hair lay against his cheek.
"Mademoiselle," he murmured, and she took comfort at the soothing
>From it she judged him malleable now, that had been so stern and
unyielding before. She raised her eyes, and through her tears she
turned their heavenly blue full upon the grey depths of his.
"You will not believe me, Monsieur,"she complained softly. "You
will not believe that I can have changed with the times; that I see
things differently now. If you were to come to me again as in the
woods at Bellecour - " She paused abruptly, her cheeks flamed
scarlet, and she covered them with her hands.
"Suzanne!" he cried, seeking to draw those hands away. "Is it true,
this? You care, beloved!"
She uncovered her face at last. Again their eyes met.
"I was right," she whispered. "Love never dies, you see."
"And you will marry me, Suzanne?" he asked incredulously.
She inclined her head, smiling through her tears, and he would have
caught her to him but that she rose of a sudden.
"Hist!" she cried, raising her finger: "someone is coming."
He listened, holding his breath, but no sound stirred. He went to
the door and peered out. All was still. But the interruption
served to impress him with the fact that time was speeding, and
that all unsuspicious though Guyot might be as yet, it was more
than possible that his suspicions would be aroused if she remained
there much longer.
He mentioned this, and he was beginning to refer to his plan for
their escape when she thrust it aside, insisting that they must
depart in their coach, so that their treasure might also be saved."
"Be reasonable, Suzanne,"he cried. "It is impossible."
A cloud of vexation swept across her averted face.
"Nay, surely not impossible," she answered. "Listen, Caron, there
are two treasures in that coach. One is in money and in gold and
silver plate; the other is in gems, and amounts to thrice the value
of the rest. This latter is my dowry. It is a fortune with which
we can quit France and betake ourselves wherever our fancy leads us.
Would you ask me to abandon that and come to you penniless,
compelled thereby to live in perpetual terror in a country where at
any moment an enemy might cast at me the word aristocrate, and
thereby ruin me?"
There was no cupidity in La Boulaye's nature, and even the prospect
of an independent fortune would have weighed little with him had it
not been backed by the other argument she employed touching the
terror that would be ever with her did they dwell in France.
He stood deep in thought, his hand to his brow, thrusting back the
long black hair from his white forehead, what time she recapitulated
"But how?" he exclaimed, in exasperation "Tell me how?"
"That is for you to discover, Caron."
He thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and set himself to pace
the chamber. And now his fingers came in contact with something
foreign. Idly he drew it forth, and it proved to be the phial
Mother Capoulade had given him, and from which he had poured the
ten drops for the Captain's sleeping potion. His eyes brightened
with inspiration. Here was a tool whose possibilities were vast.
Then his brows were knit again.
"Wait,"he said slowly. "Let me think."
Resting his elbow on the table, and with his hand to his brow, Caron
sat deep in thought, his forefinger and thumb pressed against his
closed eyelids. From beyond the board Mademoiselle watched him
anxiously and waited. At last he looked up.