Ranulph placed a seat for him. He viewed the conger eel and limpets with an avid eye, but waited for the chevalier and de Mauprat to sit. He had no sooner taken a mouthful, however, and thrown a piece of bread to Biribi the dog, than, starting again to his feet, he said:
"Your pardon, monsieur le chevalier, that brute in the Place has knocked all sense from my head! I've a letter for you, brought from Rouen by one of the refugees who came yesterday." He drew from his breast a packet and handed it over. "I went out to their ship last night."
The chevalier looked with surprise and satisfaction at the seal on the letter, and, breaking it, spread open the paper, fumbled for the eye- glass which he always carried in his waistcoat, and began reading diligently.
Meanwhile Ranulph turned to Guida. "To-morrow Jean Touzel and his wife and I go to the Ecrehos Rocks in Jean's boat," said he. "A vessel was driven ashore there three days ago, and my carpenters are at work on her. If you can go and the wind holds fair, you shall be brought back safe by sundown—Jean says so too."
Of all boatmen and fishermen on the coast, Jean Touzel was most to be trusted. No man had saved so many shipwrecked folk, none risked his life so often; and he had never had a serious accident. To go to sea with Jean Touzel, folk said, was safer than living on land. Guida loved the sea; and she could sail a boat, and knew the tides and currents of the south coast as well as most fishermen.
M. de Mauprat met her inquiring glance and nodded assent. She then said gaily to Ranulph: "I shall sail her, shall I not?"
"Every foot of the way," he answered.
She laughed and clapped her hands. Suddenly the little chevalier broke in. "By the head of John the Baptist!" said he.
Detricand put down his knife and fork in amazement, and Guida coloured, for the words sounded almost profane upon the chevalier's lips.
Du Champsavoys held up his eye-glass, and, turning from one to the other, looked at each of them imperatively yet abstractedly too. Then, pursing up his lower lip, and with a growing amazement which carried him to distant heights of reckless language, he said again:
"By the head of John the Baptist on a charger!" He looked at Detricand with a fierceness which was merely the tension of his thought. If he had looked at a wall it would have been the same. But Detricand, who had an almost whimsical sense of humour, felt his neck in affected concern as though to be quite sure of it. "Chevalier," said he, "you shock us—you shock us, dear chevalier."
"The most painful things, and the most wonderful too," said the chevalier, tapping the letter with his eye-glass; "the most terrible and yet the most romantic things are here. A drop of cider, if you please, mademoiselle, before I begin to read it to you, if I may—if I may—eh?"
They all nodded eagerly. Guida handed him a mogue of cider. The little grey thrush of a man sipped it, and in a voice no bigger than a bird's began:
"From Lucillien du Champsavoys, Comte de Chanier, by the hand of a faithful friend, who goeth hence from among divers dangers, unto my cousin, the Chevalier du Champsavoys de Beaumanoir, late Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the best of monarchs, Louis XV, this writing:
"MY DEAR AND HONOURED Cousin"—The chevalier paused, frowned a trifle, and tapped his lips with his finger in a little lyrical emotion—"My dear and honoured cousin, all is lost. The France we loved is no more. The twentieth of June saw the last vestige of Louis's power pass for ever. That day ten thousand of the sans- culottes forced their way into the palace to kill him. A faithful few surrounded him. In the mad turmoil, we were fearful, he was serene. 'Feel,' said Louis, placing his hand on his bosom, 'feel whether this is the beating of a heart shaken by fear.' Ah, my friend, your heart would have clamped in misery to hear the Queen cry: 'What have I to fear? Death? it is as well to-day as to- morrow; they can do no more!' Their lives were saved, the day passed, but worse came after.
"The tenth of August came. With it too, the end-the dark and bloody end-of the Swiss Guard. The Jacobins had their way at last. The Swiss Guard died in the Court of the Carrousel as they marched to the Assembly to save the King. Thus the last circle of defence round the throne was broken. The palace was given over to flame and the sword. Of twenty nobles of the court I alone escaped. France is become a slaughter-house. The people cried out for more liberty, and their liberators gave them the freedom of death. A fortnight ago, Danton, the incomparable fiend, let loose his assassins upon the priests of God. Now Paris is made a theatre where the people whom Louis and his nobles would have died to save have turned every street into a stable of carnage, every prison and hospital into a vast charnel-house. One last revolting thing alone remains to be done—the murder of the King; then this France that we have loved will have no name and no place in our generation. She will rise again, but we shall not see her, for our eyes have been blinded with blood, for ever darkened by disaster. Like a mistress upon whom we have lavished the days of our youth and the strength of our days, she has deceived us; she has stricken us while we slept. Behold a Caliban now for her paramour!
"Weep with me, for France despoils me. One by one my friends have fallen beneath the axe. Of my four sons but one remains. Henri was stabbed by Danton's ruffians at the Hotel de Ville; Gaston fought and died with the Swiss Guard, whose hacked and severed limbs were broiled and eaten in the streets by these monsters who mutilate the land. Isidore, the youngest, defied a hundred of Robespierre's cowards on the steps of the Assembly, and was torn to pieces by the mob. Etienne alone is left. But for him and for the honour of my house I too would find a place beside the King and die with him. Etienne is with de la Rochejaquelein in Brittany. I am here at Rouen.
"Brittany and Normandy still stand for the King. In these two provinces begins the regeneration of France: we call it the War of the Vendee. On that Isle of Jersey there you should almost hear the voice of de la Rochejaquelein and the marching cries of our loyal legions. If there be justice in God we shall conquer. But there will be joy no more for such as you or me, nor hope, nor any peace. We live only for those who come after. Our duty remains, all else is dead. You did well to go, and I do well to stay.
"By all these piteous relations you shall know the importance of the request I now set forth.
"My cousin by marriage of the House of Vaufontaine has lost all his sons. With the death of the Prince of Vaufontaine, there is in France no direct heir to the house, nor can it, by the law, revert to my house or my heirs. Now of late the Prince hath urged me to write to you—for he is here in seclusion with me—and to unfold to you what has hitherto been secret. Eleven years ago the only nephew of the Prince, after some naughty escapades, fled from the Court with Rullecour the adventurer, who invaded the Isle of Jersey. From that hour he has been lost to France. Some of his companions in arms returned after a number of years. All with one exception declared that he was killed in the battle at St. Heliers. One, however, maintains that he was still living and in the prison hospital when his comrades were set free.
"It is of him I write to you. He is—as you will perchance remember—the Comte de Tournay. He was then not more than seventeen years of age, slight of build, with brownish hair, dark grey eyes, and had over the right shoulder a scar from a sword thrust. It seemeth little possible that, if living, he should still remain in that Isle of Jersey. He may rather have returned to obscurity in France or have gone to England to be lost to name and remembrance —or even indeed beyond the seas.
"That you may perchance give me word of him is the object of my letter, written in no more hope than I live; and you can well guess how faint that is. One young nobleman preserved to France may yet be the great unit that will save her.
"Greet my poor countrymen yonder in the name of one who still waits at a desecrated altar; and for myself you must take me as I am, with the remembrance of what I was, even
"Your faithful friend and loving kinsman,
"All this, though in the chances of war you read it not till wintertide, was told you at Rouen this first day of September 1792."
During the reading, broken by feeling and reflective pauses on the chevalier's part, the listeners showed emotion after the nature of each. The Sieur de Mauprat's fingers clasped and unclasped on the top of his cane, little explosions of breath came from his compressed lips, his eyebrows beetled over till the eyes themselves seemed like two glints of flame. Delagarde dropped a fist heavily upon the table, and held it there clinched, while his heel beat a tattoo of excitement upon the floor. Guida's breath came quick and fast—as Ranulph said afterwards, she was "blanc comme un linge." She shuddered painfully when the slaughter and burning of the Swiss Guards was read. Her brain was so swimming with the horrors of anarchy that the latter part of the letter dealing with the vanished Count of Tournay passed by almost unheeded.
But this particular matter greatly interested Ranulph and de Mauprat. They leaned forward eagerly, seizing every word, and both instinctively turned towards Detricand when the description of de Tournay was read.
As for Detricand himself, he listened to the first part of the letter like a man suddenly roused out of a dream. For the first time since the Revolution had begun, the horror of it and the meaning of it were brought home to him. He had been so long expatriated, had loitered so long in the primrose path of daily sleep and nightly revel, had fallen so far, that he little realised how the fiery wheels of Death were spinning in France, or how black was the torment of her people. His face turned scarlet as the thing came home to him now. He dropped his head in his hand as if to listen more attentively, but it was in truth to hide his emotion. When the names of Vaufontaine and de Tournay were mentioned, he gave a little start, then suddenly ruled himself to a strange stillness. His face seemed presently to clear; he even smiled a little. Conscious that de Mauprat and Delagarde were watching him, he appeared to listen with a keen but impersonal interest, not without its effect upon his scrutinisers. He nodded his head as though he understood the situation. He acted very well; he bewildered the onlookers. They might think he tallied with the description of the Comte de Tournay, yet he gave the impression that the matter was not vital to himself. But when the little Chevalier stopped and turned his eye-glass upon him with sudden startled inquiry, he found it harder to keep composure.
"Singular—singular!" said the old man, and returned to the reading of the letter.
When he ended there was absolute silence for a moment. Then the chevalier lifted his eye-glass again and looked at Detricand intently.
"Pardon me, monsieur," he said, "but you were with Rullecour—as I was saying."
Detricand nodded with a droll sort of helplessness, and answered: "In Jersey I never have chance to forget it, Chevalier."
Du Champsavoys, with a naive and obvious attempt at playing counsel, fixed him again with the glass, pursed his lips, and with the importance of a greffier at the ancient Cour d'Heritage, came one step nearer to his goal.
"Have you knowledge of the Comte de Tournay, monsieur?"
"I knew him—as you were saying, Chevalier," answered Detricand lightly.
Then the Chevalier struck home. He dropped his fingers upon the table, stood up, and, looking straight into Detricand's eyes, said:
"Monsieur, you are the Comte de Tournay!"
The Chevalier involuntarily held the silence for an instant. Nobody stirred. De Mauprat dropped his chin upon his hands, and his eyebrows drew down in excitement. Guida gave a little cry of astonishment. But Detricand answered the Chevalier with a look of blank surprise and a shrug of the shoulder, which had the effect desired.
"Thank you, Chevalier," said he with quizzical humour. "Now I know who I am, and if it isn't too soon to levy upon the kinship, I shall dine with you today, chevalier. I paid my debts yesterday, and sous are scarce, but since we are distant cousins I may claim grist at the family mill, eh?"
The Chevalier sat, or rather dropped into his chair again.
"Then you are not the Comte de Tournay, monsieur," said he hopelessly.
"Then I shall not dine with you to-day," retorted Detricand gaily.
You fit the tale," said de Mauprat dubiously, touching the letter with his finger.
"Let me see," rejoined Detricand. "I've been a donkey farmer, a shipmaster's assistant, a tobacco pedlar, a quarryman, a wood merchant, an interpreter, a fisherman—that's very like the Comte de Tournay! On Monday night I supped with a smuggler; on Tuesday I breakfasted on soupe a la graisse with Manon Moignard the witch; on Wednesday I dined with Dormy Jamais and an avocat disbarred for writing lewd songs for a chocolate-house; on Thursday I went oyster-fishing with a native who has three wives, and a butcher who has been banished four times for not keeping holy the Sabbath Day; and I drank from eleven o'clock till sunrise this morning with three Scotch sergeants of the line—which is very like the Comte de Tournay, as you were saying, Chevalier! I am five feet eleven, and the Comte de Tournay was five feet ten—which is no lie," he added under his breath. "I have a scar, but it's over my left shoulder and not over my right—which is also no lie," he added under his breath. "De Tournay's hair was brown, and mine, you see, is almost a dead black—fever did that," he added under his breath. "De Tournay escaped the day after the Battle of Jersey from the prison hospital, I was left, and here I've been ever since—Yves Savary dit Detricand at your service, chevalier."
A pained expression crossed over the Chevalier's face. "I am most sorry; I am most sorry," he said hesitatingly. "I had no wish to wound your feelings."
"Ah, it is de Tournay to whom you must apologise," said Detricand musingly, with a droll look.
"It is a pity," continued the Chevalier, "for somehow all at once I recalled a resemblance. I saw de Tournay when he was fourteen—yes, I think it was fourteen—and when I looked at you, monsieur, his face came back to me. It would have made my cousin so happy if you had been the Comte de Tournay and I had found you here." The old man's voice trembled a little. "We are growing fewer every day, we Frenchmen of the ancient families. And it would have made my cousin so happy, as I was saying, monsieur."
Detricand's manner changed; he became serious. The devil-may-care, irresponsible shamelessness of his face dropped away like a mask. Something had touched him. His voice changed too.
"De Tournay was a much better fellow than I am, chevalier," said he—" and that's no lie," he added under his breath. "De Tournay was a fiery, ambitious, youngster with bad companions. De Tournay told me he repented of coming with Rullecour, and he felt he had spoilt his life—that he could never return to France again or to his people."
The old Chevalier shook his head sadly. "Is he dead?" he asked.
There was a slight pause, and then Detricand answered: "No, still living."
"Where is he?"
"I promised de Tournay that I would never reveal that."
"Might I not write to him?" asked the old man. "Assuredly, Chevalier."
"Could you—will you—despatch a letter to him from me, monsieur?"
"Upon my honour, yes."
"I thank you—I thank you, monsieur; I will write it to-day."
"As you will, Chevalier. I will ask you for the letter to-night," rejoined Detricand. "It may take time to reach de Tournay; but he shall receive it into his own hands."
De Mauprat trembled to his feet to put the question he knew the Chevalier dreaded to ask:
"Do you think that monsieur le comte will return to France?"
"I think he will," answered Detricand slowly.
"It will make my cousin so happy—so happy," quavered the little Chevalier. "Will you take snuff with me, monsieur?" He offered his silver snuff-box to his vagrant countryman. This was a mark of favour he showed to few.
Detricand bowed, accepted, and took a pinch. "I must be going," he said.
At eight o'clock the next morning, Guida and her fellow-voyagers, bound for the Ecrehos Rocks, had caught the first ebb of the tide, and with a fair wind from the sou'-west had skirted the coast, ridden lightly over the Banc des Violets, and shaped their course nor'-east. Guida kept the helm all the way, as she had been promised by Ranulph. It was still more than half tide when they approached the rocks, and with a fair wind there should be ease in landing.
No more desolate spot might be imagined. To the left, as you faced towards Jersey, was a long sand-bank. Between the rocks and the sand- bank shot up a tall, lonely shaft of granite with an evil history. It had been chosen as the last refuge of safety for the women and children of a shipwrecked vessel, in the belief that high tide would not reach them. But the wave rose up maliciously, foot by foot, till it drowned their cries for ever in the storm. The sand-bank was called "Ecriviere," and the rock was afterwards known as the "Pierre des Femmes."
Other rocks less prominent, but no less treacherous, flanked it—the Noir Sabloniere and the Grande Galere. To the right of the main island were a group of others, all reef and shingle, intersected by treacherous channels; in calm lapped by water with the colours of a prism of crystal, in storm by a leaden surf and flying foam. These were known as the Colombiere, the Grosse Tete, Tas de Pois, and the Marmotiers; each with its retinue of sunken reefs and needles of granitic gneiss lying low in menace. Happy the sailor caught in a storm and making for the shelter the little curves in the island afford, who escapes a twist of the current, a sweep of the tide, and the impaling fingers of the submarine palisades.
Beyond these rocks lay Maitre Ile, all gneiss and shingle, a desert in the sea. The holy men of the early Church, beholding it from the shore of Normandy, had marked it for a refuge from the storms of war and the follies of the world. So it came to pass, for the honour of God and the Virgin Mary, the Abbe of Val Richer builded a priory there: and there now lie in peace the bones of the monks of Val Richer beside the skeletons of unfortunate gentlemen of the sea of later centuries—pirates from France, buccaneers from England, and smugglers from Jersey, who kept their trysts in the precincts of the ancient chapel.
The brisk air of early autumn made the blood tingle in Guida's cheeks. Her eyes were big with light and enjoyment. Her hair was caught close by a gay cap of her own knitting, but a little of it escaped, making a pretty setting to her face.
The boat rode under all her courses, until, as Jean said, they had put the last lace on her bonnet. Guida's hands were on the tiller firmly, doing Jean's bidding promptly. In all they were five. Besides Guida and Ranulph, Jean and Jean's wife, there was a young English clergyman of the parish of St. Michael's, who had come from England to fill the place of the rector for a few months. Word had been brought to him that a man was dying on the Ecrehos. He had heard that the boat was going, he had found Jean Touzel, and here he was with a biscuit in his hand and a black-jack of French wine within easy reach. Not always in secret the Reverend Lorenzo Dow loved the good things of this world.
The most notable characteristic of the young clergyman's appearance was his outer guilelessness and the oddness of his face. His head was rather big for his body; he had a large mouth which laughed easily, a noble forehead, and big, short-sighted eyes. He knew French well, but could speak almost no Jersey patois, so, in compliment to him, Jean Touzel, Ranulph, and Guida spoke in English. This ability to speak English—his own English—was the pride of Jean's life. He babbled it all the way, and chiefly about a mythical Uncle Elias, who was the text for many a sermon.
"Times past," said he, as they neared Maitre Ile, "mon onc' 'Lias he knows these Ecrehoses better as all the peoples of the world—respe d'la compagnie. Mon onc' 'Lias he was a fine man. Once when there is a fight between de Henglish and de hopping Johnnies," he pointed towards France, "dere is seven French ship, dere is two Henglish ship—gentlemen-of-war dey are call. Eh ben, one of de Henglish ships he is not a gentleman-of- war, he is what you call go-on-your-own-hook—privator. But it is all de same—tres-ba, all right! What you t'ink coum to pass? De big Henglish ship she is hit ver' bad, she is all break-up. Efin, dat leetle privator he stan' round on de fighting side of de gentleman-of-war and take de fire by her loneliness. Say, then, wherever dere is troub' mon onc' 'Lias he is there, he stan' outside de troub' an' look on—dat is his hobby. You call it hombog? Oh, nannin-gia! Suppose two peoples goes to fight, ah bah, somebody must pick up de pieces—dat is mon onc' 'Lias! He have his boat full of hoysters; so he sit dere all alone and watch dat great fight, an' heat de hoyster an' drink de cider vine.
"Ah, bah! mon onc' 'Lias he is standin' hin de door dat day. Dat is what we say on Jersey—when a man have some ver' great luck we say he stan' hin de door. I t'ink it is from de Bible or from de helmanac—sacre moi, I not know.... If I talk too much you give me dat black-jack."
They gave him the black-jack. After he had drunk and wiped his mouth on his sleeve, he went on:
"O my good-ma'm'selle, a leetle more to de wind. Ah, dat is right— trejous! . . . Dat fight it go like two bulls on a vergee—respe d'la compagnie. Mon onc' 'Lias he have been to Hengland, he have sing 'God save our greshus King'; so he t'ink a leetle—Ef he go to de French, likely dey will hang him. Mon onc' 'Lias, he is what you call patreeteesm. He say, 'Hengland, she is mine—trejous.' Efin, he sail straight for de Henglish ships. Dat is de greates' man, mon onc' 'Lias —respe d'la compagnie! he coum on de side which is not fighting. Ah bah, he tell dem dat he go to save de gentleman-of-war. He see a hofficier all bloodiness and he call hup: 'Es-tu gentiment?' he say. 'Gentiment,' say de hofficier; 'han' you?' 'Naicely, yank you!' mon onc' 'Lias he say. 'I will save you,' say mon onc' 'Lias—'I will save de ship of God save our greshus King.' De hofficier wipe de tears out of his face. 'De King will reward you, man alive,' he say. Mon onc' 'Lias he touch his breast and speak out. 'Mon hofficier, my reward is here— trejous. I will take you into de Ecrehoses.' 'Coum up and save de King's ships,' says de hofficier. 'I will take no reward,' say mon onc' 'Lias, 'but, for a leetle pourboire, you will give me de privator —eh?' 'Milles sacres'—say de hofficier, 'mines saeres—de privator!' he say, ver' surprise'. 'Man doux d'la vie—I am damned!' 'You are damned trulee, if you do not get into de Ecrehoses,' say mon onc' 'Lias —'A bi'tot, good-bye!' he say. De hofficier call down to him: 'Is dere nosing else you will take?' 'Nannin, do not tempt me,' say mon onc' 'Lias. 'I am not a gourman'. I will take de privator—dat is my hobby.' All de time de cannons grand—dey brow-brou! boum-boum!—what you call discomfortable. Time is de great t'ing, so de hofficier wipe de tears out of his face again. 'Coum up,' he say; 'de privator is yours.'
"Away dey go. You see dat spot where we coum to land, Ma'm'selle Landresse—where de shingle look white, de leetle green grass above? Dat is where mon onc' 'Lias he bring in de King's ship and de privator. Gatd'en'ale—it is a journee awful! He twist to de right, he shape to de left trough de teeth of de rocks—all safe—vera happee—to dis nice leetle bay of de Maitre Ile dey coum. De Frenchies dey grind dere teeth and spit de fire. But de Henglish laugh at demdey are safe. 'Frien' of my heart,' say de hofficier to mon onc' 'Lias, 'pilot of pilots,' he say, 'in de name of our greshus King I t'ank you—A bi'tot, good-bye!' he say. 'Tres-ba,' mon onc' 'Lias he say den, 'I will go to my privator.' 'You will go to de shore,' say de hofficier. 'You will wait on de shore till de captain and his men of de privator coum to you. When dey coum, de ship is yours—de privator is for you.' Mon onc' 'Lias he is like a child—he believe. He 'bout ship and go shore. Misery me, he sit on dat rocking-stone you see tipping on de wind. But if he wait until de men of de privator coum to him, he will wait till we see him sitting there now. Gache-a-penn, you say patriote? Mon onc' 'Lias he has de patreeteesm, and what happen? He save de ship of de greshus King God save—and dey eat up his hoysters! He get nosing. Gad'rabotin—respe d'la compagnie— if dere is a ship of de King coum to de Ecrehoses, and de hofficier say to me"—he tapped his breast—"'Jean Touzel, tak de ships of de King trough de rocks,'—ah bah, I would rememb' mon onc' 'Lias. I would say, 'A bi'tot-good-bye.' . . . Slowlee—slowlee! We are at de place. Bear wif de land, ma'm'selle! Steadee! As you go! V'la! hitch now, Maitre Ranulph."
The keel of the boat grated on the shingle.
The air of the morning, the sport of using the elements for one's pleasure, had given Guida an elfish sprightliness of spirits. Twenty times during Jean's recital she had laughed gaily, and never sat a laugh better on any one's countenance than on hers. Her teeth were strong, white, and regular; in themselves they gave off a sort of shining mirth.
At first the lugubrious wife of the happy Jean was inclined to resent Guida's gaiety as unseemly, for Jean's story sounded to her as serious statement of fact; which incapacity for humour probably accounted for Jean's occasional lapses from domestic grace. If Jean had said that he had met a periwinkle dancing a hornpipe with an oyster she would have muttered heavily "Think of that!" The most she could say to any one was: "I believe you, ma couzaine." Some time in her life her voice had dropped into that great well she called her body, and it came up only now and then like an echo. There never was anything quite so fat as she. She was found weeping one day on the veille because she was no longer able to get her shoulders out of the window to use the clothes-lines stretching to her neighbour's over the way. If she sat down in your presence, it was impossible to do aught but speculate as to whether she could get up alone. Yet she went abroad on the water a great deal with Jean. At first the neighbours gave out sinister suspicions as to Jean's intentions, for sea-going with your own wife was uncommon among the sailors of the coast. But at last these dark suggestions settled down into a belief that Jean took her chiefly for ballast; and thereafter she was familiarly called "Femme de Ballast."
Talking was no virtue in her eyes. What was going on in her mind no one ever knew. She was more phlegmatic than an Indian; but the tails of the sheep on the Town Hill did not better show the quarter of the wind than the changing colour of Aimable's face indicated Jean's coming or going. For Mattresse Aimable had one eternal secret, an unwavering passion for Jean Touzel. If he patted her on the back on a day when the fishing was extra fine, her heart pumped so hard she had to sit down; if, passing her lonely bed of a morning, he shook her great toe to wake her, she blushed, and turned her face to the wall in placid happiness. She was so credulous and matter-of-fact that if Jean had told her she must die on the spot, she would have said "Think of that!" or "Je te crais," and died. If in the vague dusk of her brain the thought glimmered that she was ballast for Jean on sea and anchor on land, she still was content. For twenty years the massive, straight-limbed Jean had stood to her for all things since the heavens and the earth were created. Once, when she had burnt her hand in cooking supper for him, his arm made a trial of her girth, and he kissed her. The kiss was nearer her ear than her lips, but to her mind it was the most solemn proof of her connubial happiness and of Jean's devotion. She was a Catholic, unlike Jean and most people of her class in Jersey, and ever since that night he kissed her she had told an extra bead on her rosary and said another prayer.
These were the reasons why at first she was inclined to resent Guida's laughter. But when she saw that Maitre Ranulph and the curate and Jean himself laughed, she settled down to a grave content until they landed.
They had scarce reached the deserted chapel where their dinner was to be cooked by Maitresse Aimable, when Ranulph called them to note a vessel bearing in their direction.
"She's not a coasting craft," said Jean.
"She doesn't look like a merchant vessel," said Ranulph, eyeing her through his telescope. "Why, she's a warship!" he added.
Jean thought she was not, but Maitre Ranulph said "Pardi, I ought to know, Jean. Ship-building is my trade, to say nothing of guns—I wasn't two years in the artillery for nothing. See the low bowsprit and the high poop. She's bearing this way. She'll be Narcissus!" he said slowly.
That was Philip d'Avranche's ship.
Guida's face lighted, her heart beat faster. Ranulph turned on his heel.
"Where are you going, Ro?" Guida said, taking a step after him.
"On the other side, to my men and the wreck," he said, pointing.
Guida glanced once more towards the man-o'-war: and then, with mischief in her eye, turned towards Jean. "Suppose," she said to him archly, "suppose the ship should want to come in, of course you'd remember your onc' 'Lias, and say, 'A bi'tot, good-bye!"'
An evasive "Ah bah!" was the only reply Jean vouchsafed.
Ranulph joined his men at the wreck, and the Reverend Lorenzo Dow went about the Lord's business in the little lean-to of sail-cloth and ship's lumber which had been set up near to the toil of the carpenters. When the curate entered the but the sick man was in a doze. He turned his head from side to side restlessly and mumbled to himself. The curate, sitting on the ground beside the man, took from his pocket a book, and began writing in a strange, cramped hand. This book was his journal. When a youth he had been a stutterer, and had taken refuge from talk in writing, and the habit stayed even as his affliction grew less. The important events of the day or the week, the weather, the wind, the tides, were recorded, together with sundry meditations of the Reverend Lorenzo Dow. The pages were not large, and brevity was Mr. Dow's journalistic virtue. Beyond the diligent keeping of this record, he had no habits, certainly no precision, no remembrance, no system: the business of his life ended there. He had quietly vacated two curacies because there had been bitter complaints that the records of certain baptisms, marriages, and burials might only be found in the chequered journal of his life, sandwiched between fantastic reflections and remarks upon the rubric. The records had been exact enough, but the system was not canonical, and it rested too largely upon the personal ubiquity of the itinerary priest, and the safety of his journal—and of his life.
Guida, after the instincts of her nature, had at once sought the highest point on the rocky islet, and there she drank in the joy of sight and sound and feeling. She could see—so perfect was the day—the line marking the Minquiers far on the southern horizon, the dark and perfect green of the Jersey slopes, and the white flags of foam which beat against the Dirouilles and the far-off Paternosters, dissolving as they flew, their place taken by others, succeeding and succeeding, as a soldier steps into a gap in the line of battle. Something in these rocks, something in the Paternosters—perhaps their distance, perhaps their remoteness from all other rocks—fascinated her. As she looked at them, she suddenly felt a chill, a premonition, a half-spiritual, half- material telegraphy of the inanimate to the animate: not from off cold stone to sentient life; but from that atmosphere about the inanimate thing, where the life of man has spent itself and been dissolved, leaving—who can tell what? Something which speaks but yet has no sound.
The feeling which possessed Guida as she looked at the Paternosters was almost like blank fear. Yet physical fear she had never felt, not since that day when the battle raged in the Vier Marchi, and Philip d'Avranche had saved her from the destroying scimitar of the Turk. Now that scene all came back to her in a flash, as it were; and she saw again the dark snarling face of the Mussulman, the blue-and-white silk of his turban, the black and white of his waistcoat, the red of the long robe, and the glint of his uplifted sword. Then in contrast, the warmth, brightness, and bravery on the face of the lad in blue and gold who struck aside the descending blade and caught her up in his arms; and she had nestled there—in those arms of Philip d'Avranche. She remembered how he had kissed her, and how she had kissed him—he a lad and she a little child —as he left her with her mother in the watchmaker's shop in the Vier Marchi that day. . . . And she had never seen him again until yesterday.
She looked from the rocks to the approaching frigate. Was it the Narcissus coming—coming to this very island? She recalled Philip—how gallant he was yesterday, how cool, with what an air of command! How light he had made of the riot! Ranulph's strength and courage she accepted as a matter of course, and was glad that he was brave, generous, and good; but the glamour of distance and mystery were around d'Avranche. Remembrance, like a comet, went circling through the firmament of eleven years, from the Vier Marchi to the Place du Vier Prison.
She watched the ship slowly bearing with the land. The Jack was flying from the mizzen. They were now taking in her topsails. She was so near that Guida could see the anchor a-cockbell, and the poop lanthorns. She could count the guns like long black horns shooting out from a rhinoceros hide: she could discern the figurehead lion snarling into the spritsail. Presently the ship came up to the wind and lay to. Then she signalled for a pilot, and Guida ran towards the ruined chapel, calling for Jean Touzel.
In spite of Jean's late protests as to piloting a "gentleman-of-war," this was one of the joyful moments of his life. He could not loosen his rowboat quick enough; he was away almost before you could have spoken his name. Excited as Guida was, she could not resist calling after him:
"'God save our greshus King! A bi'tot—goodbye!'"
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A sort of chuckle not entirely pleasant Sacrifice to the god of the pin-hole What fools there are in the world
THE BATTLE OF THE STRONG
[A ROMANCE OF TWO KINGDOMS]
By Gilbert Parker
As Ranulph had surmised, the ship was the Narcissus, and its first lieutenant was Philip d'Avranche. The night before, orders had reached the vessel from the Admiralty that soundings were to be taken at the Ecrehos. The captain had at once made inquiries for a pilot, and Jean Touzel was commended to him. A messenger sent to Jean found that he had already gone to the Ecrehos. The captain had then set sail, and now, under Jean's skilful pilotage, the Narcissus twisted and crept through the teeth of the rocks at the entrance, and slowly into the cove, reefs on either side gaping and girding at her, her keel all but scraping the serrated granite beneath. She anchored, and boats put off to take soundings and explore the shores. Philip was rowed in by Jean Touzel.
Stepping out upon the beach of Mattre 'Ile, Philip slowly made his way over the shingle to the ruined chapel, in no good humour with himself or with the world, for exploring these barren rocks seemed a useless whim of the Admiralty, and he could not conceive of any incident rising from the monotony of duty to lighten the darkness of this very brilliant day. His was not the nature to enjoy the stony detail of his profession. Excitement and adventure were as the breath of life to him, and since he had played his little part at the Jersey battle in a bandbox eleven years before, he had touched hands with accidents of flood and field in many countries.
He had been wrecked on the island of Trinidad in a tornado, losing his captain and his ship; had seen active service in America and in India; won distinction off the coast of Arabia in an engagement with Spanish cruisers; and was now waiting for his papers as commander of a ship of his own, and fretted because the road of fame and promotion was so toilsome. Rumours of war with France had set his blood dancing a little, but for him most things were robbed of half their pleasure because they did not come at once.
This was a moody day with him, for he had looked to spend it differently. As he walked up the shingle his thoughts were hanging about a cottage in the Place du Vier Prison. He had hoped to loiter in a doorway there, and to empty his sailor's heart in well-practised admiration before the altar of village beauty. The sight of Guida's face the day before had given a poignant pulse to his emotions, unlike the broken rhythm of past comedies of sentiment and melodramas of passion. According to all logic of custom, the acuteness of yesterday's impression should have been followed up by today's attack; yet here he was, like another Robinson Crusoe, "kicking up the shingle of a cursed Patmos"—so he grumbled aloud. Patmos was not so wild a shot after all, for no sooner had he spoken the word than, looking up, he saw in the doorway of the ruined chapel the gracious figure of a girl: and a book of revelations was opened and begun.
At first he did not recognise Guida. There was only a picture before him which, by some fantastic transmission, merged into his reveries. What he saw was an ancient building—just such a humble pile of stone and rough mortar as one might see on some lone cliff of the AEgean or on abandoned isles of the equatorial sea. The gloom of a windowless vault was behind the girl, but the filtered sunshine of late September fell on her head. It brightened the white kerchief, and the bodice and skirt of a faint pink, throwing the face into a pleasing shadow where the hand curved over the forehead. She stood like some Diana of a ruined temple looking out into the staring day.
At once his pulses beat faster, for to him a woman was ever the fountain of adventure, and an unmanageable heart sent him headlong to the oasis where he might loiter at the spring of feminine vanity, or truth, or impenitent gaiety, as the case might be. In proportion as his spirits had sunk into sour reflection, they now shot up rocket-high at the sight of a girl's joyous pose of body and the colour and form of the picture she made. In him the shrewdness of a strong intelligence was mingled with wild impulse. In most, rashness would be the outcome of such a marriage of characteristics; but clear-sightedness, decision, and a little unscrupulousness had carried into success many daring actions of his life. This very quality of resolute daring saved him from disaster.
Impulse quickened his footsteps now. It quickened them to a run when the hand was dropped from the girl's forehead, and he saw again the face whose image and influence had banished sleep from his eyes the night before.
"Guida!" broke from his lips.
The man was transfigured. Brightness leaped into his look, and the greyness of his moody eye became as blue as the sea. The professional straightness of his figure relaxed into the elastic grace of an athlete. He was a pipe to be played on: an actor with the ambitious brain of a diplomatist; as weak as water, and as strong as steel; soft-hearted to foolishness or unyielding at will.
Now, if the devil had sent a wise imp to have watch and ward of this man and this maid, and report to him upon the meeting of their ways, the moment Philip took Guida's hand, and her eyes met his, monsieur the reporter of Hades might have clapped-to his book and gone back to his dark master with the message and the record: "The hour of Destiny is struck."
When the tide of life beats high in two mortals, and they meet in the moment of its apogee, when all the nature is sweeping on without command, guilelessly, yet thoughtlessly, the mere lilt of existence lulling to sleep wisdom and tried experience—speculation points all one way. Many indeed have been caught away by such a conjunction of tides, and they mostly pay the price.
But paying is part of the game of life: it is the joy of buying that we crave. Go down into the dark markets of the town. See the long, narrow, sordid streets lined with the cheap commodities of the poor. Mark how there is a sort of spangled gaiety, a reckless swing, a grinning exultation in the grimy, sordid caravanserai. The cheap colours of the shoddy open-air clothing-house, the blank faded green of the coster's cart; the dark bluish-red of the butcher's stall—they all take on a value not their own in the garish lights flaring down the markets of the dusk. Pause to the shrill music of the street musician, hear the tuneless voice of the grimy troubadour of the alley-ways; and then hark to the one note that commands them all—the call which lightens up faces sodden with base vices, eyes bleared with long looking into the dark caverns of crime:
That is the tune the piper pipes. We would buy, and behold, we must pay. Then the lights go out, the voices stop, and only the dark tumultuous streets surround us, and the grime of life is ours again. Whereupon we go heavily to hard beds of despair, having eaten the cake we bought, and now must pay for unto Penalty, the dark inordinate creditor. And anon the morning comes, and then, at last, the evening when the triste bazaars open again, and the strong of heart and nerve move not from their doorways, but sit still in the dusk to watch the grim world go by. But mostly they hurry out to the bazaars once more, answering to the fevered call:
And again they pay the price: and so on to the last foreclosure and the immitigable end.
One of the two standing in the door of the ruined chapel on the Ecrehos had the nature of those who buy but once and pay the price but once; the other was of those who keep open accounts in the markets of life. The one was the woman and the other was the man.
There was nothing conventional in their greeting. "You remembered me!" he said eagerly, in English, thinking of yesterday.
"I shouldn't deserve to be here if I had forgotten," she answered meaningly. "Perhaps you forget the sword of the Turk?" she added.
He laughed a little, his cheek flushed with pleasure. "I shouldn't deserve to be here if I remembered—in the way you mean," he answered.
Her face was full of pleasure. "The worst of it is," she said, "I never can pay my debt. I have owed it for eleven years, and if I should live to be ninety I should still owe it."
His heart was beating hard and he became daring. "So, thou shalt save my life," he said, speaking in French. "We shall be quits then, thou and I."
The familiar French thou startled her. To hide the instant's confusion she turned her head away, using a hand to gather in her hair, which the wind was lifting lightly.
"That wouldn't quite make us quits," she rejoined; "your life is important, mine isn't. You"—she nodded towards the Narcissus—"you command men."
"So dost thou," he answered, persisting in the endearing pronoun.
He meant it to be endearing. As he had sailed up and down the world, a hundred ports had offered him a hundred adventures, all light in the scales of purpose, but not all bad. He had gossiped and idled and coquetted with beauty before; but this was different, because the nature of the girl was different from all others he had met. It had mostly been lightly come and lightly go with himself, as with the women it had been easily won and easily loosed. Conscience had not smitten him hard, because beauty, as he had known it, though often fair and of good report, had bloomed for others before he came. But here was a nature fresh and unspoiled from the hand of the potter Life.
As her head slightly turned from him again, he involuntarily noticed the pulse beating in her neck, the rise and fall of her bosom. Life—here was life unpoisoned by one drop of ill thought or light experience.
"Thou dost command men too," he repeated.
She stepped forward a little from the doorway and beyond him, answering back at him:
"Oh, no, I only knit, and keep a garden, and command a little home, that's all. . . . Won't you let me show you the island?" she added quickly, pointing to a hillock beyond, and moving towards it. He followed, speaking over her shoulder:
"That's what you seem to do," he answered, "not what you do." Then he added rhetorically: "I've seen a man polishing the buckle of his shoe, and he was planning to take a city or manoeuvre a fleet."
She noticed that he had dropped the thou, and, much as its use had embarrassed her, the gap left when the boldness was withdrawn became filled with regret, for, though no one had dared to say it to her before, somehow it seemed not rude on Philip's lips. Philip? Yes, Philip she had called him in her childhood, and the name had been carried on into her girlhood—he had always been Philip to her.
"No, girls don't think like that, and they don't do big things," she replied. "When I polish the pans"—she laughed—"and when I scour my buckles, I just think of pans and buckles." She tossed up her fingers lightly, with a perfect charm of archness.
He was very close to her now. "But girls have dreams, they have memories."
"If women hadn't memory," she answered, "they wouldn't have much, would they? We can't take cities and manoeuvre fleets." She laughed a little ironically. "I wonder that we think at all or have anything to think about, except the kitchen and the garden, and baking and scouring and spinning"—she paused slightly, her voice lowered a little—"and the sea, and the work that men do round us. . . . Do you ever go into a market?" she added suddenly.
Somehow she could talk easily and naturally to him. There had been no leading up to confidence. She felt a sudden impulse to tell him all her thoughts. To know things, to understand, was a passion with her. It seemed to obliterate in her all that was conventional, it removed her far from sensitive egotism. Already she had begun "to take notice" in the world, and that is like being born again. As it grows, life ceases to be cliche; and when the taking notice is supreme we call it genius; and genius is simple and believing: it has no pride, it is naive, it is childlike.
Philip seemed to wear no mark of convention, and Guida spoke her thoughts freely to him. "To go into a market seems to me so wonderful," she continued. "There are the cattle, the fruits, the vegetables, the flowers, the fish, the wood; the linen from the loom, the clothes that women's fingers have knitted. But it isn't just those things that you see, it's all that's behind them—the houses, the fields, and the boats at sea, and the men and women working and working, and sleeping and eating, and breaking their hearts with misery, and wondering what is to be the end of it all; yet praying a little, it may be, and dreaming a little—perhaps a very little." She sighed, and continued: "That's as far as I get with thinking. What else can one do in this little island? Why, on the globe Maitre Damian has at St. Aubin's, Jersey is no bigger than the head of a pin. And what should one think of here?"
Her eyes were on the sea. Its mystery was in them, the distance, the ebb and flow, the light of wonder and of adventure too. "You—you've been everywhere," she went on. "Do you remember you sent me once from Malta a tiny silver cross? That was years ago, soon after the Battle of Jersey, when I was a little bit of a girl. Well, after I got big enough I used to find Malta and other places on Maitre Damian's globe. I've lived always there, on that spot"—she pointed towards Jersey—"on that spot one could walk round in a day. What do I know! You've been everywhere —everywhere. When you look back you've got a thousand pictures in your mind. You've seen great cities, temples, palaces, great armies, fleets; you've done things: you've fought and you've commanded, though you're so young, and you've learned about men and about many countries. Look at what you know, and then, if you only think, you'll laugh at what I know."
For a moment he was puzzled what to answer. The revelation of the girl's nature had come so quickly upon him. He had looked for freshness, sweetness, intelligence, and warmth of temperament, but it seemed to him that here were flashes of power. Yet she was only seventeen. She had been taught to see things with her own eyes and not another's, and she spoke of them as she saw them; that was all. Yet never but to her mother had Guida said so much to any human being as within these past few moments to Philip d'Avranche.
The conditions were almost maliciously favourable, and d'Avranche was simple and easy as a boy, with his sailor's bonhomie and his naturally facile spirit. A fateful adaptability was his greatest weapon in life, and his greatest danger. He saw that Guida herself was unconscious of the revelation she was making, and he showed no surprise, but he caught the note of her simplicity, and responded in kind. He flattered her deftly—not that she was pressed unduly, he was too wise for that. He took her seriously; and this was not all dissimulation, for her every word had glamour, and he now exalted her intellect unduly. He had never met girl or woman who talked just as she did; and straightway, with the wild eloquence of his nature, he thought he had discovered a new heaven and a new earth. A spell was upon him. He knew what he wanted when he saw it. He had always made up his mind suddenly, always acted on the intelligent impulse of the moment. He felt things, he did not study them—it was almost a woman's instinct. He came by a leap to the goal of purpose, not by the toilsome steps of reason. On the instant his headlong spirit declared his purpose: this was the one being for him in all the world: at this altar he would light a lamp of devotion, and keep it burning forever.
"This is my day," he said to himself. "I always knew that love would come down on me like a storm." Then, aloud, he said to her: "I wish I knew what you know; but I can't, because my mind is different, my life has been different. When you go into the world and see a great deal, and loosen a little the strings of your principles, and watch how sins and virtues contradict themselves, you see things after a while in a kind of mist. But you, Guida, you see them clearly because your heart is clear. You never make a mistake, you are always right because your mind is right."
She interrupted him, a little troubled and a good deal amazed: "Oh, you mustn't, mustn't speak like that. It's not so. How can one see and learn unless one sees and knows the world? Surely one can't think wisely if one doesn't see widely?"
He changed his tactics instantly. The world—that was the thing? Well, then, she should see the world, through him, with him.
"Yes, yes, you're right," he answered. "You can't know things unless you see widely. You must see the world. This island, what is it? I was born here, don't I know! It's a foothold in the world, but it's no more; it's not afield to walk in, why, it's not even a garden. No, it's the little patch of green we play in in front of a house, behind the railings, before we go out into the world and learn how to live."
They had now reached the highest point on the island, where a flagstaff stood. Guida was looking far beyond Jersey to the horizon line. There was little haze, the sky was inviolably blue. Far off against the horizon lay the low black rocks of the Minquiers. They seemed to her, on the instant, like stepping-stones. Beyond would be other stepping- stones, and others and others still again, and they would all mark the way and lead to what Philip called the world. The world! She felt a sudden little twist of regret at her heart. Here she was like a cow grazing within the circle of its tether—like a lax caterpillar on its blade of grass. Yet it had all seemed so good to her in the past; broken only by little bursts of wonder and wish concerning that outside world.
"Do we ever learn how to live?" she asked. "Don't we just go on from one thing to another, picking our way, but never knowing quite what to do, because we don't know what's ahead? I believe we never do learn how to live," she added, half-smiling, yet a little pensive too; "but I am so very ignorant, and—"
She stopped, for suddenly it flashed upon her: here she was baring her childish heart—he would think it childish, she was sure he would— everything she thought, to a man she had never known till to-day. No, no, she was wrong; she had known him, but it was only as Philip, the boy who had saved her life. And the Philip of her memory was only a picture, not a being; something to think about, not something to speak with, to whom she might show her heart. She flushed hotly and turned her shoulder on him. Her eyes followed a lizard creeping up the stones. As long as she lived she remembered that lizard, its colour changing in the sun. She remembered the hot stones, and how warm the flag-staff was when she stretched out her hand to it mechanically. But the swift, noiseless lizard running in and out of the stones, it was ever afterwards like a coat-of-arms upon the shield of her life.
Philip came close to her. At first he spoke over her shoulder, then he faced her. His words forced her eyes up to his, and he held them.
"Yes, yes, we learn how to live," he said. "It's only when we travel alone that we don't see before us. I will teach you how to live—we will learn the way together! Guida! Guida!"—he reached out his hands to wards her—"don't start so! Listen to me. I feel for you what I have felt for no other being in all my life. It came upon me yesterday when I saw you in the window at the Vier Prison. I didn't understand it. All night I walked the deck thinking of you. To-day as soon as I saw your face, as soon as I touched your hand, I knew what it was, and—"
He attempted to take her hand now. "Oh, no, no!" she exclaimed, and drew back as if terrified.
"You need not fear me," he burst out. "For now I know that I have but two things to live for: for my work"—he pointed to the Narcissus—"and for you. You are frightened of me? Why, I want to have the right to protect you, to drive away all fear from your life. You shall be the garden and I shall be the wall; you the nest and I the rock; you the breath of life and I the body that breathes it. Guida, my Guida, I love you!"
She drew back, leaning against the stones, her eyes riveted upon his, and she spoke scarcely above a whisper.
"It is not true—it is not true. You've known me only for one day—only for one hour. How can you say it!" There was a tumult in her breast; her eyes shone and glistened; wonder, embarrassed yet happy wonder, looked at him from her face, which was touched with an appealing, as of the heart that dares not believe and yet must believe or suffer.
"It is madness," she added. "It is not true—how can it be true!"
Yet it all had the look of reality—the voice had the right ring, the face had truth, the bearing was gallant; the force and power of the man overwhelmed her.
She reached out her hand tremblingly as though to push him back. "It cannot be true," she said. "To think—in one day!"
"It is true," he answered, "true as that I stand here. One day—it is not one day. I knew you years ago. The seed was sown then, the flower springs up to-day, that is all. You think I can't know that it is love I feel for you? It is admiration; it is faith; it is desire too; but it is love. When you see a flower in a garden, do you not know at once if you like it or no? Don't you know the moment you look on a landscape, on a splendid building, whether it is beautiful to you? If, then, with these things one knows—these that haven't any speech, no life like yours or mine—how much more when it is a girl with a face like yours, when it is a mind noble like yours, when it is a touch that thrills, and a voice that drowns the heart in music! Guida, believe that I speak the truth. I know, I swear, that you are the one passion, the one love of my life. All others would be as nothing, so long as you live, and I live to look upon you, to be beside you."
"Beside me!" she broke in, with an incredulous irony fain to be contradicted, "a girl in a village, poor, knowing nothing, seeing no farther"—she looked out towards Jersey—"seeing no farther than the little cottage in the little country where I was born."
"But you shall see more," he said, "you shall see all, feel all, if you will but listen to me. Don't deny me what is life and breathing and hope to me. I'll show you the world; I'll take you where you may see and know. We will learn it all together. I shall succeed in life. I shall go far. I've needed one thing to make me do my best for some one's sake beside my own; you will make me do it for your sake. Your ancestors were great people in France; and you know that mine, centuries ago, were great also—that the d'Avranches were a noble family in France. You and I will win our place as high as the best of them. In this war that's coming between England and France is my chance. Nelson said to me the other day—you have heard of him, of young Captain Nelson, the man they're pointing to in the fleet as the one man of them all?—he said to me: 'We shall have our chance now, d'Avranche.' And we shall. I have wanted it till to-day for my own selfish ambition—now I want it for you. When I landed on this islet a half-hour ago, I hated it, I hated my ship, I hated my duty, I hated everything, because I wanted to go where you were, to be with you. It was Destiny that brought us both to this place at one moment. You can't escape Destiny. It was to be that I should love you, Guida."
He reached out to take her hands, but she put them behind her against the stones, and drew back. The lizard suddenly shot out from a hole and crossed over her fingers. She started, shivered at the cold touch, and caught the hand away. A sense of foreboding awaked in her, and her eyes followed the lizard's swift travel with a strange fascination. But she lifted them to Philip's, and the fear and premonition passed.
"Oh, my brain is in a whirl!" she said. "I do not understand. I know so little. No one has ever spoken to me as you have done. You would not dare"—she leaned forward a little, looking into his face with that unwavering gaze which was the best sign of her straight-forward mind— "you would not dare to deceive—you would not dare. I have—no mother," she added with simple pathos.
The moisture came into his eyes. He must have been stone not to be touched by the appealing, by the tender inquisition, of that look.
"Guida," he said impetuously, "if I deceive you, may every fruit of life turn to dust and ashes in my mouth! If ever I deceive you, may I die a black, dishonourable death, abandoned and alone! I should deserve that if I deceived you, Guida."
For the first time since he had spoken she smiled, yet her eyes filled with tears too.
"You will let me tell you that I love you, Guida—it is all I ask now: that you will listen to me?"
She sighed, but did not answer. She kept looking at him, looking as though she would read his inmost soul. Her face was very young, though the eyes were so wise in their simplicity.
"You will give me my chance—you will listen to me, Guida, and try to understand—and be glad?" he asked, leaning closer to her and holding out his hands.
She drew herself up slightly as with an air of relief and resolve. She put a hand in his.
"I will try to understand—and be glad," she answered.
"Won't you call me Philip?" he said.
The same slight, mischievous smile crossed her lips now as eleven years ago in the Rue d'Egypte, and recalling that moment, she replied:
At that instant the figure of a man appeared on the shingle beneath, looking up towards them. They did not see him. Guida's hand was still in Philip's.
The man looked at them for a moment, then started and turned away. It was Ranulph Delagarde.
They heard his feet upon the shingle now. They turned and looked; and Guida withdrew her hand.
There are moments when a kind of curtain seems dropped over the brain, covering it, smothering it, while yet the body and its nerves are tingling with sensation. It is like the fire-curtain of a theatre let down between the stage and the audience, a merciful intervention between the mind and the disaster which would consume it.
As the years had gone on Maitre Ranulph's nature had grown more powerful, and his outdoor occupation had enlarged and steadied his physical forces. His trouble now was in proportion to the force of his character. The sight of Guida and Philip hand in hand, the tender attitude, the light in their faces, was overwhelming and unaccountable. Yesterday these two were strangers—to-day it was plain to be seen they were lovers, and lovers who had reached a point of confidence and revelation. Nothing in the situation tallied with Ranulph's ideas of Guida and his knowledge of life. He had, as one might say, been eye to eye with this girl for fifteen years: he had told his love for her in a thousand little ways, as the ant builds its heap to a pyramid that becomes a thousand times greater than itself. He had followed her footsteps, he had fetched and carried, he had served afar off, he had ministered within the gates. He had, unknown to her, watched like the keeper of the house over all who came and went, neither envious nor over-zealous, neither intrusive nor neglectful; leaving here a word and there an act to prove himself, above all, the friend whom she could trust, and, in all, the lover whom she might wake to know and reward. He had waited with patience, hoping stubbornly that she might come to put her hand in his one day.
Long ago he would have left the island to widen his knowledge, earn experience in his craft, or follow a career in the army—he had been an expert gunner when he served in the artillery four years ago—and hammer out fame upon the anvils of fortune in England or in France; but he had stayed here that he might be near her. His love had been simple, it had been direct, and wise in its consistent reserve. He had been self- obliterating. His love desired only to make her happy: most lovers desire that they themselves shall be made happy. Because of the crime his father committed years ago—because of the shame of that hidden crime—he had tried the more to make himself a good citizen, and had formed the modest ambition of making one human being happy. Always keeping this near him in past years, a supreme cheerfulness of heart had welled up out of his early sufferings and his innate honesty. Hope had beckoned him on from year to year, until it seemed at last that the time had almost come when he might speak, might tell her all—his father's crime and the manner of his father's death; of his own devoted purpose in trying to expiate that crime by his own uprightness; and of his love for her.
Now, all in a minute, his horizon was blackened. This adventurous gallant, this squire of dames, had done in a day what he had worked, step by step, to do through all these years. This skipping seafarer, with his powder and lace, his cocked hat and gold-handled sword, had whistled at the gates which he had guarded and by which he had prayed, and all in a minute every defence had been thrown down, and Guida—his own Guida—had welcomed the invader with shameless eagerness.
He crossed the islet slowly. It seemed to him—and for a moment it was the only thing of which he was conscious—that the heels of his boots shrieked in the shingle, and with every step he was raising an immense weight. He paused behind the chapel. After a little the smother lifted slowly from his brain.
"I'll believe in her still," he said aloud. "It's all his cursed tongue. As a boy he could make every other boy do what he wanted because his tongue knows how to twist words. She's been used to honest people; he's talked a new language to her—tricks caught in his travels. But she shall know the truth. She shall find out what sort of a man he is. I'll make her see under his pretty foolings."
He turned, and leaned against the wall of the chapel. "Guida, Guida," he said, speaking as if she were there before him, "you won't—you won't go to him, and spoil your life, and mine too. Guida, ma couzaine, you'll stay here, in the land of your birth. You'll make your home here—here with me, ma chere couzaine. Ah, but then you shall be my wife in spite of him, in spite of a thousand Philip d'Avranches!"
He drew himself up firmly, for a great resolve was made. His path was clear. It was a fair fight, he thought; the odds were not so much against him after all, for his birth was as good as Philip d'Avranche's, his energy was greater, and he was as capable and as clever in his own way.
He walked quickly down the shingle towards the wreck on the other side of the islet. As he passed the hut where the sick man lay, he heard a querulous voice. It was not that of the Reverend Lorenzo Dow.
Where had he heard that voice before? A shiver of fear ran through him. Every sense and emotion in him was arrested. His life seemed to reel backward. Curtain after curtain of the past unfolded.
He hurried to the door of the hut and looked in.
A man with long white hair and straggling grey beard turned to him a haggard face, on which were written suffering, outlawry, and evil.
"Great God—my father!" Ranulph said.
He drew back slowly like a man who gazes upon some horrible fascinating thing, and then turned heavily towards the sea, his face set, his senses paralysed.
"My father not dead! My father—the traitor!" he groaned.
Philip d'Avranche sauntered slowly through the Vier Marchi, nodding right and left to people who greeted him. It was Saturday and market day in Jersey. The square was crowded with people. All was a cheerful babel; there was movement, colour everywhere. Here were the high and the humble, hardi vlon and hardi biaou—the ugly and the beautiful, the dwarfed and the tall, the dandy and the dowdy, the miser and the spendthrift; young ladies gay in silks, laces, and scarfs from Spain, and gentlemen with powdered wigs from Paris; sailors with red tunics from the Mediterranean, and fishermen with blue and purple blouses from Brazil; man-o'-war's-men with Greek petticoats, Turkish fezzes, and Portuguese espadras. Jersey housewives, in bedgones and white caps, with molleton dresses rolled up to the knees, pushed their way through the crowd, jars of black butter, or jugs of cinnamon brandy on their heads. From La Pyramide—the hospitable base of the statue of King George II—fishwives called the merits of their conger-eels and ormers; and the clatter of a thousand sabots made the Vier Marchi sound like a ship-builder's yard.
In this square Philip had loitered and played as a child. Down there, leaning against a pillar of the Corn Market piazza was Elie Mattingley, the grizzly-haired seller of foreign silks and droll odds and ends, who had given him a silver flageolet when he was a little lad. There were the same swaggering manners, the big gold rings in his ears; there was the same red sash about the waist, the loose unbuttoned shirt, the truculent knifebelt; there were the same keen brown eyes looking you through and through, and the mouth with a middle tooth in both jaws gone. Elie Mattingley, pirate, smuggler, and sometime master of a privateer, had had dealings with people high and low in the island, and they had not always, nor often, been conducted in the open Vier Marchi.
Fifteen years ago he used to have his little daughter Carterette always beside him when he sold his wares. Philip wondered what had become of her. He glanced round. . . . Ah, there she was, not far from her father, over in front of the guard-house, selling, at a little counter with a canopy of yellow silk (brought by her father from that distant land called Piracy), mogues of hot soupe a la graisse, simnels, curds, coffee, and Jersey wonders, which last she made on the spot by dipping the little rings of dough in a bashin of lard on a charcoal fire at her side.
Carterette was short and spare, with soft yet snapping eyes as black as night—or her hair; with a warm, dusky skin, a tongue which clattered pleasantly, and very often wisely. She had a hand as small and plump as a baby's, and a pretty foot which, to the disgust of some mothers and maidens of greater degree, was encased in a red French slipper, instead of the wooden sabot stuffed with straw, while her ankles were nicely dressed in soft black stockings, in place of the woolen native hose, as became her station.
Philip watched Carterette now for a moment, a dozen laughing memories coming back to him; for he had teased her and played with her when she was a child, had even called her his little sweetheart. Looking at her he wondered what her fate would be: To marry one of these fishermen or carters? No, she would look beyond that. Perhaps it would be one of those adventurers in bearskin cap and buckskin vest, home from Gaspe, where they had toiled in the great fisheries, some as common fishermen, some as mates and maybe one or two as masters. No, she would look beyond that. Perhaps she would be carried off by one of those well-to-do, black-bearded young farmers in the red knitted queminzolle, blue breeches, and black cocked hat, with his kegs of cider and bunches of parsley.
That was more likely, for among the people there was every prejudice in her favour. She was Jersey born, her father was reputed to have laid by a goodly sum of money—not all got in this Vier Marchi; and that he was a smuggler and pirate roused a sentiment in their bosoms nearer to envy than aught else. Go away naked and come back clothed, empty and come back filled, simple and come back with a wink of knowledge, penniless and come back with the price of numerous vergees of land, and you might answer the island catechism without fear. Be lambs in Jersey, but harry the rest of the world with a lion's tooth, was the eleventh commandment in the Vier Marchi.
Yes, thought Philip idly now, as he left the square, the girl would probably marry a rich farmer, and when he came again he should find her stout of body, and maybe shrewish of face, crying up the virtues of her black butter and her knitted stockings, having made the yellow silk canopy above her there into a gorgeous quilt for the nuptial bed.
Yet the young farmers who hovered near her now, buying a glass of cider or a mogue of soup, received but scant notice. She laughed with them, treated them lightly, and went about her business again with a toss of the head. Not once did she show a moment's real interest, not until a fine upstanding fellow came round the corner from the Rue des Vignes, and passed her booth.
She was dipping a doughnut into the boiling lard, but she paused with it suspended. The little dark face took on a warm glow, the eyes glistened.
"Maitre Ranulph!" called the girl softly. Then as the tall fellow turned to her and lifted his cap she added briskly: "Where away so fast with face hard as hatchet?"
"Garcon Cart'rette!" he said abstractedly—he had always called her that.
He was about to move on. She frowned in vexation, yet she saw that he was pale and heavy-eyed, and she beckoned him to come to her.
"What's gone wrong, big wood-worm?" she said, eyeing him closely, and striving anxiously to read his face. He looked at her sharply, but the softness in her black eyes somehow reassured him, and he said quite kindly:
"Nannin, 'tite garcon, nothing's matter."
"I thought you'd be blithe as a sparrow with your father back from the grave!" Then as Ranulph's face seemed to darken, she added: "He's not worse—he's not worse?"
"No, no, he's well enough now," he said, forcing a smile.
She was not satisfied, but she went on talking, intent to find the cause of his abstraction. "Only to think," she said—"only to think that he wasn't killed at all at the Battle of Jersey, and was a prisoner in France, and comes back here—and we all thought him dead, didn't we?"
"I left him for dead that morning on the Grouville road," he answered. Then, as if with a great effort, and after the manner of one who has learned a part, he went on: "As the French ran away mad, paw of one on tail of other, they found him trying to drag himself along. They nabbed him, and carried him aboard their boats to pilot them out from the Rocque Platte, and over to France. Then because they hadn't gobbled us up here, what did the French Gover'ment do? They clapped a lot of 'em in irons and sent 'em away to South America, and my father with 'em. That's why we heard neither click nor clack of him all this time. He broke free a year ago. Then he fell sick. When he got well he set sail for Jersey, was wrecked off the Ecrehos, and everybody knows the rest. Diantre, he's had a hard time!"
The girl had listened intently. She had heard all these things in flying rumours, and she had believed the rumours; but now that Maitre Ranulph told her—Ranulph, whose word she would have taken quicker than the oath of a Jurat—she doubted. With the doubt her face flushed as though she herself had been caught in a lie, had done a mean thing. Somehow her heart was aching for him, she knew not why.
All this time she had held the doughnut poised; she seemed to have forgotten her work. Suddenly the wooden fork holding the cake was taken from her fingers by the daft Dormy Jamais who had crept near.
"Des monz a fou," said he, "to spoil good eating so! What says fishing- man: When sails flap, owner may whistle for cargo. Tut, tut, goose Carterette!"
Carterette took no note, but said to Ranulph:
"Of course he had to pilot the Frenchmen back, or they'd have killed him, and it'd done no good to refuse. He was the first man that fought the French on the day of the battle, wasn't he? I've always heard that." Unconsciously she was building up a defence for Olivier Delagarde. She was, as it were, anticipating insinuation from other quarters. She was playing Ranulph's game, because she instinctively felt that behind this story there was gloom in his mind and mystery in the tale itself. She noticed too that he shrank from her words. She was not very quick of intellect, so she had to feel her way fumblingly. She must have time to think, but she said tentatively:
"I suppose it's no secret? I can tell any one at all what happened to your father?" she asked.
"Oh so—sure so!" he said rather eagerly. "Tell every one about it. He doesn't mind."
Maitre Ranulph deceived but badly. Bold and convincing in all honest things, he was, as yet, unconvincing in this grave deception. All these years he had kept silence, enduring what he thought a buried shame; but that shame had risen from the dead, a living agony. His father had betrayed the island to the French: if the truth were known to-day they would hang him for a traitor on the Mont es Pendus. No mercy and scant shrift would be shown him.
Whatever came, he must drink this bitter cup to the dregs. He could never betray his own father. He must consume with inward disgust while Olivier Delagarde shamelessly babbled his monstrous lies to all who would listen. And he must tell these lies too, conceal, deceive, and live in hourly fear of discovery. He must sit opposite his father day by day at table, talk with him, care for him, shrinking inwardly at every knock at the door lest it should be an officer come to carry the pitiful traitor off to prison.
And, more than all, he must give up for ever the thought of Guida. Here was the acid that ate home, the black hopelessness, the machine of fate clamping his heart. Never again could he rise in the morning with a song on his lips; never again his happy meditations go lilting with the clanging blows of the adze and the singing of the saws.
All these things had vanished when he looked into a tent-door on the Ecrehos. Now, in spite of himself, whenever he thought upon Guida's face, this other fateful figure, this Medusan head of a traitor, shot in between.
Since his return his father had not been strong enough to go abroad; but to-day he meant to walk to the Vier Marchi. At first Ranulph had decided to go as usual to his ship-yard at St. Aubin's, but at last in anxious fear he too had come to the Vier Marchi. There was a horrible fascination in being where his father was, in listening to his falsehoods, in watching the turns and twists of his gross hypocrisies.
But yet at times he was moved by a strange pity, for Olivier Delagarde was, in truth, far older than his years: a thin, shuffling, pallid invalid, with a face of mingled sanctity and viciousness. If the old man lied, and had not been in prison all these years, he must have had misery far worse, for neither vice nor poverty alone could so shatter a human being. The son's pity seemed to look down from a great height upon the contemptible figure with the beautiful white hair and the abominable mouth. This compassion kept him from becoming hard, but it would also preserve him to hourly sacrifice—Prometheus chained to his rock. In the short fortnight that had gone since the day upon the Ecrehos, he had changed as much as do most people in ten years. Since then he had seen neither Philip nor Guida.
To Carterette he seemed not the man she had known. With her woman's instinct she knew that he loved Guida, but she also knew that nothing which might have happened between them could have brought this look of shame and shrinking into his face. As these thoughts flashed through her mind her heart grew warmer. Suppose Ranulph was in some trouble—well, now might be her great chance. She might show him that he could not live without her friendship, and then perhaps, by-and-bye, that he could not live without her love.
Ranulph was about to move on. She stopped him. "When you need me, Maitre Ranulph, you know where to find me," she said scarce above a whisper. He looked at her sharply, almost fiercely, but again the tenderness of her eyes, the directness of her gaze, convinced him. She might be, as she was, variable with other people; with himself she was invincibly straightforward.
"P'raps you don't trust me?" she added, for she read his changing expression.
"I'd trust you quick enough," he said.
"Then do it now—you're having some bad trouble," she rejoined.
He leaned over her stall and said to her steadily and with a little moroseness:
"See you, ma garche, if I was in trouble I'd bear it by myself. I'd ask no one to help me. I'm a man, and I can stand alone. Don't go telling folks I look as if I was in trouble. I'm going to launch to-morrow the biggest ship ever sent from a Jersey building yard—that doesn't look like trouble, does it? Turn about is fair play, garcon Cart'rette: so when you're in trouble come to me. You're not a man, and it's a man's place to help a woman, all the more when she's a fine and good little stand-by like you."
He forced a smile, turned upon his heel, and threaded his way through the square, keeping a look-out for his father. This he could do easily, for he was the tallest man in the Vier Marchi by at least three inches.
Carterette, oblivious of all else, stood gazing after him. She was only recalled to herself by Dormy Jamais. He was diligently cooking her Jersey wonders, now and then turning his eyes up at her—eyes which were like spots of greyish, yellowish light in a face of putty and flour; without eyelashes, without eyebrows, a little like a fish's, something like a monkey's. They were never still. They were set in the face like little round glow worms in a mould of clay. They burned on night and day—no man had ever seen Dormy Jamais asleep.
Carterette did not resent his officiousness. He had a kind of kennel in her father's boat-house, and he was devoted to her. More than all else, Dormy Jamaas was clean. His clothes were mostly rags, but they were comely, compact rags. When he washed them no one seemed to know, but no languid young gentleman lounging where the sun was warmest in the Vier Marchi was better laundered.
As Carterette turned round to him he was twirling a cake on the wooden fork, and trolling:
"Caderoussel he has a coat, All lined with paper brown; And only when it freezes hard He wears it in the town. What do you think of Caderoussel? Ah, then, but list to me: Caderoussel is a bon e'fant—"
"Come, come, dirty-fingers," she said. "Leave my work alone, and stop your chatter."
The daft one held up his fingers, but to do so had to thrust a cake into his mouth.
"They're as clean as a ha'pendy," he said, mumbling through the cake. Then he emptied his mouth of it, and was about to place it with the others.
"Black beganne," she cried; "how dare you! V'la—into your pocket with it!"
He did as he was bid, humming to himself again:
"M'sieu' de la Palisse is dead, Dead of a maladie; Quart' of an hour before his death He could breathe like you and mel Ah bah, the poor M'sieu' De la Palisse is dead!"
"Shut up! Man doux d'la vie, you chatter like a monkey!"
"That poor Maitre Ranulph," said Dormy, "once he was lively as a basket of mice; but now—"
"Well, now, achocre?" she said irritably, stamping her foot.
"Now the cat's out of the bag—oui-gia!"
"You're as cunning as a Norman—you've got things in your noddee!" she cried with angry impatience.
He nodded, grinning. "As thick as haws," he answered.
She heard behind her a laugh of foolish good-nature, which made her angry too, for it seemed to be making fun of her. She wheeled to see M. Savary dit Detricand leaning with both elbows on the little counter, his chin in his hand, grinning provokingly,
"Oh, it's you!" she said snappishly; "I hope you're pleased."
"Don't be cross," he answered, his head swinging unsteadily. "I wasn't laughing at you, heaven-born Jersienne. I wasn't, 'pon honour! I was laughing at a thing I saw five minutes ago." He nodded in gurgling enjoyment now. "You mustn't mind me, seraphine," he added, "I'd a hot night, and I'm warm as a thrush now. But I saw a thing five minutes ago!"—he rolled on the stall. "'Sh!" he added in a loud mock whisper, "here he comes now. Milles diables, but here's a tongue for you, and here's a royal gentleman speaking truth like a travelling dentist!"
Carterette followed his gesture and saw coming out of the Route es Couochons, where the brave Peirson issued to his death eleven years before, Maitre Ranulph's father.
He walked with the air of a man courting observation. He imagined himself a hero; he had told his lie so many times now that he almost believed it himself.
He was soon surrounded. Disliked when he lived in Jersey before the invasion years ago, that seemed forgotten now; for word had gone abroad that he was a patriot raised from the dead, an honour to his country. Many pressed forward to shake hands with him.
"Help of heaven, is that you, m'sieu'?" asked one. "You owed me five chelins, but I wiped it out, O my good!" cried another generously.
"Shaken," cried a tall tarter holding out his hand. He had lived in England, and now easily made English verbs into French.
One after another called on him to tell his story; some tried to hurry him to La Pyramide, but others placed a cider-keg near, and almost lifted him on to it.
"Go on, go on, tell us the story," they cried. To the devil with the Frenchies!"
"Here—here's a dish of Adam's ale," cried an old woman, handing him a bowl of water.
They cheered him lustily. The pallor of his face changed to a warmth. He had the fatuousness of those who deceive with impunity. With confidence he unreeled the dark line out to the end. When he had told his story, still hungry for applause, he repeated the account of how the tatterdemalion brigade of Frenchmen came down upon him out of the night, and how he should have killed Rullecour himself had it not been for an officer who struck him down from behind.
During the recital Ranulph had drawn near. He watched the enthusiasm with which the crowd received every little detail of the egregious history. Everybody believed the old man, who was safe, no matter what happened to himself, Ranulph Delagarde, ex-artilleryman, ship-builder— and son of a criminal. At any rate the worst was over now, the first public statement of the lifelong lie. He drew a sigh of relief and misery in one. At that instant he caught sight of the flushed face of Detricand, who broke into a laugh of tipsy mirth when Olivier Delagarde told how the French officer had stricken him down as he was about finishing off Rullecour.
All at once the whole thing rushed upon Ranulph. What a fool he had been! He had met this officer of Rullecour's these ten years past, and never once had the Frenchman, by so much as a hint, suggested that he knew the truth about his father. Here and now the contemptuous mirth upon the Frenchman's face told the whole story. The danger and horror of the situation descended on him. Instantly he started towards Detricand.
At that moment his father caught sight of Detricand also, saw the laugh, the sneer, and recognised him. Halting short in his speech he turned pale and trembled, staring as at a ghost. He had never counted on this. His breath almost stopped as he saw Ranulph approach Detricand.
Now the end was come. His fabric of lies would be torn down; he would be tried and hanged on the Mont es Pendus, or even be torn to pieces by this crowd. Yet he could not have moved a foot from where he was if he had been given a million pounds.
The sight of Ranulph's face revealed to Detricand the true meaning of this farce and how easily it might become a tragedy. He read the story of the son's torture, of his sacrifice; and his decision was instantly made: he would befriend him. Looking straight into his eyes, his own said he had resolved to know nothing whatever about this criminal on the cider-cask. The two men telegraphed to each other a perfect understanding, and then Detricand turned on his heel, and walked away into the crowd.
The sudden change in the old man's appearance had not been lost on the spectators, but they set it down to weakness or a sudden sickness. One ran for a glass of brandy, another for cider, and an old woman handed up to him a mogue of cinnamon drops.
The old man tremblingly drank the brandy. When he looked again Detricand had disappeared. A dark, sinister expression crossed his face, an evil thought pulled down the corners of his mouth as he stepped from the cask. His son went to him and taking his arm, said: "Come, you've done enough for to-day."
The old man made no reply, but submissively walked away into the Coin & Anes. Once however he turned and looked the way Detricand had gone, muttering.
The peasants cheered him as he passed. Presently, free of the crowd and entering the Rue d'Egypte, he said to Ranulph:
"I'm going alone; I don't need you."
"Where are you going?" asked Ranulph.
"Home," answered the old man gloomily.
Ranulph stopped. "All right; better not come out again to-day."
"You're not going to let that Frenchman hurt me?" suddenly asked Delagarde with morose anxiety. "You're going to stop that? They'd put me in prison."
Ranulph stooped over his father, his eyes alive with anger, his face blurred with disgust.
"Go home," said he, "and never mention this again while you live, or I'll take you to prison myself." Ranulph watched his father disappear down the Rue d'Egypte, then he retraced his steps to the Vier Marchi. With a new-formed determination he quickened his walk, ruling his face to a sort of forced gaiety, lest any one should think his moodiness strange. One person after another accosted him. He listened eagerly, to see if anything were said which might show suspicion of his father. But the gossip was all in old Delagarde's favour. From group to group he went, answering greetings cheerily and steeling himself to the whole disgusting business.
Presently he saw the Chevalier du Champsavoys with the Sieur de Mauprat. This was the first public appearance of the chevalier since the sad business at the Vier Prison a fortnight before. The simple folk had forgotten their insane treatment of him then, and they saluted him now with a chirping: "Es-tu biaou, chevalier?" and "Es-tu gentiment, m'sieu'?" to which he responded with amiable forgiveness. To his idea they were only naughty children, their minds reasoning no more clearly than they saw the streets through the tiny little squares of bottle-glass in the windows of their homes.
All at once they came face to face with Detricand. The chevalier stopped short with pleased yet wistful surprise. His brow knitted when he saw that his compatriot had been drinking again, and his eyes had a pained look as he said eagerly:
"Have you heard from the Comte de Tournay, monsieur? I have not seen you these days past. You said you would not disappoint me."
Detricand drew from his pocket a letter and handed it over, saying: "This comes from the comte."
The old gentleman took the letter, nervously opened it, and read it slowly, saying each sentence over twice as though to get the full meaning.
"Ah," he exclaimed, "he is going back to France to fight for the King!"
Then he looked at Detricand sadly, benevolently. "Mon cher," said he, "if I could but persuade you to abjure the wine-cup and follow his example!"
Detricand drew himself up with a jerk. "You can persuade me, chevalier," said he. "This is my last bout. I had sworn to have it with—with a soldier I knew, and I've kept my word. But it's the last, the very last in my life, on the honour of—the Detricands. And I am going with the Comte de Tournay to fight for the King."
The little chevalier's lips trembled, and taking the young man by the collar of his coat, he stood tiptoed, and kissed him on both cheeks.
"Will you accept something from me?" asked M. de Mauprat, joining in his friend's enthusiasm. He took from his pocket a timepiece he had worn for fifty years. "It is a little gift to my France, which I shall see no more," he added. "May no time be ill spent that it records for you, monsieur."
Detricand laughed in his careless way, but the face, seamed with dissipation, took on a new and better look, as with a hand-grasp of gratitude he put the timepiece in his pocket.
"I'll do my best," he said simply. "I'll be with de la Rochejaquelein and the army of the Vendee to-morrow night."