Part 1 out of 4
The Two Vanrevels
by Booth Tarkington
Table of Contents
A Cat Can Do More than Look at A King
Surviving Evils of the Reign of Terror
The Rogue's Gallery of a Father Should be Exhibited to a Daughter with
"But Spare Your Country's Flag"
Nero not the Last Violinist of his Kind
The Ever Unpractical Feminine
A Tale of a Political Difference
The Rule of the Regent
Echoes of a Serenade
A Voice in a Garden
The Room in the Cupola
The Firm of Gray and Vanrevel
When June Came
"Those Endearing Young Charms"
The Price of Silence
The Flag Goes Marching By
A Cat Can Do More than Look at a King
It was long ago in the days when men sighed when they fell in love; when
people danced by candle and lamp, and did dance, too, instead of solemnly
gliding about; in that mellow time so long ago, when the young were
romantic and summer was roses and wine, old Carewe brought his lovely
daughter home from the convent to wreck the hearts of the youth of Rouen.
That was not a far journey; only an afternoon's drive through the woods
and by the river, in an April, long ago; Miss Betty's harp carefully
strapped behind the great lumbering carriage, her guitar on the front
seat, half-buried under a mound of bouquets and oddly shaped little
bundles, farewell gifts of her comrades and the good Sisters. In her left
hand she clutched a small lace handkerchief, with which she now and then
touched her eyes, brimmed with the parting from Sister Cecilia, Sister
Mary Bazilede, the old stone steps and all the girls: but for every time
that she lifted the dainty kerchief to brush away the edge of a tear, she
took a deep breath of the Western woodland air and smiled at least twice;
for the years of strict inclosure within St. Mary's walls and still
gardens were finished and done with, and at last the many-colored world
flashed and danced in a mystery before her. This mystery was brilliant to
the convent-girl because it contained men; she was eager to behold it.
They rumbled into town after sunset, in the fair twilight, the dogs
barking before them, and everyone would have been surprised to know that
Tom Vanrevel, instead of Mr. Crailey Gray, was the first to see her. By
the merest accident, Tom was strolling near the Carewe place at the time;
and when the carriage swung into the gates, with rattle and clink and
clouds of dust at the finish, it was not too soon lost behind the
shrubbery and trees for Tom to catch something more than a glimpse of a
gray skirt behind a mound of flowers, and of a charming face with parted
lips and dark eyes beneath the scuttle of an enormous bonnet. It
happened--perhaps it is more accurate to say that Tom thought it happened-
-that she was just clearing away her veil when he turned to look. She
blushed suddenly, so much was not to be mistaken; and the eyes that met
his were remarkable for other reasons than the sheer loveliness of them,
in that, even in the one flash of them he caught, they meant so many
things at one time. They were sparkling, yet mournful; and they were
wistful, although undeniably lively with the gayest comprehension of the
recipient of their glance, seeming to say, "Oh, it's you, young man, is
it!" And they were shy and mysterious with youth, full of that wonder at
the world which has the appearance, sometimes, of wisdom gathered in the
unknown out of which we came. But, above all, these eyes were fully
conscious of Tom Vanrevel.
Without realizing what he did, Mr. Vanrevel stopped short. He had been
swinging a walkingstick, which, describing a brief arc, remained poised
half-way in its descent. There was only that one glance between them; and
the carriage disappeared, leaving a scent of spring flowers in the air.
The young man was left standing on the wooden pavement in the midst of a
great loneliness, yet enveloped in the afterglow, his soul roseate, his
being quavering, his expression, like his cane, instantaneously arrested.
With such promptitude and finish was he disposed of, that, had Miss Carewe
been aware of his name and the condition wrought in him by the single
stroke, she could have sought only the terse Richard of England for a like
executive ability, "Off with his head! So much for Vanrevel!"
She had lifted a slender hand to the fluttering veil, a hand in a white
glove with a small lace gauntlet at the wrist. This gesture was the final
divinity of the radiant vision which remained with the dazed young man as
he went down the street; and it may have been three-quarters of an hour
later when the background of the picture became vivid to him: a carefully
dressed gentleman with heavy brows and a handsome high nose, who sat
stiffly upright beside the girl, his very bright eyes quite as conscious
of the stricken pedestrian as were hers, vastly different, however, in
this: that they glittered, nay, almost bristled, with hostility; while
every polished button of his blue coat seemed to reflect their malignancy,
and to dart little echoing shafts of venom at Mr. Vanrevel.
Tom was dismayed by the acuteness of his perception that a man who does
not speak to you has no right to have a daughter like the lady in the
carriage; and, the moment of this realization occurring as he sat making a
poor pretence to eat his evening meal at the "Rouen House," he dropped his
fork rattling upon his plate and leaned back, staring at nothing, a
proceeding of which his table-mate, Mr. William Cummings, the editor of
the Rouen Journal, was too busy over his river bass to take note.
"Have you heard what's new in town?" asked Cummings presently, looking up.
"No," said Tom truthfully, for he had seen what was new, but not heard it.
"Old Carewe's brought his daughter home. Fanchon Bareaud was with her at
St. Mary's until last year and Fanchon says she's not only a great beauty
but a great dear."
"Ah!" rejoined the other with masterly indifference. "Dare say--dare
"No wonder you're not interested," said Cummings cheerfully, returning to
the discussion of his bass. "The old villain will take precious good care
you don't come near her."
Mr. Vanrevel already possessed a profound conviction to the same effect.
Robert Meilhac Carewe was known not only as the wealthiest citizen of
Rouen, but also as its heartiest and most steadfast hater: and, although
there were only five or six thousand inhabitants, neither was a small
distinction. For Rouen was ranked, in those easy days, as a wealthy town;
even as it was called an old town; proud of its age and its riches, and
bitter in its politics, of course. The French had built a fort there,
soon after LaSalle's last voyage, and, as Crailey Gray said, had settled
the place, and had then been settled themselves by the pioneer militia.
After the Revolution, Carolinians and Virginians had come, by way of
Tennessee and Kentucky; while the adventurous countrymen from Connecticut,
travelling thither to sell, remained to buy--and then sell--when the
country was in its teens. In course of time the little trading-post of
the Northwest Territory had grown to be the leading centre of elegance and
culture in the Ohio Valley--at least they said so in Rouen; only a few
people in the country, such as Mr. Irving of Tarrytown, for instance,
questioning whether a centre could lead.
The pivotal figure, though perhaps not the heart, of this centre, was
unquestionably Mr. Carewe, and about him the neat and tight aristocracy of
the place revolved; the old French remnant, having liberally intermarried,
forming the nucleus, together with descendants of the Cavaliers (and those
who said they were) and the industrious Yankees, by virtue (if not by the
virtues) of all whom, the town grew and prospered. Robert Carewe was
Rouen's magnate, commercially and socially, and, until an upstart young
lawyer named Vanrevel struck into his power with a broad-axe, politically.
The wharves were Carewe's; the warehouses that stood by the river, and the
line of packets which plied upon it, were his; half the town was his, and
in Rouen this meant that he was possessed of the Middle Justice, the High
and the Low. His mother was a Frenchwoman, and, in those days, when to go
abroad was a ponderous and venturesome undertaking, the fact that he had
spent most of his youth in the French capital wrought a certain glamour
about him; for to the American, Paris was Europe, and it lay shimmering on
the far horizon of every imagination, a golden city. Scarce a drawing-
room in Rouen lacked its fearsome engraving entitled "Grand Ball at the
Tuileries," nor was Godey's Magazine ever more popular than when it
contained articles elaborate of similar scenes of festal light, where
brilliant uniforms mingled with shining jewels, fair locks, and the white
shoulders of magnificently dressed duchesses, countesses, and ladies.
Credit for this description should be given entirely to the above-
mentioned periodical. Furthermore, a sojourn in Paris was held to confer
a "certain nameless and indescribable polish" upon the manners of the
visitor; also, there was something called "an air of foreign travel."
They talked a great deal about polish in those days; and some examples
still extant do not deny their justification; but in the case of Mr.
Carewe, there existed a citizen of Rouen, one already quoted, who had the
temerity to declare the polish to be in truth quite nameless and
indescribable for the reason that one cannot paint a vacuum. However,
subscription to this opinion should not be over-hasty, since Mr. Crailey
Gray had been notoriously a rival of Carewe's with every pretty woman in
town, both having the same eye in such matters, and also because the
slandered gentleman could assume a manner when he chose to, whether or not
he possessed it. At his own table he exhaled a hospitable graciousness
which, from a man of known evil temper, carried the winsomeness of
surprise. When he wooed, it was with an air of stately devotion, combined
with that knowingness which sometimes offsets for a widower the tendency
a girl has to giggle at him; and the combination had been, once or twice,
too much for even the alluring Crailey.
Mr. Carewe lived in an old-fashioned house on the broad, quiet, shady
street which bore his name. There was a wide lawn in front, shadowy under
elm and locust trees, and bounded by thick shrubberies. A long garden,
fair with roses and hollyhocks, lay outside the library windows, an old-
time garden, with fine gravel paths and green arbors; drowsed over in
summer-time by the bees, while overhead the locust rasped his rusty
cadences the livelong day; and a faraway sounding love-note from the high
branches brought to mind the line, like an old refrain:
"The voice of the turtle was heard in the land."
Between the garden and the carriage gates there was a fountain where a
bronze boy with the dropsy (but not minding it) lived in a perpetual bath
from a green goblet held over his head. Nearby, a stone sun-dial gleamed
against a clump of lilac bushes; and it was upon this spot that the white
kitten introduced Thomas Vanrevel to Miss Carewe.
Upon the morning after her arrival, having finished her piano-forte
practice, touched her harp twice, and arpeggioed the Spanish Fandango on
her guitar, Miss Betty read two paragraphs of "Gilbert" (for she was
profoundly determined to pursue her tasks with diligence), but the open
windows disclosing a world all sunshine and green leaves, she threw the
book aside with a good conscience, and danced out to the garden. There,
coming upon a fuzzy, white ball rolling into itself spirally on a lazy
pathway, she pounced at it, whereupon the thing uncurled with lightning
swiftness, and fled, more like a streak than a kitten, down the drive,
through the open gates and into the street, Miss Betty in full cry.
Across the way there chanced to be strolling a young lady in blue,
accompanied by a gentleman whose leisurely gait gave no indication of the
maneuvering he had done to hasten their walk into its present direction.
He was apparently thirty or thirty-one, tall, very straight, dark, smooth-
shaven, his eyes keen, deep-set, and thoughtful, and his high white hat,
white satin cravat, and careful collar, were evidence of an elaboration of
toilet somewhat unusual in Rouen for the morning; also, he was carrying a
pair of white gloves in his hand and dangled a slender ebony cane from his
wrist. The flying kitten headed toward the couple, when, with a celerity
only to be accounted for on the theory that his eye had been fixed on the
Carewe gateway for some time previous to this sudden apparition, the
gentleman leaped in front of the fugitive.
The kitten attempted a dodge to pass; the gentleman was there before it.
The kitten feinted; the gentleman was altogether too much on the spot.
Immediately--and just as Miss Carewe, flushed and glowing, ran into the
street--the small animal doubled, evaded Miss Betty's frantic clutch, re-
entered the gateway, and attempted a disappearance into the lilac bushes,
instead of going round them, only to find itself, for a fatal two seconds,
in difficulties with the close-set thicket of stems.
In regard to the extraordinary agility of which the pursuing gentleman as
capable, it is enough to say that he caught the cat. He emerged from the
lilacs holding it in one hand, his gloves and white hat in the other, and
presented himself before Miss Betty with a breathlessness not entirely
attributable to his exertions.
For a moment, as she came running toward him and he met her flashing look,
bright with laughter and recognition and haste, he stammered. A thrill
nothing less than delirious sent the blood up behind his brown cheeks, for
he saw that she, too, knew that this was the second time their eyes had
met. Naturally, at that time he could not know how many other gentlemen
were to feel that same thrill (in their cases, also, delirious, no less)
with the same, accompanying, mysterious feeling, which came just before
Miss Betty's lashes fell, that one had found, at last, a precious thing,
lost long since in childhood, or left, perhaps, upon some other planet in
a life ten thousand years ago.
He could not speak at once, but when he could, "Permit me, madam," he said
solemnly, offering the captive, "to restore your kitten."
An agitated kitten should not be detained by clasping its waist, and
already the conqueror was paying for his victory. There ensued a final,
outrageous squirm of despair; two frantic claws, extended, drew one long
red mark across the stranger's wrist and another down the back of his hand
to the knuckles. They were good, hearty scratches, and the blood followed
the artist's lines rapidly; but of this the young man took no note, for he
knew that be was about to hear Miss Carewe's voice for the first time.
"They say the best way to hold them," he observed, "is by the scruff of
Beholding his wounds, suffered in her cause, she gave a pitying cry that
made his heart leap with the richness and sweetness of it. Catching the
kitten from him, she dropped it to the ground in such wise as to prove
nature's foresight most kind in cushioning the feet of cats.
"Ah! I didn't want it that much!"
"A cat in the hand is worth two nightingales in the bush," he said boldly,
and laughed. "I would shed more blood than that!"
Miss Betty blushed like a southern dawn, and started back from him. From
the convent but yesterday--and she had taken a man's hand in both of hers!
It was to this tableau that the lady in blue entered, following the hunt
through the gates, where she stopped with a discomposed countenance. At
once, however, she advanced, and with a cry of greeting, enveloped Miss
Betty in a brief embrace, to the relief of the latter's confusion. It was
Fanchon Bareaud, now two years emancipated from St. Mary's, and far gone
in taffeta. With her lustreful light hair, absent blue eyes, and her
gentle voice, as small and pretty as her face and figure, it was not too
difficult to justify Crailey Gray's characterization of her as one of
those winsome baggages who had made an air of feminine helplessness the
fashion of the day.
It is a wicked thing that some women should kiss when a man is by; in the
present instance the gentleman became somewhat faint.
"I'm so glad--glad!" exclaimed Betty. "You were just coming to see me,
weren't you? My father is in the library. Let me--"
Miss Bareaud drew back. "No, no!" she interrupted hastily and with
evident perturbation. "I--we must be on our way immediately." She threw a
glance at the gentleman, which let him know that she now comprehended his
gloves, and why their stroll had trended toward Carewe Street. "Come at
once!" she commanded him quickly, in an undertone.
"But now that you're here," said Miss Betty, wondering very much why he
was not presented to her, "won't you wait and let me gather a nosegay for
you? Our pansies and violets--"
"I could help," the gentleman suggested, with the look of a lame dog at
Miss Bareaud. "I have been considered useful about a garden."
"Fool!" Betty did not hear the word that came from Miss Bareaud's closed
teeth, though she was mightily surprised at the visible agitation of her
schoolmate, for the latter's face was pale and excited. And Miss Carewe's
amazement was complete when Fanchon, without more words, cavalierly seized
the gentleman's arm and moved toward the street with him as rapidly as his
perceptible reluctance to leave permitted. But at the gate Miss Bareaud
turned and called back over her shoulder, as if remembering the necessity
of offering an excuse for so remarkable a proceeding: "I shall come again
very soon. Just now we are upon an errand of great importance. Good-
Miss Betty waved her hand, staring after them, her eyes large with wonder.
She compressed her lips tightly: "Errand!" This was the friend of
childhood's happy hour, and they had not met in two years!
"Errand!" She ran to the hedge, along the top of which a high white hat
was now seen perambulating; she pressed down a loose branch, and called in
a tender voice to the stranger whom Fanchon had chosen should remain
"Be sure to put some salve on your hand!"
He made a bow which just missed being too low, but did miss it.
"It is there--already," he said; and, losing his courage after the bow,
made his speech with so palpable a gasp before the last word that the
dullest person in the world could have seen that he meant it.
Miss Betty disappeared.
There was a rigidity of expression about the gentle mouth of Fanchon
Bareaud, which her companion did not enjoy, as they went on their way,
each preserving an uneasy silence, until at her own door, she turned
sharply upon him. "Tom Vanrevel, I thought you were the steadiest--and
now you've proved yourself the craziest--soul in Rouen!" she burst out.
"And I couldn't say worse!"
"Why didn't you present me to her?" asked Vanrevel.
"Because I thought a man of your gallantry might prefer not to face a
shotgun in the presence of ladies!"
"Pooh!" mimicked Miss Bareaud. "You can `pooh' as much as you like, but
if he had seen us from the window--" She covered her face with her hands
for a moment, then dropped them and smiled upon him. "I understand
perfectly to what I owe the pleasure of a stroll with you this morning,
and your casual insistence on the shadiness of Carewe Street!" He laughed
nervously, but her smile vanished, and she continued, "Keep away, Tom.
She is beautiful, and at St. Mary's I always thought she had spirit and
wit, too. I only hope Crailey won't see her before the wedding! But it
isn't safe for you. Go along, now, and ask Crailey please to come at
three this afternoon."
This message from Mr. Gray's betrothed was not all the ill-starred Tom
conveyed to his friend. Mr. Vanrevel was ordinarily esteemed a person of
great reserve and discretion; nevertheless there was one man to whom he
told everything, and from whom he had no secrets. He spent the noon hour
in feeble attempts to describe to Crailey Gray the outward appearance of
Miss Elizabeth Carewe; how she ran like a young Diana; what one felt upon
hearing her voice; and he presented in himself an example exhibiting
something of the cost of looking in her eyes. His conversation was more
or less incoherent, but the effect of it was complete.
Surviving Evils of the Reign of Terror
Does there exist an incredulous, or jealous, denizen of another portion of
our country who, knowing that the room in the wooden cupola over Mr.
Carewe's library was commonly alluded to by Rouen as the "Tower Chamber,"
will prove himself so sectionally prejudiced as to deny that the town was
a veritable hotbed of literary interest, or that Sir `Walter Scott was
ill-appreciated there? Some of the men looked sly, and others grinned, at
mention of this apartment; but the romantic were not lacking who spoke of
it in whispers: how the lights sometimes shone there all night long, and
the gentlemen drove away, whitefaced, in the dawn. The cupola, rising
above the library, overlooked the garden; and the house, save for that,
was of a single story, with a low veranda running the length of its front.
The windows of the library and of a row of bedrooms---one of which was
Miss Betty's--lined the veranda, "steamboat fashion;" the inner doors of
these rooms all opening upon a long hail which bisected the house. he
stairway leading to the room in the cupola rose the library itself, while
the bisecting hail afforded be only access to the library; hence, the
gossips, `eli acquainted with the geography of the place, conferred
seriously together upon what effect Miss Betty's homecoming would have in
Dr anyone going to the stairway must needs pass her door; and, what was
more to the point, a party C gentlemen descending late from the mysterious
garret might be not so quiet as they intended, and the young lady
sufficiently disturbed to inquire of her father what entertainment he
provided that should keep his guests until four in the morning.
But at present it was with the opposite end of the house that the town was
occupied, for there, workmen were hammering and sawing and painting day
long, finishing the addition Mr. Carewe was building for his daughter's
debut. This hammering disturbed Miss Betty, who had become almost as busy
with the French Revolution as with her mantua-maker. For she had found in
her father's library many books not for convent-shelves; and she had
become a Girondin.
She found memoirs, histories, and tales of that delectable period, then
not so dim with time but that the figures of it were more than tragic
shadows; and for a week there was no meal in that house to which she sat
down earlier than half an hour Jate. She had a rightful property-interest
in the Revolution, her own great-uncle having been one of those who
"suffered;" not, however, under the guillotine; for to Georges Meilhac
appertained the rare distinction of death by accident on the day when the
business-like young Bonaparte played upon the mob with his cannon.
There were some yellow letters of this great uncle's in a box which had
belonged to her grandmother, a rich discovery for Miss Betty, who read and
re-read them with eager and excited eyes, living more in Paris with
Georges and his friends than in Rouen with her father. Indeed, she had
little else to do. Mr. Carewe was no comrade for her, by far the reverse.
She seldom saw him, except at the table, when he sat with averted eyes,
and talked to her very little; and, while making elaborate preparation for
her introduction to his friends (such was his phrase) he treated her with
a perfunctory civility which made her wonder if her advent was altogether
welcome to him; bat when she noticed that his hair looked darker than
usual about every fourth day, she began to understand Why he appeared
ungrateful to her for growing up. He went out a great deal, though no
visitors came to the house; for it was known that Mr. Carewe desired to
present his daughter to no one until he presented her to all. Fanchon
Bareaud, indeed, made one hurried and embarrassed call, evading Miss
Betty's reference to the chevalier of the kitten with a dexterity too
nimble to be thought unintentional. Miss Carewe was forbidden to return
her friend's visit until after her debut; and Mr. Carewe explained that
there was always some worthless Young men hanging about the Bareaud's,
where (he did not add) they interfered with a worthy oh one who desired to
honor Fanchon's older sister, Virginia, with his attentions.
This was no great hardship for Miss Betty, as, since plunging into the
Revolution with her great-uncle, she had lost some curiosity concerning
the men of to-day, doubting that they would show forth as heroic, as
debonnair, gay and tragic as he. He was the legendary hero of her
childhood; she remembered her mother's stories of him perhaps more clearly
than she remembered her mother; and one of the older Sisters had known him
in Paris and had talked of him at length, giving the flavor of his
dandyism and his beauty at first hand to his young relative. He had been
one of those hardy young men wearing unbelievable garments, who began to
appear in the garden of the Tuileries with knives in their sleeves and
cudgels in their hands, about April, 1794, and whose dash and recklessness
in many matters were the first intimations that the Citizen Tallien was
about to cause the Citizen Robespierre to shoot himself through the jaw.
In the library hung a small, full-length drawing of Georges, done in color
by Miss Betty's grandmother; and this she carried to her own room an&
studied long and ardently, until sometimes the man himself seemed to stand
before her, in spite of the fact that Mile. Meithac had not a
distinguished talent and M. Meilhac's features might have been anybody's.
It was to be seen, however, that he was smiling.
Miss Betty had an impression that her grandmother's art of portraiture
would have been more-successful with the profile than the "full-face."
Nevertheless, nothing could be more clearly indicated than that the hair
of M. Melihac was very yellow, and his short, huge-lapeiled waistcoat
white, striped with scarlet. An enormous cravat coyered his chin; the
heavy collar of his yellow coat rose behind his ears, while its tails fell
to his ankles; and the tight trousers of white and yellow stripes were
tied with white ribbons about the middle of the calf; he wore white
stockings and gold-buckled yellow shoes, and on the back of his head a
jauntily cocked black hat. Miss Betty innocently wondered why his letters
did not speak of P‚tion, of Vergniaud, or of Dumoriez, since in the
historical novels which she read, the hero's lot was inevitably linked
with that of everyone of importance in his generation; yet Georges
appeared to have been unacquainted with these personages, Robespierre
being the only name of consequence mentioned in his letters; and then it
appeared in much the same fashion practised by her father in alluding to
the Governor of the State, who had the misfortune to be unpopular with Mr.
Carewe. But this did not dim her great-uncle's lustre in Miss Betty's
eyes, nor lessen for her the pathetic romance of the smile he wore.
Beholding this smile, one remembered the end to which his light footsteps
bad led him; and it was unavoidable to picture him left lying in the empty
street behind the heels of the flying crowd, carefully forming that same
smile on his lips, and taking much pride in passing with some small,
cynical speech, murmured to himself, concerning the mutility of a
gentleman's getting shot by his friends for merely being present to
applaud them. So, fancying him thus, with his yellow hair, his scarlet-
itriped waistcoat, and his tragedy, the young girl felt a share of family
greatness, or, at least, of picturesqueness, descend to her. And she
smiled sadly back upon the smile in the picture, and dreamed about its
original night after night.
Whether or no another figure, that of a dark young man in a white hat,
with a white kitten etching his wrist in red, found any place in her
dreams. at this period, - it is impossible to determine. She did not see
him again. it is quite another thing, hazardous to venture, to state that
he did not see her. At all events, it is certain that many people who bad
never beheld her were talking of her; that Rouen was full of contention
concerning her beauty and her gift of music, for a song can be heard
through an open window. And how did it happen that Crailey Gray knew that
it was Miss Carewe's habit to stroll in her garden for half an hour or so,
each evening before retiring, and that she went to mass every morning soon
after sunrise? Crailey Gray never rose at, or near, sunrise in his life,
though he sometimes beheld it, from another point of view, as the end of
the evening. It appears that someone must have told him.
One night when the moon lay white on the trees and housetops, Miss Betty
paused in her evening promenade and seated herself upon a bench on the
borders of the garden, "touched," as the books of the time would have put
it, "by the sweet tranquillity of the scene," and wrought upon by the
tender incentive to sighs and melancholy which youth in loneliness finds
in a loveliness of the earth. The breeze bore the smells of the old-
fashioned garden, of violets and cherry blossoms, and a sound of distant
violins came on the air playing the new song from the new opera.
"But I also dreamt, which pleased me most,
That you loved me just the same--"
they sang; and with the lilt of them and the keen beauty of the night, the
inherited pain of the ages rose from the depths of the young girl's heart,
so that she thought it must break; for what reason she could not have
told, since she was without care or sorrow that she knew, except the
French Revolution, yet tears shone upon the long lashes. She shook them
off and looked up with a sudden odd consciousness. The next second she
sprang to her feet with a gasp and a choked outcry, her bands pressed to
Ten paces in front of her, a gap in the shrubbery where tall trees rose
left a small radiant area of illumination like that of a lime-light in a
theatre, its brilliancy intensified by the dark foliage behind. It was
open to view only from the bench by which she stood, and appeared, indeed,
like the stage of a little theatre a stage occupied by a bizarre figure.
For, in the centre of this shining patch, with the light strong on his
face, was standing a fair-haired young man, dressed in a yellow coat, a
scarlet and white striped waistcoat, wearing a jauntily cocked black hat
on his bead. And even to the last detail, the ribbon laces above the ankle
and the gold-buckled shoes, be was the sketch of Georges Meilhac sprung
About this slender figure there hung a wan sweetness like a fine mist,
almost an ethereality in that light; yet in the pale face lurked something
reckless, something of the actor, too; and though his smile was gentle and
wistful, there was a twinkle behind it, not seen at first, something
amused and impish; a small surprise underneath, like a flea in a rose-jar.
Fixed to the spot by this apparition, Miss Betty stood wildly staring, her
straining eyelids showing the white above and below the large brown iris.
Her breath came faster and deeper, until, between her parted lips it
became vocal in a quick sound like a sob. At that he spoke.
"Forgive me!" The voice was low, vibrant,
and so exceedingly musical that he might have been accused of coolly
selecting his best tone; and it became only sweeter when, even more
softly, in a semi-whisper of almost crucial pleading, he said, "Ah--don't
In truth, she could not go; she had been too vitally stirred; she began to
tremble excessively, and sank back upon the bench, motioning him away with
vague gestures of her shaking hands.
This was more than the Incroyable had counted upon, and far from his
desires. He started forward with an exclamation.
"Don't come near me!" she gasped. "Who are you? Go away!"
"Give me one second to explain," he began; but with the instant
reassurance of this beginning she cut him off short, her fears dispelled
by his commonplace. Nay, indignation displaced them so quickly that she
fairly flashed up before him to her full height.
"You did not come in by the gate!" she cried. "What do you mean by coming
here in that dress What right have you in my garden?"
"Just one word," he begged quickly, but very gently. "You'd allow a
street-beggar that much!"
She stood before him, panting, and, as he thought, glorious, in her flush
of youth and anger. Tom Vanrevel had painted her incoherently, but richly,
in spite of that, his whole heart being in the portrait; and - Crailey
Gray had smiled at what he deemed the exaggeration of an ordinarily
unimpressionable man who had fallen in love "at first sight;" yet, in the
presence of the reality, the Incroyable decided that Tom's colors had been
gray and humble. It was not that she was merely lovely, that her nose was
straight, and her chin dexterously wrought between square and oval; that
her dark hair lay soft as a shadow on her white brow; not that the
trembling hand she held against her breast sprang from a taper wrist and
tapered again to the tips of the long fingers; nor that she was of that
slenderness as strong as it is delicate; not all the exquisite regularity
of line and mould, nor simplicity of color, gave her that significance
which made the Incroyable declare to himself that he stood for the first
time in the presence of Beauty, and that now he knew the women he had been
wont to call beautiful were but pretty. And yet her beauty, he told
himself, was the least of her loveliness, for there was a glamour about
her. It was not only the richness of her youth; but there was an ineffable
exhalation which seemed to be made partly of light, partly of the very
spirit of her, and, oddly enough, partly of the scent of the little fan
that hung by a ribbon from her waist. This was a woman like a wine, he
felt, there was a bouquet.
In regard to the bouquet of the young man himself, if he possessed one, it
is pertinent to relate that at this very instant the thought skipped
across his mind (like the hop of a flea in a rose-jar) that some day he
might find the moment when he could tell her the truth about herself--with
a half-laugh--and say: "The angels sent their haloes in a sandal-wood box
to be made into a woman--and it was you!"
"If- you have anything to say for yourself, say it quickly!" said Miss
"You were singing a while ago," he answered, somewhat huskily, "and I
stopped on the street to listen; then I came here to be nearer. The spell
of your voice " He broke off abruptly to change the word. "The spell of
the song came over me-- it is my dearest favorite--so that I stood
afterward in a sort of trance, only hearing again, in the silence, `The
stolen heart, like the gathered rose, will bloom but for a day!' I did not
see you until you came to the bench. You must believe me: I would not have
frightened you for anything in the world."
"Why are you wearing that dress?"
He laughed, and pointed to where, behind him on the ground, lay a long
gray cloak, upon which had been tossed a white mask. "I'm on my way to the
masquerade;" he answered, with an airy gesture in the direction of the
violins. "I'm an Incroyable, you see; and I had the costume made from my
recollection of a sketch of your great-uncle. I saw it a long time ago in
Miss Carewe's accustomed poise was quite recovered; indeed, she was
astonished to discover a distinct trace of disappointment that the
brilliant apparition must offer so tame an explanation. What he said was
palpably the truth; there was a masquerade that night, she knew, at the
Madrillon's, a little way up Carewe Street, and her father had gone, an
hour earlier, a blue domino over his arm.
The Incroyable was a person of almost magical perceptiveness; he felt the
let-down immediately and feared a failure. This would not do; the attitude
of tension between them must be renewed at once. "You'll forgive me?" he
began, in a quickly impassioned tone. "It was only after you sang, a dream
possessed me, and--"
"I cannot stay to talk with you," Miss Betty interrupted, and added, with
a straightforwardness which made him afraid she would prove lamentably
direct: "I do not know you."
Perhaps she remembered that already one young man had been presented to
her by no better sponsor than a white cat, and had no desire to carry her
unconventionality farther than that. In the present instance there was not
even a kitten.
She turned toward the house, whereupon he gave a little pathetic
exclamation- of pleading in a voice that was masterly, being as sincere as
it was musical, and he took a few leaning steps toward her, both hands
"One moment more!" he cried, as she turned again to him. "It may be the
one chance of my life to speak with you; don't deny me this. - All the
rest will meet you when the happy evening comes, will dance with you, talk
with you, see you when they like, listen to you sing. I, alone, must hover
about the gates, or steal like a thief into your garden to hear you from a
distance. Listen to me--just this once--for a moment?"
"I cannot listen," she said firmly; and stood quite still. She was now in
"I will not believe you merciless! You would not condemn the meanest
criminal unheard I" Remembering that she was so lately from the convent,
he ventured this speech in a deep, thrilling voice, only to receive a
distinct shock for his pains, for she greeted it with an irrepressible,
most unexpected peal of contralto laughter, and his lips parted slightly
with the surprise of it.
They parted much farther in the next instant-- in good truth, it may be
stated of the gentleman that he was left with his mouth open--for,
suddenly leaning toward him out of the shadow into the light, her face
shining as a cast of tragedy, she cried in a hoarse whisper:
"Are you a murderer?"
And with that and a whisk of her skirts, and a footfall on the gravel
path, she was gone. He stood dumbfounded, poor comedian, having come to
play the chief role, but to find the scene taken out of his hands. Then
catching the flutter of her wrap, as she disappeared into the darkness of
the veranda, be cried in a loud, manly voice:
"You are a dear!"
As he came out into the street through a gap in the hedge, he paused,
drawing his cloak about him, and lifted his face to the eastern moon. It
was a strange face: the modelling most like what is called "Greek," save
for the nose, which was a trifle too short for that, and the features
showed a happy purity of outline almost childlike; the blue eyes, clear,
fleckless, serenely irresponsible, with more the look of refusing
responsibility than being unconscious of it; eyes without care, without
prudence, and without evil. A stranger might have said be was about
twenty-five and had never a thought in his life. There were some blossoms
on the hedge, and he touched one lightly, as though he chucked it under
the chin; he smiled upon it then, but not as he had smiled upon Miss
Betty, for this was his own, the smile that came when he was alone; and,
when it came, the face was no longer joyous as it had been in repose;
there was an infinite patience and worn tolerance-possibly for himself.
This incongruous and melancholy smile was astonishing: one looked for the
laughter of a boy and found, instead, a gentle, worldly, old prelate.
Standing there, all alone in the moonlight, by the hedge, he lifted both
hands high and waved them toward the house, as children wave to each other
across lawns at twilight. After that he made a fantastic bow to his
corrugated shadow on the board sidewalk.
"Again, you rogue!" be exclaimed aloud. Then, as he faced about and began
to walk in the direction of the beckoning violins: "I wonder if Tom's
kitten was better, after all!"
The Rogue's Gallery of a Father Should be Exhibited to a Daughter with
Those angels appointed to be guardians of the merry people of Rouen,
poising one night, between earth and stars, discovered a single brilliant
and resonant spot, set in the midst of the dark, quiet town like a
jewelled music-box on a black cloth. Sounds of revelry and the dance from
the luminous spot came up through the summer stillness to the weary
guardians all night long, until, at last, when a red glow stole into the
east, and the dance still continued, nay, grew faster than ever, the
celestial watchers found the work too heavy for their strength, and
forthwith departed, leaving the dancers to their own devices; for, as
everyone knows, when a dance lasts till daylight, guardian angels flee.
All night long the fiddles had been swinging away at their best; all night
long the candles had shone in thin rows of bright orange through the slits
of the window-blinds; but now, as the day broke over the maples, the
shutters were flung open by laughing young men, and the drivers of the
carriages, waiting in the dusty street, pressed up closer to the hedge, or
came within and stretched themselves upon the lawn, to see the people
waltzing in the daylight. The horses, having no such desires, stood with
loosened check-reins, slightly twitching their upper lips, wistful of the
tall grass which bordered the wooden sidewalk, though now and then one
would lift his head high, sniffing the morning air and bending an earnest
gaze not upon the dancers but upon the florid east.
Over the unwearied plaint of French-horn, violin, and bassoon, rose a
silvery confusion of voices and laughter and the sound of a hundred
footfalls in unison, while, from the open windows there issued a warm
breath, heavily laden with the smell of scented fans, of rich fabrics, of
dying roses, to mingle with the spicy perfume of a wild crab-tree in
fullest blossom, which stood near enough to peer into the ball-room, and,
like a brocaded belle herself, challenge the richest to show raiment as
fine, the loveliest to look as fair and joyful in the dawn..
"Believe me, of all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
Were to fade by to-morrow and fleet from my arms,
Like fairy gifts fading away--"
So ran the violins in waltz time, so bassoon and horn to those dulcet
measures; and then, with one accord, a hundred voices joined them in the
old, sweet melody:
"Thou wouldst still be adored as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will;
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still."
And the jealous crab-tree found but one to overmatch itself in beauty: a
lady who was the focus of the singing; for, by the time the shutters were
flung open, there was not a young man in the room, lacked he never so
greatly in music or in voice, who did not heartily desire to sing to Miss
Betty Carewe, and who did not now (craning neck over partner's shoulder)
seek to fix her with his glittering eye, while he sang "Oh, believe me"
most directly and conspicuously at her. For that night was the beginning
of Miss Betty's famous career as the belle of Rouen, and was the date from
which strangers were to hear of her as "the beautiful Miss Carewe," until
"beautiful" was left off, visitors to the town being supposed to have
heard at least that much before they came.
There had been much discussion of her, though only one or two had caught
glimpses of her; but most of the gallants appeared to agree with Crailey
Gray, who aired his opinion--in an exceedingly casual way--at the little
club on Main Street. Mr. Gray held that when the daughter of a man as
rich as Bob Carewe was heralded as a beauty the chances were that she
would prove disappointing, and, for his part, he was not even interested
enough to attend and investigate. So he was going down the river in a
canoe and preferred the shyness of bass to that of a girl of eighteen just
from the convent, he said. Tom Vanrevel was not present on the occasion
of these remarks; and the general concurrence with Crailey may be
suspected as a purely verbal one, since, when the evening came, two of the
most enthusiastic dancers and love-makers of the town, the handsome
Tappingham Marsh and that doughty ex-dragoon and Indian fighter, stout old
General Trumble, were upon the field before the enemy appeared; that is to
say, they were in the new ball-room before their host; indeed, the
musicians had not arrived, and Nelson, an aged negro servitor, was engaged
in lighting the house.
The crafty pair had planned this early descent with a view to monopoly by
right of priority, in case the game proved worth the candle, and they were
leaning effectively against the little railing about the musicians'
platform when Mr. Carewe entered the room with his daughter on his arm.
She was in white, touched with countless small lavender flowers; there
were rows and rows of wonderful silk and lace flounces on her skirt, and
her fan hung from a rope of great pearls. Ah, hideous, blue, rough cloth
of the convent, unforgotten, but laid aside forever, what a chrysalis you
Tappingham twitched his companion's sleeve, but the General was already
posing; and neither heard the words of presentation, because Miss Betty
gave each of them a quick look, then smiled upon them as they bowed; the
slayers were prostrated before their prey. Never were lady-killers more
instantaneously tamed and subjugated by the power of the feminine eye.
Will Cummings came in soon, and, almost upon his heels, Eugene Madrillon
and young Frank Chenoweth. No others appeared for half an hour, and the
five gentlemen looked at one another aside, each divining his own
diplomacy in his fellow's eye, and each laboriously explaining to the
others his own mistake in regard to the hour designated upon Mr. Carewe's
cards of invitation. This small embarrassment, however, did not prevent
General Trumble and young Mr. Chenoweth from coming to high words over
Miss Carewe's little, gilt-filigree "programme" of dances.
It may be not untimely to remark, also, of these five redoubtable beaux,
that, during the evening, it occurred to every one of them to be glad that
Crailey Gray was betrothed to Fanchon Bareaud, and that he was down on the
Rouen River with a canoe, a rod and a tent. Nay, without more words, to
declare the truth in regard to Crailey, they felt greater security in his
absence from the field than in his betrothal. As Mr. Chenoweth, a youth
as open as out-of-doors, both in countenance and mind, observed
plaintively to Tappingham Marsh in a corner, while they watched Miss
Betty's lavender flowers miraculously swirling through a quadrille:
"Crailey, you know, well, Crailey's been engaged before!" It was not Mr.
Chenoweth's habit to disguise his apprehensions, and Crailey Gray would
not fish for bass forever.
The same Chenoweth was he, who, maddened by the General's triumphantly
familiar way of toying with Miss Betty's fan between two dances, attempted
to propose to her during the sunrise waltz. Having sung "Oh, believe me"
in her ear as loudly as he could, he expressed the wish--quite as loudly--
"That this waltz might last for always!"
That was the seventh time it had been said to Betty during the night, and
though Mr. Chenoweth's predecessors had revealed their desires in a guise
lacking this prodigious artlessness, she already possessed no novel
acquaintance with the exclamation. But she made no comment; her partner's
style was not a stimulant to repartee. "It would be heaven," he amplified
earnestly, "it would be heaven to dance with you forever--on a desert isle
where the others couldn't come!" he finished with sudden acerbity as his
eye caught the General's.
He proceeded, and only the cessation of the music aided Miss Carewe in
stopping the declaration before it was altogether out; and at that point
Frank's own father came to her rescue, though in a fashion little saving
of her confusion. The elder Chenoweth was one of the gallant and kindly
Southern colony that made it natural for Rouen always to speak of Miss
Carewe as "Miss Betty. He was a handsome old fellow, whose hair, long
moustache and imperial were as white as he was proud of them, a Virginian
with the admirable Southern fearlessness of being thought sentimental.
Mounting a chair with complete dignity, he lifted a glass of wine high in
the air, and, when all the other glasses had been filled, proposed the
health of his young hostess. He made a speech of some length, pronouncing
himself quite as hopelessly in love with his old friend's daughter as all
could see his own son was; and wishing her long life and prosperity, with
many allusions to fragrant bowers and the Muses.
It made Miss Betty happy, but it was rather trying, too, for she could
only stand with downcast eyes before them all, trembling a little, and
receiving a mixed impression of Mr. Chenoweth's remarks, catching
fragments here and there: "And may the blush upon that gentle cheek,
lovelier than the radiant clouds at set of sun," and "Yet the sands of the
hour-glass must fall, and in the calm and beauteous old age some day to be
her lot, when fond mem'ry leads her back to view again the brilliant scene
about her now, where stand `fair women and brave men,' winecup in hand to
do her honor, oh, may she wipe the silent tear", and the like. As the old
gentleman finished, and before the toast was drunk, Fanchon Bareaud,
kissing her hand to Betty, took up the song again; and they all joined in,
lifting their glasses to the blushing and happy girl clinging to her
"Thou wouldst still be adored as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will;
And around the dear ruin, each wish of my heart,
Would entwine itself verdantly still."
They were happy people who had not learned to be self-conscious enough to
fear doing a pretty thing openly without mocking themselves for it; and it
was a brave circle they made about Betty Carewe, the charming faces of the
women and their fine furbelows, handsome men and tall, all so gay, so
cheerily smiling, and yet so earnest in their welcome to her. No one was
afraid to "let out" his voice; their song went full and strong over the
waking town, and when it was finished the ball was over, too.
The veranda and the path to the gate became like tropic gardens, the fair
colors of the women's dresses, ballooning in the early breeze, making the
place seem strewn with giant blossoms. They all went away at the same
time, those in carriages calling farewells to each other and to the little
processions departing on foot in different directions to homes near by.
The sound of the voices and laughter drew away, slowly died out
altogether, and the silence of the street was strange and unfamiliar to
Betty. She went to the hedge and watched the musicians, who were the last
to go, until they passed from sight: little black toilsome figures,
carrying grotesque black boxes. While she could still see them, it seemed
to her that her ball was not quite over, and she wished to hold the least
speck of it as long as she could; but when they had disappeared, she faced
the truth with a deep sigh: the long, glorious night was finished indeed.
What she needed now was another girl: the two would have gone to Betty's
room and danced it all over again until noon; but she had only her father.
She found him smoking a Principe cigar upon the veranda, so she seated
herself timidly, nevertheless with a hopeful glance at him, on the steps
at his feet; and, as she did so, he looked down upon her with something
more akin to geniality than anything she had ever seen in his eye before.
It was not geniality itself, but might be third cousin to it. Indeed, in
his way, he was almost proud of her, though he had no wish to show it.
Since one was compelled to display the fact that one possessed a grown
daughter, it was well that she be like this one.
They did not know each other very well, and she often doubted that they
would ever become intimate. There was no sense of companionship for
either in the other; she had been unable to break through his perfunctory,
almost formal, manner with her; therefore, because he encouraged no af-
fection in her, she felt none, and wondered why, since he was her father.
She was more curious about him than interested, and, though she did not
know it, she was prepared to judge him--should occasion arise--precisely
as she would judge any other mere acquaintance. This morning, for the
first time, she was conscious of a sense of warmth and gratitude toward
him: the elaborate fashion in which he had introduced her to his friends
made it appear possible that he liked her; for he had forgotten nothing,
and to remember everything in this case was to be lavish, which has often
the appearance of generosity.
And yet there had been a lack: some small thing she had missed, though she
was not entirely sure that she identified it; but the lack had not been in
her father or in anything he had done. Then, too, there was something so
unexpectedly human and pleasant in his not going to bed at once, but
remaining to smoke on the veranda at this hour, that she gave him credit
for a little of her own excitement, innocently fancying that he, also,
might feel the need of a companion with whom to talk over the brilliant
passages of the night. And a moment ensued when she debated taking his
hand. She was too soon glad that her intuition forbade the demonstration.
"It was all so beautiful, papa," she said, timidly. "I have no way to
tell you how I thank you."
"You may do that," he replied, evenly, with no unkindness, with no
kindness, either, in the level of his tone, "by never dancing again more
than twice with one man in one evening."
"I think I should much prefer not, myself," she returned, lifting her head
to face him gravely. "I believe if I cared to dance more than once with
one, I should like to dance all of them with him."
Mr. Carewe frowned. "I trust that you discovered none last night whom you
wished to honor with your entire programme?"
"No," she laughed, "not last night."
Her father tossed away his cigar abruptly "Is it too much to hope," he
inquired, "that when you discover a gentleman with whom you desire to
waltz all night, you will omit to mention the fact to him?"
There was a brief flash of her eye as she recalled her impulse to take his
hand, but she immediately looked at him with such complete seriousness
that he feared his irony had been thrown away.
"I'll remember not to mention it," she answered. "I'll tell him you told
me not too."
"I think you may retire now," said Mr. Carewe, sharply.
She rose from the steps, went to the door, then turned at the threshold.
"Were all your friends here, papa?"
"Do you think that every ninny who gabbled in my house last night was my
friend?" he said, angrily. "There was one friend of mine, Mrs. Tanberry,
who wasn't here, because she is out of town; but I do not imagine that you
are inquiring about women. You mean: Was every unmarried male idiot who
could afford a swallow-tailed coat and a clean pair of gloves cavorting
about the place? Yes, miss, they were all here except two, and one of
those is a fool, the other a knave."
"Can't I know the fool?" she asked, eagerly.
"I rejoice to find them so rare in your experience!" he retorted. "This
one is out of town, though I have no doubt you will see him sufficiently
often when be returns. His name is Crailey Gray, and he is to marry
Fanchon Bareaud--if he remembers!"
"And the knave?"
"Is one!" Carewe shut his teeth with a venomous snap, and his whole face
reddened suddenly. "I'll mention this fellow once--now," he said,
speaking each word with emphasis. "His name is Vanrevel. You see that
gate; you see the line of my property there: the man himself, as well as
every other person in the town, remembers well that the last time I spoke
to him, it was to tell him that if he ever set foot on ground of mine I'd
shoot him down, and he knows, and they all know, I shall keep my word!
Elsewhere, I told him that for the sake of public peace, I should ignore
him. I do. You will see him everywhere; but it will not be difficult; no
one will have the hardihood to present him to my daughter. The quarrel
between us--" Mr. Carewe broke off for a moment, his hands clinching the
arms of his chair, while he swallowed with difficulty, as though he choked
upon some acrid bolus, and he was so strongly agitated by his own mention
of his enemy that he controlled himself by a painful effort of his will.
"The quarrel between us is political--and personal. You will remember."
"I shall remember," she answered in a rather frightened voice.
. . . It was long before she fell asleep. "I alone must hover about the
gates or steal into your garden like a thief," the Incroyable had said.
"The last time I spoke to him it was to tell him that if he ever set foot
on ground of mine, I'd shoot him down! " had been her father's
declaration. And Mr. Carewe had spoken with the most undeniable air of
meaning what he said. Yet she knew that the Incroyable would come again.
Also, with hot cheeks pressed into her pillow, Miss Betty had identified
the young man in the white hat, that dark person whose hand she had far
too impetuously seized in both of hers. Aha! It was this gentleman who
looked into people's eyes and stammered so sincerely over a pretty speech
that you almost believed him, it was he who was to marry Fanchon Bareaud--
" if he remembers!" No wonder Fanchon had been in such a hurry to get him
away . . . . "If he remembers!" Such was that young man's character, was
it? Miss Carewe laughed aloud to her pillow: for, was one to guess the
reason, also, of his not having come to her ball? Had the poor man been
commanded to be "out of town?"
Then, remembering the piquant and generous face of Fanchon, Betty clinched
her fingers tightly and crushed the imp who had suggested the unworthy
thought, crushed him to a wretched pulp and threw him out of the open
window. He immediately sneaked in by the back way, for, in spite of her
victory, she still felt a little sorry for poor Fanchon.
"But Spare Your Country's Flag"
If it be true that love is the great incentive to the useless arts, the
number of gentlemen who became poets for the sake of Miss Betty Carewe
need not be considered extraordinary. Of all that was written of her
dancing, Tom Vanrevel's lines, "I Danced with Her beneath the Lights"
(which he certainly had not done when he wrote them) were, perhaps, next
to Crailey Gray's in merit, though Tom burned his rhymes after reading
them to Crailey. Other troubadours were not so modest, and the Rouen
Journal found no lack of tuneful offering, that spring, generously print-
ing all of it, even at the period when it became epidemic. The public had
little difficulty in recognizing the work of Mr. Francis Chenoweth in an
anonymous "Sonnet" (of twenty-three lines) which appeared in the issue
following Miss Carewe's debut. Mr. Chenoweth wrote that while dancing the
mazourka with a Lovely Being, the sweetest feelings of his soul, in a
celestial stream, bore him away beyond control, in a seraphic dream; and
he untruthfully stated that at the same time he saw her wipe the silent
tear, omitting, however, to venture any explanation of the cause of her
emotion. Old General Trumble boldly signed his poem in full. It was
called "An Ode upon Miss C--'s Waltzing," and it began:
"When Bettina found fair Rouen's shore,
And her aged father to us bore
Her from the cloister neat,
She waltzed upon the ball-room floor,
And lightly twirled upon her feet."
Mr. Carewe was rightfully indignant, and refused to acknowledge the
General's salutation at their next meeting: Trumble was fifteen years
older than he.
As Crailey Gray never danced with Miss Carewe, it is somewhat singular
that she should have been the inspiration of his swinging verses in waltz
measure, "Heart-strings on a Violin," the sense of which was that when a
violin had played for her dancing, the instrument should be shattered as
wine-glasses are after a great toast. However, no one, except the author
himself, knew that Betty was the subject; for Crailey certainly did not
mention it to Miss Bareaud, nor to his best friend, Vanrevel.
It was to some degree a strange comradeship between these two young men;
their tastes led them so often in opposite directions. They had rooms to-
gether over their offices in the "Madrillon Block" on Main Street, and the
lights shone late from their windows every night in the year. Sometimes
that would mean only that the two friends were talking, for they never
reached a silent intimacy, but, even after several years of companionship,
were rarely seen together when not in interested, often eager,
conversation, so that people wondered what in the world they still found
to say to each other. But many a night the late-shining lamp meant that
Tom sat alone, with a brief or a book, or wooed the long hours with his
magical guitar. For he never went to bed until the other came home.
And if daylight came without Crailey, Vanrevel would go out, yawning
mightily, to look for him; and when there was no finding him, Tom would
come back, sleepless, to the day's work. Crailey was called "peculiar"
and he explained, with a kind of jovial helplessness, that he was always
prepared for the unexpected in himself, nor did such a view detract from
his picturesqueness to his own perusal of himself; though it was not only
to himself that he was interesting. To the vision of the lookers-on in
Rouen, quiet souls who hovered along the walls at merry-makings and
cheerfully counted themselves spectators at the play, Crailey Gray held
the centre of the stage and was the chief comedian of the place. Wit,
poet, and scapegrace, the small society sometimes seemed the mere
background set for his performances, spectacles which he, also, enjoyed,
and from the best seat in the house; for he was not content as the actor,
but must be the Prince in the box as well.
His friendship for Tom Vanrevel was, in a measure, that of the vine for
the oak. He was full of levities at Tom's expense, which the other bore
with a grin of sympathetic comprehension, or, at long intervals, returned
upon Crailey with devastating effect. Vanrevel was the one steadying
thing in his life, and, at the same time, the only one of the young men
upon whom he did not have an almost mesmeric influence. In good truth,
Crailey was the ringleader in all the devilries of the town. Many a youth
swore to avoid the roisterer's company for all time, and, within two hours
of the vow, found himself, flagon in hand, engaged in a bout that would
last the night, with Mr. Gray out-bumpering the hardiest, at the head of
the table. And, the next morning, the fevered, scarlet-eyed perjurer
might creep shaking to his wretched tasks, only to behold the cause of his
folly and headache tripping merrily along the street, smiling, clean-
shaven, and fresh as a dew-born primrose, with, perchance, two or three of
the prettiest girls in town at his elbow to greet his sallies with
Crailey had been so long in the habit of following every impulse, no
matter how mad, that he enjoyed an almost perfect immunity from condemna-
tion, and, whatever his deeds, Rouen had learned to say, with a chuckle,
that it was "only Crailey Gray again." But his followers were not so
privileged. Thus, when Mr. Gray, who in his libations sometimes developed
the humor of an urchin, went to the Pound at three in the morning of New
Year's Day, hung sleigh-bells about the necks of the cattle and drove them
up and down the streets, himself hideously blowing a bass horn from the
back of a big brown steer, those roused from slumber ceased to rage, and
accepted the exploit as a rare joke, on learning that it was "only Crailey
Gray;" but the unfortunate young Chenoweth was heavily frowned upon and
properly upbraided because he had followed in the wake of the bovine
procession, mildly attempting to play upon a flageolet.
Crailey never denied a folly nor defended an escapade. The latter was
always done for him, because he talked of his "graceless misdoings" (so he
was wont, smilingly, to call them) over cups of tea in the afternoons with
old ladies, lamenting, in his musical voice, the lack of female relatives
to guide him. He was charmingly attentive to the elderly women, not from
policy, but because his manner was uncontrollably chivalrous; and, ever a
gallant listener, were the speaker young, old, great or humble, he never
forgot to catch the last words of a sentence, and seldom suffered for a
reply, even when he had drowsed through a question. Moreover, no one ever
heard him speak a sullen word, nor saw him wear a brow of depression. The
single creed to which he was constant was that of good cheer; he was the
very apostle of gayety, preaching it in parlor and bar; and made merry
friends with battered tramps and homeless dogs in the streets at night.
Now and then he would spend several days in the offices of Gray &
Vanrevel, Attorneys and Counsellors-at-Law, wearing an air of unassailable
virtue; though he did not far overstate the case when he said, "Tom does
all the work and gives me all the money not to bother him when he's
getting up a case."
The working member of the firm got up cases to notable effect, and few
lawyers in the State enjoyed having Tom Vanrevel on the other side. There
was nothing about him of the floridity prevalent at that time; he withered
"oratory" before the court; he was the foe of jury pathos; and, despising
noise and the habitual voice-dip at the end of a sentence, was,
nevertheless, at times an almost fearfully effective orator. So, by
degrees the firm of Gray & Vanrevel, young as it was, and in spite of the
idle apprentice, had grown to be the most prosperous in the district. For
this eminence Crailey was never accused of assuming the credit. Nor did
he ever miss an opportunity of making known how much he owed to his
partner. What he owed, in brief, was everything. How well Vanrevel
worked was demonstrated every day, but how hard he worked, only Crailey
knew. The latter had grown to depend upon him for even his political
beliefs, and lightly followed his partner into Abolitionism; though that
was to risk unpopularity, bitter hatred, and worse. Fortunately, on
certain occasions, Vanrevel had made himself (if not his creed) respected,
at least so far that there was no longer danger of mob-violence for an
Abolitionist in Rouen. He was a cool-headed young man ordinarily, and
possessed of an elusive forcefulness not to be trifled with, though he was
a quiet man, and had what they called a "fine manner." And, not in the
latter, but in his dress, there was an echo of the Beau, which afforded
Mr. Gray a point of attack for sallies of wit; there was a touch of the
dandy about Vanrevel; he had a large and versatile wardrobe, and his
clothes always fit him not only in line but in color; even women saw how
nobly they were fashioned.
These two young men were members of a cheerful band, who feasted, laughed,
wrangled over politics, danced, made love, and sang terrible chords on
summer evenings, together, as young men will. Will Cummings, editor of
the Rouen Journal, was one of these; a tall, sallow man, very thin, very
awkward and very gentle. Mr. Cummings proved himself always ready with a
loud and friendly laugh for the poorest joke in the world, his countenance
shining with such kindness that no one ever had the heart to reproach him
with the evils of his journalistic performances, or for the things he
broke when he danced. Another was Tappingham Marsh, an exceedingly
handsome person, somewhat languid in appearance, dainty in manner with
women, offhand with men; almost as reckless as Crailey, and often the
latter's companion and assistant in dissipation. Young Francis Chenoweth
never failed to follow both into whatever they planned; he was short and
pink, and the uptilt of his nose was coherent with the appealing earnest-
ness which was habitual with him. Eugene Madrillon was the sixth of these
intimates; a dark man, whose Latin eyes and color advertised his French
ancestry as plainly as his emotionless mouth and lack of gesture betrayed
the mingling of another strain.
All these, and others of the town, were wont to "talk politics" a great
deal at the little club on Main Street and all were apt to fall foul of
Tom Vanrevel or Crailey Gray before the end of any discussion. For those
were the days when they twisted the Lion's tail in vehement and bitter
earnest; when the eagle screamed in mixed figures; when few men knew how
to talk, and many orated; when party strife was savagely personal; when
intolerance was called the "pure fire of patriotism;" when criticism of
the existing order of things surely incurred fiery anathema and black
invective; and brave was he, indeed, who dared to hint that his country,
as a whole and politically, did lack some two or three particular virtues,
and that the first step toward obtaining them would be to help it to
realize their absence.
This latter point-of-view was that of the firm of Gray & Vanrevel, which
was a unit in such matters. Crailey did most of the talking--quite
beautifully, too--and both had to stand against odds in many a sour
argument, for they were not only Abolitionists, but opposed the attitude
of their country in its difficulty with Mexico; and, in common with other
men of the time who took their stand, they had to grow accustomed to being
called Disloyal Traitors, Foreign Toadies, Malignants, and Traducers of
the Flag. Tom had long been used to epithets of this sort, suffering
their sting in quiet, and was glad when he could keep Crailey out of worse
employment than standing firm for an unpopular belief.
There was one place to which Vanrevel, seeking his friend and partner,
when the latter did not come home at night, could not go; this was the
Tower Chamber, and it was in that mysterious apartment of the Carewe
cupola that Crailey was apt to be deeply occupied when he remained away
until daylight. Strange as it appears, Mr. Gray maintained peculiar
relations of intimacy with Robert Carewe, in spite of the feud between
Carewe and his own best friend. This intimacy, which did not necessarily
imply any mutual fondness (though Crailey seemed to dislike nobody), was
betokened by a furtive understanding, of a sort, between them. They held
brief, earnest conversations on the street, or in corners when they met at
other people's houses, always speaking in voices too low to be overheard;
and they exercised a mysterious symbolism, somewhat in the manner of
fellow members of a secret society: they had been observed to communicate
across crowded rooms, by lifted eyebrow, nod of head, or a surreptitious
turn of the wrist: so that those who observed them knew that a question
had been asked and answered.
It was noticed, also, that there were five other initiates to this
masonry: Eugene Madrillon, the elder Chenoweth, General Trumble,
Tappingham Marsh, and Jefferson Bareaud. Thus, on the afternoon following
Miss Betty's introduction to Rouen's favorite sons and daughters, Mr.
Carewe, driving down Main Street, held up one forefinger to Madrillon as
he saw the young man turning in at the club. Eugene nodded gravely, and,
as he went in, discovering Marsh, the General, and others, listening to
Mr. Gray's explanation of his return from the river with no fish,
stealthily held up one finger in his turn. Trumble replied with a wink,
Tappingham nodded, but Crailey slightly shook his head. Marsh and the
General started with surprise, and stared incredulously. That Crailey
should shake his head! If the signal had been for a church-meeting they
might have understood.
Mr. Gray's conduct was surprising two other people at about the same time:
Tom Vanrevel and Fanchon Bareaud; the former by his sudden devotion to the
law; the latter by her sudden devotion to herself. In a breath, he became
almost a domestic character. No more did he spend his afternoons between
the club and the Rouen House bar, nor was his bay mare so often seen
stamping down the ground about Mrs. McDougal's hitching-post while
McDougal was out on the prairie with his engineering squad. The idle
apprentice was at his desk, and in the daytime he displayed an aversion
for the streets, which was more than his partner did, for the industrious
Tom, undergoing quite as remarkable an alteration of habit, became, all at
once, little better than a corner-loafer. His favorite lounging-place was
a small drug-store where Carewe Street debouched upon Main; nevertheless,
so adhesive is a reputation once fastened, his air of being there upon
business deceived everyone except Mr. Gray.
Miss Bareaud was even happier than she was astonished (and she was
mightily astonished) to find her betrothed developing a taste for her
society alone. Formerly, she had counted upon the gayeties of her home to
keep Crailey near her; now, however, he told her tenderly he wished to
have her all to himself. This was not like him, but Fanchon did not
question; and it was very sweet to her that be began to make it his custom
to come in by a side gate and meet her under an apple-tree in the dusk,
where they would sit quietly together through the evening, listening to
the noise and laughter from the lighted house.
That house was the most hospitable in Rouen. Always cheerfully "full of
company," as they said, it was the sort of house where a carpet-dance
could be arranged in half an hour; a house with a sideboard like the
widow's cruse; the young men always found more. Mrs. Bareaud, a
Southerner, loving to persuade the visitor that her home was his, not
hers, lived only for her art, which was that of the table. Evil cooks,
taking service with her, became virtuous, dealt with nectar and ambrosia,
and grew fit to pander to Olympus, learning of their mistress secrets to
make the ill-disposed as genial gods ere they departed. Mr. Bareaud at
fifty had lived so well that he gave up walking, which did not trouble
him; but at sixty he gave up dancing, which did trouble him. His only
hope, he declared, was in Crailey Gray's promise to invent for him: a
There was a thin, quizzing shank of a son, Jefferson, who lived upon
quinine, ague and deviltry; and there were the two daughters, Fanchon and
Virginia. The latter was three years older than Fanchon, as dark as
Fanchon was fair, though not nearly so pretty: a small, good-natured,
romping sprite of a girl, who had handed down the heart and hand of
Crailey Gray to her sister with the best grace in the world. For she had
been the heroine of one of Mr. Gray's half-dozen or so most serious
affairs, and, after a furious rivalry with Mr. Carewe, the victory was
generally conceded to Crailey. His triumph had been of about a fort-
night's duration when Fanchon returned from St. Mary's; and, with the
advent of the younger sister, the elder, who had decided that Crailey was
the incomparable she had dreamed of since infancy, was generously allowed
to discover that he was not that vision--that she had fallen in love with
her own idea of him; whereas Fanchon cared only that he be Crailey Gray,
whatever kind of vision that was. And Fanchon discovered that it was a
great many kinds.
The transfer was made comfortably, with nice judgment of a respectable
interregnum, and to the greater happiness of each of the three young peo-
ple; no objection ensuing from the easy-going parents, who were devotedly
fond of Crailey, while the town laughed and said it was only that absurd
Crailey Gray again. He and Virginia were the best of friends, and
accepted their new relation with a preposterous lack of embarrassment.
To be in love with Crailey became Fanchon's vocation; she spent all her
time at it, and produced a blurred effect upon strangers. The only man
with whom she seemed quite alive was Vanrevel: a little because Tom talked
of Crailey, and a great deal because she could talk of Crailey to Tom;
could tell him freely, as she could tell no one else, how wonderful
Crailey was, and explain to him her lover's vagaries on the ground that it
was a necessity of geniuses to be unlike the less gifted. Nor was she
alone in suspecting Mr. Gray of genius: in the first place, he was so odd;
in the second, his poems were "already attracting more than local
attention," as the Journal remarked, generously, for Crailey had ceased to
present his rhymes to that valuable paper. Ay! Boston, no less, was his
He was rather radical in his literary preferences, and hurt the elder
Chenoweth's feelings by laughing heartily at some poems of the late Lord
Byron; offended many people by disliking the style of Sir Edward Bulwer,
and even refused to admit that James Fenimore Cooper was the greatest
novelist that ever lived. But these things were as nothing compared with
his unpatriotic defence of Charles Dickens. Many Americans had fallen
into a great rage over the vivacious assault upon the United States in
"Martin Chuzzlewit;" nevertheless, Crailey still boldly hailed him (as
everyone had heretofore agreed) the most dexterous writer of his day and
the most notable humorist of any day. Of course the Englishman had not
visited and thoroughly studied such a city as Rouen, Crailey confessed,
twinklingly; but, after all, wasn't there some truth in "Martin
Chuzzlewit?" Mr. Dickens might have been far from a clear understanding
of our people; but didn't it argue a pretty ticklish vanity in ourselves
that we were so fiercely resentful of satire; and was not this very heat
over "Martin Chuzzlewit" a confirmation of one of the points the book had
presented against us? General Trumble replied to this suggestion with a
personal one to the effect that a man capable of saying a good word for so
monstrous a slander, that a man, sir, capable of declaring his native
country to be vain or sensitive ought to be horsewhipped, and at this
Crailey laughed consumedly.
Trumble retorted with the names of Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr. "And
if it comes to a war with these Greasers," he spluttered apoplectically,
"and it is coming, mighty soon, we'll find Mr. Gray down in Mexico,
throwing mud on the Stars and Stripes and cheering for that one-legged
horse-thief, Santa Anna! Anything to seek out something foolish amongst
your own people!"
"Don't have to seek far, sometimes, General," murmured Crailey, from the
depths of the best chair in the club, whereupon Trumble, not trusting
himself to answer, went out to the street.
And yet, before that same evening was over, the General had shed honest
tears of admiration and pity for Crailey Gray; and Miss Betty saw her
Incroyable again, for that night (the second after the Carewe dance) Rouen
beheld the great warehouse tire.
Nero not the Last Violinist of his Kind
Miss Carewe was at her desk, writing to Sister Cecilia, whom she most
loved of all the world, when the bells startled her with their sudden
clangor. The quill dropped from her hand; she started to her feet, wide-
eyed, not understanding; while the whole town, drowsing peacefully a
moment ago, resounded immediately with a loud confusion. She ran to the
front door and looked out, her heart beating wildly.
The western sky was touched with a soft rose-color, which quickly became a
warm glow, fluctuated, and, in the instant, shot up like the coming of a
full Aurora. Then through the broken foliage of the treetops could be
seen the orange curls of flames, three-quarters of a mile away though they
People, calling loudly that "it was Carewe's warehouses," were running
down the street. From the stable, old Nelson, on her father's best horse,
came galloping, and seeing the white figure in the doorway, cried out in a
quavering voice, without checking his steed.
"I goin' tell yo' pa, Miss Betty, he in de kentry on lan' bus'ness. Go
back in de house, Missy!"
The other servants, like ragged sketches in the night, flitted by, with
excited ejaculations, to join the runners, and Miss Betty followed them
across the dew-strewn turf in her night slippers, but at the gate she
>From up the street came the sound of a bell smaller than those of the
churches and courthouse, yet one that outdid all others in the madness of
its appeal to clear the way. It was borne along by what seemed at first
an indefinite black mass, but which--as the Aurora grew keener, producing
even here a faint, yellow twilight--resolved itself into a mob of
hoarsely-shouting men and boys, who were running and tugging at ropes,
which drew along three extraordinary vehicles. They came rapidly down the
street and passed Miss Betty with a hubbub and din beyond all
understanding; one line of men, most of them in red shirts and oil-cloth
helmets, at a dead run with the hose-cart; a second line with the hand-
engine; the third dragging the ladder-wagon. One man was riding, a tall,
straight gentleman in evening clothes and without a hat, who stood pre-
cariously in the hose-cart, calling in an annoyed tone through a brazen
trumpet. Miss Betty recognized him at once; it was he who caught her
kitten; and she thought that if she bad been Fanchon Bareaud she must have
screamed a warning, for his balance appeared a thing of mere luck, and, if
he fell, he would be trampled under foot and probably run over by the
engine. But, happily (she remembered), she was not Fanchon Bareaud!
Before, behind, and beside the Department, raced a throng of boys, wild
with the joy experienced by their species when property is being
handsomely destroyed; after them came panting women, holding their sides
and gasping with the effort to keep up with the flying procession.
Miss Betty trembled, for she had never seen the like in her life; she
stood close to the hedge and let them go by; then she turned in after them
and ran like a fleet young deer. She was going to the fire.
Over all the uproar could be heard the angry voice through the trumpet,
calling the turns of the streets to the men in the van, upbraiding them
and those of the other two companies impartially; and few of his hearers
denied the chief his right to express some chagrin; since the Department
(organized a half-year, hard-drilled, and this its first fire worth the
name) was late on account of the refusal of the members to move until they
had donned their new uniforms; for the uniforms had arrived from
Philadelphia two months ago, and tonight offered the first opportunity to
display them in public.
"Hail Vanrevel!" panted Tappingham Marsh to Eugene Madrillon, as the two,
running in the van of the "Hose Company," splattered through a mud-puddle.
"You'd think he was Carewe's only son and heir instead of his worst enemy.
Hark to the man!"
"I'd let it burn, if I were he," returned the other.
"It was all Crailey's fault," said Tappingham, swinging an arm free to
wipe the spattered mud from his face. "He swore he wouldn't budge without
his uniform, and the rest only backed him up; that was all. Crailey said
Carewe could better afford to lose his shanties than the overworked
Department its first chance to look beautiful and earnest. Tom asked him
why he didn't send for a fiddle," Marsh finished with a chuckle.
"Carewe might afford to lose a little, even a warehouse or two, if only
out of what he's taken from Crailey and the rest of us, these three
"Taken from Vanrevel, you mean. Who doesn't know where Crai1ey's--
Here's Main Street; look out for the turn!"
They swung out of the thick shadows of Carewe Street into full view of the
fire, and their faces were illuminated as by sunrise.
The warehouses stood on the river-bank, at the foot of the street, just
south of the new "covered bridge." There were four of them, huge, bare-
sided buildings; the two nearer the bridge of brick, the others of wood,
and all of them rich with stores of every kind of river-merchandise and
costly freight: furniture that had voyaged from New England down the long
coast, across the Mexican Gulf, through the flat Delta, and had made the
winding journey up the great river a thousand miles, and almost a thousand
more, following the greater and lesser tributaries; cloth from Connecticut
that had been sold in Philadelphia, then carried over mountains and
through forests by steam, by canal, by stage, and six-mule freight-wagons,
to Pittsburg, down the Ohio, and thence up to Rouen on the packet;
Tennessee cotton, on its way to Massachusetts and Rhode Island spindles,
lay there beside huge mounds of raw wool from Illinois, ready to be fed to
the Rouen mill; dates and nuts from the Caribbean Sea; lemons from groves
of the faraway tropics; cigars from the Antilles; tobacco from Virginia
and Kentucky; most precious of all, the great granary of the farmers'
wheat from the level fields at home; and all the rich stores and the
houses that held them, as well as the wharves upon which they had been
landed, and the steamers that brought them up the Rouen River, belonged to
That it was her father's property which was imperilled attested to the
justification of Miss Betty in running to a fire; and, as she followed the
crowd into Main Street, she felt a not unpleasant proprietary interest in
the spectacle. Very opposite sensations animated the breast of the man
with the trumpet, who was more acutely conscious than any other that these
were Robert Carewe's possessions which were burning so handsomely. Nor
was he the only one among the firemen who ground his teeth over the folly
of the uniforms; for now they could plainly see the ruin being wrought,
the devastation threatened. The two upper stories of the southernmost
warehouse had swathed themselves in one great flame; the building next on
the north, also of frame, was smoking heavily; and there was a wind from
the southwest, which, continuing with the fire unchecked, threatened the
town itself. There was work for the Volunteer Brigade that night.
They came down Main Street with a rush, the figure of their chief swaying
over them on his high perch, while their shouting was drowned in the
louder roar of greeting from the crowd, into which they plunged as a diver
into the water, swirls and eddies of people marking the wake. A moment
later a section of the roof of the burning warehouse fell in, with a
sonorous and reverberating crash.
The "Engine Company" ran the force-pump out to the end of one of the lower
wharves; two lines of pipe were attached; two rows of men mounted the
planks for the pumpers, and, at the word of command, began the up-and-down
of the hand-machine with admirable vim. Nothing happened; the water did
not come; something appeared to be wrong with the mechanism. As everyone
felt the crucial need of haste, nothing could have been more natural than
that all the members of the "Engine Company" should simultaneously
endeavor to repair the defect; therefore ensued upon the spot a species of
riot which put the engine out of its sphere of usefulness.
In the meantime, fifty or sixty men and boys who ran with the machines,
but who had no place in their operation, being the Bucket Brigade, had
formed a line and were throwing large pails of water in the general
direction of the southernmost warehouse, which it was now impossible to
save; while the gentlemen of the "Hook-and-Ladder Company," abandoning
their wagons, and armed with axes, heroically assaulted the big door of
the granary, the second building, whence they were driven by the
exasperated chief, who informed them that the only way to save the wheat
was to save the building. Crailey Gray, one of the berated axemen,
remained by the shattered door after the others had gone, and, struck by a
sudden thought, set his hand upon the iron latch and opened the door by
this simple process. It was not locked. Crailey leaned against the
casement and laughed with his whole soul and body.
Meanwhile, by dint of shouting in men's ears when near them, through the
trumpet when distant, tearing axes from their hands, imperiously
gesticulating to subordinate commanders, and lingering in no one spot for
more than a second, Mr. Vanrevel reduced his forces to a semblance of
order in a remarkably short time, considering the confusion into which
they had fallen.
The space between the burning warehouse and that next it was not more than
fifty feet in width, but fifty feet so hot no one took thought of entering
there; an area as discomfiting in appearance as it was beautiful with the
thick rain of sparks and firebrands that fell upon it. But the chief had
decided that this space must be occupied, and more: must be held, since it
was the only point of defence for the second warehouse. The roof of this
building would burn, which would mean the destruction of the warehouse,
unless it could be mounted, because the streams of water could not play
upon it from the ground, nor, from the ladders, do much more than wet the
projecting eaves. It was a gable roof, the eaves twenty feet lower on the
south side than on the north, where the ladders could not hope to reach
them. Vanrevel swung his line of bucketeers round to throw water, not
upon the flames, but upon the ladder-men.
Miss Carewe stood in the crowd upon the opposite side of the broad street.
Even there her cheeks were uncomfortably hot, and sometimes she had to
brush a spark from her shoulder, though she was too much excited to mind
this. She was watching the beautiful fiery furnace between the north wall
of the burning warehouse and the south wall of its neighbor, the fifty
feet brilliant and misty with vaporous rose-color, dotted with the myriad
red stars, her eyes shining with the reflection of their fierce beauty.
She saw how the vapors moved there, like men walking in fire, and she was
vaguely recalling Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, when, over the
silhouetted heads of the crowd before her, a long black ladder rose,
wobbled, tilted crazily, then lamely advanced and ranged itself against
the south wall of the second warehouse, its top rung striking ten feet
short of the eaves. She hoped that no one had any notion of mounting that
A figure appeared upon it immediately, that of a gentleman, bareheaded and
in evening dress, with a brass trumpet swinging from a cord about his
shoulders; the noise grew less; the shouting died away, and the crowd
became almost silent, as the figure, climbing slowly drew up above their
heads. Two or three rungs beneath, came a second--a man in helmet and
uniform. The clothes of both men, drenched by the bucketeers, clung to
them, steaming. As the second figure mounted, a third appeared; but this
was the last, for the ladder was frail, and sagged toward the smoking wall
with the weight of the three.
The chief, three-fourths of the way to the top, shouted down a stifled
command, and a short grappling-ladder, fitted at one end with a pair of
spiked iron hooks, was passed to him. Then he toiled upward until his
feet rested on the third rung from the top; here he turned, setting his
back to the wall, lifted the grappling-ladder high over his head so that
it rested against the eaves above him, and brought it down sharply,
fastening the spiked hooks in the roof. As the eaves projected fully
three feet, this left the grappling-ladder hanging that distance out from
the wall, its lowest rung a little above the level of the chief's
Miss Betty drew in her breath with a little choked cry. There was a small
terraced hill of piled-up packing-boxes near her, possession of which had
been taken by a company of raggamuffinish boys, and she found herself
standing on the highest box and sharing the summit with these questionable
youths, almost without noting her action in mounting thither, so strained
was the concentration of her attention upon the figure high up in the
rose-glow against the warehouse wall. The man, surely, surely, was not
going to trust himself to that bit of wooden web hanging from the roof!
Where was Miss Bareaud that she permitted it? Ah, if Betty had been
Fanchon and madwoman enough to have accepted this madman, she would have
compelled him to come down at once, and thereafter would lock him up in
the house whenever the bells rang!
But the roof was to be mounted or Robert Carewe's property lost. Already
little flames were dancing up from the shingles, where firebrands had
fallen, their number increasing with each second. So Vanrevel raised his
arms, took a hard grip upon the lowest rung of the grappling-ladder and
tried it with his weight; the iron hooks bit deeper into the roof; they
held. He swung himself out into the air with nothing beneath him, caught
the rung under his knee, and for a moment hung there while the crowd
withheld from breathing; then a cloud of smoke, swirling that way, made
him the mere ghostly nucleus of himself, blotted him out altogether, and,
as it rose slowly upward, showed the ladder free and empty, so that at
first there was an instant when they thought that he had fallen. But, as
the smoke cleared, there was the tall figure on the roof.
It was an agile and daring thing to do, and the man who did it was
mightily applauded. The cheering bothered him, however, for he was trying
to make them understand, below, what would happen to the "Engine Company"
in case the water was not sent through the lines directly; and what he
said should be done to the engineers included things that would have
blanched the cheek of the most inventive Spanish Inquisitor that ever
Miss Betty made a gesture as if to a person within whispering distance.
"Your coat is on fire," she said in an ordinary conversational tone,
without knowing she had spoken aloud, and Mr. Vanrevel, more than one
hundred feet away, seemed particularly conscious of the pertinence of her
remark. He removed the garment with alacrity, and, for the lack of the
tardy water, began to use it as a flail upon the firebrands and little
flames about him; the sheer desperate best of a man in a rage, doing what
he could when others failed him. Showers of sparks fell upon him; the
smoke was rising everywhere from the roof and the walls below; and,
growing denser and denser, shrouded him in heavy veils, so that, as he ran
hither and thither, now visible, now unseen, stamping and beating and
sweeping away the brands that fell, he seemed but the red and ghostly
caricature of a Xerxes, ineffectually lashing the sea. They were calling
to him imploringly to come down, in heaven's name to come down!
The second man had followed to the top of the ladder against the wall, and
there he paused, waiting to pass up the line of hose when the word should
come that the force-pump had been repaired; but the people thought that he
waited because he was afraid to trust himself to the grappling-ladder. He
was afraid, exceedingly afraid; though that was not why he waited; and he
was still chuckling over the assault of the axes.
His situation had not much the advantage of that of the chief: his red
shirt might have been set with orange jewels, so studded it was with the
flying sparks; and, a large brand dropping upon his helmet, he threw up
his hand to dislodge it and lost the helmet. The great light fell upon
his fair hair and smiling face, and it was then that Miss Betty recognized
the Incroyable of her garden.
The Ever Unpractical Feminine
It was an investigating negro child of tender years, who, possessed of a
petty sense of cause and effect, brought an illuminative simplicity to
bear upon the problem of the force-pump; and a multitudinous agitation
greeted his discovery that the engineers had forgotten to connect their
pipes with the river.
This na‹ve omission was fatal to the second warehouse; the wall burst into
flame below Crailey Gray, who clung to the top of the ladder, choking,
stifled, and dizzily fighting the sparks that covered him, yet still
clutching the nozzle of the hose-line they had passed to him. When the
stream at last leaped forth, making the nozzle fight in his grasp, he sent
it straight up into the air and let the cataract fall back upon himself
and upon the two men beneath him on the ladder.
There came a moment of blessed relief; and he looked out over the broad
rosy blur of faces in the street, where no one wondered more than he how
the water was to reach the roof. Suddenly he started, wiped his eyes with
his wet sleeve, and peered intently down from under the shading arm. His
roving glance crossed the smoke and flame to rest upon a tall, white
figure that stood, full-length above the heads of the people, upon a
pedestal wrought with the grotesque images of boys: a girl's figure, still
as noon, enrapt, like the statue of some young goddess for whom were made
these sacrificial pyres. Mr. Gray recognized his opportunity.
A blackened and unrecognizable face peered down from the eaves, and the
voice belonging to it said, angrily: "Why didn't they send up that line
before they put the water through it?"
"Never mind, Tom," answered Crailey cheerfully, "I'll bring it up."
"You can't; I'll come down for it. Don't be every kind of a fool!"
"You want a monopoly, do you?" And Crailey, calling to Tappingham Marsh,
next below him, to come higher, left the writhing nozzle in the latter's
possession, swung himself out upon the grappling-ladder, imitating the
chief's gymnastics, and immediately, one hand grasping the second rung,
one knee crooked over the lowest, leaned head down and took the nozzle
from Marsh. It was a heavy weight, and though Marsh supported the line
beneath it, the great stream hurtling forth made it a difficult thing to
manage, for it wriggled, recoiled and struggled as if it had been alive.
Crailey made three attempts to draw himself up; but the strain was too
much for his grip, and on the third attempt his fingers melted from the
rung, and he swung down fearfully, hanging by his knee, but still clinging
to the nozzle.
"Give it up, Crailey; it isn't worth it," Vanrevel called from overhead,
not daring the weight of both on the light grappling-ladder.
But though Crailey cared no more for the saving of Robert Carewe's
property than for a butterfly's wing in China, he could not give up now,
any more than as a lad be could have forborne to turn somersaults when the
prettiest little girl looked out of the school-house window. He passed the
nozzle to Tappingham, caught the second rung with his left hand, and, once
more hanging head downward, seized the nozzle; then, with his knee hooked
tight, as the gushing water described a huge semicircle upon the smoke and
hot vapor, he made a mad lurch through the air, while women shrieked; but
he landed upright, half-sitting on the lowest rung. He climbed the
grappling-ladder swiftly, in spite of the weight and contortions of the
unmanageable beast he carried with him; Tom leaned far down and took it
from him; and Crailey, passing the eaves, fell, exhausted, upon the roof.
Just as he reached this temporary security, a lady was borne, fainting,
out of the acclaiming crowd. Fanchon was there.
Word had been passed to the gentlemen of the "Engine Company" to shut off
the water in order to allow the line to be carried up the ladder, and they
received the command at the moment Tom lifted the nozzle, so that the
stream dried up in his hands. This was the last straw, and the blackened,
singed and scarred chief, setting the trumpet to his lips, gave himself
entirely to wrath.
It struck Crailey, even as be lay, coughing and weeping with smoke, that
there was something splendid and large in the other's rage. Vanrevel was
ordinarily so steady and cool that this was worth seeing, this berserker
gesture; worth hearing, this wonderful profanity, like Washington's one
fit of cursing; and Crailey, knowing Tom, knew, too, that it had not come
upon him because Carewe had a daughter into whose eyes Tom had looked; nor
did he rage because he believed that Crailey's life and his were in the
greater hazard for the lack of every drop of water that should have issued
from the empty nozzle. Their lungs were burdened with smoke, while the
intolerable smarting of throat, eyes, and nostrils was like the incision
of a thousand needles in the membranes; their clothes were luminous with
glowing circles where the sparks were eating; the blaze widened on the
wall beneath them, and Marsh was shouting hoarsely that he could no longer
hold his position on the ladder; yet Crailey knew that none of this was in
Tom's mind as he stood, scorched, blistered, and haggard, on the edge of
the roof, shaking his fist at the world. It was because his chance of
saving the property of a man he despised was being endangered.
Crailey stretched forth a hand and touched his friend's knee. "Your side
of the conversation is a trifle loud, Tom," he said. "Miss Carewe is down
there, across the street, on a pile of boxes."
Tom stopped in the middle of a word, for which he may have received but
half a black stroke from the recording angel. He wheeled toward the
street, and, shielding his inflamed eyes with his hand, gazed downward in
a stricken silence. From that moment Mr. Vanrevel's instructions to his
followers were of a decorum at which not the meekest Sunday-school scholar
dare have cavilled.
The three men now on the long ladder, Marsh, Eugene Madrillon, and Will
Cummings, found their position untenable; for the flames, reaching all
along the wall, were licking at the ladder itself, between Marsh and
Eugene. "I can't stand this any longer," gasped Tappingham, "but I can't
leave those two up there, either."
"Not alone," shouted Cummings from beneath Madrillon. "Let's go up."
Thus it happened, that when the water came again, and Vanrevel let it fall
in a grateful cascade upon Crailey and himself, three manly voices were
heard singing, as three men toiled through the billows of rosy gray, below
the beleaguered pair:
"Oh the noble Duke of York,
He had Ten thousand men;
He marched them up the side of a house,
And marched them down again!"
A head appeared above the eaves, and Marsh, then Eugene, then Cummings,
came crawling over the cornice in turn, to join their comrades. They were
a gallant band, those young gentlemen of Rouen, and they came with the
ironical song on their lips, and, looking at one another, ragged and
scarified, burst into hoarse but indomitable laughter.
Two others made an attempt to follow, and would not be restrained. It was
noticed that parts of the lower ladder had been charring; and the ladder-
men were preparing to remove it to a less dangerous point, when old
General Trumble and young Jefferson Bareaud made a rush to mount it, and
were well upon their upward way before the ladder, weakened at the middle,
sagged, splintered, and broke, Trumble and Bareaud falling with it. And
there was the grappling-ladder, dangling forty feet above the ground; and
there were the five upon the roof.
The Department had no other ladder of more than half the length of the
shattered one. Not only the Department, but every soul in Rouen, knew
that; and there rose the thick, low sigh of a multitude, a sound frightful
to hear. It became a groan, then swelled into a deep cry of alarm and
And now, almost simultaneously, the west wall of the building, and the
south wall, and all the southwestern portions of the roof, covered them-
selves with voluminous mantles of flame, which increased so hugely and
with such savage rapidity that the one stream on the roof was seen to be
but a ridiculous and useless opposition.
Everybody began to shout advice to his neighbor; and nobody listened even
to himself. The firemen were in as great a turmoil as was the crowd,
while women covered their eyes. Young Frank Chenoweth was sobbing curses
upon the bruised and shaking Trumble and Jefferson Bareaud, who could only
stand remorseful, impotently groaning, and made no answer.
The walls of the southernmost warehouse followed the roof, crashing inward
one after the other, a sacrificial pyre with its purpose consummated; and
in the seeth and flare of its passing, Tom Vanrevel again shaded his eyes
with his hand, and looked down across the upturned faces. The pedestal
with the grotesque carvings was still there; but the crowning figure had
disappeared--the young goddess was gone. For she, of all that throng, had
an idea in her head, and, after screaming it to every man within reach,
only to discover the impossibility of making herself understood in that
Babel, she was struggling to make her way toward the second warehouse,
through the swaying jam of people. It was a difficult task, as the farther
in she managed to go, the denser became the press and the more tightly she
found the people wedged, until she received involuntary aid from the
firemen. In turning their second stream to play ineffectually upon the
lower strata of flame, they accidentally deflected it toward the crowd,
who separated wildly, leaving a big gap, of which Miss Betty took instant
advantage. She darted across, and the next moment, unnoticed, had entered
the building through the door which Crailey Gray had opened.
The five young men on the roof were well aware that there was little to do
but to wait, and soon they would see which was to win, they or the fire;
so they shifted their line of hose to the eastern front of the building--
out of harm's way, for a little time, at least--and held the muzzle
steady, watching its work. And in truth it was not long before they
understood which would conquer. The southern and western portions of the
building had flung out great flames that fluttered and flared on the
breeze like Titanic flags; and steadily, slowly, at first, then faster as
the seconds flew, the five were driven backward, up the low slope of the
roof toward the gable-ridge. Tom Vanrevel held the first joint of the
nozzle, and he retreated with a sulky face, lifting his foot grudgingly at
each step. They were all silent, now, and no one spoke until Will Cummings
"Surely they'll get a rope up to us some way?"
Will knew as well as did the others that there was no way; but his speech
struck the sullen heart of the chief with remorse. He turned. " I hope
you'll all forgive me for getting you up here."
A sound, half sob, half giggle, came from the parched lips of Eugene
Madrillon, as he patted Tom on the shoulder without speaking, and Crailey
nodded quietly, then left the group and went to the eastern edge of the
roof and looked out upon the crowd. Cummings dropped the line and sat
down, burying his hot face in his arms, for they all saw that Vanrevel
thought "it was no use," but a question of a few minutes, and they would
retreat across the gable and either jump or go down with the roof.
Since the world began, idle and industrious philosophers have speculated
much upon the thoughts of men about to die; yet it cannot be too ingenuous
to believe that such thoughts vary as the men, their characters, and
conditions of life vary. Nevertheless, pursuant with the traditions of
minstrelsy and romance, it is conceivable that young, unmarried men,
called upon to face desperate situations, might, at the crucial moment,
rush to a common experience of summoning the vision, each of his heart's
desire, and to meet, each his doom, with her name upon his lips.
An extraordinary thing occurred in the present instance, for, by means of
some fragmentary remarks let fall at the time, and afterward recalled such
as Tappingham Marsh's gasping: "At least it will be on her father's roof!"
and from other things later overheard, an inevitable deduction has been
reached that four of the five gentlemen in the perilous case herein
described were occupied with the vision of the same person, to wit: Miss
Elizabeth Carewe, "the last--the prettiest--to come to town!"
Crailey Gray, alone, spoke not at all; but why did he strain and strain
his eyes toward that empty' pedestal with the grotesque carvings? Did he
seek Fanchon there, or was Miss Carewe the last sweet apparition in the
fancies of all five of the unhappy young men?
The coincidence of the actual appearance of the lady among them, therefore
seemed the more miraculous, when, wan and hopeless, staggering desperately
backward to the gable-ridge, they heard a clear contralto voice behind
"Hadn't you better all come down now?" it said.--"The stairway will be on
fire before long."
Only one thing could have been more shockingly unexpected to the five than
that there should be a sixth person on the roof, and this was that the
sixth person should be Miss Betty Carewe.
They turned, aghast, agape, chopfallen with astonishment, stunned, and
She stood just behind the gable-ridge, smiling amiably, a most incongruous
little pink fan in her hand, the smoke-wreaths partly obscuring her and
curling between the five and her white dress, like mists floating across
the new moon.
Was it but a kindly phantasm of the brain? Was it the incarnation of the
last vision of the lost Volunteers? Was it a Valkyrie assuming that lovely
likeness to perch upon this eyrie, waiting to bear their heroic souls to
Valhalla, or--was it Miss Betty Carewe?
To the chief she spoke--all of them agreed to that afterward--but it was
Crailey who answered, while Tom could only stare, and stand wagging his
head at the lovely phantom, like a Mandarin on a shelf.
"My mother in heaven!" gasped Crailey. "How did you come up here?"
"There's a trap in the roof on the other side of the ridge," she said, and
she began to fan herself with the pink fan. "A stairway runs all the way
down--old Nelson showed me through these buildings yesterday--and that
side isn't on fire yet. I'm so sorry I didn't think of it until a moment
ago, because you could have brought the water up that way. But don't you
think you'd better come down now?"
Not savage Hun, nor "barbarous Vandyke," nor demon Apache, could wish to
dwell upon the state of mind of the Chief of the Rouen Volunteer Fire
Department; therefore, let the curtain of mercy descend. "Without a word,
he turned and dragged the nozzle to the eastern eaves, whence, after a
warning gesture to those below, he dropped it to the ground. And, out of
compassion, it should be little more than hinted that the gesture of
warning was very slight.
When the rescued band reached the foot of the last flight of stairs, they
beheld the open doorway as a frame for a great press of intent and con-
torted faces, every eye still strained to watch the roof; none of the
harrowed spectators comprehending the appearance of the girl's figure
there, nor able to see whither she had led the five young men, until
Tappingham Marsh raised a shout as he leaped out of the door and danced
upon the solid earth again.
Then, indeed, there was a mighty uproar; cheer after cheer ascended to the
red vault of heaven; women wept, men whooped, and the people rushed for
the heroes with wide-open, welcoming arms. Jefferson Bareaud and Frank
Chenoweth and General Trumble dashed at Tom Vanrevel with incoherent cries
of thanksgiving, shaking his hands and beating him hysterically upon the
back. He greeted them with bitter laughter.
"Help get the water into the next warehouse; this one is beyond control,
but we can save the other two. Take the lines in through the door!" He
brushed the rejoicing friends off abruptly, and went on in a queer, hollow
voice: "There are stairs--and I'm so sorry I didn't think of it until a
moment ago, because you could have brought the water up that way!"
A remarkable case of desertion had occurred, the previous instant, under
his eyes. As the party emerged from the warehouse into the street, Tom
heard Crailey say hurriedly to Miss Carewe: "Let me get you away come
quickly!" saw him suddenly seize her band, and, eluding the onrushing
crowd, run with her round the corner of the building. And somehow,
through what inspiration, or through what knowledge of his partner's
"temperament," heaven knows, the prophetic soul of the chief was unhappily
assured that Crailey would offer himself as escort to her home, and find
acceptance. But why not? Was it Crailey who had publicly called his
fellow-man fool, idiot, imbecile, at the top of his lungs, only to find
himself the proven numskull of the universe! Tom stood for a moment
staring after the vanishing pair, while over his face stole the strangest
expression that ever man saw there; then, with meekly bowed shoulders, be
turned again to his work.
At the corner of the warehouse, Miss Carewe detached her hand from
Crailey's, yet still followed him as he made a quick detour round the next
building. A minute or two later they found themselves, undetected, upon
Main Street in the rear of the crowd. There Crailey paused.
"Forgive me," he said, breathlessly, "for taking your hand. I thought you
would like to get away."
She regarded him gravely, so that he found it difficult to read her look,
except that it was seriously questioning; but whether the interrogation
was addressed to him or to herself he could not determine. After a silence
"I don't know why I followed you. I believe it must have been because you
didn't give me time to think."
This, of course, made him even quicker with her than before. "It's all
over," he said briskly. "The first warehouse is gone; the second will go,
but they'll save the others easily enough, now that you have pointed out
that the lines may be utilized otherwise than as adjuncts of performances
on the high trapeze!" They were standing by a picket-fence, and he leaned
against it, overcome by mirth in which she did not join. Her gravity
reacted upon him at once, and his laughter was stopped short. "Will you
not accept me as an escort to your home?" he said formally. "I do not
know," she returned simply, the sort of honest trouble in her glance that
is seen only in very young eyes.
"`What reason in the world!" he returned, with a crafty sharpness of