Part 4 out of 13
surprise upon his face, no flush of anger, no expression of amaze or
indignation; only the look which had paralyzed Rock on his entrance;
he stood still and mute.
The Seraph looked at him, a great dread seizing him lest he should
have seemed himself to cast this foul thing on his brother-in-arms;
and in that dread all the fierce fire of his freshly-loosened passion
broke its bounds.
"Damnation! Cecil, can't you hear me! A hound has brought against you
the vilest charge that ever swindlers framed: an infamy that he
deserves to be shot for, as if he were a dog. He makes me stand before
you as if I were your accuser; as if I doubted you; as if I lent an
ear one second to this loathsome lie. I sent for you to confront him,
and to give him up to the law. Stand out, you scoundrel, and let us
see how you dare look at us now!"
He swung round at the last words, and signed to Baroni to rise from
the couch were he sat. The Jew advanced slowly, softly.
"If your lordship will pardon me, you have scarcely made it apparent
what the matter is for which the gentleman is wanted. You have
scarcely explained to him that it is on a charge of forgery."
The Seraph's eyes flashed on him with a light like a lion's, and his
right hand clinched hard.
"By my life! If you say that word again you shall be flung in the
street like the cur you are, let me pay what I will for it! Cecil, why
don't you speak?"
Bertie had not moved; not a breath escaped his lips. He stood like a
statue, deadly pale in the gaslight; when the figure of Baroni rose up
and came before him, a great darkness stole on his face--it was a
terrible bitterness, a great horror, a loathing disgust; but it was
scarcely criminality, and it was not fear. Still he stood perfectly
silent--a guilty man, any other than his loyal friend would have said:
guilty, and confronted with a just accuser. The Seraph saw that look,
and a deadly chill passed over him, as it had done at the Jew's first
charge--not doubt; such heresy to his creeds, such shame to his
comrade and his corps could not be in him; but a vague dread hushed
his impetuous vehemence. The dignity of the old Lyonnesse blood
asserted its ascendency.
"M. Baroni, make your statement. Later on Mr. Cecil can avenge it."
Cecil never moved; once his eyes went to Rockingham with a look of
yearning, grateful, unendurable pain; but it was repressed instantly;
a perfect passiveness was on him. The Jew smiled.
"My statement is easily made, and will not be so new to this gentleman
as it was to your lordship. I simply charge the Honorable Bertie Cecil
with having negotiated a bill with my firm for 750 pounds on the 15th
of last month, drawn in his own favor, and accepted at two months'
date by your lordship. Your signature you, my Lord Marquis, admit to
be a forgery--with that forgery I charge your friend!"
The echo of those words alone escaped the dry, white lips of Cecil; he
showed no amaze, no indignation; once only, as the charge was made, he
gave in sudden gesture, with a sudden gleam, so dark, so dangerous, in
his eyes, that his comrade thought and hoped that with one moment more
the Jew would be dashed down at his feet with the lie branded on his
mouth by the fiery blow of a slandered and outraged honor. The action
was repressed; the extraordinary quiescence, more hopeless because
more resigned than any sign of pain or of passion, returned either by
force of self-control or by the stupor of despair.
The Seraph gazed at him with a fixed, astounded horror; he could not
believe his senses; he could not realize what he saw. His dearest
friend stood mute beneath the charge of lowest villainy--stood
powerless before the falsehoods of a Jew extortioner!
"Bertie! Great Heaven!" he cried, well-nigh beside himself, "how can
you stand silent there? Do you hear--do you hear aright? Do you know
the accursed thing this conspiracy has tried to charge you with? Say
something, for the love of God! I will have vengeance on your
slanderer, if you take none."
He had looked for the rise of the same passion that rang in his own
imperious words, for the fearless wrath of an insulted gentleman, the
instantaneous outburst of a contemptuous denial, the fire of scorn,
the lightning flash of fury--all that he gave himself, all that must
be so naturally given by a slandered man under the libel that brands
him with disgrace. He had looked for these as surely as he looked for
the setting of one sun and the rise of another; he would have staked
his life on the course of his friend's conduct as he would upon his
own, and a ghastly terror sent a pang to his heart.
Still--Cecil stood silent; there was a strange, set, repressed anguish
on his face that made it chill as stone; there was an unnatural calm
upon him; yet he lifted his head with a gesture haughty for the moment
as any action that his defender could have wished.
"I am not guilty," he said simply.
The Seraph's hands were on his own in a close, eager grasp almost ere
the words were spoken.
"Beauty, Beauty! Never say that to me. Do you think I can ever doubt
For a moment Cecil's head sank; the dignity with which he had spoken
remained on him, but the scorn of his defiance and his denial faded.
"No; you cannot; you never will."
The words were spoken almost mechanically, like a man in a dream. Ezra
Baroni, standing calmly there with the tranquility that an assured
power alone confers, smiled slightly once more.
"You are not guilty, Mr. Cecil? I shall be charmed if we can find it
so. Your proofs?"
"Proof? I give you my word."
Baroni bowed, with a sneer at once insolent but subdued.
"We men of business, sir, are--perhaps inconveniently for gentlemen--
given to a preference in favor of something more substantial. Your
word, doubtless, is your bond among your acquaintance; it is a pity
for you that your friend's name should have been added to the bond you
placed with us. Business men's pertinacity is a little wearisome, no
doubt, to officers and members of the aristocracy like yourself; but
all the same I must persist--how can you disprove this charge?"
The Seraph turned on him with a fierceness of a bloodhound.
"You dog! If you use that tone again in my presence, I will double-
throng you till you cannot breathe!"
Baroni laughed a little; he felt secure now, and could not resist the
pleasure of braving and of torturing the "aristocrats."
"I don't doubt your will or your strength, my lord; but neither do I
doubt the force of the law to make you account for any brutality of
the prize-ring your lordship may please to exert on me."
The Seraph ground his heel into the carpet.
"We waste words on that wretch," he said abruptly to Cecil. "Prove his
insolence the lie it is, and we will deal with him later on."
"Precisely what I said, my lord," murmured Baroni. "Let Mr. Cecil
prove his innocence."
Into Bertie's eyes came a hunted, driven desperation. He turned them
on Rockingham with a look that cut him to the heart; yet the abhorrent
thought crossed him--was it thus that men guiltless looked?
"Mr. Cecil was with my partner at 7:50 on the evening of the 15th. It
was long over business hours, but my partner to oblige him stretched a
point," pursued the soft, bland, malicious voice of the German Jew.
"If he was not at our office--where was he? That is simple enough."
"Answered in a moment!" said the Seraph, with impetuous certainty.
"Cecil!--to prove this man what he is, not for an instant to satisfy
me--where were you at that time on the 15th?"
"Where were you?" pursued his friend. "Were you at mess? At the clubs?
Dressing for dinner?--where--where? There must be thousands of ways of
remembering--thousands of people who'll prove it for you?"
Cecil stood mute still; his teeth clinched on his under lip. He could
not speak--a woman's reputation lay in his silence.
"Can't you remember?" implored the Seraph. "You will think--you must
There was a feverish entreaty in his voice. That hunted helplessness
with which a question so slight yet so momentous was received, was
forcing in on him a thought that he flung away like an asp.
Cecil looked both of them full in the eyes--both his accuser and his
friend. He was held as speechless as though his tongue were paralyzed;
he was bound by his word of honor; he was weighted with a woman's
"Don't look at me so, Bertie, for mercy's sake! Speak! Where were
"I cannot tell you; but I was not there."
The words were calm; there was a great resolve in them, moreover; but
his voice was hoarse and his lips shook. He paid a bitter price for
the butterfly pleasure of a summer-day love.
"Cannot tell me!--cannot? You mean you have forgotten!"
"I cannot tell you; it is enough."
There was an almost fierce and sullen desperation in the answer; its
firmness was not shaken, but the ordeal was terrible. A woman's
reputation--a thing so lightly thrown away with an idler's word, a
Lovelace's smile!--that was all he had to sacrifice to clear himself
from the toils gathering around him. That was all! And his word of
Baroni bent his head with an ironic mockery of sympathy.
"I feared so, my lord. Mr. Cecil 'cannot tell.' As it happens, my
partner can tell. Mr. Cecil was with him at the hour and on the day I
specify; and Mr. Cecil transacted with him the bill that I have had
the honor of showing you--"
"Let me see it."
The request was peremptory to imperiousness, yet Cecil would have
faced his death far sooner than he would have looked upon that piece
"It is not often that we treat gentlemen under misfortune in the
manner we treat you, sir; they are usually dealt with more summarily,
less mercifully. You must excuse altogether my showing you the
document; both you and his lordship are officers skilled, I believe,
in the patrician science of fist-attack."
He could not deny himself the pleasure and the rarity of insolence to
the men before him, so far above him in social rank, yet at that
juncture so utterly at his mercy.
"You mean that we should fall foul of you and seize it?" thundered
Rockingham in the magnificence of his wrath. "Do you judge the world
by your own wretched villainies? Let him see the paper; lay it there,
or, as there is truth on earth, I will kill you where you stand."
The Jew quailed under the fierce flashing of those leonine eyes. He
bowed with that tact which never forsook him.
"I confide it to your honor, my Lord Marquis," he said, as he spread
out the bill on the console. He was an able diplomatist.
Cecil leaned forward and looked at the signatures dashed across the
paper; both who saw him saw also the shiver, like a shiver of intense
cold, that ran through him as he did so, and saw his teeth clinch
tight, in the extremity of rage, in the excess of pain, or--to hold in
all utterance that might be on his lips.
"Well?" asked the Seraph, in a breathless anxiety. He knew not what to
believe, what to do, whom to accuse of, or how to unravel this mystery
of villainy and darkness; but he felt, with a sickening reluctance
which drove him wild, that his friend did not act in this thing as he
should have acted; not as men of assured innocence and secure honor
act beneath such a charge. Cecil was unlike himself, unlike every deed
and word of his life, unlike every thought of the Seraph's fearless
expectance, when he had looked for the coming of the accused as the
signal for the sure and instant unmasking, condemnation, and
chastisement of the false accuser.
"Do you still persist in denying your criminality in the face of that
bill, Mr. Cecil?" asked the bland, sneering, courteous voice of Ezra
"I do. I never wrote either of these signatures; I never saw that
document until to-night."
The answer was firmly given, the old blaze of scorn came again in his
weary eyes, and his regard met calmly and unflinchingly the looks
fastened on him; but the nerves of his lips twitched, his face was
haggard as by a night's deep gambling; there was a heavy dew on his
forehead--it was not the face of a wholly guiltless, of a wholly
unconscious man; often even as innocence may be unwittingly betrayed
into what wears the semblance of self-condemnation.
"And yet you equally persist in refusing to account for your
occupation of the early evening hours of the 15th? Unfortunate!"
"I do; but in your account of them you lie!"
There was a sternness inflexible as steel in the brief sentence. Under
it for an instant, though not visibly, Baroni flinched; and a fear of
the man he accused smote him, more deep, more keen than that with
which the sweeping might of the Seraph's fury had moved him. He knew
now why Ben Davis had hated with so deadly a hatred the latent
strength that slept under the Quietist languor and nonchalance of "the
d----d Guards' swell."
What he felt, however, did not escape him by the slightest sign.
"As a matter of course you deny it!" he said, with a polite wave of
his hand. "Quite right; you are not required to criminate yourself. I
wish sincerely we were not compelled to criminate you."
The Seraph's grand, rolling voice broke in; he had stood chafing,
chained, panting in agonies of passion and of misery.
"M. Baroni!" he said hotly, the furious vehemence of his anger and his
bewilderment obscuring in him all memory of either law or fact, "you
have heard his signature and your statements alike denied once for all
by Mr. Cecil. Your document is a libel and a conspiracy, like your
charge; it is false, and you are swindling; it is an outrage, and you
are a scoundrel; you have schemed this infamy for the sake of
extortion; not a sovereign will you obtain through it. Were the
accusation you dare to make true, I am the only one whom it can
concern, since it is my name which is involved. Were it true--could it
possibly be true--I should forbid any steps to be taken in it; I
should desire it ended once and forever. It shall be so now, by God!"
He scarcely knew what he was saying; yet what he did say, utterly as
it defied all checks of law or circumstance, had so gallant a ring,
had so kingly a wrath, that it awed and impressed even Baroni in the
instant of its utterance.
"They say that those fine gentlemen fight like a thousand lions when
they are once roused," he thought. "I can believe it."
"My lord," he said softly, "you have called me by many epithets, and
menaced me with many threats since I have entered this chamber; it is
not a wise thing to do with a man who knows the law. However, I can
allow for the heat of your excitement. As regards the rest of your
speech, you will permit me to say that its wildness of language is
only equaled by the utter irrationality of your deductions and your
absolute ignorance of all legalities. Were you alone concerned and
alone the discoverer of this fraud, you could prosecute or not as you
please; but we are subjects of its imposition, ours is the money that
he has obtained by that forgery, and we shall in consequence open the
"Prosecution?" The echo rang in an absolute agony from his hearer; he
had thought of it as, at its worst, only a question between himself
The accused gave no sigh, the rigidity and composure he had sustained
throughout did not change; but at the Seraph's accent the hunted and
pathetic misery which had once before gleamed in his eyes came there
again; he held his comrade in a loyal and exceeding love. He would
have let all the world stone him, but he could not have borne that his
friend should cast even a look of contempt.
"Prosecution!" replied Baroni. "It is a matter of course, my lord,
that Mr. Cecil denies the accusation; it is very wise; the law
specially cautions the accused to say nothing to criminate themselves.
But we waste time in words; and, pardon me, if you have your friend's
interest at heart, you will withdraw this very stormy championship;
this utterly useless opposition to an inevitable line of action. I
must attest Mr. Cecil; but I am willing--for I know to high families
these misfortunes are terribly distressing--to conduct everything with
the strictest privacy and delicacy. In a word, if you and he consult
his interests, he will accompany me unresistingly; otherwise I must
summon legal force. Any opposition will only compel a very unseemly
encounter of physical force, and with it the publicity I am desirous,
for the sake of his relatives and position, to spare him."
A dead silence followed his words, the silence that follows on an
insult that cannot be averted or avenged; on a thing too hideously
shameful for the thoughts to grasp it as reality.
In the first moment of Baroni's words Cecil's eyes had gleamed again
with that dark and desperate flash of a passion that would have been
worse to face even than his comrade's wrath; it died, however, well-
nigh instantly, repressed by a marvelous strength of control, whatever
its motive. He was simply, as he had been throughout, passive--so
passive that even Ezra Baroni, who knew what the Seraph never dreamed,
looked at him in wonder, and felt a faint, sickly fear of that
singular, unbroken calm. It perplexed him--the first thing which had
ever done so in his own peculiar paths of finesse and of intrigue.
The one placed in ignorance between them, at once as it were the judge
and champion of his brother-at-arms, felt wild and blind under this
unutterable shame, which seemed to net them both in such close and
hopeless meshes. He, heir to one of the greatest coronets in the
world, must see his friend branded as a common felon, and could do no
more to aid or to avenge him than if he were a charcoal-burner toiling
yonder in the pine woods! His words were hoarse and broken as he
"Cecil, tell me--what is to be done? This infamous outrage cannot
pass! cannot go on! I will send for the Duke, for--"
"Send for no one."
Bertie's voice was slightly weaker, like that of a man exhausted by a
long struggle, but it was firm and very quiet. Its composure fell on
Rockingham's tempestuous grief and rage with a sickly, silencing awe,
with a terrible sense of some evil here beyond his knowledge and
ministering, and of an impotence alike to act and to serve, to defend
and to avenge--the deadliest thing his fearless life had ever known.
"Pardon me, my lord," interposed Baroni, "I can waste time no more.
You must be now convinced yourself of your friend's implication in
this very distressing affair."
"I!" The Seraph's majesty of haughtiest amaze and scorn blazed from
his azure eyes on the man who dared say this thing to him. "I! If you
dare hint such a damnable shame to my face again, I will wring your
neck with as little remorse as I would a kite's. I believe in his
guilt? Forgive me, Cecil, that I can even repeat the word! I believe
in it? I would as soon believe in my own disgrace--in my father's
"How will your lordship account, then, for Mr. Cecil's total inability
to tell us know he spent the hours between six and nine on the 15th?"
"Unable? He is not unable; he declines! Bertie, tell me what you did
that one cursed evening. Whatever it was, wherever it was, say it for
my sake, and shame this devil."
Cecil would more willingly have stood a line of leveled rifle-tubes
aimed at his heart than that passionate entreaty from the man he loved
best on earth. He staggered slightly, as if he were about to fall, and
a faint white foam came on his lips; but he recovered himself almost
instantly. It was so natural to him to repress every emotion that it
was simply old habit to do so now.
"I have answered," he said very low, each word a pang--"I cannot."
Baroni waved his hand again with the same polite, significant gesture.
"In that case, then, there is but one alternative. Will you follow me
quietly, sir, or must force be employed?"
"I will go with you."
The reply was very tranquil, but in the look that met his own as it
was given, Baroni saw that some other motive than that of any fear was
its spring; that some cause beyond the mere abhorrence of "a scene"
was at the root of the quiescence.
"It must be so," said Cecil huskily to his friend. "This man is right,
so far as he knows. He is only acting on his own convictions. We
cannot blame him. The whole is--a mystery, an error. But, as it
stands, there is no resistance."
"Resistance! By God! I would resist if I shot him dead, or shot
myself. Stay--wait--one moment! If it be an error in the sense you
mean, it must be a forgery of your name as of mine. You think that?"
"I did not say so."
The Seraph gave him a rapid, shuddering glance; for once the suspicion
crept in on him--was this guilt? Yet even now the doubt would not be
harbored by him.
"Say so--you must mean so! You deny them as yours; what can they be
but forgeries? There is no other explanation. I think the whole matter
a conspiracy to extort money; but I may be wrong--let that pass. If it
be, on the contrary, an imitation of both our signatures that has been
palmed off upon these usurers, it is open to other treatment.
Compensated for their pecuniary loss, they can have no need to press
the matter further, unless they find out the delinquent. See here"--he
went to a writing-cabinet at the end of the room, flung the lid back,
swept out a heap of papers, and wrenching a blank check from the book,
threw it down before Baroni--"here! fill it up as you like, and I will
sign it in exchange for the forged sheet."
Baroni paused a moment. Money he loved with an adoration that excluded
every other passion; that blank check, that limitless carte blanche,
that vast exchequer from which to draw!--it was a sore temptation. He
thought wistfully of the welsher's peremptory forbiddance of all
compromise--of the welsher's inexorable command to "wring the fine-
feathered bird," lose whatever might be lost by it.
Cecil, ere the Hebrew could speak, leaned forward, took the check and
tore it in two.
"God bless you, Rock," he said, so low that it only reached the
Seraph's ear, "but you must not do that."
"Beauty, you are mad!" cried the Marquis passionately. "If this
villainous thing be a forgery, you are its victim as much as I--
tenfold more than I. If this Jew chooses to sell the paper to me,
naming his own compensation, whose affair is it except his and mine?
They have been losers, we indemnify them. It rests with us to find out
the criminal. M. Baroni, there are a hundred more checks in that book;
name your price, and you shall have it; or, if you prefer my father's,
I will send to him for it. His Grace will sign one without a question
of its errand, if I ask him. Come! your price?"
Baroni had recovered the momentary temptation, and was strong in the
austerity of virtue, in the unassailability of social duty.
"You behave most nobly, most generously by your friend, my lord," he
said politely. "I am glad such friendship exists on earth. But you
really ask me what is not in my power. In the first place, I am but
one of the firm, and have no authority to act alone; in the second, I
most certainly, were I alone, should decline totally any pecuniary
compromise. A great criminal action is not to be hushed up by any
monetary arrangement. You, my Lord Marquis, may be ignorant in the
Guards of a very coarse term used in law, called 'compounding a
felony.' That is what you tempt me to now."
The Seraph, with one of those oaths that made the Hebrew's blood run
cold, though he was no coward, opened his lips to speak; Cecil
arrested him with that singular impassiveness, that apathy of
resignation which had characterized his whole conduct throughout, save
at a few brief moments.
"Make no opposition. The man is acting but in his own justification. I
will wait for mine. To resist would be to degrade us with a bully's
brawl; they have the law with them. Let it take its course."
The Seraph dashed his hand across his eyes; he felt blind--the room
seemed to reel with him.
"Oh, God! that you----"
He could not finish the words. That his comrade, his friend, one of
his own corps, of his own world, should be arrested like the blackest
thief in Whitechapel or in the Rue du Temple!
Cecil glanced at him, and his eyes grew infinitely yearning--
infinitely gentle; a shudder shook him all through his limbs. He
hesitated a moment, then he stretched out his hand.
"Will you take it--still?"
Almost before the words were spoken, his hand was held in both of the
"Take it? Before all the world--always, come what will."
His eyes were dim as he spoke, and his rich voice rang clear as the
ring of silver, though there was the tremor of emotion in it. He had
forgotten the Hebrew's presence; he had forgotten all save his friend
and his friend's extremity. Cecil did not answer; if he had done so,
all the courage, all the calm, all the control that pride and breeding
alike sustained in him, would have been shattered down to weakness;
his hand closed fast in his companion's, his eyes met his once in a
look of gratitude that pierced the heart of the other like a knife;
then he turned to the Jew with a haughty serenity.
"M. Baroni, I am ready."
"Wait!" cried Rockingham. "Where you go I come."
The Hebrew interposed demurely.
"Forgive me, my lord--not now. You can take what steps you will as
regards your friend later on; and you may rest assured he will be
treated with all delicacy compatible with the case, but you cannot
accompany him now. I rely on his word to go with me quietly; but I now
regard him, and you must remember this, as not the son of Viscount
Royallieu--not the Honorable Bertie Cecil, of the Life Guards--not the
friend of one so distinguished as yourself--but as simply an arrested
Baroni could not deny himself that last sting of his vengeance; yet,
as he saw the faces of the men on whom he flung the insult, he felt
for the moment that he might pay for his temerity with his life. He
put his hand above his eyes with a quick, involuntary movement, like a
man who wards off a blow.
"Gentlemen," and his teeth chattered as he spoke, "one sign of
violence, and I shall summon legal force."
Cecil caught the Seraph's lifted arm, and stayed it in its vengeance.
His own teeth were clinched tight as a vise, and over the haggard
whiteness of his face a deep red blush had come.
"We degrade ourselves by resistance. Let me go--they must do what they
will. My reckoning must wait, and my justification. One word only.
Take the King and keep him for my sake."
Another moment, and the door had closed; he was gone out to his fate,
and the Seraph, with no eyes on him, bowed down his head upon his arms
where he leaned against the marble table, and, for the first time in
all his life, felt the hot tears roll down his face like rain, as the
passion of a woman mastered and unmanned him--he would sooner a
thousand times have laid his friend down in his grave than have seen
him live for this.
Cecil went slowly out beside his accuser. The keen, bright eyes of the
Jew kept vigilant watch and ward on him; a single sign of any effort
to evade him would have been arrested by him in an instant with
preconcerted skill. He looked, and saw that no thought of escape was
in his prisoner's mind. Cecil had surrendered himself, and he went to
his doom; he laid no blame on Baroni, and he scarce gave him a
remembrance. The Hebrew did not stand to him in the colors he wore to
Rockingham, who beheld this thing but on its surface. Baroni was to
him only the agent of an inevitable shame, of a hapless fate that
closed him in, netting him tight with the web of his own past actions;
no more than the irresponsible executioner of what was in the Jew's
sight and knowledge a just sentence. He condemned his accuser in
nothing; no more than the conscience of a guilty man can condemn the
discoverers and the instruments of his chastisement.
Was he guilty?
Any judge might have said that he knew himself to be so as he passed
down the staircase and outward to the entrance with that dead
resignation on his face, that brooding, rigid look set on his
features, and gazing almost in stupefaction out from the dark hazel
depths of eyes that women had loved for their luster, their languor,
and the softness of their smile.
They walked out into the evening air unnoticed; he had given his
consent to follow the bill-discounter without resistance, and he had
no thought to break his word; he had submitted himself to the
inevitable course of this fate that had fallen on him, and the whole
tone of his temper and his breeding lent him the quiescence, though he
had none of the doctrine of a supreme fatalist. There were carriages
standing before the hotel, waiting for those who were going to the
ballroom, to the theater, to an archduke's dinner, to a princess'
entertainment; he looked at them with a vague, strange sense of
unreality--these things of the life from which he was now barred
forever. The sparkling tide of existence in Baden was flowing on its
way, and he went out an accused felon, branded, and outlawed, and
dishonored from all place in the world that he had led, and been
caressed by and beguiled with for so long.
To-night, at this hour, he should have been among all that was highest
and gayest and fairest in Europe at the banquet of a Prince--and he
went by his captor's side, a convicted criminal.
Once out in the air, the Hebrew laid his hand on his arm. He started--
it was the first sign that his liberty was gone! He restrained himself
from all resistance still, and passed onward, down where Baroni
motioned him out of the noise of the carriages, out of the glare of
the light, into the narrow, darkened turning of a side street. He went
passively; for this man trusted to his honor.
In the gloom stood three figures, looming indistinctly in the shadow
of the houses. One was a Huissier of the Staats-Procurator, beside
whom stood the Commissary of Police of the district; the third was an
English detective. Ere he saw them their hands were on his shoulders,
and the cold chill of steel touched his wrists. The Hebrew had
betrayed him, and arrested him in the open street. In an instant, as
the ring of the rifle rouses the slumbering tiger, all the life and
the soul that were in him rose in revolt as the icy glide of the
handcuffs sought their hold on his arms. In an instant, all the wild
blood of his race, all the pride of his breeding, all the honor of his
service, flashed into fire and leaped into action. Trusted, he would
have been true to his accuser; deceived, the chains of his promise
were loosened, and all he thought, all he felt, all he knew were the
lion impulses, the knightly instincts, the resolute choice to lose
life rather than to lose freedom, of a soldier and a gentleman. All he
remembered was that he would fight to the death rather than be taken
alive; that they should kill him where he stood, in the starlight,
rather than lead him in the sight of men as a felon.
With the strength that lay beneath all the gentle languor of his
habits and with the science of the Eton Playing Fields of his boyhood,
he wrenched his wrists free ere the steel had closed, and with the
single straightening of his left arm felled the detective to earth
like a bullock, with a crashing blow that sounded through the
stillness like some heavy timber stove in; flinging himself like
lightning on the Huissier, he twisted out of his grasp the metal
weight of the handcuffs, and wrestling with him was woven for a second
in that close-knit struggle which is only seen when the wrestlers
wrestle for life and death. The German was a powerful and firmly built
man; but Cecil's science was the finer and the most masterly. His
long, slender delicate limbs seemed to twine and writhe around the
massive form of his antagonist like the coils of a cobra; they rocked
and swayed to and fro on the stones, while the shrill, shrieking voice
of Baroni filled the night with its clamor. The viselike pressure of
the stalwart arms of his opponent crushed him in till his ribs seemed
to bend and break under the breathless oppression, the iron force; but
desperation nerved him, the Royallieu blood, that never took defeat,
was roused now, for the first time in his careless life; his skill and
his nerve were unrivaled, and with a last effort he dashed the
Huissier off him, and lifting him up--he never knew how--as he would
have lifted a log of wood, hurled him down in the white streak of
moonlight that alone slanted through the peaked roofs of the crooked
The cries of Baroni had already been heard; a crowd, drawn by their
shrieking appeals, were bearing toward the place in tumult. The Jew
had the quick wit to give them, as call-word, that is was a croupier
who had been found cheating and fled; it sufficed to inflame the whole
mob against the fugitive. Cecil looked round him once--such a glance
as a Royal gives when the gaze-hounds are panting about him and the
fangs are in his throat; then, with the swiftness of the deer itself,
he dashed downward into the gloom of the winding passage at the speed
which had carried him, in many a foot-race, victor in the old green
Eton meadows. There was scarce a man in the Queen's Service who could
rival him for lightness of limb, for power of endurance in every sport
of field and fell, of the moor and the gymnasium; and the athletic
pleasures of many a happy hour stood him in good stead now, in the
emergence of his terrible extremity.
Flight!--for the instant the word thrilled through him with a loathing
sense. Flight!--the craven's refuge, the criminal's resource. He
wished in the moment's agony that they would send a bullet through his
brain as he ran, rather than drive him out to this. Flight!--he felt a
coward and a felon as he fled; fled from every fairer thing, from
every peaceful hour, from the friendship and good will of men, from
the fame of his ancient race, from the smile of the women that loved
him, from all that makes life rich and fair, from all that men call
honor; fled, to leave his name disgraced in the service he adored;
fled, to leave the world to think him a guilty dastard who dared not
face his trial; fled, to bid his closest friend believe him low sunk
in the depths of foulest felony, branded forever with a criminal's
shame--by his own act, by his own hand. Flight!--it has bitter pangs
that make brave men feel cowards when they fly from tyranny and danger
and death to a land of peace and promise; but in his flight he left
behind him all that made life worth the living, and went out to meet
eternal misery; renouncing every hope, yielding up all his future.
"It is for her sake--and his," he thought; and without a moment's
pause, without a backward look he ran, as the stag runs with the bay
of the pack behind it, down into the shadows of the night.
The hue and cry was after him; the tumult of a crowd's excitement,
raised it knows not why or wherefore, was on his steps, joined with
the steadier and keener pursuit of men organized for the hunter's
work, and trained to follow the faintest track, the slightest clew.
The moon was out, and they saw him clearly, though the marvelous
fleetness of his stride had borne him far ahead in the few moments'
start he had gained. He heard the beat of their many feet on the
stones, the dull thud of their running, the loud clamor of the mob,
the shrill cries of the Hebrew offering gold with frantic lavishness
to whoever should stop his prey. All the breathless excitation, all
the keen and desperate straining, all the tension of the neck-and-neck
struggle that he had known so often over the brown autumn country of
the Shires at home, he knew now, intensified to horror, made deadly
with despair, changed into a race for life and death.
Yet, with it the wild blood in him woke; the recklessness of peril,
the daring and defiant courage that lay beneath his levity and languor
heated his veins and spurred his strength; he was ready to die if they
chose to slaughter him; but for his freedom he strove as men will
strive for life; to distance them, to escape them, he would have
breathed his last at the goal; they might fire him down, if they
would, but he swore in his teeth to die free.
Some Germans in his path, hearing the shouts that thundered after him
in the night, drew their mule-cart across the pent-up passage-way down
which he turned, and blocked the narrow road. He saw it in time; a
second later, and it would have been instant death to him at the pace
he went; he saw it, and gathered all the force and nervous impetus in
his frame to the trial, as he came rushing downward along the slope of
the lane, with his elbows back, and his body straight, as prize-
runners run. The wagon, sideways, stretched across--a solid barrier,
heaped up with fir boughs brought for firing from the forests; the
mules stood abreast, yoked together. The mob following saw too, and
gave a hoot and yell of brutal triumph; their prey was in their
clutches; the cart barred his progress, and he must double like a fox
faced with a stone wall.
Scarcely!--they did not know the man with whom they had to deal--the
daring and the coolness that the languid surface of indolent fashion
had covered. Even in the imminence of supreme peril, of breathless
jeopardy, he measured with unerring eye the distance and the need;
rose as lightly in the air as Forest King had risen with him over
fence and hedge; and with a single, running leap cleared the width of
the mules' backs, and landing safely on the farther side, dashed on;
scarcely pausing for breath. The yell that hissed in his wake, as the
throng saw him escape, by what to their slow Teutonic instincts seemed
a devil's miracle, was on his ear like the bay of the slot-hounds to
the deer. They might kill him, if they could; but they should never
take him captive.
And the moon was so brightly, so pitilessly clear; shining down in the
summer light, as though in love with the beauty of earth! He looked up
once; the stars seemed reeling round him in disordered riot; the chill
face of the moon looked unpitying as death. All this loveliness was
round him; this glory of sailing cloud and shadowy forest and tranquil
planet, and there was no help for him.
A gay burst of music broke on the stillness from the distance; he had
left the brilliance of the town behind him, and was now in its by-
streets and outskirts. The sound seemed to thrill him to the bone; it
was like the echo of the lost life he was leaving forever.
He saw, he felt, he heard, he thought; feeling and sense were
quickened in him as they had never been before, yet he never slackened
his pace save once or twice, when he paused for breath; he ran as
swiftly, he ran as keenly, as ever stag or fox had run before him;
doubling with their skill, taking the shadow as they took the covert;
noting with their rapid eye the safest track; outracing with their
rapid speed the pursuit that thundered in his wake.
The by-lanes he took were deserted, and he was now well-nigh out of
the town, with the open country and forest lying before him. The
people whom he met rushed out of his path; happily for him they were
few, and were terrified, because they thought him a madman broken
loose from his keepers. He never looked back; but he could tell that
the pursuit was falling farther and farther behind him, that the speed
at which he went was breaking the powers of his hunters; fresh throngs
added indeed to the first pursuers as they tore down through the
starlight night, but none had the science with which he went, the
trained, matchless skill of the university foot-race. He left them
more and more behind him each second of the breathless chase, that,
endless as it seemed, had lasted bare three minutes. If the night were
but dark! He felt that pitiless luminance glistening bright about him
everywhere; shining over all the summer world, and leaving scarce a
shadow to fall athwart his way. The silver glory of the radiance was
shed on every rood of ground; one hour of a winter night, one hour of
the sweeping ink-black rain of an autumn storm, and he could have made
for shelter as the stag makes for it across the broad, brown Highland
Before him stretched indeed the gloom of the masses of pine, the
upward slopes of tree-stocked hills, the vastness of the Black Forest;
but they were like the mirage to a man who dies in a desert; he knew,
at the pace he went, he could not live to reach them. The blood was
beating in his brain and pumping from his heart; a tightness like an
iron band seemed girt about his loins, his lips began to draw his
breath in with loud gasping spasms; he knew that in a little space his
speed must slacken--he knew it by the roar, like the noise of water,
that was rushing on his ear, and the oppression, like a hand's hard
grip, that seemed above his heart.
But he would go till he died; go till they fired on him; go, though
the skies felt swirling round like a sea of fire, and the hard, hot
earth beneath his feet jarred his whole frame as his feet struck it
The angle of an old wood house, with towering roof and high-peaked
gables, threw a depth of shadow at last across his road; a shadow
black and rayless, darker for the white glisten of the moon around.
Built more in the Swiss than the German style, a massive balcony of
wood ran round it, upon and beneath which in its heavy shade was an
impenetrable gloom, while the twisted wooden pillars ran upward to the
gallery, loggia-like. With rapid perception and intuition he divined
rather than saw these things, and, swinging himself up with noiseless
lightness, he threw himself full-length down on the rough flooring of
the balcony. If they passed he was safe, for a brief time more at
least; if they found him--his teeth clinched like a mastiff's where he
lay--he had the strength in him still to sell his life dearly.
The pursuers came closer and closer, and by the clamors that floated
up in indistinct and broken fragments, he knew that they had tracked
him. He heard the tramp of their feet as they came under the loggia;
he heard the click of the pistols--they were close upon him at last in
the blackness of night.
THE KING'S LAST SERVICE.
"Is he up there?" asked a voice in the darkness.
"Not likely. A cat couldn't scramble up that woodwork," answered a
"Send a shot, and try," suggested a third.
There he lay, stretched motionless on the flat roof of the veranda. He
heard the words as the thronging mob surged, and trampled, and swore,
and quarreled, beneath him, in the blackness of the gloom; balked of
their prey, and savage for some amends. There was a moment's pause--a
hurried, eager consultation; then he heard the well-known sound of a
charge being rammed down, and the sharp drawing out of a ramrod; there
was a flash, a report, a line of light flamed a second in his sight; a
ball hissed past him with a loud, singing rush, and bedded itself in
the timber, a few inches above his uncovered hair. A dead silence
followed; then the muttering of many voices broke out afresh.
"He's not there, at any rate," said one, who seemed the chief; "he
couldn't have kept as still as that with a shot so near him. He's made
for the open country and the forest, I'll take my oath."
Then the trending of many feet trampled their way out from beneath the
loggia; their voices and their rapid steps grew fainter and fainter as
they hurried away through the night. For a while, at least, he was
For some moments he lay prostrated there; the rushing of the blood on
his brain, the beating of his heart, the panting of his breath, the
quivering of his limbs after the intense muscular effort he had gone
through, mastered him and flung him down there, beaten and powerless.
He felt the foam on his lips and he thought with every instant that
the surcharged veins would burst; hands of steel seemed to crush in
upon his chest, knotted cords to tighten in excruciating pain about
his loins; he breathed in short, convulsive gasps; his eyes were
blind, and his head swam. A dreaming fancy that this was death vaguely
came on him, and he was glad it should be so.
His eyelids closed unconsciously, weighed down as by the weight of
lead; he saw the starry skies above him no more, and the distant noise
of the pursuit waxed duller and duller on his ear; then he lost all
sense and memory--he ceased even to feel the night air on his face.
How long he lay there he never knew; when consciousness returned to
him all was still; the moon was shining down clear as the day, the
west wind was blowing softly among his hair. He staggered to his feet
and leaned against the timber of the upper wall; the shelving,
impenetrable darkness sloped below; above were the glories of a summer
sky at midnight, around him the hills and woods were bathed in the
silver light; he looked, and he remembered all.
He had escaped his captors; but for how long? While yet there were
some hours of the night left, he must find some surer refuge, or fall
into their hands again. Yet it was strange that in this moment his own
misery and his own peril were less upon him than a longing to see once
more--and for the last time--the woman for whose sake he suffered
this. Their love had had the lightness and the languor of their world,
and had had but little depth in it; yet, in that hour of his supreme
sacrifice to her, he loved her as he had not loved in his life.
Recklessness had always been latent in him, with all his serenity and
impassiveness; a reckless resolve entered him now--reckless to
madness. Lightly and cautiously, though his sinews still ached, and
his nerves still throbbed with the past strain, he let himself fall,
hand over hand, as men go down a rope, along the woodwork to the
ground. Once touching earth, off he glided, swiftly and noiselessly,
keeping in the shadow of the walls all the length of the streets he
took, and shunning every place where any sort of tumult could suggest
the neighborhood of those who were out and hunting him down. As it
chanced, they had taken to the open country; he passed on
unquestioned, and wound his way to the Kursaal. He remembered that
to-night there was a masked ball, at which all the princely and titled
world of Baden were present; to which he would himself have gone after
the Russian dinner; by the look of the stars he saw that it must be
midnight or past; the ball would be now at its height.
The dare-devil wildness and the cool quietude that were so intimately
and intricately mingled in his natare could alone have prompted and
projected such a thought and such an action as suggested themselves to
him now; in the moment of his direst extremity, of his utter
hopelessness, of his most imminent peril, he went--to take a last look
at his mistress! Baden, for aught he knew, might be but one vast
network to mesh in and to capture him; yet he ran the risk with the
dauntless temerity that had ever lain underneath the indifferentism
and the indolence of his habits.
Keeping always in the shadow, and moving slowly, so as to attract no
notice from those he passed, he made his way deliberately, straight
toward the blaze of light where all the gayety of the town was
centered; he reckoned, and rightly, as it proved, that the rumor of
his story, the noise of his pursuit, would not have penetrated here as
yet; his own world would be still in ignorance. A moment, that was all
he wanted, just to look upon a woman's beauty; he went forward
daringly and tranquilly to the venture. If any had told him that a
vein of romance was in him, he would have stared and thought them
madmen; yet something almost as wild was in his instinct now. He had
lost so much to keep her honor from attainder; he wished to meet the
gaze of her fair eyes once more before he went out to exile.
In one of the string of waiting carriages he saw a loose domino lying
on the seat; he knew the liveries and the footmen, and he signed them
to open the door. "Tell Count Carl I have borrowed these," he said to
the servant, as he sprang into the vehicle, slipped the scarlet-and-
black domino on, took the mask, and left the carriage. The man touched
his hat and said nothing; he knew Cecil well, as an intimate friend of
his young Austrian master. In that masquerade guise he was safe; for
the few minutes, at least, which were all he dared take.
He went on, mingled among the glittering throng, and pierced his way
to the ballroom, the Venetian mask covering his features; many spoke
to him, by the scarlet-and-black colors they took him for the
Austrian; he answered none, and treaded his way among the blaze of
hues, the joyous echoes of the music, the flutter of the silk and
satin dominoes, the mischievous challenge of whispers. His eyes sought
only one; he soon saw her, in the white and silver mask-dress, with
the spray of carmine-hued eastern flowers, by which he had been told,
days ago, to recognize her. A crowd of dominoes were about her, some
masked, some not. Her eyes glanced through the envious disguise, and
her lips were laughing. He approached her with all his old tact in the
art d'arborer le cotillon; not hurriedly, so as to attract notice, but
carefully, so as to glide into a place near her.
"You promised me this waltz," he said very gently in her ear. "I have
come in time for it."
She recognized him by his voice, and turned from a French prince to
rebuke him for his truancy, with gay raillery and much anger.
"Forgive me, and let me have this one waltz--please do!" She glanced
at him a moment, and let him lead her out.
"No one has my step as you have it, Bertie," she murmured, as they
glided into the measure of the dance.
She thought his glance fell sadly on her as he smiled.
"No?--but others will soon learn it."
Yet he had never treaded more deftly the maze of the waltzers, never
trodden more softly, more swiftly, or with more science, the polished
floor. The waltz was perfect; she did not know it was also a farewell.
The delicate perfume of her floating dress, the gleam of the scarlet
flower-spray, the flash of the diamonds studding her domino, the
fragrance of her lips as they breathed so near his own; they haunted
him many a long year afterward.
His voice was very calm, his smile was very gentle, his step, as he
swung easily through the intricacies of the circle, was none the less
smooth and sure for the race that had so late strained his sinews to
bursting; the woman he loved saw no change in him; but as the waltz
drew to its end, she felt his heart beat louder and quicker on her
own; she felt his hand hold her own more closely, she felt his head
drooped over her till his lips almost touched her brow;--it was his
last embrace; no other could be given here, in the multitude of these
courtly crowds. Then, with a few low-murmured words that thrilled her
in their utterance, and echoed in her memory for years to come, he
resigned her to the Austrian Grand Duke who was her next claimant, and
left her silently--forever.
Less heroism has often proclaimed itself, with blatant trumpet to the
He looked back once as he passed from the ballroom--back to the sea of
colors, to the glitter of light, to the moving hues, amid which the
sound of the laughing, intoxicating music seemed to float; to the
glisten of the jewels and the gold and the silver--to the scene, in a
word, of the life that would be his no more. He looked back in a long,
lingering look, such as a man may give the gladness of the earth
before the gates of a prison close on him; then he went out once more
into the night, threw the domino and the mask back again into the
carriage, and took his way, alone.
He passed along till he had gained the shadow of a by-street, by a
sheer unconscious instinct; then he paused, and looked round him--what
could he do? He wondered vaguely if he were not dreaming; the air
seemed to reel about him, and the earth to rock; the very force of
control he had sustained made the reaction stronger; he began to feel
blind and stupefied. How could he escape? The railway station would be
guarded by those on the watch for him; he had but a few pounds in his
pocket, hastily slipped in as he had won them, "money-down," at ecarte
that day; all avenues of escape were closed to him, and he knew that
his limbs would refuse to carry him with any kind of speed farther. He
had only the short, precious hours remaining of the night in which to
make good his flight--and flight he must take to save those for whom
he had elected to sacrifice his life. Yet how? and where?
A hurried, noiseless footfall came after him; Rake's voice came
breathless on his ear, while the man's hand went up in the unforgotten
"Sir! no words. Follow me, and I'll save you."
The one well-known voice was to him like water in a desert land; he
would have trusted the speaker's fidelity with his life. He asked
nothing, said nothing, but followed rapidly and in silence; turning
and doubling down a score of crooked passages, and burrowing at the
last like a mole in a still, deserted place on the outskirts of the
town, where some close-set trees grew at the back of stables and out-
In a streak of the white moonlight stood two hunters, saddled; one was
Forest King. With a cry, Cecil threw his arms round the animal's neck;
he had no thought then except that he and the horse must part.
"Into saddle, sir! quick as your life!" whispered Rake. "We'll be far
away from this d----d den by morning."
Cecil looked at him like a man in stupor--his arm still over the
"He can have no stay in him! He was dead-beat on the course."
"I know he was, sir; but he ain't now; he was pisined; but I've a
trick with a 'oss that'll set that sort o' thing--if it ain't gone too
far, that is to say--right in a brace of shakes. I doctored him; he's
hisself agen; he'll take you till he drops."
The King thrust his noble head closer in his master's bosom, and made
a little murmuring noise, as though he said, "Try me!"
"God bless you, Rake!" Cecil said huskily. "But I cannot take him, he
will starve with me. And--how did you know of this?"
"Begging your pardon, your honor, he'll eat chopped furze with you
better than he'll eat oats and hay along of a new master," retorted
Rake rapidly, tightening the girths. "I don't know nothing, sir, save
that I heard you was in a strait; I don't want to know nothing; but I
sees them cursed cads a-runnin' of you to earth, and thinks I to
myself, 'Come what will, the King will be the ticket for him.' So I
ran to your room unbeknown, packed a little valise, and got out the
passports; then back again to the stables, and saddled him like
lightning, and got 'em off--nobody knowing but Bill there. I seed you
go by into the Kursaal, and laid in wait for you, sir. I made bold to
bring Mother o' Pearl for myself."
And Rake stopped, breathless and hoarse with passion and grief that he
would not utter. He had heard more than he said.
"For yourself?" echoed Cecil. "What do you mean? My good fellow, I am
ruined. I shall be beggared from to-night--utterly. I cannot even help
you or keep you; but Lord Rockingham will do both for my sake."
The ci-devant soldier struck his heel into the earth with a fiery
"Sir, there ain't time for no words. Where you goes I go. I'll follow
you while there's a drop o' blood in me. You was good to me when I was
a poor devil that everyone scouted; you shall have me with you to the
last, if I die for it. There!"
Cecil's voice shook as he answered. The fidelity touched him as
adversity could not do.
"Rake, you are a noble fellow. I would take you, were it possible;
but--in an hour I may be in a felon's prison. If I escape that, I
shall lead a life of such wretchedness as--"
"That's not nothing to me, sir."
"But it is much to me," answered Cecil. "As things have turned--life
is over with me, Rake. What my own fate may be I have not the faintest
notion--but let it be what it will, it must be a bitter one. I will
not drag another into it."
"If you send me away, I'll shoot myself through the head, sir; that's
"You will do nothing of the kind. Go to Lord Rockingham, and ask him
from me to take you into his service. You cannot have a kinder
"I don't say nothing agen the Marquis, sir," said Rake doggedly; "he's
a right-on generous gentleman, but he aren't you. Let me go with you,
if it's just to rub the King down. Lord, sir! you don't know what
straits I've lived in--what a lot of things I can turn my hand to--
what a one I am to fit myself into any rat-hole, and make it spicy.
Why, sir, I'm that born scamp, I am--I'm a deal happier on the cross
and getting my bread just anyhow, than I am when I'm in clover like
you've kept me."
Rake's eyes looked up wistfully and eager as a dog's when he prays to
be let out of kennel to follow the gun; his voice was husky and
agitated with a strong excitement. Cecil stood a moment, irresolute,
touched and pained at the man's spaniel-like affection--yet not
yielding to it.
"I thank you from my heart, Rake," he said at length, "but it must not
be. I tell you my future life will be beggary--"
"You'll want me anyways, sir," retorted Rake, ashamed of the choking
in his throat. "I ask your pardon for interrupting, but every second's
that precious like. Besides, sir, I've got to cut and run for my own
sake. I've laid Willon's head open, down there in the loose box; and
when he's come to himself a pretty hue and cry he'll raise after me.
He painted the King, that's what he did; and I told him so, and I give
it to him--one--two--amazing! Get into saddle, sir, for the Lord's
sake! And here, Bill--you run back, shut the door, and don't let
nobody know the 'osses are out till the morning. Then look like a muff
as you are, and say nothing!"
The stable-boy stared, nodded assent, and sloped off. Rake threw
himself across the brown mare.
"Now, sir! a steeple-chase for our lives! We'll be leagues away by the
day-dawn, and I've got their feed in the saddle-bags, so that they'll
bait in the forests. Off, sir, for God's sake, or the blackguards will
be down on you again!"
As he spoke the clamor and tread of men of the town racing to the
chase were wafted to them on the night wind, drawing nearer and
nearer; Rake drew the reins tight in his hand in fury.
"There they come--the d----d beaks! For the love of mercy, sir, don't
check now. Ten seconds more and they'll be on you; off, off!--or by
the Lord Harry, sir, you'll make a murderer of me, and I'll kill the
first man that lays his hand on you!"
The blaze of bitter blood was in the ex-Dragoon's fiery face as the
moon shone on it, and he drew out one of his holster pistols, and
swung round in his saddle, facing the narrow entrance of the lane;
ready to shoot down the first of the pursuit whose shadow should
darken the broad stream of white light that fell through the archway.
Cecil looked at him, and paused no more; but vaulted into the old
familiar seat, and Forest King bore him away through the starry night,
with the brown mare racing her best by his side. Away--through the
sleeping shadows, through the broad beams of the moon, through the
odorous scent of the crowded pines, through the soft breaking gray of
the dawn; away--to mountain solitudes and forest silence, and the
shelter of lonely untracked ravines, and the woodland lairs they must
share with wolf and boar; away--to flee with the flight of the hunted
fox, to race with the wakeful dread of the deer; away--to what fate,
who could tell?
Far and fast they rode through the night, never drawing rein. The
horses laid well to their work; their youth and their mettle were
roused, and they needed no touch of spur, but neck-and-neck dashed
down through the sullen gray of the dawn and the breaking flush of the
first sunrise. On the hard, parched earth, on the dew-laden moss, on
the stretches of wayside sward, on the dry white dust of the ducal
roads, their hoofs thundered, unfollowed, unechoed; the challenge of
no pursuit stayed them, and they obeyed the call that was made on
their strength with good and gallant willingness. Far and fast they
rode, happily knowing the country well; now through the darkness of
night, now through the glimmering daybreak. Tall walls of fir-crowned
rocks passed by their eyes, all fused and dim; gray piles of monastic
buildings, with the dull chimes tolling the hour, flashed on their
sight to be lost in a moment; corn-lands yellowing for the sickle,
fields with the sheaves set-up, orchards ruddy with fruit, and black
barn-roofs lost in leafy nests; villages lying among their hills like
German toys caught in the hollow of a guarding hand; masses of forests
stretching wide, somber and silent and dark as a tomb; the shine of
water's silvery line where it flowed in a rocky channel--they passed
them all in the soft gray of the waning night, in the white veil of
the fragrant mists, in the stillness of sleep and of peace. Passed
them, racing for more than life, flying with the speed of the wind.
"I failed him to-day through my foes and his," Forest King thought, as
he laid his length out in his mighty stride. "But I love him well; I
will save him to-night." And save him the brave brute did. The grass
was so sweet and so short, he longed to stop for a mouthful; the
brooks looked so clear, he longed to pause for a drink; renewed force
and reviving youth filled his loyal veins with their fire; he could
have thrown himself down on that mossy turf, and had a roll in its
thyme and its lichens for sheer joy that his strength had come back.
But he would yield to none of these longings; he held on for his
master's sake, and tried to think, as he ran, that this was only a
piece of play--only a steeple-chase, for a silver vase and a lady's
smile, such as he and his rider had so often run for, and so often
won, in those glad hours of the crisp winter noons of English Shires
far away. He turned his eyes on the brown mare's, and she turned hers
on his; they were good friends in the stables at home, and they
understood one another now. "If I were what I was yesterday, she
wouldn't run even with me," thought the King; but they were doing good
work together, and he was too true a knight and too true a gentleman
to be jealous of Mother o' Pearl, so they raced neck-and-neck through
the dawn; with the noisy clatter of water-mill wheels, or the distant
sound of a woodman's ax, or the tolling bell of a convent clock, the
only sound on the air save the beat of the flying hoofs.
Away they went, mile on mile, league on league, till the stars faded
out in the blaze of the sun, and the tall pines rose out of the gloom.
Either his pursuers were baffled and distanced, or no hue and cry was
yet after him; nothing arrested them as they swept on, and the silent
land lay in the stillness of morning ere toil and activity awakened.
It was strangely still, strangely lonely, and the echo of the gallop
seemed to beat on the stirless, breathless solitude. As the light
broke and grew clearer and clearer, Cecil's face in it was white as
death as he galloped through the mists, a hunted man, on whose head a
price was set; but it was quite calm still, and very resolute--there
was no "harking back" in it.
They had raced nigh twenty English miles by the time the chimes of a
village were striking six o'clock; it was the only group of dwellings
they had ventured near in their flight; the leaded lattices were
thrust open with a hasty clang, and women's heads looked out as the
iron tramp of the hunters' feet struck fire from the stones. A few
cries were raised; one burgher called them to know their errand; they
answered nothing, but traversed the street with lightning speed, gone
from sight almost ere they were seen. A league farther on was a wooded
bottom, all dark and silent, with a brook murmuring through it under
the leafy shade of lilies and the tangle of water-plants; there Cecil
checked the King and threw himself out of saddle.
"He is not quite himself yet," he murmured, as he loosened the girths
and held back the delicate head from the perilous cold of the water to
which the horse stretched so eagerly; he thought more of Forest King
than he thought, even in that hour, of himself. He did all that was
needed with his own hands; fed him with the corn from the saddle-bags,
cooled him gently, led him to drink a cautious draught from the
bubbling little stream, then let him graze and rest under the shade of
the aromatic pines and the deep bronze leaves of the copper beeches;
it was almost dark, so heavy and thickly laced were the branches, and
exquisitely tranquil in the heart of the hilly country, in the peace
of the early day, with the rushing of the forest brook the sole sound
that was heard, and the everlasting sighing of the pine-boughs
Cecil leaned a while silently against one of the great gnarled trunks,
and Rake affected to busy himself with the mare; in his heart was a
tumult of rage, a volcano of curiosity, a pent-up storm of anxious
amaze, but he would have let Mother o' Pearl brain him with a kick of
her iron plates rather than press a single look that should seem like
doubt, or seem like insult in adversity to his fallen master.
Cecil's eyes, drooped and brooding, gazed a long half-hour down in
silence into the brook bubbling at his feet; then he lifted his head
and spoke--with a certain formality and command in his voice, as
though he gave an order on parade.
"Rake, listen, and do precisely what I bid you; neither more nor less.
The horses cannot accompany me, nor you either; I must go henceforth
where they would starve, and you would do worse. I do not take the
King into suffering, nor you into temptation."
Rake, who at the tone had fallen unconsciously in to the attitude of
"attention," giving the salute with his old military instinct, opened
his lips to speak in eager protestation; Cecil put up his hand.
"I have decided; nothing you can say will alter me. We are near a by-
station now; if I find none there to prevent me, I shall get away by
the first train; to hide in these woods is out of the question. You
will return by easy stages to Baden, and take the horses at once to
Lord Rockingham. They are his now. Tell him my last wish was that he
should take you into his service; and he will be a better master to
you than I have ever been. As for the King"--his lips quivered, and
his voice shook a little, despite himself--"he will be safe with him.
I shall go into some foreign service--Austrian, Russian, Mexican,
whichever be open to me. I would not risk such a horse as mine to be
sold, ill-treated, tossed from owner to owner, sent in his old age to
a knacker's yard, or killed in a skirmish by a cannon-shot. Take both
him and the mare back, and go back yourself. Believe me, I thank you
from my heart for your noble offer of fidelity, but accept it I never
A dead pause came after his words; Rake stood mute; a curious look--
half-dogged, half-wounded, but very resolute--had come on his face.
Cecil thought him pained, and spoke with an infinite gentleness:
"My good fellow, do not regret it, or fancy I have no gratitude to
you. I feel your loyalty deeply, and I know all you would willingly
suffer for me; but it must not be. The mere offer of what you would do
had been quite testimony enough of your truth and your worth. It is
impossible for me to tell you what has so suddenly changed my
fortunes; it is sufficient that for the future I shall be, if I live,
what you were--a private soldier in an army that needs a sword. But
let my fate be what it will, I go to it alone. Spare me more speech,
and simply obey my last command."
Quiet as the words were, there was a resolve in them not to be
disputed; an authority not to be rebelled against. Rake stared, and
looked at him blankly; in this man who spoke to him with so subdued
but so irresistible a power of command, he could scarcely recognize
the gay, indolent, indulgent, pococurante Guardsman, whose most
serious anxiety had been the set of a lace tie, the fashion of his
hunting dress, or the choice of the gold arabesques for his smoking-
Rake was silent a moment; then his hand touched his cap again.
"Very well, sir," and without opposition or entreaty, he turned to
resaddle the mare.
Our natures are oddly inconsistent. Cecil would not have taken the man
in to exile, and danger, and temptation, and away from comfort and an
honest life, for any consideration; yet it gave him something of a
pang that Rake was so soon dissuaded from following him, and so easily
convinced of the folly of his fidelity. But he had dealt himself a far
deadlier one when he had resolved to part forever from the King. He
loved the horse better than he loved anything--fed from his hand in
foalhood, reared, broken, and trained under his own eye and his own
care, he had had a truer welcome from those loving, lustrous eyes than
all his mistresses ever gave him. He had had so many victories, so
many hunting-runs, so many pleasant days of winter and of autumn, with
Forest King for his comrade and companion! He could better bear to
sever from all other things than from the stable-monarch, whose brave
heart never failed him, and whose honest love was always his.
He stretched his hand out with his accustomed signal; the King lifted
his head where he grazed, and came to him with the murmuring noise of
pleasure he always gave at his master's caress, and pressed his
forehead against Cecil's breast, and took such tender heed, such
earnest solicitude, not to harm him with a touch of the mighty fore
hoofs, as those only who care for and know horses well will understand
in its relation.
Cecil threw his arm over his neck, and leaned his own head down on it,
so that his face was hidden. He stood motionless so many moments, and
the King never stirred, but only pressed closer and closer against his
bosom as though he knew that this was his eternal farewell to his
master. But little light came there, the boughs grew so thickly; and
it was still and solitary as a desert in the gloom of the meeting
There have been many idols--idols of gold, idols of clay--less pure,
less true than the brave and loyal-hearted beast from whom he parted
He stood motionless a while longer, and where his face was hidden, the
gray silken mane of the horse was wet with great, slow tears that
forced themselves through his closed eyes; then he laid his lips on
the King's forehead, as he might have touched the brow of the woman he
loved; and with a backward gesture of his hand to his servant, plunged
down into the deep slope of netted boughs and scarce penetrable
leafage, that swung back into their places, and shrouded him from
sight with their thick, unbroken screen.
"He's forgot me right and away in the King," murmured Rake, as he led
Forest King away slowly and sorrowfully, while the hunter pulled and
fretted to force his way to his master. "Well, it's only natural like.
I've cause to care for him, and plenty on it; but he ain't no sort of
reason to think about me."
That was the way the philosopher took his wound.
Alone, Cecil flung himself full-length down on the turf beneath the
beech woods; his arms thrown forward, his face buried in the grass,
all gay with late summer forest blossoms; for the first time the whole
might of the rain that had fallen on his was understood by him; for
the first time it beat him down beneath it, as the overstrained
tension of nerve and of self-restraint had their inevitable reaction.
He knew what this thing was which he had done--he had given up his
Though he had spoken lightly to his servant of his intention to enter
a foreign army, he knew himself how few the chances were that he could
ever do so. It was possible that Rockingham might so exert his
influence that he would be left unpursued, but unless this chanced so
(and Baroni had seemed resolute to forego no part of his demands), the
search for him would be in the hands of the law, and the wiles of
secret police and of detectives' resources spread too far and finely
over the world for him to have a hope of ultimate escape.
If he sought France, the Extradition Treaty would deliver him up;
Russia--Austria--Prussia were of equal danger; he would be identified,
and given up to trial. Into the Italian service he knew many a
scoundrel was received unquestioned; and he might try the Western
world; though he had no means to pay the passage, he might work it; he
was a good sailor. Yachts had been twice sunk under him, by steamers,
in the Solent and the Spezzia, and his own schooner had once been
fired at by mistake for a blockade runner, when he had brought to, and
given them a broadside from his two shotted guns before he would
signal them their error.
As these things swept, disordered and aimless, through his mind, he
wondered if a nightmare were upon him; he, the darling of Belgravia,
the Guards' champion, the lover of Lady Guenevere, to be here outlawed
and friendless; wearily racking his brains to solve whether he had
seamanship enough to be taken before the mast, or could stand before
the tambour-major of a French regiment, with a chance to serve the
For a while he lay like a drunken man, heavy and motionless, his brow
resting on his arm, his face buried in the grass; he had parted more
easily with the woman he loved than he had parted with Forest King.
The chimes of some far-off monastery, or castle-campanile, swung
lazily in the morning stillness; the sound revived him, and recalled
to him how little time there was if he would seek the flight that had
begun on impulse and was continued in a firm, unshrinking resolve; he
must go on, and on, and on; he must burrow like a fox, hide like a
beaten cur; he must put leagues between him and all who had ever known
him; he must sink his very name, and identity, and existence, under
some impenetrable obscurity, or the burden he had taken up for others'
sake would be uselessly borne. There must be action of some sort or
other, instant and unerring.
"It don't matter," he thought, with the old idle indifference, oddly
becoming in that extreme moment the very height of stoic philosophy,
without any thought or effort to be such; "I was going to the bad of
my own accord; I must have cut and run for the debts, if not for this;
it would have been the same thing, anyway, so it's just as well to do
it for them. Life's over, and I'm a fool that I don't shoot myself."
But there was too imperious a spirit in the Royallieu blood to let him
give in to disaster and do this. He rose slowly, staggering a little,
and feeling blinded and dazzled with the blaze of the morning sun as
he went out of the beech wood. There were the marks of the hoofs on
the damp, dewy turf; his lips trembled a little as he saw them--he
would never rid the horse again!
Some two miles, more or less, lay between him and the railway. He was
not certain of his way, and he felt a sickening exhaustion on him; he
had been without food since his breakfast before the race. A
gamekeeper's hut stood near the entrance of the wood; he had much
recklessness in him, and no caution. He entered through the half-open
door, and asked the keeper, who was eating his sausage and drinking
his lager, for a meal.
"I'll give you one if you'll bring me down that hen-harrier," growled
the man in south German; pointing to the bird that was sailing far
off, a mere speck in the sunny sky.
Cecil took the rifle held out to him, and without seeming even to
pause to take aim, fired. The bird dropped like a stone through the
air into the distant woods. There was no tremor in his wrist, no
uncertainty in his measure. The keeper stared; the shot was one he had
thought beyond any man's range, and he set food and drink before his
guest with a crestfallen surprise, oddly mingled with veneration.
"You might have let me buy my breakfast, without making me do murder,"
said Bertie quietly, as he tried to eat. The meal was coarse--he could
scarcely touch it; but he drank the beer down thirstily, and took a
crust of bread. He slipped his ring, a great sapphire graven with his
crest, off his finger, and held it out to the man.
"That is worth fifty double-Fredericks. Will you take it in exchange
for your rifle and some powder and ball?"
The German stared again, open-mouthed, and clinched the bargain
eagerly. He did not know anything about gems, but the splendor of this
dazzled his eye, while he had guns more than enough, and could get
many others at his lord's cost. Cecil fastened a shot-belt round him,
took a powder-flask and cartridge-case, and with a few words of
thanks, went on his way.
Now that he held the rifle in his hand, he felt ready for the work
that was before him; if hunted to bay, at any rate he could now have a
struggle for his liberty. The keeper stood bewildered, gazing blankly
after him down the vista of pines.
"Hein! Hein!" he growled, as he looked at the sapphire sparkling in
his broad, brown palm; "I never saw such a with-lavishness-wasteful-
and-with-courteous-speech-laconic gentleman! I wish I had not let him
have the gun; he will take his own life, belikes; ach, Gott! He will
take his own life!"
But Cecil had not bought it for that end--though he had called himself
a fool for not sending a bullet through his brain, to quench in
eternal darkness this ruined and wretched life that alone remained to
him. He walked on through the still summer dawn, with the width of the
country stretching sun-steeped around him. The sleeplessness, the
excitement, the misery, the wild running of the past night had left
him strengthless and racked with pain, but he knew that he must press
onward or be caught, sooner or later, like netted game in the
poacher's silken mesh. Where to go, what to do, he knew no more than
if he were a child; everything had always been ready to his hand; the
only thought required of him had been how to amuse himself and avoid
being bored; now thrown alone on a mighty calamity, and brought face
to face with the severity and emergency of exertion, he was like a
pleasure-boat beaten under high billows, and driven far out to sea by
the madness of a raging nor'wester. He had no conception what to do;
he had but one resolve--to keep his secret; if, to do it, he killed
himself with the rifle his sapphire ring had bought.
Carelessly daring always, he sauntered now into the station for which
he had made, without a sign on him that could attract observation; he
wore still the violet velvet Spanish-like dress, the hessians, and the
broad-leafed felt hat with an eagle's feather fastened in it, that he
had worn at the races; and with the gun in his hand there was nothing
to distinguish him from any tourist "milor," except that in one hand
he carried his own valise. He cast a rapid glance around; no warrant
for his apprehension, no announcement of his personal appearance had
preceded him here; he was safe--safe in that; safer still in the fact
that the train rushed in so immediately on his arrival there, that the
few people about had no time to notice or speculate upon him. The
coupe was empty, by a happy chance; he took it, throwing his money
down with no heed that when the little he had left was once expended
he would be penniless, and the train whirled on with him, plunging
into the heart of forest and mountain, and the black gloom of tunnels,
and the golden seas of corn-harvest. He was alone; and he leaned his
head on his hands, and thought, and thought, and thought, till the
rocking, and the rushing, and the whirl, and the noise of the steam on
his ear and the giddy gyrations of his brain in the exhaustion of
overstrung exertion, conquered thought. With the beating of the engine
seeming to throb like the great swinging of a pendulum through his
mind, and the whirling of the country passing by him like a confused
phantasmagoria, his eyes closed, his aching limbs stretched themselves
out to rest, a heavy dreamless sleep fell on him, the sleep of intense
bodily fatigue, and he knew no more.
Gendarmes awoke him to see his visa. He showed it them by sheer
mechanical instinct, and slept again in that dead weight of slumber
the moment he was alone. When he had taken his ticket, and they had
asked him to where it should be, he had answered to their amaze, "to
the farthest place it goes," and he was borne on now unwitting where
it went; through the rich champaign and the barren plains; through the
reddening vintage and over the dreary plateaux; through antique
cities, and across broad, flowing rivers; through the cave of riven
rocks, and above nestling, leafy valleys; on and on, on and on, while
he knew nothing, as the opium-like sleep of intense weariness held him
in it stupor.
He awoke at last with a start; it was evening; the stilly twilight was
settling over all the land, and the train was still rushing onward,
fleet as the wind. His eyes, as they opened dreamily, fell on a face
half obscured in the gleaming; he leaned forward, bewildered and
doubting his senses.
Rake gave the salute hurriedly and in embarrassment.
"It's I, sir!--yes, sir."
Cecil thought himself dreaming still.
"You! You had my orders?"
"Yes, sir, I had your orders," murmured the ex-soldier, more confused
than he had ever been in the whole course of his audacious life, "and
they was the first I ever disobeyed--they was. You see, sir, they was
just what I couldn't swallow nohow--that's the real, right-down fact!
Send me to the devil, Mr. Cecil, for you, and I'll go at the first
bidding, but leave you just when things are on the cross for you, damn
me if I will!--beggin' your pardon, sir!"
And Rake, growing fiery and eloquent, dashed his cap down on the floor
of the coupe with an emphatic declaration of resistance. Cecil looked
at him in silence; he was not certain still whether this were not a
fantastic folly he was dreaming.
"Damn me if I will, Mr. Cecil! You won't keep me--very well; but you
can't prevent me follerin' of you, and foller you I will; and so
there's no more to be said about it, sir; but just to let me have my
own lark, as one may say. You said you'd go to the station, I went
there; you took your ticket, I took my ticket. I've been travelling
behind you till about two hours ago, then I looked at you; you was
asleep sir. 'I don't think my master's quite well,' says I to Guard;
'I'd like to get in there along of him.' 'Get in with you, then,' says
he (only we was jabbering that willainous tongue o' theirs), for he
sees the name on my traps is the same as that on your traps--and in I
get. Now, Mr. Cecil, let me say one word for all, and don't think I'm
a insolent, ne'er-do-well for having been and gone and disobeyed you;
but you was good to me when I was sore in want of it; you was even
good to my dog--rest his soul, the poor beast! There never were a
braver!--and stick to you I will till you kick me away like a cur. The
truth is, it's only being near of you, sir, that keeps me straight; if
I was to leave you I should become a bad 'un again, right and away.
Don't send me from you, sir, as you took mercy on me once!"
Rake's voice shook a little toward the close of his harangue, and in
the shadows of evening light, as the train plunged through the
gathering gloom, his ruddy, bright, bronzed face looked very pale and
Cecil stretched out his hand to him in silence that spoke better than
Rank hung his head.
"No, sir; you're a gentleman, and I've been an awful scamp! It's
enough honor for me that you would do it. When I'm more worth it,
perhaps--but that won't never be."
"You are worth it now, my gallant fellow." His voice was very low; the
man's loyalty touched him keenly. "It was only for yourself, Rake,
that I ever wished you to leave me."
"God bless you, sir!" said Rake passionately; "them words are better
nor ten tosses of brandy! You see, sir, I'm so spry and happy in a
wild life, I am, and if so be as you go to them American parts as you
spoke on, why I know 'em just as well as I know Newmarket Heath, every
bit! They're terrible rips in them parts; kill you as soon as look at
you; it makes things uncommon larky out there, uncommon spicy. You
aren't never sure but what there's a bowie knife a-waiting for you."
With which view of the delights of Western life, Rake, "feeling like a
fool," as he thought himself, for which reason he had diverged into
Argentine memories, applied himself to the touching and examining of
the rifle with that tenderness which only gunnery love and lore
Cecil sat silent a while, his head drooped down on his hands, while
the evening deepened to night. At last he looked up.
"The King? Where is he?"
Rake flushed shamefacedly under his tanned skin.
"Beggin' your pardon, sir; behind you."
"Yes, sir; him and the brown mare. I couldn't do nothing else with 'em
you see, sir, so I shipped him along with us; they don't care for the
train a bit, bless their hearts! And I've got a sharp boy a-minding of
'em. You can easily send 'em on to England from Paris if you're
determined to part with 'em; but you know the King always was fond of
drums and trumpets and that like. You remember, sir, when he as a colt
we broke him into it and taught him a bit of maneuvering; 'cause, till
you find what pace he had in him, you'd thought of making a charger of
him. He loves the noise of soldiering--he do; and if he thought you
was going away without him, he'd break his heart, Mr. Cecil, sir. It
was all I could do to keep him from follerin' of you this morning; he
sawed my arms off almost."
With which, Rake, conscious that he had been guilty of unpardonable
disobedience and outrageous interference, hung his head over the gun;
a little anxious and a good deal ashamed.
Cecil smiled a little, despite himself.
"Rake, you will do for no service, I am afraid; you are terribly
He had not the heart to say more; the man's fidelity was too true to
be returned with rebuke; and stronger than all surprise and annoyance
was a strange mingling of pain and pleasure in him to think that the
horse he loved so well was still so near him, the comrade of his
adversity as he had been the companion of his happiest hours.
"These things will keep him a few days," he thought, as he looked at
his hunting-watch, and the priceless pearl in each of his wristband-
studs. HE would have pawned every atom he had about him to have had
the King with him a week longer.
The night fell, the stars came out, the storm-rack of a coming tempest
drifted over the sky, the train rushed onward through the thickening
darkness, through the spectral country--it was like his life, rushing
headlong down into impenetrable gloom. The best, the uttermost, that
he could look for was a soldier's grave, far away under some foreign
A few evenings later the Countess Guenevere stood alone in her own
boudoir in her Baden suite; she was going to dine with an Archduchess
of Russia, and the splendid jewels of her House glittered through the
black shower of her laces, and crowned her beautiful glossy hair, her
delicate imperial head. In her hands was a letter--oddly written in
pencil on a leaf torn out of a betting book, but without a tremor or a
change in the writing itself. And as she stood a shiver shook her
frame; in the solitude of her lighted and luxurious chamber her cheek
grew pale, her eyes grew dim.
"To refute the charge," ran the last words of what was at best but a
fragment, "I must have broken my promise to you, and have compromised
your name. Keeping silence myself, but letting the trial take place,
law-inquiries so execrable and so minute, would soon have traced
through others that I was with you that evening. To clear myself I
must have attainted your name with public slander, and drawn the
horrible ordeal on you before the world. Let me be thought guilty. It
matters little. Henceforth I shall be dead to all who know me, and my
ruin would have exiled me without this. Do not let an hour of grief
for me mar your peace, my dearest; think of me with no pain, Beatrice;
only with some memory of our past love. I have not strength yet to say
--forget me; and yet,--if it be for your happiness,--blot out from
your remembrance all thought of what we have been to one another; all
thought of me and of my life, save to remember now and then that I was
dear to you."
The words grew indistinct before her sight, they touched the heart of
the world-worn coquette, of the victorious sovereign, to the core; she
trembled greatly as she read them. For--in her hands was his fate.
Though no hint of this was breathed in his farewell letter, she knew
that with a word she could clear him, free him, and call him back from
exile and shame, give him once more honor and guiltlessness in the
sight of the world. With a word she could do this; his life was in the
balance that she held as utterly as though it were now hers to sign,
or to destroy, his death-warrant. It rested with her to speak and to
say he had no guilt.
But to do this she must sacrifice herself. She stood mute, irresolute,
a shudder running through her till her diamonds shook in the light;
the heavy tears stole slowly down, one by one, and fell upon the
blurred and blackened paper; her heart ached with an exceeding
bitterness. Then shudderingly still, and as though there were a coward
crime in the action, her hand unclosed and let the letter fall into
the spirit flame of a silver lamp, burning by; the words that were
upon it merited a better fate, a fonder cherishing, but--they would
have compromised her. She let them fall, and burn, and wither. With
them she gave up his life to its burden of shame, to its fate of
She would hear his crime condemned, and her lips would not open; she
would hear his name aspersed, and her voice would not be raised; she
would know that he dwelt in misery, or died under foreign suns
unhonored and unmourned, while tongues around her would babble of his
disgrace--and she would keep her peace.
She loved him--yes; but she loved better the dignity in which the
world held her, and the diamonds from which the law would divorce her
if their love were known.
She sacrificed him for her reputation and her jewels; the choice was
thoroughly a woman's.
IN THE CAFE OF THE CHASSEURS.
The red-hot light of the after-glow still burned on the waters of the
bay, and shed its Egyptian-like luster on the city that lies in the
circle of the Sahel, with the Mediterranean so softly lashing with its
violet waves the feet of the white, sloping town. The sun had sunk
down in fire--the sun that once looked over those waters on the
legions of Scipio and the iron brood of Hamilcar, and that now gave
its luster on the folds of the French flags as they floated above the
shipping of the harbor, and on the glitter of the French arms, as a
squadron of the army of Algeria swept back over the hills to their
barracks. Pell-mell in its fantastic confusion, its incongruous
blending, its forced mixture of two races--that will touch, but never
mingle; that will be chained together, but will never assimilate--the
Gallic-Moorish life of the city poured out; all the coloring of Haroun
al Raschid scattered broadcast among Parisian fashion and French
routine. Away yonder, on the spurs and tops of the hills, the green
sea-pines seemed to pierce the transparent air; in the Cabash old,
dreamy Arabian legends, poetic as Hafiz, seem still to linger here and
there under the foliage of hanging gardens or the picturesque curves
of broken terraces; in the distance the brown, rugged Kabyl mountains
lay like a couched camel, and far off against the golden haze a single
palm rose, at a few rare intervals, with its drooped, curled leaves,
as though to recall, amid the shame of foreign domination, that this
was once the home of Hannibal; the Africa that had made Rome tremble.
In the straight, white boulevards, as in the winding ancient streets;
under the huge barn-like walls of barracks, as beneath the marvelous
mosaics of mosques; the strange bizarre conflict of European and
Oriental life spread its panorama. Staff officers, all aglitter with
crosses, galloped past; mules, laden with green maize and driven by
lean, brown Bedouins, swept past the plate-glass windows of bonbon
shops; grave, white-bearded sheiks drank petits verres in the
guinguettes; sapeurs, Chasseurs, Zouaves, cantinieres--all the
varieties of French military life--mingled with jet-black Soudans,
desert kings wrathful and silent, Eastern women shrouded in haick and
serroual, eagle-eyed Arabs flinging back snow-white burnous, and
handling ominously the jeweled halts of their cangiars. Alcazar
chansons rang out from the cafes, while in their midst stood the
mosque, that had used to resound with the Muezzin. Bijou-blondine and
Bebee La-la and all the sister-heroines of demi-monde dragged their
voluminous Paris-made dresses side by side with Moorish beauties, who
only dared show the gleam of their bright black eyes through the
yashmak; the reverberes were lit in the Place du Gouvernement, and a
group fit for the days of Solyman the Magnificent sat under the white
marble beauty of the Mohammedan church. "Rein n'est sacre pour un
sapeur!" was being sung to a circle of sous-officiers, close in the
ear of a patriarch serenely majestic as Abraham; gaslights were
flashing, cigar shops were filling, newspapers were being read, the
Rigolboche was being danced, commis-voyageurs were chattering with
grisettes, drums were beating, trumpets were sounding, bands were
playing, and, amid it all, grave men were dropping on their square of
carpet to pray, brass trays of sweetmeats were passing, ostrich eggs
were dangling, henna-tipped fingers were drawing the envious veil
close, and noble Oriental shadows were gliding to and fro through the
open doors of the mosques, like a picture of the "Arabian Nights,"
like a poem of dead Islamism--in a word, it was Algiers at evening.
In one of the cafes there, a mingling of all the nations under the sun
was drinking demi-tasses, absinthe, vermouth, or old wines, in the
comparative silence that had succeeded to a song, sung by a certain
favorite of the Spahis, known as Loo-Loo-j'n-m'en soucie guere, from
Mlle. Loo-Loo's well-known habits of independence and bravado, which
last had gone once so far as shooting a man through the chest in the
Rue Bab-al-Oued, and setting all the gendarmes and sergents-de-ville
at defiance afterward. Half a dozen of that famous regiment the
Chasseurs d'Afrique were gathered together, some with their feet
resting on the little marble-topped tables, some reading the French
papers, all smoking their inseparable companions--the brules-gueles;
fine, stalwart, sun-burned fellows, with faces and figures that the
glowing colors of their uniform set off to the best advantage.
"Loo-Loo was in fine voice to-night," said one.
"Yes; she took plenty of cognac before she sang; that always clears
her voice," said a second.
"And I think that did her spirits good, shooting that Kabyl," said a
third. "By the way, did he die?"
"N'sais pas, Loo-Loo's a good aim."
"Sac a papier, yes! Rire-pour-tout taught her."
"Ah! There never was a shot like Rire-pour-tout. When he went out, he
always asked his adversary, 'Where will you like it? your lungs, your
heart, your brain? It is quite a matter of choice;'--and whichever
they chose, he shot there. Le pauvre Rire-pour-tout! He was always
"And did he never meet his match?" asked a sous-officier of the line.
The speaker looked down on the piou-piou with superb contempt, and
twisted his mustaches. "Monsieur! how could he? He was a Chasseur."
"But if he never met his match, how did he die?" pursued the
irreverent piou-piou--a little wiry man, black as a berry, agile as a
monkey, tough and short as a pipe-stopper.
The magnificent Chasseur laughed in his splendid disdain. "A piou-piou
never killed him, that I promise you. He spitted half a dozen of you
before breakfast, to give him a relish. How did Rire-pour-tout die? I
will tell you."
He dipped his long mustaches into a beaker of still champagne. Claude,
Viscomte de Chanrellon, though in the ranks, could afford those
"He died this way, did Rire-pour-tout! Dieu de Dieu! a very good way
too. Send us all the like when our time comes! We were out yonder"
(and he nodded his handsome head outward to where the brown, seared
plateaux and the Kabyl mountains lay). "We were hunting Arabs, of
course--pot-shooting, rather, as we never got nigh enough to their
main body to have a clear charge at them. Rire-pour-tout grew sick of
it. 'This won't do,' he said; 'here's two weeks gone by, and I haven't
shot anything but kites and jackals. I shall get my hand out.' For
Rire-pour-tout, as the army knows, somehow or other, generally potted
his man every day, and he missed it terribly. Well, what did he do? He
rode off one morning and found out the Arab camp, and he waved a white
flag for a parley. He didn't dismount, but he just faced the Arabs and
spoke to their Sheik. 'Things are slow,' he said to them. 'I have come
for a little amusement. Set aside six of your best warriors, and I'll
fight them one after another for the honor of France and a drink of
brandy to the conqueror.' They demurred; they thought it unfair to him
to have six to one. 'Ah!' he laughs, 'you have heard of Rire-pour-
tout, and you are afraid!' That put their blood up: they said they
would fight him before all his Chasseurs. 'Come, and welcome,' said
Rire-pour-tout; 'and not a hair of your beards shall be touched except
by me.' So the bargain was made for an hour before sunset that night.
Mort de Dieu! that was a grand duel!"
He dipped his long mustaches again into another beaker of still.
Talking was thirsty work; the story was well known in all the African
army, but the piou-piou, having served in China, was new to the soil.
"The General was ill-pleased when he heard it, and half for arresting
Rire-pour-tout; but--sacre!--the thing was done; our honor was
involved; he had engaged to fight these men, and engaged for us to let
them go in peace afterward; there was no more to be said, unless we
had looked like cowards, or traitors, or both. There was a wide, level
plateau in front of our camp, and the hills were at our backs--a fine
field for the duello; and, true to time, the Arabs filed on to the
plain, and fronted us in a long line, with their standards, and their
crescents, and their cymbals and reed-pipes, and kettle-drums, all
glittering and sounding. Sac a papier! There was a show, and we could
not fight one of them! We were drawn up in line--Horse, Foot, and
Artillery--Rire-pour-tout all alone, some way in advance; mounted, of
course. The General and the Sheik had a conference; then the play
began. There were six Arabs picked out--the flower of the army--all
white and scarlet, and in their handsomest bravery, as if they came to
an aouda. They were fine men--diable!--they were fine men. Now the
duel was to be with swords; these had been selected; and each Arab was
to come against Rire-pour-tout singly, in succession. Our drums rolled
the pas de charge, and their cymbals clashed; they shouted 'Fantasia!'
and the first Arab rode at him. Rire-pour-tout sat like a rock, and
lunge went his steel through the Bedouin's lung, before you could cry
hola!--a death-stroke, of course; Rire-pour-tout always killed: that
was his perfect science. Another and another and another came, just as
fast as the blood flowed. You know what the Arabs are--vous autres?
How they wheel and swerve and fight flying, and pick up their saber
from the ground, while their horse is galloping ventre a terre, and
pierce you here and pierce you there, and circle round you like so
many hawks? You know how they fought Rire-pour-tout then, one after
another, more like devils than men. Mort de Dieu! it was a magnificent
sight! He was gashed here and gashed there; but they could never
unseat him, try how they would; and one after another he caught them
sooner or later, and sent them reeling out of their saddles, till
there was a great red lake of blood all round him, and five of them
lay dead or dying down in the sand. He had mounted afresh twice, three
horses had been killed underneath him, and his jacket all hung in
strips where the steel had slashed it. It was grand to see, and did
one's heart good; but--ventre bleu!--how one longed to go in too.
"There was only one left now--a young Arab, the Sheik's son, and down
he came like the wind. He thought with the shock to unhorse Rire-pour-
tout, and finish him then at his leisure. You could hear the crash as
they met, like two huge cymbals smashing together. Their chargers hit
and tore at each other's manes; they were twined in together there as
if they were but one man and one beast; they shook and they swayed and
they rocked; the sabers played about their heads so quick that it was
like lightning, as they flashed and twirled in the sun; the hoofs
trampled up the sand till a yellow cloud hid their struggle, and out
of it all you could see was the head of a horse tossing up and
spouting with foam, or a sword-blade lifted to strike. Then the tawny
cloud settled down a little, the sand mist cleared away, the Arab's
saddle was empty--but Rire-pour-tout sat like a rock. The old Chief
bowed his head. 'It is over! Allah is great!' And he knew his son lay
there dead. Then we broke from the ranks, and we rushed to the place
where the chargers and men were piled like so many slaughtered sheep.
Rire-pour-tout laughed such a gay, ringing laugh as the desert never
had heard. 'Vive la France!' he cried. 'And now bring me my toss of
brandy.' Then down headlong out of his stirrups he reeled and fell
under his horse; and when we lifted him up there were two broken
sword-blades buried in him, and the blood was pouring fast as water
out of thirty wounds and more. That was how Rire-pour-tout died, piou-
piou; laughing to the last. Sacre bleu! It was a splendid end; I wish
I were sure of the like."
And Claude de Chanrellon drank down his third beaker, for overmuch
speech made him thirsty.
The men around him emptied their glasses in honor of the dead hero.
"Rire-pour-tout was a croc-mitaine," they said solemnly, with almost a
sigh; so tendering by their words the highest funeral oration.
"You have much of such sharp service here, I suppose?" asked a voice
in very pure French. The speaker was leaning against the open door of
the cafe; a tall, lightly built man, dressed in a velvet shooting
tunic, much the worse for wind and weather, a loose shirt, and jack-
boots splashed and worn out.
"When we are at it, monsieur," returned the Chasseur. "I only wish we
"Of course. Are you in need of recruits?"
"They all want to come to us and to the Zouaves," smiled Chanrellon,
surveying the figure of the one who addressed him, with a keen sense
of its symmetry and its sinew. "Still, a good sword brings its
welcome. Do you ask seriously, monsieur?"
The bearded Arabs smoking their long pipes, the little piou-piou
drowning his mortification in some curacoa, the idlers reading the
"Akbah" or the "Presse," the Chasseurs lounging over their drink, the
ecarte players lost in their game, all looked up at the newcomer. They
thought he looked a likely wearer of the dead honors of Rire-pour-
He did not answer the question literally, but came over from the
doorway and seated himself at the little marble table opposite Claude,
leaning his elbows on it.
"I have a doubt," he said. "I am more inclined to your foes."
"Dieu de Dieu!" exclaimed Chanrellon, pulling at his tawny mustaches.
"A bold thing to say before five Chasseurs."
He smiled, a little contemptuously, a little amusedly.
"I am not a croc-mitaine, perhaps; but I say what I think, with little
heed of my auditors, usually."
Chanrellon bent his bright brown eyes curiously on him. "He is a croc-
mitaine," he thought. "He is not to be lost."
"I prefer your foes," went on the other, quite quietly, quite
listlessly, as though the glittering, gas-lit cafe were not full of
French soldiers. "In the first place, they are on the losing side; in
the second, they are the lords of the soil; in the third, they live as
free as air; and in the fourth, they have undoubtedly the right of the
"Monsieur!" cried the Chasseurs, laying their hands on their swords,
fiery as lions. He looked indolently and wearily up from under the
long lashes of his lids, and went on, as though they had not spoken.
"I will fight you all, if you like, as that worthy of yours, Rire-
pour-tout, did, but I don't think it's worth while," he said
carelessly, where he leaned over the marble table. "Brawling's bad
style; we don't do it. I was saying, I like your foes best; mere
matter of taste; no need to quarrel over it--that I see. I shall go
into their service or into yours, monsieur--will you play a game of
dice to decide?"
"Why--this way," said the other, with the weary listlessness of one
who cares not two straws how things turn. "If I win, I go to the
Arabs; if you win, I come to your ranks."
"Mort de Dieu! it is a droll gambling," murmured Chanrellon. "But--if