Infomotions, Inc.The Trampling of the Lilies / Sabatini, Rafael, 1875-1950



Author: Sabatini, Rafael, 1875-1950
Title: The Trampling of the Lilies
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): boulaye; bellecour; caron; charlot; citoyenne; mademoiselle; monsieur; deputy; devant vicomte; citizen; captain charlot
Contributor(s): Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 72,638 words (short) Grade range: 8-11 (high school) Readability score: 66 (easy)
Identifier: etext2783
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Title:  The Trampling of the Lilies

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The Trampling of the Lilies

by Rafael Sabatini




CONTENTS



PART I

THE OLD RULE


CHAPTER

    I.  MONSIEUR THE SECRETARY

   II.  LORDS OF LIFE AND DEATH

  III.  THE WORD OF BELLECOUR

   IV.  THE DISCIPLES OF ROUSSEAU



PART II

THE NEW RULE


    V.  THE SHEEP TURNED WOLVES

   VI.  THE CITIZEN COMMISSIONER

  VII.  LA BOULAYE DISCHARGES A DEBT

 VIII.  THE INVALIDS AT BOISVERT

   IX.  THE CAPTIVES

    X.  THE BAISER LAMOURETTE

   XI.  THE ESCAPE

  XII.  THE AWAKENING

 XIII.  THE ROAD TO LIEGE

  XIV.  THE COURIER

   XV.  LA BOULAYE BAITS HIS HOOK



PART III

THE EVERLASTING RULE


  XVI.  CECILE DESHAIX

 XVII.  LA BOULAYE'S PROMISE

XVIII.  THE INCORRUPTIBLE

  XIX.  THE THEFT

   XX.  THE GRATITUDE OF OMBREVAL

  XXI.  THE ARREST

 XXII.  THE TRIBUNAL

XXIII.  THE CONCIERGERIE




PART I

THE OLD RULE

These are they
Who ride on the court gale, control its tides;

***

Whose frown abases and whose smile exalts.
They shine like any rainbow - and, perchance,
Their colours are as transient.

   Old Play



CHAPTER I

MONSIEUR THE SECRETARY


It was spring at Bellecour - the spring of 1789, a short three months
before the fall of the Bastille came to give the nobles pause, and
make them realise that these new philosophies, which so long they
have derided, were by no means the idle vapours they had deemed them.

By the brook, plashing its glittering course through the park of
Bellecour, wandered La Boulaye, his long, lean, figure clad with a
sombreness that was out of harmony in that sunlit, vernal landscape.
But the sad-hued coat belied that morning a heart that sang within
his breast as joyously as any linnet of the woods through which he
strayed.  That he was garbed in black was but the outward indication
of his clerkly office, for he was secretary to the most noble the
Marquis de Fresnoy de Bellecour, and so clothed in the livery of
the ink by which he lived.  His face was pale and lean and thoughtful,
but within his great, intelligent eyes there shone a light of
new-born happiness.  Under his arm he carried a volume of the new
philosophies which Rousseau had lately given to the world, and which
was contributing so vastly to the mighty change that was impending.
But within his soul there dwelt in that hour no such musty subject
as the metaphysical dreams of old Rousseau.  His mood inclined
little to the "Discourses upon the Origin of Inequality" which his
elbow hugged to his side.  Rather was it a mood of song and joy and
things of light, and his mind was running on a string of rhymes
which mentally he offered up to his divinity.  A high-born lady was
she, daughter to his lordly employer, the most noble Marquis of
Bellecour.  And he a secretary, a clerk!  Aye, but a clerk with a
great soul, a secretary with a great belief in the things to come,
which in that musty tome beneath his arm were dimly prophesied.

And as he roamed beside the brook, his feet treading the elastic,
velvety turf, and crushing heedlessly late primrose and stray violet,
his blood quickened by the soft spring breeze, fragrant with hawthorn
and the smell of the moist brown earth, La Boulaye's happiness
gathered strength from the joy that on that day of spring seemed to
invest all Nature.  An old-world song stole from his firm lips-at
first timidly, like a thing abashed in new surroundings, then in
bolder tones that echoed faintly through the trees

  "Si le roi m'avait donne
   Paris, sa grande ville,
   Et qui'il me fallut quitter
   L'amour de ma mie,
   Je dirais au roi Louis
   Reprenez votre Paris.
   J'aime mieux ma mie, O gai!
   J'aime mieux ma mie!"

How mercurial a thing is a lover's heart!  Here was one whose habits
were of solemnity and gloomy thought turned, so joyous that he could
sing aloud, alone in the midst of sunny Nature, for no better reason
than that Suzanne de Bellecour had yesternight smiled as - for some
two minutes by the clock - she had stood speaking with him.

"Presumptuous that I am," said he to the rivulet, to contradict
himself the next moment.  "But no; the times are changing.  Soon we
shall be equals all, as the good God made us, and - "

He paused, and smiled pensively.  And as again the memory of her
yesternight's kindness rose before him, his smile broadened; it
became a laugh that went ringing down the glade, scaring a noisy
thrush into silence and sending it flying in affright across the
scintillant waters of the brook.  Then that hearty laugh broke
sharply off, as, behind him, the sweetest voice in all the world
demanded the reason of this mad-sounding mirth.

La Boulaye's breath seemed in that instant to forsake him and he
grew paler than Nature and the writer's desk had fashioned him.
Awkwardly he turned and made her a deep bow.

" Mademoiselle!  You - you see that you surprised me!" he faltered,
like a fool.  For how should he, whose only comrades had been books,
have learnt to bear himself in the company of a woman, particularly
when she belonged to the ranks of those whom - despite Rousseau and
his other dear philosophers - he had been for years in the habit of
accounting his betters?

" Why, then, I am glad, Monsieur, that I surprised you in so gay a
humour - for, my faith, it is a rare enough thing."

"True, lady," said he foolishly, yet politely agreeing with her,
"it is a rare thing."  And he sighed - "Helas!"

At that the laughter leapt from her young lips, and turned him hot
and cold as be stood awkwardly before her.

"I see that we shall have you sad at the thought of how rare is
happiness, you that but a moment back were - or so it seemed - so
joyous.  Or is it that my coming has overcast the sky of your good
humour?" she demanded archly.

He blushed like a school-girl, and strenuously protested that it was
not so.  In his haste he fell headlong into the sin of hastiness -
as was but natural - and said perhaps too much.

"Your coming, Mademoiselle?" he echoed.  "Nay but even had I been
sad, your coming must have dispelled my melancholy as the coming of
the sun dispels the mist upon the mountains."

"A poet?"  She mocked him playfully, with a toss of black curls and
a distracting glance of eyes blue as the heavens above them. "A
poet, Monsieur, and I never suspected it, for all that I held you a
great scholar.  My father says you are."

"Are we not all poets at some season of our lives?" quoth he, for
growing accustomed to her presence - ravished by it, indeed - his
courage was returning fast and urging him beyond the limits of
discretion.

"And in what season may this rhyming fancy touch us?" she asked.
"Enlighten me, Monsieur."

He smiled, responsive to her merry mood, and his courage ever
swelling under the suasion of it, he answered her in a fearless,
daring fashion that was oddly unlike his wont.  But then, he was
that day a man transformed.

" It comes, Mademoiselle, upon some spring morning such as this -
for is not spring the mating season, and have not poets sung of it,
inspired and conquered by it?  It comes in the April of life, when
in our hearts we bear the first fragrant bud of what shall anon
blossom into a glorious summer bloom red as is Love's livery and
perfumed beyond all else that God has set on earth for man's delight
and thankfulness."

The intensity with which he spoke, and the essence of the speech
itself, left her a moment dumb with wonder and with an
incomprehensible consternation, born of some intuition not yet
understood.

"And so, Monsieur, the Secretary," said she at last, a nervous
laugh quivering in her first words, "from all this wondrous verbiage
I am to take it that you love?"

"Aye, that I love, dear lady," he cried, his eyes so intent upon her
that her glance grew timid and fell before them. And then, a second
later, she could have screamed aloud in apprehension, for the book
of Jean Jacques Rousseau lay tumbled in the grass where he had flung
it, even as he flung himself upon his knees before her.  "You may
take it indeed that I love - that I love you, Mademoiselle."

The audacious words being spoken, his courage oozed away and
anti-climax, followed.  He paled and trembled, yet he knelt on until
she should bid him rise, and furtively he watched her face.  He saw
it darken; he saw the brows knit; he noted the quickening breath,
and in all these signs he read his doom before she uttered it.

"Monsieur, monsieur," she answered him, and sad was her tone, "to
what lengths do you urge this springtime folly?  Have you forgotten
so your station - yes, and mine - that because I talk with you and
laugh with you, and am kind to you, you must presume to speak to me
in this fashion?  What answer shall I make you, Monsieur - for I am
not so cruel that I can answer you as you deserve."

An odd thing indeed was La Boulaye's courage.  An instant ago he had
felt a very coward, and had quivered, appalled by the audacity of
his own words.  Now that she assailed him thus, and taxed him with
that same audacity, the blood of anger rushed to his face - anger of
the quality that has its source in shame.  In a second he was on his
feet before her, towering to the full of his lean height.  The words
came from him in a hot stream, which for reckless passion by far
outvied his erstwhile amatory address.

"My station?" he cried, throwing wide his arms.  "What fault lies
in my station?  I am a secretary, a scholar, and so, by academic
right, a gentleman.  Nay, Mademoiselle, never laugh; do not mock me
yet.  In what do you find me less a man than any of the vapid
caperers that fill your father's salon?  Is not my shape as good?
Are not my arms as strong, my hands as deft, my wits as keen, and
my soul as true?  Aye," he pursued with another wild wave of his
long arms, "my attributes have all these virtues, and yet you scorn
me - you scorn me because of my station, so you say!"

How she had angered him!  All the pent-up gall of years against the
supercilia of the class from which she sprang surged in that moment
to his lips.  He bethought him now of the thousand humiliations his
proud spirit had suffered at their hands when he noted the disdain
with which they addressed him, speaking to him - because he was
compelled to carve his living with a quill - as though he were less
than mire.  It was not so much against her scorn of him that he
voiced his bitter grievance, but against the entire noblesse of
France, which denied him the right to carry a high head because he
had not been born of Madame la Duchesse, Madame la Marquise, or
Madame la Comtesse.  All the great thoughts of a wondrous
transformation, which had been sown in him by the revolutionary
philosophers he had devoured with such appreciation, welled up now,
and such scraps of that infinity of thought as could find utterance
he cast before the woman who had scorned him for his station.
Presumptuous he had accounted himself - but only until she had found
him so.  By that the presumption, it seemed, had been lifted from
him, and he held that what he had said to her of the love he bore
her was no more than by virtue of his manhood he had the right to
say.

She drew back before him, and shrank in some measure of fear, for
he looked very fierce.  Moreover, he had said things which professed
him a revolutionist, and the revolutionists, whilst being a class
which she had been taught to despise and scorn, dealt, she knew, in
a violence which it might be ill to excite.

"Monsieur," she faltered, and with her hand she clutched at her
riding-habit of green velvet, as if preparing to depart, "you are
not yourself.  I am beyond measure desolated that you should have
so spoken to me.  We have been good friends, M. La Boulaye.  Let
us forget this scene.  Shall we?"  Her tones grew seductively
conciliatory.

La Boulaye half turned from her, and his smouldering eye fell upon
"The Discourses" lying on the grass.  He stooped and picked up the
volume.  The act might have seemed symbolical.  For a moment he had
cast aside his creed to woo a woman, and now that she had denied
him he returned to Rousseau, and gathered up the tome almost in
penitence at his momentary defection.

"I am quite myself, Mademoiselle," he answered quietly.  His cheeks
were flushed, but beyond that, his excitement seemed to have withered.
"It is you who yesternight, for one brief moment and again to-day -
were not yourself, and to that you owe it that I have spoken to you
as I have done."

Between these two it would seem as the humour of the one waned, that
of the other waxed.  Her glance kindled anew at his last words.

"I?" she echoed.  "I was not myself?  What are you saying, Monsieur
the Secretary?"

" Last night, and again just now, you were so kind, you - you smiled
so sweetly - "

"Mon Dieu!" she exclaimed, angrily interrupting him. "See what you
are for all your high-sounding vaunts of yourself and your attributes!
A woman may not smile upon you, may not say one kind word to you, but
you must imagine you have made a conquest.  Ma foi, you and yours do
not deserve to be treated as anything but vassals.  When we show you
a kindness, see how you abuse it.  We extend to you our little finger
and you instantly lay claim to the whole arm. Because last night I
permitted myself to exchange a jest with you, because I chance to be
kind to you again to-day, you repay me with insults!"

"Stop!" he cried, rousing himself once more.  "That is too much to
say, Mademoiselle.  To tell a woman that you love her is never to
insult her.  To be loved is never to be slighted.  Upon the meanest
of His creatures it is enjoined to love the same God whom the King
loves, and there is no insult to God in professing love for Him.
Would you make a woman more than that?"

"Monsieur, you put questions I have no mind to answer; you suggest
a discussion I have no inclination to pursue.  For you and me let
it suffice that I account myself affronted by your words, your tone,
and your manner.  You drive me to say these things; by your
insistence you compel me to be harsh.  We will end this matter here
and now, Monsieur, and I will ask you to understand that I never
wish it reopened, else shall I be forced to seek protection at the
hands of my father or my brother."

"You may seek it now, Suzanne," quoth a voice from the thicket at
her back, a voice which came to startle both of them though in
different ways.  Before they had recovered from their surprise the
Marquis de Bellecour stood before them. He was a tall man of some
fifty years of age, but so powerful of frame and so scrupulous in
dress that he might have conveyed an impression of more youth.  His
face, though handsome in a high-bred way, was puffed and of an
unhealthy yellow.  But the eyes were as keen as the mouth was
voluptuous, and in his carefully dressed black hair there were few
strands of grey.

He came slowly forward, and his lowering glance wandered from his
daughter to his secretary in inquiry.  At last -

"Well?" he demanded.  "What is the matter?"

"It is nothing, Monsieur," his daughter answered him. "A trifling
affair 'twixt M. la Boulaye and me, with which I will not trouble
you."

"It is not nothing, my lord," cried La Boulaye, his voice vibrating
oddly.  "It is that I love your daughter and that I have told her
of it."  He was in a very daring mood that morning.

The Marquis glanced at him in dull amazement.  Then a flush crept
into his sallow cheeks and mounted to his brow.  An inarticulate
grunt came from his thick lips.

"Canaille!" he exclaimed, through set teeth.  "Can you have presumed
so far?"

He carried a riding-switch, and he seemed to grasp it now in a manner
peculiarly menacing.  But La Boulaye was nothing daunted.  Lost he
already accounted himself, and on the strength of the logic that if
a man must hang, a sheep as well as a lamb may be the cause of it,
he took what chances the time afforded him to pile up his debt.

"There is neither insolence nor presumption in what I have done,"
he answered, giving back the Marquis look for look and scowl for
scowl.  "You deem it so because I am the secretary to the Marquis
de Bellecour and she is the daughter of that same Marquis.  But
these are no more than the fortuitous circumstances in which we
chance to find ourselves.  That she is a woman must take rank before
the fact that she is your daughter, and that I am a man must take
rank before the fact that I am your secretary.  Not, then, as your
secretary speaking to your daughter have I told this lady that I
love her, but as a man speaking to a woman.  To utter that should
be - nay, is - the right of every man; to hear it should be honouring
to every woman worthy of the name.  In a primitive condition - "

"A thousand devils!" blazed the Marquis, unable longer to contain
himself.  "Am I to have my ears offended by this braying?  Miserable
scum, you shall be taught what is due to your betters."

His whip cracked suddenly, and the lash leapt serpentlike into the
air, to descend and coil itself about La Boulaye's head and face.
A cry broke from the young man, as much of pain as of surprise, and
as the lash was drawn back, he clapped his hands to his seared face.
But again he felt it, cutting him now across the hand with which he
had masked himself.  With a maddened roar he sprang upon his
aggressor.  In height he was the equal of the Marquis, but in weight
he seemed to be scarce more than the half of his opponent's.  Yet
a nervous strength dwelt unsuspected in those lean arms and steely
wrists.

Mademoiselle stood by looking on, with parted lips and eyes that
were intent and anxious.  She saw that figure, spare and lithe as
a greyhound, leap suddenly upon her father, and the next instant
the whip was in the secretary's hands, and he sprang back from the
nobleman, who stood white and quivering with rage, and perhaps, too,
with some dismay.

"That I do not break it across your back, M. le Marquis, said the
young man, as he snapped the whip on his knee, "you may thank your
years."  With that he flung the two pieces wide into the sunlit
waters of the brook.  "But I will have satisfaction, Monsieur.  I
will take payment for this."  And he pointed to the weal that
disfigured his face.

"Satisfaction?" roared the Marquis, hoarse in his passion.  "Would
you demand satisfaction of me, animal?"

"No," answered the young man, with a wry smile.  "Your years again
protect you.  But you have a son, and if by to-morrow it should
come to pass that you have a son no more, you may account yourself,
through this" - and again he pointed to the weal - "his murderer."

"Do you mean that you would seek to cross swords with the Vicomte?"
gasped the nobleman, in an unbelief so great that it gained the
ascendency over his anger.

"That is what I mean, Monsieur.  In practice he has often done so.
He shall do so for once in actual earnest."

"Fool!" was the contemptuous answer, more coldly delivered now, for
the Marquis was getting himself in hand.  "If you come near Bellecour
again, if you are so much as found within the grounds of the park,
I'll have you beaten to death by my grooms for your presumption.
Keep you the memory of that promise in mind, Sir Secretary, and let
it warn you to avoid Bellecour, as you would a plague-house.  Come,
Suzanne," he said, turning abruptly to his daughter, "Enough of
this delightful morning have we already wasted on this canaille."

With that he offered her his wrist, and so, without so much as
another glance at La Boulaye, she took her departure.

The secretary remained where they had left him, pale of face -
saving the fortuitous crimson mark which the whip had cut - and
very sick at heart.  The heat of the moment being spent, he had
leisure to contemplate his plight.  A scorned lover, a beaten man,
a dismissed secretary!  He looked sorrowfully upon his volume of
"The Discourses," and for the first time a doubt crossed his mind
touching the wisdom of old Jean Jacques.  Was there would there ever
be any remedy for such a condition of things as now prevailed?

Already the trees had hidden the Marquis and his daughter from La
Boulaye's sight.  The young revolutionist felt weary and lonely -
dear God, how lonely! neither kith nor kin had he, and of late all
the interest of his life - saving always that absorbed by Jean
Jacques - had lain in watching Suzanne de Bellecour, and in loving
her silently and distantly.  Now that little crumb of comfort was
to be his no more, he was to go away from Bellecour, away from the
sight of her for all time.  And he loved her, loved her, loved her!

He tossed his arms to Heaven with a great sigh that was a sob almost,
then he passed his hands over his face, and as they came in contact
with the swollen ridge that scored it, love faded from his mind,
and vindictiveness came to fill its room.

"But for this," he cried aloud.  "I shall take payment - aye, as
there is a God!"

Then turning, and with "The Discourses " held tightly to his side,
he moved slowly away, following the course of the gleaming waters.




CHAPTER II

LORDS OF LIFE AND DEATH


One friend did La Boulaye count in the village of Bellecour.  This
was old Duhamel, the schoolmaster, an eccentric pedant and a
fellow-worshipper of the immortal Jean Jacques.  It was to him that
La Boulaye now repaired intent upon seeking counsel touching a
future that wore that morning a singularly gloomy outlook.

He found Duhamel's door open, and he stepped across the threshold
into the chief room of the house.  But there he paused, and
hesitated.  The chamber was crowded with people in holiday attire,
and the centre of attraction was a well-set-up peasant with a happy,
sun-tanned face, whose golden locks were covered by a huge round
hat decked with a score of gaily-coloured ribbons.

At sight of him La Boulaye remembered that it was Charlot's
wedding-day.  Popular amongst the women by virtue of his comeliness,
and respected by the men by virtue of his strength, Charlot Tardivet
was a general favourite of the countryside, and here, in the room of
old Duhamel, the schoolmaster, was half the village gathered to do
him honour upon his wedding morn.  It was like Duhamel, who, in
fatherliness towards the villagers, went near out-rivalling M. le
Cure, to throw open his house for the assembling of Charlot's
friends, and La Boulaye was touched by this fresh sign of kindliness
from a man whose good heart he had not lacked occasion to observe
and appreciate.  But it came to the secretary that there was no
place for him in this happy assemblage.  His advent would, probably,
but serve to cast a gloom upon them, considering the conditions
under which he came, with the signs of violence upon his face to
remind them of the lords of life and death who dwelt at the Chateau
up yonder.  And such a reminder must fall upon them as does the
reminder of some overhanging evil clutch suddenly at our hearts in
happy moments of forgetfulness.  To let them be happy that day, to
leave their feasts free of a death's head, La Boulaye would have
withdrawn had he not already been too late.  Duhamel had espied him,
and the little, wizened old man came hurrying forward, his
horn-rimmed spectacles perched on the very end of his nose, his keen
little eyes beaming with delight and welcome.

"Ah, Caron, you are very choicely come," he cried, holding out both
hands to La Boulaye.  "You shall embrace our happy Hercules yonder,
and wish him joy of the wedded life he has the audacity to exploit."
Then, as he espied the crimson ridge across the secretary's
countenance, "Mon Dieu!" he exclaimed, "what have you done to
yourself, Caron?"

"Pish!  It is nothing," answered La Boulaye hurriedly, and would
have had the subject dismissed, but that one of the onlooking
peasants swore by the memory of some long-dead saint that it was the
cut of a whip.  Duhamel's eyes kindled and his parchment-like skin
was puckered into a hundred evil wrinkles.

"Who did it, Caron?" he demanded.

"Since you insist, old master," answered the secretary, still
endeavouring to make light of it, "learn that is the lord Marquis's
signature to his order of my dismissal from his service."

"The dog!" ejaculated the school-master.

"Sh! let it be.  Perhaps I braved him overmuch.  I will tell you of
it when these good folks have gone.  Do not let us cast a gloom over
their happiness, old master.  And now to embrace this good Charlot."

Though inwardly burning with curiosity and boiling with indignation,
Duhamel permitted himself to be guided by La Boulaye, and for the
moment allowed the matter to rest.  La Boulaye himself laughingly
set aside the many questions with which they pressed him.  He drank
the health of the bride-elect - who was not yet of the party - and
he pledged the happiness of the pair.  He embraced Charlot, and even
went so far as to urge upon him, out of his own scanty store, a
louis d'or with which to buy Marie a trinket in memory of him.

Then presently came one with the announcement that M. le Cure was
waiting, and in answer to that reminder that there was a ceremony
to be gone through, Charlot and his friends flung out of the house
in joyous confusion, and went their way with laughter and jest to
the little church of St. Ildefonse.

"We will follow presently - M. la Boulaye and I - Charlot," Duhamel
had said, as the sturdy bridegroom was departing.  "We shall be there
to shake Madame by the hand and wish her joy of you."

When at last they were alone in the schoolmaster's room, the old
man turned to La Boulaye, the very embodiment of a note of
interrogation.  The secretary told him all that had passed.  He
reddened slightly when it came to speaking of his love for Mlle.
de Bellecour, but he realised that if he would have guidance he must
withhold nothing from his friend.

Duhamel's face grew dark as the young man spoke, and his eyes became
sad and very thoughtful.

"Alas!" he sighed, when La Boulaye had ended.  "What shall I say to
you, my friend?  The time is not yet for such as we - you and I - to
speak of love for a daughter of the Seigneurie.  It is coming, I doubt
it not.  All things have their climax, and France is tending swiftly
to the climax of her serfdom.  Very soon we shall have the crisis,
this fire that is already smouldering, will leap into a great blaze,
that shall lick the old regime as completely from the face of history
as though it had never been.  A new condition of things will spring
up, of that I am convinced.  Does not history afford us many
instances?  And what is history but the repetition of events under
similar circumstances with different peoples.  It will come in France,
and it will come soon, for it is very direly needed."

"I know, I know, old master," broke in La Boulaye; "but how shall all
this help me?  For all that I have the welfare of France at heart, it
weighs little with me at the moment by comparison with my own affairs.
What am I to do, Duhamel?  How am I to take payment for this?"  And he
pressed his finger to his seared cheek.

"Wait," said the old man impressively.  "That is the moral you might
have drawn from what I have said.  Be patient.  I promise you your
patience shall not be overtaxed.  To-day they say that you presume;
that you are not one of them - although, by my soul, you have as
good an air as any nobleman in France."  And he eyed the lean height
of the secretary with a glance of such pride as a father might take
in a well-grown son.

Elegant of figure, La Boulaye was no less elegant in dress, for all
that, from head to foot - saving the silver buckles on his shoes and
the unpretentious lace at throat and wrists - he was dressed in the
black that his office demanded.  His countenance, too, though cast
in a mould of thoughtfulness that bordered on the melancholy, bore
a lofty stamp that might have passed for birth and breeding, and
this was enhanced by the careful dressing of his black unpowdered
hair, gathered into a club by a broad ribbon of black silk.

"But what shall waiting avail me?" cried the young man, with some
impatience.  "What am I to do in the meantime?"

"Go to Amiens," said the other.  "You have learning, you have
eloquence, you have a presence and an excellent address.  For
success no better attributes could be yours."  He approached the
secretary, and instinctively lowered his voice.  "We have a little
club there - a sort of succursal to the Jacobins.  We are numerous,
but we have no very shining member yet.  Come with me, and I will
nominate you.  Beginning thus, I promise you that you shall presently
become a man of prominence in Picardy.  Anon we may send you to Paris
to represent us in the States-General.  Then, when the change comes,
who shall say to what heights it may not be yours to leap?"

"I will think of it," answered La Boulaye cordially, "and not a
doubt of it but that I will come.  I did not know that you had gone
so far - "

"Sh!  You know now.  Let that suffice.  It is not good to talk of
these things just yet."

"But in the meantime," La Boulaye persisted, "what of this?"  And
again he pointed to his cheek.

"Why, let it heal, boy."

"I promised the Marquis that I would demand satisfaction of his son,
and I am tempted to do so and risk the consequences."

"I am afraid the consequences will be the only satisfaction that you
will get.  In fact, they will be anticipations rather than
consequences, for they'll never let you near the boy."

"I know not that," he answered.  "The lad is more generous than his
sire, and if I were to send him word that I have been affronted, he
might consent to meet me.  For the rest, I could kill him
blindfolded," he added, with a shrug.

"Bloodthirsty animal!" rejoined Duhamel.  "Unnatural tutor!  Do you
forget that you were the boy's preceptor?"

With that Duhamel carried the argument into new fields, and showed
La Boulaye that to avenge upon the young Vicomte the insults received
at the hands of the old Marquis was hardly a worthy method of taking
vengeance.  At last he won him to his way, and it was settled that on
the morrow La Boulaye should journey with him to Amiens.

"But, Caron, we are forgetting our friend Charlot and his bride," he
broke off suddenly.  "Come, boy; the ceremony will be at an end by
this."

He took La Boulaye by the arm, and led him out and down the street
to the open space opposite St. Ildefonse.  The wedding-party was
streaming out through the door of the little church into the warm
sunshine of that April morning.  In the churchyard they formed into
a procession of happy be-ribboned and nosegayed men and women - the
young preceding, the old following, the bridal couple.  Two by two
they came, and the air rang with their laughter and joyous chatter.
Then another sound arose, and if the secretary and the pedagogue
could have guessed of what that beating of hoofs was to be the
prelude, they had scarce smiled so easily as they watched the
approaching cortege.

>From a side street there now emerged a gaily apparelled cavalcade.
At its head rode the Marquis de Bellecour, the Vicomte, and a
half-dozen other gentlemen, followed by, perhaps, a dozen lacqueys.
It was a hunting party that was making its way across the village
to the open country beyond.  The bridal procession crossing their
path caused them to draw rein, and to wait until it should have
passed - which argued a very condescending humour, for it would not
have been out of keeping with their habits to have ridden headlong
through it.  Their presence cast a restraint upon the peasants.  The
jests were silenced, the laughter hushed, and like a flight of
pigeons under the eye of the hawk, they scurried past the Seigneurie,
and some of them prayed God that they might be suffered to pass
indeed.

Bellecour eyed them in cold disdain, until presently Charlot and his
bride were abreast of him. Then his eye seemed to take life and his
sallow face to kindle into expression.  He leant lightly from the
saddle.

"Stay!" he commanded coldly, and as they came to a halt, daring not
to disobey him - "approach, girl," he added.

Charlot's brows grew black.  He looked up at the Marquis, but if his
glance was sullen and threatening, it was also not free from fear.
Marie obeyed, with eyes downcast and a heightened colour.  If she
conjectured at all why they had been stopped, it was but to conclude
that M. le Marquis was about to offer her some mark of appreciation.
Uneasiness, in her dear innocence, she knew none.

"What is your name, child?" inquired the Marquis more gently.

"It was Marie Michelin, Monseigneur," she made answer timidly.  "But
it has just been changed to Marie Tardivet."

"You have just been wed, eh?"

"We are on our way from church, Monseigneur."

"C'est ca," he murmured, as if to himself, and his eyes taking such
stock of her as made Charlot burn to tear him from his horse.  Then,
in a kindly, fatherly voice, he added: "My felicitations, Marie; may
you be a happy wife and a happier mother."

"Merci, Monseigneur," she murmured, with crimson cheeks, whilst
Charlot breathed once more, and from his heart gave thanks to Heaven,
believing the interview at an end.  But he went too fast.

"Do you know, Marie, that you are a very comely child?" quoth the
Marquis, in tones which made the bridegroom's blood run cold.

Some in that noble company nudged one another, and one there was who
burst into a loud guffaw.

"Charlot has often told me so," she laughed, all unsuspicious.

The Marquis moved on his horse that he might bend lower.  With his
forefinger he uptilted her chin, and now, as she met his glance thus
at close quarters, an unaccountable fear took possession of her, and
the colour died out of her plump cheeks.

"Yes," said Bellecour, with a smile.  "this Tardivet has good taste.
My congratulations, to him.  We must find you a wedding gift, little
woman," he continued more briskly.  "It is an ancient and honoured
custom that is falling somewhat into neglect.  Go up to the Chateau
with Blaise and Jean there.  This good Tardivet must curb his
impatience until to-morrow."

He turned in his saddle, and beckoning the two servants he had named,
he bade Marie to mount behind Blaise.

She drew back now, her cheeks white as those of the dead.  With a
wild terror in her eyes she turned to Charlot, who stood the very
picture of anguish and impotent rage.  In the cortege, where but a
few moments ago all had been laughter, a sob or two sounded now from
some of the women.

"By my faith," laughed Bellecour contemptuously eyeing their
dejection, "you have more the air of a burial than a bridal party."

"Mercy my lord!" cried the agonised voice of Charlot, as, distraught
with grief, he flung himself before the Marquis.

"Who seeks to harm you, fool?" was Bellecour's half-derisive
rejoinder.

"Do not take her from me, my lord," the young man pleaded piteously.

"She shall return to-morrow, booby," answered the noble.  "Out of
the way!"

But Charlot was obstinate.  The Marquis might be claiming no more
than by ancient law was the due of the Seigneur, but Charlot was by
no means minded to submit in craven acquiescence to that brutal,
barbarous law.

"My lord," he cried, "you shall not take her.  She is my wife.  She
belongs to me.  You shall not take her!"

He caught hold of the Marquis's bridle with such a strength and
angry will that the horse was forced to back before him.

"Insolent clod!" exclaimed Bellecour, with an angry laugh and a
sharp, downward blow of the butt of his whip upon the peasant's head.
Charlot's hand grew nerveless and released the bridle as he sank
stunned to the ground.  Bellecour touched his horse with the spur
and rode over the prostrate fellow with no more concern than had he
been a dog's carcase.  "Blaise, see to the girl," he called over his
shoulder, adding to his company: "Come, messieurs, we have wasted
time enough."

Not a hand was raised to stay him, not a word of protest uttered,
as the nobles rode by, laughing, and chatting among themselves, with
the utmost unconcern of the tragedy that was being enacted.

Like a flock of frightened sheep the peasants stood huddled together
and watched them go.  In the same inaction - for all that not a
little grief was blent with the terror on their countenances - they
stood by and allowed Blaise to lift the half-swooning girl to the
withers of his horse.  No reply had they to the coarse jest with
which he and his fellow-servant rode off.  But La Boulaye, who, from
the point where he and Duhamel had halted, had observed the whole
scene from its inception, turned now a livid face upon his companion.

"Shall such things be?" he cried passionately.  "Merciful God!  Are
we men, Duhamel, and do we permit such things to take place?"

The old pedagogue shrugged his shoulders in despair.  His face was
heavily scored by sorrow.

"Helas!" he sighed.  "Are they not masters of all that they may take?
The Marquis goes no further than is by ancient law allowed his class.
It is the law needs altering, my friend, and then the men will alter.
Meanwhile, behold them - lords of life and death."

"Lords of hell are they!" blazed the young revolutionist.  "That is
where they belong, whence they are come, and whither they shall
return.  Poltroons!" he cried, shaking his fist at the group of cowed
peasants that surrounded the prostrate Charlot "Sheep!  Worthless
clods!  The nobles do well to despise you, for, by my faith, you
invite nothing but contempt, you that will suffer rape and murder
to be done under your eyes, and never do more than look scared
encouragement upon your ravishers!"

"Blame not these poor wretches, Caron," sighed the old man.  "They
dare not raise a hand."

"Then, pardieu! here, at least, is one who does dare," he cried
furiously, as from the breast pocket of his coat he drew a pistol.

Blaise, with the girl across the withers of his horse, was
approaching them, followed by Jean.

"What would you do?" cried the old man fearfully, setting a
restraining hand upon La Boulaye's sleeve.  But Caron shook himself
free.

"This," was all he answered, and simultaneously, he levelled his
pistol and fired at Blaise.

Shot through the head, the servant collapsed forward; then, as the
horse reared and started off at a gallop, he toppled sideways and
fell.  The girl went down with him and lay in the road whilst he
was dragged along, his head bumping horribly on the stones as faster
and faster went the frightened horse.

With a shout that may have been either anger or dismay Jean reined
in his horse, and sat for a second hesitating whether to begin by
recovering the girl, or avenging his comrade.  But his doubts were
solved for him by La Boulaye, who took a deliberate aim at him.

"Begone!" cried the secretary, "unless you prefer to go by the road
I've sent your fellow."  And being a discreet youth, Jean made off
in silence by the street down which poor Blaise had been dragged.

"Carom" cried Duhamel, in a frenzy of apprehension.  "I tremble for
you, my son.  Fly from Bellecour at once - now, this very instant.
Go to my friends at Amiens; they will - "

But Caron had already left his side to repair to the spot where
Marie was lying.  The peasantry followed him, though leisurely, in
their timid hesitation.  They were asking themselves whether, even
so remotely as by tending the girl, they dared participate in the
violence La Boulaye had committed.  That a swift vengeance would be
the Seigneur's answer they were well assured, and a great fear
possessed them that in that vengeance those of the Chateau might
lack discrimination.  Charlot was amongst them, and on his feet, but
still too dazed to have a clear knowledge of the circumstances.
Presently, however, his faculties awakening and taking in the
situation, he staggered forward, and came lurching towards La
Boulaye, who was assisting the frightened Marie to rise.  With a
great sob the girl flung herself into her husband's arms.

"Charlot, mon Charlot!" she cried, and added a moment later: "It was
he - this brave gentleman - who rescued me."

"Monsieur," said Charlot, "I shall remember it to my dying day."

He would have said more, but the peasants, stirred by fear, now
roused themselves and plucked at his coat.

"Get you gone, Charlot, Get you gone quickly," they advised him.
"And if you are wise you will leave Bellecour without delay.  It is
not safe for you here."

"It is not safe for any of us," exclaimed one.  "I have no mind to
be caught when the Seigneur returns.  There will be a vengeance.  Ah
Dieu! what a vengeance!"

The warning acted magically.  There were hurried leave-takings, and
then, like a parcel of scuttling rabbits, they made for their burrows
to hide from the huntsman that would not be long in coming.  And ere
the last of them was out of sight there arose a stamping of hoofs
and a chorus of angry voices.  Down tine street thundered the
Marquis's cavalcade, brought back by the servant who had escaped and
who had ridden after them.  Some anger there was - particularly in
the heart of the Lord of Bellecour - but greater than their anger
was their excitement at the prospect of a man-hunt, with which the
chase on which they had been originally bent made but a poor
comparison.

"There he is, Monseigneur" cried Jean, as he pointed to La Boulaye.
"And yonder are the girl and her husband."

"Ah!  The secretary again, eh?" laughed the nobleman, grimly, as he
came nearer.  "Ma foi, life must have grown wearisome to him.  Secure
the woman, Jean."

Caron stood before him, pale in his impotent rage, which was directed
as much against the peasants who had fled as against the nobles who
approached.  Had these clods but stood there, and defended themselves
and their manhood with sticks and stones and such weapons as came to
their hands, they might have taken pride in being trampled beneath
the hoofs of the Seigneurie.  Thus, at least, might they have proved
themselves men.  But to fly thus - some fifty of them from the
approach of less than a score - was to confess unworthiness of a
better fate than that of which their seigneurs rendered themselves
the instruments.

Himself he could do no more than the single shot in his pistol would
allow.  That much, however, he would do, and like him whose resources
are reduced, and yet who desires to spend the little that he has to
best advantage, he levelled the weapon boldly at the advancing
Marquis, and pulled the trigger.  But Bellecour was an old campaigner,
and by an old campaigner's trick he saved himself at the last moment.
At sight of that levelled barrel he pulled his horse suddenly on to
its haunches, and received the charge in the animal's belly.  With
a shriek of pain the horse sought to recover its feet, then tumbled
forward hurling the Marquis from the saddle.  La Boulaye had an
inspiration to fling himself upon the old roue and seek with his
hands to kill him before they made an end of himself.  But ere he
could move to execute his design a horseman was almost on top of him.
He received a stunning blow on the head.  The daylight faded in his
eyes, he felt a sensation of sinking, and a reverberating darkness
engulfed him.




CHAPTER III

THE WORD OF BELLECOUR

When La Boulaye recovered consciousness he was lying on his back in
the middle of the courtyard of the Chateau de Bellecour.  From a
great stone balcony above, a little group, of which Mademoiselle de
Bellecour was the centre, observed the scene about the captive, who
was being resuscitated that he might fittingly experience the
Seigneur's vengeance.

She had returned from the morning's affair in the park with a
conscience not altogether easy.  To have stood by whilst her father
had struck Caron, and moreover, to have done so without any sense of
horror, or even of regret, was a matter in which she asked herself
whether she had done well.  Certainly La Boulaye had presumed
unpardonably in speaking to her as he had spoken, and for his
presumption it was fitting that he should be punished.  Had she
interfered she must have seemed to sympathise, and thus the lesson
might have suffered in salutariness.  And yet Caron La Boulaye was
a man of most excellent exterior, and, when passion had roused him
out of his restraint and awkwardness, of most ardent and eloquent
address.  The very sombreness that - be it from his mournful garments
or from a mind of thoughtful habit - seemed to envelop him was but
an additional note of poetry in a personality which struck her now
as eminently poetical.  In the seclusion of her own chamber, as she
recalled the burning words and the fall of her father's whip upon
the young man's pale face, she even permitted herself to sigh.  Had
he but been of her own station, he had been such a man as she would
have taken pride in being wooed by.  As it was - she halted there
and laughed disdainfully, yet with never so faint a note of regret.
It was absurd!  She was Mademoiselle de Bellecour, and he her
father's secretary; educated, if you will - aye, and beyond his
station - but a vassal withal, and very humbly born.  Yes, it was
absurd, she told herself again: the eagle may not mate with the
sparrow.

And when presently she had come from her chamber, she had been
greeted with the story of a rebellion in the village, and an
attempted assassination of her father.  The ringleader, she was
told, had been brought to the Chateau, and he was even then in the
courtyard and about to be hanged by the Marquis.  Curious to behold
this unfortunate, she had stepped out on to the balcony where already
an idle group had formed.  Inexpressible had been her shock upon
seeing him that lay below, his white face upturned to the heavens,
his eyes closed.

"Is he dead?" she asked, when presently she had overcome her feelings.

"Not yet Mademoiselle," answered the graceful Chevalier de Jacquelin,
toying with his solitaire.  "Your father is bringing him to life that
he may send him back to death."

And then she heard her father's voice behind her.  The Marquis had
stepped out on to the balcony to ascertain whether La Boulaye had
yet regained consciousness.

"He seems to be even now recovering," said someone.

"Ah, you are there, Suzanne," cried Bellecour.  "You see your friend
the secretary there.  He has chosen to present himself in a new role
to-day.  From being my servant, it seems that he would constitute
himself my murderer."

However unfilial it might be, she could not stifle a certain sympathy
for this young man.  She imagined that his rebellion, whatever shape
it had assumed, had been provoked by that weal upon his face; and it
seemed to her then that he had been less than a man had he not
attempted to exact some reparation for the hurt the whip had
inflicted at once upon his body and his soul.

"But what is it that he has done, Monsieur?" she asked, seeking more
than the scant information which so far she had received.

"Enough, at least, to justify my hanging him," answered Bellecour
grimly.  "He sought to withstand my authority; he incited the
peasants of Bellecour to withstand it; he has killed Blaise, and he
would have killed me but that I preferred to let him kill my horse."

"In what way did he seek to withstand your authority!" she persisted.

He stared at her, half surprised, half angry.

"What doers the manner of it signify?" he asked impatiently.  "Is
not the fact enough?  Is it not enough that Blaise is dead, and that
I have had a narrow escape, at his hands?"

"Insolent hound that he is!" put in Madame la Marquise - a fleshly
lady monstrously coiffed.  "If we allow such men as thus to live
in France our days are numbered."

"They say that you are going to hang him," said Suzanne, heedless
of her mother's words, and there was the faintest note of horror in
her voice.

"They are mistaken.  I am not."

"You are mot?" cried the Marquise.  "But what, then, do you intend
to do?"

"To keep my word, madame," he answered her.  "I promised that
canaille that if he ever came within the grounds of Bellecour I
would have him flogged to death.  That is what I propose."

"Father," gasped Suzanne, in horror, a horror that was echoed by
the other three or four ladies present.  But the Marquise only
laughed.

"He will be; richly served," she approved, with a sage nod of her
pumpkin-like head-dress - "most richly served."

A great pity arose now in the heart of Mademoiselle, as her father
went below that he might carry out his barbarous design.  She was
deaf to the dainty trifles which the most elegant Chevalier de
Jacquelin was murmuring into heir ear.  She stood, a tall, queenly
figure, at the balcony's parapet and watched the preparations that
were being made.

She heard her father's harshly-voiced commands.  She saw them
literally tear the clothes from the unfortunate secretary's back,
and lash him - naked to the waist - to the pump that stood by the
horse-trough at the far end of the yard.  His body was now hidden
from her sight, but his head appeared surmounting the pillar of the
pump, his chin seeming to rest upon its summit, and his face was
towards her.  At his side stood a powerful knave armed with a
stout, leather-thonged whip.

"How many strokes, Monseigneur?" she heard the man inquire.

"How many?" echoed the Marquise.  "Do I know how many it will take
to make an end of him?  Beat him to death, man.  Allons!
 Set about it."

She saw the man uncoil his lash and step forward.  In that instant
Caron's eyes were raised, and they met hers across the intervening
space.  He smiled a valedictory smile that seemed to make her heart
stand still.  She and her mother were now the only women on the
balcony.  The others had made haste to withdraw as soon as La
Boulaye had been pilloried.  The Marquise remained because she
seemed to find entertainment in the spectacle.  Suzanne remained
because horror rooted her to the spot - horror and a great pity for
this unfortunate who had looked so strong and brave that morning,
when he had had the audacity to tell her that he loved her.

The lash sang through the air, quivered, hummed, and cut with a
sickening crackle into the young man's flesh.

The hideous sound roused her She shuddered from head to foot, and
turning she put her hands to her face and rushed within, followed
by the Marquise's derisive laughter.

"Mon Dieu!  It is horrible!  Horrible!" she cried as she sank into
the nearest chair, and clapped her hands to her ears.  But she
could not shut it out.  Still she heard the humming of the whip and
the cruel sound of the falling blows.  Mechanically she counted
them, unconsciously almost, and at twenty she heard them cease.
Was it over?  Was he dead, this poor unfortunate?  Moved by a
curiosity that was greater than her loathing, she rose and went
to the threshold of the balcony.

"Is it ended?" she asked.

"Ended?" echoed Monsieur de Jacquelin, with a shrug.  "It is scarce
begun, it seems.  The executioner is pausing for breath, that is
all.  The fellow has not uttered a sound.  He is as obstinate as
a mule."

"As enduring as a Spartan," more generously put in the Vicomte, her
brother.  "Look at him, Suzanne."

Almost involuntarily she obeyed, and moved forward a step that she
might behold him.  A face, deathly pale, she saw, which in the
sunshine glistened with the sweat of agony that bedewed it; but the
lips were tightly closed and the countenance grimly expressionless.
Even as she looked she heard her father command the man to lay on
anew.  Then, as before, his eyes met hers; but this time no smile
did she see investing them.

Again the whip cracked and fell.  She drew back, but his glance
seemed to haunt her even when she no longer saw his face.  A sudden
resolution moved her, and in a frenzy of anger and compassion she
flung out of the room.  A moment later she burst like a beautiful
virago into the courtyard.

"Stop!" she commanded shrilly, causing both her father and the
executioner to turn, and the latter pausing in his hideous work.
But a glance from the Marquis bade him resume, and resume he did,
as though there had been no interruption.

"What is this?" demanded Bellecour, half amused, half vexed, whilst
a sudden new light leapt to the eyes of La Boulaye, which but a
moment back had been so full of agony.

But Mademoiselle never paused to answer her father.  Seeing the
executioner proceeding, despite her call to cease, she sprang upon
him, caught him by the arms and wrested the whip from hands that
dared not resist her.

"Did I not bid you stop?" she blazed, her face white, her eyes on
fire; and raising the whip she brought it down upon his head and
shoulders, not once but half-a-dozen times in quick succession,
until he fled, howling, to the other side of the horse trough for
shelter.  "It stings you, does it" she cried, whilst the Marquis,
from angered that at first he had been, now burst into a laugh at
her fury and at this turning of tables upon the executioner.  She
made shift to pursue the fellow to his place of refuge, but
coming of a sudden upon the ghastly sight presented by La Boulaye's
lacerated back, she drew back in horror.  Then, mastering herself
 - for girl though she was, her courage was of a high order - she
turned to her father.

"Give this man to me, Monsieur," she begged.

"To you!" he exclaimed.  "What will you do with him?"

"I will see that you are rid of him," she promised.  "What more can
you desire?  You have tortured him enough."

"Maybe.  But am I to blame that he dies so hard?"

She answered him with renewed insistence, and unexpectedly she
received an ally in M. des Cadoux - an elderly gentleman who had
been observing the flogging with disapproval, and who had followed
her into the courtyard.

"He is too brave a man to die like this, Bellecour," put in the
newcomer.  "I doubt if he can survive the punishment he has already
received.  Yet I would ask you, in the name of courage, to give him
the slender chance he may have."

"I promised him he should be flogged to death - " began the Marquis,
when Des Cadoux and Mademoiselle jointly interrupted him to renew
their intercessions.

"But, sangdieu," the Marquis protested "you seem to forget that he
has killed one of my servants."

"Why, then, you should have hanged him out of hand, not tortured
him thus," answered Des Cadoux shortly.

For a moment it almost seemed as if the pair of them would have
fallen a-quarrelling.  Their words grew more heated, and then,
while they were still wrangling, the executioner came forward to
solve matters with the news that the secretary had expired.  To
Bellecour this proved a very welcome conclusion.

"Most opportunely!" he laughed "Had the rascal lived another minute
I think we had quarrelled, Cadoux."  He turned to the servant, "You
are certain that it is so?" he asked.

"Look, Monsieur," said the fellow, as he pointed with his whip to
the pilloried figure of La Boulaye.  The Marquis looked, and saw
that the secretary had collapsed, and hung limp in his bonds, his
head fallen back upon his shoulders and his eyes closed.

With a shrug and a short laugh Bellecour turned to his daughter.

"You may take the carrion, if you want to.  But I think you can do
no more than order it to be flung into a ditch and buried there."

But she had no mind to be advised by him.  She had the young man's
body cut down from the pump, and she bade a couple of servants
convey it to the house of Master Duhamel, she for remembered that
La Boulaye and the old pedagogue were friends.

"An odd thing is a woman's heart," grumbled the Marquis, who
begrudged La Boulaye even his last act of mercy.  "She may care
never a fig for a man, and yet, if he has but told her that he
loves her, be he never so mean and she never so exalted, he seems
thereby to establish some measure of claim to her."




CHAPTER IV

THE DISCIPLES OF ROUSSEAU


The Marquis of Bellecour would, perhaps have philosophised less
complacently had he known that the secretary was far from dead,
and that what the executioner had, genuinely enough, mistaken for
death was no more than a passing swoon.  Under ordinary
circumstances he might not have been satisfied to have taken the
fellow's word; he would himself have ascertained the truth of the
statement by a close inspection of the victim.  But, as we have
seen, the news came as so desirable a solution to the altercation
that was waxing 'twixt himself and Des Cadoux that he was more
than glad to avail himself of it.

The discovery that Caron lived was made while they were cutting him
down from his pillory, and just as the Marquis was turning to go
within.  A flutter of the eyelids and a gasp for breath announced
the fact, and the executioner was on the point of crying out his
discovery when Mademoiselle's eyes flashed him a glance of warning,
and her voice whispered feverishly:

"Hush!  There are ten louis for each of you if you but keep silent
and carry him to Master Duhamel as I told you."

The secretary opened his eyes but saw nothing, and a low moan
escaped him.  She shot a fearful glance at the retreating figure of
her father, whilst Gilles - the executioner - hissed sharply into
his ear:

"Mille diables! be still, man.  You are dead."

Thus did he escape, and thus was he borne - a limp, agonised, and
bleeding mass, to the house of Duhamel.  The old schoolmaster
received them with tears in his eyes - nor were they altogether tears
of sorrow, for all that poor Caron's mangled condition grieved him
sorely; they were in a measure tears of thankfulness; for Duhamel had
not dared hope to see the young man alive again.

At the pedagogue's door stood a berline, and within his house there
was a visitor.  This was a slight young man of medium stature, who
had not the appearance of more than twenty-five years of age, for
all that, as a matter of fact, he was just over thirty.  He was
dressed with so scrupulous a neatness as to convey, in spite of the
dark colour of his garments, an impression almost of foppishness.
There was an amplitude about his cravat, an air of extreme care
about the dressing of his wig and the powdering of it, and a shining
brightness about his buttons and the buckles of his shoes which
seemed to proclaim the dandy, just as the sombreness of the colour
chosen seemed to deny it.  In his singularly pale countenance a
similar contradiction was observable.  The weak, kindly eyes almost
appeared to give the lie to the astute prominence of his cheekbones;
the sensitiveness of the mouth seemed neutralised by the thinness
of the lips, whilst the oddly tip-tilted nose made a mock of the
austerity of the brow.

He was perfectly at ease in his surroundings, and as La Boulaye was
carried into the schoolmaster's study and laid on a couch, he came
forward and peered curiously at the secretary's figure, voicing an
inquiry concerning him.

"It is the young man of whom I was telling you, Maximilien," answered
Duhamel.  "I give thanks to God that they have not killed him
outright.  It is a mercy I had not expected from those wolves, and
one which, on my soul, I cannot understand."

"Monsieur," said Gilles, "will understand it better perhaps if I
tell you that the Marquis believes him to be dead.  He was cut down
for dead, and when we discovered that he still lived it was
Mademoiselle who prevailed upon us to save him.  She is paying us
to keep the secret, but not a fortune would tempt me if I thought
the Seigneur were ever likely to hear of it.  He must be got away
from Bellecour; indeed, he must be got out of Picardy at once,
Monsieur.  And you must promise me that this shall be done or we
will carry him back to the Chateau and tell the Marquis that he
has suddenly revived.  I must insist, Monsieur; for if ever it
should transpire that he was not dead the Seigneur would hang us."

The stranger's weak eyes seemed to kindle in anger, and his lips
curled until they exaggerated the already preposterous tilt of his
nose.

"He would hang you, eh?" said he.  "Ma foi, Duhamel, we shall change
all this very soon, I promise you."

"God knows it needs changing," growled Duhamel.  "It seems that it
was only in the Old Testament that Heaven interfered with human
iniquity.  Why it does not rain fire and brimstone on the Chateau
de Bellecour passes the understanding of a good Christian.  I'll
swear that in neither Sodom nor Gomorrah was villainy more rampant.

The stranger plucked at his sleeve to remind him of the presence
of the servants from the Chateau.  Duhamel turned to them.

"I will keep him concealed here until he is able to get about,"
he assured them.  "Then I shall find him the means to leave the
province."

But Gilles shook his head, and his companion grunted an echo of
his disapproval.

"That will not serve, master," he answered sullenly.  "What if the
Seigneur should have word of his presence here?  It is over-dangerous.
Someone may see him.  No, no, Either he leaves Bellecour this very
night, and you swear that he shall, or else we carry him back to the
Chateau."

"But how can I swear this?" cried Duhamel impatiently.

"Why, easily enough," put in the stranger.  " Let me take him in my
berline.  I can leave him at Amiens or at Beauvais, or any one of
the convenient places that I pass.  Or I can even carry him on to
Paris with me."

"You are very good, Maximilien," answered the old man, to which the
other returned a gesture of deprecation.

In this fashion, then, was the matter settled to the satisfaction
of the Seigneur's retainers, and upon having received Duhamel's
solemn promise that Caron should be carried out of Bellecour, and,
for that matter, out of Picardy, before the night was spent, they
withdrew.

Within the schoolmaster's study he whom Duhamel called Maximilien
strode to and fro, his hands clasped behind his back, his head bent,
his chin thrust forward, denouncing the seigneurial system, of whose
atrocity he had received that evening instances enough - for he had
heard the whole story of La Boulaye's rebellion against the power
of Bellecour and the causes that had led to it.

"We will mend all this, I promise you, Duhamel," he was repeating.
"But not until we have united to shield the weak from oppression,
to restrain the arrogant and to secure to each the possession of
what belongs to him; not until all men are free and started upon
equal terms in the race of life; not until we shall have set up
rules of justice and of peace, to which all - rich and poor, noble
and simple alike - shall be obliged to conform.  Thus only can we
repair the evil done by the caprice of fortune, which causes the
one to be born into silk and the other into fustian.  We must
subject the weak and the mighty alike to mutual duties, collecting
our forces into the supreme power to govern us all impartially by
the same laws, to protect alike all members of the community, to
repel our common foes and preserve us in never-ending concord.  How
many crimes, murders, wars, miseries, horrors shall thus be spared
us, Duhamel?  And it will come; it will come soon, never fear."

Caron stirred on the couch where Duhamel was tending him, and raised
his head to glance at the man who was voicing the doctrines that for
years had dwelt in his heart.

"Dear Jean Jacques," he murmured.

The stranger turned sharply and stepped to the young man's side.

"You have read the master?" he inquired, with a sudden, new-born
interest in the secretary.

"Read him?" cried Carom forgetting for the moment the sore condition
of his body in the delight of discovering one who was bound to him
by such bonds of sympathy as old Rousseau established.

"Read him, Monsieur?  There is scarce a line in all his 'Discourses'
that I do not know by heart, and that I do not treasure, vaguely
hoping and praying that some day such a state as he dreamt of may
find itself established, and may sweep aside these corrupt,
tyrannical conditions."

Maximilien's eyes kindled.

"Boy," he answered impressively, "Your hopes are on the eve of
fruition, your prayers are about to be heard.  Yes - even though it
should entail trampling the Lilies of France into the very dust.

"Who are you, Monsieur?" asked La Boulaye, eyeing this prophet with
growing interest.

"Robespierre is my name," was the answer, and to La Boulaye it
conveyed no enlightenment, for the name of Maximilien Marie Isidore
de Robespierre, which within so very short a time was to mean so
much in France, as yet meant nothing.

La Boulaye inclined his head as if acknowledging an introduction,
then turned his attention to Duhamel who was offering him a cup of
wine.  He drank gratefully, and the invigorating effects were almost
instantaneous.

"Now let us see to your hurts," said the schoolmaster, who had taken
some linen and a pot of unguents from a cupboard.  La Boulaye sat
up, and what time Duhamel was busy dressing his lacerated back, the
young man talked with Robespierre.

"You are going to Paris, you say, Monsieur?"

"Yes, to the States-General," answered Maximilien.

"As a deputy?" inquired Caron, with ever-heightening interest.

"As a deputy, Monsieur.  My friends of Arras have elected me to the
Third Estate of Artois."

"Dieu! How I envy you!" exclaimed La Boulaye, to cry out a moment
later in the pain to which Duhamel's well-intentioned operations
were subjecting him.  "I would it might be mine," he added presently,
"to take a hand in legislation, and the mending of it; for as it
stands at present it is inferior far to the lawless anarchy of the
aborigines.  Among them, at least, the conditions are more normal,
they offer better balance between faculty and execution; they are
by far more propitious to happiness and order than is this broken
wreck of civilisation that we call France.  It is to equality alone,"
he continued, warming to his subject, "that Nature has attached the
preservation of our social faculties, and all legislation that aims
at being efficient should be directed to the establishment of
equality.  As it is, the rich will always prefer their own fortune
to that of the State, whilst the poor will never love - nor can
love - a condition of laws that leaves them in misery."

Robespierre eyed the young man in some surprise.  His delivery was
impassioned, and although in what he said there was perhaps nothing
that was fresh to the lawyer of Arras, yet the manner in which he
said it was impressive to a degree.

"But Duhamel," he cried to the schoolmaster, "you did not tell me
this young patriot was an orator."

"Nor am I, Monsieur," smiled La Boulaye.  "I am but the mouthpiece
of the great Rousseau.  I have so assimilated his thoughts that they
come from me as spontaneously as if they were my own, and often I go
so far as to delude myself into believing that they are."

No better recommendation than this could he have had to the attention
of Robespierre, who was himself much in the same case, imbued with
and inspired by those doctrines, so ideal in theory, but, alas! so
difficult, so impossible in practice.  For fully an hour they sat
and talked, and each improved in his liking of the other, until at
last, bethinking him of the flight of time, Robespierre announced
that he must start.

"You will take him to Paris with you, Maximilien?" quoth the old
pedagogue.

"Ma foi, yes; and if with such gifts as Nature appears to have given
him, and such cultivation of them as, through the teachings of
Rousseau, he has effected, I do not make something of him, why,
then, I am unworthy of the confidence my good friends of Arras
repose in me."

They made their adieux, and the schoolmaster, opening his door,
peered out.  The street was deserted save forte Robespierre's
berline and his impatient postillion.  Between them Duhamel and
Maximilien assisted Caron to the door of the carriage.  The moving
subjected him to an excruciating agony, but he caught his nether
lip in his teeth, and never allowed them to suspect it.  As they
raised him into the berline, however, he toppled forward, fainting.
Duhamel hastened indoors for a cordial, and brought also some
pillows with which to promote the young man's comfort on the
journey that was before him - or, rather, to lessen the discomfort
which the jolting was likely to occasion him.

Caron recovered before they started, and with tears in his eyes
he thanked old Duhamel and voiced a hope that they might meet again
ere long.

Then Robespierre jumped nimbly into the berline.  The door closed,
the postillion's whip cracked briskly, and they set out upon a
journey which to La Boulaye was to be as the passing from one
life to another.




PART II

THE NEW RULE

Allons!  Marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!
   La Marseillaise.




CHAPTER V

THE SHEEP TURNED WOLVES


There were roars of anger and screams of terror in the night, and
above the Chateau de Bellecour the inky blackness of the heavens
was broken by a dull red glow, which the distant wayfarer might
have mistaken for the roseate tint of dawn, were it possible for
the dawn to restrict itself to so narrow an area.

Ever and anon a tongue of flame would lick up into the night towards
that russet patch of sky, betraying the cause of it and proclaiming
that incendiaries were at work.  Above the ominous din that told of
the business afoot there came now and again the crack of a musket,
and dominating all other sounds was the sullen roar of the revolted
peasants, the risen serfs, the rebellious vassals of the Siegneur de
Bellecour.

For time has sped and has much altered in the speeding.  Four years
have gone by since the night on which the lacerated Caron la Boulaye
was smuggled out of Bellecour in Robespierre's berline and in that
four years much of the things that were prophesied have come to pass
 - aye, and much more besides that was undreamt of at the outset by
the revolutionaries.  A gruesome engine that they facetiously called
the National Razor - invented and designed some years ago by one Dr.
Guillotin - is but an item in the changes that have been, yet an item
that in its way has become a very factor.  It stands not over-high,
yet the shadow of it has fallen athwart the whole length and breadth
of France, and in that shadow the tyrants have trembled, shaken to
the very souls of them by the rude hand of fear; in that shadow the
spurned and downtrodden children of the soil have taken heart of
grace.  The bonds of servile cowardice that for centuries had
trammelled them have been shaken off like cobwebs, and they that
were as sheep are now become the wolves that prey on those that
preyed on them for generations.

There is, in the whole of France, no corner so remote but that,
sooner or later, this great upheaval has penetrated to it.
Louis XVI. - or Louis Capet, as he is now more generally spoken of
- has been arraigned, condemned and executed.  The aristocrats are
in full emigratory flight across the frontiers - those that have not
been rent by the vassals they had brought to bay, the people they
had outraged.  The Lilies of France lie trampled under foot in the
shambles they have made of that fair land, whilst overhead the
tricolour - that symbol of the new trinity, Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity - is flaunted in the breeze.

A few of the more proud and obstinate - so proud and obstinate as
to find it a thing incredible that the order should indeed change
and the old regime pass away - still remain, and by their vain
endeavours to lord it in their castles provoke such scenes as that
enacted at Bellecour in February of '93 (by the style of slaves)
or Pluviose of the year One of the French Republic, as it shall
presently come to be known in the annals of the Revolution.

Bellecour, the most arrogant of arrogants, had stood firm, and
desperately contrived through all these months of revolution to
maintain his dominion in his corner of Picardy.  But even he was
beginning to realise that the end was at hand, and he made his
preparations to emigrate.  Too proud, however, to permit his
emigration to savour of a flight, he carried the leisureliness of
his going to dangerous extremes.  And now, on the eve of departure,
he must needs pause to give a fete at once of farewell and in honour
of his daughter's betrothal to the Vicomte Anatole d'Ombreval.  This
very betrothal at so unpropitious a season was partly no more than
contrived by the Marquis that he might mark his ignoring and his
serene contempt of the upheaval and the new rule which it had
brought.

All that was left of the noblesse in Picardy had flocked that day
to the Chateau de Bellecour, and the company there assembled
numbered perhaps some thirty gallants and some twenty ladies.  A
banquet there had been, which in the main was a gloomy function,
for the King's death was too recent a matter to be utterly lost
sight of.  Later, however, as the generous supply of wine did its
work and so far thawed the ice of apprehension that bound their
souls as to dispose them to enjoy, at least, the present hour in
forgetfulness, there was a better humour in the air.  This developed,
and so far indeed did it go that in the evening a Pavane was
suggested, and, the musicians being found, it was held in the great
salon of the Chateau.

It was then that the first alarm had penetrated to their midst.  It
had found them a recklessly merry crew, good to behold in their
silks and satins, powder and patches, gold lace and red heels, moving
with waving fans, or hand on sword, and laced beaver under elbow,
through the stately figures of the gavotte.

Scared, white-faced lackeys had brought the news, dashing wildly in
upon that courtly assembly.  The peasants had risen and were marching
on Bellecour.

Some of his sudden rage the Marquis vented by striking the servants'
spokesman in the face.

"Dare you bring me such a message?" he cried furiously.

"But, my lord, what are we to do?" gasped the frightened lackey.

"Do, fool?" returned Bellecour.  "Why, close the gates and bid them
return home as they value their lives.  For if they give me trouble
I'll hang a round dozen of them."

Still was there that same big talk of hanging men.  Still did it
seem that the Marquis of Bellecour accounted himself the same lord
of life and death that he and his forbears had been for generations.
But there were others who thought differently.  The music had ceased
abruptly, and a little knot of gentlemen now gathered about the host,
and urged him to take some measures of precaution.  In particular
they desired to ensure the safety of the ladies who were being thrown
into a great state of alarm, so that of some of these were the
screams that were heard in that night of terror.  Bellecour's temper
was fast gaining, and as he lost control of himself the inherent
brutality of his character came uppermost.

"Mesdames," he cried rudely, "this screeching will profit us nothing.
Even if we must die, let us die becomingly, not shrieking like
butchered geese."

A dozen men raised their voices angrily against him in defence of
the women he had slighted.  But he waved them impatiently away.

"Is this an hour in which to fall a-quarrelling among ourselves?"
he exclaimed.  "Or do you think it one in which a man can stop to
choose his words?  Sang-dieu!  That screaming is a more serious
matter than at first may seem.  If these rebellious dogs should
chance to hear it, it will be but so much encouragement to them.
A fearless front, a cold contempt, are weapons unrivalled if you
would prevail against these mutinous cravens."

But his guests were insistent that something more than fearless
fronts and cold contempts should be set up as barriers between
themselves and the advancing peasantry.  And in the end Bellecour
impatiently quitted the room to give orders for the barricading of
the gates and the defending of the Chateau, leaving behind him in
the salon the very wildest of confusions.

>From the windows the peasantry could now be seen, by the light of
their torches, marching up the long avenue that fronted the Chateau,
and headed by a single drum on which the bearer did no more than
beat the step.  They were a fierce, unkempt band, rudely armed -
some with scythes, some with sickles, some with hedge-knives, and
some with hangers; whilst here and there was one who carried a gun,
and perhaps a bayonet as well.  Nor were there men only in the
rebellious ranks.  There were an almost equal number of women in
crimson caps, their bosoms bare, their heads dishevelled, their
garments filthy and in rags - for the tooth of poverty had bitten
deeply into them during the past months.

As they swung along to the rhythmical thud of the drum, their voices
were raised in a fearful chorus that must have made one think of the
choirs of hell, and the song they sang was the song of Rouget de
l'Isle, which all France had been singing these twelve months past:

   "Aux armes, citovens!
    Formez vos bataillons.
    Allons, marchons!
    Qu'un sang inpur
    Abreuve nos sillons!"

Ever swelling as they drew nearer came the sound of that terrible
hymn to the ears of the elegant, bejewelled, bepowdered company in
the Chateau.  The gates were reached and found barred.  An angry
roar went up to Heaven, followed by a hail of blows upon the stout,
ironbound oak, and an imperious call to open.

In the courtyard below the Marquis had posted the handful of servants
that remained faithful - for reasons that Heaven alone may discern -
to the fortunes of the house.  He had armed them with carbines and
supplied them with ammunition.  He had left them orders to hold off
the mob from the outer gates as long as possible; but should these be
carried, they were to fall back into the Chateau itself, and make fast
the doors.  Meanwhile, he was haranguing the gentlemen - some thirty
of them, as we have seen - in the salon and urging them to arm
themselves so that they might render assistance.

His instances were met with a certain coldness, which at last was
given expression by the most elegant Vicomte d'Ombreval - the man
who was about to become his son-in-law.

"My dear Marquis," protested the young man, his habitually
supercilious mouth looking even more supercilious than usual as he
now spoke, "I beg that you will consider what you are proposing.  We
are your guests, we others, and you ask us to defend your gates
against your own people for you!  Surely, surely, sir, your first
duty should have been to have ensured our safety against such
mutinies on the part of the rabble of Bellecour."

The Seigneur angrily stamped his foot.  In his choler he was within
an ace of striking Ombreval, and might have done so had not the
broad-minded and ever-reasonable old Des Cadoux interposed at that
moment to make clear to the Marquis's guests a situation than which
nothing could have been clearer.  He put it to them that the times
were changed, and that France was no longer what France had been;
that allowances must be made for M. de Bellecour, who was in no
better case than any other gentleman in that unhappy country! and
finally, that either they must look to arming and defending
themselves or they must say their prayers and submit to being
butchered with the ladies.

"For ourselves," he concluded calmly, tapping his gold snuffbox and
holding it out to Bellecour, for all the world with the air of one
who was discussing the latest fashion in wigs, "I can understand
your repugnance at coming to blows with this obscene canaille.  It
is doing them an honour of which they are not worthy.  But we have
these ladies to think of, Messieurs, and - " he paused to apply the
rappee to his nostrils - "and we must exert ourselves to save them,
however disagreeable the course we may be compelled to pursue.
Messieurs, I am the oldest here; permit that I show you the way."

His words were not without effect; they kindled chivalry in hearts
that, after all, were nothing if not prone to chivalry - according
to their own lights - and presently something very near enthusiasm
prevailed.  But the supercilious and very noble Ombreval still
grumbled.

"To ask me to fight this scum!" he ejaculated in horror "Pardi!  It
is too much.  Ask me to beat them off with a whip like a pack of
curs, and I'll do it readily.  But fight them - !"

"Nothing could delight us more, Vicomte, than to see you beat them
off with a whip," Des Cadoux assured him.  "Arm yourself with a whip,
by all means, my friend, and let us witness the prodigies you can
perform with it."

"See what valour inflames the Vicomte, Suzanne," sneered a handsome
woman into Mademoiselle's ear.  With what alacrity he flies to arms
that he may defend you, even with his life."

"M. d'Ombreval is behaving according to his lights," answered Suzanne
coldly.

"Ma foi, then his lights are unspeakably dim," was the contemptuous
answer.

Mademoiselle gave no outward sign of the deep wound her pride was
receiving.  The girl of nineteen, who had scorned the young
secretary-lover in the park of Bellecour that morning four years ago,
was developed into a handsome lady of three-and-twenty.

"It would be beneath the dignity of his station to soil his hands
in such a conflict as my father has suggested," she said at last.

"I wonder would it be beneath the dignity of his courage," mused the
same caustic friend.  "But surely not, for nothing could be beneath
that."

"Madame!" exclaimed Suzanne, her cheeks reddening; for as of old,
and like her father, she was quickly moved to anger.  "Will it please
you to remember that M. d'Ombreval is my affianced husband?"

"True," confessed the lady, no whit abashed.  "But had I not been
told so I had accounted him your rejected suitor, who,
broken-hearted, gives no thought either to his own life or to yours."

In a pet, Mademoiselle gave her shoulder to the speaker and turned
away.  In spite of the words with which she had defended him, Suzanne
was disappointed in her betrothed, and yet, in a way, she understood
his bearing to be the natural fruit of that indomitable pride of
which she had observed the outward signs, and for which, indeed as
much as for the beauty of his person, she had consented to become his
wife.  After all, it was the outward man she knew.  The marriage had
been arranged, and this was but their third meeting, whilst never for
an instant had they been alone together.  By her mother she had been
educated up to the idea that it was eminently desirable she should
become the Vicomtesse d'Ombreval.  At first she had endured dismay at
the fact that she had never beheld the Vicomte, and because she
imagined that he would be, most probably, some elderly roue, as did
so often fall to the lot of maidens in her station.  But upon finding
him so very handsome to behold, so very noble of bearing, so lofty
and disdainful that as he walked he seemed to spurn the very earth,
she fell enamoured of him out of very relief, as well as because he
was the most superb specimen of the other sex that it had ever been
hers to observe.

And now that she had caught a glimpse of the soul that dwelt beneath
that mass of outward perfections it had cost her a pang of
disappointment, and the poisonous reflection cast upon his courage
by that sardonic lady with whom she had talked was having its effect.

But the time was too full of other trouble to permit her to indulge
her thoughts overlong upon such a matter.  A volley of musketry from
below came to warn them of the happenings there.  The air was charged
with the hideous howls of the besieging mob, and presently there was
a cry from one of the ladies, as a sudden glare of light crimsoned
the window-panes.

"What is that?" asked Madame de Bellecour of her husband.

"They have fired the stables," he answered, through set teeth.  "I
suppose they need light to guide them in their hell's work."

He strode to the glass doors opening to the balcony the same balcony
from which four years ago his guests had watched the flogging of La
Boulaye - and, opening them, he passed out.  His appearance was
greeted by a storm of execration.  A sudden shot rang out, and the
bullet, striking the wall immediately above him, brought down a
shower of plaster on his head.  It had been fired by a demoniac who sat astride the great gates
waving his discharged carbine and yelling such ordures of speech as it had never been the most
noble Marquis's lot to have stood listening to.  Bellecour never flinched.  As calmly as if nothing
had happened, he leant over the parapet and called to his men below

"Hold, there!  Of what are you dreaming slumberers.  Shoot me that
fellow down."

Their guns had been discharged, but one of them, who had now completed
his reloading, levelled the carbine and fired.  The figure on the
gates seemed to leap up from his sitting posture, and then with a
scream he went over, back to his friends without.

The fired stables were burning gaily by now, and the cheeriest
bonfire man could have desired on a dark night, and in the courtyard
it was become as light as day.

The Marquis on the balcony was taking stock of his defences and
making rapid calculations in his mind.  He saw no reason why, so
well protected by those stout oaken gates they should not - if they
were but resolute - eventually beat back the mob.  And then, even as
his courage was rising at the thought, a deafening explosion seemed
to shake the entire Chateau, and the gates - their sole buckler,
upon whose shelter he had been so confidently building - crashed open,
half blown away by the gunpowder keg that had been fired against it.

He had a fleeting glimpse of a stream of black fiends pouring through
the dark gap and dashing with deafening yells into the crimson light
of the courtyard.  He saw his little handful of servants retreat
precipitately within the Chateau.  He heard the clang of the doors
that were swung to just as the foremost of the rabble reached the
threshold -  With all this clearly stamped upon his mind, he turned,
and springing into the salon he drew his sword.

"To the stairs, Messieurs!" he cried "To the stairs!"

And to the stairs they went.  The extremity was now too great for
argument.  They dared not so much as look at their women-folk, lest
they should be unmanned by the sight of those huddled creatures -
their finery but serving to render them the more pitiable in their
sickly affright.  In a body the whole thirty of them swept from the
room, and with Bellecour at their head and Ombreval somewhere in the
rearmost rank, they made their way to the great staircase.

Here, armed with their swords and a brace of pistols to each man,
whilst for a few the Marquis had even found carbines, they waited,
with faces set and lips tight pressed for the end that they knew
approached.

Nor was their waiting long.  As the peasants had blown down the
gates so now did they blow down the doors of the Chateau, and in the
explosion three of Bellecour's servants - who had stood too near -
were killed.  Over the threshold they swarmed into the dark gulf of
the great hall to the foot of the staircase.  But here they were at
a disadvantage.  The light of the burning stables, shining through
the open doorway, revealed them to the defenders, whilst they
themselves looked up into the dark.  There was a sudden cracking of
pistols and a few louder reports from the guns, and the mob fled,
screaming, back into the yard, leaving a score of dead and wounded
on the polished floor of the hall.

Old M. des Cadoux laughed in the dark, as with his sword hanging
rom his wrist he tapped his snuff-box.

"Ma foi," said he to his neighbour, "they are discovering that it is
not to be the triumphal march they had expected.  A pinch of rappee,
Stanislas?"

But the respite was brief.  In a moment they saw the glare increase
at the door, and presently a half-dozen of the rabble entered with
torches, followed by some scores of their comrades.  They paused at
sight of that company ranged upon the stairs, as well they might,
for a more incongruous sight could scarcely be imagined.  Across the
bodies of the slain, and revealed by the lifting powder smoke, stood
that little band of thirty men, a blaze of gay colours, a sheen of
silken hose, their wigs curled and powdered, their costly ruffles
scintillant with jewels; calm, and supercilious, mocking to a man.
There was a momentary gasp of awe, and then the spell was broken by
the aristocrats themselves.  A pistol spoke, and a volley followed.
In the hall some stumbled forward, some hurtled backward, and some
sank down in nerveless heaps.  But those that remained did not again
retreat.  Reinforced by others, that crowded in behind, they charged
boldly up the stairs, headed by a ragged, red capped giant named
Souvestre - a man whom the Marquis had once irreparably wronged.

The sight of him was a revelation to Bellecour.  This assault was
Souvestre's work; the fellow had been inciting the people of
Bellecour for the past twelve months, long indeed before the outbreak
of the revolution proper, and at last he had roused them to the pitch
of accompanying him upon his errand of tardy but relentless vengeance.

With a growl the Marquis raised his pistol.  But Souvestre saw the
movement, and with a laugh he did the like.  Simultaneously there
were two reports, and Bellecour's arm fell shattered to his side.
Souvestre continued to advance, his smoking pistol in one hand and
brandishing a huge sabre with the other.  Behind him, howling and
roaring like the beasts of prey they were become, surged the tenantry
of Bellecour to pay the long-standing debt of hate to their seigneur.

"Here," said Des Cadoux, with a grimace, "endeth the chapter of our
lives.  I wonder, do they keep rappee in heaven?"  He snapped down
the lid of his gold snuffbox - that faithful companion and consoler
of so many years - and cast it viciously at the head of one of the
oncoming peasants.  Then tossing back the lace from his wrist he
brought his sword into guard and turned aside a murderous stroke
which an assailant aimed at him.

"Animal," he snapped viciously, as he set to work, "it is the first
time that my chaste blade has been crossed with such dirty steel as
yours.  I hope, for the honour of Cadoux, that it may not be quite
the last."

Up, and ever up, swept that murderous tide.  The half of those that
had held the stairs lay weltering upon them as if in a last attempt
to barricade with their bodies what they could no longer defend with
their hands.  A bare half-score remained standing, and amongst these
that gallant old Cadoux, who had by now accounted for a, half-dozen
sans-culottes, and was hence in high glee, a man rejuvenesced.  His
sallies grew livelier and more barbed as the death-tide rose higher
about him.  His one regret was that he had been so hasty in casting
his snuff box from him, for he was missing its familiar stimulus.
At his side the Marquis was fighting desperately, fencing with his
left arm, and in the hot excitement seeming oblivious of the pain
his broken right must be occasioning.

"It is ended, old friend," he groaned at last, to Des Cadoux.  "I
am losing strength, and I shall be done for in a moment.  The women,"
he almost sobbed, "mon Dieu, the women!"

Des Cadoux felt his old eyes grow moist, and the odd, fierce mirth
that seemed to have hitherto infected him went out like a candle
that is snuffed.  But suddenly before he could make any answer, a
new and unexpected sound, which dominated the din of combat, and
seemed to cause all - assailants and defenders alike - to pause that
they might listen, was wafted to their ears.

It was the roll of the drum.  Not the mere thudding that had beaten
the step for the mob, but the steady and vigorous tattoo of many
sticks upon many skins.

"What is it?  Who comes?" were the questions that men asked one
another, as both aristocrats and sansculottes paused in their bloody
labours.  It was close at hand.  So close at hand that they could
discern the tramp of marching feet.  In the infernal din of that
fight upon the stairs they had not caught the sound of this approach
until now that the new-comers - whoever they might be - were at the
very gates of Bellecour.

>From the mob in the yard there came a sudden outcry.  Men sprang to
the door of the Chateau and shouted to those within.

"Aux Armes," was the cry.  "A nous, d nous!"

And in response to it the assailants turned tail, and dashed down
the stairs, overleaping the dead bodies that were piled upon them,
and many a man slipping in that shambles and ending the descent on
his back.  Out into the courtyard they swept: leaving that handful
of gentlemen, their fine clothes disordered, splashed with blood
and grimed with powder, to question one another touching this
portent, this miracle that seemed wrought by Heaven for their
salvation.





CHAPTER VI

THE CITIZEN COMMISSIONER


It was, after all, no miracle, unless the very timely arrival upon
the scene of a regiment of the line might be accepted in the light
of Heaven-directed.  As a matter of fact, a rumour of the assault
that was to be made that night upon the Chateau de Bellecour had
travelled as far as Amiens, and there, that evening, it had reached
the ears of a certain Commissioner of the National Convention, who
was accompanying this regiment to the army of Dumouriez, then in
Belgium.

Now it so happened that this Commissioner had meditated making a
descent upon the Chateau on his own account, and he was not minded
that any peasantry should forestall or baulk him in the business
which he proposed to carry out there.  Accordingly, he issued certain
orders to the commandant, from which it resulted that a company, two
hundred strong, was immediately despatched to Bellecour, to either
defend or rescue it from the mob, and thereafter to await the arrival
of the Commissioner himself.

This was the company that had reached Bellecour in the eleventh hour,
to claim the attention of the assailants.  But the peasants, as we
have seen, were by no means disposed to submit to interference, and
this they signified by the menacing front they showed the military,
abandoning their attack upon the Chateau until they should be clear
concerning the intentions of the newcomers.  Of these intentions the
Captain did not leave them long in doubt.  A brisk word of command
brought his men into a bristling line of attack, which in itself
should have proved sufficient to ensure the peasantry's respect.

"Citizens" cried the officer, stepping forward, "in the name of the
French Republic I charge you to withdraw and to leave us unhampered
in the business we are here to discharge."

"Citizen-captain,"answered the giant Souvestre, constituting himself
the spokesman of his fellows, "we demand to know by what right you
interfere with honest patriots of France in the act of ridding it
of some of the aristocratic vermin that yet lingers on its soil?"

The officer stared at his interlocutor, amazed by the tone of the
man as much as by the sudden growls that chorused it, but nowise
intimidated by either the one or the other.

"I proclaimed my right when I issued my charge in the name of the
Republic," he answered shortly.

"We are the Republic," Souvestre retorted, with a wave of the hand
towards the ferocious crowd of men and women behind him.  "We are
the Nation - the sacred people of France.  In our own name,
Citizen-soldier, we charge you to withdraw and leave us undisturbed."

Here lay the basis of an argument into which, however, the Captain,
being neither politician nor dialectician, was not minded to be
drawn.   He shrugged his shoulders and turned to his men.

"Present arms!" was the answer he delivered, in a voice of supreme
unconcern.

"Citizen-captain, this is an outrage," screamed a voice in the mob.
"If blood is shed, upon your own head be it."

"Will you withdraw?" inquired the Captain coldly.

"To me, my children,"cried Souvestre, brandishing his sabre, and
seeking to encourage his followers.  "Down with these traitors who
dishonour the uniform of France!  Death to the blue-coats!"

He leapt forward towards the military, and with a sudden roar his
followers, a full hundred strong sprang after him to the charge.

"Fire!" commanded the Captain, and from the front line of his
company fifty sheets of flame flashed from fifty carbines.

The mob paused; for a second it wavered; then before the smoke had
lifted it broke, and shrieking in terror, it fled for cover, leaving
the valorous Souvestre alone, to revile them for a swarm of cowardly
rats.

The Captain put his hands to his sides and laughed till the tears
coursed down his cheeks.  Checking his mirth at last, he called to
Souvestre, who was retreating in disgust and anger.

"Hi!  My friend the patriot!  Are you still of the same mind or will
you withdraw your people?"

"We will not withdraw," answered the giant sullenly.  "You dare not
fire upon free citizens of the French Republic."

"Dare I not?   Do you delude yourself with that, nor think that
because this time I fired over your heads I dare not fire into your
ranks.  I give you my word that if I have to command my men to fire
a second time it shall not be mere make-believe, and I also give you
my word that if at the end of a minute I have not your reply and you
are not moving out of this - every rogue of you shall have a very
bitter knowledge of how much I dare."

Souvestre was headstrong and angry.  But what can one man, however
headstrong and however angry, do against two hundred, when his own
followers refuse to support him.  The valour of the peasants was
distinctly of that quality whose better part is discretion.  The
thunder of that fusillade had been enough to shatter their nerve,
and to Souvestre's exhortations that they should become martyrs in
the noble cause, of the people against tyranny, in whatsoever guise
it came, they answered with the unanswerable logic of caution.

The end was that a very few moments later saw them in full retreat,
leaving the military in sole and undisputed possession of Bellecour.

The officer's first thought was for the blazing stables, and he at
once ordered a detachment of his company to set about quenching the
fire, a matter in which they succeeded after some two hours of
arduous labour.

Meanwhile, leaving the main body bivouacked in the courtyard, he
entered the Chateau with a score of men, and came upon the ten
gentlemen still standing in the shambles that the grand staircase
presented.  With the Marquis de Bellecour the Captain had a brief
and not over courteous interview.  He informed the nobleman that
he was acting under the orders of a Commissioner, who had heard at
Amiens, that evening, of the attack that was to be made upon
Bellecour.  Not unnaturally the Marquis was mistrustful of the ends
which that Commissioner, whoever he might be, looked to serve by so
unusual an act.  Far better did it sort with the methods of the
National Convention and its members to leave the butchering of
aristocrats to take its course.  He sought information at the
Captain's hands, but the officer was reticent to the point of
curtness, and so, their anxiety but little relieved, since it might
seem that they had but escaped from Scylla to be engulfed in
Charbydis, the aristocrats at Bellecour spent the night in odious
suspense.  Those that were tending the wounded had perhaps the best
of it, since thus their minds were occupied and saved the torture
of speculation.

The proportion of slain was mercifully small: of twenty that had
fallen it was found that but six were dead, the others being more
or less severely hurt.  Conspicuous among the men that remained,
and perhaps the bravest of them all was old Des Cadoux.  He had
recovered his snuff-box, than which there seemed to be nothing of
greater importance in the world, and he moved from group to group
with here a jest and there a word of encouragement, as seemed best
suited to those he addressed.  Of the women, Mademoiselle de
Bellecour and her sharp tongued mother, showed certainly the most
undaunted fronts.

Suzanne had not seen her betrothed since the fight upon the stairs.
But she was told that he was unhurt, and that he was tending a
cousin of his who had been severely wounded in the head.

It was an hour or so after sunrise when he sought her out, and they
stood in conversation together - a very jaded pair - looking down
from one of the windows upon the stalwart blue-coats that were
bivouacked in the quadrangle.

Suddenly on the still morning air came the sound of hoof-beats, and
as they looked they espied a man in a cocked hat and an ample black
cloak riding briskly up the avenue.

"See?" exclaimed Ombreval; "yonder at last comes the great man we
are awaiting - the Commissioner of that rabble they call the
National Convention.  Now we shall know what fate is reserved for
us."

"But what can they do?"she asked.

"It is the fashion to send people of our station to Paris," he
replied, "to make a mock of us with an affair they call a trial
before they murder us."

She sighed.

"Perhaps this gentleman is more merciful,"was the hope she expressed.

"Merciful?" he mocked.  "Ma foi, a ravenous tiger may be merciful
before one of these.  Had your father been wise he had ordered the
few of us that remained to charge those soldiers when they entered,
and to have met our end upon their bayonets.  That would have been
a merciful fate compared with the mercy of this so-called Commissioner
is likely to extend us."

It seemed to be his way to find fault, and that warp in his character
rendered him now as heroic - in words - as he had been erstwhile
scornful.

Suzanne shuddered, brave girl though she was.

"Unless you can conceive thoughts of a pleasanter complexion," she
said, "I should prefer your silence, M. d'Ombreval."

He laughed in his disdainful way - for he disdained all things,
excepting his own person and safety - but before he could make any
answer they were joined by the Marquis and his son.

In the courtyard the horseman was now dismounting, and a moment or
two later they heard the fall of feet, upon the stairs.  A soldier
threw open the door, and holding it, announced:

"The Citizen-deputy La Boulaye, Commissioner of the National
Convention to the army of General Dumouriez."

"This," mocked Ombreval, to whom the name meant nothing, "is the
representative of a Government of strict equality, and he is
announced with as much pomp as was ever an ambassador of his
murdered Majesty's."

Then a something out of the common in the attitude of his companions
arrested his attention.  Mademoiselle was staring with eyes full of
the most ineffable amazement, her lips parted, and her cheeks whiter
than the sleepless night had painted them.  The Marquis was scowling
in a surprise that seemed no whit less than his daughter's, his head
thrust forward, and his jaw fallen.  The Vicomte, too, though in a
milder degree, offered a countenance that was eloquent with
bewilderment.  From this silent group Ombreval turned his tired eyes
to the door and took stock of the two men that had entered.  One of
these was Captain Juste, the officer in command of the military; the
other was a tall man, with a pale face, an aquiline nose, a firm
jaw, and eyes that were very stern - either of habit or because they
now rested upon the man who four years ago had used him so cruelly.

He stood a moment in the doorway as if enjoying the amazement which
had been sown by his coming.  There was no mistaking him.  It was
the same La Boulaye of four years ago, and yet it was not quite the
same.  The face had lost its boyishness, and the strenuous life he
had lived had scored it with lines that gave him the semblance of
a greater age than was his.  The old, poetic melancholy that had
dwelt in the secretary's countenance was now changed to strength
and firmness.  Although little known as yet to the world at large,
the great ones of the Revolution held him in high esteem, and looked
upon him as a power to be reckoned with in the near future.  Of
Robespierre - who, it was said, had discovered him and brought him
to Paris - he was the protege and more than friend, a protection
and friendship this which in '93 made any man almost omnipotent in
France.

He was dressed in a black riding-suit, relieved only by the white
neck-cloth and the tricolour sash of office about his waist.  He
removed his cocked hat, beneath which the hair was tied in a club
with the same scrupulous care as of old.

Slowly he advanced into the salon, and his sombre eyes passed from
the Marquis to Mademoiselle.  As they rested upon her some of the
sternness seemed to fade from their glance.  He found in her a
change almost as great as that which she had found in him.  The
lighthearted, laughing girl of nineteen, who had scorned his
proffered love when he had wooed her that April morning to such
disastrous purpose, was now ripened into a stately woman of
three-and-twenty.  He had thought his boyish passion dead and buried,
and often in the years that were gone had he smiled softly to
himself at the memory of his ardour, as we smile at the memory of
our youthful follies.  Yet now, upon beholding her again, so
wondrously transformed, so tall and straight, and so superbly
beautiful, he experienced an odd thrill and a weakening of the
stern purpose that had brought him to Bellecour.

Then his glance moved on.  A moment it rested on the supercilious,
high-bred countenance of the Vicomte d'Ombreval, standing with so
proprietary an air beside her, then it passed to the kindly old
face of Des Cadoux, and he recalled how this gentleman had sought
to stay the flogging of him.  An instant it hovered on the Marquis,
who - haggard of face and with his arm in a sling - was observing
him with an expression in which scorn and wonder were striving for
the mastery; it seemed to shun the gaze of the pale-faced Vicomte,
whose tutor he had been in the old days of his secretaryship, and
full and stern it returned at last to settle upon the Marquis.

"Citizen Bellecour," he said, and his voice, like his face, seemed
to have changed since last the Marquis had heard it, and to have
grown more deep and metallic, "you may marvel, now that you behold
the Commissioner who sent a company of soldiers to rescue you and
your Chateau from the hands of the mob last night, what purpose I
sought to serve by extending to you a protection which none of your
order merits, and you least of any, in my eyes."

"The times may have wrought sad and overwhelming changes," answered
the Marquis, with cold contempt, "but it has not yet so utterly
abased us that we bring ourselves to speculate upon the purposes
of the rabble."

A faint crimson flush crept into Caron's sallow cheeks.

"Indeed, I see how little you have changed!" he answered bitterly.
"You are of those that will not learn, Citizen.  The fault lies
here," he added, tapping his head, "and it will remain until we
remove the ones with the other.  But now for the business that brings
me," he proceeded, more briskly.  "Four years ago, Citizen Bellecour,
you laid your whip across my face in the woods out yonder, and when
I spoke of seeking satisfaction action you threatened me with your
grooms.  I will not speak of your other brutalities on that same
day.  I will confine myself to that first affront."

"Be brief, sir,"cried the Marquis offensively.  "Since you have the
force to compel us to listen to you, let me beg that you will at
least display the generosity of detaining us no longer than you
need."

"I will be as brief as it lies within the possibility of words,"
answered Caron coldly.  "I am come, Citizen Bellecour, to demand of
you to-day the satisfaction which four years ago you refused me."

"Of me?" cried the Marquis.

"Through the person of your son, the Vicomte, as I asked for it four
years ago,"said Caron.  "You are am old man, Citizen, and I do not
fight old men."

"I am yet young enough to cut you into ribbons, you dog, if I were
minded to dishonour myself by meeting you."  And turning to Ombreval
for sympathy, he vented a low laugh of contemptuous wonder.

"Insolence!" sneered Ombreval sympathetically, whilst Mademoiselle
stood looking on with cheeks that were growing paler, for that this
event would end badly for either her father or her brother she never
doubted.

"Citizen Bellecour,"said Caron, still very coldly, "you have heard
what I propose, as have you also, Citizen-vicomte."

"For myself,"began the youth "I am - "

"Silence, Armand!" his father commanded, laying a hand upon his
sleeve.  "Understand me, citizen-deputy, or citizen-commissioner, or
citizen-blackguard or whatever you call your vile self, you are come
on a fruitless journey to Bellecour.  Neither I nor my son is so
lost to the duty which we owe our rank as to so much as dream of
acceding to your preposterous request.  I think, sir, that you had
been better advised to have left the mob to its work last night, if
you but restrained it for this purpose."

"Is that your last word?" asked La Boulaye, still calmly weathering
that storm of insults.

"My very last, sir."

"There are more ways than one of taking satisfaction for that
affront, Citizen Bellecour," rejoined La Boulaye, "and if the course
which I now pursue should prove more distasteful to you than that
which I last suggested, the blame of it must rest with you."  He
turned to the bluecoat at the door.  "Citizen-soldier, my whip."

There was a sudden movement among the aristocrats - a horrified
recoiling - and even Bellecour was shaken out of his splendid
arrogance.

"Insolent cur!" exclaimed Ombreval with withering scorn; "to what
lengths is presumption driving you?"

"To the length of a horsewhip,"answered La Boulaye pleasantly.

He received the whip from the hands of the soldier and he now
advanced towards Bellecour, unwinding the lash as he came.
Ombreval barred his way with an oath.

"By Heaven: you shall not!" he cried.

"Shall not?" echoed La Boulaye, his lips curling.  "You had best
stand aside - you that are steeped in musk and fierceness."  And
before the stern and threatening contempt of La Boulaye's glance
the young nobleman fell back.  But his place was taken by the
Vicomte de Bellecour, who advanced to confront Caron.

"Monsieur la Boulaye,"he announced, "I am ready and willing to meet
you."  And considering the grim alternative with which the
Republicans had threatened him, the old Marquis had not the courage
to interfere again.

"Ah!"  It was an exclamation of satisfaction from the Commissioner.
"I imagined that you would change your minds.  I shall await you,
Citizen, in the garden in five minutes' time."

"I shall not keep you waiting, Monsieur," was the Vicomte's answer.

Very formally La Boulaye bowed and left the room accompanied by the
officer and followed by the soldier.

"Mon Dieu!" gasped the Marquise, fanning herself as the door closed
after the Republicans.  "Open me a window or I shall stifle!  How
the place reeks with them.  I am a calm woman, Messieurs, but, on
my honour, had he addressed any of you by his odious title of
'citizen' again, I swear that I had struck him with my own hands."

There were some that laughed.  But Mademoiselle was not of those.

Her eyes travelled to her brother's pale face and weakly frame, and
her glance was such a glance as we bend upon the beloved dead, for
in him she saw one who was going inevitably to his death.




CHAPTER VII

LA BOULAYE DISCHARGES A DEBT


Along the northern side of the Chateau ran a terrace bordered by a
red sandstone balustrade, and below this the Italian garden, so
called perhaps in consequence of the oddly clipped box-trees, its
only feature that suggested Italy.  At the far end of this garden
there was a strip of even turf that might have been designed for a
fencing ground, and which Caron knew of old.  Thither he led
Captain Juste, and there in the pale sunshine of that February
morning they awaited the arrival of the Vicomte and his sponsor.

But the minutes went by and still they waited-five, ten, fifteen
minutes elapsed, yet no one came.  Juste was on the point of
returning within to seek the reason of this delay when steps
sounded on the terrace above.  But they were accompanied by the
rustle of a gown, and presently it was Mademoiselle who appeared
before them.  The two men eyed her with astonishment, which in the
case of La Boulaye, was tempered by another feeling.

"Monsieur la Boulaye," said she, her glance wandering towards the
Captain, "may I speak with you alone?"

Outwardly impassive the Commissioner bowed.

"Your servant, Citoyenne," said he, removing his cocked hat.
"Juste, will you give us leave?"

"You will find me on the terrace when you want me, Citizen-deputy,"
answered the officer, and saluting, he departed.

For a moment or two after he was gone Suzanne and Caron stood
confronting each other in silence.  She seemed smitten with a sudden
awkwardness, and she looked away from him what time he waited, hat
in hand, the chill morning breeze faintly stirring a loose strand
of his black hair.

"Monsieur," she faltered at last, "I am come to intercede."

At that a faint smile hovered a second on the Republican's thin lips.

"And is the noblesse of France fallen so low that it sends its women
to intercede for the lives of its men?   But, perhaps," he added
cynically, "it had not far to fall."

Her cheeks reddened.  His insult to her class acted upon her as a
spur and overcame the irresoluteness that seemed to have beset her.

"To insult the fallen, sir, is worthy of the new regime, whose
representative you are, Enfine!  We must take it, I suppose, as we
take everything else in these disordered times - with a bent head
and a meek submission."

"From the little that I have seen, Citoyenne," he answered, very
coldly, roused in his turn, "it rather seems that you take things
on your knees and with appeals for mercy."

"Monsieur," she cried, and her eyes now met his in fearless anger,
"if you persist in these gratuitous insults I shall leave you."

He laughed in rude amusement, and put on his hat.  The spell that
for a moment her beauty had cast over him when first she had
appeared had been attenuating.  It now broke suddenly, and as he
covered himself his whole manner changed.

"Is this interview of my seeking?" he asked.  "It is your brother
I am awaiting.  Name of a name, Citoyenne, do you think my patience
inexhaustible?  The ci-devant Vicomte promised to attend me here.
It was the boast of your order that whatever sins you might be
guilty of you never broke your word.  Have you lost even that virtue,
which served you as a cloak for untold vices?   And is your brother
fled into the woods whilst you, his sister, come here to intercede
with me for his wretched life?   Pah!  In the old days you aroused
my hatred by your tyrannies and your injustices; to-day you weary
and disgust me by your ineffable cowardices, from that gentleman in
Paris who now calls himself Orleans-Egalite downwards."

"Monsieur,"she began But he was not yet done.  His cheeks were
flushed with a reflection of the heart within.

"Citoyenne, I have a debt to discharge, and I will discharge it in
full.  Intercessions are vain with me.  I cannot forget.  Send me
your brother within ten minutes to meet me here, man to man, and he
shall have - all of you shall have - the chance that lies in such
an encounter.  But woe unto every man at Bellecour if he should
fail me.  Citoyenne, you know my mind."

But she overlooked the note of dismissal in his voice.

"You speak of a debt that you must discharge," said she, with no
whit less heat than he had exhibited.  "You refer to the debt of
vengeance which you look to discharge by murdering that boy, my
brother.  But do you not owe me a debt also?"

"You?" he questioned.  "My faith!  Unless it be a debt of scorn,
I know of none."

"Aye," she returned wistfully, "you are like the rest.  You have a
long memory for injuries, but a short one for benefits.  Had it not
been for me, Monsieur, you would not be here now to demand this
that you call satisfaction.  Have you forgotten how I - "

"No," he broke in.  "I well remember how you sought to stay them
when they were flogging me in the yard there.  But you came too
late.  You might have come before, for from the balcony above you
had been watching my torture.  But you waited overlong.  I was
cast out for dead.".

She flashed him a searching glance, as though she sought to read
his thoughts, and to ascertain whether he indeed believed what
he was saying.

"Cast out for dead?" she echoed.  "And by whose contrivance?   By
mine, M. la Boulaye.  When they were cutting you down they
discovered that you were not dead, and but that I bribed the men
to keep it secret and carry you to Duhamel's house, they had
certainly informed my father and you would have been finished off."

His eyes opened wide now, and into them there came a troubled look
 - the look of one who is endeavouring to grasp an elusive
recollection.

"Ma foi," he muttered.  "It seems to come to me as if I had heard
something of the sort in a dream.  It was - "  He paused, and his
brows were knit a moment.  Then he looked up suddenly, and gradually
his face cleared.  "Why, yes - I have it!" he exclaimed.  "It was
in Duhamel's house.  While I was lying half unconscious on the couch
I heard one of the men telling Duhamel that you had paid them to
carry me there and to keep a secret."

"And you had forgotten that?" she asked, with the faintest note of
contempt.

"Not forgotten,"he answered, "for it was never really there to be
remembered.  That I had heard such words had more than once occurred
to me, but I have always looked upon it as the recollection of
something that I had dreamt.  I had never looked upon it as a thing
that had had a real happening."

"How, then, did you explain your escape?"

"I always imagined that I had been assumed dead."

There was a brief spell of silence.  Then -

"And now that you know, Monsieur - ?"

She left the question unfinished, and held out her hands to him in
a gesture of supplication.  His face paled slightly and overclouded.
Her influence, against which so long he had steeled himself,
reinforced by the debt in which she had shown him that he stood
towards her, was prevailing with him despite himself.  Stirred
suddenly out of the coldness that he had hitherto assumed, he
caught the outstretched hands and drew her a step nearer.  That
was his undoing.  Strong man though he unquestionably was, like
many another strong man his strength seemed to fall from him at
a woman's touch.  He had led so austere and stern a life during
the past four years; of women he had but had the most passing of
glances, and intercourse with none save an old female who acted as
his housekeeper in Paris.  And here was a woman who was not only
beautiful, but the woman who years ago had embodied all his
notions of what was most perfect in womanhood; the woman who ever
since, and despite all that was past, had reigned in his heart
and mind almost in spite of himself, almost unknown to him.

The touch of her hand now, the closeness of her presence, the faint
perfume that reached him from her, and that was to him as a symbol
of her inherent sweetness, the large blue eyes meeting his in
expectation, and the imploring half-pout of her lips, were all
seductions against which he had not been human had he prevailed.

Very white in the intensity of the long-quiescent passion she had
resuscitated, he cried:

"Mademoiselle, what shall I say to you?"

The four years that were gone seemed suddenly to have slipped away.
It was as if they stood again by the brook in the park on that April
morn when first he had dared to word his presumptuous love.  Even
the vocabulary of the Republic was forgotten, and the interdicted
title of "Mademoiselle" fell naturally from his lips.

"Say that you can be generous,"she implored him softly.  "Say that
you prefer the debt you owe to the injury you received."

"You do not know the sacrifice you ask," he exclaimed still fighting
with himself.  "I have waited four years for this, and now - "

"He is my brother," she whispered, in so wonderful a tone that words
which of themselves may have seemed no argument at all became the
crowning argument of her intercession.

"Soit!" he consented.  "For your sake, Mademoiselle, and in payment
of the debt I owe you, I will go as I came.  I shall not see the
Citizen-marquis again.  But do you tell him from me that if he sets
any value on his life, he had best shake the dust of France from
his feet.  Too long already has he tarried, and at any moment those
may arrive who will make him emigrate not only out of France but
out of the world altogether.  Besides, the peasantry that has risen
once may rise again, and I shall not be here to protect him from
its violence.  Tell him he had best depart at once."

"Monsieur, I am grateful - very, very deeply grateful.  I can say
no more.  May Heaven reward you.  I shall pray the good God to
watch over you always.  Adieu, Monsieur!"

He stood looking at her a moment still retaining his hold of her
hands.

"Adieu, Mademoiselle,"he said at last.  Then, very slowly - as if
so that realising his intent she might frustrate it were she so
minded - he raised her right hand.  It was not withdrawn, and so
he bent low, and pressed his lips upon it.

"God guard you, Mademoiselle,"he said at last, and if they were
strange words for a Republican and a Deputy, it must be remembered
that his bearing during the past few moments had been singularly
unlike a Republican's.

He released her hand, and stepping back, doffed his hat.  With a
final inclination of the head, she turned and walked away in the
direction of the terrace.

At a distance La Boulaye followed, so lost in thought that he did
not observe Captain Juste until the fellow's voice broke upon his
ear.

"You have been long enough, Citizen-deputy," was the soldier's
greeting.  "I take it there is to be no duel."

"I make you my compliments upon the acuteness of your perception,"
answered La Boulaye tartly.  "You are right.  There is to be no
encounter."

Juste's air was slightly mocking, and words of not overdelicate
banter rose to his lips, to be instantly quelled by La Boulaye.

"Let your drums beat a rally, Citizen-captain,"he commanded briskly.
"We leave Bellecour in ten minutes.".

And indeed, in less than that time the blue-coats were swinging
briskly down the avenue.  In the rear rode La Boulaye, his cloak
wrapped about him, his square chin buried in his neck-cloth, and
his mind deep in meditation.

>From a window of the Chateau the lady who was the cause of the young
Revolutionist's mental absorption watched the departing soldiers.
On either side of her stood Ombreval and her father.

"My faith, little one," said Bellecour good-humouredly.  "I wonder
what magic you have exercised to rid us of that infernal company."

"Women have sometimes a power of which men know nothing," was her
cryptic answer.

Ombreval turned to her with a scowl of sudden suspicion.

"I trust, Mademoiselle, that you did not - " he stopped short.  His
thoughts were of a quality that defied polite utterance.

"That I did not what, Monsieur?"she asked.

"I trust you remembered that you are to become the Vicomtesse
d'Ombreval" he answered, constructing his sentence differently.

"Monsieur!" exclaimed Bellecour angrily.

"I was chiefly mindful of the fact that I had my brother's life to
save," said the girl, very coldly, her eye resting upon her
betrothed in a glance of so much contempt that it forced him into
an abashed silence.

In her mind she was contrasting this supercilious, vacillating
weakling with the stern, strong man who lode yonder.  A sigh
fluttered across her lips.  Had things but been different.  Had
Ombreval been the Revolutionist and La Boulaye the Vicomte, how
much better pleased might she not have been.  But since it was
not so, why sigh?  It was not as if she had loved this La Boulaye.
How was that possible?  Was he not of the canaille, basely born,
and a Revolutionist - the enemy of her order - in addition?   It
were a madness to even dream of the possibility of such a thing,
for Suzanne de Bellecour came of too proud a stock, and knew too
well the respect that was due to it.




CHAPTER VIII

THE INVALIDS AT BOISVERT


There had been friction between the National Convention and General
Dumouriez, who, though a fine soldier, was a remarkably indifferent
Republican.  The Convention had unjustly ordered the arrest of his
commissariat officers, Petit-Jean and Malus, and in other ways
irritated a man whose patience was never of the longest.

On the eve, however, of war with Holland, the great ones in Paris
had suddenly perceived their error, and had sought - despite the
many enemies, from Marat downwards, that Dumouriez counted among
their numbers - to conciliate a general whose services they found
that they could not dispense with.  This conciliation was the
business upon which the Deputy La Boulaye had been despatched to
Antwerp, and as an ambassador he proved signally successful, as much
by virtue of the excellent terms he was empowered to offer as in
consequence of the sympathy and diplomacy he displayed in offering
them.

The great Republican General started upon his campaign in the Low
Countries as fully satisfied as under the circumstances he could
hope to be.  Malus and Petit-Jean were not only enlarged but
reinstated, he was promised abundant supplies of all descriptions,
and he was assured that the Republic approved and endorsed his plan
of campaign.

La Boulaye, his mission satisfactorily discharged, turned homewards
once more, and with an escort of six men and a corporal he swiftly
retraced his steps through that blackened, war-ravaged country.
They had slept a night at Mons, and they were within a short three
leagues of French soil when they chanced to ride towards noon into
the little hamlet of Boisvert.  Probably they would have gone
straight through without drawing rein, but that, as they passed
the Auberge de l'Aigle, La Boulaye espied upon the green fronting
the wayside hostelry a company of a half-dozen soldiers playing at
bowls with cannon-balls.

The sight brought Caron to a sudden halt, and he sat his horse
observing them and wondering how it chanced that these men should
find themselves so far from the army.  Three of them showed signs
of having been recently wounded.  One carried his arm in a sling,
another limped painfully and by the aid of a stick, whilst the
head of the third was swathed in bandages.  But most remarkable
were they by virtue of their clothes.  One fellow - he of the
bandaged head - wore a coat of yellow brocaded silk, which, in
spite of a rent in the shoulder, and sundry stains of wine and oil,
was unmistakably of a comparative newness.  Beneath this appeared
the nankeens and black leggings of a soldier.  Another covered his
greasy locks with a three-cornered hat, richly laced in gold.  A
third flaunted under his ragged blue coat a gold-broidered
waistcoat and a Brussels cravat.  A valuable ring flashed from the
grimy finger of a fourth, who, instead of the military white
nankeens, wore a pair of black silk breeches.  There was one - he
of the injured arm - resplendent in a redingote of crimson velvet,
whilst he of the limp supported himself upon a gold-headed cane of
ebony, which was in ludicrous discord with the tattered blue coat,
the phrygian cap, and the toes that peeped through his broken boots.

They paused in their game to inspect, in their turn, the newcomers,
and to La Boulaye it seemed that their glances were not free from
uneasiness.

"A picturesque company on my life," he mused aloud.  Then beckoned
the one in the crimson coat.

"Hola, Citizen,"he called to him.

The fellow hesitated a moment, then shuffled forward with a sullen
air, and stood by Caron's stirrup.

"In God's name, what are you and who are you?" the Deputy demanded.

"We are invalided soldiers from the army of Dumouriez,"the man
answered him.

"But what are you doing here, at Boisvert?"

"We are in hospital, Citizen."

"Yonder?" asked La Boulaye derisively, pointing with his whip to
the "Eagle Inn."

The fellow nodded.

"Yes, Citizen, yonder," he answered curtly.

La Boulaye looked surprised.  Then his eyes strayed to the others
on the green.

"But you are not all invalids?"he questioned.

"Many of us are convalescent."

"Convalescent?   But those three braves yonder are something more
than convalescent.  They are as well as I am.  Why do they not
rejoin the troops?"

The fellow looked up with a scowl.

"We take our orders from our officer,"he answered sourly.

"Ah!" quoth the Deputy.  "There is someone in charge here, then?
Who may it be?"

"Captain Charlot,"the fellow answered, with an impudent air, which
clearly seemed to ask: "What have you to say to that?"

"Captain Charlot?" echoed La Boulaye, in astonishment, for the name
was that of the sometime peasant of Bellecour, who had since risen
in life, and who, as an officer, had in a few months acquired a
brilliant fame for deeds of daring.  "Charlot Tardivet?" he inquired.

"Is there any other Captain Charlot in the army of the Republic?"
the fellow asked insolently.

"Is he invalided too?" inquired Caron, without heeding the soldier's
offensiveness of manner.

"He was severely wounded at Jemappes,"was the answer.

"At Jemappes?   But, voyons my friend, Jemappes was fought three
months ago."

"Why, so all the world knows.  What then?   The General sent Captain
Charlot here to rest and be cured, giving him charge of the
invalided soldiers who came with him and of others who were already
here."

"And of these,"cried La Boulaye, his amazement growing, "have none
returned to Dumouriez?"

"Have I not said that we are invalids?"

Caron eyed him with cold contempt.

"How many of you are there?"he asked.  And for all that the man
began to mislike this questioning, he had not the hardihood to
refuse an answer to the stern tones of that stern man on horseback.

"Some fifty, or thereabouts."

La Boulaye said nothing for a moment, then touching the fellow's
sleeve with his whip.

"How came you into this masquerade?"he inquired.

"Ma foi," answered the man, shrugging his shoulders, "we were in
rags.  The commissariat was demoralised, and supplies were not
forthcoming.  We had to take what we could find, or else go naked."

"And where did you find these things?"

"Diable!  Will your questions never come to an end, Citizen?   Would
you not be better advised in putting them to the Captain himself?"

"Why, so I will.  Where is he?"

In the distance a cloud of dust might be perceived above the long,
white road.  The soldier espied it as La Boulaye put his question.

"I am much at fault if he does not come yonder."  And he pointed to
the dust-cloud.

"I think," said La Boulaye, turning to his men, "that we will drink
a cup of wine at the 'Eagle Inn.' "

Mean though the place was, it was equipped with a stable-yard, to
which admittance was gained by a porte-cochere on the right.
Wheeling his horse, La Boulaye, without another word to the soldier
he had been questioning, rode through it, followed by his escort.

The hostess, who came forward to receive them, was a tall, bony
woman of very swarthy complexion, with beady eyes and teeth
prominent as a rat's.  But if ill-favoured, she seemed, at least,
well-intentioned, in addition to which the tricolour scarf of office
round La Boulaye's waist was a thing that commanded respect and
servility, however much it might be the insignia of a Government of
liberty, equality, and fraternity.

She bade the ostler care for their horses, and she brought them her
best wine, seeking under an assumed geniality to conceal the unrest
born of her speculations as to what might happen did Captain Charlot
return ere the Deputy departed.

Charlot did return.  Scarce were they seated at their wine when the
confused sounds that from the distance had been swelling took more
definite shape.  The hostess looked uneasy as La Boulaye rose and
went to the door of the inn.  Down the road marched now a numerous
company from which - to judge by their odd appearance - the players
at bowls had been drawn.  They numbered close upon threescore, and
in the centre of them came a great lumbering vehicle, which puzzled
La Boulaye.  He drew away from the door and posted himself at the
window, so that unobserved he might ascertain what was toward.  Into
the courtyard came that company, pele-mele, an odd mixture of rags
and gauds, yet a very lusty party, vigorous of limb and loud of
voice.  With them came the coach, and there was such a press about
the gates that La Boulaye looked to see some of them crushed to death.
But with a few shouts and oaths and threats at one another they got
through in safety, and the unwieldy carriage was brought to a
standstill.

They were clamouring about its doors, and to La Boulaye it seemed
that they were on the point of quarrelling among themselves, some
wanting to enter the coach and others seeking to restrain them,
when through the porte-cochere rode Charlot Tardivet himself.

He barked out a sharp word of command, and they grew silent and
still, testifying to a discipline which said much for the strength
of character of their captain.  He was strangely altered, was this
Tardivet, and his appearance now was worthy of his followers.  Under
a gaudily-laced, three-cornered hat his hair hung dishevelled and
unkempt, like wisps of straw.  He wore a coat of flowered black
silk, with a heavy gold edging, and a very bright plum-coloured
waistcoat showed above the broad tricolour scarf that sashed his
middle.  His breeches were white (or had been white in origin), and
disappeared into a pair of very lustrous lacquered boots that rose
high above his knees.  A cavalry sabre of ordinary dimensions hung
from a military belt, and a pistol-butt, peeping from his sash,
completed the astonishing motley of his appearance.  For the rest,
he was the same tall and well-knit fellow; but there was more
strength in his square chin, more intelligence in the keen blue
eyes, and, alas! more coarseness in the mouth, which bristled with
a reddish beard of some days' growth.

La Boulaye watched him with interest.  He had become intimate with
him in the old days in Paris, whither Tardivet had gone, and where,
fired by the wrongs he had suffered, he had been one of the
apostles of the Revolution.  When the frontiers of France had been
in danger Tardivet had taken up arms, and by the lustre which he
had shed upon the name of Captain Charlotas he was come to be
called throughout the army - he had eclipsed the fame of Citizen
Tardivet, the erstwhile prophet of liberty.  Great changes these in
the estate of one who had been a simple peasant; but then the times
were times of great changes.  Was not Santerre, the brewer, become
a great general, and was not Robespierre, the obscure lawyer of
Arras, by way of becoming a dictator?   Was it, therefore, wonderful
that Charlot should have passed from peasant to preacher, from
preacher to soldier, and from soldier to - what?

A shrewd suspicion was being borne in upon La Boulaye's mind as he
stood by that window, his men behind him watching also, with no less
intentness and some uneasiness for themselves - for they misliked
the look of the company.

In five seconds Charlot had restored order in the human chaos
without.  In five minutes there were but ten men left in the yard.
The others were gone at Charlot's bidding - a bidding, couched in
words that went to confirm La Boulaye's suspicions.

"You will get back to your posts at once,"he had said.  "Because we
have made one rich capture is no reason why you should neglect the
opportunities of making others no less rich.  You, Moulinet, with
twenty men, shall patrol the road to Charleroi, and get as near
France as possible.  You Boligny, station yourself in the
neighbourhood of Conde, with ten men, and guard the road from
Valenciennes.  You, Aigreville, spread your twenty men from Conde
to Tournay, and watch the frontiers closely.  Make an inspection of
any captures you may take, and waste no time in bringing hither
worthless ones.  Now go.  I will see that each man's share of this
is assured him.  March!"

There were some shouts of "Vive la Republique!" some of "Vive le
Captaine Charlot!" and so they poured out of the yard, and left
him to give a few hurried directions to the ten men that remained.

"Sad invalids these, as I live!" exclaimed La Boulaye over his
shoulder to his followers.  "Ha!  There is my friend of the red
redingote!"

The fellow with the bandaged head had approached Charlot and was
tugging at his sleeve.

"Let be, you greasy rascal," the Captain snapped at him, to add:
"What do you say?   A Deputy?   Where?"  The fellow pointed with
his thumb in the direction of the hostelry.

"Sacred name of a name!" growled Charlot, and, turning suddenly
from the men to whom he had been issuing directions, he sprang up
the steps and entered the inn.  As he crossed the threshold of the
common room he was confronted by the tall figure of La Boulaye.

"I make you my compliments, Charlot," was Caron's greeting, "upon
the vigorous health that appears to prevail in your hospital."

Tardivet stood a moment within the doorway, staring at the Deputy.
Then his brow cleared, and with a laugh, at once of welcome and
amusement, he strode forward and put out his hand.

"My good Caron!" he cried.  "To meet you at Boisvert is a pleasure
I had not looked for."

"Are you so very sure," asked La Boulaye sardonically, as he took
the outstretched hand, "that it is a pleasure?"

"How could it be else, old friend?   By St. Guillotine!" he added,
clapping the Deputy on the back, "you shall come to my room, and
we will broach a bottle of green seal."

In some measure of wonder, La Boulaye permitted himself to be led
up the crazy stairs to a most untidy room above, which evidently did
duty as the Captain's parlour.  A heavy brass lamp, hanging from the
ceiling, a few untrustworthy chairs and a deal table, stained and
unclean, were the only articles of furniture.  But in almost every
corner there were untidy heaps of garments Of all sorts and
conditions; strewn about the floor were other articles of apparel,
a few weapons, a saddle, and three or four boots; here an empty
bottle, lying on its side, yonder a couple of full ones by the
hearth; an odd book or two and an infinity of playing cards, cast
there much as a sower scatters his seeds upon the ground.

There may be a hundred ways of apprehending the character of a man,
but none perhaps is more reliable than the appearance of his
dwelling, and no discerning person that stepped into Captain
Tardivet's parlour could long remain in doubt of its inhabitant's
pursuits and habits.

When Dame Capoulade had withdrawn, after bringing them their wine
and casting a few logs upon the fire, La Boulaye turned his back
to the hearth and confronted his host.

"Why are you not with the army, Charlot?" he asked in a tone which
made the question sound like a demand.

"Have they not told you,"rejoined the other airily, engrossed in
filling the glasses.

"I understand you were sent here to recover from a wound you received
three months ago at Jemappes, and to take charge of other invalided
soldiers.  But seemingly, your invalids do not number more than a
half-dozen out of the fifty or sixty men that are with you.  How is
it then, that you do not return with these to Dumouriez?"

"Because I can serve France better here," answered Charlot, "and at
the same time enrich myself and my followers."

"In short," returned La Boulaye coldly, "because you have degenerated
from a soldier into a brigand."

Charlot looked up, and for just a second his glance was not without
uneasiness.  Then he laughed.  He unbuckled his sword and tossed it
into a corner, throwing his hat after it.

"It was ever your way to take extreme views, Caron," he observed,
with a certain whimsical regret of tone.  "That, no doubt, is what
has made a statesman of you.  You had chosen more wisely had you
elected to serve the Republic with your sword instead.  Come, my
friend," and he pointed to the wine, "let us pledge the Nation."

La Boulaye shrugged his shoulders slightly, and sighed.  In the end
he came forward and took the wine.

"Long live the Republic!" was Charlot's toast, and with a slight
inclination of the head La Boulaye drained his glass.

"It is likely to live without you, Charlot, unless you mend your
conduct."

"Diable!" snapped the Captain, a trifle peevishly.  "Can you not
understand that in my own way I am serving my country.  You have
called me a brigand.  But you might say the same of General
Dumouriez himself.  How many cities has he not sacked?"

"That is the way of war."

"And so is this.  He makes war upon the enemies of France that dwell
in cities, whilst I, in a smaller way, make war upon those that
travel in coaches.  I confine myself to emigres - these damned
aristocrats whom it is every good Frenchman's duty to aid in stamping
out.  Over the frontiers they come with their jewels, their plate,
and their money-chests.  To whom belongs this wealth?   To France.
Too long already have they withheld from the sons of the soil that
which belongs equally to them, and now they have the effrontery to
attempt to carry these riches out of the country.  Would any true
Republican dare to reproach me for what I do?   I am but seizing
that which belongs to France, and here dividing it among the good
patriots that are with me, the soldiers that have bled for France."

"A specious argument,"sneered La Boulaye.

"Specious enough to satisfy the Convention itself if ever I should
be called to task," answered Charlot, with heat.  "Do you propose
to draw the attention of the Executive to my doings?"

La Boulaye's grey eyes regarded him steadily for a moment.

"Know you of any reason why I should not?" he asked.

"Yes, Caron, I do," was the ready answer.  "I am well aware of the
extent of your power with the Mountain.  In Paris I can see that
it might go hard with me if you were minded that it should, and you
were able to seize me.  On the other hand, that such arguments that
I have advanced to you would be acceptable to the Government I do
not doubt.  But whilst they would approve of this that you call
brigandage, I also do not doubt that they would claim that the
prizes I have seized are by right the property of the Convention,
and they might compel me to surrender them.  Thus they would pass
from my hands into those of some statesman-brigand, who, under the
plea of seizing these treasures for the coffers of the nation,
would transfer them to his own.  Would you rather help such an one
to profit than me, Caron?   Have you so far forgotten how we
suffered together - almost in the self-same cause - at Bellecour,
in the old days?   Have you forgotten the friendship that linked
us later, in Paris, when the Revolution was in its dawn?   Have
you forgotten what I have endured at the hands of this infernal
class that you can feel no sympathy for me?   Caron, it is a
measure of revenge, and as there is a Heaven, a very mild one.
Me they robbed of more than life; them I deprive but of their
jewels and their plate, turning them destitute upon the world.
Bethink you of my girl-wife, Caron," he added, furiously, "and of
how she died of grief and shame a short three months after our
hideous nuptials.  God in Heaven!  When the memory of it returns
to me I marvel at my own forbearance.  I marvel that I do not take
every man and woman of them that fall into my hands and flog them
to death as they would have flogged you when you sought - alas to
so little purpose - to intervene on my behalf."

He grew silent and thoughtful, and the expression of his face was
not nice.  At last: "Have I given you reason enough," he asked,
"why you should not seek to thwart me?"

"Why, yes," answered La Boulaye, "more than was necessary.  I am
desolated that I should have brought you to re-open a sorrow that
I thought was healed."

"So it is, Caron.  How it is I do not know.  Perhaps it is my
nature; perhaps it is that in youth sorrow is seldom long-enduring;
perhaps it is the strenuous life I have lived and the changes that
have been wrought in me - for, after all, there is a little in this
Captain Tardivet that is like the peasant poor Marie took to
husband, four years ago.  I am no longer the same man, and among
the other things that I have put from me are the sorrows that were
of the old Charlot.  But some memories cannot altogether die, and
if to-day I no longer mourn that poor child, yet the knowledge of
the debt that lies 'twixt the noblesse of France and me is ever
present, and I neglect no opportunity of discharging a part of it.
But enough of that, Caron.  Tell me of yourself.  It is a full
twelvemonth since last we met, and in that time, from what I have
heard, you have done much and gone far.  Tell me of it, Caron."

They drew their chairs to the hearth, and they sat talking so long
that the early February twilight came down upon them while they
were still at their reminiscences.  La Boulaye had intended reaching
Valenciennes that night; but rather than journey forward in the
dark he now proposed to lie at Boisvert, a resolution in which he
did not lack for encouragement from Charlot.




CHAPTER IX

THE CAPTIVES


Amid the sordid surroundings of Charlot's private quarters the
Captain and the Deputy supped that evening.  The supper sorted well
with the house - a greasy, ill-cooked meal that proved little
inviting to the somewhat fastidious La Boulaye.  But the wine,
plundered, no doubt, in common with the goblets out of which they
drank it - was more than good, and whilst La Boulaye showed his
appreciation of it, Charlot abused it like a soldier.  They sat
facing each other across the little deal table, whose stains were
now hidden by a cloth, and to light them they had four tapers set
in silver candlesticks of magnificent workmanship, and most
wondrous weight, which Tardivet informed his guest had been the
property of a ci-devant prince of the blood.

As the night wore on Captain Charlot grew boisterous and more
confidential.  He came at length to speak of the last capture they
had made.

"I have taken prizes, Caron,"said he, "which a king might not
despise.  But to-day - "  He raised his eyes to the ceiling and
wagged his head.

"Well?" quoth La Boulaye.  "What about to-day?"

"I have made a capture worth more than all the others put together.
It was an indifferent-looking berline, and my men were within an
ace of allowing it to pass.  But I have a nose, mon cher" - and he
tapped the organ with ludicrous significance - "and, bon Dieu, what
affair!  I can smell an aristocrat a league off.  Down upon that
coach I swooped like a hawk upon a sparrow.  Within it sat two women,
thickly veiled, and I give you my word that in a sense I pitied them,
for not a doubt of it, but they were in the act of congratulating
themselves upon their escape from France.  But sentiment may become
fatal if permitted to interfere with enterprise.  Stifling my regrets
I desired them to alight, and they being wise obeyed me without demur.
I allowed them to retain their veils.  I sought the sight of things
other than women's faces, and a brief survey of the coach showed me
where to bestow my attention.  I lifted the back seat.  It came up
like the lid of the chest it was, and beneath it I discovered enough
gold and silver plate to outweigh in value almost everything that I
had ever taken.  But that was by no means all.  Under the front seat
there was a chest of gold - louis d'ors they were, some two or three
thousand at least - and, besides that, a little iron-bound box of
gems which in itself was worth more than all the rest of the contents
of that treasure-casket of a coach.  I tell you, Caron, I dropped
the lid of that seat in some haste, for I was not minded that my men
should become as wise as I.  I stepped down and bade, the women
re-enter, and hither under strong escort I have brought them."

"And these treasures?" asked La Boulaye.

"They are still in the coach below, with the women.  I have told
these that they shall spend the night there.  To-morrow I shall see
to them and give them their liberty - which is a more generous
proceeding than might befall them at the hands of another.  When
they are gone comes the division of the spoil."  He closed one eye
slowly, in a very ponderous wink.  "To my men I shall relegate the
gold and silver plate as well as the money.  For myself I shall
only retain the little iron-bound box.  My followers will account
me more than generous and themselves more than satisfied.  As for
me, La Boulaye - by St. Guillotine, I am tempted to emigrate also and
set up as an aristocrat myself in Prussia or England, for in that
little box there is something more than a fortune.  I asked you
to-day whether you were minded to lay information against me in
Paris.  My faith, I am little concerned whether you do or not, for
I think that before you can reach Paris, Captain Charlot Tardivet
will be no more than a name in the Republican army.  Abroad I
shall call myself Charlot du Tardivet, and I shall sleep in fine
linen and live on truffles and champagne.  Caron, your health!"

He drained his glass, and laughed softly to himself as he set it
down.

"Do you trust your men?" asked La Boulaye.

"Eh?  Trust them?  Name of a name! They know me.  I have placed the
ten most faithful ones on guard.  They answer to the rest of us
with their necks for the safety of their charge.  Come hither,
Caron."

He rose somewhat unsteadily, and lurched across to the window.  La
Boulaye followed him, and gazing out under his indication, he
beheld the coach by the blaze of a fire which the men had lighted
to keep them from freezing at their post.

"Does that look secure?"

"Why, yes - secure enough.  But if those fellows were to take it
into their heads that it would be more profitable to share the prize
among ten than among sixty?"

"Secreanom!!" swore Charlot impatiently.  "You do my wits poor
credit.  For what do you take me?  Have I gone through so much, think
you, without learning how little men are to be trusted?   Faugh!
Look at the porte-cochere.  The gates are closed - aye, and locked,
mon cher, and the keys are here, in my pocket.  Do you imagine they
are to be broken through without arousing anyone?   And then, the
horses.  They are in the stables over there, and again, the keys are
in my pocket.  So that, you see, I do not leave everything to the
honesty of my ten most faithful ones."

"You have learned wisdom, not a doubt of it," laughed the Deputy.

"In a hard school, Caron,"answered the Captain soberly.  "Aye, name
of a name, in a monstrous hard school."

He turned from the window, and the light of the tapers falling on
his face, showed it heavily scored with lines of pain, testifying to
the ugly memories which the Deputy's light words had evoked.  Then
suddenly he laughed, half-bitterly, half humourously.

"La, la!" said he.  "The thing's past.  Charlot Tardivet the
bridegroom of Bellecour and Captain Charlot of Dumouriez' army are
different men-very different."

He strode back to the table, filled his goblet, and gulped down the
wine.  Then he crossed to the fire and stood with his back to La
Boulaye for a spell.  When next he faced his companion all signs of
emotion had cleared from his countenance.  It was again the callous,
reckless face of Captain Charlot, rendered a trifle more reckless
and a trifle more callous by the wine-flush on his cheeks and the
wine-glitter in his eye.

"Caron" said he, with a half-smile, "shall we have these ladies in
to supper?"

"God forbid! "ejaculated La Boulaye.

"Nay, but I will,"the other insisted, and he moved across to the
window.

As he passed him, La Boulaye laid a detaining hand upon his arm.

"Not that, Charlot," he begged impressively, his dark face very set.
"Plunder them, turn them destitute upon the world, if you will, but
remember, at least, that they are women."

Charlot laughed in his face.

"It is something to remember, is it not?   They remembered it of
our women, these aristocrats!"

There was so much ugly truth in the Captain's words, and such a
suggestion of just, if bitter, retribution in his mental attitude,
that La Boulaye released his arm, at a loss for further arguments
wherewith to curb him.

"Paydi!" Charlot continued, "I have a mind for a frolic.  Does not
justice give me the right to claim that these aristocrats shall
amuse me?"

With an oath he turned abruptly, and pulled the casement open.

"Guyot!" he called, and a voice from below made answer to him.

"You will make my compliments to the citoyennes in the coach, Guyot,
and tell them that the Citizen-captain Tardivet requests the honour
of their company to supper."

Then he went to the door, and calling Dame Capoulade, he bade her
set two fresh covers; in which he was expeditiously obeyed.  La
Boulaye stood by the fire, his pale face impassive now and almost
indifferent.  Charlot returned to the window to learn from Guyot
that the citoyennes thanked the Citizen-captain, but that they were
tired and sought to be excused, asking nothing better than to be
allowed to remain at peace in their carriage.

"Sacred name of a name!" he croaked, a trifle thickly, for the wine
he had taken was mastering him more and more.  "Are they defying us?
Since they will not accept an invitation, compel them to obey a
command.  Bring them up at once, Guyot."

"At once, Captain,"was the answer, and Guyot went about the business.

Charlot closed the window and approached the table.

"They are coquettish these scented dames,"he mocked, as he poured
himself out some wine.  "You are not drinking Caron."

"It is perhaps wise that one of us should remain sober," answered
the Deputy quietly, for in spite of a certain sympathy with the
feelings by which Charlot was actuated, he was in dead antipathy
to this baiting of women that seemed toward.

Charlot made no answer.  He drained his goblet and set it down with
a bang.  Then he flung himself into a chair, and stretching out his
long, booted legs he began to hum the refrain of the "Marseillaise."
Thus a few moments went by.  Then there came a sound of steps upon
the creaking stairs, and the gruff voice of the soldier urging the
ladies to ascend more speedily.

At last the door opened and two women entered, followed by Guyot.
Charlot lurched to his feet.

"You have come, Mesdames," said he, forgetting the mode of address
prescribed by the Convention, and clumsily essaying to make a leg.
"Be welcome!  Guyot, go to the devil."

For a moment or two after the soldier's departure the women remained
in the shadow, then, at the Captain's invitation, which they dared
not disobey, they came forward into the halo of candle-light.
Simultaneously La Boulaye caught his breath, and took a step forward.
Then he drew back again until his shoulders touched the overmantel
and there he remained, staring at the newcomers, who as yet, did not
appear to have observed him.

They wore no headgear, and their scarfs were thrown back upon their
shoulders, revealing to the stricken gaze of La Boulaye the
countenances of the Marquise de Bellecour and her daughter.

And now, as they advanced into the light, Charlot recognised them
too.  In the act of offering a chair he stood, arrested, his eyes
devouring first one, then the other of then, with a glance that
seemed to have grown oddly sobered.  The flush died from his face,
and his lips twitched like those of a man who seeks to control his
emotions.  Then slowly the colour crept back into his cheeks, a curl
of mockery appeared on the coarse mouth, and the eyes beamed evilly.

They tense silence was broken by the bang with which he dropped the
chair he had half raised.  As he leaned forward now, La Boulaye read
in his face the thought that had leapt into the Captain's mind, and
had it been a question of any woman other than Zuzanne de Bellecour,
the Deputy might have indulged in the consideration of what a
wonderful retribution was there here.  Into the hands of the man
whose bride the Marquis de Bellecour had torn from him were now
delivered by a wonderful chance the wife and daughter of that same
Bellecour.  And at Boisvert this briganding Captain was as much
to-night the lord of life and death, and all besides, as had been
the Marquis of Bellecour of old.  But he pondered not these things,
for all that the stern irony of the coincidence did not escape him.
That evil look in Charlot's eyes, that sinister smile on Charlot's
lips, more than suggested what manner of vengeance the Captain would
exact - and that, for the time, was matter enough to absorb the
Deputy's whole attention.

And the women did not see him.  They were too much engrossed in the
figure fronting them, and agonisedly, with cheeks white and bosoms
heaving, they waited, in their dread suspense.  At last, drawing
himself to the full of his stalwart height, the Captain laughed
grimly and spoke.

"Mesdames," said he, his very tone an insult in its brutal derision,
"we Republicans have abolished God, and until tonight I have held
the Republic right, arguing that if a God there was, His leanings
must be aristocratic, since He never seemed to concern Himself with
the misfortunes of the lowly-born.  But tonight, mesdames, I know
that the Republic is at fault.  There is a God - a God of justice and
retribution, who has delivered you, of all people in the world, into
my hands.  Look on me well, Ci-devant Marquise de Bellecour, and you,
Mademoiselle de Bellecour.  Look in my face and see if you know me
again.  Not you.  You never heeded me as you rode by in those proud
days.  But heard you ever tell of one Charlot Tardivet, a base vassal
whose wife your husband, Madame, and your father, Mademoiselle, took
from him on his bridal morn?   Heard you ever tell of that poor girl
 - one Marie Tardivet - who died of grief as a consequence of that
brutality?   But no; such matters were too trivial for your notice
if you saw them, or for your memory if you ever heard tell of them.
What was the life of a peasant more than that of any other animal of
the land, that the concern of it should perturb the sereneness of
your aristocratic being?  Mesdames, that Charlot Tardivet am I; that
Marie Tardivet was my wife.  I knew not whom you were when I bade
you sup at my table but now that I know it - what do you look for at
my hands?"

It was the Marquise who answered him.  She was deathly pale, and her
words came breathlessly: for all that their import was very bold.

"We look for the recollection that we are women and unless you are
as cowardly as - "

"Citoyenne,"he broke in harshly, answering her as he had answered
La Boulaye, "was my wife less a woman think you?   Pah!  There is
yet another here who was wronged," he announced, and he waved his
hand in the direction of La Boulaye, who stood, stiff and pale, by
the hearth.

The women turned, and at sight of the Deputy a cry escaped Suzanne.
It was a cry of hope, for here was one who would surely lend them
aid.  It was a fact, she thought, upon which the Captain had not
counted.  But La Boulaye stood straight and cold, and not by so much
as an inclination of the head did he acknowledge that grim
introduction.  Charlot, mistaking Mademoiselle's exclamation,
laughed softly.

"Well may you cry out, Citoyenne,"said he, "for him I see you
recognise.  He is the man who sought to rescue my wife from the
clutches of your lordly and most noble father.  For his pains he
was flogged until they believed him dead.  Is it not very fitting
that he should be with me now to receive you?"

"But he, at least, is in my debt," cried Mademoiselle, now making a
step forward, and sustained by an excitement born of hope.  "Whatever
may be my father's sins, M. la Boulaye, at least, will not seek to
visit them upon the daughter, for he owes his life to me, and he
will not forget the debt."

Charlot's brows were suddenly knit with vexation.  He half-turned to
La Boulaye, as if to speak; but ere he could utter a word -

"The debt has been paid, Citoyenne," said Caron impassively.

Before that cold answer, so coldly delivered, Mademoiselle recoiled.

"Paid!" she echoed mechanically.

"Aye, paid,"he rejoined.  "You claimed your brother's life in
payment, and I gave it to you.  Do you not think that we are quits?
Besides," he ended suddenly, "Captain Tardivet is the master here.
Address your appeals to him, Citoyenne."

With terror written on her face, she turned from him to meet the
flushed countenance of Charlot, who, with arms akimbo and his head
on one side, was regarding her at once with mockery and satisfaction.

"What do you intend by us, Monsieur?" she questioned in a choking
voice.

He smiled inscrutably.

"Allay your fears, Citoyenne; you will find me very gentle."

"I knew you would prove generous,"she cried.

"But, yes, Citoyenne,"he rejoined, in the tones we employ to those
who fear unreasonably.  "I shall prove generous; as generous as - as
was my lord your father."

La Boulaye trembled, but his face remained calmly expressionless as
he watched that grim scene.

"Monsieur!" Suzanne cried out in horror.

"You will not dare, you scum!" blazed the Marchioness.

Charlot shrugged his shoulders and laughed, whereupon Madame de
Bellecour seemed to become a being transformed.  Her ample flesh,
which but a moment back had quivered in fear, quivered now more
violently still in anger.  The colour flowed back into her cheeks
until they flamed an angry crimson, and her vituperations rang in
so loud and fierce a voice that at last, putting his hands to his
ears, Charlot crossed to the door.

"Silence!" he roared at her, so savagely that her spirit forsook
her on the instant.  "I will put an end to this," he swore, as he
opened the door.  "Hold there!  Is Guyot below?"

"Here, Captain,"came a voice.

Charlot retraced his steps, leaving the door wide, his eyes dwelling
upon Suzanne until she shrank under its gaze, as she might have done
from the touch of some unclean thing.  She drew near to her mother,
in whom the brief paroxysm of rage was now succeeded by a no less
violent paroxysm of weeping.  On the stairs sounded Guyot's ascending
steps.

"Mother," whispered Suzanne, setting her arms about her in a vain
attempt to comfort.  Then she heard Charlot's voice curtly bidding
Guyot to reconduct the Marquise to her carriage.

Madame de Bellecour heard it also, and roused herself once more.

"I will not go,"she stormed, anger flashing again from the tear-laden
eyes.  "I will not leave my daughter."

Charlot shrugged his shoulders callously.

"Take her away, Guyot,"he said, shortly, and the sturdy soldier
obeyed him with a roughness that took no account of either birth or
sex.

When the Marquise's last scream had died away in the distance,
Charlot turned once more to Suzanne, and it seemed that he sought
to compose his features into an expression of gentleness beyond
their rugged limitations.  But the glance of his blue eyes was kind,
and mistaking the purport of that kindness, Mademoiselle began an
appeal to his better feelings.

Straight and tall, pale and delicate she stood, her beauty rendered,
perhaps, the more appealing by virtue of the fear reflected on her
countenance.  Her blue eyes were veiled behind their long black
lashes, her lips were tremulous, and her hands clasped and unclasped
as she now made her prayer to the Republican.  But in the hardened
heart of Charlot no breath of pity stirred.  He beheld her beauty
and he bethought him of his wrongs.  For the rest, perhaps, had she
been less comely he had been less vengeful.

And yonder by the hearth stood La Boulaye like a statue, unmoved and
immovable.  The Captain was speaking to her, gently and soothingly,
but her thoughts became more taken with the silence of La Boulaye
than with the speech of Charlot.  Even in that parlous moment she
had leisure to despise herself for having once - on the day on which,
in answer to her intercessions, he had spared her brother's life
 - entertained a kindly, almost wistful, thought concerning this man
whom she now deemed a dastard.




CHAPTER X

THE BAISER LAMOURETTE


Presently Charlot turned to La Boulaye, and for all that he uttered
no word, his glance left nothing to be said.  In response to it Caron
stirred at last, and came leisurely over to the table.

"A mouthful of wine, and I'm gone, Charlot," said he in level,
colourless tones, as taking up a flagon he filled himself a goblet.

"Fill for me, too," cried the Captain; "aye, and for the Citoyenne
here.  Come, my girl, a cup of wine will refresh you."

But Suzanne shrank from the invitation as much as from the tenor of
it and the epithet he had applied to her.  Observing this, he
laughed softly.

"Oh!  As you will.  But the wine is good-from cellar of a ci-devant
Duke.  My service to you, Citoyenne," he pledged her, and raising
his cup, he poured the wine down a throat that was parched by the
much that he had drunk already, But ere the goblet was half-empty,
a sharp, sudden cry from La Boulaye came to interrupt his quaffing.
He glanced round, and at what he saw he spilled the wine down his
waistcoat, then let the cup fall to the ground, as with an oath he
flung himself upon the girl.

She had approached the table whilst both men were drinking, and
quietly possessed herself of a knife; and, but that it was too blunt
to do the service to which she put it, Charlot's intervention would
have come too late.  As it was he caught her wrist in time, and in
a rage he tore the weapon from her fingers, and flung it far across
the room.

"So, pretty lady!" he gasped, now gripping both her wrists.  "So!
we are suicidally inclined, are we!  We would cheat Captain Charlot,
would we?   Fi donc!" he continued with horrid playfulness.  "To
shed a blood so blue upon a floor so unclean!  Name of a name of a
name!"

Accounting herself baffled at every point, this girl, who had
hitherto borne herself so stoutly as to have stoically sought death
as a last means of escape, began to weep softly.  Whereupon:

"Nay, nay, little-woman,"murmured the Captain, in such accents as
are employed to a petted child, and instinctively, in his intent to
soothe he drew her nearer.  And now the close contact thrilled him;
her beauty, and some subtle perfume that reached him from her,
played havoc with his senses.  Nearer he drew her in silence, his
face white and clammy, and his hot, wine laden breath coming quicker
every second.  And unresisting she submitted, for she was beyond
resistance now, beyond tears even.  From between wet lashes her great
eyes gazed into his with a look of deadly, piteous affright; her
lips were parted, her cheeks ashen, and her mind was dimly striving
to formulate a prayer to the Holy Mother, the natural protectress of
all imperilled virgins.

Nearer she felt herself drawn to her tormentor, in whose thoughts
there dwelt now little recollection of the vengeful character of his
purpose.  For a second her wrists were released; then she felt his
arms going round her as the coils of a snake go round its prey.
With a sudden reassertion of self, with a panting gasp of horror,
she tore herself free.  An oath broke from him as he sprang after
her.  Then the unexpected happened.  Above his head something bright
flashed up, then down.  There was a dull crack, and the Captain
stopped short in his rush; his hands were jerked to the height of
his breast, and like a pole-axed beast he dropped and lay prone at
her feet.

Across his fallen body she beheld La Boulaye standing impassively,
the ghost of a smile on his thin lips, and in his hand one of the
heavy silver candlesticks from the table.

Whilst a man might count a dozen they stood so with no word spoken.
Then:

"It was a cowardly blow, Citoyenne," said the Deputy in accents of
regret; "but what choice had I?"  He set down the candlestick, and
kneeling beside Charlot, he felt for the Captain's heart.  "The door,
Citoyenne," he muttered.  "Lock it."

Mechanically, and without uttering a word, she hastened to do his
bidding.  As the key grated in the lock he rose.

"It has only stunned him," he announced.  "Now to prepare an
explanation for it."

He drew a chair under the old brass lamp, that hung from the ceiling.
He mounted the chair, and with both hands he seized the chain
immediately above the lamp.  Drawing himself up, he swung there for
just a second; then the hook gave way, and amid a shower of plaster
La Boulaye half-tumbled to the ground.

"There," said he, as he dropped the lamp with its chain and hook
upon the floor by Charlot.  "It may not be as convincing as we might
wish, but I think that it will prove convincing enough to the dull
wits of the landlady, and of such of Charlot's followers as may enter
here.  I am afraid," he deplored, "that it will be some time before
he recovers.  He was so far gone in wine that it needed little weight
to fell him."

Her glance met his once more, and she took a step towards him with
hands outstretched.

"Monsieur, Monsieur!" she cried.  "If you but knew how in my thoughts
I wronged you a little while ago."

"You had all reason to," he answered, taking her hands, and there
came the least softening of his stern countenance.  "It grieved me
to add to your affliction.  But had I permitted him to do so much as
suspect that I was anything but your implacable enemy, I had no
chance of saving you.  He would have dismissed me, and I must have
obeyed or been compelled, for he is master here, and has men enough
to enforce what he desires."

And now she would have thanked him for having saved her, but he cut
her short almost roughly.

"You owe me no thanks,"he said.  "I have but done for you what my
manhood must have bidden me do for any woman similarly situated.  For
to-night I have saved you, Citoyenne.  I shall make an effort to
smuggle you and your mother out of Boisvert before morning, but after
that you must help yourselves."

"You will do this?" she cried, her eyes glistening.

"I will attempt it."

"By what means, Monsieur Caron?"

"I do not yet know.  I must consider.  In the meantime you had best
return to your coach.  Later to-night I shall have you and your
mother brought to me, and I will endeavour to so arrange matters
that you shall not again return to your carriage.

"Not return to it?" she exclaimed.  "But are we then to leave it
here?"

"I am afraid there is no help for that."

"But, Monsieur, you do not know; there is a treasure in that carriage.
All that we have is packed in it, and if we go without it we go
destitute."

"Better, perhaps, to go destitute than not to go at all, Mademoiselle.
I am afraid there is no choice for you."

His manner was a trifle impatient.  It irritated him that in such a
moment she should give so much thought to her valuables.  But in
reality she was thinking of them inasmuch as they concerned her
mother, who was below, and her father and brother who awaited them
in Prussia, whither they had separately emigrated.  The impatience
in his tone stung her into a feeling of resentment, that for the
moment seemed to blot out the much that she owed him.  A reproachful
word was trembling on her lips, when suddenly he put out his hand.

"Hist!" he whispered, the concentrated look of one who listens
stamped upon his face.  His sharp ears had detected some sound which
 - perhaps through her preoccupation - she had not noticed.  He
stepped quickly to the Captain's side, and taking up the lamp by its
chain, he leapt into the air like a clown, and came down on his heels
with a thud that shook the chamber.  Simultaneously he dropped the
lamp with a clatter, and sent a shout re-echoing through the house.

The girl stared at him with parted lips and the least look of fear
in her eyes.  Was he gone clean mad of a sudden?

But now the sound which had warned him of someone's approach reached
her ears as well.  There were steps on the stairs, which at that
alarming noise were instantly quickened.  Yet ere they had reached
the top La Boulaye was at the door vociferating wildly.

Into the room came the hostess, breathless and grinning with anxiety,
and behind her came Guyot, who, startled by the din, had hastened up
to inquire into its cause.

At sight of the Captain stretched upon the floor there was a scream
from Mother Capoulade and an oath from the soldier.

"Mon Dieu! what has happened?" she cried, hurrying forward.

"Miserable!" exclaimed La Boulaye, with well-feigned anger.  "It
seems that your wretched hovel is tumbling to pieces, and that men
are not safe beneath its roof." And he indicated the broken plaster
and the fallen lamp.

"How did it happen, Citoyenne-deputy?" asked Guyot; for all that he
drew the only possible inference from what he saw.

"Can you not see how it happened?" returned La Boulaye, impatiently.
"As for you, wretched woman, you will suffer for it, I promise you.
The nation is likely to demand a high price for Captain Charlot's
injuries."

"But, bon Dieu, how am I to blame?" wailed the frightened woman.

"To blame," echoed La Boulaye, in a furious voice.  "Are you not to
blame that you let rooms in a crazy hovel?   Let them to emigres as
much as you will, but if you let them to good patriots and thereby
endanger their lives you must take the consequences.  And the
consequences in this case are likely to be severe, malheureuse."

He turned now to Guyot, who was kneeling by the Captain, and looking
to his hurt.

"Here, Guyot,"he commanded sharply, "reconduct the Citoyenne to her
coach.  I will perhaps see her again later, when the Captain shall
have recovered consciousness.  You, Citoyenne Capoulade, assist me
to carry him to bed."

Each obeyed him, Guyot readily, as became a soldier, and the hostess
trembling with the dread which La Boulaye's words had instilled into
her.  They got Charlot to bed, and when a half-hour or so later he
recovered consciousness, it was to find Guyot watching at his bed-side.
Bewildered, he demanded an explanation of his present position and of
the pain in his head, which brought him the memory of a sudden and
unaccountable blow he had received, which was the last thing that he
remembered.  Guyot, who had never for a moment entertained a doubt
of the genuineness of the mise-en-scene La Boulaye had prepared,
answered him with the explanation of how he had been struck by the
falling lamp, whereupon Charlot fell to cursing lamps and crumblings
with horrid volubility.  That done he would have risen, but that La
Boulaye, entering at that moment, insisted that he should remain
abed.

"Are you mad?" the Deputy expostulated, "or is it that you do not
appreciate the nature of your hurt?   Diable!  I have known a man
die through insisting to be about with a cracked skull that was as
nothing to yours."

"Name of a name!  gasped Charlot, who in such matters was profoundly
ignorant and correspondingly credulous.  "Is it so serious?"

"Not serious if you lie still and sleep.  You will probably be quite
well by to-morrow.  But if you move to-night the consequences may
well be fatal."

"But I cannot sleep at this hour,"the Captain complained.  "I am very
wakeful,"

"We will try to find you a sleeping potion, then,"said La Boulaye.
"I hope the hosteen may have something that will answer the purpose.
Meanwhile, Guyot, do not allow the Captain to talk.  If you would
have him well to-morrow, remember that it is of the first importance
that he should have utter rest tonight."

With that he went in quest of Dame Capoulade to ascertain whether
she possessed any potion that would induce sleep.  He told her that
the Captain was seriously injured, and that unless he slept he might
die, and, quickened by the terror of what might befall her in such
a case, the woman presently produced a small phial full of a brown,
viscous fluid.  What it might be he had no notion, being all unversed
in the mysteries of the pharmacopoeia; but she told him that it had
belonged to her now defunct husband, who had always said that ten
drops of it would make a man sleep the clock round.

He experimented on the Captain with ten drops, and within a quarter
of an hour of taking the draught of red wine in which it was
administered, Charlot's deep breathing proclaimed him fast asleep.

That done, La Boulaye sent Guyot below to his post once more, and
returning to the room in which they had supped, he paced up and down
for a full hour, revolving in his mind the matter of saving
Mademoiselle and her mother.  At last, towards ten o'clock, he opened
the casement, and calling down to Guyot, as Charlot had done, he bade
him bring the women up again.  Now Guyot knew of the high position
which Caron occupied in the Convention, and he had seen the intimate
relations in which he stood to Tardivet, so that unhesitatingly he
now obeyed him.

La Boulaye closed the window, and crossed slowly to the fire.  He
stirred the burning logs with his boot, then stood there waiting.
Presently the stairs creaked, next the door opened, and Guyot
ushered in Mademoiselle.

"The elder citoyenne refuses to come, Citizen-deputy," said the
soldier.  "They both insisted that it was not necessary, and that
the Citoyenne here would answer your questions."

Almost on the point of commanding the soldier to return for the
Marquise, Caron caught the girl's eye, and her glance was so
significant that he thought it best to hear first what motives she
had for thus disobeying him.

"Very well,"he said shortly.  "You may go below, Guyot.  But hold
yourself in readiness lest I should have need of you."

The soldier saluted and disappeared.  Scarce was he gone when
Mademoiselle came hurrying forward.

"Monsieur Caron," she cried "Heaven is surely befriending us.  The
soldiers are drinking themselves out of their wits.  They will be
keeping a slack watch presently."

He looked at her for a moment, fathoming the purport of what she
said.

"But," he demanded at last, "why did not the Marquise obey my
summons, and accompany you?"

"She was afraid to leave the coach, Monsieur.  Moreover, she agreed
with me that it would not be necessary."

"Not necessary?" he echoed.  "But it is necessary.  When last you
were here I told you I did not intend you should return to the coach.
This is my plan, Citoyenne.  I shall keep Guyot waiting below while
you and your mother are fortifying yourselves by supper here.  Then
I shall dismiss him with a recommendation that he keep a close watch
upon the carriage, and the information that you will not be returning
to it to-night.  A half-hour later or so, when things are quiet, I
shall find a way out for you by the back, after which the rest must
remain in your hands.  More I cannot do."

"You can," she cried; "you can."

"If you will enlighten me,"said he, with the faintest touch of irony.

She looked at his stern, sardonic face and solemn grey eyes, and for
a moment it almost seemed to her that she hated him more than anybody
in the world.  He was so passionless, so master of himself, and he
addressed her in a tone which, whilst it suggested that he accounted
himself most fully her equal, made her feel that he was really her
better by much.  If one of these two was an aristocrat, surely that
one was the Citizen-deputy La Boulaye.

"If you had but the will you would do it, Monsieur,"she answered
him.  "It is not mine to enlighten you; I know not how."

"I have the very best will in the world, Citoyenne," said he.  "Of
that I think that I am giving proof."

"Aye, the will to do nothing that will shame your manhood," she
rejoined.  "That is all you think of.  It was because your manhood
bade you that you came to my rescue - so you said when you declined
my thanks.  It is this manhood of yours, I make no doubt, that is
now prevailing upon you to deliver two unprotected women out of the
hands of these brigands."

"In Heaven's name, Citoyenne," quoth the astonished Deputy, "out of
what sentiment would you have me act, and, indeed, so that I save
you, how can it concern you by what sentiment I am prompted?"

She paused a moment before replying.  Her eyes were downcast, and
some of the colour faded from her cheeks.  She carne a step nearer,
which brought her very close to him.

"Monsieur,"she faltered very shyly, "in the old days at Bellecour
you would have served me out of other sentiments."

He started now in spite of himself, and eyed her with a sudden gleam
of hope, or triumph, or mistrust, or perhaps of all three.  Then his
glance fell, and his voice was wistful.

"But the old days are dead, Mademoiselle."

"The days, yes," she answered, taking courage from his tone.  "But
love Monsieur, is everlasting - it never dies, they say."

And now it was La Boulaye who drew closer, and this man who had so
rigidly schooled himself out of all emotions, felt his breath
quickening, and his pulses throbbing faster and faster.  To him it
seemed that she was right, and that love never died - for the love
for her, which he believed he had throttled out of existence long
ago, seemed of a sudden to take life as vigorously as ever.  And
then it was as if some breeze out of the past bore to his nostrils
the smell of the violets and of the moist earth of that April
morning when she had repulsed him in the woods of Bellecour.  His
emotion died down.  He drew back, and stood rigid before her.

"And if it were to live, Citoyenne," he said - the resumption of
the Republican form of address showed that he had stepped back into
the spirit as well as in the flesh "what manner of fool were I to
again submit it to the lash of scorn it earned when first it was
discovered?"

"But that belonged to the old days," she cried, "and it is dead
with the old days.'

"It is vain to go back, Citoyenne," he cut in, and his voice rang
harsh with determination.

She bit her lip under cover of her bent head.  If she had hated him
before how much more did she not hate him now?   And but a moment
back it had seemed to her that she had loved him.  She had held out
her hands to him and he had scorned them; in her eagerness she had
been unmaidenly, and all that she had earned had been humiliation.
She quivered with shame and anger, and sinking into the nearest
chair she burst into a passion of tears.

Thus by accident did she stumble upon the very weapon wherewith to
make an utter rout of all Caron's resolutions.  For knowing nothing
of the fountain from which those tears were springing, and deeming
them the expression of a grief pure and unalloyed - saving, perhaps,
by a worthy penitence - he stepped swiftly to her side.

"Mademoiselle,"he murmured, and his tone was as gentle and beseeching
as it had lately been imperious.  "Nay, Mademoiselle, I implore you!"

But her tears continued, and her sobs shook the slender frame as if
to shatter it.  He dropped upon his knees.  Scarcely knowing what he
did, he set his arm about her waist in a caress of protection.

A long curl of her black, unpowdered hair lay against his cheek.

"Mademoiselle," he murmured, and she took comfort at the soothing
tone.

>From it she judged him malleable now, that had been so stern and
unyielding before.  She raised her eyes, and through her tears she
turned their heavenly blue full upon the grey depths of his.

"You will not believe me, Monsieur,"she complained softly.  "You
will not believe that I can have changed with the times; that I see
things differently now.  If you were to come to me again as in the
woods at Bellecour - "  She paused abruptly, her cheeks flamed
scarlet, and she covered them with her hands.

"Suzanne!" he cried, seeking to draw those hands away.  "Is it true,
this?   You care, beloved!"

She uncovered her face at last.  Again their eyes met.

"I was right," she whispered.  "Love never dies, you see."

"And you will marry me, Suzanne?" he asked incredulously.

She inclined her head, smiling through her tears, and he would have
caught her to him but that she rose of a sudden.

"Hist!" she cried, raising her finger: "someone is coming."

He listened, holding his breath, but no sound stirred.  He went to
the door and peered out.  All was still.  But the interruption
served to impress him with the fact that time was speeding, and
that all unsuspicious though Guyot might be as yet, it was more
than possible that his suspicions would be aroused if she remained
there much longer.

He mentioned this, and he was beginning to refer to his plan for
their escape when she thrust it aside, insisting that they must
depart in their coach, so that their treasure might also be saved."

"Be reasonable, Suzanne,"he cried.  "It is impossible."

A cloud of vexation swept across her averted face.

"Nay, surely not impossible," she answered.  "Listen, Caron, there
are two treasures in that coach.  One is in money and in gold and
silver plate; the other is in gems, and amounts to thrice the value
of the rest.  This latter is my dowry.  It is a fortune with which
we can quit France and betake ourselves wherever our fancy leads us.
Would you ask me to abandon that and come to you penniless,
compelled thereby to live in perpetual terror in a country where at
any moment an enemy might cast at me the word aristocrate, and
thereby ruin me?"

There was no cupidity in La Boulaye's nature, and even the prospect
of an independent fortune would have weighed little with him had it
not been backed by the other argument she employed touching the
terror that would be ever with her did they dwell in France.

He stood deep in thought, his hand to his brow, thrusting back the
long black hair from his white forehead, what time she recapitulated
her argument.

"But how?" he exclaimed, in exasperation "Tell me how?"

"That is for you to discover, Caron."

He thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and set himself to pace
the chamber.  And now his fingers came in contact with something
foreign.  Idly he drew it forth, and it proved to be the phial
Mother Capoulade had given him, and from which he had poured the
ten drops for the Captain's sleeping potion.  His eyes brightened
with inspiration.  Here was a tool whose possibilities were vast.
Then his brows were knit again.

"Wait,"he said slowly.  "Let me think."




CHAPTER XI

THE ESCAPE


Resting his elbow on the table, and with his hand to his brow, Caron
sat deep in thought, his forefinger and thumb pressed against his
closed eyelids.  From beyond the board Mademoiselle watched him
anxiously and waited.  At last he looked up.

"I think I have it," he announced, rising.  "You say that the men
are drinking heavily.  That should materially assist us."

She asked him what plan he had conceived, but he urged that time
pressed; she should know presently; meanwhile, she had best return
immediately to her carriage.  He went to the door to call Guyot,
but she stayed him.

"No, no, Monsieur,"she exclaimed.  "I will not pass through the
common-room again in that fellow's company.  They are all in there,
carousing, and - and I dare not."

As if to confirm her words, now that he held the door open, he
caught some sounds of mirth and the drone of voices from below.

"Come with me, then,"said he, taking up one of the candles.  "I will
escort you."

Together they descended the narrow staircase, La Boulaye going first,
to guide her, since two might not go abreast.  At the foot there
was a door, which he opened, and then, at the end of a short passage
 - in which the drone of voices sounded very loud and in particular
one, cracked voice that was raised in song - they gained the door of
the common-room.  As La Boulaye pushed it open they came upon a
scene of Bacchanalian revelry.  On a chair that had been set upon
the table they beheld Mother Capoulade enthroned like a Goddess of
Liberty, and wearing a Phrygian cap on her dishevelled locks.  Her
yellow cheeks were flushed and her eyes watery, whilst hers was the
crazy voice that sang.

Around the table, in every conceivable attitude of abandonment, sat
Captain Charlot's guard - every man of the ten - and with them the
six men and the corporal of La Boulaye's escort, all more or less
in a condition of drunkenness.

"Le jour de gloire est arrive?" sang the croaking voice of Dame
Capoulade, and there it stopped abruptly upon catching sight of La
Boulaye and his companion in the doorway.  Mademoiselle shivered
out of loathing; but La Boulaye felt his pulses quickened with hope,
for surely all this was calculated to assist him in his purpose.

At the abrupt interruption of the landlady's version of the
"Marseillaise "the men swung round, and upon seeing the Deputy they
sought in ludicrous haste to repair the disorder of their appearance.

"So!" thundered Caron.  "This is the watch you keep?   This is how
you are to be trusted?   And you, Guyot," he continued, pointing his
finger at the man.  "Did I not bid you await my orders?   Is this
how you wait?   You see that I am compelled to reconduct the
Citoyenne myself, for I might have called you in vain all night."

Guyot came forward sheepishly, and a trifle unsteady in his gait.

"I did not hear you call, Citizen," he muttered.

"It had been a miracle if you had with this din," answered La Boulaye.
"Here, take the Citoyenne back to her carriage."

Obediently Guyot led the Citoyenne across the room and out into the
courtyard, and the men, restrained by La Boulaye's severe presence,
dared scarcely so much as raise their eyes to her as she passed out.

"And now to your posts," was Caron's stern command.  "By my soul,
if you were men of mine I would have you flogged for this.  Out with
you!"  And he pointed imperiously to the door.

"It is a bitter night, Citizen," grumbled one of them.

"Do you call yourself soldiers, and does a touch of frost make
cowards of you?   Outside, you old wives, at once!  I'll see you at
your post before I go to bed."

And with that he set himself to drive them out, and they went, until
none but his own half-dozen remained.  These he bade dispose
themselves about the hearth, in which they very readily obeyed him.

On a side-table stood a huge steaming can which had attracted La
Boulaye's attention from the moment that he had entered the room.
He went to peer into this, and found it full almost to the brim of
mulled red wine.

With his back to those in the room, so as to screen his actions, he
had uncorked the phial as he was approaching the can.  Now, as he
made pretence first to peer into it and then to smell its contents,
he surreptitiously emptied the potion into it, wondering vaguely to
himself whether the men would ever wake again if they had drunk it.
Slipping the phial into his sash he turned to Mother Capoulade, who
had descended from the table and stood looking very foolish.

"What is this?" he demanded angrily.

"It was a last cup of wine for the men," she faltered.  "The night
is bitterly cold, Citizen," she added, by way of excusing herself.

"Bah!" snarled Caron, and for a moment he stood there as if
deliberating.  "I am minded to empty it into the kennel," he
announced.

"Citizen!" cried the woman, in alarm.  "It is good wine, and I have
spiced it."

"Well," he relented, "they may have it.  But see that it is the last
to-night."

And with that he strode across the room, and with a surly "Good-night"
to his men, he mounted the stairs once more.

He waited perhaps ten minutes in the chamber above, then he went to
the casement, and softly opened the window.  It was as he expected.
With the exception of the coach standing in the middle of the yard,
and just discernible by the glow of the smouldering fire they had
built there but allowed to burn low, the place was untenanted.
Believing him to have retired for the night, the men were back again
in the more congenial atmosphere of the hostelry, drinking themselves
no doubt into a stupor with that last can of drugged wine.  He sat
down to quietly mature his plans, and to think out every detail of
what he was about to do.  At the end of a half-hour, silence reigning
throughout the house, he rose.  He crept softly into Charlot's
chamber and possessed himself of the Captain's outer garments.  These
he carried back to the sitting-room, and extracted from the coat
pocket two huge keys tied together with a piece of string.  He never
doubted that they were the keys he sought, one opening the stable
door and the other the gates of the porte-cochere.

He replaced the garments, and then to make doubly sure, he waited
yet - in a fever of impatience - another half-hour by his watch.

It wanted a few minutes to midnight when, taking up his cloak and
a lantern he had lighted, he went below once more.  In the
common-room he found precisely the scene he had expected.  Both
Charlot's men and his own followers lay about the floor in all
conceivable manner of attitudes, their senses locked deep in the
drunken stupor that possessed them.  Two or three had remained
seated, and had fallen across the table, when overcome.  Of these
was Mother Capoulade, whose head lay sideways on her curled arms,
and from whose throat there issued a resonant and melodious snore.
Most of the faces that La Boulaye could see were horribly livid
and bedewed with sweat, and again it came into his mind to wonder
whether he had overdone things, and they would wake no more.  On
the other hand, an even greater fear beset him, that the drug might
have been insufficient.  By way of testing it, he caught one fellow
who lay across his path a violent kick in the side.  The man grunted
in his sleep, and stirred slightly, to relapse almost at once into
his helpless attitude, and to resume his regular breathing, which
the blow had interrupted.

La Boulaye smiled his satisfaction, and without further hesitancy
passed out into the yard.  He had yet a good deal to say to
Mademoiselle, but he could not bring himself to speak to her before
her mother, particularly as he realised how much the Marquise might
be opposed to him.  He opened the carriage door.

"Mademoiselle," he called softly, "will you do me the favour to
alight for an instant?   I must speak to you."

"Can you not say what you have to say where you are?" came the
Marquise's voice.

"No, Madame," answered La Boulaye coldly, "I cannot."

"Oh, it is 'Madame' and 'Mademoiselle' now, eh?   What have you done
to the man, child, to have earned us so much deference."

"May I remind Mademoiselle," put in La Boulaye firmly, "that time
presses, and that there is much to be done?"

"I am here, Monsieur" she answered, as without more ado, and heedless
of her mother's fresh remarks, she stepped from the carriage.

La Boulaye proffered his wrist to assist her to alight, then reclosed
the door, and led her slowly towards the stable.

"Where are the soldiers?" she whispered.

"Every soul in the inn is asleep," he answered.  "I have drugged
them all, from the Captain down to the hostess.  The only one left
is the ostler, who is sleeping in one of the outhouses here.  Him
you must take with you, not only because it is not possible to drug
him as well, but also because the blame of your escape must rest on
someone, and it may as well rest on him as another."

"But why not on you?"she asked.

"Because I must remain."

"Ah!"  It was no more than a breath of interrogation, and her face
was turned towards him as she awaited an explanation.

"I have given it much thought, Suzanne, and unless someone remains
to cover, as it were, your retreat, I am afraid that your flight
might be vain, and that you would run an overwhelming risk of
recapture.  You must remember the resourcefulness of this fellow,
Tardivet, and his power in the country here.  If he were to awake
to the discovery that I had duped him, he would be up and after us,
and I make little doubt that it would not be long ere he found the
scent and ran us to earth.  Tomorrow I shall discover your flight
and the villainy of the ostler, and I shall so organise the pursuit
that you shall not be overtaken."

There was a moment's pause, during which La Boulaye seemed to expect
some question.  But none came, so he proceeded:

"Your original intention was to make for Prussia, where you say that
your father and your brother are awaiting you."

"Yes, Monsieur.  Beyond the Moselle - at Treves."

"You must alter your plans," said he shortly.  "Your mother, no
doubt, will insist upon repairing thither, and I will see that the
road is left open for her escape.  At Soignies you, Suzanne, can
hire yourself a berline, that will take you back to France."

"Back to France?" she echoed.

"Yes, back to France.  That is the unlikeliest road on which to
think of pursuing you, and thus you will baffle Charlot.  Let your
mother proceed on her journey to Prussia, but tell her to avoid
Charleroi, and to go round by Liege.  Thus only can she hope to
escape Tardivet's men that are patrolling the road from France.
As for you, Suzanne, you had best go North as far as Oudenarde, so
as to circumvent the Captain's brigands on that side.  Then make
straight for Roubaix, and await me at the 'Hotel des Cloches.' "

"But, Monsieur, I shudder at the very thought of re-entering France."

"As Mademoiselle de Bellecour, a proscribed aristocrat, that is
every reason for your fears.  But I have given.  the matter thought
and I can promise you that as the Citoyenne La Boulaye, wife of the
Citizen-deputy Caron La Boulaye, you will be as safe as I should be
myself, if you are questioned, and, in response, you will find
nothing but eagerness to serve you on every hand."

She spoke now of the difficulties her mother would make, but he
dismissed the matter by reminding her that her mother could not
detain her by force.  Again she alluded to her dowry, but that also
he dismissed, bidding her leave it behind.  Her family would need
the money, to be realised by the jewels.  As for herself, he assured
her that as his wife she would not want, and showed her how idle
was her dread of living in France.

"And now, Mademoiselle," he said, more briskly, "let us see to this
ostler."

He opened the door of the outhouse, and uncovering his lantern he
raised it above his head.  Its yellow light revealed to them a
sleeper on the straw in a corner.  La Boulaye entered and stirred
the man with his foot.

The fellow sat up blinking stupidly and dragging odd wisps of straw
from his grey hair.

"What's amiss?"he grunted.

As briefly as might be La Boulaye informed him that he was to receive
a matter of five hundred francs if he would journey into Prussia with
the ci-devant Marquise de Bellecour.

Five hundred francs?  It was a vast sum, the tenth of which had never
been his at any one time of his wretched life.  For five hundred
francs he would have journeyed into Hades, and La Boulaye found him
willing enough to go to Prussia, and had no need to resort to the
more forcible measures he had come prepared to employ.

Accompanied by the ostler, they now passed to the stables, and when
La Boulaye had unlocked the door and cut the bonds that pinioned
the Marquis's coachman, they got the horses, and together they
harnessed them as quietly as might be.

Then working with infinite precaution, and as little sound as
possible, they brought them out into the yard and set them in the
shafts of the carriage.  The rest was easy work, and a quarter of
an hour later the heavy vehicle rumbled through the porte-cochere
and started on its way to Soignies.

La Boulaye dropped the keys into a bucket and went within.  In the
common-room nothing had changed, and the men lay about precisely
as he had left them.  Reassured, he went above and took a peep at
the Captain, whom he found snoring lustily.

Satisfied that all was well, Caron passed quietly to his own chamber,
and with an elation of soul such as had never been his since boyhood,
he fell asleep amid visions of Suzanne and the new life he was to
enter upon in her sweet company.




CHAPTER XII

THE AWAKENING


La Boulaye awakened betimes next morning.  It may be that the matter
on his mind and the business that was toward aroused him; certainly
it was none of the sounds that are common to an inn at early morn,
for the place was as silent as a tomb.

Some seconds he remained on his back, staring at the whitewashed
ceiling and listening to the patter of the rain against his window.
Then, as his mind gathered up the threads of recollection, he leapt
from his bed and made haste to assume a garment or two.

He stood a moment at his casement, looking out into the empty
courtyard.  From a leaden sky the rain was descending in sheets, and
the gargoyle at the end of the eaves overhead was discharging a
steady column of water into the yard.  Caron shivered with the cold
of that gloomy February morning, and turned away from the window.
A few moments later he was in Tardivet's bedchamber, vigorously
shaking the sleeping Captain.

"Up, Charlot!  Awake!" he roared in the man's ear.

"What o'clock?" he asked with a yawn.  Then a sudden groan escaped
him, and he put his hand to his head.  "Thousand devils!" he swore,
"what a headache!"

But La Boulaye was not there on any mission of sympathy, nor did
he waste words in conveying his news.

"The coach is gone,"he announced emphatically.

"Coach?   What coach?" asked the Captain, knitting his brows.

"What coach?" echoed La Boulaye testily.  "How many coaches were
there?   Why, the Bellecour coach; the coach with the treasure."

At that Charlot grew very wide-awake.  He forgot his headache and
his interest in the time of day.

"Gone?" he bellowed.  "How gone?  Pardieu, it is not possible!"

"Look for yourself,"was La Boulaye's answer as he waved his hand in
the direction of the window.  "I don't know what manner of watch
your men can have kept that such a thing should have come about.
Probably, knowing you ill a-bed, they abused the occasion by getting
drunk, and probably they are still sleeping it off.  The place is
silent enough."

But Tardivet scarcely heard him.  From his window he was staring
into the yard below, too thunderstruck by its emptiness to even have
recourse to profanity.  Stable door and porte-cochere alike stood
open.  He turned suddenly and made for his coat.  Seizing it, he
thrust his hand in one pocket after another.  At last:

"Treachery!" he cried, and letting the garment fall to the ground,
he turned upon La Boulaye a face so transfigured by anger that it
looked little like the usually good-humoured countenance of Captain
Tardivet "My keys have been stolen.  By St. Guillotine, I'll have
the thief hanged."

"Did anybody know that the keys were in your pocket?" asked the
ingenuous Caron.

"I told you last night."

"Yes, yes; I remember that.  But did anybody else know?"

"The ostler knew.  He saw me lock the doors."

"Why, then, let us find the ostler," urged Caron.  "Put on some
clothes and we will go below."

Mechanically Charlot obeyed him, and as he did so he gave his
feelings vent at last.  From between set teeth came now a flow of
oaths and imprecations as steady as the flow of water from the
gargoyle overhead.

At last they hastened down the stairs together, and in the
common-room they found the sleeping company much as La Boulaye had
left it the night before.  In an access of rage at what he saw,
and at the ample evidences of the debauch that had reduced them to
this condition, Charlot began by kicking the chair from under Mother
Capoulade.  The noise of her fall and the scream with which she
awoke served to arouse one or two others, who lifted their heads
to gaze stupidly about them.

But Charlot was busy stirring the other slumberers.  He had found
a whip, and with this he was now laying vigorously about him.

"Up, you swine!" he blazed at them.  "Afoot, you drunken scum!"

His whip cracked, and his imprecations rang high and lurid.  And La
Boulaye assisted him in his labours with kicks and cuffs and a
tongue no less vituperative.

At last they were on their feet - a pale, bewildered, shamefaced
company - receiving from the infuriated Charlot the news that
whilst they had indulged themselves in their drunken slumbers their
prisoners had escaped and carried off the treasure with them.  The
news was received with a groan of dismay, and several turned to
the door to ascertain for themselves whether it was indeed exact.
The dreary emptiness of the rain-washed yard afforded them more than
ample confirmation.

"Where is your pig of an ostler, Mother Capoulade?" demanded the
angry Captain.

Quivering with terror, she answered him that the rascal should be
in the shed by the stables, where it was his wont to sleep.  Out
into the rain, despite the scantiness of his attire, went Charlot,
followed closely by La Boulaye and one or two stragglers.  The
shed proved empty, as Caron could have told him - and so, too, did
the stables.  Here, at the spot where Madame de Bellecour's coachman
had been left bound, the Captain turned to La Boulaye and those
others that had followed him.

"It is the ostler's work," he announced.  "There was knavery and
treachery writ large upon his ugly face.  I always felt it, and this
business proves how correct were my instincts.  The rogue was bribed
when he discovered how things were with you, you greasy sots.  But
you, La Boulaye," he cried suddenly, "were you drunk, too?"

"Not I," answered the Deputy.

"Then, name of a name, how came that lumbering coach to leave the
yard without awakening you?"

"You ask me to explain too much," was La Boulaye's cool evasion.
"I have always accounted myself a light sleeper, and I could not
have believed that such a thing could really have taken place
without disturbing me.  But the fact remains that the coach has
gone, and I think that instead of standing here in idle speculation
as to how it went, you might find more profitable employment in
considering how it is to brought back again.  It cannot have gone
very far."

If any ray of suspicion had begun to glimmer in Charlot's brain,
that suggestion of La Boulaye's was enough to utterly extinguish it.

They returned indoors, and without more ado Tardivet set himself to
plan the pursuit.  He knew, he announced, that Prussia was their
destination.  He had discovered it at the time of their capture from
certain papers that he had found in a portmanteau of the Marquise's.
He discussed the matter with La Boulaye, and it was now that Caron
had occasion to congratulate himself upon his wisdom in having
elected to remain behind.

The Captain proposed to recall the fifty men that were watching the
roads from France, and to spread them along the River Sambre, as far
as Liege, to seek information of the way taken by the fugitives.  As
soon as any one of the parties struck the trail it was to send word
to the others, and start immediately in pursuit.

Now, had Charlot been permitted to spread such a net as this, the
Marquise must inevitably fall into it, and Caron had pledged his
word that she should have an open road to Prussia.  With a map
spread upon the table he now expounded to the Captain how little
necessity there was for so elaborate a scheme.  The nearest way to
Prussia was by Charleroi, Dinant, and Rochefort, into Luxembourg,
and - he contended - it was not only unlikely, but incredible, that
the Marquise should choose any but the shortest road to carry her
out of Belgium, seeing the dangers that must beset her until the
frontiers of Luxembourg were passed.

"And so,"argued La Boulaye, "why waste time in recalling your men?
Think of the captives you might miss by such an act!  It were
infinitely better advised.  to assume that the fugitives have taken
the Charleroi-Dinant road, and to despatch, at once, say,
half-a-dozen men in pursuit."

Tardivet pondered the matter for some moments.

"Yom are right," he agreed at last.  "If they have resolved to
continue their journey, a half-dozen men should suffice to recapture
them.  I will despatch these at once... "

La Boulaye looked up at that.

"If they have resolved to continue their journey?" he echoed.  "What
else should they have resolved?"

Tardivet stroked his reddish hair and smiled astutely.

"In organising a pursuit,"aid he, "the wise pursuer will always put
himself in the place of the fugitives, and seek to reason as they
would probably reason.  Now, what more likely than that these ladies,
or their coachman, or that rascally ostler, should have thought of
doubling back into France?   They might naturally argue that we;
should never think of pursuing them in that direction.  Similarly
placed, that is how I should reason, and that is the course I should
adopt, making for Prussia through Lorraine.  Perhaps I do their
intelligences too much honour - yet, to me, it seems such an obvious
course."'

La Boulaye grew cold with apprehension.  Yet impassively he asked:

"But what of your men who are guarding the frontiers?"

"Pooh!  A detour might circumvent them.  The Marquise might go as
far north as Roubaix or Comines, or as fair south as Rocroy, or even
Charlemont.  Name of a name, but it is more than likely!" he
exclaimed, with sudden conviction.  "What do you say, Caron?"

"That you rave,"answered La Boulaye coldly.

"Well, we shall see.  I will despatch a message to my men, bidding
them spread themselves as far north as Comiines and as far south as
Charlemont.  Should the fugitives have made such a detour as I
suggested there will be ample time to take them."

La Boulaye still contemned the notion with a fine show of
indifference, but Tardivet held to his purpose, and presently
despatched the messengers as he had proposed.  At that Caron felt
his pulses quickening with anxiety for Mademoiselle.  These astute
measures must inevitably result im her capture - for was it not at
Roubaix that he had bidden her await him?   There was but one thing
to be done, to ride out himself to meet her along the road from
Soignies to Oudenarde, and to escort her into France.  She should
go ostensibly as his prisoner, and he was confident that not all
the brigands of Captain Tardivet would suffice to take her from him.

Accordingly, he announced his intention of resuming his interrupted
journey, and ordered his men to saddle and make ready.  Meanwhile,
having taken measures to recapture the Marquise should she have
doubled back into France, Charlot was now organising an expedition
to scour the road to Prussia, against the possibility of her having
adhered to her original intention of journeying that way.  Thus he
was determined to take no risks, and leave her no loophole of escape.

Tardivet would have set himself at the head of the six horsemen of
this expedition, but that La Boulaye interfered, and this time to
some purpose.  He assured the Captain that he was still far from
recovered, and that to spend a day in the saddle might have the
gravest of consequences for him.

"If the occasion demanded it," he concluded, "I should myself urge
you to chance the matter of your health.  But the occasion does not.
The business is of the simplest, and your men can do as much without
you as they could with you."

Tardivet permitted himself to be persuaded, and Caron had again good
cause to congratulate himself that he had remained behind to
influence him.  He opined that the men, failing to pick up the trail
at Charleroi, would probably go on as far as Dinant before abandoning
the chase; then they would return to Boisvert to announce their
failure, and by that time it would be too late to reorganise the
pursuit.  On the other hand, had Tardivet accompanied them, upon
failing to find any trace of the Marquise at Charleroi, La Boulaye
could imagine him pushing north along the Sambre, and pressing the
peasantry into his service to form an impassable cordon.

And so, having won his way in this at least, and seen the six men
set out under the command of Tardivet's trusted Guyot, Caron took
his leave of the Captain.  He was on the very point of setting out
when a courier dashed up to the door of the "Eagle," and called for
a cup of wine.  As it was brought him he asked the hostess whether
the Citizen-deputy La Boulaye, Commissioner to the army of Dumouriez,
had passed that way.  Upon being informed that the Deputy was even
then within the inn, the courier got down from his horse and
demanded to be taken to him.

The hostess led him into the common-room, and pointed out the
Deputy.  The courier heaved a sigh of relief, and removing his
sodden cloak he bade the landlady get it dried and prepare him as
stout a meal as her hostelry afforded.

"Name of a name!" he swore, as he pitched his dripping hat into a
corner.  "But it is good to find you at last, Citizen-deputy?   I
had expected to meet you at Valenciennes.  But as you were not there,
and as my letters were urgent, I have been compelled to ride for the
past six hours through that infernal deluge.  Enfin, here you are,
and here is my letter - from the Citizen-deputy Maximilien
Robespierre - and here I'll rest me for the next six hours."

Bidding the fellow by all means rest and refresh himself, La Boulaye
broke the seal, and read the following:

 Dear Caron,

  My courier should deliver you this letter as you are on the Point
  of reentering France, on your return from the mission which you
  have discharged with so much glory to yourself and credit to me
  who recommended you for the task.  I make you my compliments on
  the tact and adroitness you have employed to bring this stubborn
  Dumouriez into some semblance of sympathy with the Convention.
  And now, my friend, I have another task for you, which you can
  discharge on your homeward journey.  You will make a slight detour,
  passing into Artois and riding to the Chateau d'Ombreval, which is
  situated some four miles south of Arras.  Here I wish you not only
  to Possess yourself of the person of the ci-devant Vicomte
  d'Ombreval, bringing him to Paris as your Prisoner, but further,
  to make a very searching investigation of that aristocrat's papers,
  securing any documents that you may consider of a nature
  treasonable to the French Republic, One and Indivisible.

The letter ended with the usual greetings and Robespierre's signature.

La Boulaye swore softly to himself as he folded the epistle.

"It seems," he muttered to Charlot, "that I am to turn catch-poll in
the service of the Republic."

"To a true servant of the Nation," put in the courier, who had
overheard him, "all tasks that may tend to the advancement of the
Republic should be eagerly undertaken.  Diable!  Have not I ridden
in the rain these six hours past?"

La Boulaye paid no heed to him; he was too inured to this sort of
insolence since the new rule had levelled all men.  But Charlot
turned slowly to regard the fellow.

He was a tall man of rather slender stature, but indifferently
dressed in garments that were splashed from head to foot with mud,
and from which a steam was beginning to rise as he stood now with
his back to the fire.  Charlot eyed him so narrowly that the fellow
shifted his position and dropped his glance in some discomfort.
His speech, though rough of purport, had not been ungentle of
delivery.  But his face was dirty - the sure sign of an ardent
patriot - his hair hung untidy about his face, and he wore that
latest abomination of the ultra-revolutionist, a dense black beard
and moustache.

"My friend," said Charlot, "although we are ready to acknowledge
you our equal, we should like you to understand that we do not take
lessons in duty even from our equals.  Bear you that in mind if you
seek to have a peaceful time while you are here, for it so happens
that I am quartered at this inn, and have a more important way with
me than this good-natured Deputy here."

The fellow darted Charlot a malevolent glance.

"You talk of equality and you outrage equality in a breath," he
growled.  "I half suspect you of being a turncoat aristocrat."  And
he spat ostentatiously on the ground.

"Suspect what you will, but voice no suspicions here, else you'll
become acquainted with the mighty short methods of Charlot Tardivet.
And as for aristocrats, my friend, there are none so rabid as the
newly-converted.  I wonder how long it is since you became a patriot?"

Before the fellow could make any answer the corporal in command of
La Boulaye's escort entered to inform Caron that the men were in the
saddle.

At that the Deputy hurriedly took his leave of Tardivet, and wrapping
his heavy cloak tightly about him he marched out into the rain, and
mounted.

A few moments later they clattered briskly out of Boisvert, the thick
grey mud flying from their horses' hoofs as they went, and took the
road to France.  For a couple of miles they rode steadily along under
the unceasing rain and in the teeth of that bleak February wind.
Then at a cross-road La Boulaye unexpectedly called a halt.

"My friends," he said to his escort, "we have yet a little business
to discharge in Belgium before we cross the frontier."

With that he announced his intention of going North, and so briskly
did he cause them to ride, that by noon - a short three hours after
quitting Boisvert - they had covered a distance of twenty-five miles,
and brought up their steaming horses before the Hotel de Flandres
at Leuze.

At this, the only post-house in the place, La Boulaye made inquiries
as to whether any carriage had arrived from Soignies that morning,
to receive a negative answer.  This nowise surprised him, for he
hardly thought that Mademoiselle could have had time to come so
far.  She must, however, be drawing nearer, and he determined to
ride on to meet her.  From Leuze to Soignies is a distance of some
eight or nine leagues by a road which may roughly be said to be
the basis of a triangle having its apex at Boisvert.

After his men had hurriedly refreshed themselves, La Boulaye ordered
them to horse again, and they now cantered out, along this road, to
Soignes.  But as mile after mile was covered without their coming
upon any sign of such a carriage as Mademoiselle should be travelling
in, La Boulaye almost unconsciously quickened the pace until in the
end they found themselves careering along as fast as their jaded
horses would bear them, and speculating mightily upon the Deputy's
odd behaviour.

Soignies itself was reached towards four o'clock, and still they
had not met her whom La Boulaye expected.  Here, in a state of some
wonder and even of some anxiety, Caron made straight for the Auberge
des Postes.  Bidding his men dismount and see to themselves and
their beasts, he went in quest of the host, and having found him,
bombarded him with questions.

In reply he elicited the information that at noon that day a
carriage such as he described had reached Soignies in a very sorry
condition.  One of the wheels had come off on the road, and although
the Marquise's men had contrived to replace it and to rudely secure
it by an improvised pin, they had been compelled to proceed at a
walk for some fifteen miles of the journey, which accounted for the
lateness of their arrival at Soignies.  They had remained at the
Auberge des Postes until the wheel had been properly mended, and it
was not more than an hour since they had resumed their journey along
the road to Liege.

"But did both the citoyennes depart?" cried La Boulaye, in amazement,
and upon receiving an affirmative reply it at once entered his mind
that the Marquise must have influenced her daughter to that end
 - perhaps even employed force.

"Did there appear to be any signs of disagreement between them?"
was his next question.

"No, Citizen, I observed nothing.  They seemed in perfect accord."

"The younger one did not by any chance inquire of you whether it
would be possible to hire a berline?" asked Caron desperately.

"No," the landlord answered him, with wondering eyes.  "She appeared
as anxious as her mother for the repairing of the coach in which
they came, that they might again depart in it."

La Boulaye stood a moment in thought, his brows drawn together, his
breathing seeming suspended, for into his soul a suspicion had of a
sudden been thrust - a hideous suspicion.  Abruptly he drew himself
up to the full of his active figure, and threw back his head, his
resolve taken.

"Can I have fresh horses at once?" he inquired.  "I need eight."

The landlord thoughtfully scratched his head.

"You can have two at once, and the other six in a half-hour."

"Very well," he answered.  "Saddle me one at once, and have the
other seven ready for my men as soon as possible."

And whilst the host sent the ostler to execute the order, Caron
called for a cup of wine and a crust of bread.  Munching his crust
he entered the common-room where his men were at table with a
steaming ragout before them.

"Garin," he said to the corporal, "in a half-hour the landlord will
be able to provide you with fresh horses.  You will set out at once
to follow me along the road to Liege.  I am starting immediately."

Garin, with the easy familiarity of the Republican soldier, bade
him take some thought of his exhausted condition, and snatch at
least the half-hour's rest that was to be theirs.  But La Boulaye
was out of the room before he had finished.  A couple of minutes
later they heard a clatter of departing hoofs, and La Boulaye was
gone along the road too Liege in pursuit of the ladies of Bellecour.




CHAPTER XIII

THE ROAD TO LIEGE


"Of what are you thinking, little fool?" asked the Marquise
peevishly, her fat face puckered into a hundred wrinkles of
ill-humour.

"Of nothing in particular, Madame,"the girl answered patiently.

The Marquise sniffed contemptuously, and glanced through the window
of the coach upon the dreary, rain sodden landscape.

"Do you call the sometime secretary Citizen-cutthroat La Boulaye,
nothing in particular?" she asked.  "Ma foi!  I wonder that you do
not die of self-contempt after what passed between you at Boisvert."

"Madame, I was not thinking of him," said Suzanne.

"More shame to you, then," was the sour retort, for the Marquise
was bent upon disagreeing with her.  "Have you a conscience, Suzanne,
that you could have played such a Delilah part and never give a
thought to the man you have tricked?"

"You will make me regret that I told you of it," said the girl
quietly.

"You are ready enough to regret anything but the act itself.  Perhaps
you'll be regretting that you did not take a berline at Soignies, as
you promised the citizen-scoundrel that you would, and set out to
join him?"

"It is hardly generous to taunt me so, Madame, I do very bitterly
regret what has taken place.  But you might do me the justice to
remember that what I did I did as much for others as for myself.
As much, indeed, for you as for myself."

"For me?" echoed the Marquise shrilly.  "Tiens, that is droll now!
For me?   Was it for me that you made love to the citizen-blackguard?
Are you so dead to shame that you dare remind me of it?"

Mademoiselle sighed, and seemed to shrink back into the shadows of
the carriage.  Her face was very pale, and her eyes looked sorely
troubled.

"It is something that to my dying day I shall regret,"she murmured.
"It was vile, it was unworthy!  Yet if I had not used the only weapon
to my hand - "  She ceased, the Marquise caught the sound of a sob.

"What are you weeping for, little fool?" she cried.

"As much as anything for what he must think of me when he realises
how shamefully I have used him."

"And does it matter what the canaille thinks?   Shall it matter what
the citizen-assassin thinks?"

"A little, Madame," she sighed.  "He will despise me as I deserve.
I almost wish that I could undo it, and go back to that little room
at Boisvert.  the prisoner of that fearful man, Tardivet, or else
that - "  Again she paused, and the Marquise turned towards her
with a gasp.

"Or else that what?" she demanded.  "Ma foi, it only remains that
you should wish you had kept your promise to this scum."

"I almost wish it, Madame.  I pledged my word to him."

"You talk as if you were a man," said her mother; "as if your word
was a thing that bound you.  It is a woman's prerogative to change
her mind.  As for this Republican scum - "

"You shall not call him that," was the rejoinder, sharply delivered;
for Suzanne was roused at last.  "He is twenty times more noble and
brave than any gentleman, that I have ever met.  We owe our liberty
to him at this moment, and sufficiently have I wronged him by my
actions - "

"Fool, what are you saying?" cried the enraged Marquise.  "He, more
noble and brave than any gentleman that you ever met?   He - this
kennel-bred citizen-ruffian of a revolutionist?   Are you mad, girl,
or - "  The Marquise paused a moment and took a deep breath that
was as a gasp of sudden understanding.  "Is it that you are in love
with this wretch!"

"Madame!"  The exclamation was laden with blended wonder, dignity,
and horror.

"Well?" demanded Madame de Bellecour severely.  "Answer me, Suzanne.
Are you in love with this La Boulaye?"

"Is there the need to answer?" quoth the girl scornfully.  "Surely
you forget that I am Mademoiselle de Bellecour, daughter of the
Marquise de Bellecour, and that this man is of the canaille, else
you had never asked the question."

With an expression of satisfaction the Marquise was sinking back in
the carriage, when of a sudden she sat bolt upright.

"Someone is riding very desperately," she cried, a note of alarm
ringing in her voice.

Above the thud of the coach-horses' hoofs and the rumble of their
vehicle sounded now the clatter of someone galloping madly in their
wake.  Mademoiselle looked from the window into the gathering dusk.

"It will be some courier, Madame," she answered calmly.  "None other
would ride at such a pace."

"I shall know no rest until we are safely in a Christian country
again," the Marquise complained.

The hoof-beats grew nearer, and the dark figure of a horseman dashed
suddenly past the window.  Simultaneously, a loud, harsh command to
halt rang out upon the evening air.

The Marquise clutched at her daughter's arm with one hand, whilst
with the other she crossed herself, as though their assailant were
some emissary of the powers of evil.

"Mother in Heaven, deliver us!" she gasped, turning suddenly devout.

"Mon Dieu!" cried Mademoiselle, who had recognised the voice that
was now haranguing the men on the box - their driver and the ostler
of the 'Eagle Inn.'  "It is La Boulaye himself."

"La Boulaye?"echoed the Marquise.  Then, in a frenzy of terror:
"There are the pistols there, Suzanne," she cried.  "You can shoot.
Kill him!  Kill him!"

The girl's lips came tightly together until her mouth seemed no more
than a straight line.  Her cheeks grew white as death, but her eyes
were brave and resolute.  She put forth her hand and seized one of
the pistols as the carriage with a final jolt came to a standstill.

An instant later the door was dragged open, and La Boulaye stood
bowing in the rain with mock ceremoniousness and a very contemptuous
smile on his stern mouth.  He had dismounted, and flung the reins of
his horse over the bough of a tree by the roadside.  The Marquise
shuddered at sight of him, and sought to shrink farther back into
the cushions of the carriage.

"Citoyenne," he was saying, very bitterly, "when I made my compact
with you yesternight, I did not reckon upon being compelled to ride
after you in this fashion.  I have some knowledge of the ways of
your people, of their full words and empty deeds; but you I was fool
enough to trust.  By experience we learn.  I must ask you to alight,
Citoyenne."

"To what purpose, Monsieur?" she asked, in a voice which she strove
to render cold and steady.

"To the purpose that your part of the bargain be carried out.  Your
mother and your treasure were to find their way into Prussia upon
condition that you return with me to France."

"It was a bargain of coercion, Monsieur," she answered attempting to
brazen it out.  "I was a woman in a desperate situation."

"Surely your memory is at fault, Citoyenne," he answered, with a
politeness that was in itself a mockery.

"Your situation was so little desperate that I had offered to effect
the rescue both of your mother and yourself without asking any
guerdon.  Your miserable treasure alone it was that had to be
sacrificed.  You will recall that the bargain was of your own
proposing."

There was a pause, during which he stood waiting for her reply.
Her blue eyes made an attempt to meet his steady gaze, but failed.
Her bosom rose and fell in the intensity of her agitation.

"I was a woman distraught, Monsieur.  Surely you will not hold me
to words uttered in an hour of madness.  It was a bargain I had no
right to make, for I am no longer free to dispose of myself.  I am
betrothed to the Vicomte Anatole d'Ombreval.  The contract has
already been signed, and the Vicomte will be meeting us at Treves."

It was as if she had struck him, and amazement left him silent a
moment.  In a dim, subconscious way he seemed to notice that the
name she mentioned was that of the man he was bidden to arrest.
Then, with an oath:

"I care naught for that," he cried.  "As God lives, you shall
fulfil your word to me."

"Monsieur, I refuse," she answered, with finality.  "Let me request
you to close the door and suffer us to proceed."

"Your mother and your treasure may proceed - it was thus we
bargained.  But you shall come with me.  I will be no girl's dupe,
no woman's fool, Citoyenne."

When he said that he uttered the full truth.  There was no love in
his voice or in his heart at that moment.  Than desire of her
nothing was further from his mind.  It was his pride that was up in
arms, his wounded dignity that cried out to him to avenge himself
upon her, and to punish her for having no miserably duped him.  That
she was unwilling to go with him only served to increase his purpose
of taking her, since the more unwilling she was the more would she
be punished.

"Citoyenne, I am waiting for you to alight," he said peremptorily.

"Monsieur, I am very well as I am," she answered him, and leaning
slightly from the coach - "Drive on, Blaise," she commanded.

But La Boulaye cocked a pistol.

"Drive so much as a yard," he threatened.  "and I'll drive you to
the devil."  Then, turning once more to Suzanne: "Never in my life,
Citoyenne have I employed force to a woman," he said.  "I trust that
you will not put me to the pain of commencing now."

"Stand back, Monsieur," was her imperious answer.  But heedless he
advanced, and thrusting his head under the lintel of the carriage
door he leaned forward, to seize her.  Then, before he could so
much as conjecture what she was about, her hand went up grasping a
heavy horse-pistol by the barrel, and she brought the butt of it
down with a deadly precision between his brows.

He reeled backwards, threw up his arms, and measured his length in
the thick grey mud of the road.

Her eyes had followed him with a look of horror, and until she saw
him lying still on his back did she seem to realise what she had done.

"My dear, brave girl," murmured her mother's voice but she never
heard it.  With a sob she relaxed her grasp of the pistol and let it
fall from the carriage.

"Shall I drive on, Mademoiselle?" inquired Blaise from the box.

But without answering him she had stepped down into the mud, and was
standing bare-headed in the rain beside the body of Caron.

Silently, she stooped and groped for his heart.  It was beating
vigorously enough, she thought.  She stooped lower and taking him
under the arms, she half bore, half dragged him to the side of the
road, as if the thin, bare hedge were capable of affording him
shelter.  There she stood a moment looking down at him.  Then with
a sob she suddenly stooped, and careless of the eyes observing her,
she kissed him full upon the mouth.

A second later she fled like a frightened thing back to the carriage,
and, closing the door, she called in a strangled voice too drive on.

She paid little heed to the praise that was being bestowed upon her
by her mother - who had seen nothing of the kiss.  But she lay back
in her corner of the coach, and now her lashes were wet at the
thought of Caron lying out there in the road.  Now her cheeks grew
red with shame at the thought that she, the nobly-born Mademoiselle
de Bellecour, should have allowed even pity to have so far overcome
her as to have caused her to touch with her lips the lips of a
low-bred revolutionist.





CHAPTER XIV

THE COURIER


It was well for La Boulaye that he had tethered his horse to a tree
before approaching the coach.  That solitary beast standing by the
roadside in the deepening gloom attracted the attention of his
followers, when - a half-hour or so later - they rode that way, making
for Liege, as La Boulaye had bidden them.

At their approach the animal neighed, and Garin, hearing the sound,
reined in and peered forward into the gloom, to descry the horse's
head and back outlined above the blur of the hedge.  His men halted
behind him whilst he approached the riderless beast and made - as
well as he could in the darkness - an examination of the saddle.
One holster he found empty, at which he concluded that the rider,
whoever he had been, had met with trouble; from the other he drew a
heavy pistol, which, however, gave him no clue.

"Get down," he ordered his men," and search the roads hereabouts.
I'll wager a horse to a horseshoe that you will find a body
somewhere."

He was obeyed, and presently a cry from one of the searchers
announced a discovery.  It was succeeded by another exclamation.

"Sacre nom!" swore the trooper.  "It is the Citizen-deputy!"

In an instant Garin had leapt to the ground and with the others
crowding about him, their bridles over their arms and their horses
in a bunch behind them, he was bending under the dripping hedge to
examine the body that lay supine in the sodden road.  A vigorous
oath escaped him when he assured himself that it was indeed La
Boulaye.

"Is he dead?" cried the men in chorus.

"No - not dead" grumbled the corporal. "But there is a lump on his
brow the size of an egg, and God knows how long he has been lying
here in this bed of mud."

They had no restoratives, and the only thing was to convey him to
the nearest habitation and demand shelter.  They held a short council
on the matter, and in the end Garin bade four of them take him up
and carry him in a cloak.  Some two miles back they had passed a
house, and thither the corporal now bade them retrace their steps.
They made an odd procession; first went two mounted troopers leading
the horses of the others, then the four on foot, carrying the Deputy
in a cloak, and lastly, Garin riding in the rear.

In this manner they went back along the dark road, and for close
upon a half-hour - for their progress was slow - they trudged along
in silence.  At last there was a short exclamation from one of the
riders, as half a mile away an illuminated window beamed invitingly.
Encouraged by it, they quickened their steps a little.  But almost
at the same time La Boulaye stirred on the cloak, and the men who
carried him heard him speak.  At first it was an incoherent mutter,
then his words came more distinctly.

"Hold!  Where are you carrying me?  Who the devil are you?"

It was Garin's voice that came instantly to reassure him.  Caron
essayed to sit up, but finding it impracticable, he shortly bade
his men set him down.  They halted.  Garin dismounted and came to
the Deputy's side, and it was found that his condition was none so
grave after all, for he was able to stand unaided.  When, however,
he attempted to walk, he reeled, and would of a certainty have
fallen, but that Garin put out his arm to support him.

"Steady there, Citizen," the corporal admonished him.

"Get my horse!" he commanded briefly.

"But, name of a name! you are not fit to ride," Garin protested.

La Boulaye, however, would listen to no reason.  With the recovery
of his faculties came the consideration of how miserably Suzanne had
duped him, and of how she had dealt with him when he had overtaken
her.  He burned now to be avenged, and at all costs he would ride
after and recapture her.  He announced, therefore, to the corporal
that they must push on to Liege.  Garin gasped at his obstinacy,
and would have sought to have dissuaded him, but that La Boulaye
turned on him with a fierceness that silenced his expostulations.

It was left to Nature to enforce what Garin could not achieve.  When
La Boulaye came to attempt to mount he found it impossible.  He was
stiff and numb from his long exposure in the rain, and when he moved
with any vigour his head swam dizzily and throbbed with pain.

At last he was forced to realise - with inward girding - that he
must relinquish his determination, and he acknowledged himself ready
to take the corporal's advice and make for the house whose lighted
window shone like a beacon in the darkness that had descended.  He
even allowed them to prevail upon him to lie down in the cloak again,
and thus they carried him the remainder of the way.  In his heart he
still bore the hope that short rest, restoratives, and fresh clothes
would fit him for the pursuit once more, and that if he set out
within the next few hours he might yet come up with Mademoiselle
before she had passed beyond his reach.  Should the morning still
find him unequal to the task of going after her, he would despatch
Garin and his men.

At last they reached the cottage - it was little more - and Garin
rapped on the door with his whip.  It was opened by a woman, who
told them, in answer to the corporal's request for shelter, that
her husband was from home, and that she had no accommodation for
them.  It would seem that the woman had housed soldiers of the
Republic before, and that her experiences had not been of a nature
calculated to encourage her in the practice.  But La Boulaye now
staggered forward and promised her generous payment if she would
receive them.

"Payment?" she cried. "In worthless assignats that nobody will take
from me.  I know the ways of you."

"Not in assignats," La Boulaye promised her, "but in coin."

And having mollified her somewhat with that assurance, he proceeded
to urge her to admit them.  Yonder was a shed where the horses could
be stabled for the night.  But still the woman demurred.

"I lack the room," she said, with some firmness.

"But at least," put in Garin, "you could house the Citizen here.
He has been hurt, and he is scarcely able to stand.  Come, woman,
if you will consent to that, we others can lie with the horses in
the shed."

This in the end they gained by renewed promises of good payment.
She brewed a broth for them, and for La Boulaye she found a suit
of her absent husband's clothes, whilst his own wet garments were
spread to dry before the fire.  Some brandy, too, she found and
brought him, and the draught did much to restore him.

When they had supped, Garin and the troopers withdrew to the
outhouse, leaving La Boulaye in sole possession of the cottage
hearth.  And there, in a suit of the absent farmer's grey homespun,
his legs encased in coarse woollen stockings and sabots upon his
feet, sat the young Deputy alone with his unpleasant thoughts.  The
woman had brought him a pipe, and, although the habit was foreign
to him as a rule, he had lighted it and found the smoking somewhat
soothing.  Ruefully he passed his hand across his bandaged brow,
and in pondering over all that had taken place since yesternight
at Boisvert, his cheeks grew flushed at once with anger and with
shame.

"To have been so duped!"

And now - his mind growing clearer as he recovered in vigour - it
occurred to him that by to-morrow it would be too late to give
pursuit.  Once she crossed the Sambre at Liege, or elsewhere, who
could tell him by what road she would elect to continue her journey?
He had not sufficient men at his disposal to send out parties along
each of the possible roads.  That her ultimate destination was
Treves he knew.  But once there she was beyond his reach, at safety
from the talons of the French Republic.

He sat on and thought, what time his brows came closer together and
his teeth fastened viciously upon the stem of the pipe.  By the
table sat the woman, knitting industriously, and ever and anon
glancing inquiry at her stern, thoughtful guest, and the click of
her needles was the only sound that disturbed the stillness of the
room.  Outside the wind was wailing like the damned, and the rain
which had recommenced with new vigour, rattled noisily upon the
panes.

Suddenly above the din of the elements a shout sounded in the night.
The Deputy raised his head, and glanced towards the woman.  A moment
later they heard the gate creak, and steps upon the path that led
to the cottage door.

"Your husband?" inquired La Boulaye.

"No, monsieur.  He has gone to Liege, and will not return until
to-morrow.  I do not know who it can be."

There was alarm on her face, which La Boulaye now set himself to
allay.

"At least you are well protected, Citoyenne.  My men are close at
hand, and we can summon them if there be the need."

Reassured she rose, and at the same moment a knock sounded on the
door.  She went to open it, and from his seat by the hearth La
Boulaye heard a gentle, mincing voice that was oddly familiar to
him.

"Madame," it said, "we are two poor, lost wayfarers, and we crave
shelter for the night.  We will pay you handsomely."

"I am desolated that I have no room, Messieur," she answered, with
courteous firmness.

"Pardi!" interpolated another voice. "We need no room.  A bundle of
straw and a corner is all we seek.  Of your charity, Madame, is this
a night on which to leave a dog out of doors?"

A light of recollection leaped suddenly to La Boulaye's eyes, and
with a sudden gasp he stooped to the hearth.

"But I cannot, Messieurs," the woman was saying, when the second
voice interrupted her.

"I see your husband by the fire, Madame.  Let us hear what he has
to say."

The woman coloured to the roots of her hair.  She stepped back a
pace, and was about to answer them when, chancing to glance in La
Boulaye's direction, she paused.  He had risen, and was standing with
his back to the fire.  There was a black smudge across his face,
which seemed to act as a mask, and his dark eyes glowed with an
intensity of meaning which arrested her attention, and silenced the
answer which was rising to her lips.

In the brief pause the new-comers had crossed the threshold, and
stood within the rustic chamber.  The first of these was he whose
gentle voice La Boulaye had recognised - old M. des Cadoux, the
friend of the Marquis de Bellecour.  His companion, to the Deputy's
vast surprise, was none other than the bearded courier who had that
morning delivered him at Boisvert the letter from Robespierre.
What did these two together, and upon such manifest terms of
equality?  That, it should be his business to discover.

"Come in, Messieurs," he bade them, assuming the role of host. "We
are unused to strangers, and Mathilde there is timid of robbers.
Draw near the fire and dry yourselves.  We will do the best we can
for you.  We are poor people, Messieurs; very poor."

"I have already said that we will pay you handsomely my friend,"
quoth Des Cadoux, coming forward with his companion.  "Do your best
for us and you shall not regret it.  Have you aught to eat in the
house?"

The woman was standing by the wall, her face expressing bewilderment
and suspicion.  Suspicious she was, yet that glance of La Boulaye's
had ruled her strangely, and she was content to now await developments.

"We will see what we can do," answered La Boulaye, as he made room
for them by the hearth. "Come, Mathilde, let us try what the larder
will yield."

"I am afraid that Madame still mistrusts us," deplored Des Cadoux.

La Boulaye laughed for answer as he gently but firmly drew her
towards the door leading to the interior of the house.  He held it
for her to pass, what time his eyes were set in an intent but
puzzled glance upon the courier.  There was something about the man
that was not wholly strange to La Boulaye.  That morning, when he
had spoken in the gruff accents of one of the rabble, no suspicion
had entered the Deputy's mind that he was other than he seemed, for
all that he now recalled how Tardivet had found the fellow's
patriotism a little too patriotic.  Now that he spoke in the voice
that was naturally usual to him, it seemed to La Boulaye that it
contained a note that he had heard before.

Still puzzled, he passed out of the room to be questioned sharply
by the woman of the house touching his motives for passing himself
off as her husband and inviting the new-comers to enter.

"I promise you their stay will be a very brief one," he answered.
"I have suspicions to verify the ends to serve, as you shall see.
Will you do me the favour to go out by the back and call my men?
Tell the corporal to make his way to the front of the house, and
to hold himself in readiness to enter the moment I call him."

"What are you about to do?" she asked and the face, as he saw it by
the light of the candle she held, wore an expression of sullen
disapproval.

He reassured her that there would be no bloodshed, and suggested
that the men were dangerous characters whom it might be ill for her
to entertain.  And so at last he won his way, and she went to do
his errand, whilst he reentered the kitchen

He found Des Cadoux by the fire, intent upon drying as much of
himself as possible.  The younger man had seized upon the bottle
of brandy that had been left on the table, and was in the act of
filling himself a second glass.  Nothing could be further from
the mind of either than a suspicion of the identity of this
rustically-clad and grimy-faced fellow.

"Mathilde will be here in a moment," said Caron deferentially.
"She is seeking something for you."

Had he told them precisely what she was seeking they had been,
possibly, less at ease.

"Let her hasten," cried the courier, "for I am famished."

"Have patience, Anatole," murmured the ever-gentle Cadoux. "The
good woman did not expect us."

Anatole!  The name buzzed through Caron's brain.  To whom did it
belong?  He knew of someone who bore it.  Yet question himself
though he might, he could at the moment find no answer.  And then
the courier created a diversion by addressing him.

"Fill yourself a glass, mon bonhomme," said he.  "I have a toast
for you."

"For me, Monsieur," cried La Boulaye, with surprised humility. "It
were too great an honour."

"Do as you are bidden, man," returned this very peremptory courier.
"There; now let us see how your favour runs.  Cry 'Long Live the King!'"

Holding the brandy-glass, which the man had forced upon him, La
Boulaye eyed him whimsically for a second.

"There is no toast I would more gladly drink," said he at last, "if
I considered it availing.  But - alas - you propose it over-late."

"Diable!  What may you mean?"

"Why, that since the King is dead, it shall profit us little to cry,
'Long Live the King!'"

"The King, Monsieur, never dies," said Cadoux sententiously.

"Since you put it so, Monsieur," answered La Boulaye, as if convinced,
"I'll honour the toast."  And with the cry they asked of him he
drained his glass.

"And so, my honest fellow," said Des Cadoux, producing his eternal
snuff-box, "it seems that you are a Royalist.  We did but test you
with that toast, my friend."

"What should a poor fellow know of politics, Messieurs?" he
deprecated.  "These are odd times.  I doubt me the world has never
seen their like.  No man may safely know his neighbour.  Now you,
sir," he pursued, turning to the younger man," you have the air of
a sans-culotte, yet from your speech you seem an honest enough
gentleman."

The fellow laughed with unction.

"The air of a sans-culotte?" he cried.  "My faith, yes.  So much so,
that this morning I imposed myself as a courier from Paris upon no
less an astute sleuth-hound of the Convention than the Citizen-deputy
La Boulaye."

"Is it possible?" cried Caron, his eyes opening wide in wonder.  "But
how, Monsieurs?  For surely a courier must bear letters, and - "

"So did I, so did I, my friend," the other interrupted, with vain
glory.  "I knocked a patriotic courier over the head to obtain them.
He was genuine, that other courier, and I passed myself out of France
with his papers."

"Monsieur is amusing himself at the expense of my credulity," La
Boulaye complained.

"My good man, I am telling you facts," the other insisted.

"But how could such a thing be accomplished?" asked Caron, seating
himself at the table, and resting his chin upon his hand, his gaze
so full of admiration as to seem awestruck.

"How?  I will tell you.  I am from Artois."

"You'll be repeating that charming story once too often," Des Cadoux
cautioned him.

"Pish, you timorous one!" he laughed, and resumed his tale.  "I am
from Artois, then.  I have some property there, and it lately came
to my ears that this assembly of curs they call the Convention had
determined to make an end of me.  But before they could carry out
their design, those sons of dogs, my tenants, incited by the choice
examples set them by other tenantry, made a descent on my Chateau
one night, and did themselves the pleasure of burning it to the
ground.  By a miracle I escaped with my life and lay hidden for
three weeks in the house of an old peasant who had remained faithful.
In that time I let my beard grow, and trained my hair into a
patriotic unkemptness.  Then, in filthy garments, like any true
Republican, I set out to cross the frontier.  As I approached it,
I was filled with fears that I might not win across, and then, in
the moment of my doubtings, I came upon that most opportune of
couriers.  I had the notion to change places with him, and I did.
He was the bearer of a letter to the Deputy La Boulaye, of whom you
may have heard, and this letter I opened to discover that it charged
him to effect my arrest."

If La Boulaye was startled, his face never betrayed it, not by so
much as the quiver of an eyelid.  He sat on, his jaw in his palm,
his eyes admiringly bent upon the speaker.

"You may judge of my honesty, and of how fully sensible I was of the
trust I had undertaken, when I tell you that with my own hand I
delivered the letter this morning to that animal La Boulaye at
Boisvert."  He seemed to swell with pride in his achievement.
"Diable!" he continued.  "Mine was a fine piece of acting.  I would
you could have seen me play the part of the patriot.  Think of the
irony of it!  I won out of France with the very papers ordering my
arrest.  Ma foi!  You should have seen me befool that dirt of a
deputy!  It was a performance worthy of Talma himself."  And he
looked from Cadoux to La Boulaye for applause.

"I doubt not," said the Deputy coldly.  "It must have been worth
witnessing.  But does it not seem a pity to spoil everything and to
neutralise so wonderful an achievement for the mere sake of boasting
of it to a poor, ignorant peasant, Monsieur le Vicomte Anatole
d'Ombreval?"

With a sudden cry, the pseudo courier leapt to his feet, whilst Des
Cadoux turned on the stool he occupied to stare alarmedly at the
speaker.

"Name of God!  Who are you?" demanded Ombreval advancing a step.

With his sleeve La Boulaye rubbed part of the disfiguring smear from
his face as he stood up and made answer coolly:


"I am that dirt of a Deputy whom you befooled at Boisvert."  Then,
raising his voice, "Garin!" he shouted, and immediately the door
opened and the soldiers filed in.

Ombreval stood like a statue, thunderstruck with amazement at this
most unlooked-for turning of the tables, his face ashen, his weak
mouth fallen open and his eyes fearful.

Des Cadoux, who had also risen, seemed to take in the situation at
a glance.  Like a well-bred gamester who knows how to lose with a
good grace the old gentleman laughed drily to himself as he tapped
his snuff-box.

"We are delightfully taken, cher Vicomte," he murmured, applying the
tobacco to his nostril as he spoke.  "It's odds you won't be able to
repeat that pretty story to any more of your friends.  I warned you
that you inclined to relate it too often."

With a sudden oath, Ombreval - moved to valour by the blind rage
that possessed him - sprang at La Boulaye.  But, as suddenly, Garin
caught his arms from behind and held him fast.

"Remove them both," La Boulaye commanded.  "Place them in safety for
the night, and see that they do not escape you, Garin, as you value
your neck."

Des Coudax shut his snuff-box with a snap.

"For my part, I am ready, Monsieur - your pardon - Citizen," he
said, "and I shall give you no trouble.  But since I am not, I take
it, included in the orders you have received, I have a proposal to
make which may prove mutually convenient."

"Pray make it, Citizen," said La Boulaye.

"It occurs to me that it may occasion you some measure of annoyance
to carry me all the way to Paris - and certainly, for my part, I
should much prefer not to undertake the journey.  For one thing, it
will be fatiguing, for another, I have no desire to look upon the
next world through the little window of the guillotine.  I wish,
then, to propose, Citizen," pursued the old nobleman, nonchalantly
dusting some fragments of tobacco from his cravat. "that you deal
with me out of hand."

"How, Citizen?" inquired La Boulaye.

"Why, your men, I take it are tolerable marksmen.  I think that it
might prove more convenient to both of us if you were to have me
shot as soon as there is light enough."

La Boulaye's eyes rested in almost imperceptible kindness upon Des
Cadoux.  Here, at least, was an aristocrat with a spirit to be
admired and emulated.

"You are choosing the lesser of two evils, Citizen," said the Deputy.

"Precisely," answered Des Cadoux.

"But possibly, Citizen, it may be yours to avoid both.  You shall
hear from me in the morning.  I beg that you will sleep tranquilly
in the meantime.  Garin, remove the prisoners."




CHAPTER XV

LA BOULAYE BAITS HIS HOOK


For fully an hour after their prisoners had been removed La Boulaye
paced the narrow limits of the kitchen with face inscrutable and
busy mind.  He recalled what Suzanne had said touching her betrothal
to Ombreval, whom she looked to meet at Treves.  This miserable
individual, then, was the man for whose sake she had duped him.  But
Ombreval at least was in Caron's power, and it came to him now that
by virtue of that circumstance he might devise a way to bring her
back without the need to go after her.  He would send her word - aye,
and proof - that he had taken him captive, and it should be hers to
choose whether she would come to his rescue and humble herself to
save him or leave him to his fate.  In that hour it seemed all one
to La Boulaye which course she followed, since by either, he
reasoned, she must be brought to suffer.  That he loved her was
with him now a matter that had sunk into comparative insignificance.
The sentiment that ruled his mind was anger, with its natural
concomitant - the desire to punish.

And when morning came the Deputy's view of the situation was still
unchanged.  He was astir at an early hour, and without so much as
waiting to break his fast, he bade Garin bring in the prisoners.
Their appearance was in each case typical.  Ombreval was sullen
and his dress untidy, even when allowance had been made for the
inherent untidiness of the Republican disguise which he had adopted
to so little purpose.  Des Cadoux looked well and fresh after his
rest, and gave the Deputy an airy "Good morning" as he entered.  He
had been at some pains, too, with his toilet, and although his hair
was slightly disarranged and most of the powder was gone from the
right side, suggesting that he had lain on it, his appearance in
the main was creditably elegant.

"Citizen Ombreval," said La Boulaye, in that stern, emotionless
voice that was becoming characteristic of him, "since you have
acquainted yourself with the contents of the letter you stole from
the man you murdered, you cannot be in doubt as to my intentions
concerning you."

The Vicomte reddened with anger.

"For your intentions I care nothing," he answered hotly - rendered
very brave by passion - "but I will have you consider your words.
Do you say that I stole and murdered?  You forget, M. le Republican,
that I am a gentlemen."

"Meaning, of course, that the class that so described itself could
do these things with impunity without having them called by their
proper names, is it not so?  But you also forget that the Republic
has abolished gentlemen, and with them, their disgraceful privileges."

"Canaille!" growled the Vicomte, his eyes ablaze with wrath.

"Citizen-aristocrat, consider your words!" La Boulaye had stepped
close up to him, and his voice throbbed with a sudden anger no whit
less compelling than Ombreval's.  "Fool! let me hear that word again,
applied either to me or to any of my followers, and I'll have you
beaten like a dog."

And as the lesser ever does give way before the greater, so now did
the anger that had sustained Ombreval go down and vanish before the
overwhelming passion of La Boulaye.  He grew pale to the lips at
the Deputy's threat, and his eyes cravenly avoided the steady gaze
of his captor.

"You deserve little consideration at my hands, Citizen," said La
Boulaye, more quietly," and yet I have a mind to give you a lesson
in generosity.  We start for Paris in half-an-hour.  If anywhere
you should have friends expecting you, whom you might wish to
apprise of your position, you may spend the half-hour that is left
in writing to them.  I will see that your letter reaches its
destination."

Ombreval's pallor seemed to intensify.  His eyes looked troubled as
they were raised to La Boulaye's.  Then they fell again, and there
was a pause.  At last -

"I shall be glad to avail myself of your offer," he said, in a voice
that for meekness was ludicrously at variance with his late
utterances.

"Then pray do so at once."  And La Boulaye took down an inkhorn
 a quill, and a sheaf of paper from the mantel-shelf behind him.
These he placed on the table, and setting a chair, he signed to the
aristocrat to be seated.

"And now, Citizen Cadoux," said La Boulaye, turning to the old
nobleman, "I shall be glad if you will honour me by sharing my
breakfast while Citizen Ombreval is at his writing."

Des Cadoux looked up in some surprise.

"You are too good, Monsieur," said he, inclining his head. "But
afterwards?"

"I have decided," said La Boulaye, with the ghost of a smile, "to
deal with your case myself, Citizen."

The old dandy took a deep breath, but the glance of his blue eyes
was steadfast, and his lips smiled as he made answer:

"Again you are too good.  I feared that you would carry me to Paris,
and at my age the journey is a tiresome one.  I am grateful, and
meanwhile, - why, since you are so good as to invite me, let us
breakfast, by all means."

They sat down at a small table in the embrasure of the window, and
their hostess placed before them a boiled fowl, a dish of eggs, a
stew of herbs, and a flask of red wine, all of which La Boulaye had
bidden her prepare.

"Why, it is a feast," declared Des Cadoux, in excellent humour, and
for all that he was under the impression that he was to die in
half-an-hour he ate with the heartiest good-will, chatting pleasantly
the while with the Republican - the first Republican with whom it had
ever been his aristocratic lot to sit at table.  And what time the
meal proceeded Ombreval - with two soldiers standing behind his
chair-penned his letter to Mademoiselle de Bellecour.

Had La Boulaye - inspired by the desire to avenge himself for the
treachery of which he had been the victim - dictated that epistle,
t could not have been indicted in a manner better suited to his ends.
It was a maudlin, piteous letter, in which, rather than making his
farewells, the Vicomte besought the aid of Suzanne.  He was, he
wrote, in the hands of men who might be bribed, and since she was
rich - for he knew of the treasure with which she had escaped - he
based his hopes upon her employing a portion of her riches to
obtaining his enlargement.  She, he continued, was his only hope,
and for the sake of their love, for the sake of their common
nobility, he besought her not to fail him now.  Carried away by
the piteousness of his entreaties the tears welled up to his eyes
and trickled down his cheeks, one or two of them finding their
way to the paper thus smearing it with an appeal more piteous still
if possible than that of his maudlin words.

At last the letter was ended.  He sealed it with a wafer and wrote
the superscription:

"To Mademoiselle de Bellecour.  At the 'Hotel des Trois Rois,'
Treves."

He announced the completion of his task, and La Boulaye bade him go
join Des Cadoux at the next table and take some food before setting
out, whilst the Deputy himself now sat down to write.

"Citoyenne,' he wrote, "the man to whom you are betrothed, for whose
sake you stooped to treachery and attempted murder, is in my hands.
Thus has Heaven set it in my power to punish you, if the knowledge
that he travels to the guillotine is likely to prove a punishment.
If you would rescue him, come to me in Paris, and, conditionally,
I may give you his life."

That, he thought should humble her.  He folded his letter round
Ombreval's and having sealed the package, he addressed it as Ombreval
had addressed his own missive.

"Garin," he commanded briefly, "remove the Citizen Ombreval."

When he had been obeyed, and Garin had conducted the Vicomte from
the room, La Boulaye turned again to Des Cadoux.  They were alone,
saving the two soldiers guarding the door.

The old man rose, and making the sign of the cross, he stepped
forward, calm and intrepid of bearing.

"Monsieur," he announced to La Boulaye, who was eyeing him with the
faintest tinge of surprise, "I am quite ready."

"Have you always been so devout, Citizen?" inquired the Deputy.

"Alas! no Monsieur.  But there comes a time in the life of every
man when, for a few moments at least, he is prone to grow mindful
of the lessons learnt in childhood."

The surprise increased in La Boulaye's countenance.  At last he
shrugged his shoulders, after the manner of one who abandons a
problem that has grown too knotty.

"Citizen des Cadoux," said he, "I have deliberated that since I
have received no orders from Paris concerning you, and also since
I am not by profession a catch-poll there is no reason whatever why
I should carry you to Paris.  In fact, Citizen, I know of no reason
why I should interfere with your freedom at all.  On the contrary
when I recall the kindness you sought to do me that day, years ago,
at Bellecour, I find every reason why I should further your escape
from the Revolutionary tribunal.  A horse, Citizen, stands ready
saddled for you, and you are free to depart, with the one condition,
however, that you will consent to become my courier for once, and
carry a letter for me - a matter which should occasion you, I think,
no deviation from your journey."

The old dandy, in whose intrepid spirit the death which he had
believed imminent had occasioned no trembling, turned pale as La
Boulaye ceased.  His blue eyes were lifted almost timidly to the
Deputy's face, and his lip quivered.

"You are not going to have me shot, then?" he faltered.

"Shot?" echoed La Boulaye, and then he remembered the precise words
of the request which Des Cadoux had preferred the night before, but
which, at the time, he had treated lightly.  "Ma foi, you do not
flatter me!" he cried.  "Am I a murderer, then?  Come, come,
Citizen, here is the letter that you are to carry.  It is addressed
to Mademoiselle de Bellecour, at Treves, and encloses Ombreval's
farewell epistle to that lady."

"But, gladly, Monsieur," exclaimed Des Cadoux.

And then, as if to cover his sudden access of emotion, of which he
was most heartily ashamed, he fumbled for his snuff-box, and,
having found it, he took an enormous pinch.

They parted on the very best of terms did these two - the aristocrat
and the Revolutionary - actuated by a mutual esteem tempered in each
case with gratitude.

When at last Des Cadoux had taken a sympathetic leave of Ombreval
and departed, Caron ordered the Vicomte to be brought before him
again, and at the same time bade his men make ready for the road.

"Citizen," said La Boulaye, "we start for Paris at once.  If you
will pass me your word of honour to attempt no escape you shall
travel with us in complete freedom and with all dignity."

Ombreval looked at him with insolent surprise, his weak supercilious
mouth growing more supercilious even than its wont.  He had recovered
a good deal of his spirit by now.

"Pass you my word of honour?" he echoed. "Mon Dieu! my good fellow
a word of honour is a bond between gentlemen.  I think too well of
mine to pass it to the first greasy rascal of the Republic that
asks it of me."

La Boulaye eyed him a second with a glance before which the
aristocrat grew pale, and already regretted him of his words.  The
veins in the Deputy's temples were swollen.

"I warned you," said he, in a dull voice.  Then to the soldiers
standing on either side of Ombreval - "Take him out," he said,
"mount him on horseback.  Let him ride with his hands pinioned
behind his back, and his feet lashed together under the horse's
belly.  Attend to it!"

"Monsieur," cried the young man, in an appealing voice," I will give
you my word of honour not to escape.  I will - "

"Take him out," La Boulaye repeated, with a dull bark of contempt.
"You had your chance, Citizen-aristocrat."

Ombreval set his teeth and clenched his hands.

"Canaille!" he snarled, in his fury.

"Hold!" Caron called after the departing men.

They obeyed, and now this wretched Vicomte, of such unstable spirit
dropped all his anger again, as suddenly as he had caught it up.
Fear paled his cheek and palsied his limbs once more, for La
Boulaye's expression was very terrible.

"You know what I said that I would have done to you if you used that
word again?" La Boulaye questioned him coldly.

"I - I was beside myself, Monsieur," the other gasped, in the
intensity of his fear.  And at the sight of his pitiable condition
the anger fell away from La Boulaye, and he smiled scornfully.

"My faith," he sneered.  "You are hot one moment and cold the next.
Citizen, I am afraid that you are no better than a vulgar coward.
Take him away," he ended, waving his hand towards the door, and as
he watched them leading him out he reflected bitterly that this was
the man to whom Suzanne was betrothed - the man whom, not a doubt
of it, she loved, since for him she had stooped so low.  This
miserable craven she preferred to him, because the man, so ignoble
of nature, was noble by the accident of birth.






PART III

THE EVERLASTING RULE

   Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
   And men below and saints above,
   For love is Heaven and Heaven is love.

The Lay of the Last Minstrel.




CHAPTER XVI

CECILE DESHAIX


In his lodgings at the corner of the Rue-St.  Honore and the Rue
de la Republique - lately changed, in the all-encompassing
metamorphosis, from "Rue Royale" sat the Deputy Caron La Boulaye
at his writing-table.

There was a flush on his face and a sparkle in the eyes that looked
pensively before him what time he gnawed the feathered end of his
quill.  In his ears still rang the acclamations that had greeted
his brilliant speech in the Assembly that day.  He was of the party
of the Mountain - as was but natural in a protege of the Seagreen
Robespierre - a party more famed for its directness of purpose than
elegance of expression, and in its ranks there was room and to spare
for such orators as he.  The season was March of '93 - a season
marked by the deadly feud raging 'twixt the Girondins and the
Mountain, and in that battle of tongues La Boulaye was covering
himself with glory and doing credit to his patron, the Incorruptible.
He was of a rhetoric not inferior to Vergniaud's - that most eloquent
Girondon - and of a quickness of wit and honesty of aim unrivalled
in the whole body of the Convention, and with these gifts he harassed
to no little purpose those smooth-tongued legislators of the Gironde,
whom Dumouriez called the Jesuits of the Revolution.  His popularity
with the men of the Mountain and with the masses of Paris was growing
daily, and the crushing reply he had that day delivered to the
charges preferred by Vergniaud was likely to increase his fame.

Well, therefore, might he sit with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes
chewing the butt of his pen and smiling to himself at the memory of
the enthusiasm of which he had been the centre a half-hour ago.
Here, indeed, was something that a man might live for, something
that a man might take pride in, and something that might console a
man for a woman's treachery.  What, indeed, could woman's love give
him that might compare with this?  Was it not more glorious far to
make himself the admired, the revered, the very idol of those stern
men, than the beloved of a simpering girl?  The latter any coxcomb
with a well-cut coat might encompass, but the former achievement
was a man's work.

And yet, for all that he reasoned thus speciously and philosophically,
there was a moment when his brow grew clouded and his eyes lost their
sparkle.  He was thinking of that night in the inn at Boisvert, when
he had knelt beside her and she had lied to him.  He was thinking of
the happiness, that for a few brief hours had been his, until he
discovered how basely she had deceived him, and for all the
full-flavour of his present elation it seemed to him that in that
other happiness which he now affected to despise by contrast, there
had dwelt a greater, a more contenting sweetness.

Would she come to Paris?  He had asked himself that question every
day of the twenty that were spent since his return.  And in the
meantime the Vicomte d'Ombreval lay in the prison of the Luxembourg
awaiting trial.  That he had not yet been arraigned he had to thank
the efforts of La Boulaye.  The young Deputy had informed Robespierre
that for reasons of his own he wished the ci-devant Vicomte, to be
kept in prison some little time, and the Incorruptible, peering at
him over his horn-rimmed spectacles, had shrugged his shoulders and
answered:

"But certainly, cher Caron, since it is your wish.  He will be safe
in the Luxembourg."

He had pressed his protege for a reason, but La Boulaye had evaded
the question, promising to enlighten him later.

Since then Caron had waited, and now it was more than time that
Mademoiselle made some sign.  Or was it that neither Ombreval's
craven entreaties nor his own short message had affected her?  Was
she wholly heartless and likely to prove as faithless to the
Vicomte in his hour of need as she had proved to him?

With a toss of the head he dismissed her from his thoughts, and
dipping his quill, he began to write.

>From the street came the dull roll of beaten drums and the rhythmical
fall of marching feet.  But the sound was too common in revolutionary
Paris to arrest attention, and he wrote on, heeding it as little as
he did the gruff voice of a pastry-cook crying his wares, the
shriller call of a milkman, or the occasional rumblings of passing
vehicles.  But of a sudden one of those rumblings ceased abruptly at
his door.  He heard the rattle of hoofs and the grind of the wheel
against the pavement, and looking up, he glanced across at the ormolu
timepiece on his overmantel.  It was not yet four o'clock.

Wondering whether the visitor might be for him or for the tenant of
the floor above, he sat listening until his door opened and his
official - the euphemism of "servant" in the revolutionary lexicon
 - came to announce that a woman was below, asking to see him.

Now for all that he believed himself to have become above emotions
where Mademoiselle de Bellecour was concerned, he felt his pulses
quicken at the very thought that this might be she at last.

"What manner of woman, Brutus?" he asked.

"A pretty woman, Citizen," answered Brutus, with a grin.  "It is
the Citoyenne Deshaix."

La Boulaye made an impatient gesture.

"Fool.  why did you not say so," he cried sharply.

"Fool, you did not ask me," answered the servant, with that touching,
fraternal frankness adopted by all true patriots.  He was a thin,
under-sized man of perhaps thirty years of age, and dressed in black,
with a decency - under La Boulaye's suasion - that was rather at
variance with his extreme democracy.  His real name was Ferdinand,
but, following a fashion prevailing among the ultra-republicans, he
had renamed himself after the famous Roman patriot.

La Boulaye toyed a moment with his pen, a frown darkening his brow.
Then:

"Admit her," he sighed wearily.

And presently she came, a pretty woman, as Brutus had declared, very
fair, and with the innocent eyes of a baby.  She was small of
stature, and by the egregious height of her plume-crowned head-dress
it would seem as if she sought by art to add to the inches she had
received from Nature.  For the rest she wore a pink petticoat, very
extravagantly beflounced, and a pink corsage cut extravagantly low.
In one hand she carried a fan - hardly as a weapon against heat,
seeing that the winter was not yet out - in the other a huge bunch
of early roses.

"Te voile!" was her greeting, merrily - roguishly - delivered, and
if the Revolution had done nothing else for her, it had, at least,
enabled her to address La Boulaye by the "Thou" of intimacy which
the new vocabulary prescribed.

La Boulaye rose, laid aside his pen, and politely, if coolly,
returned her greeting and set a chair for her.

"You are," said he, "a very harbinger of Spring, Citoyenne, with
your flowers and your ravishing toilette."

"Ah!  I please you, then, for once," said she without the least
embarrassment.  "Tell me - how do you find me?"  And, laughing, she
turned about that he might admire her from all points of view.

He looked at her gravely for a moment, so gravely that the laughter
began to fade from her eyes.

"I find you charming, Citoyenne," he answered at last.  "You remind
me of Diana."

"Compliments?" quoth she, her eyebrows going up and her eyes beaming
with surprise and delight.  "Compliments from La Boulaye!  But
surely it is the end of the world.  Tell me, mon ami," she begged,
greedily angling for more, "in what do I remind you of the sylvan
goddess?"

"In the scantiness of your raiment, Citoyenne," he answered acidly.
"It sorts better with Arcadia than with Paris."

Her eyebrows came down, her cheeks flushed with resentment and
discomfiture.  To cover this she flung her roses among the papers of
his writing-table, and dropping into a chair she fanned herself
vigorously.

"Citoyenne, you relieve my anxieties," said he.  "I feared that
you stood in danger of freezing."

"To freeze is no more than one might expect in your company," she
answered, stifling her anger.

He made no reply.  He moved to the window, and stood drumming
absently on the panes.  He was inured to these invasions on the part
of Cecile Deshaix and to the bold, unwomanly advances that repelled
him.  To-day his patience with her was even shorter than its wont,
haply because when his official had announced a woman he had for a
moment permitted himself to think that it might be Suzanne.  The
silence grew awkward, and at last he broke it.

"The Citizen Robespierre is well?" he asked, without turning.

"Yes," said she, and for all that there was chagrin to spare in
the glance with which she admired the back of his straight and
shapely figure, she contrived to render her voice airily indifferent.
"We were at the play last night."

"Ah!" he murmured politely.  "And was Talma in veine?"

"More brilliant than ever," answered she.

"He is a great actor, Citoyenne."

A shade of annoyance crossed her face.

"Why do you always address me as Citoyenne?" she asked, with some
testiness.

He turned at last and looked at her a moment.

"We live in a censorious world, Citoyenne," he answered gravely.

She tossed her head with an exclamation of impatience.

"We live in a free world, Citizen.  Freedom is our motto.  Is it for
nothing that we are Republicans?"

"Freedom of action begets freedom of words," said he, "and freedom
of words leads to freedom of criticism - and that is a thing to
which no wise woman will expose herself, no matter under what regime
we live.  You would be well-advised, Citoyenne, in thinking of that
when you come here."

"But you never come to us, Caron," she returned, in a voice of mild
complaint.  "You have not been once to Duplay's since your return
from Belgium.  And you seem different, too, since your journey to
the army."  She rose now and approached him.  "What is it, cher
Caron?" she asked, her voice a very caress of seductiveness, her
eyes looking up into his.  "Is something troubling you?"

"Troubling me?" he echoed, musingly.  "No.  But then I am a busy
man, Citoyenne."

A wave of red seemed to sweep across her face, and her heel beat
the parquet floor.

"If you call me Citoyenne again I shall strike you," she threatened
him.

He looked down at her, and she had the feeling that behind the
inscrutable mask of his countenance he was laughing at her.

"It would sort well with your audacity," he made answer coolly.

She felt in that moment that she hated him, and it was a miracle
that she did not do as she had threatened, for with all her meek
looks she owned a very fiercest of tempers.  She drew back a
pace or two, and her glance fell.

"I shall not trouble you in future," she vowed.  "I shall not come
here again."

He bowed slightly.

"I applaud the wisdom of your resolve - Cit - Cecile.  The world,
as I have said, is censorious."

She looked at him a second, then she laughed, but it was laughter
of the lips only; the eyes looked steely as daggers and as capable
of mischief.

"Adieu, Citizen La Boulaye," she murmured mockingly.

"Au revoir, Citoyenne Deshaix," he replied urbanely.

"Ough!" she gasped, and with that sudden exclamation of pent-up
wrath, she whisked about and went rustling to the door.

"Citoyenne," he called after her, "you are forgetting your flowers."

She halted, and seemed for a second to hesitate, looking at him
oddly.  Then she came back to the table and took up her roses.
Again she looked at him, and let the bouquet fall back among the
papers.

"I brought them for you, Caron," she said, "and I'll leave them
with you.  We can at least be friends, can we not?"

"Friends?  But were we ever aught else?" he asked.

"Alas! no," she said to herself, whilst aloud she murmured:" I
thought that you would like them.  Your room has such a gloomy,
sombre air, and a few roses seem to diffuse some of the sunshine
on which they have been nurtured."

"You are too good, Cecile'' he answered, and, for all his coldness,
he was touched a little by this thoughtfulness.

She looked up at the altered tone, and the expression of her face
seemed to soften.  But before she could make answer there was
a rap at the door.  It opened, and Brutus stood in the doorway.

"Citizen," he announced, in his sour tones," there is another
woman below asking to see you."

La Boulaye started, as again his thoughts flew to Suzanne, and a
dull flush crept into his pale cheeks and mounted to his brow.
Cecile's eyes were upon him, her glance hardening as she observed
these signs.  Bitter enough had it been to endure his coldness
whilst she had imagined that it sprang from the austerity of his
nature and the absorption of his soul in matters political.  But
now that it seemed she might have cause to temper her bitterness
with jealousy her soul was turned to gall.

"What manner of woman, Brutus?" he asked after a second's pause.

"Tall, pale, straight, black hair, black eyes, silk gown - and
savours the aristocrat a league off," answered Brutus.

"Your official seems gifted with a very comprehensive eye," said
Cecile tartly.

But La Boulaye paid no heed to her.  The flush deepened on his
face, then faded again, and he grew oddly pale.  His official's
inventory of her characteristics fitted Mademoiselle de Bellecour
in every detail.

"Admit her, Brutus," he commanded, and his voice had a husky sound.
Then, turning to Cecile, "You will give me leave?" he said, cloaking
rude dismissal in its politest form.

"Assuredly," she answered bitterly, making shift to go. "Your visitor
is no doubt political?" she half-asked half-asserted.

But he made no answer as he held the door for her, and bowed low as
she passed out.  With a white face and lips tightly compressed she
went, and half-way on the stairs she met a handsome woman, tall and
of queenly bearing, who ascended.  Her toilette lacked the
elaborateness of Cecile's, but she carried it with an air which not
all the modistes of France could have succeeded in imparting to the
Citoyenne Deshaix.

So dead was Robespierre's niece to every sense of fitness that,
having drawn aside to let the woman pass, she stood gazing after
her until she disappeared round the angle of the landing.  Then, in
a fury, she swept from the house and into her waiting coach, and
as she drove back to Duplay's in the Rue St. Honore she was weeping
bitterly in her jealous rage.




CHAPTER XVII

LA BOULAYE'S PROMISE


La Boulaye remained a moment by the door after Cecile's departure;
then he moved away towards his desk, striving to master the
tumultuous throbbing of his pulses.  His eye alighted on Cecile's
roses, and, scarce knowing why he did it, he picked them up and
flung them behind a bookcase.  It was but done when again the door
opened, and his official ushered in Mademoiselle de Bellecour.

Oddly enough, at sight of her, La Boulaye grew master of himself.
He received her with a polite and very formal bow - a trifle
over-graceful for a patriot.

"So, Citoyenne," said he, and so cold was his voice that it seemed
even tinged with mockery, "you are come at last."

"I could not come before, Monsieur," she answered, trembling.  "They
would not let me."  Then, after a second's pause: "Am I too late,
Monsieur?" she asked.

"No," he answered her.  "The ci-devant Vicomte d'Ombreval still
lies awaiting trial.  Will you not be seated?"

"I do not look to remain long."

"As you please, Citoyenne.  I have delayed Ombreval's trial thinking
that if not my letter why then his might bring you, sooner or later,
to his rescue.  It may interest you to hear," he continued with an
unmistakable note of irony," that that brave but hapless gentleman
is much fretted at his incarceration."

A shadow crossed her face, which remained otherwise calm and composed
 - the beautiful, intrepid face that had more than once been La
Boulaye's undoing.

"I am glad that you have waited, Monsieur.  In so doing you need
have no doubts concerning me.  M. d'Ombreval is my betrothed, and
the troth I plighted him binds me in honour to succour him now."

La Boulaye looked steadily at her for a moment.

"Upon my soul," he said at last, a note of ineffable sarcasm
vibrating in his voice, "I shall never cease to admire the
effrontery of your class, and the coolness with which, in despite
of dishonourable action, you make high-sounding talk of honour and
the things to which it binds you.  I have a dim recollection,
Citoyenne, of something uncommonly like your troth which you plighted
me one night at Boisvert.  But so little did that promise bind you
that when I sought to enforce your fulfilment of it you broke my
head and left me to die in the road."

His words shook her out of her calm.  Her bosom rose and fell, her
eyes seemed to grow haggard and her hands were clasped convulsively.

"Monsieur," she answered, "when I gave you my promise that night I
had every intention of keeping it.  I swear it, as Heaven is my witness."

"Your actions more than proved it," he said dryly.

"Be generous, Monsieur," she begged.  "It was my mother prevailed
upon me to alter my determination.  She urged that I should be
dishonoured if I did not."

"That word again!" he cried.  "What part it plays in the life of
the noblesse.  All that it suits you to do, you do because honour
bids you, all to which you have bound yourselves, but which is
distasteful, you discover that honour forbids, and that you would
be dishonoured did you persist.  But I am interrupting you,
Citoyenne.  Did your mother advance any arguments?"

"The strongest argument of all lay here, in my heart, Monsieur,"
she answered him, roused and hardened by his scorn.  "You must see
that it had become with me a matter of choosing the lesser of two
evils.  Upon reflection I discovered that I was bound to two men,
and it behoved me to keep the more binding of my pledges."

"Which you discovered to be your word to Ombreval," he said, and
his voice grew unconsciously softer, for he began to realise the
quandary in which she had found herself.

She inclined her head assentingly.

"To him I had given the earlier promise, and then, again, he was
of my own class whilst you - "

"Spare me, Citoyenne," he cried.  "I know what you would say.  I
am of the rabble, and of little more account in a matter of honour
than a, beast of the field.  It is thus that you reason, and yet,
mon Dieu!  I had thought that ere now such notions had died out with
you, and that, stupid enough though your class has proved itself,
it would at least have displayed the intelligence to perceive that
its day is ended, its sun set."  He turned and paced the apartment
as he spoke. "The Lilies of France have been shorn from their stems,
they have withered by the roadside, and they have been trampled into
the dust by the men of the new regime, and yet it seems that you
others of the noblesse have not learnt your lesson.  You have not
yet discovered that here in France the man who was born a tiller of
the soil is still a man, and, by his manhood, the equal of a king,
who, after all, can be no more than a man, and is sometimes less.
Enfin!" he ended brusquely.  "This is not the National Assembly,
and I talk to ears untutored in such things.  Let us deal rather
with the business upon which you are come."

She eyed him out of a pale face, with eyes that seemed fascinated.
That short burst of the fiery eloquence that had made him famous
revealed him to her in a new light: the light of a strength and
capacity above and beyond that which, already, she had perceived
was his.

"Will you believe, Monsieur, that it cost me many tears to use you
as I did?  If you but knew - "  And there she paused abruptly.  She
had all but told him of the kiss that she had left upon his
unconscious lips that evening on the road to Liege.  "Mon Dieu how
I hated myself!"  And she shuddered as she spoke.

He observed all this, and with a brusqueness that was partly assumed
he hastened to her rescue.

"What is done is done, Citoyenne.  Come, let us leave reminiscences.
You are here to atone, I take it."

At that she started.  His words reminded her of those of his letter.

"Monsieur La Boulaye - "

"If it is all one to you, Citoyenne, I should prefer that you call me
citizen."

"Citizen, then," she amended.  "I have brought with me the gems
which I told you would constitute my dowry.  In his letter to me the
Vicomte suggested that - "  She paused.

"That some Republican blackguard might be bribed," he concluded,
very gently.

His gentleness deceived her.  She imagined that it meant that he
might not be unwilling to accept such a bribe, and thereupon she
set herself to plead with him.  He listened dispassionately, his
hands behind his back, his eyes bent upon her, yet betraying nothing
of his thoughts.  At last she brought her prayer for Ombreval's
life to an end, and produced a small leather bag which she set upon
the table, beseeching him to satisfy himself as to the value of the
contents.

Now at last he stirred.  His face grew crimson to the roots of his
hair, and his eyes seemed of a sudden to take fire.  He seized that
little bag and held it in his hand.

"And so, Mademoiselle de Bellecour," said he, in a concentrated
voice, "you have learnt so little of me that you bring me a bribe
of gems.  Am I a helot, that you should offer to buy my very soul?
Do you think my honour is so cheap a thing that you can have it
for the matter of some bits of glass?  Or do you imagine that we
of the new regime, because we do not mouth the word at every turn,
have no such thing as honour?  For shame!"  He paused, his wrath
boiling over as he sought words in which to give it utterance.  And
then, words failing him to express the half of what was in him, he
lifted the bag high above his head, and hurled it at her feet with
a force that sent half the glittering contents rolling about the
parquet floor.  "Citoyenne, your journey has been in vain.  I will
not treat with you another instant."

She recoiled before his wrath, a white and frightened thing that but
an instant back had been so calm and self-possessed.  She gave no
thought to the flashing jewels scattered about the floor.  Through
all the fear that now possessed her rose the consideration of this
man - this man whom she had almost confessed half-shamedly to herself
that she loved, that night on the Liege road; this man who at every
turn amazed her and filled her with a new sense of his strength and
dignity.

Then, bethinking her of Ombreval and of her mission, she took her
courage in both hands, and, advancing a step, she cast herself upon
her knees before Caron.

"Monsieur, forgive me," she besought him.  "I meant you no insult.
How could I, when my every wish is to propitiate you?  Bethink you,
Monsieur, I have journeyed all the way from Prussia to save that man,
because my hon - because he is my betrothed.  Remember, Monsieur,
you held out to me the promise in your letter that if I came you
would treat with me, and that I might buy his life from you."

"Why, so I did," he answered, touched by her humiliation and her
tears.  "But you went too fast in your conclusions."

"Forgive me that.  See!  I am on my knees to you.  Am I not humbled
enough?  Have I not suffered enough for the wrong I may have done
you?"

"It would take the sufferings of a generation to atone for the wrongs I
have endured at the hands of your family, Citoyenne."

"I will do what you will, Monsieur.  Bethink you that I am pleading
for the life of the man I am to marry."

He looked down upon her now in an emotion that in its way was as
powerful as her own.  Yet his voice was hard and sternly governed as
he now asked her

"Is that an argument, Mademoiselle?  Is it an argument likely to
prevail with the man who, for his twice-confessed love of you, has
suffered sore trials?"

He felt that in a way she had conquered him; his career, which but
that day had seemed all-sufficing to him, was now fallen into the
limbo of disregard.  The one thing whose possession would render his
life a happy one, whose absence would leave him now a lasting
unhappiness, knelt here at his feet.  Forgotten were the wrongs he
had suffered, forgotten the purpose to humble and to punish.
Everything was forgotten and silenced by the compelling voice of his
blood, which cried out that he loved her.  He stooped to her and
caught her wrists in a grip that made her wince.  His voice grew
tense.

"If you would bribe me to save his life, Suzanne, there is but one
price that you can pay."

"And that?" she gasped her eyes looking up with a scared expression
into his masterful face.

"Yourself," he whispered, with an ardour that almost amounted to
fierceness.

She gazed a second at him in growing alarm, then she dragged her
hands from his grasp, and covering her face she fell a-sobbing.

"Do not misunderstand me," he cried, as he stood erect over her.
"If you would have Ombreval saved and sent out of France you must
become my wife."

"Your wife?" she echoed, pausing in her weeping, and for a moment
an odd happiness seemed to fill her.  But as suddenly as it had
arisen did she stifle it.  Was she not the noble daughter of the
noble Marquis de Bellecour and was not this a lowly born member of
a rabble government?  There could be no such mating.  A shudder
ran through her.  "I cannot, Monsieur, I cannot!" she sobbed.

He looked at her a moment with a glance that was almost of surprise,
then, with a slight compression of the lips and the faintest raising
of the shoulders, he turned from her and strode over to the window.
There was a considerable concourse of people on their way to the
Place de la Republique, for the hour of the tumbrils was at hand.

A half-dozen of those unsexed viragos produced by the Revolution,
in filthy garments, red bonnets and streaming hair, were marching
by to the raucous chorus of the "Ca ira!"

He turned from the sight in disgust, and again faced his visitor.

"Citoyenne," he said, in a composed voice," I am afraid that your
journey has been in vain."

She rose now from her knees, and advanced towards him.

"Monsieur, you will not be so cruel as to send me away empty-handed?"
she cried, scarce knowing what she was saying.

But he looked at her gravely, and without any sign of melting.

"On what," he asked, "do you base any claim upon me?"

"On what?" she echoed, and her glance vas troubled with perplexity.
Then of a sudden it cleared.  "On the love that you have confessed
for me," she cried.

He laughed a short laugh-half amazement, half scorn.

"Mon Dieu!" he exclaimed, tossing his arms to Heaven, "a fine claim
that, as I live; a fine argument by which to induce me to place
another man in your arms.  I am to do it because I love you!"

They gazed at each other now, she with a glance of strained anxiety,
he with the same look of half-contemptuous wonder.  And then a
creaking rumble from below attracted his attention, and he looked
round.  He moved forward and threw the window wide, letting in with
the March air an odd medley of sounds to which the rolling of drums
afforded a most congruous accompaniment.

"Look, Citoyenne," he said, and he pointed out the first tumbril,
which was coming round the corner of the Rue St. Honore.

She approached with some shrinking begotten by a suspicion of what
she was desired to see.

In the street below, among a vociferating crowd of all sorts and
conditions, the black death-cart moved on its way to the guillotine.
It was preceded by a company of National Guards, and followed by
the drummers and another company on foot.  Within the fatal vehicle
travelled three men and two women, accompanied by a constitutional
priest - one of those renegades who had taken the oath imposed by
the Convention.  The two women sat motionless, more like statues
than living beings, their faces livid and horribly expressionless,
so numbed were their intelligences by fear.  Of the men, one stood
calm and dignified, another knelt at his prayers, and was subject,
therefore, to the greater portion of the gibes the mob was offering
these poor victims; the third, a very elegant gentleman in a green
coat and buckskin breeches, leant nonchalantly upon the rail of the
tumbril and exchanged gibes with the people.  All five of them were
in the prime of life, and, by their toilettes and the air that clung
to them, belonged unmistakably to the noblesse.

One glance did Mademoiselle bestow upon that tragic spectacle, then
with a shudder she drew back, her face going deathly white.

"Why did you bid me look?" she moaned.

"That for yourself you might see," he answered pitilessly, "the
road by which your lover is to journey."

"Mon Dieu!" she cried, wringing her hands, "it is horrible.  Oh!
You are not men, you Revolutionists.  You are beasts of prey, tigers
in human semblance."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Great injustices beget great reactions.  Great wrongs can only be
balanced by great wrongs.  For centuries the power has lain with
the aristocrats, and they have most foully abused it.  For centuries
the people of France have writhed beneath the armed heel of the
nobility, and their blood, unjustly and wantonly shed, has saturated
the soil until from that seed has sprung this overwhelming
retribution.  Now - now, when it is too late - you are repenting;
now, when at last some twenty-five million Frenchmen have risen with
weapons in their hands to purge the nation of you.  We are no worse
than were you; indeed, not so bad.  It is only that we do in a little
while - and, therefore, while it lasts in greater quantity - what
you have been doing through countless generations."

"Spare me these arguments, Monsieur," she cried, recovering her
spirit.  "The 'whys' and 'wherefores' of it are nothing to me.  I
see what you are doing, and that is enough.  But," and her voice
grew gentle and pleading, her hands were held out to him, "you are
good at heart, Monsieur; you are generous and you can be noble.  You
will give me the life that I have come to beg of you; the life you
promised me."

"Yes, but upon terms, Mademoiselle, and those terms you have heard."

She looked a moment into that calm, set face, into the dark grey
eyes that looked so solemn and betrayed so little of what was
passing within.

"And you say that you love me?" she cried.

"Helas!" he sighed.  "It is a weakness I cannot conquer.

"Look well down into your heart, M. La Boulaye," she answered him,"
and you will find how egregious is your error.  You do not love me;
you love yourself, and only yourself.  If you loved me you would not
seek to have me when I am unwilling.  Above all things, you would
desire my happiness - it is ever so when we truly love - and you
would seek to promote it.  If, indeed, you loved me you would grant
my prayer, and not torture me as you are doing.  But since you only
love yourself, you minister only to yourself, and seek to win me by
force since you desire me."

She ceased, and her eyes fell before his glance, which remained
riveted upon her face.  Immovable he stood a moment or two, then
he turned from her with a little sigh, and leaning his elbow upon
the window-sill, he gazed down into the crowds surging about the
second tumbril.  But although he saw much there that was calculated
to compel attention, he heeded nothing.  His thoughts were very busy,
and he was doing what Mademoiselle had bidden him.  He was looking
into himself.  And from that questioning he gathered not only that
he loved her, but that he loved her so well and so truly that - in
spite even of all that was passed - he must do her will, and deliver
up to her the man she loved.

His resolve was but half taken when he heard her stirring in the
room behind him.  He turned sharply to find that she had gained the
door.

"Mademoiselle!" he called after her.  She stopped, and as she
turned, he observed that her lashes were wet.  But in her heart
there arose now a fresh hope, awakened by the name by which he had
recalled her.  "Whither are you going?" he asked.

"Away, Monsieur," she answered.  "I was realising that my journey
had indeed been in vain."

He looked at her a second in silence.  Then stepping forward:

"Mademoiselle," he said, very quietly, "your arguments have
prevailed, and it shall be as you desire.  The ci-devant Vicomte
d'Ombreval shall go free."

Her face seemed to grow of a sudden paler, and for an instant she
stood still as if robbed of understanding.  Then she came forward
with hands outheld.

" aid I not that you were good and generous?  Said I not that you
could be noble, Monsieur?" she cried, as she caught his resisting
hand and sought to carry it to her lips.  "God will bless you,
Monsieur - "

He drew his hand away, but without roughness.  "Let us say no more,
Mademoiselle," he begged.

"But I will," she answered him.  "I am not without heart, Monsieur,
and now that you have given me this proof of the deep quality of
your love, I - "  She paused, as if at a loss for words.

"Well, Mademoiselle?" he urged her.

"I have it in my heart to wish that - that it were otherwise," she
said, her cheeks reddening under his gaze.  "If it were not that I
account myself in honour bound to wed M. le Vicomte - "

"Stop!" he interrupted her.  He had caught at last the drift of
what she was saying.  "There is no need for any comedy, Suzanne.
Enough of that had we at Boisvert."

"It is not comedy," she cried with heat.  "It was not altogether
comedy at Boisvert."

"True," he said, wilfully misunderstanding her that he might the
more easily dismiss the subject," it went nearer to being tragedy."
Then abruptly he asked her:

"Where are you residing?"

She paused before replying.  She still wanted to protest that some
affection for him dwelt in her heart, although curbed (to a greater
extent even than she was aware) by the difference in their stations,
and checked by her plighted word to Ombreval.  At last, abandoning
a purpose which his countenance told her would be futile:

"I am staying with my old nurse at Choisy," she answered him.
"Henriette Godelliere is her name.  She is well known in the village,
and seems in good favour with the patriots, so that I account myself
safe.  I am believed to be her niece from the country."

"Hum!" he snorted.  "The Citoyenne Godelliere's niece from the
country in silks?"

"That is what someone questioned, and she answered that it was a
gown plundered from the wardrobe of some emigrated aristocrats."

"Have a care, Suzanne," said he.  "The times are dangerous, and it
is a matter of a week ago since a man was lanterne for no other
reason than because he was wearing gloves, which was deemed an
aristocratic habit.  Come, Mademoiselle, let us gather up your gems.
You were going without them some moments ago."

And down upon his knees he went, and, taking up the little bag
which had been left where he had flung it, he set himself to
restore the jewels to it.  She came to his assistance, in spite of
his protestations, and so, within a moment or two, the task was
completed, and the little treasure was packed away in the bosom
of her gown.

"To-morrow," he said, as he took his leave of her at the door, "I
shall hope to bring the ci-devant Vicomte to Choisy, and I will
see that he is equipped with a laissez-passer that will carry both
of you safely out of France."

She was beginning to thank him all over again, but he cut her
short, and so they parted.

Long after she was gone did he sit at his writing-table, his head
in his hands and his eyes staring straight before him.  His face
looked grey and haggard; the lines that seared it were lines of
pain.

"They say," he murmured once, thinking aloud, as men sometimes will
in moments of great stress," that a good action brings its own
reward.  Perhaps my action is not a good one, after all, and that
is why I suffer."

And, burying his head in his arms, he remained thus with his sorrow
until his official entered to inquire if he desired lights.




CHAPTER XVIII

THE INCORRUPTIBLE


It was towards noon of the following day when Caron La Boulaye
presented himself at the house of Duplay, the cabinet-maker in the
Rue St. Honore, and asked of the elderly female who admitted him
if he might see the Citizen-deputy Robespierre.

A berline stood at the door, the postillion at the horses' heads,
and about it there was some bustle, as if in preparation of a
departure.  But La Boulaye paid no heed to it as he entered the house.

He was immediately conducted upstairs to the Incorruptible's
apartment - for he was too well known to so much as need announcing.
In answer to the woman's knock a gentle, almost plaintive voice from
within bade them enter, and thus was Caron ushered into the humble
dwelling of the humble and ineffective-looking individual whose power
already transcended that of any other man in France, and who was
destined to become still more before his ephemeral star went out.

Into that unpretentious and rather close-smelling room - for it was
bed-chamber as well as dining-room and study - stepped La Boulaye
unhesitatingly, with the air of a man who is intimate with his
surroundings and assured of his welcome in them.  In the right-hand
corner stood the bed on which the clothes were still tumbled; in the
centre of the chamber was a table all littered with the disorder of
a meal partaken; on the left, by the window, sat Robespierre at his
writing-table, and from the overmantel at the back of the room a
marble counterpart of Robespierre's own head and shoulders looked
down upon the newcomer.  There were a few pictures on the
whitewashed walls, and a few objects of art about the chamber, but
in the main it had a comfortless air, which may in part have
resulted from the fact that no fire had been lighted.

The great man tossed aside his pen, and rose as the door closed
after the entering visitor.  Pushing his horn-rimmed spectacles up
on to his forehead he stretched out his hand to La Boulaye.

"It is you, Caron," he murmured in that plaintive voice of his.
It was a voice that sorted well with the humane man who had resigned
a judgeship at Arras sooner than pass a death-sentence, but hardly
so well with him who, as Public Prosecutor in Paris, had brought
some hundreds of heads to the sawdust.  "I have been desiring to
congratulate you upon your victory of yesterday," he continued,
"even as I have been congratulating myself upon the fact that it
was I who found you and gave you to the Nation.  I feared that I
might not see you ere I left."

"You are leaving Paris?" asked La Boulaye, without heeding the
compliments in the earlier part of the other's speech.

"For a few days.  Business of the Nation, my friend.  But you -
let us talk of you.  Do you know that I am proud of you, cher Caron?
Your eloquence turned Danton green with jealousy, and as for poor
Vergniaud, it extinguished him utterly.  Ma foi!  If you continue as
you have begun, the day may not be far distant when you will become
the patron and I the Protege."  And his weak eyes beamed pleasantly
from out of that unhealthy pale face.

Outwardly he had changed little since his first coming to Paris, to
represent the Third Estate of Artoise, saving, his cheeks were grown
more hollow.  Upon his dress he still bestowed the same unpretentious
care that had always characterised it, which, in one of the most
prominent patriots of the Mountain, amounted almost to foppishness.
Blue coat, white waistcoat, silk hose and shoes buckled with silver,
gave him an elegant exterior that must have earned him many a covert
sneer from his colleagues.  His sloping forehead was crowned by a
periwig, sedulously curled and powdered - for all that with the
noblesse this was already a discarded fashion.

La Boulaye replied to his patron's compliments with the best grace
he could command considering how full of another matter was his mind.

"I may congratulate myself, Maximilien," he added, "upon my good
fortune in coming before you took your departure.  I have a request
to prefer, a favour to ask."

"Tut!  Who talks of favours?  Not you, Caron, I hope.  You have but
to name what you desire, and so that it lies within my power to
accord it, the thing is yours."

"There is a prisoner in the Luxembourg in whom I am interested.  I
seek his enlargement."

"But is that all?" cried the little man, and, without more ado, he
turned to his writing-table and drew a printed form from among the
chaos of documents.  "His name?" he asked indifferently, as he
dipped his quill in the ink-horn and scratched his signature at
the foot of it.

"An aristocrat," said Caron, with some slight hesitancy.

"Eh?"  And the arched brows drew together for an instant.  "But no
matter.  There are enough and to spare even for Fouquier-Tinvillle's
voracious appetite.  His name?"

"The ci-devant Vicomte Antole d'Ombreval."

"Qui-ca?"  The question rang sharp as a pistol-shot, sounding the
more fearful by virtue of the contrast with the gentle tones in
which Robespierre had spoken hitherto.  The little man's face grew
evil. "d'Ombreval?" he cried.  "But what is this man to you?  It
is by your favour alone that I have let him live so long, but now - "
He stopped short.  "What is your interest in this man?" he demanded,
and the question was so fiercely put as to suggest that it would be
well for La Boulaye that he should prove that interest slight indeed.

But whatever feelings may have been swaying Caron at the moment,
fear was not one of them.

"My interest in him is sufficiently great to cause me to seek his
freedom at your hands," he answered, with composure.

Robespierre eyed him narrowly for a moment, peering at him over his
spectacles which he had drawn down on to his tip-tilted nose.  Then
the fierceness died out of his mien and manner as suddenly as it
had sprung up.  He became once more the weak-looking, ineffectual
man that had first greeted La Boulaye: urbane and quiet, but
cold-cold as ice.

"I am desolated, my dear Caron, but you have asked me for the one
man in the prisons of France whose life I cannot yield you.  He is
from Artois, and there is an old score 'twixt him and me, 'twixt
his family and mine.  They were the grands seigneurs of the land on
which we were born, these Ombrevals, and I could tell you of wrongs
committed by them which would make you shudder in horror.  This one
shall atone in the small measure we can enforce from him.  It was
to this end that I ordered you to effect his capture.  Have patience,
dear Caron, and forgive me that I cannot grant your request.  As I
have said, I am desolated that it should be so.  Ask me, if you
will, the life of any other - or any dozen others - and they are
yours.  But Ombreval must die."

Caron stood a moment in silent dismay.  Here was an obstacle upon
which he had not counted when he had passed his word to Suzanne to
effect the release of her betrothed.  At all costs he must gain it,
he told himself, and to that end he now set himself to plead,
advancing, as his only argument - but advancing it with a fervour
that added to its weight - that he stood pledged to save the
ci-devant Vicomte.  Robespierre looked up at him with a shade of
polite regret upon his cadaverous face, and with polite regret he
deplored that Caron should have so bound himself.

So absorbed were they, the one in pleading, the other in resisting,
that neither noticed the opening of the door, nor yet the girl who
stood observing them from the threshold.

"If this man dies," cried La Boulaye at last, "I am dishonoured.

"It is regrettable," returned Robespierre, "that you should have
pledged your word in the matter.  You will confess, Caron, that it
was a little precipitate.  Enfin," he ended, crumpling the document
he had signed and tossing it under the table, "you must extricate
yourself as best you can.  I am sorry, but I cannot give him to you."

Caron's face was very white and his hands were clenched convulsively.
It is questionable whether in that moment he had not flung himself
upon the Incorruptible, and enforced that which hitherto he had only
besought, but that in that instant the girl stepped into the room.

"And is it really you, Caron?" came the melodious voice of Cecile.

La Boulaye started round to confront her, and stifled a curse at
the untimely interruption which Robespierre was blessing as most
timely.

"It is - it is, Citoyenne," he answered shortly, to add more shortly
still: "I am here on business with the Citizen, your uncle."

But before the girl could so much as appreciate the rebuke he
levelled at her intrusion, her uncle had come to the rescue.

"The business, however, is at an end.  Take charge of this good
Caron, Cecile, whilst I make ready for my journey."

Thus, sore at heart, and chagrined beyond words, La Boulaye was
forced to realise his defeat, and to leave the presence of the
Incorruptible.  But with Cecile he went no farther than the landing.

"If you will excuse me, Citoyenne," he said abstractedly, "I will
take my leave of you."

"But I shall not excuse you, Caron," she said, refusing to see his
abstraction.  "You will stay to dinner - "

"I am sorry beyond measure, but - "

"You shall stay," she interrupted.  "Come, Caron.  It is months
since you were with us.  We will make a little fete in honour of
your yesterday's triumph," she promised him, sidling up to him with
a bewitching glance of blue eyes, and the most distracting toss of
golden curls upon an ivory neck.

But to such seductions Caron proved as impervious as might a man
of stone.  He excused himself with cold politeness.  The Nation's
business was awaiting him; he might not stay.

"The Nation's business may await you a little longer," she declared,
taking hold of his arm with both hands, and had she left it at that
it is possible that she had won her way with him.  But most
indiscreetly she added:

"Come, Caron, you shall tell me who was your yesterday's visitor.
Do you know that the sight of her made me jealous?  Was it not
foolish in me?"

And now, from cold politeness, La Boulaye passed to hot impoliteness.
Roughly he shook her detaining hands from him, and with hardly so
much as a word of farewell, he passed down the stairs, leaving her
white with passion at the slight he had thereby put upon her.

The beauty seemed to pass out of her face much as the meekness was
wont to pass out of her uncle's when he was roused.  Her blue eyes
grew steely and cruel as she looked after him.

"Wait, Caron," she muttered to herself, "I will cry quits with you."
And then, with a sob of anger, she turned and mounted the stairs
to her apartments.




CHAPTER XIX

THE THEFT


La Boulaye sat once more in the Rue Nationale and with his head in
his hands, his elbows supported by the writing-table, he stared
before him, his face drawn with the pain and anger of the defeat he
had sustained where no defeat had been expected.

He had been so assured that he had but to ask for Ombreval's life,
and it would be accorded him; he had promised Suzanne with such
confidence - boasting almost - that he could do this, and to do it
he had pledged his word.  And now?  For very shame he could not go
to her and tell her that despite his fine promises despite his bold
bargaining, he was as powerless to liberate Ombreval as was she
herself.

And with reflection he came to see that even did he bear her such
a tale she would not believe it.  The infinite assurance of his
power, implicit in everything that he had said to her, must now
arise in her memory, and give the lie to his present confession of
powerlessness.  She would not believe him, and disbelieving him,
she would seek a motive for the words that she would deem untrue.
And that motive she would not find far to seek.  She would account
his present attitude the consummation of a miserable subterfuge by
which he sought to win her confidence and esteem.  She would - she
must - believe that he had but made a semblance of befriending her
so disinterestedly only that he might enlist her kindness and regard,
and turn them presently to his own purposes.  She would infer that
he had posed as unselfish - as self-sacrificing, almost - only that he
might win her esteem, and that by telling her now that Robespierre
was inflexible in his resolve to send Ombreval to the guillotine,
he sought to retain that esteem whilst doing nothing for it.  That
he had ever intended to save Ombreval she would not credit.  She
would think it all a cunning scheme to win his own ends.  And now
he bethought him of the grief that would beset her upon learning
that her journey had indeed been fruitless.  He smote the table a
blow with his clenched hand, and cursed the whole Republic, from
Robespierre down to the meanest sans-culotte that brayed the Ca ira
in the streets of Paris.

He had pledged his word, and for all that he belonged to the class
whose right to honour was denied by the aristocrats, his word he
had never yet broken.  That circumstance - as personified by
Maximilien Robespierre - should break it for him now was matter
enough to enrage him, for than this never had there been an occasion
on which such a breach could have been less endurable.

He rose to his feet, and set himself to pace the chamber, driven to
action of body by the agonised activity of his mind.  From the
street rose the cry of the pastry-cook going his daily rounds, as
it had risen yesterday, he remembered, when Suzanne had been with
him.  And now of a sudden he stood still.  His lips were compressed,
his brows drawn together in a forbidding scowl, and his eyes narrowed
until they seemed almost closed.  Then with his clenched right hand
he smote the open palm of the other.  His resolve was taken.  By
fair means or foul, with Robespierre's sanction or without it, he
would keep his word.  After not only the hope but the assurance he
had given Suzanne that her betrothed should go free, he could do no
less than accomplish the Vicomte's enlargement by whatever means
should present themselves.

And now to seek a way.  He recalled the free pardon to which
Robespierre had gone the length of appending his signature.  He
remembered that it had not been destroyed; Robespierre had crumpled
it in his hand and tossed it aside.  And by now Robespierre would
have departed, and it should not be difficult for him - the protege
and intimate of Robespierre - to gain access to the Incorruptible's
room.

If only he could find that document and fill in the name of Ombreval
the thing would be as good as done.  True, he would require the
signatures of three other Deputies; but one of these he could supply
himself, and another two were easily to be requisitioned, seeing
that already it bore Robespierre's.

And then as suddenly as the idea of the means had come to him, came
now the spectre of the consequences to affright him.  How would it
fare with him on Robespierre's return?  How angered would not
Robespierre be upon discovering that his wishes had been set at
naught, his very measures contravened - and this by fraud?  And than
Robespierre's anger there were few things more terrible in '93.  It
was an anger that shore away heads as recklessly as wayside flowers
are flicked from their stems by the idler's cane.

For a second it daunted him.  If he did this thing he must seek
refuge in flight; he must leave France, abandon the career which
was so full of promise for him, and wander abroad, a penniless
fortune-hunter.  Well might the prospect give him pause.  Well might
it cause him to survey that pale, sardonic countenance that eyed
him gloomily from the mirror above his mantel shelf, and ask it
mockingly if it thought that Suzanne de Bellecour - or indeed, any
woman living - were worthy of so great a sacrifice.

What had she done for him that he should cast away everything for
her sake?  Once she had told him that she loved him, only to betray
him.  Was that a woman for whom a man should wanton his fortunes?
And then he smiled derisively, mocking his reflections in the mirror
even as he mocked himself.

"Poor fool," he muttered, "it is not for the sake of what you are to
her.  Were it for that alone, you would not stir a finger to gratify
her wishes.  It is for the sake of what she is to you, Caron."

He turned from the mirror, his resolve now firm, and going to the
door he called his official.  Briefly he instructed Brutus touching
the packing of a valise, which he would probably need that night.

"You are going a journey, Citizen?" inquired Brutus, to which La
Boulaye returned a short answer in the affirmative.  "Do I accompany
you?" inquired the official, to which La Boulaye shook his head.

At that Brutus, who, for all his insolence of manner, was very
devotedly attached to his employer, broke into remonstrances,
impertinent of diction but affectionate of tenor.  He protested that
La Boulaye had left him behind, and lonely, during his mission to
the army in Belgium, and he vowed that he would not be left behind
again.

"Well, well; we shall see, Brutus," answered the Deputy, laying his
hand upon the fellow's shoulder.  "But I am afraid that this time I
am going farther than you would care to come."

The man's ferrety eyes were raised of a sudden to La Boulaye's face
in a very searching glance.  Caron's tone had been laden with
insinuation.

"You are running way," cried the official.

"Sh!  My good Brutus, what folly!  Why should I run away - and from
whom, pray?"

"I know not that.  But you are.  I heard it in your voice.  And you
do not trust me, Citizen La Boulaye," the fellow added, in a
stricken voice.  "I have served you faithfully these two years, and
yet you have not learnt to trust me."

"I do, I do, my friend.  You go too fast with your conclusions.  Now
see to my valise, and on my return perhaps I'll tell you where I am
going, and put your fidelity to the test."

"And you will take me with you?"

"Why, yes," La Boulaye promised him, "unless you should prefer to
remain in Paris."

With that he got away and leaving the house, he walked briskly up
the street, round the corner, and on until he stood once more before
Duplay's.

"Has the Citizen Robespierre departed yet?" he inquired of the woman
who answered his peremptory knock.

"He has been gone this hour, Citizen La Boulaye," she answered.
"He started almost immediately after you left him."

"Diable!" grumbled Caron, with well-feigned annoyance.  "Quel
contretemps!  I have left a most important document in his room,
and, of course, it will be locked."

"But the Citoyenne Cecile has the key," answered the woman, eager
to oblige him.

"Why, yes - naturally!  Now that is fortunate.  Will you do me the
favour to procure the key from he Citoyenne for a few moments,
telling her, of course, that it is I who need it?"

"But certainly, Montez, Citoyen."  And with a wave of the hand
towards the stairs she went before him.

He followed leisurely, and by the time he had reached Robespierre's
door her voice floated down to him from above, calling the
Incorruptible's niece.  Next he heard Cecile's voice replying, and
then a whispered conference on the landing overhead, to the
accompaniment of the occasional tinkle of a bunch of keys.

Presently the domestic returned, and unlocking the door, she held it
open for La Boulaye to pass.  From her attitude it seemed to Caron
as if she were intentioned - probably she had been instructed - to
remain there while he obtained what he sought.  Now he had no mind
that she should see him making his quest among the wasted papers on
the floor, and so:

"I shall not be more than a few minutes," he announced quietly.  "I
will call you when I am ready to depart."

Thus uncompromisingly dismissed, she did not venture to remain, and,
passing in, La Boulaye closed the door.  As great as had been his
deliberation hitherto was now the feverish haste with which he
crossed to the spot where he had seen the document flung.  He caught
up a crumpled sheet and opened it out It was not the thing he sought.
He cast it aside and took up another with no better luck.  To crumple
discarded papers seemed the habit of the Incorruptible, for there was
a very litter of them on the ground.  One after another did Caron
investigate without success.  He was on his knees now, and his
exploration had carried him as far as the table; another moment and
he was grovelling under it, still at his search, which with each
fresh disappointment grow more feverish.

Yonder - by the leg of the Incorruptible's chair - he espied the ball
of paper, and to reach it he stretched to his full length, lying
prone beneath a table in an attitude scarce becoming a Deputy of the
French Republic.  But it was worth the effort and the disregard of
dignity, for when presently on his knees he smoothed out that
document, he discovered it to be the one he sought the order upon the
gaolers of the Luxembourg to set at liberty a person or persons whose
names were to be filled in, signed by Maximilien Robespierre.

He rose, absorbed in his successful find, and he pursued upon the
table the process of smoothing the creases as much as possible from
that priceless document.  That done he took up a pen and attached
his own signature alongside of Robespierre's; then into the blank
space above he filled the name of Anatole d'Ombreval ci-devant
Vicomte d'Ombreval.  He dropped the pen and took up the sand-box.
He sprinkled the writing, creased the paper, and dusted the sand
back into the receptacle.  And then of a sudden his blood seemed to
freeze, and beads of cold sweat stood out upon his brow.  There
had been the very slightest stir behind him, and with it had come a
warm breath upon his bowed neck.  Someone was looking over his
shoulder.  An instant he remained in that bowed attitude with head
half-raised.  Then suddenly straightening himself he swung round and
came face to face with Cecile Deshaix.

Confronting each other and very close they now stood and each was
breathing with more than normal quickness.  Her cheeks were white,
her nostrils dilated and quivering, her blue eyes baleful and cruel,
whilst her lips wore never so faint a smile.  For a second La Boulaye
looked the very picture of foolishness and alarm.  Then it seemed
as if he drew a curtain, and his face assumed the expressionless
mask that was habitual to it in moments of great tension.
Instinctively he put behind him his hands which held the paper.
Cecile's lips took on an added curl of scorn as she observed the act.

"You thief!" she said, very low, but very fiercely.  "That was the
paper that you left behind you, was it?"

"The paper that I have is certainly the paper that I left behind,"
he answered serenely, for he had himself well in hand by now.  "And
as for dubbing me a thief so readily" - he paused, and shrugged his
shoulders - "you are a woman," he concluded, with an air suggesting
that that fact was a conclusion to all things.

"Fool!" she blazed.  "Do you think to overcome me by quibbles?  Do
you think to dupe me with words and shrugs?"

"My dear Cecile he begged half-whimsically, "may I implore you to
use some restraint?  Inured as I am to the unbounded licence of your
tongue and to the abandon that seems so inherent in you, let me
assure you that - "

"Ah!  You can say Cecile now?" she cried, leaving the remainder of
his speech unheeded.  "Now that you need me; now that you want me
to be a party to your treacherous designs against my uncle.  Oh, you
can say 'Cecile' and 'dear Cecile' instead of your everlasting
'Citoyenne'.

"It seems I am doomed to be always misunderstood by you," he laughed,
and at the sound she started as if he had struck her.

Had she but looked in his eyes she had seen no laughter there; she
might have realised that murder rather than mirth was in his soul -
for, at all costs, he was determined to hold the paper he had been
at such pains to get.

"I understand you well enough," she cried hotly, her cheeks flaming
red of a sudden.  "I understand you, you thief, you trickster.  Do
you think that I heard nothing of what passed this morning between
my uncle and you?  Do you think I do not know whose name you have
written on that paper?  Answer me," she commanded him.

"Since you know so much, what need for any questions?" quoth he
coolly, transferring the coveted paper to his pocket as he spoke.
"And since we are so far agreed that I am not contradicting anything
you say - nor, indeed, intend to - perhaps you will see the
convenience of ending an interview that promises to be fruitless.
My dear Cecile, I am very grateful to you for the key of this room.
I beg that you will make my compliments to the Citizen your uncle
upon his return, and inform him of how thoroughly you ministered to
my wants."

With that and a superb air of insouciance, he made shift to go.  But
fronting him she barred his way.

"Give me that paper, sclerat," she demanded imperiously.  "You shall
not go until you surrender it.  Give it to me or I will call Duplay."

"You may call the devil for aught I care, you little fool," he
answered her, very pleasantly.  "Do you think Duplay will be mad
enough to lay hands upon a Deputy of the Convention in the discharge
of the affairs of the Nation?"

"It is a lie!"

"Why, of course it is," he admitted sweetly.  "But Duplay will not be
aware of that."

"I shall tell him."

"Tut!  He won't believe you.  I'll threaten him with the guillotine
if he does.  And I should think that Duplay has sufficient dread of
the national barber not to risk having his toilet performed by him.
Now, be reasonable, and let me pass."

Enraged beyond measure by his persiflage and very manifest contempt
of her, she sprang suddenly upon him, and caught at the lapels of
his redingote.

"Give me that paper!" she screamed, exerting her entire strength in
a vain effort to boldly shake him.

Coldly he eyed this golden-haired virago now, and looked in vain
for some trace of her wonted beauty in the stormy distortion of her
face.

"You grow tiresome with your repetitions," he answered her
impatiently, as, snatching at her wrists, he made her release her
hold.  "Let me go."  And with that he flung her roughly from him.

A second she staggered, then, recovering her balance and without an
instant's hesitation, she sped to the door.  Imagining her intent to
be to lock him in La Boulaye sprang after her.  But it seemed that
his mind had been more swift to fasten upon the wiser course than
had hers.  Instead, she snatched the key and closed the door on the
inside.  She wasted a moment fumbling at the lock, and even as he
caught her by the waist the key slipped in, and before he dragged
her back she had contrived to turn it, and now held it in her hand.
He laughed a trifle angrily as she twisted out of his grasp, and
stood panting before him.

"You shall not leave this room with that paper," she gasped, her
anger ever swelling, and now rendering her speech almost incoherent.

He set his arms akimbo, and surveyed her whimsically.

"My dear Cecile," quoth he, "if you will take no thought for my
convenience, I beg that, at least, you will take some for your good
name.  Thousand devils woman!  Will you have it said in Paris that
you were found locked in a room with me?  What will your uncle -
your virtuous, prudish, incorruptible uncle - say when he learns of
it?  If he does not demand a heavy price from you for so dishonouring
him, he is not the man I deem him.  Now be sensible, child, and open
that door while there is yet time, and before anybody discovers us
in this most compromising situation."

He struck the tone most likely to win him obedience, and that he
had judged astutely her face showed him.  In the place of the anger
that had distorted it there came now into that countenance a look
of surprise and fear.  She saw herself baffled at every point.  She
had threatened him with Duplay - the only man available - and he had
shown her how futile it must prove to summon him.  And now she had
locked herself in with him, thinking to sit there until he should do
her will, and he showed her the danger to herself therein, which had
escaped her notice.

There was a settle close behind her, and on to this she sank, and
bending her head she opened the floodgates of her passionate little
soul, and let the rage that had so long possessed her dissolve in
tears.  At sight of that sudden change of front La Boulaye stamped
his foot.  He appreciated the fact that she was about to fight him
with weapons that on a previous occasion - when, however, it is
true, they were wielded by another - had accomplished his undoing.

And for all that he steeled his heart, and evoked the memory of
Suzanne to strengthen him in his purpose: he approached her with a
kindly exterior.  He sat him down beside her; he encompassed her
waist with his arm, and drawing her to him he set himself to soothe
her as one soothes a wilful child.  Had he then recalled what her
attitude had been towards him in the past he had thought twice
before adopting such a course.  But in his mind there was no
sentiment that was not brotherly, and far from his wishes was it
to invest his action with any other than a fraternal kindness.

But she, feeling that caressing arm about her, and fired by it in
her hapless passion for this man, was quick to misinterpret him,
and to translate his attitude into one of a kindness far beyond his
dreams.  She nestled closer to him; at his bidding her weeping died
down and ceased.

"There, Cecile, you will give me the key now?" he begged.

She glanced up at him shyly through wet lashes - as peeps the sun
through April clouds.

"There is nothing I will not do for you, Caron," she murmured.  "See,
I will even help you to play the traitor on my uncle.  For you love
me a little, cher Caron, is it not so?"

He felt himself grow cold from head to foot, and he grew sick at
the thought that by the indiscretion of his clumsy sympathy he had
brought this down upon his luckless head.  Mechanically his arm
relaxed the hold of her waist and fell away.  Instinctively she
apprehended that all was not as she had thought.  She turned on the
seat to face him squarely, and caught something of the dismay in
his glance of the loathing almost (for what is more loathsome to a
man than to be wooed by a woman he desires not?)  Gradually, inch
by inch, she drew away from him, ever facing him, and her eyes ever
on his, as if fascinated by the horror of what she saw.  Thus until
the extremity of the settle permitted her to go no farther.  She
started, then her glance flickered down, and she gave a sudden gasp
of passion.  Simultaneously the key rang on the boards at Caron's
feet angrily flung there by Cecile.

"Go!" she exclaimed, in a suffocating voice, "and never let me see
your face again."

For a second or two he sat quite still, his eyes observing her with
a look of ineffable pity, which might have increased her disorder
had she perceived it.  Then slowly he stooped, and took up the key.

He rose from the settle, and without a word - for words he realised,
could do no more than heighten the tragic banality of the situation
 - he went to the door, unlocked it, and passed out.

Huddled in her corner sat Cecile, listening until his steps had died
away on the stairs.  Then she cast herself prone upon the settle,
and in a frenzy of sobs and tears she vented some of the rage and
shame that were distracting her.




CHAPTER XX

THE GRATITUDE OF OMBREVAL


What La Boulaye may have lacked in knowledge of woman's ways he made
up for by his knowledge of Cecile, and from this he apprehended that
there was no time to be lost if he would carry out his purpose.
Touching her dismissal of him, he permitted himself no illusions.
He rated it at its true value.  He saw in it no sign of relenting
of generosity, but only a desire to put an end to the shame which
his presence was occasioning her.

He could imagine the lengths to which the thirst of vengeance would
urge a scorned woman, and of all women he felt that Cecile scorned
was the most to be feared.  She would not sit with folded hands.
Once she overcame the first tempestuous outburst of her passion she
would be up and doing, straining every sense to outwit and thwart
him in his project, whose scope she must have more than guessed.

Reasoning thus, he clearly saw not only that every moment was of
value, but that flight was the only thing remaining him if he would
save himself as well as Ombreval.  And so he hired him a cabriolet,
and drove in all haste to the house of Billaud Varennes, the Deputy,
from whom he sought to obtain one of the two signatures still
needed by his order of release.  He was disappointed at learning
that Varennes was not at home - though, had he been able to peep an
hour or so into the future, he would have offered up thanks to
Heaven for that same Deputy's absence.  His insistent and impatient
questions elicited the information that probably Verennes would be
found at Fevrier's.  And so to Fevrier's famous restaurant in the
old Palais Royal went La Boulaye, and there he had the good fortune
to find not only Billaud Varennes, but also the Deputy Carnot.  Nor
did fortune end her favours there.  She was smiling now upon Caron,
as was proved by the fact that neither to Varennes nor Carnot did
the name of Ombreval mean anything.  Robespierre's subscription of
the document was accepted by each as affording him a sufficient
warrant to append his own signature, and although Carnot asked a
question or two, it was done in an idle humour, and he paid little
attention to such replies as Caron made him.

Within five minutes of entering the restaurant, La Boulaye was in
the street again, driving, by way of the Pont Neuf, to the Luxembourg.

At the prison he encountered not the slightest difficulty.  He was
known personally to the officer, of whom he demanded the person of
the ci-devant Vicomte, and his order of release was too correct to
give rise to any hesitation on the part of the man to whom it was
submitted.  He was left waiting a few moments in a chamber that did
duty as a guard-room, and presently the Vicomte, looking pale, and
trembling with excitement at his sudden release, stood before him.

"You?" he muttered, upon beholding La Boulaye.  But the Republican
received him very coldly, and hurried him out of the prison with
scant ceremony.

The officer attended the Deputy to the door of his cabriolet, and
in his hearing Caron bade the coachman drive to the Porte St. Martin.
This, however, was no more than a subterfuge to which he was
resorting with a view to baffling the later possibility of their
being traced.  Ombreval naturally enough plied him with questions
as they went, to which La Boulaye returned such curt answers that
in the end, discouraged and offended, the nobleman became silent.

Arrived at the Porte St. Martin they alighted, and La Boulaye
dismissed the carriage.  On foot he now led his companion as far as
the church of St. Nicholas des Champs, where he hired a second
cabriolet, bidding the man drive him to the Quai de la Greve.
Having reached the riverside they once more took a short walk,
crossing by the Pont au Change, and thence making their way towards
Notre Dame, in the neighbourhood of which La Boulaye ushered the
Vicomte into a third carriage, and thinking that by now they had
done all that was needed to efface their tracks, he ordered the man
to proceed as quickly as possible to Choisy.

They arrived at that little village on the Seine an hour or so later,
and having rid themselves of their conveyance, Caron inquired and
discovered the way to the house of Citoyenne Godelliere.

Mademoiselle was within, and at sound of Caron's voice questioning
the erstwhile servant who had befriended her, she made haste to
show herself.  And at a word from her, Henriette admitted the two
men and ushered them into a modest parlour, where she left them
with Mademoiselle.

La Boulaye was the first to speak.

"I trust that I have not kept you waiting overlong, Citoyenne," he
said, by way of saying something.

"Monsieur," she answered him, with a look that was full of gratitude
and kindliness" you have behaved nobly, and to my dying day I shall
remember it."

This La Boulaye deprecated by a gesture, but uttered no word as the
Vicomte now stepped forward and bore Suzanne's hand to his lips.

"Mademoiselle," said he, "Monsieur La Boulaye here was very reticent
touching the manner in which my release has been gained.  But I never
doubted that I owed it to your good efforts, and that you had adopted
the course suggested to you by my letter, and bought me from the
Republic."

La Boulaye flushed slightly as much at the contemptuous tone as at
the words in which Ombreval referred to the Republic.

"It is not to me but to our good friend, M. La Boulaye, that you
should address your thanks, Monsieur."

"Ah?  Vraiment?" exclaimed the Vicomte, turning a supercilious eye
upon the Deputy, for with his freedom he seemed to have recovered
his old habits.

"I have not sold you to the Citoyenne," said La Boulaye, the words
being drawn from him by the other's manner.  "I am making her a
present of you - a sort of wedding gift."  And his lips smiled, for
all that his eyes remained hard.

Ombreval made him no answer, but stood looking from the Deputy to
Suzanne in some hesitation.  The expressions which his very lofty
dignity prompted, his sense of fitness - feeble though it was -
forbade him.  And so there followed a pause, which, however, was but
brief, for La Boulaye had yet something to say.

It had just come to him with a dismaying force that in the haste of
his escape from Paris with the Vicomte he had forgotten to return
to his lodging for a passport that he was fortunately possessed of.
It was a laissez-passer, signed and left in blank, with which he
had been equipped - against the possibility of the need for it
arising - when he had started upon the Convention's errand to the
Army of Dumouriez.  Whilst on his way to Robespierre's house to
secure the order of release, he had bethought him of filling in
that passport for three persons, and thus, since to remain must
entail his ruin and destruction, make his escape from France with
Mademoiselle and the Vicomte.  It was his only chance.  Then in
the hurry of the succeeding incidents, the excitement that had
attended them, and the imperative need for haste in getting the
Vicomte to Choisy, he had put the intended return to his lodging
from his mind - overlooking until now the fact that not only must
he go back for the valise which he had bidden Brutus pack, but
also for that far more precious passport.

It now became necessary to explain the circumstances to his
companions, and in explaining them the whole affair, from
Robespierre's refusal to grant him the life of the Vicomte down
to the means to which he had had recourse, could not be kept from
transpiring.  As she listened, Suzanne's expression changed into
one of ineffable wonder.

"And you have done this for me?" she cried, when at last he paused.,
"you have ruined your career and endangered your life?"

La Boulaye shrugged his shoulders.

"I spoke over-confidently when I said that I could obtain you the
Vicomte's pardon.  There proved to be a factor on which I had not
counted.  Nevertheless, what I had promised I must fulfil.  I was
by honour bound to leave nothing undone that might result in the
Vicomte's enlargement."

Ornbreval laughed softly, but with consummate amusement.

"A sans-culotte with a sense of honour is such an anomaly - " he
began, when Mademoiselle interposed, a note of anger sounding in
her voice.

"M. d'Ombreval means to pay you a compliment," she informed La
Boulaye, "but he has such an odd way of choosing his expressions
that I feared you might misunderstand him."

La Boulaye signified his indifference by a smile.

"I am afraid the ci-devant Vicomte has not yet learnt his lesson,"
said he;" or else he is like the sinner who upon recovering health
forgot the penitence that had come to him in the days of sickness.
But we have other matters to deal with, Citoyenne, and, in
particular, the matter of the passport.  Fool that I am!" he cried
bitterly.

"I must return to Paris at once," he announced briskly.  "There is
no help for it.  We will hope that as yet the way is open to me, and
that I shall be permitted to go and to return unmolested.  In such a
case the rest is easy - except that you will have to suffer my
company as far as the frontier."

It was Mademoiselle who accompanied him to the door.

"Monsieur," she said, in a voice that shook with the sincere
intensity of her feelings, "think me not ungrateful that I have said
so little.  But your act has overwhelmed me.  It is so truly noble,
that to offer you thanks that are but words, seems tome little short
of a banality."

"Tut!" he laughed.  "I have not yet done half.  It will be time to
thank me when we are out of France."

"And you speak so lightly of leaving France?" she cried.  "But what
is to become of you?  What of your career?"

"Other careers are possible in other countries," he answered, with
a lightness he did not feel.  "Who knows perhaps the English or the
Prussians might be amenable to a change of government.  I shall seek
to induce one or the other of them to became a republic, and then I
shall become once more a legislator."

With that, and vowing that every moment he remained their chances
of leaving France grew more slender, he took his leave of her,
expressing the hope that he might be back within a couple of hours.
Mademoiselle watched him to the garden gate, then closing the door
she returned within.

She discovered her betrothed - he whom La Boulaye had called her
lover - standing with his back to the fire, his hands clasped behind
him, the very picture of surliness.  He made none of the advances
that one might look for in a man placed as he was at that moment.
He greeted her, instead, with a complaint.

"Will you permit me, Mademoiselle, to say that in this matter you
have hardly chosen the wiser course?"

"In what matter?" quoth she, at a loss to understand him.

"In the matter of my release.  I advised you in my letter to
purchase my freedom.  Had you done so, we should now be in a
position to start for the frontier - for you would have made a
passport a part of your bargain.  Instead of this, not only are
we obliged to run the risk of waiting, but even if this fellow
should return, we shall be affronted by his company for some days
to come."  And the Vicomte sniffed the air in token of disgust.

Suzanne looked at him in an amazement that left her speechless for
a moment.  At last:

"And this is your gratitude?" she demanded.  "This is all that you
have to say in thanks for the discomfort and danger that I have
suffered on your behalf?  Your tone is oddly changed since you
wrote me that piteous, pitiable letter from Belgium, M. le Vicomte."

He reddened slightly.

"I am afraid that I have been clumsy in my expressions," he
apologised.  "But never doubt my gratitude, Mademoiselle.  I am more
grateful to you than words can tell.  You have done your duty to me
as few women could."

The word "duty" offended her, yet she let it pass.  In his monstrous
vanity it was often hopeless to make him appreciate the importance
of anything or anybody outside of himself.  Of this the present
occasion was an instance.

"You must forgive me my seeming thanklessness, Mademoiselle," he
pursued.  "It was the company of that sans-culotte rascal that soured
me.  I had enough of him a month ago, when he brought me to Paris.
It offended me to have him stand here again in the same room with me,
and insolently refer to his pledged word as though he were a
gentleman born."

"To whom do you refer?" quoth she.

"Ma foi!  How many of them are there?  Why, to this fellow, La
Boulaye?"

"So it seemed, and yet I could not believe it of you.  Do you not
realise that your ingratitude approaches the base?"

He vouchsafed her a long, cold stare of amazement.

"Mordieu!" he ejaculated at last.  "I am afraid that your reason has
been affected by your troubles.  You seem, Mademoiselle, to be
unmindful of the station into which you have had the honour to be
born."

"If your bearing is to be accepted as a sign that you remember it,
I will pray God that I may, indeed, forget it - completely and for
all time."

And then the door opened to admit the good Henriette, who came to
announce that she had contrived a hasty meal, and that it was served
and awaiting them.

"Diable!" he laughed.  "Those are the first words of true wit that
I have heard these many days.  I swear," he added, with a
pleasantness that was oddly at variance with his sullen humour of
a moment back," that I have not tasted human food these four weeks,
and as for my appetite - it is capable of consuming the whole
patrimony of St. Peter.  Lead the way, my good Henriette.  Come,
Mademoiselle."




CHAPTER XXI

THE ARREST


Facts proved how correct had been La Boulaye's anticipations of the
course that Cecile would adopt, Within a half-hour of his having
quitted the house of Billaud Varennes, she presented herself there,
and demanded to see the Deputy.  Upon being told that he was absent
she determined to await his return.

And so, for the matter of an hour, she remained in the room where
the porter had offered her accommodation, fretting at the delay, and
only restrained from repairing to some other member of the Convention
by the expectation that the next moment would see Varennes arrive.
Arrive he did at last, when her patience was all but exhausted, and
excitedly she told her tale of what had taken place.  Varennes
listened gravely, and cross-questioned her in his unbelief - for it
seemed, indeed, monstrous that a man of La Boulaye's position should
ruin so promising a future as was his by an act for which Varennes
could not so much as divine a motive.  But her story hung together
so faithfully, and was so far borne out by the fact that Varennes
himself had indeed signed such a document as she described, that in
the end the Deputy determined to take some steps to neutralise the
harm that might have been done.

Dismissing the girl with the assurance that the matter should have
his attention, he began by despatching a courier to Robespierre at
Chartres - where he knew the Incorruptible to be.  That done, he
resorted to measures for La Boulaye's detention.  But this proved a
grave matter.  What if, after all, that half-hysterical girl's
story should be inaccurate?  In what case would he find himself if,
acting upon it in the meantime, he should order Caron's arrest?  The
person of a Deputy was not one to be so lightly treated, and he
might find himself constrained to answer a serious charge in
consequence.  Thus partly actuated by patriotism and the fear of
Robespierre, and partly restrained by patriotism and the fear of La
Boulaye, he decided upon a middle course: that of simply detaining
La Boulaye at his lodging until Robespierre should either return or
send an answer to his message.  Thus, whilst leaving him perfect
freedom of movement within his own apartments, he would yet ensure
against his escape so that should Robespierre demand him he could
without difficulty be produced.

To this end he repaired with a sous-lieutenant and six men to La
Boulaye's house in the Rue Nationale, intending to station the
soldiers there with orders not to allow the Deputy to go out, and
to detain and question all who sought admittance to him.  He
nourished the hope that the ci-devant Vicomte might still be with
La Boulaye.  At the Rue Nationale, however, he was to discover that
neither Deputy nor aristocrat was to be found.  Brutus informed
him that he was expecting the Citizen La Boulaye, but beyond that
he would say nothing, and he wisely determined to hold his peace
touching the valise that he had been ordered to pack and the fact
that he knew the Deputy meditated leaving Paris.  Brutus had learnt
the value of silence, especially when those who sought information
were members of the Convention.

Alarmed at this further corroboration of Cecile's story of treachery
Varennes left the military at Caron's house, with orders not to
allow the Deputy to again depart if in the meantime he should happen
to return, whilst to every barrier of Paris he sent instructions to
have La Boulaye detained if he should present himself.  By these
measures he hoped still to be able to provide against the
possibility of Caron's seeking to leave Paris.

But Caron had been gone over an hour, and as a matter of fact, he
was back again in Paris within a very little time of these orders
having been issued.  At the Barriere d'Enfer, although recognised,
he was not molested, since the orders only, and distinctly,
concerned his departure and nowise his arrival.

Thus, not until he had reached his lodgings did he realise that
all was not as he had hoped.  And even then it was only within
doors that he made the discovery,

when he found himself suddenly confronted by the sous-lieutenant,
who was idling in the passage.  The officer saluted him respectfully,
and no less respectfully, though firmly, informed him that, by order
of the Citizen-deputy Billaud Varennes, he must ask him to confine
himself to his own apartments until further orders.

"But why, Citizen-officer?" La Boulaye demanded, striving to exclude
from his voice any shade of the chagrin that was besetting him.
"What do these orders mean?"

The officer was courtesy personified, but explanations he had none
to give, for the excellent reason, he urged that he was possessed
of none.  He was a soldier, and he had received orders which he must
obey, without questioning either their wisdom or their justice.
Appreciating the futility of bearing himself otherwise, since his
retreat was already blocked by a couple of gendarmes, Caron
submitted to the inevitable.

He mounted leisurely to his study, and the ruin that stared him in
the eyes was enough to have daunted the boldest of men.  Yet, to do
him justice, he was more concerned at the moment with the
consequences this turn of affairs might have for Mademoiselle than
with his own impending downfall.  That he had Cecile to thank for
his apprehension he never doubted.  Yet it was a reflection that he
readily dismissed from his mind.  In such a pass as he now found
himself none but a weakling could waste time and energy in bewailing
the circumstances that had conspired to it.  In a man of La
Boulaye's calibre and mettle it was more befitting to seek a means
to neutralise as much as possible the evil done.

He called Brutus and cross-questioned him regarding the attitude
and behaviour of the soldiery since their coming.  He learnt that
nothing had been touched by them, and that they were acting with
the utmost discreetness, taking scrupulous care not to exceed the
orders they had received, which amounted to detaining La Boulaye
and nothing more.

"You think, then, that you might come and go unmolested?" he asked.

"I think that I might certainly go.  But whether they would permit
me to return once I had left, I cannot say.  "So that they will let
you pass out, that is all that signifies at the moment," said Caron.
"Should they question you, you can tell them that you are going to
dine and to fetch me my dinner from Berthon's.  As a matter of fact,
I shall want you to go to Choisy with a letter, which you must see
does not fall into the hands of any of these people of the
Convention."

"Give me the letter, Citizen, and trust me to do the rest," answered
the faithful Brutus.

La Boulaye searched a drawer of his writing-table for the blank
passport he required.  Having found it, he hesitated for a moment
how to fill it in.  At last he decided, and set down three names
- Pierre, Francois, and Julie Michael, players, going to Strasbourg
- to which he added descriptions of himself, the Vicomte, and
Mademoiselle.  He reasoned that in case it should ultimately prove
impossible for him to accompany them, the passport, thus indited,
would still do duty for the other two.  They could easily advance
some excuse why the third person mentioned was not accompanying
them.  From this it will be seen that La Boulaye was far from
having abandoned hope of effecting his escape, either by his own
resourcefulness or by the favour of Robespierre himself, whose
kindness for him, after all, was a factor worth reckoning upon.

To Mademoiselle he now wrote as follows:

  I am sending you the laissez-passer filled in for the three of
  us.  I am unfortunately unable to bring it myself as my
  abstraction of the order of release has already been discovered,
  and I am being detained pending the arrival of Robespierre.  But
  I am at my own lodging, and I have every hope that, either by
  the use of my own wit, or else by the favour of my friend
  Robespierre, I shall shortly be able to join you.  I would
  therefore ask you to wait a few days.  But should I presently
  send you word not to do so any longer, or should you hear of
  events which will render it impossible for me to accompany you,
  you can then set out with Ombreval, travelling under the guise
  described in the passport, and informing any questioners that
  the other person mentioned has been forced by ill health to
  interrupt his journey.  As I have said, I have every hope of
  winning through my present difficulties; but should I fail to
  do so, my most earnest prayer will be that you may make your
  way out of France in safety, and that lasting happiness may be
  your lot in whatever country you may elect to settle.  You may
  trust the bearer implicitly, patriotic though he may appear.

He subscribed the letter with his initials, and, having enclosed
the passport and sealed the package, he gave it to Brutus, with the
most minute instructions touching its delivery.

These instructions Brutus carried out with speed and fidelity.  He
was allowed to quit the house without so much as a question, which
left his plan for readmittance the greater likelihood of succeeding.
In something less than an hour - for he hired himself a horse at
the nearest post-house - he had delivered his letter to Mademoiselle
at Choisy.

Its contents sowed in her heart the very deepest consternation -
a consternation very fully shared by the Vicomte.

"Tenez!" he exclaimed, when he had read it.  "Perhaps now you will
admit the justice of my plaint that you did not make a simple
purchase of my liberty, as I counselled you, instead of entering
into this idiotic compact with that sans-culotte."

She looked at him a moment in silence.  She was suffering as it
was at the very thought that La Boulaye's life might be in danger
in consequence of what he had done for her.  With reluctance had
she accepted the sacrifice of his career which he had made to serve
her.  Now that it became the question of a sacrifice of life as
well she was dismayed.  All the wrongs that she and hers had done
that man seemed to rise up and reproach her now.  And so, when
presently she answered the Vicomte, it was no more than natural
that she should answer him impatiently.

"I thought, Monsieur, that we had already discussed and settled
that?"

" Settled it?" he echoed, with a sneer.  "It seems none so easy to
settle.  Do you think that words will settle it."

"By no means," she answered, her voice quivering.  "It seems as if
a man's life will be required for that."

He shrugged his shoulders, and his face put on a look of annoyance.

"I hope, Mademoiselle, that you are not proposing to introduce
sentimentality.  I think you would be better advised to leave that
vulgarity to the vulgar."

"I do not propose to pursue the discussion at all, Monsieur," was
her chilly answer.

"The way of woman," he reflected aloud.  "Let her find that she is
being worsted in argument, and she calmly tells you that she has
no mind to pursue it.  But, Mademoiselle, will you tell me at least
what you intend?"

"What do I intend?" she questioned.  "What choice have we?"

"Whenever we are asked to follow a given course, we have always the
choice between two alternatives," he theorised.  "We can comply,
or not comply."

"In the present instance I am afraid your rule is inapplicable.
There is no room for any alternative.  We can do nothing but wait."

She looked at him impatiently, and wearily she sank on to a chair.

"Monsieur," she said, as calmly as might be," I am almost distracted
by my thoughts as it is.  I don't know whether you are seeking to
complete the rout of my senses.  Let me beg of you at least not to
deal in riddles with me.  The time is ill-chosen.  Tell me bluntly
what is in your mind, if, indeed, anything."

He turned from her peevishly, and crossed to the window.  The
twilight was descending, and the little garden was looking grey in
the now pallid light.  Her seeming obtuseness was irritating him.

"Surely, Mademoiselle," he exclaimed at last, "it is not necessary
that I should tell you what other course is open to us?  It is a
matter for our choice whether we depart at once.  We have a
passport, and - and, enfin, every hour that we remain here our
danger is increased, and our chances of escape are lessened."

"Ah!"  She breathed the syllable contemptuously.  "And what of La
Boulaye?"

"Pooh! he says himself that he is in no great danger.  He is among
his fellows.  Leave him to extricate himself.  After all, it is his
fault that we are here.  Why should we endanger our necks by waiting
his convenience?"

"But surely you forget what he has done for us.  You are forgetting
that he has rescued you from the guillotine, dragged you out of the
very jaws of death.  Do you think that to forsake him now would be
a fair, an honest return?"

"But name of a name," rasped the Vicomte, "does he not say that he
is far from despairing?  His position is not half so dangerous as
ours.  If we are taken, there will be an end of us.  With him matters
are far from being so bad.  He is one of the rabble himself, and the
rabble will look after its own."

She rose impatiently.

"Monsieur, I am afraid the subject is not one that we may profitably
discuss.  I shall obey the voice of my conscience in the matter, and
I shall wait until we hear again from La Boulaye.  That is the
message I am about to return him by his servant.

The Vicomte watched her fling out of the room, and his weak face was
now white with anger.  He rapped out an oath as he turned to the
window again.

"Mad!" he muttered, through-set teeth.  "Mad as a sun-struck dog.
The troubles she has lately seen have turned her head - never a
difficult matter with a woman.  She talks as if she had been reading
Rousseau on the 'Right of man'.  To propose to endanger our lives
for the sake of that scum, La Boulaye!  Ciel!  It passes belief."

But it was in vain that he was sullen and resentful.  Suzanne's mind
entertained no doubt of what she should do, and she had her way in
the matter, sending back Brutus with the message that she would wait
until La Boulaye communicated with her again.

That night Caron slept tranquilly.  He had matured a plan of escape
which he intended to carry out upon the morrow, and with confident
hope to cradle him he had fallen asleep.

But the morrow - early in the forenoon - brought a factor with which
he had not reckoned, in the person of the Incorruptible himself.
Robespierre had returned in hot haste to Paris upon receiving
Varennes' message, and he repaired straight to the house of La
Boulaye.

Caron was in his dressing-gown when Robespierre was ushered into
his study, and the sight of that greenish complexion and the small
eyes, looking very angry and menacing, caused the song that the
young man had been humming to fade on his lips.

"You, Maximilien!" he exclaimed.

"Your cordial welcome flatters me," sneered the Incorruptible,
coming forward.  Then with a sudden change of voice:  "What is that
they tell me you have done, miserable?" he growled.

It would have been a madness on Caron's part to have increased an
anger that was already mounting to very passionate heights.
Contritely, therefore, and humbly he acknowledged his fault, and
cast himself upon the mercy of Robespierre.

But the Incorruptible was not so easily to be shaken.

"Traitor that you are!" he inveighed.  "Do you imagine that because
it is yours to make high sounding speeches in the Convention you
are to conspire with impunity against the Nation?  Your loyalty, it
seems, is no more than a matter of words, and they that would keep
their heads on their shoulders in France to-day will find the need
for more than words as their claim to be let live.  If you would
save your miserable neck, tell me what you have done with this
damned aristocrat."

"He is gone," answered La Boulaye quietly.

"Don't prevaricate, Caron!  Don't seek to befool me, Citizen-deputy.
You have him in hiding somewhere.  You can have supplied him with
no papers, and a man may not travel out of France without them in
these times.  Tell me - where is he?"

"Gone," repeated La Boulaye.  "I have set him free, and he has
availed himself of it to place himself beyond your reach.  More
than that I cannot tell you."

"Can you not?" snarled Robespierre, showing his teeth.  "Of what
are you dreaming fool?  Do you think that I will so easily see
myself cheated of this dog?  Did I not tell you that rather would
I grant you the lives of a dozen aristocrats than that of this
single one?  Do you think, then, that I am so lightly to be
baulked?  Name of God?  Who are you, La Boulaye, what are you,
that you dare thwart me in this?"  He looked at the young man's
impassive face to curb his anger.  "Come, Caron," he added, in a
wheedling tone.  "Tell me what you have done with him?"

"I have already told you," answered the other quietly.

As swift and suddenly as it changed before did Robespierre's humour
change again upon receiving that reply.  With a snort of anger he
strode to the door and threw it open.

"Citizen-lieutenant!" he called, in a rasping voice.

"Here, Citizen," came a voice from below.

"Give yourself the trouble of coming up with a couple of men.  Now,
Citizen La Boulaye," he said, more composedly, as he turned once
more to the young man, "since you will not learn reason you may
mount the guillotine in his place."

Caron paled slightly as he inclined his head in silent submission.
At that moment the officer entered with his men at his heels.

"Arrest me that traitor," Maximilien commanded, pointing a shaking
finger at Caron.  "To the Luxembourg with him."

"If you will wait while I change my dressing-gown for a coat,
Citizen-officer," said La Boulaye composedly, "I shall be grateful."
Then, turning to his official, "Brutus," he called, "attend me."

He had an opportunity while Brutus was helping him into his coat to
whisper in the fellow's ear:

"Let her know."

More he dared not say, but to his astute official that was enough,
and with a sorrowful face he delivered to Suzanne, a few hours
later, the news of La Boulaye's definite arrest and removal to the
Luxembourg.

At Brutus's description of the scene there had been 'twixt
Robespierre and Caron she sighed heavily, and her lashes grew wet.

"Poor, faithful La Boulaye!" she murmured.  "God aid him now."

She bore the news to d'Ombreval, and upon hearing it he tossed aside
the book that had been engrossing him and looked up, a sudden light
of relief spreading on his weak face.

"It is the end," said he, as though no happier consummation could
have attended matters, "and we have no more to wait for.  Shall we
set out to-day?" he asked, and urged the wisdom of making haste.

"I hope and I pray God that it may not be the end, as you so fondly
deem it, Monsieur," she answered him.  "But whether it is the end
or not, I am resolved to wait until there is no room for any hope."

"As you will," he sighed wearily, "The issue of it all will probably
be the loss of our heads.  But even that might be more easily
accomplished than to impart reason to a woman."

"Or unselfishness, it seems, to a man," she returned, as she swept
angrily from the room.




CHAPTER XXII

THE TRIBUNAL


At the Bar of the Revolutionary Tribunal stood Deputy Caron La
Boulaye upon his trial for treason to the Nation and contravention
of the ends of justice.  Fouquier-Tinvillle, the sleuth-hound
Attorney-General, advanced his charges, and detailed the nature of
the young revolutionist's crime.  But there was in Fouquier-Tinvillle's
prosecution a lack of virulence for once, just as among La Boulaye's
fellows, sitting in judgment, there was a certain uneasiness, for the
Revolution was still young, and it had not yet developed that
Saturnian habit of devouring its own children which was later to
become one of its main features.

The matter of La Boulaye's crime, however, was but too clear, and
despite the hesitancy on the part of the jury, despite the unwonted
tameness of Tinvillle's invective, the Tribunal's course was
well-defined, and admitted of not the slightest doubt.  And so, the
production of evidence being dispensed with by Caron's ready
concurrence and acknowledgment of the offence, the President was on
the point of formally asking the jury for their finding, when
suddenly there happened a commotion, and a small man in a blue coat
and black-rimmed spectacles rose at Tinvillle's side, and began an
impassioned speech for the defence.

This man was Robespierre, and the revolutionists sitting there
listened to him in mute wonder, for they recalled that it was upon
the Incorruptible's own charge their brother-deputy had been arrested.
Ardently did Maximilien pour out his eloquence, enumerating the many
virtues of the accused and dwelling at length upon his vast services
to the Republic, his hitherto unfaltering fidelity to the nation and
the people's cause, and lastly, deploring that in a moment of
weakness he should have committed the indiscretion which had brought
him where he stood.  And against this thing of which he was now
accused, Robespierre bade the Deputies of the jury balance the young
man's past, and the much that he had done for the Revolution, and
to offer him, in consideration of all that, a chance of making
atonement and regaining the position of trust and of brotherly
affection which for a moment he had forfeited.

The Court was stirred by the address.  They knew the young
sans-culotte's worth, and they were reluctant to pass sentence upon
him and to send him to the death designed for aristocrats and
traitors.  And so they readily pronounced themselves willing to
extend him the most generous measure of mercy, to open their arms
and once more to clasp to their hearts the brother who had strayed
and to reinstate him in their confidence and their councils.  They
pressed Robespierre to name the act of atonement by which he
proposed La Boulaye should recover his prestige, and Robespierre in
answer cried:

"Let him repair the evil he has done.  Let him neutralise the
treachery into which a moment of human weakness betrayed him.  Let
him return to us the aristocrat he has attempted to save, and we
will forget his indiscretion and receive him back amongst us with
open arms, as was the prodigal son received."

There was a salvo of applause.  Men rose to their feet excitedly,
and with arms outstretched in Caron's direction they vociferously
implored him to listen to reason as uttered by the Incorruptible,
to repent him and to atone while there was yet time.  They loved
him, they swore in voices of thunder, each seeking to be heard
above his neighbour's din, and it would break their hearts to find
him guilty, yet find him guilty they must unless he chose the
course which this good patriot Maximilien pointed out to him.

La Boulaye stood pale but composed, his lips compressed, his keen
eyes alert.  Inwardly he was moved by this demonstration of goodwill,
this very storm of fraternity, but his purpose remained adamant, and
when at last the President's bell had tinkled his noisy judges into
silence, his voice rose clear and steady as he thanked them for
leaning to clemency on his behalf.

"Helas," he ended, "words cannot tell you how deeply I deplore that
it is a clemency of which I may not avail myself.  What I have done
I may not undo.  And so, Citizens, whilst I would still retain your
love and your sympathy, you must suffer me to let justice take its
course.  To delay would be but to waste your time the Nation's time."

"But this is rank defiance," roared Tinvillle, roused at last into
some semblance of his habitual bloodthirstiness.  "He whose heart
can be so insensible to our affections merits no clemency at this
bar."

And so the President turned with a shrug to his colleagues, and
the verdict was taken.  The finding was "Guilty," and the President
was on the point of passing sentence, when again Robespierre sprang
to his feet.  The Incorruptible's complexion looked sicklier than
its wont, for mortification had turned him green outright.  A gust
of passion swept through his soul, such as would have made another
man call for the death of this defiant youth who had withstood his
entreaties.  But such was Robespierre's wonderful command of self,
such was his power of making his inclinations subservient to the
ends he had in view that he had but risen to voice a fresh appeal.

He demanded that the sentence should be passed with the reservation
that the accused should have twenty-four hours for reflection.
Should he at the end of that time be disposed to tell them where
the ci-devant Vicomte d'Ombreval was to be found, let them reconsider
his case.  On the other hand, should he still continue obdurate by
the noon of to-morrow, then let the sentence be consummated.

There was some demur, but Robespierre swept it fiercely aside with
patriotic arguments.  La Boulaye was a stout servant of the Nation,
whom it must profit France to let live that he might serve her;
Ombreval was a base aristocrat, whose death all true Republicans
should aim at encompassing.  And so he won the day in the end, and
when the sentence of death was passed, it was passed with the
reservation that should the prisoner, upon reflection, be inclined
to show himself more loyal to France and the interests of the
Republic by telling them how Ornbreval might be recaptured, he
would find them still inclined to mercy and forgiveness.  Allowing
his eyes to stray round the Court at that moment, La Boulaye started
at sight of an unexpected face.  It was Mademoiselle de Bellecour,
deathly pale and with the strained, piteous look that haunts the
eyes of the mad.  He shivered at the thought of the peril to herself
in coming into that assembly; then, recovering himself, he turned
to his judges.

"Citizen-President, Citizens all, I thank you; but I should be
unappreciative of your kindness did I permit you to entertain false
hopes.  My purpose is unalterable."

"Take him away," the President commanded impatiently, and as they
removed him Mademoiselle crept from the Court, weeping softly in
her poignant grief, and realising that not so much for the
President's ear as for her own had La Boulaye uttered those words.
They were meant to fortify her and to give her courage with the
assurance that Ombreval would not be betrayed.  To give her courage!
Her lip was twisted into an oddly bitter smile at the reflection,
as she stepped into her cabriolet, and bade the driver return to
Choisy.  Caron was doing this for her.  He was casting away his
young, vigorous life, with all its wealth of promise, to the end
that her betrothed - the man whom he believed she loved - might be
spared.  The greatness, the nobility of the sacrifice overwhelmed
her.  She remembered the thoughts that in the past she had
entertained concerning this young revolutionist.  Never yet had
she been able to regard him as belonging to the same order of
beings as herself-not even when she had kissed his unconscious
lips that evening on the Ridge road.  An immeasurable gulf had
seemed to yawn between them - the gulf between her nobility and
his base origin.  And now, as her carriage trundled out of Paris
and took the dusty high road, she shuddered, and her cheeks burned
with shame at the memory of the wrong that by such thoughts she
had done him.  Was she, indeed, the nobler?  By accident of birth,
perhaps, but by nature proper he was assuredly the noblest man that
ever woman bore.

In the Place de la Revolution a gruesome engine they called the
guillotine was levelling all things, and fast establishing the
reign of absolute equality.  But with all the swift mowing of its
bloody scythe, not half so fast did it level men as Mademoiselle
de Bellecour's thoughts were doing that afternoon.

So marked was the disorder in her countenance when she reached
Choisy that even unobservant Ombreval whom continuous years of
self-complacency had rendered singularly obtuse - could not help
but notice it, and - fearing, no doubt, that this agitation might
in some way concern himself - he even went the length of questioning
her, his voice sounding the note of his alarm.

"It is nothing," she answered, in a dejected voice.  "At least,
nothing that need cause you uneasiness.  They have sentenced La
Boulaye to death," she announced, a spasm crossing her averted face.

He took a deep breath of relief.

"God knows they've sentenced innocent men enough.  It is high time
they began upon one another.  It augurs well-extremely well."

They were alone in Henriette's kitchen; the faithful woman was at
market.  Mademoiselle was warming herself before the fire.  Ombreval
stood by the window.  He had spent the time of her absence in the
care of his clothes, and he had contrived to dress himself with some
semblance of his old-time elegance which enhanced his good looks
and high-born air.

"You seem to utterly forget, Monsieur, the nature of the charge upon
which he has been arraigned," she said, in a tired voice.

"Why, no," he answered, and he smiled airily; "he was sufficiently
a fool to be lured by the brightest eyes in France into a service
for their mistress.  My faith!  He's not the first by many a thousand
whom a woman's soft glances have undone - "

"The degree in which you profit by the service he is doing those
bright eyes, appears singularly beneath the dignity of your notice."

"What a jester you are becoming, ma mie," he laughed and at the sound
she shuddered again and drew mechanically nearer to the fire as
though her shuddering was the result of cold.

"It is yet possible that he may not die," she said almost as if
speaking to herself.  "They have offered him his liberty, and his
reinstatement even - upon conditions."

"How interesting!" he murmured nonchalantly.  "They have an odd way
of dispensing justice."

"The conditions imposed are that he shall amend the wrong he has
done, and deliver up to the Convention the person of one ci-devant
Vicomte d'Ombreval."

"My God!"

It was a gasp of sudden dismay that broke from the young nobleman.
The colour swept out of his face, and his eyes dilated with horror.
Watching him Suzanne observed the sudden change, and took a fierce
joy in having produced it.

"It interests you more closely now, Monsieur?" she asked.

"Suzanne," he cried, coming a step nearer, and speaking eagerly;
"he knows my whereabouts.  He brought me here himself.  Are you mad,
girl, that you can sit there so composedly and tell me this?"

"What else would you have me do?" she inquired.

"Do?  Why, leave Choisy at once.  Come; be stirring.  In God's name,
girl, bethink you that we have not a moment to lose.  I know these
Republicans, and how far they are to be trusted.  This fellow would
betray me to save his skin with as little compunction as - "

"You fool!" she broke in, an undercurrent of fierce indignation
vibrating through her scorn.  "What are you saying?  He would betray
you?  He?"  She tossed her arms to Heaven, and burst into a laugh
of infinite derision.  "Have no fear of that, M. le Vicomte, for you
are dealing with a nature of a nobility that you cannot so much as
surmise.  If he were minded to betray you, why did he not do so
to-day, when they offered him his liberty in exchange for information
that would lead to your recapture?"

"But although he may have refused to-day," returned the Vicomte
frenziedly, "he may think better of it to-morrow-perhaps even tonight.
Ciel!  Think of the risk we run; already it may be too late.  Oh,
why," he demanded reproachfully, "why didn't you listen to me when,
days ago, I counselled flight?"

"Because it neither was, nor is, my intention to fly."

" What?" he cried, and, his jaw fallen and his eyes wide, he regarded
her.  Then suddenly he caught her by the arm and shook her roughly.
"Are you mad?" he cried, in a frenzy of anger and fear.  "Am I to
die like a dog that a scum of a Republican may save his miserable
neck?  Is this canaille of a revolutionist to betray me to his rabble
Tribunal?"

"Already have I told you that you need fear no betrayal."

"Need I not?" he sneered.  "Ma foi! but I know these ruffians.  There
is not an ounce of honour in the whole National Convention."

"Fool!" she blazed, rising and confronting him with an anger before
which he recoiled, appalled.  "Do you dare to stand there and prate
of honour - you?  Do you forget why he stood his trial?  Do you
forget why he is dying, and can you not see the vile thing that you
are doing in arguing flight, that you talk of honour thus, and deny
his claim to it?  Mon Dieu!  Your effrontery stifles me!  La Boulaye
was right when he said that with us honour is but a word - just so
much wind, and nothing more."

He stared at her in uncomprehending wonder.  He drew away another
step.  He accounted her mad, and, that he might humour her, he put
by his own fears for the moment - a wonderful unselfishness this in
the most nobly-born Vicomte d'Ombreval.

"My poor Suzanne," he murmured.  "Our trouble has demoralised your
understanding.  You take a false view of things.  You do not
apprehend the situation."

"In God's name, be silent!" she gasped.

"But the time is not one for silence," he returned.

"So I had thought," quoth she.  "Yet since you can be silent and
furtive in other matters, I beg that you will be silent in this
also.  You talk in vain, Monsieur, in any case.  For I am not minded
to leave Choisy.  If you urge me further I shall burn our passport."

And with that she left him, to seek the solitude of her own room.
In a passion of tears she flung herself upon the little bed, and
there she lay, a prey to such an anguish as had never touched her
life before.

And now, in that hour of her grief, it came to her - as the sun
pierces the mist - that she loved La Boulaye; that she had loved
him, indeed, since that night at Boisvert, although she had stifled
the very thought, and hidden it even from herself, as being unworthy
in one of her station to love a man so lowly-born as Caron.  But
now, on the eve of his death, the truth would no longer be denied.
It cried, perchance, the louder by virtue of the pusillanimity of
the craven below stairs in whose place Caron was to die; but anyhow,
it cried so loudly that it overbore the stern voice of the blood
that had hitherto urged her to exclude the sentiment from her heart.
No account now did she take of any difference in station.  Be she
nobler a thousand times, be he simpler a thousand times, the fact
remained that she was a woman, he a man, and beyond that she did
not seek to go.

Low indeed were the Lilies of France when a daughter of the race of
their upholders heeded them so little and the caste they symbolised.

Henriette came to her that afternoon, and, all ignorant of the
sources of her grief, she essayed to soothe and comfort her, in
which, at last, she succeeded.

In the evening Ombreval sent word that he wished to speak to her -
and that his need was urgent.  But she returned him the answer that
she would see him in the morning.  She was indisposed that evening,
she added, in apology.

And in the morning they met, as she had promised him.  Both pale,
although from different causes, and both showing signs of having
slept but little.  They broke their fast together and in silence,
which at last he ended by asking her whether the night had brought
her reflection, and whether such reflection had made her appreciate
their position and the need to set out at once.

"It needed no reflection to make me realise our position better
than I did yesterday," she answered.  "I had hoped that it would
have brought you to a different frame of mind.  But I am afraid that
it has not done so."

"I fail to see what change my frame of mind admits of," he answered
testily.

"Have you thought," she asked at last, and her voice was cold and
concentrated, "that this man is giving his life for you?"

"I have feared," he answered, with incredible callousness, "that to
save his craven skin he might elect to do differently at the last
moment."

She looked at him in a mighty wonder, her dark eyes open to their
widest, and looking black by the extreme dilation of the pupils.
So vast was her amazement at this unbounded egotism that it almost
overruled her disgust.

"You cast epithets about you and bestow titles with a magnificent
unconsciousness of how well they might fit you."

"Ah?  For example?"

"In calling this man a craven, you take no thought for the cowardice
that actuates you into hiding while he dies for you?"

"Cowardice?" he ejaculated.  Then a flush spread on his face.  "Ma
foi, Mademoiselle," said he, in a quivering voice, "your words betray
thoughts that would be scarcely becoming in the Vicomtesse d'Ombreval."

"That, Monsieur, is a point that need give you little thought.  I am
not likely to become the Vicomtesse."

He bestowed her a look of mingling wonder and anger.  Had he, indeed,
heard her aright?  Did her words imply that she disdained the honour?

"Surely," he gasped, voicing those doubts of his, "you do not mean
that you would violate your betrothal contract?  You do not - "

"I mean, Monsieur," she cut in, "that I will give myself to no man
I do not love."

"Your immodesty," said he, "falls in nothing short of the
extraordinary frame of mind that you appear to be developing in
connection with other matters.  We shall have you beating a drum
and screeching the Ca ira in the streets of Paris presently, like
Mademoiselle de Mericourt."

She rose from the table, her face very white, her hand pressing upon
her corsage.  A moment she looked at him.  Then:

"Do not let us talk of ourselves," she exclaimed at last.  "There is
a man in the Conciergerie who dies at noon unless you are
forthcoming before then to save him.  He himself will not betray
you because he -  No matter why, he will not.  Tell me, Monsieur,
how do you, who account yourself a man of honour above everything,
intend to deal with this situation?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Once he is dead and done with - provided that he does not first
betray me - I trust that, no longer having this subject to harp
upon, you will consent to avail yourself of our passport, and
accompany me out of France."

"Honour does not for instance, suggest to you that you should repair
to the Conciergerie and take the place that belongs to you, and
which another is filling?"

A sudden light of comprehension swept now into his face.

"At last I understand what has been in your mind since yesterday,
what has made you so odd in your words and manner.  You have thought
that it was perhaps my duty as a man of honour to go and effect the
rescue of this fellow.  But, my dear child, bethink you of what he
is, and of what I am.  Were he a gentleman - my equal - my course
would stand clearly defined.  I should not have hesitated a moment.
But this canaille!  Ma foi! let me beg of you to come to your senses.
The very thought is unworthy in you."

"I understand you," she answered him, very coldly.  "You use a
coward's arguments, and you have the effrontery to consider yourself
a man of honour - a nobleman.  I no longer marvel that there is a
revolution in France."

She stood surveying him for a moment, then she quietly left the room.
He stared after her.

"Woman, woman!" he sighed, as he set down his napkin and rose in his
turn.

His humour was one of pitying patience for a girl that had not the
wit to see that to ask him - the most noble d'Ombreval - to die that
La Boulaye might live was very much like asking him to sacrifice
his life to save a dog's.




CHAPTER XXIII

THE CONCIERGERIE


It wanted but a few minutes to noon as the condemned of the day were
being brought out of the Conciergerie to take their places in the
waiting tumbrils.  Fourteen they numbered, and there was a woman
amongst them as composed as any of the men.  She descended the
prison steps in nonchalant conversation with a witty young man of
some thirty years of age, who had been one of the ornaments of the
prerevolutionary salons.  Had the pair been on the point of mounting
a wedding coach they could not have shown themselves in better
spirits.

Aristocrats, too, were the remaining twelve, with one exception, and
if they had not known how to live, at least they could set a very
splendid example of how to die.  They came mostly in pairs, and the
majority of them emulating the first couple and treating the whole
matter as a pleasantry that rather bored them by the element of
coarseness introduced by the mob.  One or two were pale, and their
eyes wore a furtive, frightened look.  But they valiantly fought
down their fears, and for all that the hearts within them may have
been sick with horror, they contrived to twist a smile on to their
pale lips.  They did not lack for stout patterns of high bearing,
and in addition they had their own arrogant pride  -the pride that
had brought them at last to this pass - to sustain them in their
extremity.  Noblesse les obligeait.  The rabble, the canaille of
the new regime, might do what they would with their bodies, but
their spirits they could not break, nor overcome their indomitable
pride.  By the brave manner of their death it remained for them to
make amends for the atrocious manner of their lives, and such a
glamour did they shed upon themselves by the same brave manner,
that it compelled sympathy and admiration of those that beheld them,
and made upon humanity an impression deep enough to erase the former
impression left by their misdeeds.

Like heroes, like sainted martyrs, they died, these men who, through
generation after generation, had ground and crushed the people 'neath
the iron heel of tyranny and oppression, until the people had, of a
sudden, risen and reversed the position, going to excesses, in their
lately-awakened wrath, that were begotten of the excesses which for
centuries they had endured.

Last of this gallant and spruce company (for every man had donned
his best, and dressed himself with the utmost care) came Caron La
Boulaye.  He walked alone, for although their comrade in death, he
was their comrade in nothing else.  Their heads might lie together
in the sawdust of Sanson's basket, but while they lived, no contact
would they permit themselves, of body or of soul, with this
sans-culotte.  Had they known why he died, perhaps, they had shown
him fellowship.  But in their nescience of the facts, it would need
more than death to melt them into a kindness to a member of the
Convention, for death was the only thing they had in common, and
death, as we have seen, had not conquered them.

As he was about to pass out, a gaoler suddenly thrust forward a hand
to detain him, and almost simultaneously the door, which had swung
to behind the last of his death-fellows, re-opened to admit the
dapper figure of the Incorruptible.

He eyed Caron narrowly as he advanced into the hall, and at the
composure evident in the young man's bearing, his glance seemed to
kindle with admiration, for all that his lips remained cruel in
their tightened curves.

Caron gave him good-day with a friendly smile, and before Robespierre
could utter a word the young man was expressing his polite regrets
at having baulked him as he had done.

"I had a great object to serve, Maximilien," he concluded, "and my
only regret is that it should have run counter to your wishes.  I
owe you so much - everything in fact - that I am filled with shame
at the thought of how ill a return I am making you.  My only hope
is that by my death you will consider that I have sufficiently
atoned for my ingratitude."

"Fool!" croaked Robespierre, "you are sacrificing yourself for some
chimaera and the life you are saving is that of a very worthless
and vicious individual.  Of your ingratitude to me wee will not
speak.  But even now, in the eleventh hour, I would have you bethink
you of yourself."

He held out ]his hands to him, and entreaty was stamped upon
Robespierre's countenance to a degree which perhaps no man had yet
seen.  "Bethink you, cher Caron - " he began again.  But the young
man shook his head.

"My friend, my best of friends," he exclaimed, "I beg that you will
not make it harder for me.  I am resolved, and your entreaties do
but heighten my pain of thwarting your - the only pain that in this
supreme hour I am experiencing.  It is not a difficult thing to die,
Maximilien.  Were I to live, I must henceforth lead a life of
unsatisfied desire.  I must even hanker and sigh after a something
that is unattainable.  I die, and all this is extinguished with me.
At the very prospect my desires fade immeasurably.  Let me go in
peace, and with your forgiveness."

Robespierre eyed him a moment or two in astonishment.  Then he made
an abrupt gesture of impatience.

"Fool that you are!  It is suicide you are committing.  And for
what?  For a dream a shadow.  Is this like a man, Caron'?  Is this -
Will you be still, you animal?" he barked at a gaoler who had once
before touched him upon the arm.  "Do you not see that I am occupied?"

But the man leant forward, and said some words hurriedly into
Robespierre's ear, which cast the petulance out of his face and mind,
and caused him of a sudden to become very attentive.

"Ah?" he said at last.  Then, with a sudden briskness: "Let the
Citizen La Boulaye not go forth until I return," he bade the gaoler;
and to Caron he said: "You will have the goodness to await my return."

With that he turned and stepped briskly across the hall and through
the door, which the gaoler, all equality notwithstanding, hastened
to open for him with as much servility as ever the haughtiest
aristocrat had compelled.

Saving that single gaoler, La Boulaye was alone in the spacious hall
of the Conciergerie.  From without they heard the wild clamouring
and Ca-iraing of the mob.  Chafing at this fresh delay, which was
as a prolongation of his death-agony, La Boulaye was pacing to and
fro, the ring of his footsteps on the stone floor yielding a hollow,
sepulchral echo.

"Is he never returning?" he cried at last; and as if in answer to
his question, the drums suddenly began to roll, and the vociferations
of the rabble swelled in volume and grew shriller.  "What is that?"
he inquired.

The gaoler, on whose dirty face some measure of surprise was
manifested, approached the little grating that overlooked the yard
and peered out.

"Sacrenom!" he swore.  "The tumbrils are moving.  They have left
you behind, Citizen."

But La Boulaye gathered no encouragement, such as the gaoler thought
he might, from that contingency.  He but imagined that it was
Robespierre's wish to put him back for another day in the hope that
he might still loosen his tongue.  An oath of vexation broke from
him, and he stamped his foot impatiently upon the floor.

Then the door opened suddenly, and Robespierre held it whilst into
the room came a woman, closely veiled, whose tall and shapely figure
caused the young Deputy's breath to flutter.  The Incorruptible
followed her, and turning to the gaoler:

"Leave us," he commanded briskly.

And presently, when those three stood alone, the woman raised her
veil and disclosed the face he had expected - the beautiful face of
Suzanne de Bellecour, but, alas! woefully pale and anguished of
expression.  She advanced a step towards Caron, and then stood still,
encountering his steadfast, wonder-struck gaze, and seeming to
falter.  With a sob, at last she turned to Maximilien, who had
remained a pace or two behind.

"Tell him, Monsieur," she begged.

Robespierre started out of his apparent abstraction.  He peered at
her with his short-sighted eyes, and from her to Caron.  Then he
came forward a step and cleared his throat, rather as a trick of
oratory than to relieve any huskiness.

"To put it briefly, my clear Caron," said he, "the Citoyenne here
has manifested a greater solicitude for your life than you did
yourself, and she has done me the twofold service of setting it
in my power to punish an enemy, and to preserve a friend from a
death that was very imminent.  In the eleventh hour she came to me
to make terms for your pardon.  She proposed to deliver up to me
the person of the ci-devant Vicomte d'Ombreval provided that I
should grant you an unconditional pardon.  You can imagine, my
good Caron, with what eagerness I agreed to her proposal, and with
what pleasure I now announce to you that you are free."

"Free!" gasped La Boulaye, his eyes travelling fearfully from
Robespierre to Mademoiselle, and remaining riveted upon the latter
as though he were attempting to penetrate into the secrets of her
very soul.

"Practically free," answered the Incorruptible.  "You may leave
the Conciergerie when you please, thought I shall ask you to remain
at your lodging in the Rue Nationale until this Ombreval is actually
taken.  Once he has been brought to Paris, I shall send you your
papers that you may leave France, for, much though I shall regret
your absence, I think that it will be wiser for you to make your
fortune elsewhere after what has passed."

La Boulaye took a step in Suzanne's direction.

"You have done this?" he cried, in a quivering voice.  "You have
betrayed the man to whom you were betrothed?"

"Do not use that word, Monsieur," she cried, with a shudder.  "My
action cannot be ranked among betrayals.  He would have let you go
to the guillotine in his stead.  He had not the virtue to come
forward, for all that he knew that you must die if he did not.  On
the contrary, such a condition of things afforded him amusement,
matter to scorn and insult you with.  He would have complacently
allowed a dozen men to have gone to the guillotine that his own
worthless life might have been spared.

"But he was your betrothed!" La Boulaye protested.

"True!" she made answer;  "but I had to choose between the man it
had been arranged I should marry and the man I lowed."  A flush
crimsoned her cheek, and her voice sank almost to a whisper.  "And
to save the man I love I have delivered up Ombreval."

"Suzanne "

The name burst from his lips in a shout of wonder and of joy
ineffable.  In a stride he seemed to cover the distance between
them, and he caught her to him as the door slammed on the
discreetly departing Robespierre.





End of Project Gutenberg's Trampling of the Lilies, by Rafael Sabatini


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