With the vacant glance of a man whose mind is intensely preoccupied, I studied minutely the reflection, my own bearing, my dress, my weapons. I even noted a button off my coat, and tried dimly to remember where I had lost it, until—great God—this chamber of death and revelation had turned my brain.
What face was that I saw? My own, assuredly, but so like another.
Aghast, powerless to move or cry out, I stared helplessly into the glass. Every other sensation vanished now before this new-born terror which held my soul enslaved. I closed my eyes, I dared not look.
My body seemed immovable with horror, but a trembling hand arose and pointed at the mirror. Scant need there was to call attention to that dim, terrible presence; my whole soul shrank from the ghostly face reflected in the glass. For there, there was the same pallid countenance, death-distorted and drawn, which I had conjured up in many a frightened dream as that of the murdered Count—there was Henri d'Artin.
How long I stood transfixed, pointing into the mirror, I know not. As men think of trifles even in times of deadly fear, so did my lips frame over and over again the last question I had in mind before all sense forsook me, "Where is the last d'Artin? Where is the last d'Artin? Where—?"
And in answer to my question, that long, rigid finger pointed directly at me from out the dusty glass. It was as if the hand of the dead had told me who I was.
It had been no blind chance, then, which led me to the Paris house of the "Black Wolf's Head;" the girl's ring with the same device, and the grewsome narrative beneath the shadow of the Wolf at the Norman ruin—nothing less than fate had brought these lights to me.
Verily some more logical power than unreasoning accident must direct the steps of men. A God of justice perhaps had placed these tokens in my path. And soldiers call this "Fortune."
* * * * * *
I dispatched Pachaco to Biloxi with the news of death, and long before the afternoon our few simple arrangements for his funeral had been made.
"Bury me here, Placide, beneath this great oak," he had said to me one day. "The Infinite Mercy will consecrate the grave of penitence, wherever it may be."
He had his wish.
 These documents have been included in an appendix to this volume.
 A very slight investigation showed that this last named Francois Rene Alois de Pasquier was none other than my own good father, who assumed the name de Mouret to avoid the consequences of a fatal duel in France. This I learned from the pious Cure of St. Martin's, who knew him well.
A NOTE WHICH WENT ASTRAY.
Meanwhile Jacques had undertaken to manage my little affair at Biloxi with tact and discretion. And this is how the fellow did it:
It seems that Jacques thought no harm of the note, and when he took it first to the house my lady was out. The honest fellow, doing his best to carry out my instructions, refused to leave it. When he returned, my lady worked, bent down amongst her flowers, in the little garden beside their cottage. The Chevalier stood some distance off, busied someway, Jacques knew not how, but with his face turned away from my messenger as he came up. Jacques handed the note to my lady through the fence, and she took it gently by the corner, fearing to soil it. She held it up to look at the name written upon it, and seeing it was her own, looked again more curiously at the writing. She did not know the hand. Then she gaily called to the Chevalier:
"Oh, Charles, come here; see what I have; it is a missive to your wife, and from some gay gallant, too. I do not know the writing. Do you come here and read it to me. My hands are so—" She held up two small white hands dabbled in the dirt.
"Perhaps some invitation to a court ball. We'll go, eh, Agnes?"
He came like the fine, strong gentleman he was, across the garden, taking the note from her and tearing it open. He began straightway to read, my lady on tip-toe behind him reading over his shoulder, and holding her contaminated hands away from his coat. His face grew puzzled at the first, then as he seemed to finish, he stood a pace apart from my lady and read again. There was murder in his face—yet so white and quiet.
He threw down the note and ground it into the soft earth beneath his heel. Then he caught my lady firmly by both her shoulders and held her fast, at full arm's length, gazing steadily into her face.
"God in heaven," as Jacques said to me; "Master, what eyes has that Chevalier de la Mora! No man could lie to him with those eyes reading what a fellow thought." Jacques could not make himself to leave; he stood rigid and watched.
"She tried to laugh, but her husband's face forbade that this could be a spark of lover's play.
"Why, Charles, what is the matter with you, you behave so strangely?"
The Chevalier had grown an older man, his face stern and resolute, eyes a-glitter, and mouth drawn in tense, determined lines. A most dangerous man.
"Why, Charles, what is the matter?"
"When did you meet him at Sceaux? What did you do?"
"Don't lie to me, woman, I am in no mood for subterfuge."
She besought him with one frightened look, one step forward to him as if for protection, which he repelled; then she looked as though she might weep.
"Neither do you weep. Tell me how many notes like this have you received?"
"Like what? I could not read it, you held it so high," she sobbed.
The Chevalier stooped down, picked up the crumpled paper from the earth, and smoothed it out. He then handed it to her, and regarded her face intently as she read it.
"Read this, Madame, and see how careless you have been."
And my lady read the note; she, too, read it again, the first reading not sufficing her to understand. Then she looked at her husband with great wide-open eyes; she was now calm, and as quiet as he.
"Truly, Charles, I know nothing of this."
"It was always said, Madame, at Sceaux, you could take the stage and play the parts of distressed and virtuous damosels," he answered her, coldly curling his lip.
"Tell me, Madame, as you value your soul, what is this Captain de Mouret to you?"
"As I value my soul," my lady answered him direct and steadily, looking straight into his eye, her own hands folded across her heaving breast. "As I value my soul, Charles, I know nothing of him."
"What does he mean when he says here 'I was hasty and too impulsive when we parted in the chapel at Sceaux'?"
"Upon my honor, Charles, I do not know. I never saw the man in all my life—to know him."
"Upon your honor," the Chevalier repeated.
And my lady's cheek flushed fire. But her form straightened up, and her eyes met his unflinching, without guilt or fear. The Chevalier turned and caught sight of Jacques, for the lout, according to his story, had grown to the spot as firm as one of the oaks.
"Here, you fellow, come here, come here!"
And Jacques dared not disobey him.
"Here, fellow, how many notes like this have you brought to my wife?"
"Only that one, my lord." Jacques started in by telling the truth, and he followed it up religiously. According to his account of it, the Chevalier looked him straight through and through until he dared not tell a lie.
"Mind that you tell me the truth. Who gave you this note?"
"Captain de Mouret."
"At his quarters."
"To whom did he say you should deliver it?"
"To Madame Agnes de la Mora."
The Chevalier stooped, picked up the envelope, and re-read the superscription, handing it over to my lady, who took it unseeing.
"Did he expect a reply?"
"Yes, my lord."
"And where did he say to bring it?"
"Bring it to him when he returned from across the Bay this afternoon. I was to await him upon the shore."
"At what hour?"
"None was named, my Lord; he said it would be late, perchance."
Verily, as Jacques told it me, he must have drained the stupid fellow dry.
Then the Chevalier turned to my lady with the utmost courtesy:
"What say you, Madame, shall I bear your reply to this gentle captain? For by my faith, Madame, you require a more careful go-between than this, one more discreet and less glib of tongue."
"Charles, upon my honor, I know nothing of all this; I have never seen this Captain de Mouret."
He looked as if he did not hear her. He glanced at the sun, full two hours high, drew his sword and started to leave the garden.
He paused to doff his cap, and say, "I bear your message for you, Madame; verily, I am honored."
My lady neither screamed nor fainted during his questioning of Jacques; she stood and listened as one dazed, or who but dimly understood. The Chevalier strode out sword in hand.
"For shame, Charles," she called to him calmly enough, though she was deadly pale, "here is some wretched mistake—"
"Yes, there does appear to have been a mistake—in the delivery of this precious billet. I will speedily make that right."
He turned. Her bearing was full as proud as his. He looked from the woman to the paper in his hand.
"Well, if you know not this man, then he has wantonly insulted you. I shall await this Captain de Mouret by the water, and there I shall know the truth. He shall explain what means this pretty letter to my wife."
Jacques watched her proudly erect figure enter the door. He saw her sway a moment in indecision, then sink beside the bed to pray. She came shortly to the door again and called him. The fellow's brain worked slowly, and he had not yet comprehended the extent of mischief he had done. That he had done something amiss, though, he began to understand.
"You had that note from Monsieur le Capitaine de Mouret?"
"And he said deliver it to me?"
"To Madame Agnes de la Mora. Am I not right?"
"Yes, I am Madame Agnes de la Mora, but that note was not intended for me."
She came closer to Jacques, so close indeed she laid her trembling hand upon his sleeve.
"Tell me—you know this Captain de Mouret well—tell me if you would save an innocent woman, has this Captain de Mouret a love affair here? Answer me, answer me truly, has he a love affair, or—or a mistress?"
Her innocence and direct question abashed Jacques sorely and set him a wondering what manner of escapade was this his master had got into.
"I will go to her, be she what she may, go to anybody; my husband must not kill this innocent man. No; and here I disturb myself about my own reputation, while two lives are in jeopardy. I must think, I must act—but how?"
And she broke down to weep again, showing the woman in her that was behind so brave a front. Her tears were not for long. Jacques felt it was his turn now to say something, so he blundered out, "See the Governor;" then one whit better he went, "I will see the Governor for you."
The good fellow had in that moment for the first time realized that he could stop the affair, and do it he would if he had to quit the colony. And she such a lovely lady, so gentle with the poor.
"Do you not fear to speak with him of such as this?"
"No, Madame, Bienville's soldiers do not fear him; they leave that for his enemies."
And so it fell out that Jacques told the Governor. And he told him all.
It was ever Bienville's wont to act with quick decision.
"Order Major Boisbriant to report to me at once." And off posted Jacques upon his errand.
That officer attended with military promptitude.
"Major Boisbriant, do you seek on the instant the Chevalier de la Mora, and bear him company wherever he may go until you are relieved. Put upon him no restraint, and say nothing of your having such orders from me if you can avoid it. There is trouble brewing here, which I want to prevent; an affair of honor, you understand. He has gone toward the landing on the Bay. Be discreet and delicate."
Boisbriant nodded his comprehension, saluted, and was gone. Bienville turned to Jacques.
"Saddle my horse at once and bring him here."
It was much later than I had hoped before I could with decency return to Biloxi. Impatient, childish and excited I recrossed the bay, leaving a little detail of soldiers to watch beside the body of my friend. As soon as I saw Jacques on the other shore I knew something had gone wrong. That senseless knave was pacing uncertainly about the beach, stopping here and there to dig great holes in the sand with his toe, and carefully filling them up again. The fellow, ever on the watch for me, was at the same time watching the path from Biloxi, and seemed to dread my coming. Instead of meeting me at the water, he waited for me to approach him, thus leaving the two boatmen out of hearing.
"Well, give me the note; why stand there like a driveling fool," for the fellow's hesitant manner angered and frightened me.
"There is no note, sir."
"The lady sent none."
Under my questions Jacques turned red and pale, then he blundered out:
"The Chevalier de la Mora said he would bring the answer to you himself—at the shore."
He kept his eyes fast riveted upon another hole he was digging in the sand.
"The—Chevalier?" I knew what that meant. Great God! and this was the end of it all.
"Tell me, you bungling fool, what knows he of this?"
"Pardon, Master; I thought no harm of it; you had never before employed me on such an errand."
It was now my own turn to seek the ground with my eyes, so just, so humble was the rebuke.
"I thought no harm of it, sir, and gave it to Madame in the garden; she called upon the Chevalier to read it for her."
"What said he? To her? Was he violent?"
"No sir, most polite; terribly polite, and cool; but, master, you must not meet him; he will kill you."
Of this I had scant doubt.
"Did he make no sign as if he would do her harm?"
"No, sir, not then, but he looked so queer one could hardly say what he meditated. I would not care to have him look at me like that."
I was paralyzed by the suddenness of the ill-fortune which had befallen, but I was to be allowed no day of grace in which to plan a line of conduct. My face had been turned all this while toward the sea, there being something soothing to me about the long, even sweep of those bright, blue waters in the south.
Jacques faced the town. I noted a deprecatory gesture, and following his gaze saw the Chevalier himself coming our way at a good round pace. My knees did quake, and the veriest poltroon might have well been ashamed of the overweening fear which possessed me. In defense of which I may say, I believe it was due in large part to my great respect and fondness for de la Mora, as well as a deep consciousness of the justice of his cause. From long habit I looked first to my weapons, but for once felt no joy in them.
"Captain de Mouret," he greeted me with a soldier's formal courtesy.
"Chevalier de la Mora."
"Captain, I have the honor to return to you a note which I believe bears your name," and he handed me the unfortunate billet.
"Am I right? Is that your hand?"
I scorned to lie, and answered him evenly;
"Is that note properly directed? To Madame de la Mora?"
"It is, but—"
"Have you any explanation, sir, to offer?"
For the life of me I could think of nothing to say; I could not tell him the truth, neither could I lie to him with grace. So I simply said:
"It was not her fault," probably the worst remark I could have made.
"Then, this note is true? You did meet my wife by appointment in the ruined chapel at Sceaux?"
"No, by my honor, there was no appointment; I came upon her by chance, and through no consent of hers."
"And so you presumed to meet my wife in a lonely place—which she denies to me upon her honor, as you now swear; you were there 'hot, impulsive and hasty' which this honorable missive of yours craves pardon for. Now you seek another private interview which you say you can not live without?"
I nodded moodily, wishing only to have the matter over, and avoid his further questioning.
"By my soul, Captain, I am rejoiced to find you so frank—rejoiced that you do not lie. The other, God knows, is bad enough."
I winced, but held my tongue.
"Our business, then, is plain enough; and there is no time like the present."
So saying he cast off his coat and began to roll his sleeves back, leaving bare that magnificent forearm of his, supple and dexterous. Imitating him we were both soon stripped for action.
I had only my light rapier, worn about the garrison, while he was armed with his heavy campaign blade. I was already a dead man, or so I felt, for there was no spirit in me for the fight. Our blades crossed, and immediately he noted the disparity of arms.
"Captain," he remarked, composedly, drawing back a pace. "This is a bad business; I shall surely kill you, but wish to do so as a gentleman. Permit me to exchange our weapons, so you fence not at such great disadvantage."
And he offered me the hilt of his own reversed sword.
"Chevalier de la Mora, you are a gallant gentleman, will you believe a man who has not yet lied to you, and who feels a word is your due?"
"Be quick," he replied, "we maybe interrupted."
"I have wronged you and will render full atonement. But it has only been a wrong of the heart; one of which I had no control, no choice. Your sweet wife has never, by word or deed, dishonored the noble name she bears."
"Of course, Captain, it is a gentleman's part to make such protestations. It is fruitless for us to discuss this matter further, except as we had so well begun."
So intent were we both that neither had seen Jacques leave us, nor had either heard the swift hoof beats of a horse upon the deadening sand, until the rider was full upon us.
Bienville. Behind him, on foot, just emerging from the brush some distance away, Boisbriant and Jacques.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, put by your weapons. What does this mean?" He had flung himself from his horse and stood between.
De la Mora sullenly dropped his point.
"A mere private matter of honor, sire."
"Are there so few enemies of France with whom to fight that you must needs turn your swords at each other to rob me of a good soldier when I need every one?"
By this time Boisbriant and Jacques had come up, and Bienville commanded:
"Major, do you accompany the Chevalier de la Mora to his quarters. You will take his parole to remain there during the night, and he will report to me at ten to-morrow. Placide, do you come with me."
He gave up his horse to Jacques, and taking me by the arm led me in the direction of the garrison. Truly, I was in no better plight, for I feared reproof from the Governor more than the steel of de la Mora. During all this time I said no word. We returned to Biloxi in absolute silence. Bienville, with all a gentleman's instinct, recognized the delicacy of my position.
The Governor took me at once to his own room, and sat me down at the table.
"Now, Placide, tell me all about this miserable affair,"
"I can not, sire; believe me, I can not. I beg of you not to put upon me a command I must disobey. This wretched matter is not for me to tell, even to you."
I held my peace.
"Yes, I thought as much. Is it your fault or his, Placide?"
He drummed on the table with his fingers a while before he spoke again.
"Then, my lad, there is but one thing I can do, that is to send you away from here at once. You can leave this place to-night, seek out Tuskahoma, make your way to Pensacola, thence to Havana, where I warrant you will find other occupation. Or, if you so desire, I will accredit you to Governor Frontenac in the north."
I chose Havana, there being the greater prospect of active service there. It took the methodical Governor but brief space to give me such letters as would insure me fitting reception from our brave fellows at Pensacola. He placed them in my hand, and I quietly rose to bid him good-night, and good-bye. I would not have ventured upon anything more than a formal word of parting, for I had the consciousness of having done much to forfeit his regard. But the old man came over and put his arms about me as he might a beloved son.
"Placide," he said, "it grieves me to the soul for you to leave me. I love you, boy, as I do my own flesh. You have served me truly, always with affection and honor. I respect your silence now, and ask you for no confidences not your own. Serigny has told me how faithful you were in Paris, and what he heard from others of your interview with the King. Placide, my lad, even now it fires my blood to think of a boy of mine standing before the mighty Louis, surrounded by our enemies, and daring to tell the truth. It was glorious, glorious, and it saved your Governor. I had minded me in an idle day to hear it all from your own lips. Perhaps, some day, who knows, it may yet come. You will lose not an hour in leaving Biloxi, and I have your word to engage in no encounter?"
"Aye, sire, you have my word."
I had dropped upon my knee, and, taking his hand, kissed it gently. He turned back into his room, shut the door, and left me alone in the hall. I walked thence straightway to my own quarters, put on hastily the garb of the forest and made all readiness. My toilet was not elaborate, and a short half hour found me completely equipped for the journey.
Leaving Biloxi, unaccompanied, like a thief in the night, I set out, and having reached the Bay winded a horn until Pachaco heard, then sat me down to wait for his boat.
THE CHILDREN OF THE BLACK WOLF'S BREED
According to the Governor's recollection, I had been gone only a short space when a peremptory knock came upon his door. He opened it, and there stood the Chevalier de la Mora, dishevelled and with evidences of haste, but courteous as was his wont.
"I desire to speak with Captain de Mouret, at once, at once."
"That you can not do; he has gone. Chevalier, I am astonished. Had I not a gentleman's parole that you should remain in your house this night?"
"You had, sire, but the conditions were urgent, and see, I have sought Captain de Mouret without arms, so no breach could occur between us."
"Fortunately, M. le Chevalier, Captain de Mouret has consented to leave this colony to-night, and before the day dawns he will doubtless be many miles away."
The Chevalier heard like one dumb and undecided, a great doubt tugging at his heart. He departed unsteadily in the direction of the barracks.
"Here, my good fellow, hast seen Captain de Mouret?" he inquired of a straggler.
The man saluted.
"Yes, sire, he but lately went the path towards the Bay."
"How long since?"
"A bare quarter of an hour. He was dressed for the forest and went alone."
During this while I, Placide de Mouret, stranger and outcast, sat upon a grassy hillock awaiting Pachaco with his boat. The echoes of my horn had died away in the night, and soon after I caught the sound of running feet, and heard a man's voice calling my name as he ran. To my utter astonishment it was the Chevalier, breathless from his speed.
"Is it you—Captain de Mouret?"
"It is—Chevalier," I replied, uncertain at the first who the man could be.
Seeing him in such a state of mind I knew the struggle had come. There be times in every man's life when he recks lightly of consequences, and this was not my night for caring. I had, in a measure, run away thus far from him, and he, not content with this, had pursued me past the limit of forbearance. So anticipating his own action, I began carefully to take off my own coat, and remembered with pleasure that it was not a slight rapier which now hung confidently by my side.
"No, Captain, not that. I have sought you this time in peace. See, I have no weapons."
Suiting the gesture to the speech, he flung wide his arms, and showed himself unprepared for battle.
"Captain, you and I have fought side by side. You are a man of courage, and if you have injured me you will render me due account upon my demand. I do demand this of you now, that you return with me to Biloxi at once, upon my assurance as a soldier that no harm will there befall you. This, sir, upon a soldier's honor."
It was a most unexpected outcome to such an interview. I hesitated warily at his request, and then thinking it could make matters no worse, inquired:
"How long will you require me, and for what purpose?"
"The time will be most brief, a moment should suffice. The purpose I can not give, but it will bring you into no danger. I repeat, upon the word of a man of honor, that you will be permitted to return safely as you came, and no one will follow."
I must say, in spite of these protests, I did not want to go. But he pressed his wish so earnestly that I followed the Chevalier down the winding path back to Biloxi, not without great trepidation, however. He walked rapidly in front, and not a word was exchanged between us. We passed the barracks and the Governor's house, where I thought to stop, but he led me on. Leaving the thicker portions of the little town, he soon paused before his own gate and swung it open. The wild thought now entered my brain that perhaps he had planned some terrible revenge upon his wife, and desired to torture me by forcing me to witness it. I hung back at the gate. My own good sword re-assured me, and he mounted the step to throw open the door.
"Come in, Captain. I regret that I can not give you a more sincere welcome."
Truly, there was nothing in the aspect of the room to cause alarm. Two ladies were inside, one at either end of a simple working table—Agnes and another lady, about her own figure, whom I did not know. The elder woman looked straight in my face with an anxious air.
The Chevalier did not formally present me. Agnes drooped her head somewhat, and never raised her eyes at my entrance. It was a most awkward situation. As to what de la Mora contemplated I could not venture the wildest guess; certainly no violence in the presence of this other lady who looked so cool while yet so pale.
"Captain de Mouret, as you hope for your soul's salvation, I conjure you to tell me the whole truth. I do solemnly promise you, upon a soldier's honor, at the very worst which may come, I will only leave this colony, and will not injure any one."
I had seen de la Mora on many a field, but never did he look stronger or nobler than on that night. His voice sounded full and clear despite the intensity of his suffering.
"Captain de Mouret, you are a soldier, a brave one, as my own eyes have witnessed, reputed a man of untarnished honor. Will you truly answer me one question upon the sacred Blood of Christ?"
His earnestness appealed to every better instinct of my nature, so I replied to him:
"Have I your oath?"
"Then, sir, to which of these ladies, if either, did you intend this note should be delivered; and which, if either, did you meet at the ruined chapel at Sceaux? Speak, in God's name, and do not spare me! Suspicion is more terrible than truth."
The very worst had come, and I felt my resolution waver. I knew not what story Agnes had told her husband, nor did I know who that other lady was. She looked enough like Agnes to have afforded shallow pretext for an evasion. Verily here was a strong temptation for a lie, and I was almost minded to tell it and relieve Agnes. Agnes, though, would give me no cue; never once did she lift her eyes to mine. I might even then have told the lie, but for the reflection it would compromise an innocent woman.
"Captain, in God's name, speak! do you not see that I am quiet and self-controlled?"
"Chevalier de la Mora, I shall tell you the exact truth, and hold you to your promise that there shall be no violence—now. What I did was through my fault alone, nor did your lady give me the slightest encouragement—she is blameless. It is a sore strait you have placed me in, but this is the lady who has all a soldier's love, and a soldier's respect, which she has done nothing to forfeit."
As I spoke, I indicated the shrinking figure of Agnes, and turned to meet the storm. Verily the storm did come, but from a different source.
The elder lady rose with a fervent "Thank God!" which I could find no reason for her saying. Agnes nervously twisted at the table cover, her cheeks crimson with the shame. I could not resist a long look down upon her, and do what I might, my love showed full and strong in my face and mien.
De la Mora keenly watched us all. That other lady, for whom I had no thought, to my utter surprise, moved toward him with hands outstretched, and cried:
For a moment he hesitated, then:
"Oh, Agnes, Agnes, a lifetime's love and service can not compensate you for what I've made you suffer—the doubt I bore my loyal wife."
He fell upon his knee before her and carried her hand to his lips as though she were a goddess, and then sprang toward me with the gladdest of glad smiles, thrust his hand at me, and came near to cracking mine by the vigor of his grasp. His throat choked up, and he said nothing.
And all this while I looked from one to the other with a most dull and stupid stare.
Agnes looked up at me once, radiant and confused, then lowered her eyes again.
The Chevalier broke a silence which was becoming intolerable, to me at least, who did not understand it all.
"Captain de Mouret, you have been in error, and have done me no wrong. This lady here is my worshiped wife, Madame Agnes de la Mora." I looked upon her incredulously, while that gracious woman took one hand from her husband long enough to extend to me her greeting.
Thoroughly perplexed by this most unlooked for denouement, I asked:
"Who, then, is this?"
"This chit," he replied, walking round the table, happy as a boy, and almost lifting her bodily, "this is Madame's little sister, Charlotte. She confessed this evening to having spoken with you once in the Chapel at Sceaux—and I, may God forgive me, doubted but she had done it to shield her sister. I knew the little minx had warned you in the Park, but thought nothing of it. Charlotte, come here!"
And Charlotte de Verges laid her warm little hand in mine. For thirty years it has rested there in peace.
* * * * * *
Thus, through many strange perils and purifying sorrows came the abiding happiness which blessed these last two children of the "Black Wolf's Breed."
Note by the Author
I have included here the full text of the documents contained in the iron box, sent to Placide de Mouret by Colonel D'Ortez, just prior to his death. One of these papers, that showing the male descendants of Henri d'Artin and of Pedro Ortez, which proved that Francois Rene Alois de Pasquier was the father of Placide and which indicated that the wife of the Chevalier de la Mora and her sister were the grandchildren of Colonel D'Ortez, was set out in the body of the narrative and will be found in Chapter XXII. These supplementary documents (which are historically accurate) confirm, not only the story related by Colonel D'Ortez to Placide, but also the strange story told by mad Michel under the shadow of the Castle of Cartillon. While they may add little to the narrative interest of the main story, these documents serve to confirm some of the least credible incidents of the tale, and it was thought, therefore, worth while to include them here.
DOCUMENT No. 1
Document No. 1, indorsed on back, "Notes chiefly written by the Abbot of Vaux."
In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Sanctus Spiritus. Amen.
I, Laurent of Lorraine, Benedictine, by Divine permission Abbot of Vaux, do make these writings and divers memoranda, partly from my own unworthy knowledge, and partly from facts openly notorious and resting on the testimony of witnesses as credible as there be in this world of falsehood and vanity.
All of which latter portion, concerning one Pedro d'Ortez and his descendants, is here set down at the special prayer and persuasion of said d'Ortez, a profane and sacrilegious lord, yet whose past service to the Holy Church should not be forgotten, though his late riotous and ungodly life hath much grieved the faithful brotherhood.
THEREFORE, I, Laurent, Abbot, as above stated, do make and inscribe this chronicle, beginning this, the 29th day of June, in the year of grace, one thousand five hundred and seventy-six, according to the eccleciastical computation.
ITEM the first—(Being a copy of entries made by my own hand upon the register of the monastery, now preserved in the archives of the same.) Aug. 26, 1572. Admitted to the sanctuary and protection of the monastery this day a certain suckling babe, aged about two years.
The infirm servitor by whom said babe was tended, dying the same day, despite all efforts and prayers.
August 28th, 1572. Died August 26th, 1572, at Cartillon, Henri Francois Placide d'Artin, Count of Cartillon, Seigneur de Massignac, etc., a heretic and apostate, falling before the wrath of God on occasion of the pious stratagem of the Feast of the Blessed Bartholomew, arranged by Her Most Gentle Majesty, and the dutiful son of Church, Henri, duc de Guise.
Note. The babe aforementioned being the son and heir of above, was admitted to communion of the church and baptized Bartholomew Pasquier.
Further note. Sept. 9th, 1589. Bartholomew Pasquier being designed for orders, but unruly and rebellious in spirit, ran away upon the murder of our good King Henri, third of that name, and joined himself with the armies of the heretic Henri, Prince of Bearne, self-styled King of France and Navarre.
Afterward, when the said Henri, repenting of his errors, reunited with the true Church, said Bartholomew appears again as a major in his guards, holding a firm place, it was said, in the King's favor.
DOCUMENT No. 2
(Abbot Laurent's writing)
Statement of Brothers Anselmo and Jehan, touching the rites of exorcism by them administered, contra daemonios, to the temporal and seigneural lord, Pedro d'Ortez, Count of Cartillon—fourteenth of said lordship—a man of profane blood, dying in grievous torment of soul, possessed of foul and wicked fiends—may God protect all true Christians from the same. AMEN.
ANSELMO DI NAPOLI. JEHAN DE TOURS.
In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Sanctus Spiritus. Amen.
It was come the early part of the night when there arose at the outer gate such an unseemly clattering of hoofs and rattle of worldly weapons as greatly terrified our humble-minded brethren, engaged at their devotions.
The holy Abbot, being retired at his prayer and pious meditations, Brother Jehan, worthy and devout, in humility of spirit inquired of their errand. Being informed in hot haste that the puissant and mighty Lord of Cartillon lay dying in sin, possessed of frenzies and fiends, and stood in need most urgent of extreme unction, we deliberated thereupon together.
"Hurry, haste, good fathers, ere it be too late; we have here two stout palfreys to bear you to his couch."
The Abbot having in due season come forth from his closet, we were commanded to go forthwith to minister to the needs of the noble Count.
Provided with holy oil, and the ritual for casting out demons, bearing a piece of the true cross, before which no evil being can prevail, we rode away at so rough a pace withal, through constant urging and imprecations of the men at arms, as caused us to be sorely shaken and disturbed, both in mind and body.
Arrived at Cartillon, we made great speed to repair to his bedside, where, of a truth, the man lay flat of his back, weak in flesh, but stout and rebellious of soul, contrary to the doctrines of our most blessed religion.
Before he caught sight of us, he moaned and heaved, pointing his fingers ever out of the window, and uttering strange heathen blasphemies—whereat we crossed ourselves piously.
Following the direction of his gaze we saw naught save the starlit dome of heaven.
The eyes of the demon gave him power to see diabolical and unclean forms.
Sorely distracted thereat, he cried out in direst fear:
"Hence! Hence! Seek my mother in Hell, for it was her doing. I would have spared the women."
The man being clearly possessed of an evil demon, we immediately made ready the sacred offices of the church for the casting out of such.
Believing from the demon voice issuing through the possessed man's lips that it was the woman fiend, Lilith, who in female guise doth walk the earth in darkness, we resorted with much speed to the office specially prepared for that evil and depraved being.
The holy ritual was being devoutly read by Brother Anselmo, when the man, turning in his couch, caught sight of us at our sacred labors. He thereupon, with many profane and blasphemous oaths, bade us cease and begone.
"Out! Out upon you, thou shaveling hypocrites! Thinkest thou I am become a helpless woman to profit of thy mummeries? No, by the body of Jupiter. Get out! get out!"
"Oh, weak and rebellious son of Holy Church, calm thy troubled spirit and take unto thyself the most blessed peace of God. Repent thine errors, and prepare thy mind for the Paradise of the just."
Verily, it was an evil and malignant demon which controlled him, for the words but struck a pagan madness to his heart, and he sprang from his couch.
"Hush! Hush your priestly lies, which sink a new terror in my soul. It can not, can not be, this other world where men receive the reward or punishment drawn upon themselves in this. Thou liest, thou canting monk-faced coward; it is all a lie of priestcraft.
"There is no God, no Hell; no, I will not, will not believe it. Get thee hence before I drive thee to the gibbet and fling thy quarters to hawk and hound."
We crossed ourselves in horror, kissing the piece of the true cross, fearing his presence and terrible blasphemy would draw a bolt from Heaven. But there he stood, for some divine purpose secure in his body from the vengeance of God.
So fierce a fire consumed his strength he sank again in mortal weakness on his couch.
We watched him long. He gazed as one fixed by an evil eye, through the open window straight toward an ancient well across the court-yard.
He mumbled words whereof we could only guess the import. He raised a long, thin finger, knotted at the joints, and pointed to the well:
"Do you hear it? Oh, mother, mother, it was your doing! Listen now. Dost hear their cries in Hell? See, see, the body turns and swings, softly, softly," and he covered his face, uttering the most plaintive cries.
He started up again and went to the window, stretching out his arm as before. We could see nothing but the court and old well, long dry of water.
"See, there she is; see, see; I come, I come."
And regarding not our sacred relics or adjurations, he passed out the door, down the stair of winding stone, through the men who, palsied by craven fears, put not forth their hands to stay; staring before him with wide-open eyes which saw not, d'Ortez strode through them all into the vacant court-yard.
No pause he made, but straightway went toward the well, whither—at some distance be it humbly confessed—we followed.
At first he but peered within and listened; then he stood quiet for a space, as if he waited, for what we could not tell.
None of us being sufficiently near to prevent, and the power of the demon prevailing over weak and mortal flesh, he mounted the curb, and, amid the most horrid shrieks, cursings and revilings proceeding from the foul demon Lilith, he plunged himself bodily in the darkness below, wherefrom came only faint groans for a short space.
Thus died Pedro d'Ortez, Lord of Cartillon.
Leaving the task of getting out his body to those vassals who, greatly perturbed in spirit, gathered at the spot, we hastened away horrified at such abominations of Beelzebub as we had witnessed, being for our fear and little faith made culpable before God, and hoping to repurchase peace by great penitence.
Report made and rendered to the Most Reverend and Illustrious Father in God, Laurent, Abbot of the Monastery of Vaux, this the tenth day of July in the year of grace one thousand five hundred and ninety-six.
(Signed) ANSELMO DI NAPOLI, JEHAN DE TOURS.
DOCUMENT No. 3
(Concerning Raoul d'Ortez)
Indorsed on back, "Further notes by Abbot of Vaux."
In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Sanctus Spiritus. Amen.
Further facts having come to my knowledge, in this, the year of grace one thousand five hundred and eighty nine, which do most gloriously illustrate the dispensations of a just God, and His visitation of the sins of the father upon the children of them who hate Him, it is deemed meet and proper that they be here set down and perpetuated for that future generations may know the truth; Therefore:
Be it held in everlasting memory, that Pedro d'Ortez, the same who has been by me beforementioned as of a profane, carnal and blood-guilty life, living not with the fear of God before his eyes, but filled with evil at the instigation of the devil:—The said Pedro having at this period two sons, desired that the elder should, according to secular law, inherit his title and lands. He desired also, that the younger, Raoul, might enter the armies of the King. But Raoul, nothing loath, in so far as the fighting there was concerned, lusted yet for the gold and acres which were his father's. Pedro, the elder brother, being of a mild and amiable temper, designed more for the cloister than the camp, Raoul jested and jibed at him alway for his gentle disposition and meekness of spirit.
All of these facts being stated and related to me by Brother Julian, who went betimes to the castle for alms and tithes—which same were frequent denied and withheld, to the great detriment of our just dues.
One day, after a more than usually violent quarrel between Pedro and Raoul, their father came suddenly upon them in a retired portion of the castle grounds. The sight was enough to startle even a man so used to shedding human blood as had been the Lord of Cartillon.
Pedro was slowly sinking to the ground, easing himself down somewhat upon his knees and elbows. His brother stood near watching, and calmly wiping the red drippings from his sword upon the grass. Not a semblance of regret did he show for the deed of blood.
The father gazed transfixed with horror from one son to the other, until the slow comprehension came to him.
"How now, Raoul, what hast thou done?" the older man demanded of Raoul.
"Canst thou not see? He stood between me and the lordship of this fair domain," the younger replied full as sturdily, hot and scornful, with lowering brow and unrepenting glare.
"Thou foul and unnatural murderer, and thinkest thou to profit by thy brother's death? No; I swear—"
"Hold, old man; swear not and taint not thy soul with perjury. Have a care for thine own safety. It is now but the feeble barrier of thy tottering age which prevents all these acres, these fighting men, these towers from being my own. Have a care, I say, that thou dost not lie as low as he, and by my hand."
The old man fell back a pace affrighted, feeling for the first time in his life a fear, fear of his own son. Yet the scornful and defiant face before him was that of his true child. Therein he saw reflected his own turbulent and reckless youth. The wretched old man covered his face from the sight of Pedro, his first born, who had settled down upon his back in the repose of death, and moaned aloud in his agony.
"Nay, sorrow not, my father," Raoul commanded harshly, "it was but a weakling who stood next thy seat of power. Behold! I, too, am thy son; I am stronger, of a stouter heart, abler and more courageous than he, and will make thee a fitter heir. Didst thou not slay thy brother to sit in his hall? Didst not thou hang him to drink his wine, to command his servants? Have I done aught but follow thy example?"
Heedless of his father's sobs Raoul pursued his unrelenting purpose.
"What the sword did for thee it has done for me, all glory to the sword," and he raised the reeking blade to his lips to kiss. The elder man shrank away from him as he approached.
"Nay, as I tell thee, draw not thy hand away, turn not from me, or by the blood of Christ, by thine own gray hairs, I'll lay thee beside thy woman-son, the puny changeling whose face now is scarce paler than his blood was thin. Now, by the God who made ye, swear 'twill be given out as but an accident, and no man will ever know from thee the truth."
"I swear, I swear," the old man repeated piteously after his son.
And so it came to be that Raoul, the second son, succeeded his father as Lord of Cartillon.
And thus is the promise of the Lord God made true.
DOCUMENT No. 4
(Concerning the making of the locket)
Extracts from the statement of Miguel Siliceo, goldsmith, of San Estevan de Gormaz, as given in presence of Brothers Jehan and Hubert, only such portions being here set out as have relation hereto, for the sake of greater brevity and perspicuity.
Said Miguel Siliceo, Spaniard, sojourning in the town of Rouen, having come to the Monastery of Vaux to unburthen his soul of certain diabolical knowledge and happenings which preyed thereon, to his great distress and distraction of mind, having first solemnly sworn upon the name of St. Iago of Compostella, his patron, to speak truth, did say: * * *
I came to Chateau Cartillon in the year of grace one thousand six hundred and forty-two, upon the solicitation of its lord, he having known me upon the banks of the Douro for a master workman, well skilled in rare and curious devices, both of metals and precious stones. For more than two years I rested in and about the castle, seeing much whereof my soul hath need of ease and God's forgiveness. * * *
* * * One day Count Raoul, being vexed and much disturbed, commanded my attendance upon him.
"My good Miguel," he spake in voice much softer than was his wont, "I do require of you a proof of utmost skill."
I bowed my willingness to undertake a commission.
"I require a golden locket, such as man never saw before, of rare and cunning device. Do you forthwith make it for me, showing upon the one side the black wolf's head of d'Artin, and quarterings, in fairest inlaid work. Upon the other and hidden side, let it appear the black wolf's head as before, but surcharged with the bar sinister. You know. And let it be concealed by so secretly a hidden spring, no hand but mine can touch or find," and as he spoke on, his tongue flew the taster, his eyes roved about, he kept tight grip upon his sword as if he feared. He, Raoul of Cartillon, the man whose headlong courage was an army's byword, he feared in his own hall.
Even so, for proceeding further, his speech grew more wild, and I fain would have fled.
"You know my oath to my father." I of course knew naught of the matter, nor do I know it yet, though I have diligent inquired.
"My oath to forego the hall, give up my place with my fighting men. Yea, upon my father's sword I swore, recking light of an oath, and the old man, dying, would have it so. That oath torments me now. The evil demons of the air haunt my bed; fiends leer at me through the day and whisper all the night. I see my father's soul writhing in the fires of Hell, and there he lays and beckons me to him. But no, by the heart of Mars I'll be no craven fool to give up my castle and my name. Perhaps my son may, I'll make him swear to me to do so. Yet I fear; I fear; I like not that pit of scorching flame where my father suffers because he did lay his hand upon his brother."
I could not but look him in the face, and he thought there was wisdom in my glance, for he clutched me at the throat.
"Ah, thou prying hound, what dost thou know? Speak! Speak!"
But speak I could not, though a soul's salvation hung on my glib and nimble tongue.
Count Raoul soon loosed me, seeing my ignorance. Yet some dark story had I heard and repeated not—the crimes of the great are too dangerous morsels for a poor man to mouth.
"Go now to thy shop, and mark ye, sirrah, that no man sees thy work."
I had hardly gotten well to my forge before three stout varlets came in on a pretense of seeing a golden bracelet which I showed them without suspecting aught. When, my back well turned, they slipped gyves upon my wrists, bound me by a great band of iron at the waist, and made all fast to the huge stone pillar.
Thenceforward, all through the days and nights which followed, one of these men stood ever at my window to see I worked with speed, worked on the locket and not upon my chains.
Count Raoul came many times as the work progressed, but the guards were alway at too great a distance to tell in what quaint form my beaten gold was fashioned.
Many, many lockets I made of cunning workmanship and design, of curious chasings and most marvelous wrought intertwinings, yet none suited my lord. One after one they returned to the melting pot and my labors re-commenced.
During the long months I was thus engaged, I saw the Count often, nay, more than daily, for his whole feverish life seemed in-woven with the yellow and white metals I was busy interlacing and rounding and polishing up.
At times an abject fear sat upon his countenance, and he mumbled of strange sights he saw, of communings with the Prince of Darkness, of specters gaunt and hideous that glided through the deserted court-yard, and stood beside his chair even in the noisy banquet chamber.
For that the Count was mad I could not doubt.
Yea, of all these things he spake as he urged me on as a lazy horse under whip and goad, to finish, finish.
I inquired of this at great risk of one of the men who stood guard; he tapped his forehead, and replied:
"He does all things so. It is so in camp, on the field, in the hall. Aye, but he's a very fiend in battle," and the fellow's eye brightened with a fierce pleasure at the thought of his lord's well-known prowess—for Count Raoul had wandered much in foreign lands, and deeds of blood followed in whispers to his door.
* * * * * *
It is of these dealings with the evil lord, and close association with one possessed, I seek cleansing. * * * Too often did I pass the names of Rusbel, Ashtaroth, Beelzebub, Satan and others trippingly upon my tongue—may the Saints defend—to keep my lord's temper smooth, for I verily believe he meant to slay me when my task was done.
It was for this I made my work long and tedious, that the acid I was daily using on my chains might have due season to eat them through, and I could be free.
* * * finished at length to his satisfaction, and slipped off through the night.
* * * * * *
Stated and subscribed in presence of Brothers Jehan and Hubert, on this the morrow of All Saints', in the year of grace one thousand six hundred and forty-six.