Part 7 out of 13
half-opened damask rose. Modesty is apt to go to the wall in camps,
and poor little Cigarette's notions of the great passion were very
simple, rudimentary, and in no way coy. How should they be? She had
tossed about with the army, like one of the tassels to their
standards; blowing whichever way the breath of war floated her; and
had experienced, or thought she had experienced, as many affairs as
the veriest Don Juan among them, though her heart had never been much
concerned in them, but had beaten scarce a shade quicker, if a lunge
in a duel, or a shot from an Indigene, had pounced off with her hero
of the hour to Hades.
"Fine manners!" echoed Cecil, with a smile. "My poor child, have you
been so buffeted about that you have never been treated with commonest
"Whew!" cried the little lady, blowing a puff of smoke down on him.
"None of your pity for me! Buffeted about? Do you suppose anybody ever
did anything with me that I didn't choose? If you had as much power as
I have in the army, Chateauroy would not send for you to sell your
toys like a peddler. You are a slave! I am a sovereign!"
With which she tossed back her graceful, spirited head, as though the
gold band of her cap were the gold band of a diadem. She was very
proud of her station in the Army of Africa, and glorified her
privileges with all a child's vanity.
He listened, amused with her boastful supremacy; but the last words
touched him with a certain pang just in that moment. He felt like a
slave--a slave who must obey his tyrant, or go out and die like a dog.
"Well, yes," he said slowly; "I am a slave, I fear. I wish a Bedouin
flissa would cut my thralls in two."
He spoke jestingly, but there was a tinge of sadness in the words that
touched Cigarette's changeful temper to contrition, and filled her
with the same compassion and wonder at him that she had felt when the
ivory wreaths and crucifixes had lain in her hands. She knew she had
been ungenerous--a crime dark as night in the sight of the little
"Ah," she said softly and waywardly, winding her way aright with that
penetration and tact which, however unsexed in other things, Cigarette
had kept thoroughly feminine. "That was but an idle word of mine;
forgive it, and forget it. You are not a slave when you fight in the
fantasias. Morbleu! They say to see you kill a man is beautiful--so
workmanlike! And you would go out and be shot to-morrow, rather than
sell your honor, or stain it. Bah! while you know they should cut your
heart out rather than make you tell a lie, or betray a comrade, you
are no slave; you have the best freedom of all. Take a glass of
champagne? How you look! Oh, the demoiselles, with the silver necks,
are not barrack drink, of course; but I drink champagne always myself.
This is M. le Prince's. He knows I only take the best brands."
With which Cigarette, leaning down from her casement, whose sill was
about a foot above his head, tendered her peace-offering in a bottle;
three of which, packed in her knapsack, she had carried off from the
luncheon-table of a Russian Prince who was touring through Algiers,
and who had half lost his Grand Ducal head after the bewitching,
dauntless, capricious, unattachable, unpurchasable, and coquettish
little fire-eater of the Spahis, who treated him with infinitely more
insolence and indifference than she would show to some battered old
veteran, or some worn-out old dog, who had passed through the great
Kabaila raids and battles.
"You will go to your Colonel's to-night?" she said questioningly, as
he drank the champagne, and thanked her--for he saw the spirit in
which the gift was tendered--as he leaned against the half-ruined
Moorish wall, with its blue-and-white striped awning spread over both
their heads in the little street whose crowds, chatter, thousand eyes,
and incessant traffic no way troubled Cigarette; who had talked argot
to monarchs undaunted, and who had been one of the chief sights in a
hundred grand reviews ever since she had been perched on a gun-
carriage at five years old, and paraded with a troop of horse
artillery in the Champ de Mars, as having gone through the whole of
Bugeaud's campaign, at which parade, by the way, being tendered
sweetmeats by a famous General's wife, Cigarette had made the immortal
reply: "Madame, my sweetmeats are bullets!"
She repeated her question imperiously, as Cecil kept silent. "You will
He shrugged his shoulders. He did not care to discuss his Colonel's
orders with this pretty little Bacchante.
"Oh, a chief's command, you know--"
"Ah, a fig for a chief!" retorted Cigarette impatiently. "Why don't
you say the truth? You are thinking you will disobey, and risk the
"Well, why not? I grant his right in barrack and field, but----"
He spoke rather to himself than her, and his thoughts, as he spoke,
went back to the scene of the morning. He felt, with a romantic
impulse that he smiled at, even as it passed over him, that he would
rather have half a dozen muskets fired at him in the death-sentence of
a mutineer than meet again the glance of those proud, azure eyes,
sweeping over him in their calm indifference to a private of
Chasseurs, their calm ignorance that he could be wounded or be stung.
"But?" echoed Cigarette, leaning out of her oval hole, perched in the
quaint, gray Moresco wall, parti-colored with broken encaustics of
varied hues. "Chut, bon comrade! That little word has been the undoing
of the world ever since the world began. 'But' is a blank cartridge,
and never did anything but miss fire yet. Shoot dead, or don't aim at
all, whichever you like; but never make a false stroke with 'but'! So
you won't obey Chateauroy in this?"
He was silent again. He would not answer falsely, and he did not care
to say his thoughts to her.
" 'No,' " pursued Cigarette, translating his silence at her fancy,
"you say to yourself, 'I am an aristocrat--I will not be ordered in
this thing'--you say, 'I am a good soldier; I will not be sent for
like a hawker'--you say, 'I was noble once: I will show my blood at
last, if I die!' Ah!--you say that!"
He laughed a little as he looked up at her.
"Not exactly that, but something as foolish, perhaps. Are you a witch,
my pretty one?"
"Whoever doubted it, except you?"
She looked one, in truth, whom few men could resist, bending to him
out of her owls' nest, with the flash of the sun under the blue awning
brightly catching the sunny brown of her soft cheek and the cherry
bloom of her lips, arched, pouting, and coquette. She set her teeth
sharply, and muttered a hot, heavy sacre, or even something worse, as
she saw that his eyes had not even remained on her, but were
thoughtfully looking down the checkered light and color of the street.
She was passionate, she was vain, she was wayward, she was fierce as a
little velvet leopard, as a handsome, brilliant plumaged hawk; she had
all the faults, as she had all the virtues, of the thorough Celtic
race; and, for the moment, she had in instinct--fiery, ruthless, and
full of hate--to draw the pistol out of her belt, and teach him with a
shot, crash through heart or brain, that girls who were "unsexed"
could keep enough of the woman in them not to be neglected with
impunity, and could lose enough of it to be able to avenge the
negligence by a summary vendetta. But she was a haughty little
condottiere, in her fashion. She would not ask for what was not
offered her, nor give a rebuke that might be traced to mortification.
She only set her two rosebud-lips in as firm a line of wrath and scorn
as ever Caesar's or Napoleon's molded themselves into, and spoke in
the curt, imperious, generalissimo fashion with which Cigarette before
now had rallied a demoralized troop, reeling drunk and mad away from a
"I am a witch! That is, I can put two and two together, and read men,
though I don't read the alphabet. Well, one reading is a good deal
rarer than the other. So you mean to disobey the Hawk to-night? I like
you for that. But listen here--did you ever hear them talk of
"Parbleu!" swore the vivandiere in her wrath, "you look on at a
bamboula as if it were only a bear-cub dancing, and can only give one
'yes' and 'no,' as if one were a drummer-boy. Bah! are those your
"Forgive me, ma belle! I thought you called yourself our comrade, and
would have no 'fine manners.' There is no knowing how to please you."
He might have pleased her simply and easily enough, if he had only
looked up with a shade of interest to that most picturesque picture,
bright as a pastel portrait, that was hung above him in the old
tumble-down Moorish stonework. But his thoughts were with other
things; and a love scene with this fantastic little Amazon did not
attract him. The warm, ripe, mellow little wayside cherry hung
directly in his path, with the sun on its bloom, and the free wind
tossing it merrily; but it had no charm for him. He was musing rather
on that costly, delicate, brilliant-hued, hothouse blossom that could
only be reached down by some rich man's hand, and grew afar on heights
where never winter chills, nor summer tan, could come too rudely on
"Come, tell me what is Marquise?--a kitten?" he went on, leaning his
arm still on the sill of her embrasure, and willing to coax her out of
"A kitten!" echoed Cigarette contemptuously. "You think me a child, I
"Surely you are not far off it?"
"Mon Dieu! why, I was never a child in my life," retorted Cigarette,
waxing sunny-tempered and confidential again, while she perched
herself, like some gay-feathered mockingbird on a branch, on the
window-sill itself. "When I was two, I used to be beaten; when I was
three, I used to scrape up the cigar ends the officers dropped about,
to sell them again for a bit of black bread; when I was four, I knew
all about Philippe Durron's escape from Beylick, and bit my tongue
through, to say nothing, when my mother flogged me with a mule-whip,
because I would not tell, that she might tell again at the Bureau and
get the reward. A child! Before I was two feet high I had winged my
first Arab. He stole a rabbit I was roasting. Presto! how quick he
dropped it when my ball broke his wrist like a twig!"
And the Friend of the Flag laughed gayly at the recollection, as at
the best piece of mirth with which memory could furnish her.
"But you asked about Marquise? Well, he was what you are--a hawk among
carrion crows, a gentleman in the ranks. Dieu! how handsome he was!
Nobody ever knew his real name, but they thought he was of Austrian
breed, and we called him Marquise because he was so womanish white in
his skin and dainty in all his ways. Just like you! Marquise could
fight, fight like a hundred devils; and--pouf!--how proud he was--very
much like you altogether! Now, one day something went wrong in the
exercise ground. Marquise was not to blame, but they thought he was;
and an adjutant struck him--flick, flack, like that--across the face
with a riding switch. Marquise had his bayonet fixed and before we
knew what was up, crash the blade went through--through the breast-
bone, and out at the spine--and the adjutant fell as dead as a cat,
with the blood spouting out like a fountain. 'I come of a great race,
that never took insult without giving back death,' was all that
Marquise said when they seized him and brought him to judgment; and he
would never say of what race that was. They shot him--ah, bah!
discipline must be kept--and I saw him with five great wounds in his
chest, and his beautiful golden hair all soiled with the sand and the
powder, lying there by the open grave, that they threw him into as if
he were offal; and we never knew more of him than that."
Cigarette's radiant laugh had died, and her careless voice had sunk,
over the latter words. As the little vivacious brunette told the tale
of a nameless life, it took its eloquence from her, simple and brief
as her speech was; and it owned a deeper pathos because the reckless
young Bacchante of the As de Pique grew grave one moment while she
told it. Then, grave still, she leaned her brown, bright face nearer
down from her oval hole in the wall.
"Now," she whispered very low, "if you mutiny once, they will shoot
you just like Marquise, and you will die just as silent, like him."
"Well," he answered her slowly, "why not? Death is no great terror; I
risk it every day for the sake of a common soldier's rations; why
should I not chance it for the sake and in the defense of my honor?"
"Bah! men sell their honor for their daily bread all the world over!"
said Cigarette, with the satire that had treble raciness from the
slang in which she clothed it. "But it is not you alone. See here--one
example set on your part, and half your regiment will mutiny too. It
is bitter work to obey the Black Hawk, and if you give the signal of
revolt, three parts of your comrades will join you. Now what will that
end in, beau lion?"
"Tell me--you are a soldier yourself, you say."
"Yes, I am a soldier!" said Cigarette between her tight-set teeth,
while her eyes brightened, and her voice sank down into a whisper that
had a certain terrible meaning in it, like the first dropping of the
scattered, opening shots in the distance before a great battle
commences; "and I have seen war, not holiday war, but war in earnest--
war when men fall like hailstones, and tear like tigers, and choke
like mad dogs with their throats full of blood and sand; when the gun-
carriage wheels go crash over the writhing limbs, and the horses
charge full gallop over the living faces, and the hoofs beat out the
brains before death has stunned them senseless. Oh, yes! I am a
soldier, and I will tell you one thing I have seen. I have seen
soldiers mutiny, a squadron of them, because they hated their chief
and loved two of their sous-officers; and I have seen the end of it
all--a few hundred men, blind and drunk with despair, at bay against
as many thousands, and walled in with four lines of steel and
artillery, and fired on from a score of cannon-mouths--volley on
volley, like the thunder--till not one living man was left, and there
was only a shapeless, heaving, moaning mass, with the black smoke over
all. That is what I have seen; you will not make me see it again?"
Her face was very earnest, very eloquent, very dark, and tender with
thought; there was a vein of grave, even of intense feeling, that ran
through the significant words to which tone and accent lent far more
meaning than lay in their mere phrases; the little bohemian lost her
insolence when she pleaded for her "children," her comrades; and the
mischievous pet of the camp never treated lightly what touched the
France that she loved--the France that, alone of all things in her
careless life, she held in honor and reverence.
"You will not make me see it again?" she said, once more leaning out,
with her eyes, that were like a brown brook sparkling deep, yet bright
in the sun, fixed on him. "They would rise at your bidding, and they
would be mowed down like corn. You will not?"
"Never! I give you my word."
The promise was from his heart. He would have endured any indignity,
any outrage, rather than have drawn into ruin, through him, the fiery,
fearless, untutored lives of the men who marched, and slept, and rode,
and fought, and lay in the light of the picket-fires, and swept down
through the hot sandstorms on to the desert foe by his side. Cigarette
stretched out her hand to him--that tiny brown hand, which, small
though it was, had looked so burned and so hard beside the delicate
fairy ivory carvings of his workmanship--stretched it out with a
frank, winning, childlike, soldierlike grace.
"That's right, you are a true soldier!"
He bent over the hand she held to his in the courtesy natural with him
to all her sex, and touched it lightly with his lips.
"Thank you, my little comrade," he said simply, with the graver
thought still on him that her relation and her entreaty had evoked;
"you have given me a lesson that I shall not be quick to forget."
Cigarette was the wildest little baccanal that ever pirouetted for the
delight of half a score of soldiers in their shirt-sleeves and half-
drunk; she was the most reckless coquette that ever made the roll-call
of her lovers range from prince-marshals to plowboy conscripts; she
had flirted as far and wide as the butterfly flirts with the blossoms
it flutters on to through the range of a summer day; she took kisses,
if the giver of them were handsome, as readily as a child takes
sweetmeats at Mardi Gras; and of feminine honor, feminine scruples,
feminine delicacy, knew nothing save by such very dim, fragmentary
instincts as nature still planted in scant growth amid the rank soil
and the pestilent atmosphere of camp-life. Her eyes had never sunk,
her face had never flushed, her heart had never panted for the boldest
or the wildest wooer of them all, from M. de Duc's Lauzun-esque
blandishments to Pouffer-de-Rire's or Miou-Miou's rough overtures; she
had the coquetry of her nation with the audacity of a boy. Now only,
for the first time, Cigarette colored hotly at the grave, graceful,
distant salute, so cold and so courteous, which was offered her in
lieu of the rude and boisterous familiarities to which she was
accustomed; and drew her hand away with what was, to the shame of her
soldierly hardihood and her barrack tutelage, very nearly akin to an
impulse of shyness.
"Dame! Don't humbug me! I am not a court lady!" she cried hastily,
almost petulantly, to cover the unwonted and unwelcome weakness;
while, to make good the declaration and revindicate her military
renown, she balanced herself lightly on the stone ledge of her oval
hole, and sprang, with a young wildcat's easy, vaulting leap, over his
head, and over the heads of the people beneath, on to the ledge of the
house opposite, a low-built wine-shop, whose upper story nearly
touched the leaning walls of the old Moorish buildings in which she
had been perched. The crowd in the street below looked up, amazed and
aghast, at that bound from casement to casement as she flew over their
heads like a blue-and-scarlet winged bird of Oran; but they laughed as
they saw who it was.
"It is Cigarette! Ah, ha! the devil, for a certainty, must have been
"To be sure!" cried the Friend of the Flag, looking from her
elevation; "he is a very good father, too, and I don't tease him like
his sons the priests! But I have told him to take you the next time
you are stripping a dead body; so look on it--he won't have to wait
The discomfited Indigene hustled his way, with many an oath, through
the laughing crowd as best he might; and Cigarette, with an airy
pirouette on the wine-shop's roof that would have done honor to any
opera boards, and was executed as carelessly, twenty feet above earth,
as if she had been a pantomime-dancer all her days, let herself down
by the awning, hand over hand, like a little mouse from the harbor,
jumped on to a forage wagon that was just passing full trot down the
street, and disappeared; standing on the piles of hay, and singing.
Cecil looked after her, with a certain touch of pity for her in him.
"What a gallant boy is spoiled in that little Amazon!" he thought; the
quick flush of her face, the quick withdrawal of her hand, he had not
noticed; she had not much interest for him,--scarcely any indeed,--
save that he saw she was pretty, with a mignonne, mischievous face,
that all the sun-tan of Africa and all the wild life of the Caserne
would not harden or debase. But he was sorry a child so bright and so
brave should be turned into three parts a trooper as she was, should
have been tossed up on the scum and filth of the lowest barrack life,
and should be doomed in a few years' time to become the yellow,
battered, foul-mouthed, vulture-eyed camp-follower that premature old
age would surely render the darling of the tricolor, the pythoness of
the As de Pique.
Cigarette was making scorn of her doom of Sex, dancing it down,
drinking it down, laughing it down, burning it out in tobacco fumes,
drowning it in trembling cascades of wine, trampling it to dust under
the cancan by her little brass-bound boots, mocking it away with her
slang jests, and her Theresa songs, and her devil-may-care audacities,
till there was scarce a trace of it left in this prettiest and wildest
little scamp of all the Army in Africa. But strive to kill it how she
would, her sex would have its revenge one day and play Nemesis to her.
She was bewitching now--bewitching, though she had no witchery for him
--in her youth. But when the bloom should leave her brown cheeks, and
the laughter die out of her lightning glance, the womanhood she had
denied would assert itself, and avenge itself, and be hideous in the
sight of the men who now loved the tinkling of those little spurred
feet, and shouted with applause to hear the reckless barrack
blasphemies ring their mirth from the fresh mouth which was now like a
bud from a damask rose branch, though even now it steeped itself in
wine, and sullied itself with oaths and seared itself with smoke, and
had never been touched from its infancy with any kiss that was
innocent--not even with its mother's.
And there was a deep tinge of pity for her in Cecil's thoughts as he
watched her out of sight, and then strolled across to the cafe
opposite to finish his cigar beneath its orange-striped awning. The
child had been flung upward, a little straw floating in the gutter of
Paris iniquities. It was little marvel that the bright, bold, insolent
little Friend of the Flag had nothing of her sex left save a kitten's
mischief and a coquette's archness. It said much rather for the
straight, fair, sunlit instincts of the untaught nature that Cigarette
had gleaned, even out of such a life, two virtues that she would have
held by to the death, if tried: a truthfulness that would have scorned
a lie as only fit for cowards, and a loyalty that cleaved to France as
Cecil thought that a gallant boy was spoiled in this eighteen-year-old
brunette of a campaigner; he might have gone further, and said that a
hero was lost.
"Voila!" said Cigarette between her little teeth.
She stood in the glittering Algerine night, brilliant with a million
stars, and balmy with a million flowers, before the bronze trellised
gate of the villa on the Sahel, where Chateauroy, when he was not on
active service--which chanced rarely, for he was one of the finest
soldiers and most daring chiefs in Africa--indemnified himself, with
the magnificence that his private fortune enabled him to enjoy, for
the unsparing exertions and the rugged privations that he always
shared willingly with the lowest of his soldiers. It was the grandest
trait in the man's character that he utterly scorned the effeminacy
with which many commanders provided for their table, their comfort,
and their gratification while campaigning, and would commonly neither
take himself nor allow to his officers any more indulgence on the
march than his troopers themselves enjoyed. But his villa on the Sahel
was a miniature palace; it had formerly been the harem of a great
Rais, and the gardens were as enchanting as the interior was--if
something florid, still as elegant as Paris art and Paris luxury could
make it; for ferocious as the Black Hawk was in war, and well as he
loved the chase and the slaughter, he did not disdain, when he had
whetted beak and talons to satiety, to smooth his ruffled plumage in
downy nests and under caressing hands.
To-night the windows of the pretty, low, snow-white, far-stretching
building were lighted and open, and through the wilderness of cactus,
myrtle, orange, citron, fuchsia, and a thousand flowers that almost
buried it under their weight of leaf and blossom, a myriad of lamps
were gleaming like so many glowworms beneath the foliage, while from a
cedar grove, some slight way farther out, the melodies and overtures
of the best military bands in Algiers came mellowed, though not
broken, by the distance and the fall of the bubbling fountains.
Cigarette looked and listened, and her gay, brown face grew duskily
warm with wrath.
"Ah, bah!" she muttered as she pressed her pretty lips to the lattice-
work. "The men die like sheep in the hospital, and get sour bread
tossed to them as if they were pigs, and are thrashed if they pawn
their muskets for a stoup of drink when their throats are as dry as
the desert--and you live in clover. Marbleu!"
Cigarette was a resolute little democrat; she had loaded the carbines
behind the barricade in Paris before she was ten years old, and was
not seldom in the perplexity of conflicting creeds when her loyalty to
the tricolor smote with a violent clash on her love for the populace
and their liberty.
She looked a moment longer through the gilded scroll-work; then, as
she had done once before, thrust her pistols well within her sash that
they should not catch upon the boughs, and pushing herself through the
prickly cactus hedge, impervious to anything save herself or a Barbary
marmoset, twisted with marvelous ingenuity through the sharp-pointed
leaves, and the close barriers of spines and launched herself with
inimitable dexterity on to the other side of the cacti. Cigarette had
too often played a game at spying and reconnoitering for her
regiments, and played it with a cleverness that distanced even the
most ruse of the Zephyrs, not to be able to do just whatever she
chose, in taking the way she liked, and lurking unseen at discretion.
She crossed the breadth of the grounds under the heavy shade of
arbutus trees with a hare's fleetness, and stood a second looking at
the open windows and the terraces that lay before them, brightly
lighted by the summer moon and by the lamps that sparkled among the
shrubs. Then down she dropped, as quickly, as lightly, as a young
setter, down among the ferns, into a shower of rhododendrons, whose
rose and lilac blossoms shut her wholly within them, like a fairy
inclosed in bloom. The good fairy of one life there she was assuredly,
though she might be but a devil-may-care, audacious, careless little
feminine Belphegor and military Asmodeus.
"Ah!" she said quickly and sharply, with a deep-drawn breath. The
single exclamation was at once a menace, a tenderness, a whirlwind of
rage, a volume of disdain, a world of pity. It was intensely French,
and the whole nature of Cigarette was in it.
Yet all she saw was a small and brilliant group sauntering to and fro
before the open windows, after dinner, listening to the bands, which,
through dinner, had played to them, and laughing low and softly; and,
at some distance from them, beneath the shade of a cedar, the figure
of a Corporal of Chasseurs,--calm, erect, motionless,--as though he
were the figure of a soldier cast in bronze. The scene was simple
enough, though very picturesque; but it told, by its vivid force of
contrast, a whole history to Cigarette.
"A true soldier!" she muttered, where she lay among the rhododendrons,
while her eyes grew very soft, as she gave the highest word of praise
that her whole range of language held. "A true soldier! How he keeps
his promise! But it must be bitter!"
She looked a while, very wistfully, at the Chasseur, where he stood
under the Lebanon boughs; then her glance swept bright as a hawk's
over the terrace, and lighted with a prescient hatred on the central
form of all--a woman's. There were two other great ladies there; but
she passed them, and darted with unerring instinct on that proud,
fair, patrician head, with its haughty, stag-like carriage and the
crown of its golden hair.
Cigarette had seen grand dames by the thousand, though never very
close; seen them in Paris when they came to look on at a grand review;
seen them in their court attire, when the Guides had filled the
Carrousel on some palace ball-night, and lined the Court des Princes,
and she had bewitched the officers of the guard into letting her pass
in to see the pageantry. But she had never felt for those grandes
dames anything save a considerably contemptuous indifference. She had
looked on them pretty much as a war-worn, powder-tried veteran looks
on the curled dandy of some fashionable, home-staying corps. She had
never realized the difference betwixt them and herself, save in so far
as she thought them useless butterflies, worth nothing at all, and
laughed as she triumphantly remembered how she could shoot a man and
break in a colt.
Now, for the first time, the sight of one of those aristocrats smote
her with a keen, hot sting of heart-burning jealousy. Now, for the
fist time, the little Friend of the Flag looked at all the nameless
graces of rank with an envy that her sunny, gladsome, generous nature
had never before been touched with--with a sudden perception, quick as
thought, bitter as gall, wounding, and swift, and poignant, of what
this womanhood, that he had said she herself had lost, might be in its
highest and purest shape.
"If those are the women that he knew before he came here, I do not
wonder that he never cared to watch even my bamboula," was the latent,
unacknowledged thought that was so cruel to her: the consciousness--
which forced itself in on her, while her eyes jealously followed the
perfect grace of the one in whom instinct had found her rival--that,
while she had been so proud of her recklessness, and her devilry, and
her trooper's slang, and her deadly skill as a shot, she had only been
something very worthless, something very lightly held by those who
liked her for a ribald jest, and a dance, and a Spahis' supper of
headlong riot and drunken mirth.
The mood did not last. She was too brave, too fiery, too dauntless,
too untamed. The dusky, angry flush upon her face grew deeper, and the
passion gathered more stormily in her eyes, while she felt the pistol
butts in her sash, and laughed low to herself, where she lay stretched
under her flowery nest.
"Bah! she would faint, I dare say, at the mere sight of these," she
thought, with her old disdain, "and would stand fire no more than a
gazelle! They are only made for summer-day weather, those dainty,
gorgeous, silver pheasants. A breath of war, a touch of tempest, would
soon beat them down--crash!--with all their proud crests drooping!"
Like many another Cigarette underrated what she had no knowledge of,
and depreciated an antagonist the measure of whose fence she had no
power to gauge.
Crouched there among the rhododendrons, she lay as still as a mouse,
moving nearer and nearer, though none would have told that so much as
a lizard even stirred under the blossoms, until her ear, quick and
unerring as an Indian's, could detect the sense of the words spoken by
that group, which so aroused all the hot ire of her warrior's soul and
her democrat's impatience. Chateauroy himself was bending his fine,
dark head toward the patrician on whom her instinct had fastened her
"You expressed your wish to see my Corporal's little sculptures again,
madame," he was murmuring now, as Cigarette got close enough under her
flower shadows to catch the sense of the words. "To hear was to obey
with me. He waits your commands yonder."
Cecil obeyed the lackey who crossed the lawn, passed up the stairs,
and stood before his Colonel, giving the salute; the shade of some
acacias still fell across him, while the party he fronted were in all
the glow of a full Algerian moon and of the thousand lamps among the
belt of flowers and trees. Cigarette gave a sharp, deep-drawn breath,
and lay as mute and motionless as she had done before then, among the
rushes of some dried brook's bed, scanning a hostile camp, when the
fate of a handful of French troops had rested on her surety and her
Chateauroy spoke with a carelessness as of a man to a dog, turning to
"Victor, Mme. la Princesse honors you with the desire to see your toys
again. Spread them out."
The savage authority of his general speech was softened for sake of
his guest's presence, but there was a covert tone in the words that
made Cigarette murmur to herself:
"If he forget his promise, I will forgive him!"
Cecil had not forgotten it; neither had he forgotten the lesson that
this fair aristocrate had read him in the morning. He saluted his
chief again, set the chessbox down upon the ledge of the marble
balustrade, and stood silent, without once glancing at the fair and
haughty face that was more brilliant still in the African starlight
than it had been in the noon sun of the Chasseurs' Chambree. Courtesy
was forbidden him as insult from a corporal to a nobly born beauty; he
no more quarreled with the decree than with other inevitable
consequences, inevitable degradations, that followed on his entrance
as a private under the French flag. He had been used to the impassable
demarcations of Caste; he did not dispute them more now that he was
without, than he had done when within, their magic pale.
The carvings were passed from hand to hand as the Marquis' six or
eight guests, listless willing to be amused in the warmth of the
evening after their dinner, occupied themselves with the ivory chess
armies, cut with a skill and a finish worthy a Roman studio. Praise
enough was awarded to the art, but none of them remembered the artist,
who stood apart, grave, calm, with a certain serene dignity that could
not be degraded because others chose to treat him as the station he
filled gave them fit right to do.
Only one glanced at him with a touch of wondering pity, softening her
pride; she who had rejected the gift of those mimic squadrons.
"You were surely a sculptor once?" she asked him with that graceful,
distant kindness which she might have shown some Arab outcast.
"Indeed! Then who taught you such exquisite art?"
"It cannot claim to be called art, madame."
She looked at him with an increased interest: the accent of his voice
told her that this man, whatever he might be now, had once been a
"Oh, yes; it is perfect of its kind. Who was your master in it?"
"A common teacher, madame--Necessity."
There was a very sweet gleam of compassion in the luster of her dark,
"Does necessity often teach so well?"
"In the ranks of our army, madame, I think it does--often, indeed,
Chateauroy had stood by and heard, with as much impatience as he cared
to show before guests whose rank was precious to the man who had still
weakness enough to be ashamed that his father's brave and famous life
had first been cradled under the thatch roof of a little posting-
"Victor knows that neither he nor his men have any right to waste
their time on such trash," he said carelessly; "but the truth is they
love the canteen so well that they will do anything to add enough to
their pay to buy brandy."
She whom he had called Mme. la Princesse looked with a doubting
surprise at the sculptor of the white Arab King she held.
"That man does not carve for brandy," she thought.
"It must be a solace to many a weary hour in the barracks to be able
to produce such beautiful trifles as these?" she said aloud. "Surely
you encourage such pursuits, monsieur?"
"Not I," said Chateauroy, with a dash of his camp tone that he could
not withhold. "There are but two arts or virtues for a trooper to my
taste--fighting and obedience."
"You should be in the Russian service, M. de Chateauroy," said the
lady with a smile, that, slight as it was, made the Marquis' eyes
"Almost I wish I had been," he answered her; "men are made to keep
their grades there, and privates who think themselves fine gentlemen
receive the lash they merit."
"How he hates his Corporal!" she thought while she laid aside the
White King once more.
"Nay," interposed Chateauroy, recovering his momentary self-
abandonment, "since you like the bagatelles, do me honor enough to
"Oh, no! I offered your soldier his own price for them this morning,
and he refused any."
Chateauroy swung round.
"Ah, you dared refuse your bits of ivory when you were honored by an
offer for them?"
Cecil stood silent; his eyes met his chief's steadily; Chateauroy had
seen that look when his Chasseur had bearded him in the solitude of
his tent, and demanded back the Pearl of the Desert.
The Princesse glanced at both; then she stooped her elegant head
slightly to the Marquis.
"Do not blame your Corporal unjustly through me, I pray you. He
refused any price, but he offered them to me very gracefully as a
gift, though of course it was not possible that I should accept them
"The man is the most insolent in the service," muttered her host, as
he motioned Cecil back off the terrace. "Get you gone, sir, and leave
your toys here, or I will have them broken up by a hammer."
The words were low, that they should not offend the ears of the great
ladies who were his listeners; but they were coarsely savage in their
whispered command, and the Princesse heard them.
"He has brought his Chasseur here only to humiliate him," she thought,
with the same thought that flashed through the mind of the Little
Friend of the Flag where she hid among her rhododendrons. Now the
dainty aristocrate was very proud, but she was not so proud but that
justice was stronger in her than pride; and a noble, generous temper
mellowed the somewhat too cold and languid negligence of one of the
fairest and haughtiest women that ever adorned a court. She was too
generous not to rescue anyone who suffered through her the slightest
injustice, not to interfere when through her any misconception lighted
on another; she saw, with her rapid perception and sympathy, that the
man whom Chateauroy addressed with the brutal insolence of a bully to
his disobedient dog, had once been a gentlemen, though he now held but
the rank of a sous-officier in the Algerian Cavalry, and she saw that
he suffered all the more keenly under an outrage he had no power to
resist because of that enforced serenity, that dignity of silence and
of patience, with which he stood before his tyrant.
"Wait," she said, moving a little toward them, while she let her eyes
rest on the carver of the sculptures with a grave compassion, though
she addressed his chief. "You wholly mistake me. I laid no blame
whatever on your Corporal. Let him take the chessmen back with him; I
would on no account rob him of them. I can well understand that he
does not care to part with such masterpieces of his art; and that he
would not appraise them by their worth in gold only shows that he is a
true artist, as doubtless also he is a true soldier."
The words were spoken with a gracious courtesy; the clear, cold tone
of her habitual manner just marking in them still the difference of
caste between her and the man for whom she interceded, as she would
equally have interceded for a dog who should have been threatened with
the lash because he had displeased her. That very tone struck a
sharper blow to Cecil than the insolence of his commander had power to
deal him. His face flushed a little; he lifted his cap to her with a
grave reverence, and moved away.
"I thank you, madame. Keep them, if you will so far honor me."
The words reached only her ear. In another instant he had passed away
down the terrace steps, obedient to his chief's dismissal.
"Ah! have no kind scruples in keeping them, madame," Chateauroy
laughed to her, as she still held in her hand, doubtfully, the White
Sheik of the chess Arabs; "I will see that Bel-a-faire-peur, as they
call him, does not suffer by losing these trumperies, which, I
believe, old Zist-et-Zest, a veteran of ours and a wonderful carver,
had really far more to do with producing than he. You must not let
your gracious pity be moved by such fellows as these troopers of mine;
they are the most ingenious rascals in the world, and know as well how
to produce a dramatic effect in your presence as they do how to drink
and to swear when they are out of it."
"Very possibly," she said, with an indolent indifference; "but that
man was no actor, and I never saw a gentleman if he have not been
"Like enough," answered the Marquis. "I believe many 'gentlemen' come
into our ranks who have fled their native countries and broken all
laws from the Decalogue to the Code Napoleon. So long as they fight
well, we don't ask their past criminalities. We cannot afford to throw
away a good soldier because he has made his own land too hot to hold
"Of what country is your Corporal, then?"
"I have not an idea. I imagine his past must have been something very
black, indeed, for the slightest trace of it has never, that I know
of, been allowed to let slip from him. He encourages the men in every
insubordination, buys their favor with every sort of stage trick,
thinks himself the finest gentleman in the whole brigades of Africa,
and ought to have been shot long ago, if he had had his real deserts."
She let her glance dwell on him with a contemplation that was half
contemptuous amusement, half unexpressed dissent.
"I wonder he has not been, since you have the ruling of his fate," she
said, with a slight smile lingering about the proud, rich softness of
"So do I."
There was a gaunt, grim, stern significance in the three monosyllables
that escaped him unconsciously; it made her turn and look at him more
"How has he offended you?" she asked.
Chateauroy laughed off her question.
"In a thousand ways, madame. Chiefly because I received my regimental
training under one who followed the traditions of the Armies of Egypt
and the Rhine, and have, I confess little tolerance, in consequence,
of a rebel who plays the martyr, and a soldier who is too effeminate
an idler to do anything except attitudinize in interesting situations
to awaken sympathy."
She listened with something of distaste upon her face where she still
leaned against the marble balustrade, toying with the ivory Bedouins.
"I am not much interested in military discussion," she said coldly,
"but I imagine--if you will pardon me for saying so--that you do your
Corporal some little injustice here. I should not fancy he 'affects'
anything, to judge from the very good tone of his manners. For the
rest, I shall not keep the chessmen without making him fitting payment
for them; since he declines money, you will tell me what form that had
better take to be of real and welcome service to a Chasseur
Chateauroy, more incensed than he chose or dared to show, bowed
courteously, but with a grim, ironic smile.
"If you really insist, give him a Napoleon or two whenever you see
him; he will be very happy to take it and spend it au cabaret, though
he played the aristocrat to-day. But you are too good to him, he is
one of the very worst of my pratiques; and you are as cruel to me in
refusing to deign to accept my trooper's worthless bagatelles at my
She bent her superb head silently, whether in acquiescence or
rejection he could not well resolve with himself, and turned to the
staff officers, among them the heir of a princely semi-royal French
House, who surrounded her, and sorely begrudged the moments she had
given to those miniature carvings and the private soldier who had
wrought them. She was no coquette; she was of too imperial a nature,
had too lofty a pride, and was too difficult to charm or to enchain;
but those meditative, brilliant, serene eyes had a terrible gift of
awakening without ever seeking love, and of drawing without ever
Crouched down among her rose-hued covert, Cigarette had watched and
heard; her teeth set tightly, her breath coming and going swiftly, her
hand clinched close on the butts of her pistols; fiery curses, with
all the infinite variety in cursing of a barrack repertoire, chasing
one another in hot, fast mutterings of those bright lips, that should
have known nothing except a child's careless and innocent song.
She had never looked at a beautiful, high-born woman before, holding
them in gay, satirical disdain as mere butterflies who could not prime
a revolver and fire it off to save their own lives, if ever such need
arose. But now she studied one through all the fine, quickened,
unerring instincts of jealousy; and there is no instinct in the world
that gives such thorough appreciation of the very rival it reviles.
She saw the courtly negligence, the regal grace, the fair, brilliant
loveliness, the delicious, serene languor, of a pure aristocrate for
the very first time to note them, and they made her heart sick with a
new and deadly sense; they moved her much as the white, delicate
carvings of the lotus-lilies had done; they, like the carvings, showed
her all she had missed. She dropped her head suddenly like a wounded
bird, and the racy, vindictive camp oaths died off her lips. She
thought of herself as she had danced that mad bacchic bamboula amid
the crowd of shouting, stamping, drunken, half-infuriated soldiery;
and for the moment she hated herself more even than she hated that
"I know what he meant now!" she pondered, and her spirited, sparkling,
brunette face was dark and weary, like a brown, sun-lightened brook
over whose radiance the heavy shadow of some broad-spread eagle's
wings hovers, hiding the sun.
She looked once, twice, thrice, more inquiringly, envyingly,
thirstily; then, as the band under the cedars rolled out their music
afresh, and light laughter echoed to her from the terrace, she turned
and wound herself back under the cover of the shrubs; not joyously and
mischievously as she had come, but almost as slowly, almost as sadly,
as a hare that the greyhounds have coursed drags itself through the
grasses and ferns.
Once through the cactus hedge her old spirit returned; she shook
herself angrily with petulant self-scorn; she swore a little, and felt
that the fierce, familiar words did her good like brandy poured down
her throat; she tossed her head like a colt that rebels against the
gall of the curb; then, fleet as a fawn, she dashed down the moonlit
road at topmost speed. "She can't do what I do!" she thought.
And she ran the faster, and sang a drinking-song of the Spahis all the
louder, because still at her heart a dull pain was aching.
CIGARETTE EN CONDOTTIERA.
Cigarette always went fast. She had a bird-like way of skimming her
ground that took her over it with wonderful swiftness; all the
tassels, and ribbon knots, and sashes with which her uniform was
rendered so gay and so distinctive fluttering behind her; and her
little military boots, with the bright spurs twinkling, flying over
the earth too lightly for a speck of dust,--though it lay thick as
August suns could parch it,--to rest upon her. Thus she went now,
along the lovely moonlight; singing her drinking song so fast and so
loud that, had it been any other than this young fire-eater of the
African squadrons, it might have been supposed she sang out of fear
and bravado--two things, however, that never touched Cigarette; for
she exulted in danger as friskily as a young salmon exults in the
first, crisp, tumbling crest of a sea-wave, and would have backed up
the most vainglorious word she could have spoken with the cost of her
life, had need been. Suddenly, as she went, she heard a shout on the
still night air--very still, now that the lights, and the melodies,
and the laughter of Chateauroy's villa lay far behind, and the town of
Algiers was yet distant, with its lamps glittering down by the sea.
The shout was, "A moi, Roumis! Pour la France!" And Cigarette knew the
voice, ringing melodiously and calm still, though it gave the sound of
"Cigarette au secour!" she cried in answer; she had cried it many a
time over the heat of battlefields, and when the wounded men in the
dead of the sickly night writhed under the knife of the camp-thieves.
If she had gone like the wind before, she went like the lightning now.
A few yards onward she saw a confused knot of horses and of riders
struggling one with another in a cloud of white dust, silvery and hazy
in the radiance of the moon.
The center figure was Cecil's; the four others were Arabs, armed to
the teeth and mad with drink, who had spent the whole day in drunken
debauchery; pouring in raki down their throats until they were wild
with its poisonous fire, and had darted headlong, all abreast, down
out of the town; overriding all that came in their way, and lashing
their poor beasts with their sabers till the horses' flanks ran blood.
Just as they neared Cecil they had knocked aside and trampled over a
worn out old colon, of age too feeble for him to totter in time from
their path. Cecil had reined up and shouted to them to pause; they,
inflamed with the perilous drink, and senseless with the fury which
seems to possess every Arab once started in a race neck-to-neck, were
too blind to see, and too furious to care, that they were faced by a
soldier of France, but rode down on him at once, with their curled
sabers flashing round their heads. His horse stood the shock
gallantly, and he sought at first only to parry their thrusts and to
cut through their stallions' reins; but the latter were chain bridles,
and only notched his sword as the blade struck them, and the former
became too numerous and too savagely dealt to be easily played with in
carte and tierce. The Arabs were dead-drunk, he saw at a glance, and
had got the blood-thirst upon them; roused and burning with brandy and
raki, these men were like tigers to deal with; the words he had spoken
they never heard, and their horses hemmed him in powerless, while
their steel flashed on every side--they were not of the tribe of
If he struck not, and struck not surely, he saw that a few moments
more of that moonlight night were all that he would live. He wished to
avoid bloodshed, both because his sympathies were always with the
conquered tribes, and because he knew that every one of these quarrels
and combats between the vanquisher and the vanquished served further
to widen the breach, already broad enough, between them. But it was no
longer a matter of choice with him, as his shoulder was grazed by a
thrust which, but for a swerve of his horse, would have pierced to his
lungs; and the four riders, yelling like madmen, forced the animal
back on his haunches, and assaulted him with breathless violence. He
swept his own arm back, and brought his saber down straight through
the sword-arm of the foremost; the limb was cleft through as if the
stroke of an ax had severed it, and, thrice infuriated, the Arabs
closed in on him. The points of their weapons were piercing his
harness when, sharp and swift, one on another, three shots hissed past
him; the nearest of his assailants fell stone dead, and the others,
wounded and startled, loosed their hold, shook their reins, and tore
off down the lonely road, while the dead man's horse, shaking his
burden from him out of the stirrups, followed them at a headlong
gallop through a cloud of dust.
"That was a pretty cut through the arm; better had it been through the
throat. Never do things by halves, ami Victor," said Cigarette
carelessly, as she thrust her pistols back into her sash, and looked,
with the tranquil appreciation of a connoisseur, on the brown, brawny,
naked limb, where it lay severed on the sand, with the hilt of the
weapon still hanging in the sinewy fingers. Cecil threw himself from
his saddle and gazed at her in bewildered amazement; he had thought
those sure, cool, death-dealing shots had come from some Spahi or
"I owe you my life!" he said rapidly. "But--good God!--you have shot
the fellow dead----"
Cigarette shrugged her shoulders with a contemptuous glance at the
"To be sure--I am not a bungler."
"Happily for me, or I had been where he lies now. But wait--let me
look; there may be breath in him yet."
Cigarette laughed, offended and scornful, as with the offense and
scorn of one whose first science was impeached.
"Look and welcome; but if you find any life in that Arab, make a laugh
of it before all the army to-morrow."
She was at her fiercest. A thousand new emotions had been roused in
her that night, bringing pain with them, that she bitterly resented;
and, moreover, this child of the Army of Africa caught fire at the
flame of battle with instant contagion, and had seen slaughter around
her from her first infancy.
Cecil, disregarding her protest, stooped and raised the fallen
Bedouin. He saw at a glance that she was right; the lean, dark,
lustful face was set in the rigidity of death; the bullet had passed
straight through the temples.
"Did you never see a dead man before?" demanded Cigarette impatiently,
as he lingered--even in this moment he had more thought of this Arab
than he had of her!
He laid the Arab's body gently down, and looked at her with a glance
that, rightly or wrongly, she thought had a rebuke in it.
"Very many. But--it is never a pleasant sight. And they were in drink;
they did not know what they did."
"Pardieu! What divine pity! Good powder and ball were sore wasted, it
seems; you would have preferred to lie there yourself, it appears. I
beg your pardon for interfering with the preference."
Her eyes were flashing, her lips very scornful and wrathful. This was
"Wait, wait," said Cecil rapidly, laying his hand on her shoulder, as
she flung herself away. "My dear child, do not think me ungrateful. I
know well enough I should be a dead man myself had it not been for
your gallant assistance. Believe me, I thank you from my heart."
"But you think me 'unsexed' all the same! I see, beau lion!"
The word had rankled in her; she could launch it now with telling
He smiled; but he saw that this phrase, which she had overheard, had
not alone incensed, but had wounded her.
"Well, a little, perhaps," he said gently. "How should it be
otherwise? And, for that matter, I have seen many a great lady look on
and laugh her soft, cruel laughter, while the pheasants were falling
by hundreds, or the stags being torn by the hounds. They called it
'sport,' but there was not much difference--in the mercy of it, at
least--from your war. And they had not a tithe of your courage."
The answer failed to conciliate her; there was an accent of compassion
in it that ill-suited her pride, and a lack of admiration that was not
less new and unwelcome.
"It was well for you that I was unsexed enough to be able to send an
ounce of lead into a drunkard!" she pursued with immeasurable disdain.
"If I had been like that dainty aristocrate down there--pardieu! It
had been worse for you. I should have screamed, and fainted, and left
you to be killed, while I made a tableau. Oh, ha! that is to be
'feminine,' is it not?"
"Where did you see that lady?" he asked in some surprise.
"Oh, I was there!" answered Cigarette, with a toss of her head
southward to where the villa lay. "I went to see how you would keep
"Well, you saw I kept it."
She gave her little teeth a sharp click like the click of a trigger.
"Yes. And I would have forgiven you if you had broken it."
"Would you? I should not have forgiven myself."
"Ah! you are just like the Marquise. And you will end like him."
She knitted her pretty brows, standing there in his path with her
pistols thrust in her sash, and her hands resting lightly on her hips,
as a good workman rests after a neatly finished job, and her dainty
fez set half on one side of her brown, tangled curls, while upon them
the intense luster of the moonlight streamed, and in the dust, well-
nigh at their feet, lay the gaunt, while-robed form of the dead Arab,
with the olive, saturnine face turned upward to the stars.
"Why did you give the chessmen to that silver pheasant?" she asked him
"Yes. See how she sweeps--sweeps--sweeps so languid, so brilliant, so
useless--bah! Why did you give them?"
"She admired them. It was not much to give."
"You would not have given them to a daughter of the people."
"Why not? Oh, ha! because her hands would be hard, and brown, and
coarse, not fit for those ivory puppets; but hers are white like the
ivory, and cannot soil it. She will handle them so gracefully, for
five minutes; and then buy a new toy, and let her lapdog break yours!"
"Like enough." He said it with his habitual gentle temper, but there
was a shadow of pain in the words. The chessmen had become in some
sort like living things to him, through long association; he had
parted from them not without regret, though for the moment courtesy
and generosity of instinct had overcome it; and he knew that it was
but too true how in all likelihood these trifles of his art, that had
brought him many a solace and been his companion through many a lonely
hour, would be forgotten by the morrow, where he had bestowed them,
and at best put aside in a cabinet to lie unnoticed among bronzes or
porcelain, or be set on some boudoir table to be idled with in the
mimic warfare that would serve to cover some listless flirtation.
Cigarette, quick to sting, but as quick to repent using her sting, saw
the regret in him; with the rapid, uncalculating liberality of an
utterly unselfish and intensely impulsive nature, she hastened to make
amends by saying what was like gall on her tongue in the utterance:
"Tiens!" she said quickly. "Perhaps she will value them more than
that. I know nothing of the aristocrats--not I! When you were gone,
she championed you against the Black Hawk. She told him that if you
had not been a gentleman before you came into the ranks, she had never
seen one. She spoke well, if you had but heard her."
She saw his glance brighten as it turned on her in a surprised
"Well! What is there so wonderful?"
Cigarette asked it with a certain petulance and doggedness; taking a
namesake out of her breast-pocket, biting its end off, and striking a
fusee. A word from this aristocrate was more welcome to him than a
bullet that had saved his life!
Her generosity had gone very far, and, like most generosity, got
nothing for its pains.
He was silent a few moments, tracing lines in the dust with the point
of his scabbard. Cigarette, with the cigar in hr mouth, stamped her
"Corporal Victor! Are you going to dream there all night? What is to
be done with this dog of an Arab?"
She was angered by him; she was in the mood to make herself seem all
the rougher, fiercer, naughtier, and more callous. She had shot the
man--pouf! What of that? She had shot men before, as all Africa knew.
She would defend a half-fledged bird, a terrified sheep, a worn-out
old cur; but a man! Men were the normal and natural food for pistols
and rifles, she considered. A state of society in which firearms had
been unknown was a thing Cigarette had never heard of, and in which
she would have contumeliously disbelieved if she had been told of it.
Cecil looked up from his musing. He thought what a pity it was this
pretty, graceful French kitten was such a bloodthirsty young panther
"I scarcely know what to do," he answered her doubtfully. "Put him
across my saddle, poor wretch, I suppose; the fray must be reported."
"Leave that to me," said Cigarette decidedly, and with a certain
haughty patronage. "I shot him--I will see the thing gets told right.
It might be awkward for you; they are growing so squeamish about the
Roumis killing the natives. Draw him to one side there, and leave him.
The crows will finish his affair."
The coolness with which this handsome child disposed of the fate of
what, a moment or two before, had been a sentient, breathing, vigorous
frame, sent a chill through her hearer, though he had been seasoned by
a decade of slaughter.
"No," he said briefly. "Suspicion might fall on some innocent passer-
by. Besides--he shall have a decent burial."
"Burial for an Arab--pouf!" cried Cigarette in derision. "Parbleu, M.
Bel-a-faire-peau, I have seen hundreds of our best soldiers lie
rotting on the plains with the birds' beaks at their eyes and the
jackals' fangs in their flesh. What was good enough for them is surely
good enough for him. You are an eccentric fellow--you--"
He laughed a little.
"Time was when I should have begged you not to call me any such 'bad
form'! Eccentric! I have not genius enough for that."
"Eh?" She did not understand him. "Well, you want that carrion poked
into the earth, instead of lying atop of it. I don't see much
difference myself. I would like to be in the sun as long as I could, I
think, dead or alive. Ah! how odd it is to think one will be dead some
day--never wake for the reveille--never hear the cannon or the
caissons roll by--never stir when the trumpets sound the charge, but
lie there dead--dead--dead--while the squadrons thunder above one's
grave! Droll, eh?"
A momentary pathos softened her voice, where she stood in the
glistening moonlight. That the time would ever come when her glad
laughter would be hushed, when her young heart would beat no more,
when the bright, abundant, passionate blood would bound no longer
through her veins, when all the vivacious, vivid, sensuous charms of
living would be ended for her forever, was a thing that she could no
better bring home to her than a bird that sings in the light of the
sun could be made to know that the time would come when its little,
melodious throat would be frozen in death, and give song never more.
The tone touched him--made him think less and less of her as a dare-
devil boy, as a reckless child-soldier, and more of her as what she
was, than he had done before; he touched her almost caressingly.
"Pauvre enfant! I hope that day will be very distant from you. And yet
--how bravely you risked death for me just now!"
Cigarette, though accustomed to the lawless loves of the camp, flushed
ever so slightly at the mere caress of his hand.
"I risked nothing!" she said rapidly. "As for death--when it comes, it
comes. Every soldier carries it in his wallet, and it may jump out on
him any minute. I would rather die young than grow old. Age is nothing
else but death that is conscious."
"Where do you get your wisdom, little one?"
"Wisdom? Bah! living is learning. Some people go through life with
their eyes shut, and then grumble there is nothing to see in it!
Well--you want that Arab buried? What a fancy! Look you, then; stay by
him, since you are so fond of him, and I will go and send some men to
you with a stretcher to carry him down to the town. As for reporting,
leave that to me. I shall tell them I left you on guard. That will
square things if you are late at the barrack."
"But that will give you so much trouble, Cigarette."
"Trouble? Morbleu! Do you think I am like that silver pheasant yonder?
Lend me your horse, and I shall be in the town in ten minutes!"
She vaulted, as she spoke, into the saddle; he laid his hand on the
bridle and stopped her.
"Wait! I have not thanked you half enough, my brave little champion.
How am I to show you my gratitude?"
For a moment the bright, brown, changeful face, that could look so
fiercely scornful, so sunnily radiant, so tempestuously passionate,
and so tenderly childlike, in almost the same moment, grew warm as the
warm suns that had given their fire to her veins; she glanced at him
almost shyly, while the moonlight slept lustrously in the dark
softness of her eyes; there was an intense allurement in her in that
moment--the allurement of a woman's loveliness, bitterly as she
disdained a woman's charms. It might have told him, more plainly than
words, how best he could reward her for the shot that had saved him;
yet, though a man on whom such beguilement usually worked only too
easily and too often, it did not now touch him. He was grateful to
her, but, despite himself, he was cold to her; despite himself, the
life which that little hand that he held had taken so lightly made it
the hand of a comrade to be grasped in alliance, but never the hand of
a mistress to steal to his lips and to lie in his breast.
Her rapid and unerring instinct made her feel that keenly and
instantly; she had seen too much passion not to know when it was
absent. The warmth passed off her face, her teeth clinched; she shook
the bridle out of his hold.
"Take gratitude to the silver pheasant there! She will value fine
words; I set no count on them. I did no more for you than I have done
scores of times for my Spahis. Ask them how many I have shot with my
In another instant she was away like a sirocco; a whirlwind of dust,
that rose in the moonlight, marking her flight as she rode full gallop
"A kitten with the tigress in her," thought Cecil, as he seated
himself on a broken pile of stone to keep his vigil over the dead
Arab. It was not that he was callous to the generous nature of the
little Friend of the Flag, or that he was insensible either to the
courage that beat so dauntlessly in her pulses, or to the piquant,
picturesque grace that accompanied even her wildest actions; but she
had nothing of her sex's charm for him. He thought of her rather as a
young soldier than as a young girl. She amused him as a wayward,
bright, mischievous, audacious boy might have done; but she had no
other interest for him. He had given her little attention; a waltz, a
cigar, a passing jest, were all he had bestowed on the little lionne
of the Spahis corps; and the deepest sentiment she had ever awakened
in him was an involuntary pity--pity for this flower which blossomed
on the polluted field of war, and under the poison-dropping branches
of lawless crime. A flower, bright-hued and sun-fed, glancing with the
dews of youth now, when it had just unclosed, in all its earliest
beauty, but already soiled and tainted by the bed from which it
sprang, and doomed to be swept away with time, scentless and loveless,
down the rapid, noxious current of that broad, black stream of vice on
which it now floated so heedlessly.
Even now his thoughts drifted from her almost before the sound of the
horse's hoofs had died where he sat on a loose pile of stones, with
the lifeless limbs of the Arab at his feet.
"Who was it in my old life that she is like?" he was musing. It was
the deep-blue, dreaming haughty eyes of the Princesse that he was
bringing back to memory, not the brown, mignon face that had been so
late close to his in the light of the moon.
Meanwhile, on his good gray, Cigarette rode like a true Chasseur
herself. She was used to the saddle, and would ride a wild desert colt
without stirrup or bridle; balancing her supple form now on one foot,
now on the other, on the animal's naked back, while they flew at full
speed. Not so fantastically, but full as speedily, she dashed down
into the city, scattering all she met with right and left, till she
rode straight up to the barracks of the Chasseurs d'Afrique. At the
entrance, as she reined up, she saw the very person she wanted, and
signed him to her as carelessly as if he were a conscript instead of
that powerful officer, Francois Vireflau, captain and adjutant.
"Hola!" she cried, as she signaled him; Cigarette was privileged all
through the army. "Adjutant Vireflau, I come to tell you a good story
for your folios. There is your Corporal there--le beau Victor--has
been attacked by four drunken dogs of Arbicos, dead-drunk, and four
against one. He fought them superbly, but he would only parry, not
thrust, because he knows how strict the rules are about dealing with
the scoundrels--even when they are murdering you, parbleu! He has
behaved splendidly. I tell you so. And he was so patient with those
dogs that he would not have killed one of them. But I did; shot one
straight through the brain--a beautiful thing--and he lies on the Oran
road now. Victor would not leave him, for fear some passer-by should
be thought guilty of a murder. So I came on to tell you, and ask you
to send some men up for the jackal's body. Ah! he is a fine soldier,
that Bel-a-faire-peur of yours. Why don't you give him a step--two
steps--three steps? Diantre! It is not like France to leave him a
Vireflau listened attentively--a short, lean, black-visaged
campaigner, who yet relaxed into a grim half-smile as the vivandiere
addressed him with that air, as of a generalissimo addressing a
subordinate, which always characterized Cigarette the more strongly
the higher the grade of her companion or opponent.
"Always eloquent, pretty one!" he growled. "Are you sure he did not
begin the fray?"
"Don't I tell you the four Arabs were like four devils! They knocked
down an old colon, and Bel-a-faire-peur tried to prevent their doing
more mischief, and they set on him like so many wild-cats. He kept his
temper wonderfully; he always tries to preserve order; you can't say
so much of your riff-raff, Captain Vireflau, commonly! Here! this is
his horse. Send some men to him; and mind the thing is reported
fairly, and to his credit, to-morrow."
With which command, given as with the air of a commander-in-chief, in
its hauteur and its nonchalance, Cigarette vaulted off the charger,
flung the bridle to a soldier, and was away and out of sight before
Francois Vireflau had time to consider whether he should laugh at her
caprices, as all the army did, or resent her insolence to his dignity.
But he was a good-natured man, and, what was better, a just one; and
Cigarette had judged rightly that the tale she had told would weigh
well with him to the credit side of his Corporal, and would not reach
his Colonel in any warped version that could give pretext for any
fresh exercise of tyranny over "Bel-a-faire-peur" under the title of
"Dieu de Dieu!" thought his champion as she made her way through the
gas-lit streets. "I swore to have my vengeance on him. It is a droll
vengeance, to save his life, and plead his cause with Vireflau! No
matter! One could not look on and let a set of Arbicos kill a good
lascar of France; and the thing that is just must be said, let it go
as it will against one's grain. Public Welfare before Private Pique!"
A grand and misty generality which consoled Cigarette for an
abandonment of her sworn revenge which she felt was a weakness utterly
unworthy of her, and too much like that inconsequent weathercock, that
useless, insignificant part of creation, those objects of her supreme
derision and contempt, those frivolous trifles which she wondered the
good God had ever troubled himself to make--namely, "Les Femmes."
"Hola, Cigarette!" cried the Zouave Tata, leaning out of a little
casement of the As de Pique as she passed it. "A la bonne heure, ma
belle! Come in; we have the devil's own fun here--"
"No doubt!" retorted the Friend of the Flag. "It would be odd if the
master-fiddler would not fiddle for his own!"
Through the window, and over the sturdy shoulders, in their canvas
shirt, of the hero Tata, the room was visible--full of smoke, through
which the lights glimmered like the sun in a fog; reeking with bad
wines, crowded with laughing, bearded faces, and the battered beauty
of women revelers, while on the table, singing with a voice Mario
himself could not have rivaled for exquisite sweetness, was a slender
Zouave gesticulating with the most marvelous pantomime, while his
melodious tones rolled out the obscenest and wittiest ballad that ever
was caroled in a guinguette.
"Come in, my pretty one!" entreated Tata, stretching out his brawn
arms. "You will die of laughing if you hear Gris-Gris to-night--such a
"A pretty song, yes--for a pigsty!" said Cigarette, with a glance into
the chamber; and she shook his hand off her, and went on down the
street. A night or two before a new song from Gris-Gris, the best
tenor in the whole army, would have been paradise to her, and she
would have vaulted through the window at a single bound into the
pandemonium. Now, she did not know why, she found no charm in it.
And she went quietly home to her little straw-bed in her garret, and
curled herself up like a kitten to sleep; but for the first time in
her young life sleep did not come readily to her, and when it did
come, for the first time found a restless sigh upon her laughing
THE MISTRESS OF THE WHITE KING.
"Fighting in the Kabaila, life was well enough; but here!" thought
Cecil as, earlier awake than those of his Chambree, he stood looking
down the lengthy, narrow room where the men lay asleep along the bare
Tired as overworked cattle, and crouched or stretched like worn-out,
homeless dogs, they had never wakened as he had noiselessly harnessed
himself, and he looked at them with that interest in other lives that
had come to him through adversity; for if misfortune had given him
strength it had also given him sympathy.
They were of marvelously various types--these sleepers brought under
one roof by fates the most diverse. Close beside a huge and sinewy
brute of an Auvergnat, whose coarse, bestial features and massive
bull's head were fitter for a galley-slave than a soldier, were the
lithe, exquisite limbs and the oval, delicate face of a man from the
Valley of the Rhone. Beneath a canopy of flapping, tawny wild-beast
skins, the spoils of his own hands, was flung the torso of one of the
splendid peasants of the Sables d'Olonne; one steeped so long in blood
and wine and alcohol that he had forgotten the blue, bright waves that
broke on the western shores of his boyhood's home, save when he
muttered thirstily in his dreams of the cool sea, as he was muttering
now. Next him, curled, dog-like, with its round, black head meeting
its feet, was a wiry frame on which every muscle was traced like
network, and the skin burned black as jet under twenty years of
African sun. The midnight streets of Paris had seen its birth, the
thieves' quarter had been its nest; it had no history, it had almost
no humanity; it was a perfect machine for slaughter, no more--who had
ever tried to make it more?
Further on lay, sleeping fitfully, a boy of scarcely more than
seventeen, with rounded cheeks and fair, white brow like a child's,
whose uncovered chest was delicate as a girl's, and through whose
long, brown lashes tears in his slumber were stealing as his rosy
mouth murmured, "Mere! Mere! Pauvre mere!" He was a young conscript
taken from the glad vine-country of the Loire, and from the little
dwelling up in the rock beside the sunny, brimming river, and half-
buried under its grape leaves and coils, that was dearer to him than
is the palace to its heir. There were many others beside these; and
Cecil looked at them with those weary, speculative, meditative fancies
which, very alien to his temperament, stole on him occasionally in the
privations and loneliness of his existence here--loneliness in the
midst of numbers, the most painful of all solitude.
Life was bearable enough to him in the activity of campaigning, in the
excitement of warfare; there were times even when it yielded him
absolute enjoyment, and brought him interests more genuine and vivid
than any he had known in his former world. But, in the monotony and
the confinement of the barrack routine, his days were often
intolerable to him. Morning after morning he rose to the same weary
round of duty, the same series of petty irritations, of physical
privations, of irksome repetitions, to take a toss of black, rough
coffee, and begin the day knowing it would bring with it endless
annoyances without one gleam of hope. Rose to spend hours on the
exercise-ground in the glare of a burning sun, railed at if a
trooper's accouterments were awry, or an insubordinate scoundrel had
pawned his regulation shirt; to be incessantly witness of tyrannies
and cruelties he was powerless to prevent, and which he continually
saw undo all he had done, and render men desperate whom he had spent
months in endeavoring to make contented; to have as the only
diversions for his few instants of leisure loathsome pleasures that
disgusted the senses they were meant to indulge, and that brought him
to scenes of low debauchery from which all the old, fastidious
instincts of his delicate, luxurious taste recoiled. With such a life
as this, he often wondered regretfully why, out of the many Arab
swords that had crossed his own, none had gone straight to his heart;
why, out of the many wounds that had kept him hovering on the confines
of the grave, none had ever brought him the end and the oblivion of
Had he been subject to all the miseries and personal hardships of his
present career, but had only owned the power to command, to pardon, to
lead, and to direct, as Alan Bertie before him had done with his
Irregular Cavalry in the Indian plains,--such a thought would never
have crossed him; he was far too thorough a soldier not then to have
been not only satisfied, but happy. What made his life in the barracks
of Algiers so bitter were the impotency, the subjection, the compelled
obedience to a bidding that he knew often capricious and unjust as it
was cruel; which were so unendurable to his natural pride, yet to
which he had hitherto rendered undeviating adhesion and submission,
less for his own sake than for that of the men around him, who, he
knew, would back him in revolt to the death, and be dealt with, for
such loyalty to him, in the fashion that the vivandiere's words had
pictured with such terrible force and truth.
"Is it worth while to go on with it? Would it not be the wiser way to
draw my own saber across my throat?" he thought, as the brutalized
companionship in which his life was spent struck on him all the more
darkly because, the night before, a woman's voice and a woman's face
had recalled memories buried for twelve long years.
But, after so long a stand-up fight with fate, so long a victory over
the temptation to let himself drift out in an opium-sleep from the
world that had grown so dark to him, it was not in him to give under
now. In his own way he had found a duty to do here, though he would
have laughed at anyone who should have used the word "duty" in
connection with him. In his own way, amid these wild spirits, who
would have been blown from the guns' mouths to serve him, he had made
good the "Coeur vaillant se fait Royaume" of his House. And he was,
moreover, by this time, a French soldier at heart and in habit, in
almost all things--though the English gentleman was not dead in him
under the harness of a Chasseur d'Afrique.
This morning he roused the men of his Chambree with that kindly
gentleness which had gone so far in its novelty to attach their
liking; went through the customary routine of his past with that
exactitude and punctuality of which he was always careful to set the
example; made his breakfast off some wretched onion-soup and a roll of
black bread; rode fifty miles in the blazing heat of the African day
at the head of a score of his chasses-marais on convoy duty, bringing
in escort a long string of maize-wagons from the region of the
Kabaila, which, without such guard, might have been swooped down on
and borne off by some predatory tribe; and returned, jaded, weary,
parched with thirst, scorched through with heat, and covered with
white dust, to be kept waiting in his saddle, by his Colonel's orders,
outside the barrack for three-quarters of an hour, whether to receive
a command or a censure he was left in ignorance.
When the three-quarters had passed, he was told M. le Commandant had
gone long ago, and did not require him!
Cecil said nothing.
Yet he reeled slightly as he threw himself out of saddle; a nausea and
a giddiness had come on him. To have passed nigh an hour motionless in
his stirrups, with the skies like brass above him, while he was
already worn with riding from sunrise well-nigh to sunset, with little
to appease hunger and less to slake thirst, made him, despite himself,
stagger dizzily under a certain sense of blindness and exhaustion as
The Chasseur who had brought him the message caught his arm eagerly.
"Are you hurt, mon Caporal?"
Cecil shook his head. The speaker was one known in the regiment as
Petit Picpon, who had begun life as a gamin of Paris, and now bade
fair to make one of the most brilliant of the soldiers of Africa.
Petit Picpon had but one drawback to this military career--he was
always in insubordination; the old gamin dare-devilry was not dead in
him, and never would die; and Petit Picpon accordingly was perpetually
a hero in the field and a ragamuffin in the times of peace. Of course
he was always arrayed against authority, and now--being fond of his
galonne with that curious doglike, deathless attachment that these
natures, all reckless, wanton, destructive, and mischievous though
they may be, so commonly bestow--he muttered a terrible curse under
his fiercely curled mustaches.
"If the Black Hawk were nailed up in the sun like a kite on a barn-
door, I would drive twenty nails through his throat!"
Cecil turned rapidly on him.
"Silence, sir! or I must report you. Another speech like that, and you
shall have a turn at Beylick."
It went to his heart to rebuke the poor fellow for an outburst of
indignation which had its root in regard for himself, but he knew that
to encourage it by so much even as by an expression of gratitude for
the affection borne him, would be to sow further and deeper the
poison-seeds of that inclination to mutiny and that rebellious hatred
against their chief already only planted too strongly in the squadrons
under Chateauroy's command.
Petit Picpon looked as crestfallen as one of his fraternity could; he
knew well enough that what he had said could get him twenty blows of
the stick, if his corporal chose to give him up to judgment; but he
had too much of the Parisian in him still not to have his say, though
he should be shot for it.
"Send me to Beylick, if you like, Corporal," he said sturdily; "I was
in wrath for you--not for myself."
Cecil was infinitely more touched than he dared, for the sake of
discipline, for sake of the speaker himself, to show; but his glance
dwelt on Petit Picpon with a look that the quick, black, monkey-like
eyes of the rebel were swift to read.
"I know," he said gravely. "I do not misjudge you, but at the same
time, my name must never serve as a pretext for insubordination. Such
men as care to pleasure me will best do so in making my duty light by
their own self-control and obedience to the rules of their service."
He led his horse away, and Petit Picpon went on an errand he had been
sent to do in the streets for one of the officers. Picpon was
unusually thoughtful and sober in deportment for him, since he was
usually given to making his progress along a road, taken unobserved by
those in command over him, with hands and heels in the dexterous
somersaults of his early days.
Now he went along without any unprofessional antics, biting the tip of
a smoked-out cigar, which he had picked up off the pavement in sheer
instinct, retained from the old times when he had used to rush in, the
foremost of la queue, into the forsaken theaters of Bouffes or of
Varietes in search for those odds and ends which the departed audience
might have left behind them--one of the favorite modes of seeking a
livelihood with the Parisian night-birds.
"Dame! I will give it up then," resolved Picpon, half aloud,
Now Picpon had come forth on evil thoughts intent.
His officer--a careless and extravagant man, the richest man in the
regiment--had given him a rather small velvet bag, sealed, with
directions to take it to a certain notorious beauty of Algiers, whose
handsome Moresco eyes smiled--or, at least, he believed so--
exclusively for the time on the sender. Picpon was very quick,
intelligent, and much liked by his superiors, so that he was often
employed on errands; and the tricks he played in the execution thereof
were so adroitly done that they were never detected. Picpon had
chuckled to himself over this mission. It was but the work of an
instant for the lithe, nimble fingers of the ex-gamin to undo the bag
without touching the seal; to see that it contained a hundred
Napoleons with a note; to slip the gold into the folds of his
ceinturon; to fill up the sack with date-stones; to make it assume its
original form so that none could have imagined it had been touched,
and to proceed with it thus to the Moorish lionne's dwelling. The
negro who always opened her door would take it in; Picpon would hint
to him to be careful, as it contained some rare and rich sweetmeats,
negro nature, he well knew, would impel him to search for the bonbons;
and the bag, under his clumsy treatment, would bear plain marks of
having been tampered with, and, as the African had a most thievish
reputation, he would never be believed if he swore himself guiltless.
Voila! Here was a neat trick! If it had a drawback, it was that it was
too simple, too little risque. A child might do it.
Still--a hundred Naps! What fat geese, what flagons of brandy, what
dozens of wine, what rich soups, what tavern banquets they would
bring! Picpon had chuckled again as he arranged the little bag so
carefully, with its date-stones, and pictured the rage of the
beautiful Moor when she should discover the contents and order the
stick to her negro. Ah! that was what Picpon called fun!
To appreciate the full force of such fun, it is necessary to have also
appreciated the gamin. To understand the legitimate aspect such a
theft bore, it is necessary to have also understood the unrecordable
codes that govern the genus pratique, into which the genus gamin, when
at maturity, develops.
Picpon was quite in love with his joke; it was only a good joke in his
sight; and, indeed, men need to live as hardly as an African soldier
lives, to estimate the full temptation that gold can have when you
have come to look on a cat as very good eating, and to have nothing to
gnaw but a bit of old shoe-leather through the whole of the long hours
of a burning day of fatigue-duty; and to estimate, as well, the full
width and depth of the renunciation that made him mutter now so
valorously, "Dame! I will give it up, then!"
Picpon did not know himself as he said it. Yet he turned down into a
lonely, narrow lane, under marble walls, overtopped with fig and palm
from some fine gardens; undid the bag for the second time; whisked out
the date-stones and threw them over the wall, so that they should be
out of his reach if he repented; put back the Napoleons, closed the
little sack, ran as hard as he could scamper to his destination,
delivered his charge into the fair lady's own hands, and relieved his
feelings by a score of somersaults along the pavement as fast as ever
he could go.
"Ma cantche!" he thought, as he stood on his head, with his legs at an
acute angle in the air, in position very favored by him for moments of
reflection--he said his brain worked better upside down. "Ma cantche!
What a weakness, what a weakness! What remorse to have yielded to it!
Beneath you, Picpon--utterly beneath you. Just because that ci-devant
says such follies please him in us!"
Picpon (then in his gamin stage) had been enrolled in the Chasseurs at
the same time with the "ci-devant," as they called Bertie, and,
following his gamin nature, had exhausted all his resources of
impudence, maliciousness, and power of tormenting, on the "aristocrat"
--somewhat disappointed, however, that the utmost ingenuities of his
insolence and even his malignity never succeeded in breaking the
"aristocrat's" silence and contemptuous forbearance from all reprisal.
For the first two years the hell-on-earth--which life with a Franco-
Arab regiment seemed to Cecil--was a hundredfold embittered by the
brutalized jests and mosquito-like torments of this little odious
chimpanzee of Paris.
One day, however, it chanced that a detachment of Chasseurs, of which
Cecil was one, was cut to pieces by such an overwhelming mass of Arabs
that scarce a dozen of them could force their way through the Bedouins
with life; he was among those few, and a flight at full speed was the
sole chance of regaining their encampment. Just as he had shaken his
bridle free of the Arab's clutch, and had mowed himself a clear path
through their ranks, he caught sight of his young enemy, Picpon, on
the ground, with a lance broken off in his ribs; guarding his head,
with bleeding hands, as the horses trampled over him. To make a dash
at the boy, though to linger a moment was to risk certain death; to
send his steel through an Arab who came in his way; to lean down and
catch hold of the lad's sash; to swing him up into his saddle and
throw him across it in front of him, and to charge afresh through the
storm of musket-balls, and ride on thus burdened, was the work of ten
seconds with "Bel-a-faire-peur." And he brought the boy safe over a
stretch of six leagues in a flight for life, though the imp no more
deserved the compassion than a scorpion that has spent all its noxious
day stinging at every point of uncovered flesh would merit tenderness
from the hand it had poisoned.
When he was swung down from the saddle and laid in front of a fire,
sheltered from the bitter north wind that was then blowing cruelly,
the bright, black, ape-like eyes of the Parisian diablotin opened with
a strange gleam in them.
"Picpon s'en souviendra," he murmured.
And Picpon had kept his word; he had remembered often, he remembered
now; standing on his head and thinking of his hundred Napoleons
surrendered because thieving and lying in the regiment gave pain to
that oddly prejudiced "ci-devant." This was the sort of loyalty that
the Franco-Arabs rendered; this was the sort of influence that the
English Guardsman exercised among his Roumis.
Meantime, while Picpon made a human cone of himself, to the admiration
of the polyglot crowd of the Algerine street, Cecil himself, having
watered, fed, and littered down his tired horse, made his way to a
little cafe he commonly frequented, and spent the few sous he could
afford on an iced draught of lemon-flavored drink. Eat he could not;
overfatigue had given him a nausea for food, and the last hour,
motionless in the intense glow of the afternoon sun, had brought that
racking pain through his temples which assailed him rarely now, but
which in his first years in Africa had given him many hours of agony.
He could not stay in the cafe; it was the hour of dinner for many, and
the odors, joined with the noise, were insupportable to him.
A few doors farther in the street, which was chiefly of Jewish and
Moslem shops, there was a quaint place kept by an old Moor, who had
some of the rarest and most beautiful treasures of Algerian
workmanship in his long, dark, silent chambers. With this old man
Cecil had something of a friendship; he had protected him one day from
the mockery and outrage of some drunken Indigenes, and the Moor,
warmly grateful, was ever ready to give him a cup of coffee in the
stillness of his dwelling. Its resort was sometimes welcome to him as
the one spot, quiet and noiseless, to which he could escape out of the
continuous turmoil of street and of barrack, and he went thither now.
He found the old man sitting cross-legged behind the counter; a noble-
looking, aged Mussulman, with a long beard like white silk, with
cashmeres and broidered stuffs of peerless texture hanging above his
head, and all around him things of silver, of gold, of ivory, of
amber, of feathers, of bronze, of emeralds, of ruby, of beryl, whose
rich colors glowed through the darkness.
"No coffee, no sherbet; thanks, good father," said Cecil, in answer to
the Moor's hospitable entreaties. "Give me only license to sit in the
quiet here. I am very tired."
"Sit and be welcome, my son," said Ben Arsli. "Whom should this roof
shelter in honor, if not thee? Musjid shall bring thee the supreme
The supreme solace was a nargile, and its great bowl of rose-water was
soon set down by the little Moorish lad at Cecil's side. Whether
fatigue really weighted his eyes with slumber, or whether the soothing
sedative of the pipe had its influence, he had not sat long in the
perfect stillness of the Moor's shop before the narrow view of the
street under the awning without was lost to him, the luster and
confusion of shadowy hues swam a while before his eyes, the throbbing
pain in his temples grew duller, and he slept--the heavy, dreamless
sleep of intense exhaustion.
Ben Arsli glanced at him, and bade Musjid be very quiet. Half an hour
or more passed; none had entered the place. The grave old Moslem was
half slumbering himself, when there came a delicate odor of perfumed
laces, a delicate rustle of silk swept the floor; a lady's voice asked
the price of an ostrich-egg, superbly mounted in gold. Ben Arsli
opened his eyes--the Chasseur slept on; the newcomer was one of those
great ladies who now and then winter in Algeria.
Her carriage waited without; she was alone, making purchase of those
innumerable splendid trifles with which Algiers is rife, while she
drove through the town in the cooler hour before the sun sank into the
The Moor rose instantly, with profound salaams, before her, and began
to spread before her the richest treasures of his stock. Under plea of
the light, he remained near the entrance with her; money was dear to
him, and must not be lost, but he would make it, if he could, without
awakening the tired soldier. Marvelous caskets of mother-of-pearl;
carpets soft as down with every brilliant hue melting one within
another; coffee equipages, of inimitable metal work; silver
statuettes, exquisitely chased and wrought; feather-fans, and screens
of every beauty of device, were spread before her, and many of them
were bought by her with that unerring grace of taste and lavishness of
expenditure which were her characteristics, but which are far from
always found in unison; and throughout her survey Ben Arsli kept her
near the entrance, and Cecil had slept on, unaroused by the low tones
of their voices.
A roll of notes had passed from her hand to the Moslem's and she was
about to glide out to her carriage, when a lamp which hung at the
farther end caught her fancy. It was very singular; a mingling of
colored glass, silver, gold, and ivory being wrought in much beauty in
"Is that for sale?" she inquired.
As he answered in the affirmative, she moved up the shop, and, her
eyes being lifted to the lamp, had drawn close to Cecil before she saw
him. When she did so, she paused near in astonishment.
"Is that soldier asleep?"
"He is, madame," softly answered the old man, in his slow, studied
French. "He comes here to rest sometimes out of the noise; he was very
tired to-day, and I think ill, would he have confessed it."
"Indeed!" Her eyes fell on him with compassion; he had fallen into an
attitude of much grace and of utter exhaustion; his head was uncovered
and rested on one arm, so that the face was turned upward. With a
woman's rapid, comprehensive glance, she saw that dark shadow, like a
bruise, under his closed, aching eyes; she saw the weary pain upon his
forehead; she saw the whiteness of his hands, the slenderness of his
wrists, the softness of his hair; she saw, as she had seen before,
that whatever he might be now, in some past time he had been a man of
gentle blood, of courtly bearing.
"He is a Chasseur d'Afrique?" she asked the Moslem.
"Yes, madame. I think--he must have been something very different some
She did not answer; she stood with her thoughtful eyes gazing on the
"He saved me once, madame, at much risk to himself, from the savagery
of some Turcos," the old man went on. "Of course, he is always welcome
under my roof. The companionship he has must be bitter to him, I
fancy; they do say he would have had his officer's grade, and the
cross, too, long before now, if it were not for his Colonel's hatred."
"Ah! I have seen him before now; he carves in ivory. I suppose he has
a good side for those things with you?"
The Moor looked up in amazement.
"In ivory, madame?--he? Allah--il-Allah! I never heard of it. It is
"Very strange. Doubtless you would have given him a good price for
"Surely I would; any price he should have wished. Do I not owe him my
At that moment little Musjid let fall a valuable coffee-tray, inlaid
with amber; his master, with muttered apology, hastened to the scene
of the accident; the noise startled Cecil, and his eyes unclosed to
all the dreamy, fantastic colors of the place, and met those bent on
him in musing pity--saw that lustrous, haughty, delicate head bending
slightly down through the many-colored shadows.
He thought he was dreaming, yet on instinct he rose, staggering
slightly, for sharp pain was still darting through his head and
"Madame! Pardon me! Was I sleeping?"
"You were, and rest again. You look ill," she said gently, and there
was, for a moment, less of that accent in her voice, which the night
before had marked so distinctly, so pointedly, the line of demarcation
between a Princess of Spain and a soldier of Africa.
"I thank you; I ail nothing."
He had no sense that he did, in the presence of that face which had
the beauty of his old life; under the charm of that voice which had
the music of his buried years.
"I fear that is scarcely true!" she answered him. "You look in pain;
though as a soldier, perhaps, you will not own it?"
"A headache from the sun--no more, madame."
He was careful not again to forget the social gulf which yawned
"That is quite bad enough! Your service must be severe?"
"In Africa, Milady, one cannot expect indulgence."
"I suppose not. You have served long?"
"Twelve years, madame."
"And your name?"
"Louis Victor." She fancied there was a slight abruptness in the
reply, as though he were about to add some other name, and checked
She entered it in the little book from which she had taken her
"I may be able to serve you," she said, as she wrote. "I will speak of
you to the Marshal; and when I return to Paris, I may have an
opportunity to bring your name before the Emperor. He is as rapid as
his uncle to reward military merit; but he has not his uncle's
opportunities for personal observation of his soldiers."
The color flushed his forehead.
"You do me much honor," he said rapidly, "but if you would gratify me,
madame, do not seek to do anything of the kind."
"And why? Do you not even desire the cross?"
"I desire nothing, except to be forgotten."
"You seek what others dread then?"
"It may be so. At any rate, if you would serve me, madame, never say
what can bring me into notice."
She regarded him with much surprise, with some slight sense of
annoyance; she had bent far in tendering her influence at the French
court to a private soldier, and his rejection of it seemed as
ungracious as it was inexplicable.
At that moment the Moor joined them.
"Milady has told me, M. Victor, that you are a first-rate carver of
ivories. How is it that you have never let me benefit by your art?"
"My things are not worth a sou," muttered Cecil hurriedly.
"You do them great injustice, and yourself also," said the grande
dame, more coldly than she had before spoken. "Your carvings are
singularly perfect, and should bring you considerable returns."
"Why have you never shown them to me at least?" pursued Ben Arsli--
"why not have given me my option?"
The blood flushed Cecil's face again; he turned to the Princess.
"I withheld them, madame, not because he would have underpriced, but
overpriced them. He rates a trifling act of mine, of long ago, so
She bent her head in silence; yet a more graceful comprehension of his
motive she could not have given than her glance alone gave.
Ben Arsli stroked his great beard; more moved than his Moslem dignity
"Always so!" he muttered, "always so! My son, in some life before
this, was not generosity your ruin?"
"Milady was about to purchase the lamp?" asked Cecil, avoiding the
question. "Her Highness will not find anything like it in all
The lamp was taken down, and the conversation turned from himself.
"May I bear it to your carriage, madame?" he asked, as she moved to
leave, having made it her own, while her footman carried out the
smaller articles she had bought to the equipage. She bowed in silence;
she was very exclusive, she was not wholly satisfied with herself for
having conversed thus with a Chasseur d'Afrique in a Moor's bazaar.
Still, she vaguely felt pity for this man; she equally vaguely desired
to serve him.
"Wait, M. Victor!" she said, as he closed the door of her carriage. "I
accepted your chessmen last night, but you are very certain that it is
impossible I can retain them on such terms."
A shadow darkened his face.
"Let your dogs break them then, madame. They shall not come back to
"You mistake--I did not mean that I would send them back. I simply
desire to offer you some equivalent for them. There must be something
that you wish for?--something which would be acceptable to you in the
life you lead?"
"I have already named the only thing I desire."
He had been solicitous to remember and sustain the enormous difference
in their social degrees; but at the offer of her gifts, of her
patronage, of her recompense, the pride of his old life rose up to
meet her own.
"To be forgotten? A sad wish! Nay, surely life in a regiment of Africa
cannot be so cloudless that it can create in you no other?"
"It is not. I have another."
"Then tell it to me; it shall be gratified."