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Lazarre
by Mary Hartwell Catherwood
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When my master was on shipboard he enjoyed the sea even less than the free air of these broad stretches; for while he could cast an eye about and approve of something under the sky—perhaps a church steeple, or the color of a thatch which filled me with joy—he could not approve of anything aboard a ship. Indeed, it was pity to have no delight in cleaving the water, and in the far-off spouting of whales, to say nothing of a living world that rides in undulations. For my part, I loved even the creaking of a ship, and the uncertainty of ever coming to port, and the anxiety lest a black flag should show above every sail we passed. The slow progress of man from point to point in his experience, while it sometimes enrages, on the whole interests me; and the monotony of a voyage has a sweetness like the monotony of daily bread. I looked out of the grenier window upon the high road, and upon the June sun in the act of setting; for we had supped and gone early to rest after a hard day. Post horses were stamping underneath, all ready for some noble count who intended to make another stage of his journey before nightfall.

Small obtrusive cares, such as the desire that my shoes should last well into Paris, mingled with joy in the smell of the earth at sunset, and the looking forward to seeing Madame de Ferrier again. I wrapped myself every night in the conviction that I should see her, and more freely than I had ever seen her in America.

There was a noise of horses galloping, and the expected noble count arrived; being no other than De Chaumont with his post coaches. He stepped out of the first, and Ernestine stepped out of the second, carrying Paul. She took him to his mother. The door flew open, and the woman I adored received her child and walked back and forth with him. Annabel leaned out while the horses were changed. I saw Miss Chantry, and my heart misgave me, remembering her brother's prolonged lament at separation from her.

He was, I trusted, already shut into one of those public beds which are like cupboards; for the day had begun for us at three of the morning. But if he chose to show himself, and fall upon De Chaumont for luxurious conveyance to Paris, I was determined that Skenedonk and I should not appear. I wronged my poor master, who told me afterwards he watched through a crack of the cupboard bed with his heart in his mouth.

The pause was a very short one, for horses are soon changed. Madame de Ferrier threw a searching eye over the landscape. It was a mercy she did not see the hole in the grenier, through which I devoured her, daring for the first time to call her secretly—Eagle—the name that De Chaumont used with common freedom! Now how strange is this—that one woman should be to a man the sum of things! And what was her charm I could not tell, for I began to understand there were many beautiful women in the world, of all favors, and shapely perhaps as the one of my love. Only her I found drawing the soul out of my body; and none of the others did more than please the eye like pictures.

The carriages were gone with the sun, and it was no wonder all fell gray over the world.

De Chaumont had sailed behind us, and he would be in Paris long before us.

I had first felt some uneasiness, and dread of being arrested on our journey; though our Breton captain—who was a man of gold that I would travel far to see this day, if I could, even beneath the Atlantic, where he and his ship now float—obtained for us at Dieppe, on his own pledge, a kind of substitute for passports. We were a marked party, by reason of the doctor's lameness and Skenedonk's appearance. The Oneida, during his former sojourn in France, had been encouraged to preserve the novelty of his Indian dress. As I had nothing to give him in its place it did not become me to find fault. And he would have been more conspicuous with a cocked hat on his bare red scalp, and knee breeches instead of buckskins. Peasants ran out to look at him, and in return we looked at them with a good will.

We reached the very barriers of Paris, however, without falling into trouble. And in the streets were so many men of so many nations that Skenedonk's attire seemed no more bizarre than the turbans of the east or the white burnous of the Arab.

It was here that Skenedonk took his role as guide, and stalked through narrow crooked streets, which by comparison made New York, my first experience of a city, appear a plain and open village.

I do not pretend to know anything about Paris. Some spots in the mystic labyrinth stand out to memory, such as that open space where the guillotine had done its work, the site of the Bastille, and a long street leading from the place of the Bastille, parallel with the river; and this I have good reason to remember. It is called Rue St. Antoine. I learned well, also, a certain prison, and a part of the ancient city called Faubourg St. Germain. One who can strike obscure trails in the wilderness of nature, may blunt his fine instincts on the wilderness of man.

This did not befall the Indian. He took a bee line upon his old tracks, and when the place was sighted we threaded what seemed to be a rivulet between cliffs, for a moist depressed street-center kept us straddling something like a gutter, while with outstretched hands we could brace the opposite walls.

We entered a small court where a gruff man, called a concierge, having a dirty kerchief around his head, received us doubtfully. He was not the concierge of Skenedonk's day. We showed him coin; and Doctor Chantry sat down in his chair and looked at him with such contempt that his respect increased.

The house was clean, and all the stairs we climbed to the roof were well scoured. From the mansard there was a beautiful view of Paris, with forest growth drawing close to the heart of the city. For on that side of the world men dare not murder trees, but are obliged to respect and cherish them.

My poor master stretched himself on a bed by the stooping wall, and in disgust of life and great pain of feet, begged us to order a pan of charcoal and let him die the true Parisian death when that is not met on the scaffold. Skenedonk said to me in Iroquois that Doctor Chantry was a sick old woman who ought to be hidden some place to die, and it was his opinion that the blessing of the church would absolve us. We could then make use of the pouch of coin to carry on my plans.

My plans were more ridiculous than Skenedonk's. His at least took sober shape, while mine were still the wild emotions of a young man's mind. Many an hour I had spent on the ship, watching the foam speed past her side, trying to foresee my course like hers in a trackless world. But it seemed I must wait alertly for what destiny was making mine.

We paid for our lodgings, three commodious rooms, though in the mansard; my secretary dragging himself to sit erect with groans and record the increasing debt of myself and my servant.

"Come, Skenedonk," I then said. "Let us go down to the earth and buy something that Doctor Chantry can eat."

That benevolent Indian was quite as ready to go to market as to abate human nuisances. And Doctor Chantry said he could almost see English beef and ale across the channel; but translated into French they would, of course, be nothing but poulet and sour wine. I pillowed his feet with a bag of down which he had kicked off his bed, and Skenedonk and I lingered along the paving as we had many a time lingered through the woods. There were book stalls a few feet square where a man seemed smothered in his own volumes; and victual shops where you could almost feed yourself for two or three sous; and people sitting outdoors drinking wine, as if at a general festival. I thought Paris had comfort and prosperity—with hereditary kings overthrown and an upstart in their place. Yet the streets were dirty, with a smell of ancientness that sickened me.

We got a loaf of bread as long as a staff, a pat of butter in a leaf, and a bottle of wine. My servant, though unused to squaw labor, took on himself the porterage of our goods, and I pushed from street to street, keenly pleased with the novelty, which held somewhere in its volatile ether the person of Madame de Ferrier.

Skenedonk blazed our track with his observant eye, and we told ourselves we were searching for Doctor Chantry's beef. Being the unburdened hunter I undertook to scan cross places, and so came unexpectedly upon the Rue St. Antoine, as a man told me it was called, and a great hurrahing that filled the mouths of a crowd blocking the thoroughfare.

"Long live the emperor!" they shouted.

The man who told me the name of the street, a baker all in white, with his tray upon his head, objected contemptuously.

"The emperor is not in Paris: he is in Boulogne."

"You never know where he is—he is here—there—everywhere!" declared another workman, in a long dark garment like a hunting-shirt on the outside of his small clothes.

"Long live the emperor!—long live the emperor!"

I pushed forward as two or three heavy coaches checked their headlong speed, and officers parted the crowd.

"There he is!" admitted the baker behind me. Something struck me in the side, and there was Bellenger the potter, a man I thought beyond the seas in America. His head as I saw it that moment put the emperor's head out of my mind. He had a knife, and though he had used the handle, I foolishly caught it and took it from him. With all his strength he then pushed me so that I staggered against the wheel of a coach.

"Assassin!" he screamed; and then Paris fell around my ears.

If anybody had seen his act nobody refrained from joining in the cry.

"Assassin! Assassin! To the lamp post with him!"

I stood stupefied and astonished as an owl blinking in the sunshine, and two guards held my collar. The coaches lashed away, carrying the man of destiny—as I have since been told he called himself—as rapidly as possible, leaving the victim of destiny to be bayed at by that many-headed dog, the mongrel populace of Paris.



IV

The idiot boy somewhere upon the hills of Lake George, always in a world of fog which could not be discovered again, had often come to my mind during my journeys, like a self that I had shed and left behind. But Bellenger was a cipher. I forgot him even at the campfire. Now here was this poor crazy potter on my track with vindictive intelligence, the day I set foot in Paris. Time was not granted even to set the lodging in order. He must have crossed the ocean with as good speed as Doctor Chantry and Skenedonk and I. He may have spied upon us from the port, through the barriers, and even to our mansard. At any rate he had found me in a crowd, and made use of me to my downfall: and I could have knocked my stupid head on the curb as I was haled away.

One glimpse of Skenedonk I caught while we marched along Rue St. Antoine, the gendarmes protecting me from the crowd. He thought I was going to the scaffold, where many a strapping fellow had gone in the Paris of his youth, and fought to reach me, laying about him with his loaf of bread. Skenedonk would certainly trail me, and find a way to be of use, unless he broke into trouble as readily as I had done.

My guards crossed the river in the neighborhood of palaces, and came by many windings to a huge pile rearing its back near a garden place, and there I was turned over to jailers and darkness. The entrance was unwholesome. A man at a table opened a tome which might have contained all the names in Paris. He dipped his quill and wrote by candlelight.

"Political offender or common criminal?" he inquired.

"Political offender," the officer answered.

"What is he charged with?"

"Trying to assassinate the emperor in his post-chaise."

"La, la, la!" the recorder grunted. "Another attempt! And gunpowder put in the street to blow the emperor up only last week. Good luck attends him:—only a few windows broken and some common people killed. Taken in the act, was this fellow?"

"With the knife in his hand."

"What name?" the recorder inquired.

I had thought on the answer, and told him merely that my name was Williams.

"Eh, bien, Monsieur Veeleeum. Take him to the east side among the political offenders," said the master-jailer to an assistant or turnkey.

"But it's full," responded the turnkey.

"Shove him in some place."

They searched me, and the turnkey lighted another candle. The meagerness of my output was beneath remark. When he had led me up a flight of stone steps he paused and inquired,

"Have you any money?"

"No."

"So much the worse for you."

"What is the name of this prison?" I asked.

"Ste. Pelagie," he answered. "If you have no money, and expect to eat here, you better give me some trinket to sell for you."

"I have no trinkets to give you."

He laughed.

"Your shirt or breeches will do."

"Are men shut up here to starve?"

The jailer shrugged.

"The bread is very bad, and the beans too hard to eat. We do not furnish the rations; it is not our fault. The rule here is nothing buys nothing. But sleep in your breeches while you can. You will soon be ready enough to eat them."

I was ready enough to eat them then, but forbore to let him know it. The whole place was damp and foul. We passed along a corridor less than four feet wide, and he unlocked a cell from which a revolting odor came. There was no light except what strained through a loophole under the ceiling. He turned the key upon me, and I held my nose. Oh, for a deep draught of the wilderness!

There seemed to be an iron bed at one side, with a heap of rags on top. I resolved to stand up all night before trusting myself to that couch. The cell was soon explored. Two strides in each direction measured it. The stone walls were marked or cut with names I could dimly see.

I braced my back against the door and watched the loophole where a gray hint of daylight told that the sun must be still shining. This faded to a blotch in the thick stone, and became obliterated.

Tired by the day's march, and with a taste of clean outdoor air still in my lungs, I chose one of the two corners not occupied by the ill odored bed, sat down, and fell asleep, dropping my cares. A grating of the lock disturbed me. The jailer pushed a jug of water into the room, and replaced his bolts.

Afterwards I do not remember anything except that the stone was not warm, and my stomach craved, until a groan in my ear stabbed sleep. I sat up awake in every nerve. There was nobody in the cell with me. Perhaps the groan had come from a neighboring prisoner.

Then a faint stir of covering could be heard upon the bed.

I rose and pressed as far as I could into my corner. No beast of the wilderness ever had such terror for me as the unknown thing that had been my cell-mate half a night without my knowledge.

Was a vampire—a demon—a witch—a ghost locked in there with me?

It moaned again, so faintly, that compassion instantly got the better of superstition.

"Who is there?" I demanded; as if the knowledge of a name would cure terror of the suffering thing naming itself.

I got no answer, and taking my resolution in hand, moved toward the bed, determined to know what housed with me. The jug of water stood in the way, and I lifted it with instinctive answer to the groan.

The creature heard the splash, and I knew by its mutter what it wanted. Groping darkly, to poise the jug for an unseen mouth, I realized that something helpless to the verge of extinction lay on the bed, and I would have to find the mouth myself or risk drowning it. I held the water on the bed-rail with my right hand, groped with the other, and found a clammy, death-cold forehead, a nose and cavernous cheeks, an open and fever roughened mouth. I poured water on my handkerchief and bathed the face. That would have been my first desire in extreme moments. The poor wretch gave a reviving moan, so I felt emboldened to steady the jug and let drop by drop gurgle down its throat.

Forgetting the horror of the bed I sat there, repeating at intervals this poor ministration until the porthole again dawned, and blackness became the twilight of day.

My cell-mate could not see me. I doubt if he ever knew that a hand gave him water. His eyes were meaningless, and he was so gaunt that his body scarcely made a ridge on the bed.

Some beans and mouldy bread were put in for my rations. The turnkey asked me how I intended to wash myself without basin or ewer or towels, and inquired further if he could be of service in disposing of my shirt or breeches.

"What ails this man?"

He shrugged, and said the prisoner had been wasting with fever.

"You get fever in Ste. Pelagie," he added, "especially when you eat the prison food. This man ought to be sent to the infirmary, but the infirmary is overflowing now."

"Who is he?"

"A journalist, or poet, or some miserable canaille of that sort. He will soon be out of your way." Our guard craned over to look at him. "Oui—da! He is a dying man! A priest must be sent to him soon. I remember he demanded one several days ago."

But that day and another dragged through before the priest appeared. I sent out my waistcoat, and got a wretched meal, and a few spoonfuls of wine that I used to moisten the dying man's lips. His life may or may not have been prolonged; but out of collapse he opened his mouth repeatedly and took the drops. He was more my blessing than I was his.

For I had an experience which has ever since given me to know the souls of prisoners.

The first day, in spite of the cell's foulness, I laughed secretly at jailers and felt at peace, holding the world at bay. I did not then know that Ste. Pelagie was the tomb of the accused, where more than one prisoner dragged out years without learning why he was put there. I was not brought to any trial or examination.

But gradually an uneasiness which cannot be imagined by one who has not felt it, grew upon me. I wanted light. The absence of it was torture! Light—to vivify the stifling air, which died as this man was dying—as I should die—in blinding mirk!

Moisture broke out all over my body, and cold dew stood on my forehead. How could human lungs breathe the midnight of blackening walls? The place was hot with the hell of confinement. I said over and over—"O God, Thou art Light!—in Thee is no darkness at all!"

This anguish seemed a repetition of something I had endured once before. The body and spirit remembered, though the mind had no register. I clawed at the walls. If I slept, it was to wake gasping, fighting upward with both hands.

The most singular phase was that I reproached myself for not soaking up more sun in the past. Oh, how much light was going to waste over wide fields and sparkling seas! The green woods, the green grass—they had their fill of sun, while we two perished!

I remembered creeping out of glare under the shadow of rocks, and wondered how I could have done it! If I ever came to the sun again I would stretch myself and roll from side to side, to let it burn me well! How blessed was the tan we got in summer from steeping in light!

Looking at my cell-mate I could have rent the walls.

"We are robbed," I told his deaf ears. "The light, poured freely all over the city, the light that belongs to you and me as much as to anybody, would save you! I wish I could pick you up and carry you out where the sun would shine through your bones! But let us be glad, you and I, that there is a woman who is not buried like a whitening sprout under this weight of stone! She is free, to walk around and take the light in her gray eyes and the wind in her brown hair. I swear to God if I ever come out of this I will never pass so much as a little plant prostrate in darkness, without helping it to the light."

It was night by the loophole when our turnkey threw the door open. I heard the priest and his sacristan joking in the corridor before they entered carrying their sacred parcels. The priest was a doddering old fellow, almost deaf, for the turnkey shouted at his ear, and dim of sight, for he stooped close to look at the dying man, who was beyond confession.

"Bring us something for a temporary altar," he commanded the turnkey, who stood candle in hand.

The turnkey gave his light to the sacristan, and taking care to lock us in, hurried to obey.

I measured the lank, ill-strung assistant, more an overgrown boy than a man of brawn, but expanded around his upper part by the fullness of a short white surplice. He had a face cheerful to silliness.

The turnkey brought a board supported by crosspieces; and withdrew, taking his own candle, as soon as the church's tapers were lighted.

The sacristan placed the temporary altar beside the foot of the bed, arrayed it, and recited the Confiteor.

Then the priest mumbled the Misereatur and Indulgentiam.

I had seen extreme unction administered as I had seen many another office of the church in my dim days, with scarcely any attention. Now the words were terribly living. I knew every one before it rolled off the celebrant's lips. Yet under that vivid surface knowledge I carried on as vivid a sequence of thought.

The priest elevated the ciborium, repeating,

"Ecce Agnus Dei."

Then three times—"Domine, non sum dignus."

I heard and saw with exquisite keenness, yet I was thinking,

"If I do not get out of here he will have to say those words over me."

He put the host in the parted mouth of the dying, and spoke—

"Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vetam aeternam."

I thought how easy it would be to strip the loose surplice over the sacristan's head. There was a swift clip of the arm around your opponent's neck which I had learned in wrestling, that cut the breath off and dropped him as limp as a cloth. It was an Indian trick. I said to myself it would be impossible to use that trick on the sacristan if he left the cell behind the deaf old priest. I did not want to hurt him. Still, he would have a better chance to live after I had squeezed his neck, than I should have if I did not squeeze it.

The priest took out of a silver case a vessel of oil, and a branch. He sprinkled holy water with the branch, upon the bed, the walls, the sacristan and me, repeating,

"Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor."

While I bent my head to the drops, I knew it was impossible to choke down the sacristan, strip off his surplice, invest myself with it and get out of the cell before priest or turnkey looked back. The sacrilege of such an attack would take all the strength out of me.

The priest said the Exaudi nos, exhorted the insensible figure, then recited the Credo and the Litany, the sacristan responding.

Silence followed.

I knew the end was approaching. My hands were as cold as the nerveless one which would soon receive the candle. I told myself I should be a fool to attempt it. There was not one chance in a hundred. I should not squeeze hard enough. The man would yell. If I were swift as lightning and silent as force, they would take me in the act. It was impossible. But people who cannot do impossible things have to perish.

The priest dipped his thumb in oil, and with it crossed the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and hands of him who was leaving the use of these five senses and instruments of evil.

Then he placed a lighted candle in the stiffened fingers, and ended with—

"Accipe lampadem ardentem custodi unctionem tuam."

I said to myself—"I cannot do it! Nobody could! It is impossible!"

The sacristan now began to strip the altar and pack all the sacred implements into their cases: preparing his load in the center of the room.

The man was dead.

The sacristan's last office was to fix the two lighted altar candles on the head and foot railing of the bed. They showed the corpse in its appalling stillness, and stood like two angels, with the pit between them.

The sacristan rapped upon the door to let the turnkey know it was time to unlock.

I drew the thick air to my lung depths. The man who would breathe no more was not as rigid as I stood. But there was no use in attempting such a thing!

The turnkey opened a gap of doorway through which he could see the candles and the bed. He opened no wider than the breadth of the priest, who stepped out as the sacristan bent for the portables.

There was lightning in my arm as it took the sacristan around the neck and let him limp upon the stones. The tail of the priest's cassock was scarcely through the door.

"Eh bien! sacristan," called the turnkey. "Make haste with your load. I have this death to report. He is not so pretty that you must stand gazing at him all night!"

I had the surplice over the sacristan's head and over mine, and backed out with my load, facing the room.

If my jailer had thrust his candle at me, if the priest had turned to speak, if the man in the cell had got his breath before the bolt was turned, if my white surplice had not appeared the principal part of me in that black place—.

It was impossible!—but I had done it.



V

The turnkey's candle made a star-point in the corridor. He walked ahead of the priest and I walked behind. We descended to the entrance where the man with the big book sat taking stock of another wretch between officers. I saw as I shaded my face with the load, that his inattentive eye dwelt on my surplice, which would have passed me anywhere in France.

"Good-night, monsieur the cure," said the turnkey, letting us through the outer door.

"Good-night, good-night," the priest responded.

"And to you, sacristan."

"Good-night," I muttered, and he came a step after me. The candle was yet in his hand, showing him my bulk, and perhaps the small clothes he had longed to vend. I expected hue and cry, but walked on after the priest, and heard the heavy doors jar, and breathed again.

Hearkening behind and in front, on the right and the left, I followed him in the direction of what I have since learned to call the Jardin des Plantes. It is near Ste. Pelagie.

The priest, wearied by his long office, spoke only once about the darkness; for it was a cloudy night; and did not attend to my muttered response. I do not know what sympathy the excellent old man might have shown to an escaped prisoner who had choked his sacristan, and I had no mind to test it. He turned a corner, and with the wall angle between us, I eased down the sacred furniture, drew off the surplice and laid that upon it, and took to my heels up the left hand street; for the guard had brought me across the river to Ste. Pelagie.

I had no hat, and the cut of my coat showed that I had lost a waistcoat. Avoiding the little circles of yellowness made by lamp posts, I reached without mishap of falling into the hands of any patrol, a bridge crossing to an island point, and from the other side of the point to the opposite shore. At intervals along the parapet dim lights were placed.

Compared to Lake George, which wound like a river, and the mighty St. Lawrence as I remembered it, the Seine was a narrow stream. Some boats made constellations on the surface. The mass of island splitting it into two branches was almost the heart of Paris. There were other foot passengers on the bridge, and a gay carriage rolled by. I did not see any gendarmes, and only one foot passenger troubled me.

I was on the bridge above the left arm of the river when an ear trained in the woods caught his footstep, pausing as mine paused, and hurrying as mine hurried. If the sacristan had been found in Ste. Pelagie a pursuer would not track me so delicately, and neither would Skenedonk hold back on the trail. I stopped in the shade when we two were alone on the second span, and wheeled, certain of catching my man under the flare of a cresset. I caught him, and knew that it was Bellenger following me.

My mind was made up in an instant. I walked back to settle matters with him, though slaughter was far from my thoughts. I had done him no harm; but he was my enemy, and should be forced to let me alone.

The fellow who had appeared so feeble at his cabin that I opened the door for him, and so poor-spirited that his intellect claimed pity, stood up as firm as a bear at my approach, and met my eyes with perfect understanding.

Not another thing do I remember. The facts are simply these: I faced Bellenger; no blows passed; my mind flashed blank with the partial return of that old eclipse which has fallen upon me after strong excitement, in more than one critical moment. The hiatus seems brief when I awake though it may have lasted hours. I know the eclipse has been upon me, like the wing-shadow of eternity; but I have scarcely let go of time.

I could not prove that Bellenger dragged me to the parapet and threw me into the river. If I had known it I should have laughed at his doing so, for I could swim like a fish, through or under water, and sit on the lake bottom holding my breath until Skenedonk had been known to dive for me.

When next I sensed anything at all it was a feeling of cold.

I thought I was lying in one of the shallow runlets that come into Lake George, and the pebbles were an uneasy bed, chilling my shoulders. I was too stiff to move, or even turn my head to lift out of water the ear on which it rested. But I could unclose my eyelids, and this is what I saw:—a man naked to his waist, half reclining against a leaning slab of marble, down which a layer of water constantly moved. His legs were clothed, and his other garments lay across them. His face had sagged in my direction. There was a deep slash across his forehead, and he showed his teeth and his glassy eyes at the joke.

Beyond this silent figure was a woman as silent. The ridge of his body could not hide the long hair spread upon her breast. I considered the company and the moisture into which I had fallen with unspeakable amazement. We were in a low and wide stone chamber with a groined ceiling, supported by stone pillars. A row of lamps was arranged above us, so that no trait or feature might escape a beholder.

That we were put there for show entered my mind slowly and brought indignation. To be so helpless and so exposed was an outrage against which I struggled in nightmare impotence; for I was bare to my hips also, and I knew not what other marks I carried beside those which had scarred me all my conscious life.

Now in the distance, and echoing, feet descended stairs.

I knew that people were coming to look at us, and I could not move a muscle in resentment.

I heard their voices, fringed with echoes, before either speaker came within my vision.

"This is the mortuary chapel of the Hotel Dieu?"

"Yes, monsieur the marquis, this is the mortuary chapel."

"Um! Cheerful place!"

"Much more cheerful than the bottom of the river, monsieur the marquis."

"No doubt. Never empty, eh?"

"I have been a servant of the Hotel Dieu fourteen years, monsieur the marquis, and have not yet seen all the marble slabs vacant."

"You receive the bodies of the drowned?"

"And place them where they may be seen and claimed."

"How long do you keep them?"

"That depends. Sometimes their friends seek them at once. We have kept a body three months in the winter season, though he turned very green."

"Are all in your present collection gathering verdure?"

"No, monsieur. We have a very fresh one, just brought in; a big stalwart fellow, with the look of the country about him."

"Small clothes?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Buckle shoes?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Hair light and long?"

"The very man, monsieur the marquis."

"I suppose I shall have to look at him. If he had to make himself unpleasant he should have stayed at the chateau where his mother could identify him. He is one of my peasants, come to Paris to see life! I must hold my nose and do it."

"It is not necessary to hold the nose, monsieur."

"After fourteen years, perhaps not."

I heard the snap of a snuff-box lid as the marquis fortified himself.

My agony for the woman who was to be looked at turned so sharp that I uttered a click in my throat. But they passed her, and merely glanced at my next neighbor.

The old marquis encountered my fixed stare. Visibly it shocked through him. He was all gray, and curled and powdered, instead of being clipped close and smooth in the style of the Empire; an exquisite, thin-featured man, high of nose and eyebrows, not large, but completely turned out as ample man and bright spirit. The slightest fragrance of scent was in his presence, and a shade of snuff on his upper lip appeared fine supercilious hairs.

I did not look at the servant of the Hotel Dieu. The old noble and I held each other with unflinching gaze.

"Do you recognize him, monsieur?"

"I do," the old noble deliberately answered. "I should know this face anywhere. Have him taken to my carriage directly."

"Your carriage, monsieur! He can be sent—"

"I said take him to my carriage."

"It shall be done. His eyes have opened since he came in. But they sometimes look as if they would speak! Their faces change constantly. This other man who is grinning to-night may be quite serious to-morrow."

"And by the end of the month sorry enough, eh?"

The servant of the Hotel Dieu tittered amiably, and I knew he was going for help to lift me off the slab, when he uttered a cry of surprise. The old marquis wheeled sharply, and said:

"Eh, bien! Is this another of them, promenading himself?"

I felt the Oneida coming before his silent moccasins strode near me. He did not wait an instant, but dragged me from the wet and death cold marble to the stone floor, where he knelt upon one knee and supported me. O Skenedonk! how delicious was the warmth of your healthy body—how comforting the grip of your hunter arms! Yet there are people who say an Indian is like a snake! I could have given thanks before the altar at the side of the crypt, which my fixed eyes encountered as he held me. The marble dripped into its gutter as if complaining of my escape.

"Oh, my dear friend!" cried the servant.

Skenedonk answered nothing at all.

"Who is this gentleman," the marquis inquired, "that seems to have the skin of a red German sausage drawn tight over his head?"

"This is an American Indian, monsieur the marquis."

"An Indian?"

"Yes, monsieur; but he understands French."

"Thank you for the hint. It may save me from having a German sausage drawn tight over my head. I have heard that American Indians practice giving their friends that appearance. How do you know he understands French?"

"I think it is the man who used to come to the Hotel Dieu years ago, when I was new in its service. He was instructed in religion by churchmen in Paris, and learned the language. Oh, my dear monsieur—I think it is Iroquois that he is called—I am aware the Americans have different manners, but here we do not go into the mortuary chapel of the Hotel Dieu and disarrange the bodies without permission!"

Skenedonk's eyes probably had less of the fawn in them than usual. I felt the guttural sound under his breast.

"I have found him, and now I will take him."

"But that is the marquis' servant!"

"The marquis is his servant!"

"Oh, my dear monsieur the Indian! You speak of a noble of France, the Marquis du Plessy! Be satisfied," pleaded the servitor of the Hotel Dieu, "with this other body, whom no one is likely to claim! I may be permitted to offer you that, if you are determined—though it may cost me my place!—and after fourteen years' service! It you would appease him, monsieur the marquis—though I do not know whether they ever take money."

"I will appease him," said the old noble. "Go about your errand and be quick."

The servant fled up the stairs.

"This man is not dead, my friend," said the Marquis du Plessy.

Skenedonk knew it.

"But he will not live long in this cursed crypt," the noble added. "You will get into my carriage with him, we will take him and put him in hot sheets, and see what we can do for him."

I could feel Skenedonk's antagonism giving way in the relaxing of his muscles.

But maintaining his position the Oneida asserted:

"He is not yours!"

"He belongs to France."

"France belongs to him!" the Indian reversed.

"Eh, eh! Who is this young man?"

"The king."

"We have no king now, my friend. But assuming there is a man who should be king, how do you know this is the one?"

If Skenedonk made answer in words it was lost to me. The spirit sank to submergence in the body, I remember combating motion like a drugged person.

Torpor and prostration followed the recurring eclipse as that followed excitement and shock. I was not ill; and gathered knowledge of the environment, which was different from anything I had before experienced. De Chaumont's manor was a wilderness fortress compared to this private hotel of an ancient family in the heart of Paris.

I lay in a bed curtained with damask, and looked through open glass doors at a garden. Graveled walks, bosky trees and masses of flowers, plats of grass where arbored seats were placed, stretched their vista to a wall clothed in ivy, which proved to be the end of a chapel. For high over the curtain of thick green shone a rose window. The afternoon sun laid bare its fine staining, but only in the darkness when the church was illuminated and organ music rolled from it, did the soul of that window appear struck through with light.

Strange servants and Doctor Chantry by glimpses, and the old noble and the Oneida almost constantly, were about me. Doctor Chantry looked complacently through the curtains and wished me good-morning. I smiled to see that he was lodged as he desired, and that his clothes had been renewed in fine cloth, with lawn to his neck and silk stockings for his shrunk calves. My master was an elderly beau; and I gave myself no care that he had spent his money—the money of the expedition—on foppery.

Skenedonk also had new toggery in scarfs and trinkets which I did not recognize, and his fine buckskins were cleaned. The lackeys appeared subservient to him, and his native dignity was never more impressive than in that great house. I watched my host and my servant holding interviews, which Skenedonk may have considered councils, on the benches in the garden, and from which my secretary, the sick old woman, seemed excluded. But the small interest of seeing birds arrive on branches, and depart again, sufficed me; until an hour when life rose strongly.

I sat up in bed, and finding myself alone, took advantage of an adjoining room where a marble bath was set in the floor. Returning freshened from the plunge, with my sheet drawn around me, I found one of those skilled and gentle valets who seem less men than he-maids.

"I am to dress monsieur when monsieur is ready," said this person.

"I am ready now," I answered, and he led me into a suite of rooms and showed me an array which took my breath: dove-colored satin knee breeches, and a long embroidered coat of like color, a vest sprigged with rosebuds, cravat and lace ruffles, long silk stockings and shoes to match in extravagance, a shirt of fine lawn, and a hat for a nobleman.

"Tell your master," I said to the lackey, "that he intends me great kindness, but I prefer my own clothes."

"These are monsieur's own clothes, made to his order and measure."

"But I gave no order, and I was not measured."

The man raised his shoulders and elbows with gentlest dissent.

"These are only a few articles of monsieur's outfit. Here is the key. If monsieur selects another costume he will find each one complete."

By magic as it seemed, there was a wardrobe full of fineries provided for my use. The man displayed them; in close trousers and coats with short fronts, or knee breeches and long tails; costumes, he said, for the street, for driving, riding, traveling, for evening, and for morning; and one white satin court dress. At the marquis' order he had laid out one for a ball. Of my old clothes not a piece was to be seen.

The miracle was that what he put upon me fitted me. I became transformed like my servant and my secretary, and stood astonished at the result.



VI

"Enter the prince of a fairy tale," said the Marquis du Plessy when the lackey ushered me into the garden.

It was a nest of amber at that time of sunset, and he waited for me at a table laid for supper, under a flat canopy of trees which had their tops trained and woven into a mat.

I took his hand to kiss, but he rose up and magnificently placed me in a chair opposite himself.

"Your benefits are heavy, monsieur," I said. "How shall I acknowledge them?"

"You owe me nothing at all," he answered; "as you will see when I have told you a true story. It would sound like a lie if anything were incredible in these fabulous times."

"But you do not know anything about me."

"I am well instructed in your history, by that charming attendant in fringed leather breeches, who has been acquainted with you much longer than you have been acquainted with yourself."

"Yet I am not sure of deserving the marquis' interest."

"Has the marquis admitted that he feels any interest in you? Though this I will own: few experiences have affected me like your living eyes staring out of the face of my dead king!"

We met each other again with a steady gaze like that in the mortuary chapel.

"Do you believe I am ——?"

"Do I believe you are ——? Who said there was such a person in existence?"

"Louis Philippe."

"The Duke of Orleans? Eh, bien! What does he know of the royal family? He is of the cadette branch."

"But he told me the princess, the dauphin's sister, believes that the dauphin was taken alive from the Temple and sent to America."

"My dear Lazarre, I do not say the Duke of Orleans would lie—far be it from me—though these are times in which we courageously attack our betters. But he would not object to seeing the present pretender ousted. Why, since his father voted for the death of Louis XVI, he and his are almost outlawed by the older branch! Madame Royal, the Duchess of Angouleme, cannot endure him. I do not think she would speak to him!"

"He is my friend," I said stoutly.

"Remember you are another pretender, and he has espoused your cause. I think him decent myself—though there used to be some pretty stories told about him and the fair sentimentalist who educated him—Madame de Genlis. But I am an old man; I forget gossip."

My host gave lively and delicate attention to his food as it was brought, and permitted nothing to be overheard by his lackeys.

The evening was warm, and fresh with the breath of June; and the garden, by a contrivance of lamps around its walls, turned into a dream world after sunset faded.

It was as impossible to come to close terms with this noble of the old regime as with a butterfly. He alighted on a subject; he waved his wings, and rose. I felt a clumsy giant while he fluttered around my head, smiling, mocking, thrusting his pathos to the quick.

"My dear boy, I do not say that I believe in you; I do not observe etiquette with you. But I am going to tell you a little story about the Tuileries. You have never seen the palace of the Tuileries?"

I said I had not.

"It has been restored for the use of these Bonapartes. When I say these Bonapartes, Lazarre, I am not speaking against the Empire. The Empire gave me back my estates. I was not one of the stringent emigres. My estates are mine, whoever rules in France. You may consider me a betwixt-and-betweener. Do so. My dear boy, I am. My heart is with my dead king. My carcass is very comfortable, both in Paris and on my ancestral lands. Napoleon likes me as an ornament to his bourgeois court. I keep my opinion of him to myself. Do you like garlic, my boy?"

I told him I was not addicted to the use of it.

"Garlic is divine. God gave it to man. A hint of it in the appropriate dish makes life endurable. I carry a piece in a gold box at the bottom of my vest pocket, that I may occasionally take it out and experience a sense of gratitude for divine benefits."

He took out his pet lump, rubbed it on the outside of his wine bottle, poured out a glassful and drank it, smiling adorably at me in ecstasy!

"We were speaking of the Tuileries. You should have seen the place when it was sacked after the flight of the royal family. No, you should not have seen it! I am glad you were gone. Mirrors were shattered, and lusters, vases, china, gold candlesticks, rolled about and were trampled on the floor. The paintings were stabbed with pikes; tables, screens, gilt stools, chairs crushed, and carpets cut to pieces; garments of all kinds strewn and torn; all that was not carried off by pillagers being thus destroyed. It was yet a horrible sight days after the mob had done their work, and slaughtered bodies of guards had been carried away, and commissioners with their clerks and assistants began to restore order."

"Did you see the Tuileries at that time, monsieur?"

"I did. I put on the clothes of one of my peasants, slumped in Jacquot's wooden shoes, and kept my mouth open as well as I could for the dust. The fantastic was yet in my blood. Exile takes that out of everybody except your royal uncle of Provence. But I knew in my heart what I would help do with that mob, if our turn ever came again!"

His dark eyes rested on the red wine as on a pool of blood.

"Sick of the ruin, I leaned out to look in the garden, from a window in the queen's own apartment. I stepped on a shelf, which appeared fixed under the window; but it moved, and I found that it could be pushed on grooves into the wall. There was a cavity made to hold it. It had concealed two armchairs placed opposite each other, so cunningly that their paneled sides yet looked a part of the thick wall. I sat down in one of them, and though the cushion was stiff, I felt something hard under it."

Monsieur du Plessy glanced around in every direction to satisfy himself that no ears lurked within hearing.

"Eh, bien! Under the cushion I found the queen's jewel-case! Diamonds—bags of gold coin—a half circlet of gems!—since the great necklace was lost such an array had not seen the light in France. The value must be far above a million francs."

The marquis fixed his eyes on me and said:

"What should I have done with it, Lazarre?"

"It belonged to the royal family," I answered.

"But everything which belonged to the royal family had been confiscated to the state. I had just seen the belongings of the royal family trampled as by cattle. First one tyrant and then another rose up to tell us what we should do, to batten himself off the wretched commonwealth, and then go to the guillotine before his successor. As a good citizen I should have turned these jewels and stones and coins over to the state. But I was acting the part of Jacquot, and as an honest peasant I whipped them under my blouse and carried them away. In my straits of exile I never decreased them. And you may take inventory of your property and claim it when we rise from the table."

My heart came up in my throat. I reached across and caught his hands.

"You believe in me—you believe in me!"

"Do I observe any etiquette with you, Lazarre? This is the second time I have brought the fact to your notice. I particularly wish you to note that I do not observe any etiquette with you."

"What does a boy who has been brought up among Indians know about etiquette! But you accept me, or you could not put the property you have loyally and at such risk saved for my family, into my hands."

"I don't accept even your uncle of Provence. The king of Spain and I prefer to call him by that modest title. Since you died or were removed from the Temple, he has taken the name of Louis XVIII, and maintained a court at the expense of the czar of Russia and the king of Spain. He is a fine Latinist; quotes Latin verse; and keeps the mass bells everlastingly ringing; the Russians laugh at his royal masses! But in my opinion the sacred gentleman is either moral slush or a very deep quicksand. It astonishes me," said the Marquis du Plessy, "to find how many people I do disapprove of! I really require very little of the people I am obliged to meet."

He smoothed my hands which were yet holding his, and exploded:

"The Count of Provence is an old turtle! Not exactly a reptile, for there is food in him. But of a devilish flat head and cruel snap of the jaws!"

"How can that be," I argued, "when his niece loves him so? And even I, in the American woods, with mind eclipsed, was not forgotten. He sent me of the money that he was obliged to receive in charity!"

"It is easy to dole out charity money; you are squeezing other people's purses, not your own. What I most object to in the Count of Provence, is that assumption of kingly airs, providing the story is true which leaked secretly among the emigres. The story which I heard was that the dauphin had not died, but was an idiot in America. An idiot cannot reign. But the throne of France is not clamoring so loud for a Bourbon at present that the idiot's substitute must be proclaimed and hold a beggar's court. There are mad loyalists who swear by this eighteenth Louis. I am not one of them. In fact, Lazarre, I was rather out of tune with your house!"

"Not you!" I said.

"I do not fit in these times. I ought to have gone with my king and my friends under the knife. Often I am ashamed of myself for slipping away. That I should live to see disgusting fools in the streets of Paris, after the Terror was over!—young men affecting the Greek and Roman manner—greeting one another by wagging of the head! They wore gray coats with black collars, gray or green cravats, carried cudgels, and decreed that all men should have the hair plaited, powdered, and fastened up with a comb, like themselves! The wearer of a queue was likely to be knocked on the head. These creatures used to congregate at the old Feydeau theater, or meet around the entrance of the Louvre, to talk classical jargon, and wag!"

The Marquis du Plessy drew himself together with a strong shudder. I had the desire to stand between him and the shocks of an alien world. Yet there was about him a tenacious masculine strength, an adroitness of self-protection which needed no champion.

"Did the Indian tell you about a man named Bellenger?" I inquired.

"Bellenger is part of the old story about the dauphin's removal. I heard of him first at Coblenz. And I understand now that he is following you with another dauphin, and objecting to you in various delicate ways. Napoleon Bonaparte is master of France, and in the way to be master of Europe, because he has a nice sense of the values of men, and the best head for detail that was ever formed in human shape. There is something almost supernatural in his grasp of affairs. He lets nothing escape him. The only mistake he ever made was butchering the young Duke d'Enghien—the courage and clearness of the man wavered that one instant; and by the way, he borrowed my name for the duke's incognito during the journey under arrest! England, Russia, Austria and Sweden are combining against Napoleon. He will beat them. For while other men sleep, or amuse themselves, or let circumstance drive them, he is planning success and providing for all possible contingencies. Take a leaf out of the general's book, my boy. No enemy is contemptible. If you want to force the hand of fortune—scheme!—scheme!—all the time!—out-scheme the other fellow!"

The marquis rose from the table.

"I am longer winded," he said, "than a man named De Chaumont, who has been importuning Bonaparte, in season and out of season, to reinstate an American emigre, a Madame de Ferrier."

"Will Bonaparte restore her lands?" I asked, feeling my voice like a rope in my throat.

"Do you know her family?"

"I knew Madame de Ferrier in America."

"Their estate lies next to mine. And what is the little De Ferrier like since she is grown?"

"A beautiful woman."

"Ah—ah! Bonaparte's plan will then be easy of execution. You may see her this evening here in the Faubourg St. Germain. I believe she is to appear at Madame de Permon's, where Bonaparte may look in."

My host bolted the doors of his private cabinet, and took from the secret part of a wall cupboard the queen's jewel-case. We opened it between us. The first thing I noticed was a gold snuffbox, set with portraits of the king, the queen, and their two children.

How I knew them I cannot tell. Their pictured faces had never been put before my conscious eyes until that moment. Other portraits might have been there. I had no doubt, no hesitation.

I was on my knees before the face I had seen in spasms of remembrance—with oval cheeks, and fair hair rolled high—and open neck—my royal mother!

Next I looked at the king, heavier of feature, honest and straight gazing, his chin held upward; at the little sister, a smaller miniature of the queen; at the softly molded curves of the child that was myself!

The marquis turned his back.

Before I could speak I rose and put my arms around him. He wheeled, took my hand, stood at a little distance, and kissed it.

We said not one word about the portraits, but sat down with the jewel-case again between us.

"These stones and coins are also my sister's, monsieur the marquis?"

He lifted his eyebrows.

"I had ample opportunity, my dear boy, to turn them into the exchequer of the Count of Provence. Before his quarrel with the late czar of Russia he maintained a dozen gentlemen-in-waiting, and perhaps as many ladies, to say nothing of priests, servants, attendants of attendants, and guards. This treasure might last him two years. If the king of Spain and his majesty of Russia got wind of it, and shut off their pensions, it would not last so long. I am too thrifty a Frenchman to dissipate the hoards of the state in foreign parts! Yet, if you question my taste—I will not say my honesty, Lazarre—"

"I question nothing, monsieur! I ask advice."

"Eh, bien! Then do not be quite as punctilious as the gentleman who got turned out of the debtor side of Ste. Pelagie into an alley. 'This will not do,' says he. So around he posts to the entrance, and asks for admittance again!"

"Catch me knocking at Ste. Pelagie for admittance again!"

"Then my advice is to pay your tailor, if he has done his work acceptably."

"He has done it marvelously, especially in the fitting."

"A Parisian workman finds it no miracle to fit a man from his old clothes. I took the liberty of sending your orders. Having heard my little story, you understand that you owe me nothing but your society; and a careful inventory of this trust."

We were a long time examining the contents of the case. There were six bags of coin, all gold louis; many unset gems; rings for the hand; and clusters of various sorts which I knew not how to name, that blazed with a kind of white fire very dazzling. The half-way crown was crusted thick with colored stones the like of which I could not have imagined in my dreams. Their names, the marquis told me, were sapphires, emeralds, rubies; and large clear diamonds, like beads of rain. When everything was carefully returned to place, he asked:

"Shall I still act as your banker?"

I begged him to hide the jewel box again, and he concealed it in the wall.

"We go to the Rue Ste. Croix, Lazarre, which is an impossible place for your friend Bellenger at this time. Do you dance a gavotte?"

I told him I could dance the Indian corn dance, and he advised me to reserve this accomplishment.

"Bonaparte's police are keen on any scent, especially the scent of a prince. His practical mind would reject the Temple story, if he ever heard it; and there are enough live Bourbons for him to watch."

"But there is the Count de Chaumont," I suggested.

"He is not a man that would put faith in the Temple story, either, and I understand he is kindly disposed towards you."

"I lived in his house nearly a year."

"He is not a bad fellow for the new sort. I feel certain of him. He is coaxing my friendship because of ancient amity between the houses of Du Plessy and De Ferrier."

"Did you say, monsieur, that Bonaparte intends to restore Madame de Ferrier's lands?"

"They have been given to one of his rising officers."

"Then he will not restore them?"

"Oh, yes, with interest! His plan is to give her the officer for a husband."



VII

Even in those days of falling upon adventure and taking hold of life with the arrogance of young manhood, I knew the value of money, though it has always been my fault to give it little consideration. Experience taught me that poverty goes afoot and sleeps with strange bed-fellows. But I never minded going afoot or sharing the straw with cattle. However, my secretary more than once took a high hand with me because he bore the bag; and I did mind debt chasing my heels like a rising tide.

Our Iroquois had their cottages in St. Regis and their hunting cabins on Lake George. They went to church when not drunk and quarrelsome, paid the priest his dues, labored easily, and cared nothing for hoarding. But every step of my new life called for coin.

As I look back on that hour the dominating thought rises clearly.

To see men admitting that you are what you believe yourself to be, is one of the triumphs of existence. The jewel-case stamped identification upon me. I felt like one who had communicated with the past and received a benediction. There was special provision in the way it came to me; for man loves to believe that God watches over and mothers him.

Forgetting—if I had ever heard—how the ancients dreaded the powers above when they had been too fortunate, I went with the marquis in high spirits to the Rue Ste. Croix. There were pots of incense sending little wavers of smoke through the rooms, and the people might have peopled a dream. The men were indeed all smooth and trim; but the women had given rein to their fancies.

Our hostess was a fair and gracious woman, of Greek ancestry, as Bonaparte himself was, and her daughter had been married to his favorite general, the marquis told me.

I notice only the unusual in clothing; the scantiness of ladies' apparel that clung like the skin, and lay upon the oak floor in ridges, among which a man must shove his way, was unusual to me.

I saw, in space kept cleared around her chair, one beauty with nothing but sandals on her feet, though these were white as milk, silky skinned like a hand, and ringed with jewels around the toes.

Bonaparte's youngest sister stood receiving court. She was attired like a Bacchante, with bands of fur in her hair, topped by bunches of gold grapes. Her robe and tunic of muslin fine as air, woven in India, had bands of gold, clasped with cameos, under the bosom and on the arms. Each woman seemed to have planned outdoing the others in conceits which marked her own fairness.

I looked anxiously down the spacious room without seeing Madame de Ferrier. The simplicity, which made for beauty of houses in France, struck me, in the white and gold paneling, and the chimney, which lifted its mass of design to the ceiling. I must have been staring at this and thinking of Madame de Ferrier when my name was called in a lilting and excited fashion:

"Lazarre!"

There was Mademoiselle de Chaumont in the midst of gallants, and better prepared to dance a gavotte than any other charmer in the room. For her gauze dress, fastened on the shoulders so that it fell not quite off her bosom, reached only to the middle of the calf. This may have been for the protection of rosebuds with which ribbons drawn lengthwise through the skirt, were fringed; but it also showed her child-like feet and ankles, and made her appear tiptoe like a fairy, and more remarkable than any other figure except the barefooted dame. She held a crook massed with ribbons and rosebuds in her hand, rallying the men to her standard by the lively chatter which they like better than wisdom.

Mademoiselle Annabel gave me her hand to kiss, and made room for the Marquis du Plessy and me in her circle. I felt abashed by the looks these courtiers gave me, but the marquis put them readily in the background, and delighted in the poppet, taking her quite to himself.

"We hear such wonderful stories about you, Lazarre! Besides, Doctor Chantry came to see us and told us all he knew. Remember, Lazarre belonged to us before you discovered him, monsieur the Marquis du Plessy! He and I are Americans!"

Some women near us commented, as seemed to be the fashion in that society, with a frankness which Indians would have restrained.

"See that girl! The emperor may now imagine what his brother Jerome has done! Her father has brought her over from America to marry her, and it will need all his money to accomplish that!"

Annabel shook the rain of misty hair at the sides of her rose pink face, and laughed a joyful retort.

"No wonder poor Prince Jerome had to go to America for a wife! Did you ever see such hairy faced frights as these Parisians of the Empire! Lazarre fell ill looking at them. He pretends he doesn't see women, monsieur, and goes about with his coat skirts loaded with books. I used to be almost as much afraid of him as I am of you!"

"Ah, mademoiselle, I dread to enter paradise."

"Why, monsieur?"

"The angels are afraid of me!"

"Not when you smile."

"Teach me that adorable smile of yours!"

"Oh, how improving you will be to Lazarre, monsieur! He never paid me a compliment in his life. He never said anything but the truth."

"The lucky dog! What pretty things he had to say!"

Annabel laughed and shook her mist in great enjoyment. I liked to watch her, yet I wondered where Madame de Ferrier was, and could not bring myself to inquire.

"These horrible incense pots choke me," said Annabel.

"I like them," said the marquis.

"Do you? So do I," she instantly agreed with him.

"Though we get enough incense in church."

"I should think so! Do you like mass?"

"I was brought up on my knees. But I never acquired the real devotee's back."

"Sit on your heels," imparted Annabel in strict confidence. "Try it."

"I will. Ah, mademoiselle, any one who could bring such comfort into religion might make even wedlock endurable!"

Madame de Ferrier appeared between the curtains of a deep window. She was talking with Count de Chaumont and an officer in uniform. Her face pulsed a rosiness like that quiver in winter skies which we call northern lights. The clothes she wore, being always subdued by her head and shoulders, were not noticeable like other women's clothes. But I knew as soon as her eyes rested on me that she found me changed.

De Chaumont came a step to meet me, and I felt miraculously equal to him, with some power which was not in me before.

"You scoundrel, you have fallen into luck!" he said heartily.

"One of our proverbs is, 'A blind pig will find an acorn once in a while.'"

"There isn't a better acorn in the woods, or one harder to shake down. How did you do it?"

I gave him a wise smile and held my tongue; knowing well that if I had remained in Ste. Pelagie and the fact ever came to De Chaumont's ears, like other human beings he would have reprehended my plunging into the world.

"We are getting on tremendously, Lazarre! When your inheritance falls in, come back with me to Castorland. We will found a wilderness empire!"

I did not inquire what he meant by my inheritance falling in. The marquis pressed behind me, and when I had spoken to Madame de Ferrier I knew it was his right to take the hand of the woman who had been his little neighbor.

"You don't remember me, madame?"

"Oh, yes, I do, Monsieur du Plessy; and your wall fruit, too!"

"The rogue! Permit me to tell you those pears are hastening to be ready for you once more."

"And Bichette, monsieur—is dear old Bichette alive?"

"She is alive, and draws the chair as well as ever. I hear you have a little son. He may love the old pony and chair as you used to love them."

"Seeing you, monsieur, is like coming again to my home!"

"I trust you may come soon."

They spoke of fruit and cattle. Neither dared mention the name of any human companion associated with the past.

I took opportunity to ask Count de Chaumont if her lands were recovered. A baffled look troubled his face.

"The emperor will see her to-night," he answered. "It is impossible to say what can be done until the emperor sees her."

"Is there any truth in the story that he will marry her to the officer who holds her estate?"

The count frowned.

"No—no! That's impossible."

"Will the officer sell his rights if Madame de Ferrier's are not acknowledged?"

"I have thought of that. And I want to consult the marquis."

When he had a chance to draw the marquis aside, I could speak to Madame de Ferrier without being overheard; though my time might be short. She stood between the curtains, and the man in uniform had left his place to me.

"Well, I am here," I said.

"And I am glad," she answered.

"I am here because I love you."

She held a fold of the curtain in her hand and looked down at it; then up at me.

"You must not say that again."

"Why?"

"You know why."

"I do not."

"Remember who you are."

"I am your lover."

She looked quickly around the buzzing drawing-room, and leaned cautiously nearer.

"You are my sovereign."

"I believe that, Eagle. But it does not follow that I shall ever reign."

"Are you safe here? Napoleon Bonaparte has spies."

"But he has regard also for old aristocrats like the Marquis du Plessy."

"Yet remember what he did to the Duke d'Enghien. A Bourbon prince is not allowed in France."

"How many people consider me a Bourbon prince? I told you why I am here. Fortune has wonderfully helped me since I came to France. Lazarre, the dauphin from the Indian camps, brazenly asks you to marry him, Eagle!"

Her face blanched white, but she laughed.

"No De Ferrier ever took a base advantage of royal favor. Don't you think this is a strange conversation in a drawing-room of the Empire? I hated myself for being here—until you came in."

"Eagle, have you forgotten our supper on the island?"

"Yes, sire." She scarcely breathed the word.

"My unanointed title is Lazarre. And I suppose you have forgotten the fog and the mountain, too?"

"Yes."

"Lazarre!"

"Yes, Lazarre."

"You love me! You shall love me!"

"As a De Ferrier should; no farther!"

Her lifted chin expressed a strength I could not combat. The slight, dark-haired girl, younger than myself, mastered and drew me as if my spirit was a stream, and she the ocean into which it must flow. Darkness like that of Ste. Pelagie dropped over the brilliant room. I was nothing after all but a palpitating boy, venturing because he must venture. Light seemed to strike through her blood, however, endowing her with a splendid pallor.

"I am going," I determined that moment, "to Mittau."

The adorable curve of her eyelids, unlike any other eyelids I ever saw, was lost to me, for her eyes flew wide open.

"To ——"

She looked around and hesitated to pronounce the name of the Count of Provence.

"Yes. I am going to find some one who belongs to me."

"You have the marquis for a friend."

"And I have also Skenedonk, and our tribe, for my friends. But there is no one who understands that a man must have some love."

"Consult Marquis du Plessy about going to Mittau. It may not be wise. And war is threatened on the frontier."

"I will consult him, of course. But I am going."

"Lazarre, there were ladies on the ship who cursed and swore, and men who were drunk the greater part of the voyage. I was brought up in the old-fashioned way by the Saint-Michels, so I know nothing of present customs. But it seems to me our times are rude and wicked. And you, just awake to the world, have yet the innocence of that little boy who sank into the strange and long stupor. If you changed I think I could not bear it!"

"I will not change."

A stir which must have been widening through the house as a ripple widens on a lake, struck us, and turned our faces with all others to a man who stood in front of the chimney. He was not large in person, but as an individual his presence was massive—was penetrating. I could have topped him by head and shoulders; yet without mastery. He took snuff as he slightly bowed in every direction, shut the lid with a snap, and fidgeted as if impatient to be gone. He had a mouth of wonderful beauty and expression, and his eyes were more alive than the eyes of any other man in the assembly. I felt his gigantic force as his head dipped forward and he glanced about under his brows.

"There is the emperor," De Chaumont told Eagle; and I thought he made indecent haste to return and hale her away before Napoleon.

The greatest soldier in Europe passed from one person to another with the air of doing his duty and getting rid of it. Presently he raised his voice, speaking to Madame de Ferrier so that, all in the room might hear.

"Madame, I am pleased to see that you wear leno. I do not like those English muslins, sold at the price of their weight in gold, and which do not look half as well as beautiful white leno. Wear leno, cambric, or silk, ladies, and then my manufactures will flourish."

I wondered if he would remember the face of the man pushed against his wheel and called an assassin, when the Marquis du Plessy named me to him as the citizen Lazarre.

"You are a lucky man, Citizen Lazarre, to gain the marquis for your friend. I have been trying a number of years to make him mine."

"All Frenchmen are the friends of Napoleon," the marquis said to me.

I spoke directly to the sovereign, thereby violating etiquette, my friend told me afterwards, laughing; and Bonaparte was a stickler for precedent.

"But all Frenchmen," I could not help reminding the man in power, "are not faithful friends."

He gave me a sharp look as he passed on, and repeated what I afterward learned was one of his favorite maxims:

"A faithful friend is the true image."



VIII

"Must you go to Mittau?" the Marquis du Plessy said when I told him what I intended to do. "It is a long, expensive post journey; and part of the way you may not be able to post. Riga, on the gulf beyond Mittau, is a fine old town of pointed gables and high stone houses. But when I was in Mittau I found it a mere winter camp of Russian nobles. The houses are low, one-story structures. There is but one castle, and in that his Royal Highness the Count of Provence holds mimic court."

We were riding to Versailles, and our horses almost touched sides as my friend put his hand on my shoulder.

"Don't go, Lazarre. You will not be welcome there."

"I must go, whether I am welcome or not."

"But I may not last until you come back."

"You will last two months. Can't I post to Mittau and back in two months?"

"God knows."

I looked at him drooping forward in the saddle, and said:

"If you need me I will stay, and think no more about seeing those of my own blood."

"I do need you; but you shall not stay. You shall go to Mittau in my own post-carriage. It will bring you back sooner."

But his post-carriage I could not accept. The venture to Mittau, its wear and tear and waste, were my own; and I promised to return with all speed. I could have undertaken the road afoot, driven by the necessity I felt.

"The Duchess of Angouleme is a good girl," said the marquis, following the line of my thoughts. "She has devoted herself to her uncle and her husband. When the late czar withdrew his pension, and turned the whole mimic court out of Mittau, she went with her uncle, and even waded the snow with him when they fell into straits. Diamonds given to her by her grandmother, the Empress Maria Theresa, she sold for his support. But the new czar reinstated them; and though they live less pretentiously at Mittau in these days, they still have their priest and almoner, the Duke of Guiche, and other courtiers hanging upon them. My boy, can you make a court bow and walk backwards? You must practice before going into Russia."

"Wouldn't it be better," I said, "for those who know how, to practice the accomplishment before me?"

"Imagine the Count of Provence stepping down from playing royalty to do that!" my friend laughed.

"I don't know why he shouldn't, since he knows I am alive. He has sent money every year for my support."

"An established custom, Lazarre, gains strength every day it is continued. You see how hard it is to overturn an existing system, because men have to undo the work they have been doing perhaps for a thousand years. Time gives enormous stability. Monsieur the Count of Provence has been practicing royalty since word went out that his nephew had died in the Temple. It will be no easy matter to convince him you are fit to play king in his stead."

This did not disturb me, however. I thought more of my sister. And I thought of vast stretches across the center of Europe. The Indian stirred in me, as it always did stir, when the woman I wanted was withdrawn from me.

I could not tell my friend, or any man, about Madame de Ferrier. This story of my life is not to be printed until I am gone from the world. Otherwise the things set down so freely would remain buried in myself.

Some beggars started from hovels, running like dogs, holding diseased and crooked-eyed children up for alms, and pleading for God's sake that we would have pity on them. When they disappeared with their coin I asked the marquis if there had always been wretchedness in France.

"There is always wretchedness everywhere," he answered. "Napoleon can turn the world upside down, but he cannot cure the disease of hereditary poverty. I never rode to Versailles without encountering these people."

When we entered the Place d'Armes fronting the palace, desolation worse than that of the beggars faced us. That vast noble pile, untenanted and sacked, symbolized the vanished monarchy of France. Doors stood wide. The court was strewn with litter and filth; and grass started rank betwixt the stones where the proudest courtiers in the world had trod. I tried to enter the queen's rooms, but sat on the steps leading to them, holding my head in my hands. It was as impossible as it had been to enter the Temple.

The fountains which once made a concert of mist around their lake basin, satisfying like music, the marquis said, were dried, and the figures broken. Millions had been spent upon this domain of kings, and nothing but the summer's natural verdure was left to unmown stretches. The foot shrank from sending echoes through empty palace apartments, and from treading the weedy margins of canal and lake.

"I should not have brought you here, Lazarre," said my friend.

"I had to come, monsieur."

We walked through meadow and park to the little palaces called Grand and Petit Trianon, where the intimate life of the last royal family had been lived. I looked well at their outer guise, but could not explore them.

The groom held our horses in the street that leads up to the Place d'Armes, and as we sauntered back, I kicked old leaves which had fallen autumn after autumn and banked the path.

It rushed over me again!

I felt my arms go above my head as they did when I sank into the depths of recollection.

"Lazarre! Are you in a fit?" The Marquis du Plessy seized me.

"I remember! I remember! I was kicking the leaves—I was walking with my father and mother—somewhere—somewhere—and something threatened us!"

"It was in the garden of the Tuileries," said the Marquis du Plessy sternly. "The mob threatened you, and you were going before the National Assembly! I walked behind. I was there to help defend the king."

We stood still until the paroxysmal rending in my head ceased. Then I sat on the grassy roadside trying to smile at the marquis, and shrugging an apology for my weakness. The beauty of the arched trees disappeared, and when next I recognized the world we were moving slowly toward Paris in a heavy carriage, and I was smitten with the conviction that my friend had not eaten the dinner he ordered in the town of Versailles.

I felt ashamed of the weakness which came like an eclipse, and withdrew leaving me in my strength. It ceased to visit me within that year, and has never troubled me at all in later days. Yet, inconsistently, I look back as to the glamour of youth; and though it worked me hurt and shame, I half regret that it is gone.

The more I saw of the Marquis du Plessy the more my slow tenacious heart took hold on him. We went about everywhere together. I think it was his hope to wed me to his company and to Paris, and shove the Mittau venture into an indefinite future; yet he spared no pains in obtaining for me my passports to Courland.

At this time, with cautious, half reluctant hand, he raised the veil from a phase of life which astonished and revolted me. I loved a woman. The painted semblances of women who inhabited a world of sensation had no effect upon me.

"You are wonderfully fresh, Lazarre," the marquis said. "If you were not so big and male I would call you mademoiselle! Did they never sin in the American backwoods?"

Then he took me in his arms like a mother, and kissed me, saying, "Dear son and sire, I am worse than your great-grandfather!"

Yet my zest for the gaiety of the old city grew as much as he desired. The golden dome of the Invalides became my bubble of Paris, floating under a sunny sky.

Whenever I went to the hotel which De Chaumont had hired near the Tuileries, Madame de Ferrier received me kindly; having always with her Mademoiselle de Chaumont or Miss Chantry, so that we never had a word in private. I thought she might have shown a little feeling in her rebuff, and pondered on her point of view regarding my secret rank. De Chaumont, on the other hand, was beneath her in everything but wealth. How might she regard stooping to him?

Miss Chantry was divided between enforced deference and a Saxon necessity to tell me I would not last. I saw she considered me one of the upstarts of the Empire, singularly favored above her brother, but under my finery the same French savage she had known in America.

Eagle brought Paul to me, and he toddled across the floor, looked at me wisely, and then climbed my knee.

Doctor Chantry had been living in Paris a life above his dreams of luxury. When occasionally I met my secretary he was about to drive out; or he was returning from De Chaumont's hotel. And there I caught my poor master reciting poems to Annabel, who laughed and yawned, and made faces behind her fan. I am afraid he drew on the marquis' oldest wines, finding indulgence in the house; and he sent extravagant bills to me for gloves and lawn cravats. It was fortunate that De Chaumont took him during my absence. He moved his belongings with positive rapture. The marquis and I both thought it prudent not to publish my journey.

Doctor Chantry went simpering, and abasing himself before the French noble with the complete subservience of a Saxon when a Saxon does become subservient.

"The fool is laughable," said the Marquis du Plessy. "Get rid of him, Lazarre. He is fit for nothing but hanging upon some one who will feed him."

"He is my master," I answered. "I am a fool myself."

"You will come back from Mittau convinced of that, my boy. The wise course is to join yourself to events, and let them draw your chariot. My dislikers say I have temporized with fate. It is true I am not so righteous as to smell to heaven. But two or three facts have been deeply impressed on me. There is nothing more aggressive than the virtue of an ugly, untempted woman; or the determination of a young man to set every wrong thing in the world right. He cannot wait, and take mellow interest in what goes on around him, but must leap into the ring. You could live here with me indefinitely, while the nation has Bonaparte, like the measles. When the disease has run its course—we may be able to bring evidence which will make it unnecessary for the Count of Provence to hasten here that France may have a king."

"I want to see my sister, monsieur."

"And lose her and your own cause forever."

But he helped me to hire a strong traveling chaise, and stock it with such comforts as it would bear. He also turned my property over to me, recommending that I should not take it into Russia. Half the jewels, at least, I considered the property of the princess in Mittau; but his precaution influenced me to leave three bags of coin in Doctor Chantry's care; for Doctor Chantry was the soul of thrift with his own; and to send Skenedonk with the jewel-case to the marquis' bank. The cautious Oneida took counsel of himself and hid it in the chaise. He told me when we were three days out.

It is as true that you are driven to do some things as that you can never entirely free yourself from any life you have lived. That sunny existence in the Faubourg St. Germain, the morning and evening talks with a man who bound me to him as no other man has since bound me, were too dear to leave even briefly without wrenching pain. I dreamed nightly of robbers and disaster, of being ignominiously thrust out of Mittau, of seeing a woman whose face was a blur and who moved backward from me when I called her my sister; of troops marching across and trampling me into the earth as straw. I groaned in spirit. Yet to Mittau I was spurred by the kind of force that seems to press from unseen distances, and is as fatal as temperament.

When I paid my last visit at De Chaumont's hotel, and said I was going into the country, Eagle looked concerned, as a De Ferrier should; but she did not turn her head to follow my departure. The game of man and woman was in its most blindfold state between us.

There was one, however, who watched me out of sight. The marquis was more agitated than I liked to see him. He took snuff with a constant click of the lid.

The hills of Champagne, green with vines, and white as with an underlay of chalk, rose behind us. We crossed the frontier, and German hills took their places, with a castle topping each. I was at the time of life when interest stretches eagerly toward every object; and though this journey cannot be set down in a story as long as mine, the novelty—even the risks, mischances and wearinesses of continual post travel, come back like an invigorating breath of salt water.

The usual route carried us eastward to Cracow, the old capital of Poland, scattered in ruined grandeur within its brick walls. Beyond it I remember a stronghold of the Middle Ages called the fortress of Landskron.

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