Part 3 out of 4
expect that my plans would be spoiled on the eve of success by
the intrusion of half the garrison from Auch.'
'Oh, ho!' the Captain said softly--in a very different tone, and
with a very different face. 'So you are the gentleman I heard of
'Very likely,' I said drily. 'But I am from Paris, not from
'To be sure,' he answered thoughtfully. 'Eh, Lieutenant?'
'Yes, M. le Capitaine, no doubt,' the inferior replied. And they
both looked at one another, and then at me, in a way I did not
'I think,' said I, to clinch the matter, 'that you have made a
mistake, Captain; or the Commandant has. And it occurs to me
that the Cardinal will not be best pleased.'
'I hold the King's commission,' he answered rather stiffly.
'To be sure,' I replied. 'But, you see, the Cardinal--'
'Ay, but the Cardinal--' he rejoined quickly; and then he stopped
and shrugged his shoulders. And they both looked at me.
'Well?' I said.
'The King,' he answered slowly.
'Tut-tut!' I exclaimed, spreading out my hands. 'The Cardinal.
Let us stick to him. You were saying?'
'Well, the Cardinal, you see--' And then again, after the same
words, he stopped--stopped abruptly, and shrugged his shoulders.
I began to suspect something.
'If you have anything to say against Monseigneur,' I answered,
watching him narrowly, 'say it. But take a word of advice.
Don't let it go beyond the door of this room, my friend, and it
will do you no harm.'
'Neither here nor outside,' he retorted, looking for a moment at
his comrade. 'Only I hold the King's commission. That is all,
and, I think, enough.'
'Well--for the rest, will you throw a main?' he answered
evasively. 'Good! Lieutenant, find a glass, and the gentleman a
seat. And here, for my part, I will give you a toast The
I drank it, and sat down to play with him; I had not heard the
music of the dice for a month, and the temptation was
irresistible. But I was not satisfied. I called the mains and
won his crowns--he was a mere baby at the game--but half my mind
was elsewhere. There was something here that I did not
understand; some influence at work on which I had not counted;
something moving under the surface as unintelligible to me as the
soldiers' presence. Had the Captain repudiated my commission
altogether, and put me to the door or sent me to the guard-house,
I could have followed that. But these dubious hints, this
passive resistance, puzzled me. Had they news from Paris, I
wondered? Was the King dead? Or the Cardinal ill? I asked
them, but they said no, no, no to all, and gave me guarded
answers. And midnight found us still playing; and still fencing.
Sweep the room, Monsieur? And remove this medley? But M. le
'The Captain is in the village,' I replied Sternly. 'And do you
move. Move, man, and the thing will be done while you are
talking about it. Set the door into the garden open--so.'
'Certainly, it is a fine morning. And the tobacco of M. le
Lieutenant--But M. le Capitaine did not--'
'Give orders? Well, I give them,' I answered. 'First of all,
remove these beds. And bustle, man, bustle, or I will find
something to quicken you!'
In a moment--'And M. le Capitaine's riding-boots?'
'Place them in the passage,' I replied.
'Oh! in the passage?' He paused, looking at them in doubt.
'Yes, booby; in the passage.'
'And the cloaks, Monsieur?'
'There is a bush handy outside the window. Let them air.'
'Ohe, the bush? Well, to be sure they are damp. But--yes, yes,
Monsieur, it is done. And the bolsters?'
'There also,' I said harshly. 'Throw them out. Faugh! The
place reeks of leather. Now, a clean hearth. And set the table
before the open door, so that we may see the garden--so. And
tell the cook that we dine at eleven, and that Madame and
Mademoiselle will descend.'
'Ohe! But M. le Capitaine ordered the dinner for half-past
'It must be advanced, then; and, mark you, my friend, if it is
not ready when Madame comes down, you will suffer, and the cook
When he was gone on his errand, I looked round. What else was
lacking? The sun shone cheerily on the polished floor; the air,
freshened by the rain which had fallen in the night, entered
freely through the open doorway. A few bees lingering with the
summer hummed outside. The fire crackled bravely; an old hound,
blind and past work, lay warming its hide on the hearth. I could
think of nothing more, and I stood and stood and watched the man
set out the table and spread the cloth.
'For how many, Monsieur?' he asked in a scared tone.
'For five,' I answered; and I could not help smiling at myself.
For what would Zaton's say could it see Berault turned housewife?
There was a white glazed cup, an old-fashioned piece of the
second Henry's time, standing on a shelf. I took it down and put
some late flowers in it, and set it in the middle of the table,
and stood off myself to look at it. But a moment later, thinking
I heard them coming, I hurried it away in a kind of panic,
feeling on a sudden ashamed of the thing. The alarm proved to be
false, however; and then again, taking another turn, I set the
piece back. I had done nothing so foolish for--for more years
than I like to count.
But when Madame and Mademoiselle came down, they had eyes neither
for the flowers nor the room. They had heard that the Captain
was out beating the village and the woods for the fugitive, and
where I had looked for a comedy I found a tragedy. Madame's face
was so red with weeping that all her beauty was gone. She
started and shook at the slightest sound, and, unable to find any
words to answer my greeting, could only sink into a chair and sit
Mademoiselle was in a mood scarcely more cheerful. She did not
weep, but her manner was hard and fierce. She spoke absently,
and answered fretfully. Her eyes glittered, and she had the air
of straining her ears continually to catch some dreaded sound.
'There is no news, Monsieur?' she said as she took her seat.
And she shot a swift look at me.
'They are searching the village?'
'I believe so.'
'Where is Clon?' This in a lower voice, and with a kind of
shrinking in her face.
I shook my head. 'I believe that they have him confined
somewhere. And Louis, too,' I said. 'But I have not seen either
'And where are--I thought these people would be here,' she
muttered. And she glanced askance at the two vacant places. The
servant had brought in the meal.
'They will be here presently,' I said coolly. Let us make the
most of the time. A little wine and food will do Madame good.'
She smiled rather sadly.
'I think that we have changed places,' she said. 'And that you
have turned host and we guests.'
'Let it be so,' I said cheerfully. 'I recommend some of this
ragout. Come, Mademoiselle, fasting can aid no one. A full meal
has saved many a man's life.'
It was clumsily said, perhaps; for she shuddered and looked at me
with a ghastly smile. But she persuaded her sister to take
something; and she took something on her own plate and raised her
fork to her lips. But in a moment she laid it down again.
'I cannot,' she murmured. 'I cannot swallow. Oh, my God, at
this moment they may be taking him.'
I thought that she was about to burst into a passion of tears,
and I repented that I had induced her to descend. But her self-
control was not yet exhausted. By an effort, painful to see, she
recovered her composure. She took up her fork, and ate a few
mouthfuls. Then she looked at me with a fierce under-look.
'I want to see Clon,' she whispered feverishly. The man who
waited on us had left the room.
'He knows?' I said.
She nodded, her beautiful face strangely disfigured. Her closed
teeth showed between her lips. Two red spots burned in her white
cheeks, and she breathed quickly. I felt, as I looked at her, a
sudden pain at my heart, and a shuddering fear, such as a man,
awaking to find himself falling over a precipice, might feel.
How these women loved the man!
For a moment I could not speak. When I found my voice it sounded
dry and husky.
'He is a safe confidant,' I muttered. 'He can neither read nor
'No, but--' and then her face became fixed. 'They are coming,'
she whispered. 'Hush!' She rose stiffly, and stood supporting
herself by the table. 'Have they--have they--found him?' she
muttered. The woman by her side wept on, unconscious of what was
I heard the Captain stumble far down the passage, and swear
loudly; and I touched Mademoiselle's hand.
'They have not!' I whispered. 'All is well, Mademoiselle.
Pray, pray calm yourself. Sit down and meet them as if nothing
were the matter. And your sister! Madame, Madame,' I cried,
almost harshly, 'compose yourself. Remember that you have a part
My appeal did something. Madame stifled her sobs. Mademoiselle
drew a deep breath and sat down; and though she was still pale
and still trembled, the worst was past.
And only just in time. The door flew open with a crash. The
Captain stumbled into the room, swearing afresh.
'SACRE NOM DU DIABLE!' he cried, his face crimson with rage.
'What fool placed these things here? My boots? My--'
His jaw fell. He stopped on the word, stricken silent by the new
aspect of the room, by the sight of the little party at the
table, by all the changes I had worked.
'SAINT SIEGE!' he muttered. 'What is this?' The Lieutenant's
grizzled face peering over his shoulder completed the picture.
'You are rather late, M. le Capitaine,' I said cheerfully.
'Madame's hour is eleven. But, come here are your seats waiting
'MILLE TONNERRES!' he muttered, advancing into the room, and
glaring at us.
'I am afraid that the ragout is cold,' I continued, peering into
the dish and affecting to see nothing. 'The soup, however, has
been kept hot by the fire. But I think that you do not see
He opened his mouth to swear, but for the moment he thought
better of it.
'Who--who put my boots in the passage?' he asked, his voice
thick with rage. He did not bow to the ladies, or take any
notice of their presence.
'One of the men, I suppose,' I said indifferently. 'Is anything
He glared at me. Then his cloak, spread outside, caught his eye.
He strode through the door, saw his holsters lying on the grass,
and other things strewn about. He came back.
'Whose monkey game is this?' he snarled, and his face was very
ugly. 'Who is at the bottom of this? Speak, sir, or I--'
'Tut-tut,--the ladies!' I said. 'You forget yourself,
'Forget myself?' he hissed, and this time he did not check his
oath. 'Don't talk to me of the ladies! Madame? Bah! Do you
think, fool, that we are put into rebel's houses to how and smile
and take dancing lessons?'
'In this case a lesson in politeness were more to the point,
Monsieur,' I said sternly. And I rose.
'Was it by your orders that this was done?' he retorted, his
brow black with passion. Answer, will you?'
'It was!' I replied outright.
'Then take that!' he cried, dashing his hat violently in my
face, 'and come outside.'
'With pleasure, Monsieur,' I answered, bowing; 'in one moment.
Permit me to find my sword. I think that it is in the passage.'
I went thither to get it.
When I returned, I found that the two men were waiting for me in
the garden, while the ladies had risen from the table, and were
standing near it with blanched faces.
'You had better take your sister upstairs, Mademoiselle,' I said
gently, pausing a moment beside them. 'Have no fear. All will
But what is it?' she answered, looking troubled. 'It was so
sudden. I am--I did not understand. You quarrelled so quickly.'
'It is very simple,' I answered, smiling. 'M. le Capitaine
insulted you yesterday; he will pay for it to-day. That is all.
Or, not quite all,' I continued, dropping my voice and speaking
in a different tone. 'His removal may help you, Mademoiselle.
Do you understand? I think that there will be no more searching
to-day.' She uttered an exclamation, grasping my arm and peering
into my face.
'You will kill him?' she muttered.
'Why not?' I said.
She caught her breath, and stood with one hand clasped to her
bosom, gazing at me with parted lips, the blood mounting to her
checks. Gradually the flush melted into a fierce smile.
'Yes, yes, why not?' she repeated between her teeth. 'Why not?'
She had her hand on my arm, and I felt her fingers tighten until
I could have winced. 'Why not? So you planned this--for us,
'But can you?'
'Safely,' I said; then, muttering to her to take her sister
upstairs, I turned towards the garden. My foot was already on
the threshold, and I was composing my face to meet the enemy,
when I heard a movement behind me. The next moment her hand was
on my arm.
'Wait! Wait a moment! Come back!' she panted. I turned. The
smile and flush had vanished; her face was pale. 'No!' she said
abruptly. 'I was wrong! I, will not have it. I will have no
part in it! You planned it last night, M. de Barthe. It is
'Mademoiselle!' I exclaimed, wondering. 'Murder? Why? It is a
'It is murder,' she answered persistently. 'You planned it last
night. You said so.'
'But I risk my own life,' I replied sharply.
'Nevertheless--I will have no part in it,' she answered more
faintly. She was trembling with agitation. Her eyes avoided
'On my shoulders be it then!' I replied stoutly. 'It is too
late, Mademoiselle, to go back. They are waiting for me. Only,
before I go, let me beg of you to retire.'
And I turned from her, and went out, wondering and thinking.
First, that women were strange things. Secondly--MURDER? Merely
because I had planned the duel and provoked the quarrel! Never
had I heard anything so preposterous. Grant it, and dub every
man who kept his honour with his hands a Cain--and a good many
branded faces would be seen in some streets. I laughed at the
fancy, as I strode down the garden walk.
And yet, perhaps, I was going to do a foolish thing. The
Lieutenant would still be here: a hard-bitten man, of stiffer
stuff than his Captain. And the troopers. What if, when I had
killed their leader, they made the place too hot for me,
Monseigneur's commission notwithstanding? I should look silly,
indeed, if on the eve of success I were driven from the place by
a parcel of jack-boots.
I liked the thought so little that I hesitated. Yet it seemed
too late to retreat. The Captain and the Lieutenant were waiting
for me in a little open space fifty yards from the house, where a
narrower path crossed the broad walk, down which I had first seen
Mademoiselle and her sister pacing. The Captain had removed his
doublet, and stood in his shirt leaning against the sundial, his
head bare and his sinewy throat uncovered. He had drawn his
rapier and stood pricking the ground impatiently. I marked his
strong and nervous frame and his sanguine air: and twenty years
earlier the sight might have damped me. But no thought of the
kind entered my head now, and though I felt with each moment
greater reluctance to engage, doubt of the issue had no place in
I made ready slowly, and would gladly, to gain time, have found
some fault with the place. But the sun was sufficiently high to
give no advantage to either. The ground was good, the spot well
chosen. I could find no excuse to put off the man, and I was
about to salute him and fall to work when a thought crossed my
'One moment!' I said. 'Supposing I kill you, M. le Capitaine,
what becomes of your errand here?'
'Don't trouble yourself;' he answered with a sneer he had misread
my slowness and hesitation. 'It will not happen, Monsieur. And
in any case the thought need not harass you. I have a
'Yes, but what of my mission?' I replied bluntly. 'I have no
'You should have thought of that before you interfered with my
boots,' he retorted with contempt.
'True,' I said overlooking his manner. 'But better late than
never. I am not sure, now I think of it, that my duty to
Monseigneur will let me fight.'
'You will swallow the blow?' he cried, spitting on the ground
offensively. 'DIABLE!' And the Lieutenant, standing on one side
with his hands behind him and his shoulders squared, laughed
'I have not made up my mind,' I answered irresolutely.
'Well, NOM DE DIEU! make it up,' the Captain replied, with an
ugly sneer. He took a swaggering step this way and that, playing
his weapon. 'I am afraid, Lieutenant, that there will be no
sport to-day,' he continued in a loud aside. 'Our cock has but a
'Well, I said coolly,'I do not know what to do. Certainly it is
a fine day, and a fair piece of ground. And the sun stands well.
But I have not much to gain by killing you, M. le Capitaine, and
it might get me into an awkward fix. On the other hand, it would
not hurt me to let you go.'
'Indeed!' he said contemptuously, looking at me as I should look
at a lackey.
'No!' I replied. 'For if you were to say that you had struck
Gil de Berault and left the ground with a whole skin, no one
would believe you.'
'Gil de Berault!' he exclaimed frowning.
'Yes, Monsieur,' I replied suavely. 'At your service. You did
not know my name?'
'I thought that your name was De Barthe,' he said. His voice
sounded queerly; and he waited for the answer with parted lips,
and a shadow in his eyes which I had seen in men's eyes before.
'No,' I said; 'that was my mother's name. I took it for this
His florid cheek lost a shade of its colour, and he bit his lips
as he glanced at the Lieutenant, trouble in his eyes. I had seen
these signs before, and knew them, and I might have cried
'Chicken-heart!' in my turn; but I had not made a way of escape
for him--before I declared myself--for nothing, and I held to my
'I think you will allow now,' I said grimly, 'that it will not
harm me even if I put up with a blow!'
'M. de Berault's courage is known,' he muttered.
'And with reason,' I said. 'That being so suppose that we say
this day three months, M. le Capitaine? The postponement to be
for my convenience.'
He caught the Lieutenant's eye and looked down sullenly, the
conflict in his mind as plain as daylight. He had only to insist
that I must fight; and if by luck or skill he could master me his
fame as a duellist would run, like a ripple over water, through
every garrison town in France and make him a name even in Paris.
On the other side were the imminent peril of death, the gleam of
cold steel already in fancy at his breast, the loss of life and
sunshine, and the possibility of a retreat with honour, if
without glory. I read his face, and knew before he spoke what he
'It appears to me that the burden is with you,' he said huskily;
'but for my part I am satisfied.'
'Very well,' I said, 'I take the burden. Permit me to apologise
for having caused you to strip unnecessarily. Fortunately the
sun is shining.'
'Yes,' he said gloomily. And he took his clothes from the
sundial and began to put them on. He had expressed himself
satisfied, but I knew that he was feeling very ill-satisfied,
indeed, with himself; and I was not surprised when he presently
said abruptly and almost rudely, 'There is one thing that I think
we must settle here.'
'Yes?' I said. 'What is that?'
'Our positions,' he blurted out, 'Or we shall cross one another
again within the hour.'
'Umph! I am not quite sure that I understand,' I said.
'That is precisely what I don't do--understand!' he retorted, in
a tone of surly triumph. 'Before I came on this duty, I was told
that there was a gentleman here, bearing sealed orders from the
Cardinal to arrest M. de Cocheforet; and I was instructed to
avoid collision with him so far as might be possible. At first I
took you for the gentleman. But the plague take me if I
understand the matter now.'
'Why not?' I said coldly.
'Because--well, the question is in a nutshell!' he answered
impetuously. 'Are you here on behalf of Madame de Cocheforet, to
shield her husband? Or are you here to arrest him? That is what
I do not understand, M. de Berault.'
'If you mean, am I the Cardinal's agent--I am!' I answered
'To arrest M. de Cocheforet?'
'To arrest M. de Cocheforet.'
'Well--you surprise me,' he said.
Only that; but he spoke so drily that I felt the blood rush to my
'Take care, Monsieur,' I said severely. 'Do not presume too far
on the inconvenience to which your death might put me.'
He shrugged his shoulders.
'No offence,' he said. 'But you do not seem, M. de Berault, to
comprehend the difficulty. If we do not settle things now, we
shall be bickering twenty times a day.'
'Well, what do you want?' I asked impatiently,
'Simply to know how you are going to proceed. So that our plans
may not clash.'
'But surely, M. le Capitaine, that is my affair,' I said.
'The clashing?' he answered bitterly. Then he waved aside my
wrath 'Pardon,' he said, 'the point is simply this. How do you
propose to find him if he is here?'
'That again is my affair,' I answered.
He threw up his hands in despair; but in a moment his place was
taken by an unexpected disputant.
The Lieutenant, who had stood by all the time, listening and
tugging at his grey moustache, suddenly spoke.
Look here, M. de Berault,' he said, confronting me roughly, 'I do
not fight duels. I am from the ranks. I proved my courage at
Montauban in '21, and my honour is good enough to take care of
itself. So I say what I like, and I ask you plainly what M. le
Capitaine doubtless has in his mind, but does not ask: Are you
running with the hare, and hunting with the hounds in this
matter? In other words, have you thrown up Monseigneur's
commission in all but name, and become Madame's ally; or--it is
the only other alternative--are you getting at the man through
'You villain!' I cried, glaring at him in such a rage and fury
that I could scarcely get the words out. This was plain speaking
with a vengeance! How dare you? How dare you say that I am
false to the hand that pays me?'
I thought that he would blench, but he did not. He stood up
stiff as a poker.
'I do not say; I ask!' he replied, facing me squarely, and
slapping his fist into his open hand to drive home his words the
better. 'I ask you whether you are playing the traitor to the
Cardinal, or to these two women? It is a simple question.'
I fairly choked. 'You impudent scoundrel!' I said.
'Steady, steady!' he replied. 'Pitch sticks where it belongs,
and nowhere else. But that is enough. I see which it is, M. le
Capitaine; this way a moment, by your leave.'
And in a very cavalier fashion he took his officer by the arm,
and drew him into a sidewalk, leaving me to stand in the sun,
bursting with anger and spleen. The gutter-bred rascal! That
such a man should insult me, and with impunity! In Paris, I
might have made him fight, but here it was impossible.
I was still foaming with rage when they returned.
'We have come to a determination,' the Lieutenant said, tugging
his grey moustachios, and standing like a ramrod. 'We shall
leave you the house and Madame, and you can take your own line to
find the man, for ourselves, we shall draw off our men to the
village, and we shall take our line. That is all, M. le
Capitaine, is it not?'
'I think so,' the Captain muttered, looking anywhere but at me.
'Then we bid you good-day, Monsieur,' the Lieutenant added, and
in a moment he turned his companion round, and the two retired up
the walk to the house, leaving me to look after them in a black
fit of rage and incredulity.
At the first flush, there was something so offensive in the
manner of their going that anger had the upper hand. I thought
of the Lieutenant's words, and I cursed him to hell with a
sickening consciousness that I should not forget them in a hurry.
'Was I playing the traitor to the Cardinal or to these women--
which?' MON DIEU! if ever question--but there, some day I would
punish him. And the Captain? I could put an end to his
amusement, at any rate; and I would. Doubtless among the country
bucks of Auch he lorded it as a chief provincial bully, but I
would cut his comb for him some fine morning behind the barracks.
And then as I grew cooler I began to wonder why they were going,
and what they were going to do. They might be already on the
track, or have the information they required under hand; in that
case I could understand the movement. But if they were still
searching vaguely, uncertain whether their quarry were in the
neighbourhood or not, and uncertain how long they might have to
stay, it seemed incredible that soldiers should move from good
quarters to bad without motive.
I wandered down the garden, thinking sullenly of this, and
pettishly cutting off the heads of the flowers with my sheathed
sword. After all, if they found and arrested the man, what then?
I should have to make my peace with the Cardinal as I best might.
He would have gained his point, but not through me, and I should
have to look to myself. On the other hand, if I anticipated
them--and, as a fact, I believed that I could lay my hand on the
fugitive within a few hours--there would come a time when I must
A little while back that had not seemed so difficult a thing.
From the day of our first meeting--and in a higher degree since
that afternoon when she had lashed me with her scorn-my views of
her, and my feelings towards her, had been strangely made up of
antagonism and sympathy; of repulsion, because in her past and
present she was so different from me; of yearning because she was
a woman and friendless. Later I had duped her and bought her
confidence by returning the jewels, and so in a measure I had
sated my vengeance; then, as a consequence, sympathy had again
got the better of me, until now I hardly knew my own mind, or
what I felt, or what I intended. I DID NOT KNOW, in fact, what I
intended. I stood there in the garden with that conviction
suddenly newborn in my mind; and then, in a moment, I heard her
step, and I turned to find her behind me.
Her face was like April, smiles breaking through her tears. As
she stood with a tall hedge of sunflowers behind her, I started
to see how beautiful she was.
'I am here in search of you, M. de Barthe,' she said, colouring
slightly, perhaps because my eyes betrayed my thought; 'to thank
you. You have not fought, and yet you have conquered. My woman
has just been with me, and she tells me that they are going.'
'Going?' I said, 'Yes, Mademoiselle, they are leaving the
She did not understand my reservation.
'What magic have you used?' she said almost gaily; it was
wonderful how hope had changed her. 'Besides, I am curious to
learn how you managed to avoid fighting.'
'After taking a blow?' I said bitterly.
'Monsieur, I did not mean that,' she said reproachfully.
But her face clouded. I saw that, viewed in this light--in
which, I suppose, she had not hitherto--the matter perplexed her
more than before.
I took a sudden resolution.
'Have you ever heard, Mademoiselle,' I said gravely, plucking off
while I spoke the dead leaves from a plant beside me, 'of a
gentleman by name De Berault? Known in Paris, I have heard, by
the sobriquet of the Black Death?'
'The duellist?' she answered, looking at me in wonder. 'Yes, I
have heard of him. He killed a young gentleman of this province
at Nancy two years back. 'It was a sad story,' she continued,
shuddering slightly, 'of a dreadful man. God keep our friends
'Amen!' I said quietly. But, in spite of myself, I could not
meet her eyes.
'Why?' she answered, quickly taking alarm at; my silence. 'What
of him, M. de Barthe? Why have you mentioned him?'
'Because he is here, Mademoiselle.'
'Here?' she exclaimed. 'At Cocheforet?'
'Yes, Mademoiselle,' I answered soberly. 'I am he.'
'You!' she cried, in a voice which pierced my heart. 'You are
M. de Berault? It is impossible!' But, glancing askance at her
--I could not face her I saw that the blood had left her cheeks.
'Yes, Mademoiselle,' I answered in a low tone. 'De Barthe was my
mother's name. When I came here, a stranger, I took it that I
might not be known; that I might again speak to a good woman, and
not see her shrink. That, and--but why trouble you with all
this?' I continued rebelling, against her silence, her turned
shoulder, her averted face. 'You asked me, Mademoiselle, how I
could take a blow and let the striker go. I have answered. It
is the one privilege M. de Berault possesses.'
'Then,' she replied almost in a whisper, 'if I were M. de
Berault, I would avail myself of it, and never fight again.'
'In that event, Mademoiselle,' I answered coldly, 'I should lose
my men friends as well as my women friends. Like Monseigneur the
Cardinal, rule by fear.'
She shuddered, either at the name or at the idea my words called
up; and, for a moment, we stood awkwardly silent. The shadow of
the sundial fell between us; the garden was still; here and there
a leaf fluttered slowly down. With each instant of that silence,
of that aversion, I felt the gulf between us growing wider, I
felt myself growing harder; I mocked at her past which was so
unlike mine; I mocked at mine, and called it fate. I was on the
point of turning from her with a bow--and with a furnace in my
breast--when she spoke.
'There is a last rose lingering there,' she said, a slight tremor
in her voice. 'I cannot reach it. Will you pluck it for me, M.
I obeyed her, my hand trembling, my face on fire. She took the
rose from me, and placed it in the bosom of her dress, And I saw
that her hand trembled too, and that her cheek was dark with
She turned without more ado, and began to walk towards the house.
'Heaven forbid that I should misjudge you a second time!' she
said in a low voice. 'And, after all, who am I, that I should
judge you at all? An hour ago I would have killed that man had I
possessed the power.'
'You repented, Mademoiselle,' I said huskily. I could scarcely
'Do you never repent?' she said.
'Yes. But too late, Mademoiselle.'
'Perhaps it is never too late,' she answered softly.
'Alas, when a man is dead--'
'You may rob a man of worse than life!' she replied with energy,
stopping me by a gesture. 'If you have never robbed a man--or a
woman--of honour! If you have never ruined boy or girl, M. de
Berault! If you have never pushed another into the pit and gone
by it yourself! If--but, for murder? Listen. You are a
Romanist, but I am a Huguenot, and have read. "Thou shall not
kill!" it is written; and the penalty, "By man shall thy blood be
shed!" But, "If you cause one of these little ones to offend, it
were better for you that a mill-stone were hanged about your
neck, and that you were cast into the depths of the sea."'
'Mademoiselle, you are merciful,' I muttered.
'I need mercy myself,' she answered, sighing. 'And I have had
few temptations. How do I know what you have suffered?'
'Or done!' I said, almost rudely.
'Where a man has not lied, nor betrayed, nor sold himself or
others,' she answered in a low tone, 'I think I can forgive all
else. I can better put up with force,' she added smiling sadly,
'than with fraud.'
Ah, Dieu! I turned away my face that she might not see how pale
it grew; that she might not guess how her words, meant in mercy,
stabbed me to the heart. And yet, then, for the first time,
while viewing in all its depth and width the gulf which separated
us, I was not hardened; I was not cast back upon myself. Her
gentleness, her pity, her humility softened me, while they
convicted me. My God, how, after this, could I do that which I
had come to do? How could I stab her in the tenderest part, how
could I inflict on her that rending pang, how could I meet her
eyes, and stand before her, a Caliban, a Judas, the vilest,
lowest thing she could conceive?
I stood, a moment, speechless and disordered; overcome by her
words, by my thoughts. I have seen a man so stand when he has
lost all at the tables. Then I turned to her; and for an instant
I thought that my tale was told already, I thought that she had
pierced my disguise. For her face was changed--stricken as with
fear. The next moment, I saw that she was not looking at me, but
beyond me; and I turned quickly and saw a servant hurrying from
the house to us. It was Louis. His eyes were staring, his hair
waved, his cheeks were flabby with dismay, He breathed as if he
had been running.
'What is it?' Mademoiselle cried, while he was still some way
off. 'Speak, man. My sister? Is she--'
'Clon,' he gasped.
The name changed her to stone.
'Clon? What of him?' she muttered.
'In the village!' Louis panted, his tongue stuttering with
terror. 'They are flogging him. They are killing him! To make
Mademoiselle grasped the sundial and leant against it, her face
colourless; and, for an instant, I thought that she was fainting.
'Tell?' I said mechanically. 'But he cannot tell. He is dumb,
'They will make him guide them,' Louis groaned, covering his ears
with his shaking hands, his face the colour of paper. 'And his
cries! Oh, Monsieur, go, go!' he continued, in a thrilling
tone. 'Save him. All through tie wood I heard his cries. It was
Mademoiselle uttered a moan of pain; and I turned to support her,
thinking each second to see her fall. But with a sudden
movement she straightened herself, and, quickly slipping by me,
with eyes that seemed to see nothing, she set off swiftly down
the walk towards the meadow gate.
I ran after her; but, taken by surprise as I was, it was only by
a great effort I reached the gate before her, and thrusting
myself in the road, barred the way.
'Let me pass!' she panted, striving to thrust me on one side.
'Out of my way, sir! I am going to the village.'
'You are not going to the village,' I said sternly. 'Go back; to
the house, Mademoiselle, and at once.'
'My servant!' she wailed. 'Let me go! Let me go! Do you think
I can rest here while they torture him? He cannot speak, and
'Go back, Mademoiselle,' I said, with decision. 'Your presence
would only make matters worse! I will go myself, and what one
man can do against many, I will! Louis, give your mistress your
arm and take her to the house. Take her to Madame.'
'But you will go?' she cried. And before I could stay her--I
swear I would have stopped her if I could--she raised my hand and
carried it to her trembling lips. 'You will go! Go and stop
them! Stop them, and Heaven reward you, Monsieur!'
I did not answer; nay, I did not once look back, as I crossed the
meadow; but I did not look forward either. Doubtless it was
grass I trod, and the wood was before me with the sun shining
aslant on it; doubtless the house rose behind me with a flame
here and there in the windows. But I went in a dream, among
shadows; with a racing pulse, in a glow from head to heel;
conscious of nothing but the touch of Mademoiselle's warm lips on
my hand, seeing neither meadow nor house, nor even the dark
fringe of wood before me, but only Mademoiselle's passionate
face. For the moment I was drunk: drunk with that to which I
had been so long a stranger, with that which a man may scorn for
years, to find it at last beyond his reach drunk with the touch
of a good woman's lips.
I passed the bridge in this state; and my feet were among the
brushwood before the heat and fervour in which I moved found on a
sudden their direction. Something began to penetrate to my
veiled senses--a hoarse inarticulate cry, now deep, now shrilling
horribly, that of itself seemed to fill the wood. It came at
intervals of half a minute or so, and made the flesh creep, it
rang so full of dumb pain, of impotent wrestling, of unspeakable
agony. I am a man and have seen things. I saw the Concini
beheaded, and Chalais ten years later--they gave him thirty-four
blows; and when I was a boy I escaped from the college and viewed
from a great distance Ravaillac torn by horses--that was in the
year ten. But the horrible cries I now heard, filled me, perhaps
because I was alone and fresh from the sight of Mademoiselle,
with loathing inexpressible. The very wood, though the sun had
not yet set, seemed to grow dark. I ran on through it, cursing,
until the hovels of the village came in sight. Again the shriek
rose, a pulsing horror, and this time I could hear the lash fall
on the sodden flesh, I could sec in fancy the dumb man,
trembling, quivering, straining against his bonds. And then, in
a moment, I was in the street, and, as the scream once more tore
the air, I dashed round the corner by the inn, and came upon
I did not look at HIM, but I saw Captain Larolle and the
Lieutenant, and a ring of troopers, and one man, bare-armed,
teasing out with his fingers the thongs of a whip. The thongs
dripped blood, and the sight fired the mine. The rage I had
suppressed when the Lieutenant bearded me earlier in the
afternoon, the passion with which Mademoiselle's distress had
filled my breast, on the instant found vent. I sprang through
the line of soldiers; and striking the man with the whip a buffet
between the shoulders, which hurled him breathless to the ground,
I turned on the leaders.
'You fiends!' I cried. 'Shame on you! The man is dumb! Dumb;
and if I had ten men with me, I would sweep you and your scum out
of the village with broomsticks. Lay on another lash,' I
continued recklessly, 'and I will see whether you or the Cardinal
be the stronger.'
The Lieutenant stared at me, his grey moustache bristling, his
eyes almost starting from his head. Some of the troopers laid
their hands on their swords, but no one moved, and only the
'MILLE DIABLES!' he swore. 'What is all this about? Are you
'Mad or sane!' I cried furiously. 'Lay on another lash, and you
shall repent it.'
For an instant there was a pause of astonishment. Then, to my
surprise, the Captain laughed--laughed loudly.
'Very heroic,' he said. 'Quite magnificent, M. Chevalier-
errant. But you see, unfortunately, you come too late.'
'Too late,' I said incredulously.
'Yes, too late,' he replied, with a mocking smile. And the
Lieutenant grinned too. 'Unfortunately, you see, the man has
just confessed. We have only been giving him an extra touch or
two, to impress his memory, and save us the trouble of lashing
him up again.'
'I don't believe it,' I said bluntly--but I felt the check, and
fell to earth. 'The man cannot speak.'
'No, but he has managed to tell us what we want; that he will
guide us to the place we are seeking,' the Captain answered
drily. 'The whip, if it cannot find a man a tongue, can find him
wits. What is more, I think that he will keep his word,' he
continued, with a hideous scowl. 'For I warn him that if he does
not, all your heroics shall not save him. He is a rebel dog, and
known to us of old; and I will flay his back to the bones, ay,
until we can see his heart beating through his ribs, but I will
have what I want--in your teeth, too, you d--d meddler.'
'Steady, steady!' I said, sobered. I saw that he was telling
the truth. 'Is he going to take you to M. de Cocheforet's
'Yes, he is!' the Captain retorted. 'Have you any objection to
that, Master Spy?'
'None,' I replied. 'Only I shall go with you. And if you live
three months, I shall kill you for that name-behind the barracks
at Auch, M. le Capitaine.'
He changed colour, but he answered me boldly enough.
'I don't know that you will go with us,' he said, with a snarl.
'That is as we please.'
'I have the Cardinal's orders,' I said sternly.
'The Cardinal?' he exclaimed, stung to fury by this repetition
of the name. 'The Cardinal be--'
But the Lieutenant laid his hand on his lips and stopped him.
'Hush!' he said. Then more quietly, 'Your pardon, M. le
Capitaine; but the least said the soonest mended. Shall I give
orders to the men to fall in?'
The Captain nodded sullenly.
The Lieutenant turned to his prisoner.
'Take him down!' he commanded in his harsh, monotonous voice.
'Throw his blouse over him, and tie his hands. And do you two,
Paul and Lebrun, guard him. Michel, bring the whip, or he may
forget how it tastes. Sergeant, choose four good men, and
dismiss the rest to their quarters.'
'Shall we need the horses?' the sergeant asked.
'I don't know,' the Captain answered peevishly. 'What does the
The Lieutenant stepped up to him.
'Listen!' he said grimly. 'Nod if you mean yes, and shake your
head if you mean no. And have a care you answer truly. Is it
more than a mile to this place?'
They had loosened the poor wretch's fastenings, and covered his
back. He stood leaning his shoulder against the wall, his mouth
still panting, the sweat running down his hollow cheeks. His
sunken eyes were closed, but a quiver now and again ran through
his frame. The Lieutenant repeated his question, and, getting no
answer, looked round for orders. The Captain met the look, and
crying savagely, 'Answer will you, you mule!' struck the half-
swooning miserable across the back with his switch. The effect
was magical. Covered, as his shoulders were, the man sprang
erect with a shriek of pain, raising his chin, and hollowing his
back; and in that attitude stood an instant with starting eyes,
gasping for breath. Then he sank back against the wall, moving
his mouth spasmodically. His face was the colour of lead.
'Diable! I think that we have gone too far with him!' the
'Bring some wine!' the Lieutenant replied. 'Quick with it!'
I looked on, burning with indignation, and in some excitement
besides. For if the man took them to the place, and they
succeeded in seizing Cocheforet, there was an end of the matter
as far as I was concerned. It was off my shoulders, and I might
leave the village when I pleased; nor was it likely--since he
would have his man, though not through me--that the Cardinal
would refuse to grant me an amnesty. On the whole, I thought
that he would prefer that things should take this course; and
assuming the issue, I began to wonder whether it would be
necessary in that event that Madame should know the truth. I had
a kind of vision of a reformed Berault, dead to play and purging
himself at a distance from Zaton's; winning, perhaps, a name in
the Italian war, and finally--but, pshaw! I was a fool.
However, be these things as they might, it was essential that I
should see the arrest made; and I waited patiently while they
revived the tortured man, and made their dispositions. These
took some time; so that the sun was down, and it was growing dusk
when we marched out, Clon going first, supported by his two
guards, the Captain and I following--abreast, and eyeing one
another suspiciously; the Lieutenant, with the sergeant and five
troopers, bringing up the rear. Clon moved slowly, moaning from
time to time; and but for the aid given him by the two men with
him, must have sunk down again and again.
He led the way out between two houses close to the inn, and
struck a narrow track, scarcely discernible, which ran behind
other houses, and then plunged into the thickest part of the
wood. A single person, traversing the covert, might have made
such a track; or pigs, or children. But it was the first idea
that occurred to us, and put us all on the alert. The Captain
carried a cocked pistol, I held my sword drawn, and kept a
watchful eye on HIM; and the deeper the dusk fell in the wood,
the more cautiously we went, until at last we came out with a
sort of jump into a wider and lighter path.
I looked up and down, and saw behind me a vista of tree-trunks,
before me a wooden bridge and an open meadow, lying cold and grey
in the twilight; and I stood in astonishment. We were in the old
path to the Chateau! I shivered at the thought that he was going
to take us there, to the house, to Mademoiselle!
The Captain also recognised the place, and swore aloud. But the
dumb man went on unheeding until he reached the wooden bridge.
There he stopped short, and looked towards the dark outline of
the house, which was just visible, one faint light twinkling
sadly in the west wing. As the Captain and I pressed up behind
him, he raised his hands and seemed to wring them towards the
'Have a care!' the Captain growled. 'Play me no tricks, or--'
He did not finish the sentence, for Clon, as if he well
understood his impatience, turned back from the bridge, and,
entering the wood to the left, began to ascend the bank of the
stream. We had not gone a hundred yards before the ground grew
rough, and the undergrowth thick; and yet through all ran a kind
of path which enabled us to advance, dark as it was now growing.
Very soon the bank on which we moved began to rise above the
water, and grew steep and rugged. We turned a shoulder, where
the stream swept round a curve, and saw we were in the mouth of a
small ravine, dark and sheer-sided. The water brawled along the
bottom, over boulders and through chasms. In front, the slope on
which we stood shaped itself into a low cliff; but halfway
between its summit and the water a ledge, or narrow terrace,
running along the face, was dimly visible.
'Ten to one, a cave!' the Captain muttered. 'It is a likely
'And an ugly one!' I replied with a sneer. 'Which one against
ten might hold for hours!'
'If the ten had no pistols--yes!' he answered viciously. 'But
you see we have. Is he going that way?'
He was. As soon as this was clear, Larolle turned to his
'Lieutenant,' he said, speaking in a low voice, though the
chafing of the stream below us covered ordinary sounds; 'what say
you? Shall we light the lanthorns, or press on while there is
still a glimmering of day?'
'On, I should say, M. le Capitaine,' the Lieutenant answered.
'Prick him in the back if he falters. I will warrant,' the brute
added with a chuckle, 'he has a tender place or two.'
The Captain gave the word and we moved forward. It was evident
now that the cliff-path was our destination. It was possible for
the eye to follow the track all the way to it, through rough
stones and brushwood; and though Clon climbed feebly, and with
many groans, two minutes saw us step on to it. It did not prove
to be, in fact, the perilous place it looked at a distance. The
ledge, grassy and terrace-like, sloped slightly downwards and
outwards, and in parts was slippery; but it was as wide as a
highway, and the fall to the water did not exceed thirty feet.
Even in such a dim light as now displayed it to us, and by
increasing the depth and unseen dangers of the gorge gave a kind
of impressiveness to our movements, a nervous woman need not have
feared to tread it, I wondered how often Mademoiselle had passed
along it with her milk-pitcher.
'I think that we have him now,' Captain Larolle muttered,
twisting his moustachios, and looking about to make his last
dispositions. 'Paul and Lebrun, see that your man makes no
noise. Sergeant, come forward with your carbine, but do not fire
without orders. Now, silence all, and close up, Lieutenant.
We advanced about a hundred paces, keeping the cliff on our left,
turned a shoulder, and saw, a few paces in front of us, a slight
hollow, a black blotch in the grey duskiness of the cliff-side.
The prisoner stopped, and, raising his bound hands, pointed to
'There?' the Captain whispered, pressing forward. 'Is it the
Clon nodded. The Captain's voice shook with excitement.
'Paul and Lebrun remain here with the prisoner,' he said, in a
low tone. 'Sergeant, come forward with me. Now, are you ready?
At the word he and the sergeant passed quickly, one on either
side of Clon and his guards. The path grew narrow here, and the
Captain passed outside. The eyes of all but one were on the
black blotch, the hollow in the cliff-side, expecting we knew not
what--a sudden shot or the rush or a desperate man; and no one
saw exactly what happened. But somehow, as the Captain passed
abreast of him, the prisoner thrust back his guards, and leaping
sideways, flung his unbound arms round Larolle's body, and in an
instant swept him, shouting, to the verge of the precipice.
It was done in a moment. By the time our startled wits and eyes
were back with them, the two were already tottering on the edge,
looking in the gloom like one dark form. The sergeant, who was
the first to find his head, levelled his carbine, but, as the
wrestlers twirled and twisted, the Captain, shrieking out oaths
and threats, the mute silent as death, it was impossible to see
which was which, and the sergeant lowered his gun again, while
the men held back nervously. The ledge sloped steeply there, the
edge was vague, already the two seemed to be wrestling in mid
air; and the mute was desperate.
That moment of hesitation was fatal. Clon's long arms were round
the other's arms, crushing them into his ribs; Clon's skull-like
face grinned hate into the other's eyes; his bony limbs curled
round him like the folds of a snake. Larolle's strength gave
'Damn you all! Why don't you come up?' he cried. And then,
'Ah! Mercy! mercy!' came in one last scream from his lips. As
the Lieutenant, taken aback before, sprang forward to his aid,
the two toppled over the edge, and in a second hurtled out of
'MON DIEU!' the Lieutenant cried; the answer was a dull splash
in the depths below. He flung up his arms. 'Water!' he said.
'Quick, men, get down. We may save him yet.'
But there was no path, and night was come, and the men's nerves
were shaken. The lanthorns had to be lit, and the way to be
retraced; by the time we reached the dark pool which lay below,
the last bubbles were gone from the surface, the last ripples had
beaten themselves out against the banks. The pool still rocked
sullenly, and the yellow light showed a man's hat floating, and
near it a glove three parts submerged. But that was all. The
mute's dying grip had known no loosening, nor his hate any fear.
I heard afterwards that when they dragged the two out next day,
his fingers were in the other's eye-sockets, his teeth in his
throat. If ever man found death sweet, it was he!
As we turned slowly from the black water, some shuddering, some
crossing themselves, the Lieutenant looked at me.
'Curse you!' he said passionately. 'I believe that you are
He deserved his fate,' I answered coldly. 'Why should I pretend
to be sorry? It was now or in three months. And for the other
poor devil's sake I am glad.'
He glared at me for a moment in speechless anger.
At last, 'I should like to have you tied up!' he said between
'I should think that you had had enough of tying up for one day!'
I retorted. 'But there,' I went on contemptuously, 'it comes of
making officers out of the canaille. Dogs love blood. The
teamster must lash something if he can no longer lash his
We were back, a sombre little procession, at the wooden bridge
when I said this. He stopped.
'Very well,' he replied, nodding viciously. 'That decides me.
Sergeant, light me this way with a lanthorn. The rest of you to
the village. Now, Master Spy,' he continued, glancing at me with
gloomy spite, 'Your road is my road. I think I know how to spoil
I shrugged my shoulders in disdain, and together, the sergeant
leading the way with the light, we crossed the dim meadow, and
passed through the gate where Mademoiselle had kissed my hand,
and up the ghostly walk between the rose bushes. I wondered
uneasily what the Lieutenant would be at, and what he intended;
but the lanthorn-light which now fell on the ground at our feet,
and now showed one of us to the other, high-lit in a frame of
blackness, discovered nothing in his grizzled face but settled
hostility. He wheeled at the end of the walk to go to the main
door, but as he did so I saw the flutter of a white skirt by the
stone seat against the house, and I stepped that way.
'Mademoiselle?' I said softly. 'Is it you?'
'Clon?' she muttered, her voice quivering. 'What of him?'
'He is past pain,' I answered gently. 'He is dead--yes, dead,
Mademoiselle, but in his own way. Take comfort.'
She stifled a sob; then before I could say more, the Lieutenant,
with his sergeant and light, were at my elbow. He saluted
Mademoiselle roughly. She looked at him with shuddering
'Are you come to flog me too, sir?' she said passionately. 'Is
it not enough that you have murdered my servant?'
'On the contrary, it was he who killed my Captain,' the
Lieutenant answered, in another tone than I had expected. 'If
your servant is dead so is my comrade.'
'Captain Larolle?' she murmured, gazing with startled eyes, not
at him but at me.
'How?' she asked.
'Clon flung the Captain and himself--into the river pool above
the bridge,' I said.
She uttered a low cry of awe and stood silent; but her lips moved
and I think that she prayed for Clon, though she was a Huguenot.
Meanwhile, I had a fright. The lanthorn, swinging in the
sergeant's hand, and throwing its smoky light now on the stone
seat, now on the rough wall above it, showed me something else.
On the seat, doubtless where Mademoiselle's hand had lain as she
sat in the dark, listening and watching and shivering, stood a
pitcher of food. Beside her, in that place, it was damning
evidence, and I trembled least the Lieutenant's eye should fall
upon it, lest the sergeant should see it; and then, in a moment,
I forgot all about it. The Lieutenant was speaking and his voice
was doom. My throat grew dry as I listened; my tongue stuck to
my mouth I tried to look at Mademoiselle, but I could not.
'It is true that the Captain is gone,' he said stiffly, 'but
others are alive, and about one of them a word with you, by your
leave, Mademoiselle. I have listened to a good deal of talk from
this fine gentleman friend of yours. He has spent the last
twenty-four hours saying "You shall!" and "You shall not!" He
came from you and took a very high tone because we laid a little
whip-lash about that dumb devil of yours. He called us brutes
and beasts, and but for him I am not sure that my friend would
not now be alive. But when he said a few minutes ago that he was
glad--glad of it, d--him!--then I fixed it in my mind that I
would be even with him. And I am going to be!'
'What do you mean?' Mademoiselle asked, wearily interrupting
him. 'If you think that you can prejudice me against this
'That is precisely what I am going to do! And a little more than
that!' he answered.
'You will be only wasting your breath!' she retorted.
'Wait! Wait, Mademoiselle---until you have heard,' he said.
'For I swear to you that if ever a black-hearted scoundrel, a
dastardly sneaking spy trod the earth, it is this fellow! And I
am going to expose him. Your own eyes and your own ears shall
persuade you. I am not particular, but I would not eat, I would
not drink, I would not sit down with him! I would rather be
beholden to the meanest trooper in my squadron than to him! Ay,
I would, so help me Heaven!'
And the Lieutenant, turning squarely on his heel, spat on the
It had come, and I saw no way of escape. The sergeant was
between us and I could not strike him. And I found no words. A
score of times I had thought with shrinking how I should reveal
my secret to Mademoiselle--what I should say, and how she would
take it; but in my mind it had been always a voluntary act, this
disclosure, it had been always I who unmasked myself and she who
listened--alone; and in this voluntariness and this privacy there
had been something which took from the shame of anticipation.
But here--here was no voluntary act on my part, no privacy,
nothing but shame. And I stood mute, convicted, speechless,
under her eyes--like the thing I was.
Yet if anything could have braced me it was Mademoiselle's voice
when she answered him.
'Go on, Monsieur,' she said calmly, 'you will have done the
'You do not believe me?' he replied. 'Then, I say, look at him!
Look at him! If ever shame--'
'Monsieur,' she said abruptly--she did not look at me, 'I am
ashamed of myself.'
'But you don't hear me,' the Lieutenant rejoined hotly. 'His
very name is not his own! He is not Barthe at all. He is
Berault, the gambler, the duellist, the bully; whom if you--'
Again she interrupted him.
'I know it,' she said coldly. 'I know it all; and if you have
nothing more to tell me, go, Monsieur. Go!' she continued in a
tone of infinite scorn. 'Be satisfied, that you have earned my
contempt as well as my abhorrence.'
He looked for a moment taken aback. Then,--
'Ay, but I have more,' he cried, his voice stubbornly triumphant.
'I forgot that you would think little of that. I forgot that a
swordsman has always the ladies' hearts---but I have more. Do
you know, too, that he is in the Cardinal's pay? Do you know
that he is here on the same errand which brings us here--to
arrest M. de Cocheforet? Do you know that while we go about the
business openly and in soldier fashion, it is his part to worm
himself into your confidence, to sneak into Madame's intimacy, to
listen at your door, to follow your footsteps, to hang on your
lips, to track you--track you until you betray yourselves and the
man? Do you know this, and that all his sympathy is a lie,
Mademoiselle? His help, so much bait to catch the secret? His
aim blood-money--blood-money? Why, MORBLEU!' the Lieutenant
continued, pointing his finger at me, and so carried away by
passion, so lifted out of himself by wrath and indignation, that
I shrank before him--'you talk, lady, of contempt and abhorrence
in the same breath with me, but what have you for him--what have
you for him--the spy, the informer, the hired traitor? And if
you doubt me, if you want evidence, look at him. Only look at
him, I say.'
And he might say it; for I stood silent still, cowering and
despairing, white with rage and hate. But Mademoiselle did not
look. She gazed straight at the Lieutenant.
'Have you done?' she said.
'Done?' he stammered; her words, her air, bringing him to earth
again. 'Done? Yes, if you believe me.'
'I do not,' she answered proudly. 'If that be all, be satisfied,
Monsieur. I do not believe you.'
'Then tell me this,' he retorted, after a moment of stunned
surprise. 'Answer me this! Why, if he was not on our side, do
you think that we let him remain here? Why did we suffer him to
stay in a suspected house, bullying us, annoying us, thwarting
us, taking your part from hour to hour?'
'He has a sword, Monsieur,' she answered with fine contempt,
'MILLE DIABLES!' he cried, snapping his fingers in a rage.
'That for his sword! It was because he held the Cardinal's
commission, I tell you, because he had equal authority with us.
Because we had no choice.'
'And that being so, Monsieur, why are you now betraying him?'
she asked. He swore at that, feeling the stroke go home.
'You must be mad!' he said, glaring at her. 'Cannot you see
that the man is what I tell you? Look at him! Look at him, I
say! Listen to him! Has he a word to say for himself?'
Still she did not look.
'It is late,' she replied coldly. 'And I am not very well. If
you have done, quite done--perhaps, you will leave me, Monsieur.'
'MON DIEU! he exclaimed, shrugging his shoulders, and grinding
his teeth in impotent rage. You are mad! I have told you the
truth, and you will not believe it. Well--on your head be it
then, Mademoiselle. I have no more to say! You will see.'
And with that, without more, fairly conquered by her staunchness,
he saluted her, gave the word to the sergeant, turned and went
down the path.
The sergeant went after him, the lanthorn swaying in his hand.
And we two were left alone. The frogs were croaking in the pool,
a bat flew round in circles; the house, the garden, all lay quiet
under the darkness, as on the night which I first came to it.
And would to Heaven I had never come that was the cry in my
heart. Would to Heaven I had never seen this woman, whose
nobleness and faith were a continual shame to me; a reproach
branding me every hour I stood in her presence with all vile and
hateful names. The man just gone, coarse, low-bred, brutal
soldier as he was, manflogger and drilling-block, had yet found
heart to feel my baseness, and words in which to denounce it.
What, then, would she say, when the truth came home to her? What
shape should I take in her eyes then? How should I be remembered
through all the years then?
Then? But now? What was she thinking now, at this moment as she
stood silent and absorbed near the stone seat, a shadowy figure
with face turned from me? Was she recalling the man's words,
fitting them to the facts and the past, adding this and that
circumstance? Was she, though she had rebuffed him in the body,
collating, now he was gone, all that he had said, and out of
these scraps piecing together the damning truth? Was she, for
all that she had said, beginning to see me as I was? The thought
tortured me. I could brook uncertainty no longer. I went nearer
to her and touched her sleeve.
'Mademoiselle,' I said in a voice which sounded hoarse and
unnatural even in my own ears, 'do you believe this of me?'
She started violently, and turned.
'Pardon, Monsieur!' she murmured, passing her hand over her
brow; 'I had forgotten that you were here. Do I believe what?'
'What that man said of me,' I muttered.
'That!' she exclaimed. And then she stood a moment gazing at me
in a strange fashion. 'Do I believe that, Monsieur? But come,
come!' she continued impetuously. 'Come, and I will show you if
I believe it. But not here.'
She turned as she spoke, and led the way on the instant into the
house through the parlour door, which stood half open. The room
inside was pitch dark, but she took me fearlessly by the hand and
led me quickly through it, and along the passage, until we came
to the cheerful lighted hall, where a great fire burned on the
hearth. All traces of the soldiers' occupation had been swept
away. But the room was empty.
She led me to the fire, and there in the full light, no longer a
shadowy creature, but red-lipped, brilliant, throbbing with life
and beauty, she stood opposite me--her eyes shining, her colour
high, her breast heaving.
'Do I believe it?' she said in a thrilling voice. 'I will tell
you. M. de Cocheforet's hiding-place is in the hut behind the
fern-stack, two furlongs beyond the village on the road to Auch.
You know now what no one else knows, he and I and Madame
excepted. You hold in your hands his life and my honour; and you
know also, M. de Berault, whether I believe that tale.'
'My God!' I cried. And I stood looking at her until something
of the horror in my eyes crept into hers, and she shuddered and
stepped back from me.
'What is it? What is it?' she whispered, clasping her hands.
And with all the colour gone suddenly from her cheeks she peered
trembling into the corners and towards the door. 'There is no
I forced myself to speak, though I was trembling all over like a
man in an ague. 'No, Mademoiselle, there is no one here,' I
muttered. 'There is no one here.' And then I let my head fall
on my breast, and I stood before her, the statue of despair. Had
she felt a grain of suspicion, a grain of doubt, my bearing must
have opened her eyes; but her mind was cast in so noble a mould
that, having once thought ill of me and been converted, she could
feel no doubt again. She must trust all in all. A little
recovered from her fright, she stood looking at me in great
wonder; and at last she had a thought--
'You are not well?' she said suddenly. 'It is your old wound,
Monsieur. Now I have it?'
'Yes, Mademoiselle,' I muttered faintly, 'it is.'
'I will call Clon!' she cried impetuously. And then, with a
sob: 'Ah! poor Clon! He is gone. But there is still Louis. I
will call him and he will get you something.'
She was gone from the room before I could stop her, and I stood
leaning against the table possessor at last of the secret which I
had come so far to win; able in a moment to open the door and go
out into the night, and make use of it--and yet the most unhappy
of men. The sweat stood on my brow; my eyes wandered round the
room; I turned towards the door, with some mad thought of flight
--of flight from her, from the house, from everything; and I had
actually taken a step towards this, when on the door, the outer
door, there came a sudden hurried knocking which jarred every
nerve in my body. I started, and stopped. I stood a moment in
the middle of the floor gazing at the door, as at a ghost. Then,
glad of action, glad of anything that might relieve the tension
of my feelings, I strode to it and pulled it sharply open.
On the threshold, his flushed face lit up by the light behind me,
stood one of the knaves whom I had brought with me to Auch. He
had been running, and panted heavily; but he had kept his wits,
and the instant I, appeared he grasped my sleeve.
'Ah! Monsieur, the very man!' he cried. 'Quick! come this
instant, lose not a moment, and you may yet be first. They have
the secret! The soldiers have found Monsieur!'
'Found him?' I echoed. 'M. de Cocheforet?'
'No; but they know the place where he lies. It was found by
accident. The Lieutenant was gathering his men when I came away.
If we are quick, we may yet be first.'
'But the place?' I said.
'I could not hear,' he answered bluntly. 'We must hang on their
skirts, and at the last moment strike in. It is the only way,
The pair of pistols I had taken from the shock-headed man lay on
a chest by the door. Without waiting for more I snatched them up
and my hat, and joined him, and in a moment we were running down
the garden. I looked back once before we passed the gate, and I
saw the light streaming out through the door which. I had left
open; and I fancied that for an instant a figure darkened the
gap. But the fancy only strengthened the one single purpose, the
iron resolve, which had taken possession of me and all my
thoughts. I must be first; I must anticipate the Lieutenant; I
must make the arrest myself. I must be first. And I ran on only
We were across the meadow and in the wood in a moment. There,
instead of keeping along the common path, I boldly singled out--
my senses seemed to be preternaturally keen--the smaller trail by
which Clon had brought us. Along this I ran unfalteringly,
avoiding logs and pitfalls as by instinct, and following all its
turns and twists, until we came to the back of the inn, and could
hear the murmur of subdued voices in the village street, the
sharp low word of command, and the clink of weapons; and could
see over and between the houses the dull glare of lanthorns and
I grasped my man's arm, and crouched down listening. When I had
heard enough, 'Where is your mate?' I said in his ear.
'With them,' he muttered.
'Then come,' I whispered rising. 'I have seen what I want. Let
But he caught me by the arm and detained me.
'You don't know the way,' he said. 'Steady, steady, Monsieur.
You go too fast. They are just moving. Let us join them, and
strike in when the time comes. We must let them guide us.'
'Fool!' I said, shaking off his hand. 'I tell you, I know where
he is! I know where they are going. Come, and we will pluck the
fruit while they are on the road to it.'
His only answer was an exclamation of surprise. At that moment
the lights began to move. The Lieutenant was starting. The moon
was not yet up, the sky was grey and cloudy; to advance where we
were was to step into a wall of blackness. But we had lost too
much already, and I did not hesitate. Bidding my companion
follow me and use his legs, I sprang through a low fence which
rose before us; then stumbling blindly over some broken ground in
the rear of the houses, I came with a fall or two to a little
watercourse with steep sides. Through this I plunged recklessly
and up the farther side, and, breathless and panting, gained the
road, beyond the village, and fifty yards in advance of the
They had only two lanthorns burning, and we were beyond the
circle of light cast by these; while the steady tramp of so many
footsteps covered the noise we made. We were in no danger of
being noticed, and in a twinkling we turned our backs, and as
fast as we could we ran down the road. Fortunately, they were
thinking more of secrecy than speed, and in a minute we had
doubled the distance between them and us. In two minutes their
lights were mere sparks shining in the gloom behind us. We lost
even the tramp of their feet. Then I began to look out and go
more slowly, peering into the shadows on either side for the
On one hand the hill rose steeply, on the other it fell away to
the stream. On neither side was close wood, or my difficulties
had been immensely increased; but scattered oak trees stood here
and there among the bracken. This helped me, and presently, on
the upper side, I came upon the dense substance of the stack
looming black against the lighter hill.
My heart beat fast, but it was no time for thought. Bidding the
man in a whisper to follow me and be ready to back me up, I
climbed the bank softly, and, with a pistol in my hand, felt my
way to the rear of the stack, thinking to find a hut there, set
against the fern, and M. Cocheforet in it. But I found no hut.
There was none; and, moreover, it was so dark now we were off the
road, that it came upon me suddenly, as I stood between the hill
and the stack, that I had undertaken a very difficult thing. The
hut behind the fern stack. But how far behind? how far from it?
The dark slope stretched above us, infinite, immeasurable
shrouded in night. To begin to climb it in search of a tiny hut,
possibly well hidden and hard to find in daylight, seemed an
endeavour as hopeless as to meet with the needle in the hay! And
now while I stood, chilled and doubting, almost despairing, the
steps of the troop in the road began to grow audible, began to
'Well, Monsieur le Capitaine?' the man beside me muttered--in
wonder why I stood. 'Which way? or they will be before us yet.'
I tried to think, to reason it out; to consider where the hut
should be; while the wind sighed through the oaks, and here and
there I could hear an acorn fall. But the thing pressed too
close on me; my thoughts would not be hurried, and at last I said
at a venture,--
'Up the hill. Straight up from the stack.'
He did not demur, and we plunged at the ascent, knee-deep in
bracken and furze, sweating at every pore with our exertions, and
hearing the troop come every moment nearer on the road below.
Doubtless they knew exactly whither to go! Forced to stop and
take breath when we had scrambled up fifty yards or so, I saw
their lanthorns shining like moving glow-worms; I could even hear
the clink of steel. For all I could tell, the hut might be down
there, and we be moving from it. But it was too late to go back
now--they were close to the fern-stack; and in despair I turned
to the hill again. A dozen steps and I stumbled. I rose and
plunged on again; again stumbled. Then I found that I was
treading level earth. And--was it water I saw before me, below
me? or some mirage of the sky?
Neither; and I gripped my fellow's arm, as he came abreast of me,
and stopped him sharply. Below us in the middle of a steep
hollow, a pit in the hill-side, a light shone out through some
aperture and quivered on the mist, like the pale lamp of a
moorland hobgoblin. It made itself visible, displaying nothing
else; a wisp of light in the bottom of a black bowl. Yet my
spirits rose with a great bound at sight of it; for I knew that I
had stumbled on the place I sought.
In the common run of things I should have weighed my next step
carefully, and gone about it slowly. But here was no place for
thought, nor room for delay; and I slid down the side of the
hollow on the instant, and the moment my feet touched the bottom
sprang to the door of the little hut, whence the light issued. A
stone turned under my feet in my rush, and I fell on my knees on
the threshold; but the fall only brought my face to a level with
the face of the man who lay inside on a bed of fern. He had been
reading. Startled by the sound I made, he dropped his book, and
in a flash stretched out his hand for a weapon. But the muzzle
of my pistol covered him, he was not in a posture from which he
could spring, and at a sharp word from me he dropped his hand;
the tigerish glare which flickered for an instant in his eyes
gave place to a languid smile, and he shrugged his shoulders.
'EH BIEN!,' he said with marvellous composure. 'Taken at last!
Well, I was tired of it.'
'You are my prisoner, M. de Cocheforet,' I answered. 'Move a
hand and I kill you. But you have still a choice.'
'Truly?' he said, raising his eyebrows.
'Yes. My orders are to take you to Paris alive or dead. Give me
your parole that you will make no attempt to escape, and you
shall go thither at your ease and as a gentleman. Refuse, and I
shall disarm and bind you, and you go as a prisoner.'
'What force have you?' he asked curtly. He still lay on his
elbow, his cloak covering him, the little Marot in which he had
been reading close to his hand. But his quick black eyes, which
looked the keener for the pallor and thinness of his face, roved
ceaselessly over me, probed the darkness behind me, took note of
'Enough to compel you, Monsieur,' I replied sternly; 'but that is
not all. There are thirty dragoons coming up the hill to secure
you, and they will make you no such offer. Surrender to me
before they come, and give me your parole, and I will do all I
can for your comfort. Delay, and you must fall into their hands.
There can be no escape.'
'You will take my word?' he said slowly.
'Give it, and you may keep your pistols, M. de Cocheforet.'
'Tell me at least that you are not alone.'
'I am not alone.'
'Then I give it,' he said with a sigh. 'And for Heaven's sake
get me something to eat and a bed. I am tired of this pig-sty.
MON DIEU! it is a fortnight since I slept between sheets.'
'You shall sleep to-night in your own house, if you please,' I
answered hurriedly. 'But here they come. Be good enough to stay
where you are for a moment, and I will meet them.'
I stepped out into the darkness, just as the Lieutenant, after
posting his men round the hollow, slid down with a couple of
sergeants to make the arrest. The place round the open door was
pitch-dark. He had not espied my man, who had lodged himself in
the deepest shadow of the hut, and when he saw me come out across
the light he took me for Cocheforet. In a twinkling he thrust a
pistol into my face, and cried triumphantly,--'You are my
prisoner!' while one of the sergeants raised a lanthorn and
threw its light into my eyes.
'What folly is this?' I said savagely.
The Lieutenant's jaw fell, and he stood for a moment paralysed
with astonishment. Less than an hour before he had left me at
the Chateau. Thence he had come hither with the briefest delay;
yet he found me here before him. He swore fearfully, his face
black, his moustachios stiff with rage.
'What is this? What is it?' he cried. 'Where is the man?'
'What man?' I said.
'This Cocheforet!' he roared, carried away by his passion.
'Don't lie to me! He is here, and I will have him!'
'You are too late,' I said, watching him heedfully. 'M. de
Cocheforet is here, but he has already surrendered to me, and is
'Certainly!' I answered, facing the man with all the harshness I
could muster. 'I have arrested him by virtue of the Cardinal's
commission granted to me. And by virtue of the same I shall keep
'You will keep him?'
He stared at me for a moment, utterly aghast; the picture of
defeat. Then on a sudden I saw his face lighten with, a new
'It is a d--d ruse!' he shouted, brandishing his pistol like a
madman. 'It is a cheat and a fraud! By God! you have no
commission! I see through it! I see through it all! You have
come here, and you have hocussed us! You are of their side, and
this is your last shift to save him!'
'What folly is this?' I said contemptuously.
'No folly at all,' he answered, perfect conviction in his tone.
'You have played upon us. You have fooled us. But I see through
it now. An hour ago I exposed you to that fine Madame at the
house there, and I thought it a marvel that she did not believe
me. I thought it a marvel that she did not see through you, when
you stood there before her, confounded, tongue-tied, a rogue
convicted. But I understand now. She knew you. She was in the
plot, and you were in the plot, and I, who thought that I was
opening her eyes, was the only one fooled. But it is my turn
now. You have played a bold part and a clever one,' he
continued, a sinister light in his little eyes,' and I
congratulate you. But it is at an end now, Monsieur. You took
us in finely with your talk of Monseigneur, and his commission
and your commission, and the rest. But I am not to be blinded
any longer--or bullied. You have arrested him, have you? You
have arrested him. Well, by G--, I shall arrest him, and I shall
arrest you too.'
'You are mad!' I said staggered as much by this new view of the
matter as by his perfect certainty. 'Mad, Lieutenant.'
'I was,' he snarled. 'But I am sane now. I was mad when you
imposed upon us, when you persuaded me to think that you were
fooling the women to get the secret out of them, while all the
time you were sheltering them, protecting them, aiding them, and
hiding him--then I was mad. But not now. However, I ask your
pardon. I thought you the cleverest sneak and the dirtiest hound
Heaven ever made. I find you are cleverer than I thought, and an
honest traitor. Your pardon.'
One of the men, who stood about the rim of the bowl above us,
laughed. I looked at the Lieutenant and could willingly have
'MON DIEU!' I said--and I was so furious in my turn that I could
scarcely speak. 'Do you say that I am an impostor--that I do not
hold the Cardinal's commission?'
'I do say that,' he answered coolly.
'And that I belong to the rebel party?'
'I do,' he replied in the same tone. 'In fact,' with a grin, 'I
say that you are an honest man on the wrong side, M. de Berault.
And you say that you are a scoundrel on the right. The
advantage, however, is with me, and I shall back my opinion by
A ripple of coarse laughter ran round the hollow. The sergeant
who held the lanthorn grinned, and a trooper at a distance called
out of the darkness 'A BON CHAT BON RAT!' This brought a fresh
burst of laughter, while I stood speechless, confounded by the
stubbornness, the crassness, the insolence of the man. 'You
fool!' I cried at last, 'you fool!' And then M. de Cocheforet,
who had come out of the hut and taken his stand at my elbow,
'Pardon me one moment,' he said, airily, looking at the
Lieutenant with raised eyebrows and pointing to me with his
thumb, 'but I am puzzled between you. This gentleman's name? Is
it de Berault or de Barthe?'
'I am M. de Berault,' I said, brusquely, answering for myself.
'Yes, Monsieur, of Paris.'
'You are not, then, the gentleman who has been honouring my poor
house with his presence?'
'Oh, yes!' the Lieutenant struck in, grinning. 'He is that
'But I thought--I understood that that was M. de Barthe!'
'I am M. de Barthe, also,' I retorted impatiently. 'What of
that, Monsieur? It was my mother's name. I took it when I came
'To--er--to arrest me, may I ask?'
'Yes,' I said, doggedly; 'to arrest you. What of that?'
'Nothing,' he replied slowly and with a steady look at me--a look
I could not meet. 'Except that, had I known this before, M. de
Berault I should have thought longer before I surrendered to
The Lieutenant laughed, and I felt my cheek burn; but I affected
to see nothing, and turned to him again. 'Now, Monsieur,' I
said, 'are you satisfied?'
'No,' he answered? 'I am not! You two may have rehearsed this
pretty scene a dozen times. The word, it seems to me, is--Quick
march, back to quarters.'
At length I found myself driven to play my last card; much
against my will.
'Not so,' I said. 'I have my commission.'
'Produce it!' he replied incredulously.
'Do you think that I carry it with me?' I cried in scorn. 'Do
you think that when I came here, alone, and not with fifty
dragoons at my back, I carried the Cardinal's seal in my pocket
for the first lackey to find. But you shall have it. Where is
that knave of mine?'
The words were scarcely out of my mouth before a ready hand
thrust a paper into my fingers. I opened it slowly, glanced at
it, and amid a pause of surprise gave it to the Lieutenant. He
looked for a moment confounded. Then, with a last instinct of
suspicion, he bade the sergeant hold up the lanthorn; and by its
light he proceeded to spell through the document.
'Umph!' he ejaculated with an ugly look when he had come to the
end, 'I see.' And he read it aloud:--
'BY THESE PRESENTS, I COMMAND AND EMPOWER
GILLES DE BERAULT, SIER DE BERAULT, TO
SEEK FOR, HOLD, AND ARREST, AND DELIVER
TO THE GOVERNOR OF THE BASTILLE THE BODY
OF HENRI DE COCHEFORET, AND TO DO ALL
ACTS AND THINGS AS SHALL BE NECESSARY
TO EFFECT SUCH ARREST AND DELIVERY, FOR
WHICH THESE SHALL BE HIS WARRANT.
(Signed) THE CARDINAL DE RICHELIEU.'
When he had done--he read the signature with a peculiar
intonation--someone said softly, 'VIVE LE ROI!' and there was a
moment's silence. The sergeant lowered his lanthorn. 'Is it
enough?' I said hoarsely, glaring from face to face.
The Lieutenant bowed stiffly.
'For me?' he said. 'Quite, Monsieur. I beg your pardon again.
I find that my first impressions were the correct ones.
Sergeant! give the gentleman his papers!' and, turning his
shoulder rudely, he tossed the commission to the sergeant, who
gave it to me, grinning.
I knew that the clown would not fight, and he had his men round
him; and I had no choice but to swallow the insult. I put the
paper in my breast, with as much indifference as I could assume;
and as I did so, he gave a sharp order. The troopers began to
form on the edge above; the men who had descended to climb the
As the group behind him began to open and melt away, I caught
sight of a white robe in the middle of it. The next moment,
appearing with a suddenness which was like a blow on the cheek to
me, Mademoiselle de Cocheforet glided forward towards me. She
had a hood on her head, drawn low; and for a moment I could not
see her face, I forgot her brother's presence at my elbow, I
forgot other things, and, from habit and impulse rather than
calculation, I took a step forward to meet her; though my tongue
cleaved to the roof of my mouth, and I was dumb and trembling.
But she recoiled with such a look of white hate, of staring,
frozen-eyed abhorrence, that I stepped back as if she had indeed
struck me. It did not need the words which accompanied the look
--the 'DO NOT TOUCH ME!' which she hissed at me as she drew her
skirts together--to drive me to the farther edge of the hollow;
where I stood with clenched teeth, and nails driven into the
flesh, while she hung, sobbing tearless sobs, on her brother's
THE ROAD TO PARIS
I remember hearing Marshal Bassompierre, who, of all the men
within my knowledge, had the widest experience, say that not
dangers but discomforts prove a man and show what he is; and that
the worst sores in life are caused by crumpled rose-leaves and
not by thorns.
I am inclined to think him right, for I remember that when I came
from my room on the morning after the arrest, and found hall and
parlour and passage empty, and all the common rooms of the house
deserted, and no meal laid; and when I divined anew from this
discovery the feeling of the house towards me--however natural
and to be expected--I remember that I felt as sharp a pang as
when, the night before, I had had to face discovery and open rage
and scorn. I stood in the silent, empty parlour, and looked on
the familiar things with a sense of desolation, of something lost
and gone, which I could not understand. The morning was grey and
cloudy, the air sharp, a shower was falling. The rose-bushes
outside swayed in the wind, and inside, where I could remember
the hot sunshine lying on floor and table, the rain beat in and
stained the boards. The inner door flapped and creaked on its
hinges. I thought of other days and of meals I had taken there,
and of the scent of flowers; and I fled to the hall in despair.
But here, too, were no signs of life or company, no comfort, no
attendance. The ashes of the logs, by whose blaze Mademoiselle
had told me the secret, lay on the hearth white and cold fit
emblem of the change that had taken place; and now and then a