"You cannot?" he repeated; "you have affairs to attend to, I take it."
I tried to speak, but he rode me down.
"There is money to be made in that prosperous town of Louisville." He did not understand the pain which his words caused me. He rose and laid his hands affectionately on my shoulders. "Ah, Davy, commerce makes a man timid. Do you forget the old days when I was the father and you the son? Come! I will make you a fortune undreamed of, and you shall be my fianancier once more."
"I had not thought of the money, General," I answered, "and I have always been ready to leave my business to serve a friend."
"There, there," said the General, soothingly, "I know it. I would not offend you. You shall have the commission, and you may come when it pleases you."
He sat down again to write, but I restrained him.
"I cannot go, General," I said.
"Thunder and fury," cried the General, "a man might think you were a weak-kneed Federalist." He stared at me, and stared again, and rose and recoiled a step. "My God," he said, "you cannot be a Federalist, you can't have marched to Kaskaskia and Vincennes, you can't have been a friend of mine and have seen how the government of the United States has treated me, and be a Federalist!"
It was an argument and an appeal which I had foreseen, yet which I knew not how to answer. Suddenly there came, unbidden, his own counsel which he had given me long ago, "Serve the people, as all true men should in a Republic, but do not rely upon their gratitude." This man had bidden me remember that.
"General," I said, trying to speak steadily, "it was you who gave me my first love for the Republic. I remember you as you stood on the heights above Kaskaskia waiting for the sun to go down, and you reminded me that it was the nation's birthday. And you said that our nation was to be a refuge of the oppressed of this earth, a nation made of all peoples, out of all time. And you said that the lands beyond," and I pointed to the West as he had done, "should belong to it until the sun sets on the sea again."
I glanced at him, for he was silent, and in my life I can recall no sadder moment than this. The General heard, but the man who had spoken these words was gone forever. The eyes of this man before me were fixed, as it were, upon space. He heard, but he did not respond; for the spirit was gone. What I looked upon was the tortured body from which the genius—the spirit I had worshipped—had fled. I turned away, only to turn back in anger.
"What do you know of this France for which you are to fight?" I cried. "Have you heard of the thousands of innocents who are slaughtered, of the women and children who are butchered in the streets in the name of Liberty? What have those blood-stained adventurers to do with Liberty, what have the fish-wives who love the sight of blood to do with you that would fight for them? You warned me that this people and this government to which you have given so much would be ungrateful,—will the butchers and fish-wives be more grateful?"
He caught only the word GRATEFUL, and he rose to his feet with something of the old straightness and of the old power. And by evil chance his eye, and mine, fell upon a sword hanging on the farther wall. Well I remembered when he had received it, well I knew the inscription on its blade, "Presented by the State of Virginia to her beloved son, George Rogers Clark, who by the conquest of Illinois and St. Vincennes extended her empire and aided in the defence of her liberties." By evil chance, I say, his eye lighted on that sword. In three steps he crossed the room to where it hung, snatched it from its scabbard, and ere I could prevent him he had snapped it across his knee and flung the pieces in a corner.
"So much for the gratitude of my country," he said.
* * * * * * *
I had gone out on the little porch and stood gazing over the expanse of forest and waters lighted by the afterglow. Then I felt a hand upon my shoulder, I heard a familiar voice calling me by an old name.
"Yes, General!" I turned wonderingly.
"You are a good lad, Davy. I trust you," he said. "I—I was expecting some friends."
He lifted a hand that was not too steady to his brow and scanned the road leading to the fort. Even as he spoke four figures emerged from the woods,—undoubtedly the gentlemen who had held the council at the inn that afternoon. We watched them in silence as they drew nearer, and then something in the walk and appearance of the foremost began to bother me. He wore a long, double-breasted, claret-colored redingote that fitted his slim figure to perfection, and his gait was the easy gait of a man who goes through the world careless of its pitfalls. So intently did I stare that I gave no thought to those who followed him. Suddenly, when he was within fifty paces, a cry escaped me,—I should have known that smiling, sallow, weakly handsome face anywhere in the world.
The gentleman was none other than Monsieur Auguste de St. Gre. At the foot of the steps he halted and swept his hand to his hat with a military salute.
"Citizen General," he said gracefully, "we come and pay our respec's to you and mek our report, and ver' happy to see you look well. Citoyens, Vive la Republique!—Hail to the Citizen General!"
"Vive la Republique! Vive le General!" cried the three citizens behind him.
"Citizens, you are very welcome," answered the General, gravely, as he descended the steps and took each of them by the hand. "Citizens, allow me to introduce to you my old friend, Citizen David Ritchie—"
"Milles diables!" cried the Citizen St. Gre, seizing me by the hand, "c'est mon cher ami, Monsieur Reetchie. Ver' happy you have this honor, Monsieur;" and snatching his wide-brimmed military cocked hat from his head he made me a smiling, sweeping bow.
"What!" cried the General to me, "you know the Sieur de St. Gre, Davy?"
"He is my guest once in Louisiane, mon general," Monsieur Auguste explained; "my family knows him."
"You know the Sieur de St. Gre, Davy?" said the General again.
"Yes, I know him," I answered, I fear with some brevity.
"Podden me," said Auguste, "I am now Citizen Captain de St. Gre. And you are also embark in the glorious cause—Ah, I am happy," he added, embracing me with a winning glance.
I was relieved from the embarrassment of denying the impeachment by reason of being introduced to the other notables, to Citizen Captain Sullivan, who wore an undress uniform consisting of a cotton butternut hunting shirt. He had charge on the Bear Grass of building the boats for the expedition, and was likewise a prominent member of that august body, the Jacobin Society of Lexington. Next came Citizen Quartermaster Depeau, now of Knob Licks, Kentucky, sometime of New Orleans. The Citizen Quartermaster wore his hair long in the backwoods fashion; he had a keen, pale face and sunken eyes.
"Ver' glad mek you known to me, Citizen Reetchie."
The fourth gentleman was likewise French, and called Gignoux. The Citizen Gignoux made some sort of an impression on me which I did not stop to analyze. He was a small man, with a little round hand that wriggled out of my grasp; he had a big French nose, bright eyes that popped a little and gave him the habit of looking sidewise, and grizzled, chestnut eyebrows over them. He had a thin-lipped mouth and a round chin.
"Citizen Reetchie, is it? I laik to know citizen's name glorified by gran' cause. Reetchie?"
"Will you enter, citizens?" said the General.
I do not know why I followed them unless it were to satisfy a devil-prompted curiosity as to how Auguste de St. Gre had got there. We went into the room, where the General's slovenly negro was already lighting the candles and the General proceeded to collect and fill six of the glasses on the table. It was Citizen Captain Sullivan who gave the toast.
"Citizens," he cried, "I give you the health of the foremost apostle of Liberty in the Western world, the General who tamed the savage tribes, who braved the elements, who brought to their knees the minions of a despot king." A slight suspicion of a hiccough filled this gap. "Cast aside by an ungrateful government, he is still unfaltering in his allegiance to the people. May he lead our Legion victorious through the Spanish dominions.
"Vive la Republique!" they shouted, draining their glasses. "Vive le citoyen general Clark!"
"Louisiana!" shouted Citizen Sullivan, warming, "Louisiana, groaning under oppression and tyranny, is imploring us with uplifted hands. To those remaining veteran patriots whose footsteps we followed to this distant desert, and who by their blood and toil have converted it into a smiling country, we now look. Under your guidance, Citizen General, we fought, we bled—"
How far the Citizen Captain would have gone is problematical. I had noticed a look of disgust slowly creeping into the Citizen Quartermaster's eyes, and at this juncture he seized the Citizen Captain and thrust him into a chair.
"Sacre vent!" he exclaimed, "it is the proclamation—he recites the proclamation! I see he have participate in those handbill. Poof, the world is to conquer,—let us not spik so much."
"I give you one toast," said the little Citizen Gignoux, slyly, "we all bring back one wife from Nouvelle Orleans!
"Ha," exclaimed the Sieur de St. Gre, laughing, "the Citizen Captain Depeau—he has already one wife in Nouvelle Orleans."
 It is unnecessary for the editor to remind the reader that these are not Mr. Ritchie's words, but those of an adventurer. Mr. Depeau was an honest and worthy gentleman, earnest enough in a cause which was more to his credit than to an American's. According to contemporary evidence, Madame Depeau was in New Orleans.
The Citizen Quartermaster was angry at this, and it did not require any great perspicacity on my part to discover that he did not love the Citizen de St. Gre.
"He is call in his country, Gumbo de St. Gre," said Citizen Depeau. "It is a deesh in that country. But to beesness, citizens,—we embark on glorious enterprise. The King and Queen of France, she pay for her treason with their haids, and we must be prepare' for do the sem."
"Ha," exclaimed the Sieur de St. Gre, "the Citizen Quartermaster will lose his provision before his haid."
The inference was plain, and the Citizen Quartermaster was quick to take it up.
"We are all among frien's," said he. "Why I call you Gumbo de St. Gre? When I come first settle in Louisiane you was wild man—yes. Drink tafia, fight duel, spend family money. Aristocrat then. No, I not hold my tongue. You go France and Monsieur le Marquis de St. Gre he get you in gardes du corps of the King. Yes, I tell him. You tell the Citizen General how come you Jacobin now, and we see if he mek you Captain."
A murmur of surprise escaped from several of the company, and they all stared at the Sieur de St. Gre. But General Clark brought down his fist on the table with something of his old-time vigor, and the glasses rattled.
"Gentlemen, I will have no quarrelling in my presence," he cried; "and I beg to inform Citizen Depeau that I bestow my commissions where it pleases me."
Auguste de St. Gre rose, flushing, to his feet. "Citizens," he said, with a fluency that was easy for him, "I never mek secret of my history—no. It is true my relation, Monsieur le Marquis de St. Gre, bought me a pair of colors in the King's gardes du corps."
"And is it not truth you tremple the coackade, what I hear from Philadelphe?" cried Depeau.
Monsieur Auguste smiled with a patient tolerance.
"If you hev pains to mek inquiry," said he, "you must learn that I join le Marquis de La Fayette and the National Guard. That I have since fight for the Revolution. That I am come now home to fight for Louisiane, as Monsieur Genet will tell you whom I saw in Philadelphe."
"The Citizen Capitaine—he spiks true."
All eyes were turned towards Gignoux, who had been sitting back in his chair, very quiet.
"It is true what he say," he repeated, "I have it by Monsieur Genet himself."
"Gentlemen," said General Clark, "this is beside the question, and I will not have these petty quarrels. I may as well say to you now that I have chosen the Citizen Captain to go at once to New Orleans and organize a regiment among the citizens there faithful to France. On account of his family and supposed Royalist tendencies he will not be suspected. I fear that a month at least has yet to elapse before our expedition can move."
"It is one wise choice," put in Monsieur Gignoux.
"Monsieur le general and gentlemen," said the Sieur de St. Gre, gracefully, "I thank you ver' much for the confidence. I leave by first flatboat and will have all things stir up when you come. The citizens of Louisiane await you. If necessair, we have hole in levee ready to cut."
"Citizens," interrupted General Clark, sitting down before the ink-pot, "let us hear the Quartermaster's report of the supplies at Knob Licks, and Citizen Sullivan's account of the boats. But hold," he cried, glancing around him, "where is Captain Temple? I heard that he had come to Louisville from the Cumberland to-day. Is he not going with you to New Orleans, St. Gre?"
I took up the name involuntarily.
"Captain Temple," I repeated, while they stared at me. "Nicholas Temple?"
It was Auguste de St. Gre who replied.
"The sem," he said. "I recall he was along with you in Nouvelle Orleans. He is at ze tavern, and he has had one gran' fight, and he is ver'—I am sorry—intoxicate—"
I know not how I made my way through the black woods to Fort Finney, where I discovered Jake Landrasse and his canoe. The road was long, and yet short, for my brain whirled with the expectation of seeing Nick again, and the thought of this poor, pathetic, ludicrous expedition compared to the sublime one I had known.
George Rogers Clark had come to this!
"They have gran' time in Louisville to-night, Davy," said Jake Landrasse, as he paddled me towards the Kentucky shore; "you hear?"
"I should be stone deaf if I didn't," I answered, for the shouting which came from the town filled me with forebodings.
"They come back from the barbecue full of whiskey," said Jake, "and a young man at the tavern come out on the porch and he say, 'Get ready you all to go to Louisiana! You been hole back long enough by tyranny.' Sam Barker come along and say he a Federalist. They done have a gran' fight, he and the young feller, and Sam got licked. He went at Sam just like a harricane."
"And then?" I demanded.
"Them four wanted to leave," said Jake, taking no trouble to disguise his disgust, "and I had to fetch 'em over. I've got to go back and wait for 'em now," and he swore with sincere disappointment. "I reckon there ain't been such a jamboree in town for years."
Jake had not exaggerated. Gentlemen from Moore's Settlement, from Sullivan's Station on the Bear Grass,—to be brief, the entire male population of the county seemed to have moved upon Louisville after the barbecue, and I paused involuntarily at the sight which met my eyes as I came into the street. A score of sputtering, smoking pine-knots threw a lurid light on as many hilarious groups, and revealed, fantastically enough, the boles and lower branches of the big shade trees above them. Navigation for the individual, difficult enough lower down, in front of the tavern became positively dangerous. There was a human eddy,—nay, a maelstrom would better describe it. Fights began, but ended abortively by reason of the inability of the combatants to keep their feet; one man whose face I knew passed me with his hat afire, followed by several companions in gusts of laughter, for the torch-bearers were careless and burned the ears of their friends in their enthusiasm. Another person whom I recognized lacked a large portion of the front of his attire, and seemed sublimely unconscious of the fact. His face was badly scratched. Several other friends of mine were indulging in brief intervals of rest on the ground, and I barely avoided stepping on them. Still other gentlemen were delivering themselves of the first impressive periods of orations, only to be drowned by the cheers of their auditors. These were the snatches which I heard as I picked my way onward with exaggerated fear:—
"Gentlemen, the Mississippi is ours, let the tyrants who forbid its use beware!" "To hell with the Federal government!" "I tell you, sirs, this land is ours. We have conquered it with our blood, and I reckon no Spaniard is goin' to stop us. We ain't come this far to stand still. We settled Kaintuck, fit off the redskins, and we'll march across the Mississippi and on and on—" "To Louisiany!" they shouted, and the whole crowd would take it up, "To Louisiany! Open the river!"
So absorbed was I in my own safety and progress that I did not pause to think (as I have often thought since) of the full meaning of this, though I had marked it for many years. The support given to Wilkinson's plots, to Clark's expedition, was merely the outward and visible sign of the onward sweep of a resistless race. In spite of untold privations and hardships, of cruel warfare and massacre, these people had toiled over the mountains into this land, and impatient of check or hindrance would, even as Clark had predicted, when their numbers were sufficient leap the Mississippi. Night or day, drunk or sober, they spoke of this thing with an ever increasing vehemence, and no man of reflection who had read their history could say that they would be thwarted. One day Louisiana would be theirs and their children's for the generations to come. One day Louisiana would be American.
That I was alive and unscratched when I got as far as the tavern is a marvel. Amongst all the passion-lit faces which surrounded me I could get no sight of Nick's, and I managed to make my way to a momentarily quiet corner of the porch. As I leaned against the wall there, trying to think what I should do, there came a great cheering from a little way up the street, and then I straightened in astonishment. Above the cheering came the sound of a drum beaten in marching time, and above that there burst upon the night what purported to be the "Marseillaise," taken up and bawled by a hundred drunken throats and without words. Those around me who were sufficiently nimble began to run towards the noise, and I ran after them. And there, marching down the middle of the street at the head of a ragged and most indecorous column of twos, in the centre of a circle of light cast by a pine-knot which Joe Handy held, was Mr. Nicholas Temple. His bearing, if a trifle unsteady, was proud, and—if I could believe my eyes—around his neck was slung the thing which I prized above all my possessions,—the drum which I had carried to Kaskaskia and Vincennes! He had taken it from the peg in my room.
I shrink from putting on paper the sentimental side of my nature, and indeed I could give no adequate idea of my affection for that drum. And then there was Nick, who had been lost to me for five years! My impulse was to charge the procession, seize Nick and the drum together, and drag them back to my room; but the futility and danger of such a course were apparent, and the caution for which I am noted prevented my undertaking it. The procession, augmented by all those to whom sufficient power of motion remained, cheered by the helpless but willing ones on the ground, swept on down the street and through the town. Even at this late day I shame to write it! Behold me, David Ritchie, Federalist, execrably sober, at the head of the column behind the leader. Was it twenty minutes, or an hour, that we paraded? This I know, that we slighted no street in the little town of Louisville. What was my bearing,—whether proud or angry or carelessly indifferent,—I know not. The glare of Joe Handy's torch fell on my face, Joe Handy's arm and that of another gentleman, the worse for liquor, were linked in mine, and they saw fit to applaud at every step my conversion to the cause of Liberty. We passed time and time again the respectable door-yards of my Federalist friends, and I felt their eyes upon me with that look which the angels have for the fallen. Once, in front of Mr. Wharton's house, Mr. Handy burned my hair, apologized, staggered, and I took the torch! And I used it to good advantage in saving the drum from capture. For Mr. Temple, with all the will in the world, had begun to stagger. At length, after marching seemingly half the night, they halted by common consent before the house of a prominent Democrat who shall be nameless, and, after some minutes of vain importuning, Nick, with a tattoo on the drum, marched boldly up to the gate and into the yard. A desperate cunning came to my aid. I flung away the torch, leaving the head of the column in darkness, broke from Mr. Handy's embrace, and, seizing Nick by the arm, led him onward through the premises, he drumming with great docility. Followed by a few stragglers only (some of whom went down in contact with the trees of the orchard), we came to a gate at the back which I knew well, which led directly into the little yard that fronted my own rooms behind Mr. Crede's store. Pulling Nick through the gate, I slammed it, and he was only beginning to protest when I had him safe within my door, and the bolt slipped behind him. As I struck a light something fell to the floor with a crash, an odor of alcohol filled the air, and as the candle caught the flame I saw a shattered whiskey bottle at my feet and a room which had been given over to carousing. In spite of my feelings I could not but laugh at the perfectly irresistible figure my cousin made, as he stood before me with the drum slung in front of him. His hat was gone, his dust-covered clothes awry, but he smiled at me benignly and without a trace of surprise.
"Sho you've come back at lasht, Davy," he said. "You're—you're very—irregular. You'll lose—law bishness. Y-you're worse'n Andy Jackson—he's always fightin'."
I relieved him, unprotesting, of the drum, thanking my stars there was so much as a stick left of it. He watched me with a silent and exaggerated interest as I laid it on the table. From a distance without came the shouts of the survivors making for the tavern.
"'Sfortunate you had the drum, Davy," he said gravely, "'rwe'd had no procession."
"It is fortunate I have it now," I answered, looking ruefully at the battered rim where Nick had missed the skin in his ardor.
"Davy," said he, "funny thing—I didn't know you wash a Jacobite. Sh'ou hear," he added relevantly, "th' Andy Jackson was married?"
"No," I answered, having no great interest in Mr. Jackson. "Where have you been seeing him again?"
"Nashville on Cumberland. Jackson'sh county sholicitor,—devil of a man. I'll tell you, Davy," he continued, laying an uncertain hand on my shoulder and speaking with great earnestness, "I had Chicashaw horse—Jackson'd Virginia thoroughbred—had a race—'n' Jackson wanted to shoot me 'n' I wanted to shoot Jackson. 'N' then we all went to the Red Heifer—"
"What the deuce is the Red Heifer?" I asked.
"'N'dishtillery over a shpring, 'n' they blow a horn when the liquor runsh. 'N' then we had supper in Major Lewish's tavern. Major Lewis came in with roast pig on platter. You know roast pig, Davy? . . . 'N' Jackson pulls out's hunting knife n'waves it very mashestic. . . . You know how mashestic Jackson is when he—wantshtobe?" He let go my shoulder, brushed back his hair in a fiery manner, and, seizing a knife which unhappily lay on the table, gave me a graphic illustration of Mr. Jackson about to carve the pig, I retreating, and he coming on. "N' when he stuck the pig, Davy,—"
He poised the knife for an instant in the air, and then, before I could interpose, he brought it down deftly through the head of my precious drum, and such a frightful, agonized squeal filled the room that even I shivered involuntarily, and for an instant I had a vivid vision of a pig struggling in the hands of a butcher. I laughed in spite of myself. But Nick regarded me soberly.
"Funny thing, Davy," he said, "they all left the room." For a moment he appeared to be ruminating on this singular phenomenon. Then he continued: "'N' Jackson was back firsht, 'n' he was damned impolite.... 'n' he shook his fist in my face" (here Nick illustrated Mr. Jackson's gesture), "'n' he said, 'Great God, sir, y' have a fine talent but if y' ever do that again, I'll—I'll kill you.' . . . That'sh what he said, Davy."
"How long have you been in Nashville, Nick?" I asked.
"A year," he said, "lookin' after property I won rattle-an'-shnap—you remember?"
"And why didn't you let me know you were in Nashville?" I asked, though I realized the futility of the question.
"Thought you was—mad at me," he answered, "but you ain't, Davy. You've been very good-natured t' let me have your drum." He straightened. "I am ver' much obliged."
"And where were you before you went to Nashville?" I said.
"Charleston, 'Napolis . . . Philadelphia . . . everywhere," he answered.
"Now," said he, "'mgoin' t' bed."
I applauded this determination, but doubted whether he meant to carry it out. However, I conducted him to the back room, where he sat himself down on the edge of my four-poster, and after conversing a little longer on the subject of Mr. Jackson (who seemed to have gotten upon his brain), he toppled over and instantly fell asleep with his clothes on. For a while I stood over him, the old affection welling up so strongly within me that my eyes were dimmed as I looked upon his face. Spare and handsome it was, and boyish still, the weaker lines emphasized in its relaxation. Would that relentless spirit with which he had been born make him, too, a wanderer forever? And was it not the strangest of fates which had impelled him to join this madcap expedition of this other man I loved, George Rogers Clark?
I went out, closed the door, and lighting another candle took from my portfolio a packet of letters. Two of them I had not read, having found them only on my return from Philadelphia that morning. They were all signed simply "Sarah Temple," they were dated at a certain number in the Rue Bourbon, New Orleans, and each was a tragedy in that which it had left unsaid. There was no suspicion of heroics, there was no railing at fate; the letters breathed but the one hope,—that her son might come again to that happiness of which she had robbed him. There were in all but twelve, and they were brief, for some affliction had nearly deprived the lady of the use of her right hand. I read them twice over, and then, despite the lateness of the hour, I sat staring at the candles, reflecting upon my own helplessness. I was startled from this revery by a knock. Rising hastily, I closed the door of my bedroom, thinking I had to do with some drunken reveller who might be noisy. The knock was repeated. I slipped back the bolt and peered out into the night.
"I saw dat light," said a voice which I recognized; "I think I come in to say good night."
I opened the door, and he walked in.
"You are one night owl, Monsieur Reetchie," he said.
"And you seem to prefer the small hours for your visits, Monsieur de St. Gre," I could not refrain from replying.
He swept the room with a glance, and I thought a shade of disappointment passed over his face. I wondered whether he were looking for Nick. He sat himself down in my chair, stretched out his legs, and regarded me with something less than his usual complacency.
"I have much laik for you, Monsieur Reetchie," he began, and waved aside my bow of acknowledgment "Before I go away from Louisville I want to spik with you,—this is a risson why I am here. You listen to what dat Depeau he say,—dat is not truth. My family knows you, I laik to have you hear de truth."
He paused, and while I wondered what revelations he was about to make, I could not repress my impatience at the preamble.
"You are my frien', you have prove it," he continued. "You remember las' time we meet?" (I smiled involuntarily.) "You was in bed, but you not need be ashame' for me. Two days after I went to France, and I not in New Orleans since."
"Two days after you saw me?" I repeated.
"Yaas, I run away. That was the mont' of August, 1789, and we have not then heard in New Orleans that the Bastille is attack. I lan' at La Havre,—it is the en' of Septembre. I go to the Chateau de St. Gre—great iron gates, long avenue of poplar,—big house all 'round a court, and Monsieur le Marquis is at Versailles. I borrow three louis from the concierge, and I go to Versailles to the hotel of Monsieur le Marquis. There is all dat trouble what you read about going on, and Monsieur le Marquis he not so glad to see me for dat risson. 'Mon cher Auguste,' he cry, 'you want to be of officier in gardes de corps? You are not afred?'" (Auguste stiffened.) "'I am a St. Gre, Monsieur le Marquis. I am afred of nothings,' I answered. He tek me to the King, I am made lieutenant, the mob come and the King and Queen are carry off to Paris. The King is prisoner, Monsieur le Marquis goes back to the Chateau de St. Gre. France is a republic. Monsieur—que voulez-vous?" (The Sieur de St. Gre shrugged his shoulders.) "I, too, become Republican. I become officier in the National Guard,—one must move with the time. Is it not so, Monsieur? I deman' of you if you ever expec' to see a St. Gre a Republican."
I expressed my astonishment.
"I give up my right, my principle, my family. I come to America—I go to New Orleans where I have influence and I stir up revolution for France, for Liberty. Is it not noble cause?"
I had it on the tip of my tongue to ask Monsieur Auguste why he left France, but the uselessness of it was apparent.
"You see, Monsieur, I am justify before you, before my frien's,—that is all I care," and he gave another shrug in defiance of the world at large. "What I have done, I have done for principle. If I remain Royalist, I might have marry my cousin, Mademoiselle de St. Gre. Ha, Monsieur, you remember—the miniature you were so kin' as to borrow me four hundred livres?"
"I remember," I said.
"It is because I have much confidence in you, Monsieur," he said, "it is because I go—peut-etre—to dangere, to death, that I come here and ask you to do me a favor."
"You honor me too much, Monsieur," I answered, though I could scarce refrain from smiling.
"It is because of your charactair," Monsieur Auguste was good enough to say. "You are to be repose' in, you are to be rely on. Sometime I think you ver' ole man. And this is why, and sence you laik objects of art, that I bring this and ask you keep it while I am in dangere."
I was mystified. He thrust his hand into his coat and drew forth an oval object wrapped in dirty paper, and then disclosed to my astonished eyes the miniature of Mademoiselle de St. Gre,—the miniature, I say, for the gold back and setting were lacking. Auguste had retained only the ivory,—whether from sentiment or necessity I will not venture. The sight of it gave me a strange sensation, and I can scarcely write of the anger and disgust which surged over me, of the longing to snatch it from his trembling fingers. Suddenly I forgot Auguste in the lady herself. There was something emblematical in the misfortune which had bereft the picture of its setting. Even so the Revolution had taken from her a brilliant life, a king and queen, home and friends. Yet the spirit remained unquenchable, set above its mean surroundings,—ay, and untouched by them. I was filled with a painful curiosity to know what had become of her, which I repressed. Auguste's voice aroused me.
"Ah, Monsieur, is it not a face to love, to adore?"
"It is a face to obey," I answered, with some heat, and with more truth than I knew.
"Mon Dieu, Monsieur, it is so. It is that mek me love—you know not how. You know not what love is, Monsieur Reetchie, you never love laik me. You have not sem risson. Monsieur," he continued, leaning forward and putting his hand on my knee, "I think she love me—I am not sure. I should not be surprise'. But Monsieur le Marquis, her father, he trit me ver' bad. Monsieur le Marquis is guillotine' now, I mus' not spik evil of him, but he marry her to one ol' garcon, Le Vicomte d'Ivry-le-Tour."
"So Mademoiselle is married," I said after a pause.
"Oui, she is Madame la Vicomtesse now; I fall at her feet jus' the sem. I hear of her once at Bel Oeil, the chateau of Monsieur le Prince de Ligne in Flander'. After that they go I know not where. They are exile',—los' to me." He sighed, and held out the miniature to me. "Monsieur, I esk you favor. Will you be as kin' and keep it for me again?"
I have wondered many times since why I did not refuse. Suffice it to say that I took it. And Auguste's face lighted up.
"I am a thousan' times gret'ful," he cried; and added, as though with an afterthought, "Monsieur, would you be so kin' as to borrow me fif' dollars?"
OF A SUDDEN RESOLUTION
It was nearly morning when I fell asleep in my chair, from sheer exhaustion, for the day before had been a hard one, even for me. I awoke with a start, and sat for some minutes trying to collect my scattered senses. The sun streamed in at my open door, the birds hopped on the lawn, and the various sounds of the bustling life of the little town came to me from beyond. Suddenly, with a glimmering of the mad events of the night, I stood up, walked uncertainly into the back room, and stared at the bed.
It was empty. I went back into the outer room; my eye wandered from the shattered whiskey bottle, which was still on the floor, to the table littered with Mrs. Temple's letters. And there, in the midst of them, lay a note addressed with my name in a big, unformed hand. I opened it mechanically.
"Dear Davy,"—so it ran,—"I have gone away, I cannot tell you where. Some day I will come back and you will forgive me. God bless you! NICK."
He had gone away! To New Orleans? I had long ceased trying to account for Nick's actions, but the more I reflected, the more incredible it seemed to me that he should have gone there, of all places. And yet I had had it from Clark's own lips (indiscreet enough now!) that Nick and St. Gre were to prepare the way for an insurrection there. My thoughts ran on to other possibilities; would he see his mother? But he had no reason to know that Mrs. Temple was still in New Orleans. Then my glance fell on her letters, lying open on the table. Had he read them? I put this down as improbable, for he was a man who held strictly to a point of honor.
And then there was Antoinette de St. Gre! I ceased to conjecture here, dashed some water in my eyes, pulled myself together, and, seizing my hat, hurried out into the street. I made a sufficiently indecorous figure as I ran towards the water-side, barely nodding to my acquaintances on the way. It was a fresh morning, a river breeze stirred the waters of the Bear Grass, and as I stood, scanning the line of boats there, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to confront a little man with grizzled, chestnut eyebrows. He was none other than the Citizen Gignoux.
"You tek ze air, Monsieur Reetchie?" said he. "You look for some one, yes? You git up too late see him off."
I made a swift resolve never to quibble with this man.
"So Mr. Temple has gone to New Orleans with the Sieur de St. Gre," I said.
Citizen Gignoux laid a fat finger on one side of his great nose. The nose was red and shiny, I remember, and glistened in the sunlight.
"Ah," said he, "'tis no use tryin' hide from you. However, Monsieur Reetchie, you are the ver' soul of honor. And then your frien'! I know you not betray the Sieur de St. Gre. He is ver' fon' of you."
"Betray!" I exclaimed; "there is no question of betrayal. As far as I can see, your plans are carried on openly, with a fine contempt for the Federal government."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"'Tis not my doin'," he said, "but I am—what you call it?—a cipher. Sicrecy is what I believe. But drink too much, talk too much—is it not so, Monsieur? And if Monsieur le Baron de Carondelet, ze governor, hear they are in New Orleans, I think they go to Havana or Brazil." He smiled, but perhaps the expression of my face caused him to sober abruptly. "It is necessair for the cause. We must have good Revolution in Louisiane."
A suspicion of this man came over me, for a childlike simplicity characterized the other ringleaders in this expedition. Clark had had acumen once, and lost it; St. Gre was a fool; Nick Temple was leading purposely a reckless life; the Citizens Sullivan and Depeau had, to say the least, a limited knowledge of affairs. All of these were responding more or less sincerely to the cry of the people of Kentucky (every day more passionate) that something be done about Louisiana. But Gignoux seemed of a different feather. Moreover, he had been too shrewd to deny what Colonel Clark would have denied in a soberer moment,—that St. Gre and Nick had gone to New Orleans.
"You not spik, Monsieur. You not think they have success. You are not Federalist, no, for I hear you march las night with your frien',—I hear you wave torch."
"You make it your business to hear a great deal, Monsieur Gignoux," I retorted, my temper slipping a little.
He hastened to apologize.
"Mille pardons, Monsieur," he said; "I see you are Federalist—but drunk. Is it not so? Monsieur, you tink this ver' silly thing—this expedition."
"Whatever I think, Monsieur," I answered, "I am a friend of General Clark's."
"An enemy of ze cause?" he put in.
"Monsieur," I said, "if President Washington and General Wayne do not think it worth while to interfere with your plans, neither do I."
I left him abruptly, and went back to my long-delayed affairs with a heavy heart. The more I thought, the more criminally foolish Nick's journey seemed to me. However puerile the undertaking, De Lemos at Natchez and Carondelet at New Orleans had not the reputation of sleeping at their posts, and their hatred for Americans was well known. I sought General Clark, but he had gone to Knob Licks, and in my anxiety I lay awake at nights tossing in my bed.
One evening, perhaps four days after Nick's departure, I went into the common room of the tavern, and there I was surprised to see an old friend. His square, saffron face was just the same, his little jet eyes snapped as brightly as ever, his hair—which was swept high above his forehead and tied in an eelskin behind—was as black as when I had seen it at Kaskaskia. I had met Monsieur Vigo many times since, for he was a familiar figure amongst the towns of the Ohio and the Mississippi, and from Vincennes to Anse a la Graisse, and even to New Orleans. His reputation as a financier was greater than ever. He was talking to my friend, Mr. Marshall, but he rose when he saw me, with a beaming smile.
"Ha, it is Davy," he cried, "but not the sem lil drummer boy who would not come into my store. Reech lawyer now,—I hear you make much money now, Davy."
"Congress money?" I said.
Monsieur Vigo threw out his hands, and laughed exactly as he had done in his log store at Kaskaskia.
"Congress have never repay me one sou," said Monsieur Vigo, making a face. "I have try—I have talk—I have represent—it is no good. Davy, it is your fault. You tell me tek dat money. You call dat finance?"
"David," said Mr. Marshall, sharply, "what the devil is this I hear of your carrying a torch in a Jacobin procession?"
"You may put it down to liquor, Mr. Marshall," I answered.
"Then you must have had a cask, egad," said Mr. Marshall, "for I never saw you drunk."
"I shall not attempt to explain it, sir," I answered.
"You must not allow your drum to drag you into bad company again," said he, and resumed his conversation. As I suspected, it was a vigorous condemnation of General Clark and his new expedition. I expressed my belief that the government did not regard it seriously, and would forbid the enterprise at the proper time.
"You are right, sir," said Mr. Marshall, bringing down his fist on the table. "I have private advices from Philadelphia that the President's consideration for Governor Shelby is worn out, and that he will issue a proclamation within the next few days warning all citizens at their peril from any connection with the pirates."
"As a matter of fact, Mr. Marshall," said I, "Citizen Genet has been liberal with nothing except commissions, and they have neither money nor men."
"The rascals have all left town," said Mr. Marshall. "Citizen Quartermaster Depeau, their local financier, has gone back to his store at Knob Licks. The Sieur de St. Gre and a Mr. Temple, as doubtless you know, have gone to New Orleans. And the most mysterious and therefore the most dangerous of the lot, Citizen Gignoux, has vanished like an evil spirit. It is commonly supposed that he, too, has gone down the river. You may see him, Vigo," said Mr. Marshall, turning to the trader; "he is a little man with a big nose and grizzled chestnut eyebrows."
"Ah, I know a lil 'bout him," said Monsieur Vigo; "he was on my boat two days ago, asking me questions."
"The devil he was!" said Mr. Marshall.
I had another disquieting night, and by the morning I had made up my mind. The sun was glinting on the placid waters of the river when I made my way down to the bank, to a great ten-oared keel boat that lay on the Bear Grass, with its square sail furled. An awning was stretched over the deck, and at a walnut table covered with papers sat Monsieur Vigo, smoking his morning pipe.
"Davy," said he, "you have come a la bonne heure. At ten I depart for New Orleans." He sighed. "It is so long voyage," he added, "and so lonely one. Sometime I have the good fortune to pick up a companion, but not to-day."
"Do you want me to go with you?" I said.
He looked at me incredulously.
"I should be delighted," he said, "but you mek a jest."
"I was never more serious in my life," I answered, "for I have business in New Orleans. I shall be ready."
"Ha," cried Monsieur Vigo, hospitably, "I shall be enchant. We will talk philosophe, Beaumarchais, Voltaire, Rousseau."
For Monsieur Vigo was a great reader, and we had often indulged in conversation which (we flattered ourselves) had a literary turn.
I spent the remaining hours arranging with a young lawyer of my acquaintance to look after my business, and at ten o'clock I was aboard the keel boat with my small baggage. At eleven, Monsieur Vigo and I were talking "philosophe" over a wonderful breakfast under the awning, as we dropped down between the forest-lined shores of the Ohio. My host travelled in luxury, and we ate the Creole dishes, which his cook prepared, with silver forks which he kept in a great chest in the cabin.
You who read this may feel something of my impatience to get to New Orleans, and hence I shall not give a long account of the journey. What a contrast it was to that which Nick and I had taken five years before in Monsieur Gratiot's fur boat! Like all successful Creole traders, Monsieur Vigo had a wonderful knack of getting on with the Indians, and often when we tied up of a night the chief men of a tribe would come down to greet him. We slipped southward on the great, yellow river which parted the wilderness, with its sucks and eddies and green islands, every one of which Monsieur knew, and I saw again the flocks of water-fowl and herons in procession, and hawks and vultures wheeling in their search. Sometimes a favorable wind sprang up, and we hoisted the sail. We passed the Walnut Hills, the Nogales, the moans of the alligators broke our sleep by night, and at length we came to Natchez, ruled over now by that watch-dog of the Spanish King, Gayoso de Lemos. Thanks to Monsieur Vigo, his manners were charming and his hospitality gracious, and there was no trouble whatever about my passport.
Our progress was slow when we came at last to the belvedered plantation houses amongst the orange groves; and as we sat on the wide galleries in the summer nights, we heard all the latest gossip of the capital of Louisiana. The river was low; there was an ominous quality in the heat which had its effect, indeed, upon me, and made the old Creoles shake their heads and mutter a word with a terrible meaning. New Orleans was a cesspool, said the enlightened. The Baron de Carondelet, indefatigable man, aimed at digging a canal to relieve the city of its filth, but this would be the year when it was most needed, and it was not dug. Yes, Monsieur le Baron was energy itself. That other fever—the political one—he had scotched. "Ca Ira" and "La Marseillaise" had been sung in the theatres, but not often, for the Baron had sent the alcaldes to shut them up. Certain gentlemen of French ancestry had gone to languish in the Morro at Havana. Yes, Monsieur de Carondelet, though fat, was on horseback before dawn, New Orleans was fortified as it never had been before, the militia organized, real cannon were on the ramparts which could shoot at a pinch.
Sub rosa, I found much sympathy among the planters with the Rights of Man. What had become, they asked, of the expedition of Citizen General Clark preparing in the North? They may have sighed secretly when I painted it in its true colors, but they loved peace, these planters. Strangely enough, the name of Auguste de St. Gre never crossed their lips, and I got no trace of him or Nick at any of these places. Was it possible that they might not have come to New Orleans after all?
Through the days, when the sun beat upon the awning with a tropical fierceness, when Monsieur Vigo abandoned himself to his siestas, I thought. It was perhaps characteristic of me that I waited nearly three weeks to confide in my old friend the purpose of my journey to New Orleans. It was not because I could not trust him that I held my tongue, but because I sought some way of separating the more intimate story of Nick's mother and his affair with Antoinette de St. Gre from the rest of the story. But Monsieur Vigo was a man of importance in Louisiana, and I reflected that a time might come when I should need his help. One evening, when we were tied up under the oaks of a bayou, I told him. There emanated from Monsieur Vigo a sympathy which few men possess, and this I felt strongly as he listened, breaking his silence only at long intervals to ask a question. It was a still night, I remember, of great beauty, with a wisp of a moon hanging over the forest line, the air heavy with odors and vibrant with a thousand insect tones.
"And what you do, Davy?" he said at length.
"I must find my cousin and St. Gre before they have a chance to get into much mischief," I answered. "If they have already made a noise, I thought of going to the Baron de Carondelet and telling him what I know of the expedition. He will understand what St. Gre is, and I will explain that Mr. Temple's reckless love of adventure is at the bottom of his share in the matter."
"Bon, Davy," said my host, "if you go, I go with you. But I believe ze Baron think Morro good place for them jus' the sem. Ze Baron has been make miserable with Jacobins. But I go with you if you go."
He discoursed for some time upon the quality of the St. Gre's, their public services, and before he went to sleep he made the very just remark that there was a flaw in every string of beads. As for me, I went down into the cabin, surreptitiously lighted a candle, and drew from my pocket that piece of ivory which had so strangely come into my possession once more. The face upon it had haunted me since I had first beheld it. The miniature was wrapped now in a silk handkerchief which Polly Ann had bought for me in Lexington. Shall I confess it?—I had carefully rubbed off the discolorations on the ivory at the back, and the picture lacked now only the gold setting. As for the face, I had a kind of consolation from it. I seemed to draw of its strength when I was tired, of its courage when I faltered. And, during those four days of indecision in Louisville, it seemed to say to me in words that I could not evade or forget, "Go to New Orleans." It was a sentiment—foolish, if you please—which could not resist. Nay, which I did not try to resist, for I had little enough of it in my life. What did it matter? I should never see Madame la Vicomtesse d'Ivry-le-Tour.
She was Helene to me; and the artist had caught the strength of her soul in her clear-cut face, in the eyes that flashed with wit and courage,—eyes that seemed to look with scorn upon what was mean in the world and untrue, with pity on the weak. Here was one who might have governed a province and still have been a woman, one who had taken into exile the best of safeguards against misfortune,—humor and an indomitable spirit.
THE HOUSE OF THE HONEYCOMBED TILES
As long as I live I shall never forget that Sunday morning of my second arrival at New Orleans. A saffron heat-haze hung over the river and the city, robbed alike from the yellow waters of the one and the pestilent moisture of the other. It would have been strange indeed if this capital of Louisiana, brought hither to a swamp from the sands of Biloxi many years ago by the energetic Bienville, were not visited from time to time by the scourge!
Again I saw the green villas on the outskirts, the verdure-dotted expanse of roofs of the city behind the levee bank, the line of Kentucky boats, keel boats and barges which brought our own resistless commerce hither in the teeth of royal mandates. Farther out, and tugging fretfully in the yellow current, were the aliens of the blue seas, high-hulled, their tracery of masts and spars shimmering in the heat: a full-rigged ocean packet from Spain, a barque and brigantine from the West Indies, a rakish slaver from Africa with her water-line dry, discharged but yesterday of a teeming horror of freight. I looked again upon the familiar rows of trees which shaded the gravelled promenades where Nick had first seen Antoinette. Then we were under it, for the river was low, and the dingy-uniformed officer was bowing over our passports beneath the awning. We walked ashore, Monsieur Vigo and I, and we joined a staring group of keel boatmen and river-men under the willows.
Below us, the white shell walks of the Place d'Armes were thronged with gayly dressed people. Over their heads rose the fine new Cathedral, built by the munificence of Don Andreas Almonaster, and beside that the many-windowed, heavy-arched Cabildo, nearly finished, which will stand for all time a monument to Spanish builders.
"It is Corpus Christi day," said Monsieur Vigo; "let us go and see the procession."
Here once more were the bright-turbaned negresses, the gay Creole gowns and scarfs, the linen-jacketed, broad-hatted merchants, with those of soberer and more conventional dress, laughing and chatting, the children playing despite the heat. Many of these people greeted Monsieur Vigo. There were the saturnine, long-cloaked Spaniards, too, and a greater number than I had believed of my own keen-faced countrymen lounging about, mildly amused by the scene. We crossed the square, and with the courtesy of their race the people made way for us in the press; and we were no sooner placed ere the procession came out of the church. Flaming soldiers of the Governor's guard, two by two; sober, sandalled friars in brown, priests in their robes,—another batch of color; crosses shimmering, tapers emerging from the cool darkness within to pale by the light of day. Then down on their knees to Him who sits high above the yellow haze fell the thousands in the Place d'Armes. For here was the Host itself, flower-decked in white and crimson, its gold-tasselled canopy upheld by four tonsured priests, a sheen of purple under it,—the Bishop of Louisiana in his robes.
"The Governor!" whispered Monsieur Vigo, and the word was passed from mouth to mouth as the people rose from their knees. Francois Louis Hector, Baron de Carondelet, resplendent in his uniform of colonel in the royal army of Spain, his orders glittering on his breast,—pillar of royalty and enemy to the Rights of Man! His eye was stern, his carriage erect, but I seemed to read in his careworn face the trials of three years in this moist capital. After the Governor, one by one, the waiting Associations fell in line, each with its own distinguishing sash. So the procession moved off into the narrow streets of the city, the people in the Place dispersed to new vantage points, and Monsieur Vigo signed me to follow him.
"I have a frien', la veuve Gravois, who lives ver' quiet. She have one room, and I ask her tek you in, Davy." He led the way through the empty Rue Chartres, turned to the right at the Rue Bienville, and stopped before an unpretentious house some three doors from the corner. Madame Gravois, elderly, wizened, primp in a starched cotton gown, opened the door herself, fell upon Monsieur Vigo in the Creole fashion; and within a quarter of an hour I was installed in her best room, which gave out on a little court behind. Monsieur Vigo promised to send his servant with my baggage, told me his address, bade me call on him for what I wanted, and took his leave.
First, there was Madame Gravois' story to listen to as she bustled about giving orders to a kinky-haired negro girl concerning my dinner. Then came the dinner, excellent—if I could have eaten it. The virtues of the former Monsieur Gravois were legion. He had come to Louisiana from Toulon, planted indigo, fought a duel, and Madame was a widow. So I condense two hours into two lines. Happily, Madame was not proof against the habits of the climate, and she retired for her siesta. I sought my room, almost suffocated by a heat which defies my pen to describe, a heat reeking with moisture sucked from the foul kennels of the city. I had felt nothing like it in my former visit to New Orleans. It seemed to bear down upon my brain, to clog the power of thought, to make me vacillating. Hitherto my reasoning had led me to seek Monsieur de St. Gre, to count upon that gentleman's common sense and his former friendship. But now that the time had come for it, I shrank from such a meeting. I remembered his passionate affection for Antoinette, I imagined that he would not listen calmly to one who was in some sort connected with her unhappiness. So a kind of cowardice drove me first to Mrs. Temple. She might know much that would save me useless trouble and blundering.
The shadows of tree-top, thatch, and wall were lengthening as I walked along the Rue Bourbon. Heedless of what the morrow might bring forth, the street was given over to festivity. Merry groups were gathered on the corners, songs and laughter mingled in the court-yards, billiard balls clicked in the cabarets. A fat, jolly little Frenchman, surrounded by tripping children, sat in his doorway on the edge of the banquette, fiddling with all his might, pausing only to wipe the beads of perspiration from his face.
"Madame Clive, mais oui, Monsieur, l' petite maison en face." Smiling benignly at the children, he began to fiddle once more.
The little house opposite! Mrs. Temple, mistress of Temple Bow, had come to this! It was a strange little home indeed, Spanish, one-story, its dormers hidden by a honeycombed screen of terra-cotta tiles. This screen was set on the extreme edge of the roof which overhung the banquette and shaded the yellow adobe wall of the house. Low, unpretentious, the latticed shutters of its two windows giving it but a scant air of privacy,—indeed, they were scarred by the raps of careless passers-by on the sidewalk. The two little battened doors, one step up, were closed. I rapped, waited, and rapped again. The musician across the street stopped his fiddling, glanced at me, smiled knowingly at the children; and they paused in their dance to stare. Then one of the doors was pushed open a scant four inches, a scarlet madras handkerchief appeared in the crack above a yellow face. There was a long moment of silence, during which I felt the scrutiny of a pair of sharp, black eyes.
"What yo' want, Marse?"
The woman's voice astonished me, for she spoke the dialect of the American tide-water.
"I should like to see Mrs. Clive," I answered.
The door closed a shade.
"Mistis sick, she ain't see nobody," said the woman. She closed the door a little more, and I felt tempted to put my foot in the crack.
"Tell her that Mr. David Ritchie is here," I said.
There was an instant's silence, then an exclamation.
"Lan' sakes, is you Marse Dave?" She opened the door—furtively, I thought—just wide enough for me to pass through. I found myself in a low-ceiled, darkened room, opposite a trim negress who stood with her arms akimbo and stared at me.
"Marse Dave, you doan rec'lect me. I'se Lindy, I'se Breed's daughter. I rec'lect you when you was at Temple Bow. Marse Dave, how you'se done growed! Yassir, when I heerd from Miss Sally I done comed here to tek cyar ob her."
"How is your mistress?" I asked.
"She po'ly, Marse Dave," said Lindy, and paused for adequate words. I took note of this darky who, faithful to a family, had come hither to share her mistress's exile and obscurity. Lindy was spare, energetic, forceful—and, I imagined, a discreet guardian indeed for the unfortunate. "She po'ly, Marse Dave, an' she ain' nebber leabe dis year house. Marse Dave," said Lindy earnestly, lowering her voice and taking a step closer to me, "I done reckon de Mistis gwine ter die ob lonesomeness. She des sit dar an' brood, an' brood—an' she use' ter de bes' company, to de quality. No, sirree, Marse Dave, she ain' nebber sesso, but she tink 'bout de young Marsa night an' day. Marse Dave?"
"Yes?" I said.
"Marse Dave, she have a lil pink frock dat Marsa Nick had when he was a bebby. I done cotch Mistis lookin' at it, an' she hid it when she see me an' blush like 'twas a sin. Marse Dave?"
"Yes?" I said again.
"Where am de young Marsa?"
"I don't know, Lindy," I answered.
"She done talk 'bout you, Marse Dave, an' how good you is—"
"And Mrs. Temple sees no one," I asked.
"Dar's one lady come hyar ebery week, er French lady, but she speak English jes' like the Mistis. Dat's my fault," said Lindy, showing a line of white teeth.
"Your fault," I exclaimed.
"Yassir. When I comed here from Caroliny de Mistis done tole me not ter let er soul in hyah. One day erbout three mont's ergo, dis yer lady come en she des wheedled me ter let her in. She was de quality, Marse Dave, and I was des' afeard not ter. I declar' I hatter. Hush," said Lindy, putting her fingers to her lips, "dar's de Mistis!"
The door into the back room opened, and Mrs. Temple stood on the threshold, staring with uncertain eyes into the semi-darkness.
"Lindy," she said, "what have you done?"
"Miss Sally—" Lindy began, and looked at me. But I could not speak for looking at the lady in the doorway.
"Who is it?" she said again, and her hand sought the door-post tremblingly. "Who is it?"
Then I went to her. At my first step she gave a little cry and swayed, and had I not taken her in my arms I believe she would have fallen.
"David!" she said, "David, is it you? I—I cannot see very well. Why did you not speak?" She looked at Lindy and smiled. "It is because I am an old woman, Lindy," and she lifted her hand to her forehead. "See, my hair is white—I shock you, David."
Leaning on my shoulder, she led me through a little bedroom in the rear into a tiny garden court beyond, a court teeming with lavish colors and redolent with the scent of flowers. A white shell walk divided the garden and ended at the door of a low outbuilding, from the chimney of which blue smoke curled upward in the evening air. Mrs. Temple drew me almost fiercely towards a bench against the adobe wall.
"Where is he?" she said. "Where is he, David?"
The suddenness of the question staggered me; I hesitated.
"I do not know," I answered.
I could not look into her face and say it. The years of torment and suffering were written there in characters not to be mistaken. Sarah Temple, the beauty, was dead indeed. The hope which threatened to light again the dead fires in the woman's eyes frightened me.
"Ah," she said sharply, "you are deceiving me. It is not like you, David. You are deceiving me. Tell me, tell me, for the love of God, who has brought me to bear chastisement." And she gripped my arm with a strength I had not thought in her.
"Listen," I said, trying to calm myself as well as her. "Listen, Mrs. Temple." I could not bring myself to call her otherwise.
"You are keeping him away from me," she cried. "Why are you keeping him away? Have I not suffered enough? David, I cannot live long. I do not dare to die—until he has forgiven me."
I forced her, gently as I might, to sit on the bench, and I seated myself beside her.
"Listen," I said, with a sternness that hid my feelings, and perforce her expression changed again to a sad yearning, "you must hear me. And you must trust me, for I have never pretended. You shall see him if it is in my power."
She looked at me so piteously that I was near to being unmanned.
"I will trust you," she whispered.
"I have seen him," I said. She started violently, but I laid my hand on hers, and by some self-mastery that was still in her she was silent. "I saw him in Louisville a month ago, when I returned from a year's visit to Philadelphia."
I could not equivocate with this woman, I could no more lie to her sorrow than to the Judgment. Why had I not foreseen her question?
"And he hates me?" She spoke with a calmness now that frightened me more than her agitation had done.
"I do not know," I answered; "when I would have spoken to him he was gone."
"He was drunk," she said. I stared at her in frightened wonderment. "He was drunk—it is better than if he had cursed me. He did not mention me? Or any one?"
"He did not," I answered.
She turned her face away.
"Go on, I will listen to you," she said, and sat immovable through the whole of my story, though her hand trembled in mine. And while I live I hope never to have such a thing to go through with again. Truth held me to the full, ludicrous tragedy of the tale, to the cheap character of my old Colonel's undertaking, to the incident of the drum, to the conversation in my room. Likewise, truth forbade me to rekindle her hope. I did not tell her that Nick had come with St. Gre to New Orleans, for of this my own knowledge was as yet not positive. For a long time after I had finished she was silent.
"And you think the expedition will not get here?" she asked finally, in a dead voice.
"I am positive of it," I answered, "and for the sake of those who are engaged in it, it is mercifully best that it should not. The day may come," I added, for the sake of leading her away, "when Kentucky will be strong enough to overrun Louisiana. But not now."
She turned to me with a trace of her former fierceness.
"Why are you in New Orleans?" she demanded.
A sudden resolution came to me then.
"To bring you back with me to Kentucky," I answered. She shook her head sadly, but I continued: "I have more to say. I am convinced that neither Nick nor you will be happy until you are mother and son again. You have both been wanderers long enough."
Once more she turned away and fell into a revery. Over the housetop, from across the street, came the gay music of the fiddler. Mrs. Temple laid her hand gently on my shoulder.
"My dear," she said, smiling, "I could not live for the journey."
"You must live for it," I answered. "You have the will. You must live for it, for his sake."
She shook her head, and smiled at me with a courage which was the crown of her sufferings.
"You are talking nonsense, David," she said; "it is not like you. Come," she said, rising with something of her old manner, "I must show you what I have been doing all these years. You must admire my garden."
I followed her, marvelling, along the shell path, and there came unbidden to my mind the garden at Temple Bow, where she had once been wont to sit, tormenting Mr. Mason or bending to the tale of Harry Riddle's love. Little she cared for flowers in those days, and now they had become her life. With such thoughts in my mind, I listened unheeding to her talk. The place was formerly occupied by a shiftless fellow, a tailor; and the court, now a paradise, had been a rubbish heap. That orange tree which shaded the uneven doorway of the kitchen she had found here. Figs, pomegranates, magnolias; the camellias dazzling in their purity; the blood-red oleanders; the pink roses that hid the crumbling adobe and climbed even to the sloping tiles,—all these had been set out and cared for with her own hands. Ay, and the fragrant bed of yellow jasmine over which she lingered,—Antoinette's favorite flower.
Antoinette's flowers that she wore in her hair! In her letters Mrs. Temple had never mentioned Antoinette, and now she read the question (perchance purposely put there) in my eyes. Her voice faltered sadly. Scarce a week had she been in the house before Antoinette had found her.
"I—I sent the girl away, David. She came without Monsieur de St. Gre's knowledge, without his consent. It is natural that he thinks me—I will not say what. I sent Antoinette away. She clung to me, she would not go, and I had to be—cruel. It is one of the things which make the nights long—so long. My sins have made her life unhappy."
"And you hear of her? She is not married?" I asked.
"No, she is not married," said Mrs. Temple, stooping over the jasmines. Then she straightened and faced me, her voice shaken with earnestness. "David, do you think that Nick still loves her?"
Alas, I could not answer that. She bent over the jasmines again.
"There were five years that I knew nothing," she continued. "I did not dare ask Mr. Clark, who comes to me on business, as you know. It was Mr. Clark who brought back Lindy on one of his trips to Charleston. And then, one day in March of this year, Madame de Montmery came."
"Madame de Montmery?" I repeated.
"It is a strange story," said Mrs. Temple. "Lindy had never admitted any one, save Mr. Clark. One day early in the spring, when I was trimming my roses by the wall there, the girl ran to me and said that a lady wished to see me. Why had she let her in? Lindy did not know, she could not refuse her. Had the lady demanded admittance? Lindy thought that I would like to see her. David, it was a providential weakness, or curiosity, that prompted me to go into the front room, and then I saw why Lindy had opened the door to her. Who she is or what she is I do not know to this day. Who am I now that I should inquire? I know that she is a lady, that she has exquisite manners, that I feel now that I cannot live without her. She comes every week, sometimes twice, she brings me little delicacies, new seeds for my garden. But, best of all, she brings me herself, and I am always counting the days until she comes again. Yes, and I always fear that she, too, will be taken away from me."
I had not heard the sound of voices, but Mrs. Temple turned, startled, and looked towards the house. I followed her glance, and suddenly I knew that my heart was beating.
MADAME LA VICOMTESSE
Hesitating on the step, a lady stood in the vine-covered doorway, a study in black and white in a frame of pink roses. The sash at her waist, the lace mantilla that clung about her throat, the deftly coiled hair with its sheen of the night waters—these in black. The simple gown—a tribute to the art of her countrywomen—in white.
Mrs. Temple had gone forward to meet her, but I stood staring, marvelling, forgetful, in the path. They were talking, they were coming towards me, and I heard Mrs. Temple pronounce my name and hers—Madame de Montmery. I bowed, she courtesied. There was a baffling light in the lady's brown eyes when I dared to glance at them, and a smile playing around her mouth. Was there no word in the two languages to find its way to my lips? Mrs. Temple laid her hand on my arm.
"David is not what one might call a ladies' man, Madame," she said.
The lady laughed.
"Isn't he?" she said.
"I am sure you will frighten him with your wit," answered Mrs. Temple, smiling. "He is worth sparing."
"He is worth frightening, then," said the lady, in exquisite English, and she looked at me again.
"You and David should like each other," said Mrs. Temple; "you are both capable persons, friends of the friendless and towers of strength to the weak."
The lady's face became serious, but still there was the expression I could not make out. In an instant she seemed to have scrutinized me with a precision from which there could be no appeal.
"I seem to know Mr. Ritchie," she said, and added quickly: "Mrs. Clive has talked a great deal about you. She has made you out a very wonderful person."
"My dear," said Mrs. Temple, "the wonderful people of this world are those who find time to comfort and help the unfortunate. That is why you and David are wonderful. No one knows better than I how easy it is to be selfish."
"I have brought you an English novel," said Madame de Montomery, turning abruptly to Mrs. Temple. "But you must not read it at night. Lindy is not to let you have it until to-morrow."
"There," said Mrs. Temple, gayly, to me, "Madame is not happy unless she is controlling some one, and I am a rebellious subject."
"You have not been taking care of yourself," said Madame. She glanced at me, and bit her lips, as though guessing the emotion which my visit had caused. "Listen," she said, "the vesper bells! You must go into the house, and Mr. Ritchie and I must leave you."
She took Mrs. Temple by the arm and led her, unresisting, along the path. I followed, a thousand thoughts and conjectures spinning in my brain. They reached the bench under the little tree beside the door, and stood talking for a moment of the routine of Mrs. Temple's life. Madame, it seemed, had prescribed a regimen, and meant to have it followed. Suddenly I saw Mrs. Temple take the lady's arm, and sink down upon the bench. Then we were both beside her, bending over her, she sitting upright and smiling at us.
"It is nothing," she said; "I am so easily tired."
Her lips were ashen, and her breath came quickly. Madame acted with that instant promptness which I expected of her.
"You must carry her in, Mr. Ritchie," she said quietly.
"No, it is only momentary, David," said Mrs. Temple. I remember how pitifully frail and light she was as I picked her up and followed Madame through the doorway into the little bedroom. I laid Mrs. Temple on the bed.
"Send Lindy here," said Madame.
Lindy was in the front room with the negress whom Madame had brought with her. They were not talking. I supposed then this was because Lindy did not speak French. I did not know that Madame de Montmery's maid was a mute. Both of them went into the bedroom, and I was left alone. The door and windows were closed, and a green myrtle-berry candle was burning on the table. I looked about me with astonishment. But for the low ceiling and the wide cypress puncheons of the floor the room might have been a boudoir in a manor-house. On the slender-legged, polished mahogany table lay books in tasteful bindings; a diamond-paned bookcase stood in the corner; a fauteuil and various other chairs which might have come from the hands of an Adam were ranged about. Tall silver candlesticks graced each end of the little mantel-shelf, and between them were two Lowestoft vases having the Temple coat of arms.
It might have been half an hour that I waited, now pacing the floor, now throwing myself into the arm-chair by the fireplace. Anxiety for Mrs. Temple, problems that lost themselves in a dozen conjectures, all idle— these agitated me almost beyond my power of self-control. Once I felt for the miniature, took it out, and put it back without looking at it. At last I was startled to my feet by the opening of the door, and Madame de Montmery came in. She closed the door softly behind her, with the deft quickness and decision of movement which a sixth sense had told me she possessed, crossed the room swiftly, and stood confronting me.
"She is easy again, now," she said simply. "It is one of her attacks. I wish you might have seen me before you told her what you had to say to her."
"I wish indeed that I had known you were here."
She ignored this, whether intentionally, I know not.
"It is her heart, poor lady! I am afraid she cannot live long." She seated herself in one of the straight chairs. "Sit down, Mr. Ritchie," she said; "I am glad you waited. I wanted to talk with you."
"I thought that you might, Madame la Vicomtesse," I answered.
She made no gesture, either of surprise or displeasure.
"So you knew," she said quietly.
"I knew you the moment you appeared in the doorway," I replied. It was not just what I meant to say.
There flashed over her face that expression of the miniature, the mouth repressing the laughter in the brown eyes.
"Montmery is one of my husband's places," she said. "When Antoinette asked me to come here and watch over Mrs. Temple, I chose the name."
"And Mrs. Temple has never suspected you?"
"I think not. She thinks I came at Mr. Clark's request. And being a lady, she does not ask questions. She accepts me for what I appear to be."
It seemed so strange to me to be talking here in New Orleans, in this little Spanish house, with a French vicomtesse brought up near the court of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette; nay, with Helene de St. Gre, whose portrait had twice come into my life by a kind of strange fatality (and was at that moment in my pocket), that I could scarce maintain my self-possession in her presence. I had given the portrait, too, attributes and a character, and I found myself watching the lady with a breathless interest lest she should fail in any of these. In the intimacy of the little room I felt as if I had known her always, and again, that she was as distant from me and my life as the court from which she had come. I found myself glancing continually at her face, on which the candle-light shone. The Vicomtesse might have been four and twenty. Save for the soberer gown she wore, she seemed scarce older than the young girl in the miniature who had the presence of a woman of the world. Suddenly I discovered with a flush that she was looking at me intently, without embarrassment, but with an expression that seemed to hint of humor in the situation. To my astonishment, she laughed a little.
"You are a very odd person, Mr. Ritchie," she said. "I have heard so much of you from Mrs. Temple, from Antoinette, that I know something of your strange life. After all," she added with a trace of sadness, "it has been no stranger than my own. First I will answer your questions, and then I shall ask some."
"But I have asked no questions, Madame la Vicomtesse," I said.
"And you are a very simple person, Mr. Ritchie," continued Madame la Vicomtesse, smiling; "it is what I had been led to suppose. A serious person. As the friend of Mr. Nicholas Temple, as the relation and (may I say?) benefactor of this poor lady here, it is fitting that you should know certain things. I will not weary you with the reasons and events which led to my coming from Europe to New Orleans, except to say that I, like all of my class who have escaped the horrors of the Revolution, am a wanderer, and grateful to Monsieur de St. Gre for the shelter he gives me. His letter reached me in England, and I arrived three months ago."
She hesitated—nay, I should rather say paused, for there was little hesitation in what she did. She paused, as though weighing what she was to say next.
"When I came to Les Iles I saw that there was a sorrow weighing upon the family; and it took no great astuteness on my part, Mr. Ritchie, to discover that Antoinette was the cause of it. One has only to see Antoinette to love her. I wondered why she had not married. And yet I saw that there had been an affair. It seemed very strange to me, Mr. Ritchie, for with us, you understand, marriages are arranged. Antoinette really has beauty, she is the daughter of a man of importance in the colony, her strength of character saves her from being listless. I found a girl with originality of expression, with a sense of the fitness of things, devoted to charitable works, who had not taken the veil. That was on her father's account. As you know, they are inseparable. Monsieur Philippe de St. Gre is a remarkable man, with certain vigorous ideas not in accordance with the customs of his neighbors. It was he who first confided in me that he would not force Antoinette to marry; it was she, at length, who told me the story of Nicholas Temple and his mother." She paused again, and, reading between the lines, I perceived that Madame la Vicomtesse had become essential to the household at Les Iles. Philippe de St. Gre was not a man to misplace a confidence.
"It was then that I first heard of you, Mr. Ritchie, and of the part which you played in that affair. It was then I had my first real insight into Antoinette's character. Her affection for Mrs. Temple astonished me, bewildered me. The woman had deceived her and her family, and yet Antoinette gave up her lover because he would not take his mother back. Had Mrs. Temple been willing to return to Les Iles after you had providentially taken her away, they would have received her. Philippe de St. Gre is not a man to listen to criticism. As it was, Antoinette did not rest until she found where Mrs. Temple had hidden herself, and then she came here to her. It is not for us to judge any of them. In sending Antoinette away the poor lady denied herself the only consolation that was left to her. Antoinette understood. Every week she has had news of Mrs. Temple from Mr. Clark. And when I came and learned her trouble, Antoinette begged me to come here and be Mrs. Temple's friend. Mr. Ritchie, she is a very ill woman and a very sad woman,—the saddest woman I have ever known, and I have seen many."
"And Mademoiselle de St. Gre?" I asked.
"Tell me about this man for whom Antoinette has ruined her life," said Madame la Vicomtesse, brusquely. "Is he worth it? No, no man is worth what she has suffered. What has become of him? Where is he? Did you not tell her that you would bring him back?"
"I said that I would bring him back if I could," I answered, "and I meant it, Madame."
Madame la Vicomtesse bit her lip. Had she known me better, she might have smiled. As for me, I was wholly puzzled to account for these fleeting changes in her humor.
"You have taken a great deal upon your shoulders, Mr. Ritchie," she said. "They are from all accounts broad ones. There, I was wrong to be indignant in your presence,—you who seem to have spent your life in trying to get others out of difficulties. Mercy," she said, with a quick gesture at my protest, "there are few men with whom one might talk thus in so short an acquaintance. I love the girl, and I cannot help being angry with Mr. Temple. I suppose there is something to be said on his side. Let us hear it—I dare say he could not have a better advocate," she finished, with an indefinable smile.
I began at the wrong end of my narrative, and it was some time before I had my facts arranged in proper sequence. I could not forget that Madame la Vicomtesse was looking at me fixedly. I reviewed Nick's neglected childhood; painted as well as I might his temperament and character—his generosity and fearlessness, his recklessness and improvidence. His loyalty to those he loved, his detestation of those he hated. I told how, under these conditions, the sins and vagaries of his parents had gone far to wreck his life at the beginning of it. I told how I had found him again with Sevier, how he had come to New Orleans with me the first time, how he had loved Antoinette, and how he had disappeared after the dreadful scene in the garden at Les Iles, how I had not seen him again for five years. Here I hesitated, little knowing how to tell the Vicomtesse of that affair in Louisville. Though I had a sense that I could not keep the truth from so discerning a person, I was startled to find this to be so.
"Yes, yes, I understand," she said quickly. "And in the morning he had flown with that most worthy of my relatives, Auguste de St. Gre."
I looked at her, finding no words to express my astonishment at this perspicacity.
"And now what do you intend to do?" she asked. "Find him in New Orleans, if you can, of course. But how?" She rose quickly, went to the fireplace, and stood for a moment with her back to me. Suddenly she turned. "It ought not to be difficult, after all. Auguste de St. Gre is a fool, and he confirms what you say of the expedition. He is, indeed, a pretty person to choose for an intrigue of this kind. And your cousin,—what shall we call him?"
"To say the least, secrecy is not Nick's forte," I answered, catching her mood.
She was silent awhile.
"It would be a blessing if Monsieur le Baron could hang Auguste privately. As for your cousin, he may be worth saving, after all. I know Monsieur de Carondelet, and he has no patience with conspirators of this sort. I think he would not hesitate to make examples of them. However, we will try to save them."
"We!" I repeated unwittingly.
Madame la Vicomtesse looked at me and laughed out right.
"Yes," she said, "you will do some things, I others. There are the gaming clubs with their ridiculous names, L'Amour, La Mignonne, La Desiree" (she counted them reflectively on her fingers). "Both of our gentlemen might be tempted into one of these. You will drop into them, Mr. Ritchie. Then there is Madame Bouvet's."
"Auguste would scarcely go there," I objected.
"Ah," said Madame la Vicomtesse, "but Madame Bouvet will know the names of some of Auguste's intimates. This Bouvet is evidently a good person, perhaps she will do more for you. I understand that she has a weak spot in her heart for Auguste."
Madame la Vicomtesse turned her back again. Had she heard how Madame Bouvet had begged me to buy the miniature?
"Have you any other suggestions to make?" she said, putting a foot on the fender.
"They have all been yours, so far," I answered.
"And yet you are a man of action, of expedients," she murmured, without turning. "Where are your wits, Mr. Ritchie? Have you any plan?"
"I have been so used to rely on myself, Madame," I replied.
"That you do not like to have your affairs meddled with by a woman," she said, into the fireplace.
"I give you the credit to believe that you are too clever to misunderstand me, Madame," I said. "You must know that your help is most welcome."
At that she swung around and regarded me strangely, mirth lurking in her eyes. She seemed about to retort, and then to conquer the impulse. The effect of this was to make me anything but self-complacent. She sat down in the chair and for a little while she was silent.
"Suppose we do find them," she said suddenly. "What shall we do with them?" She looked up at me questioningly, seriously. "Is it likely that your Mr. Temple will be reconciled with his mother? Is it likely that he is still in love with Antoinette?"
"I think it is likely that he is still in love with Mademoiselle de St. Gre," I answered, "though I have no reason for saying so."
"You are very honest, Mr. Ritchie. We must look at this problem from all sides. If he is not reconciled with his mother, Antoinette will not receive him. And if he is, we have the question to consider whether he is still worthy of her. The agents of Providence must not be heedless," she added with a smile.
"I am sure that Nick would alter his life if it became worth living," I said. "I will answer for that much."
"Then he must be reconciled with his mother," she replied with decision. "Mrs. Temple has suffered enough. And he must be found before he gets sufficiently into the bad graces of the Baron de Carondelet,—these two things are clear." She rose. "Come here to-morrow evening at the same time."
She started quickly for the bedroom door, but something troubled me still.
"Madame—" I said.
"Yes," she answered, turning quickly.
I did not know how to begin. There were many things I wished to say, to know, but she was a woman whose mind seemed to leap the chasms, whose words touched only upon those points which might not be understood. She regarded me with seeming patience.
"I should think that Mrs. Temple might have recognized you," I said, for want of a better opening.
"From the miniature?" she said.
I flushed furiously, and it seemed to burn me through the lining of my pocket.
"That was my salvation," she said. "Mrs. Temple has never seen the miniature. I have heard how you rescued it, Mr. Ritchie," she added, with a curious smile. "Monsieur Philippe de St. Gre told me."
"Then he knew?" I stammered.
"I have told you that you are a very simple person," she said. "Even you are not given to intrigues. I thank you for rescuing me."
I flushed more hotly than before.
"I never expected to see you," I said.
"It must have been a shock," she said.
I was dumb. I had my hand in my coat; I fully intended to give her the miniature. It was my plain duty. And suddenly, overwhelmed, I remembered that it was wrapped in Polly Ann's silk handkerchief.
Madame la Vicomtesse remained for a moment where she was.
"Do not do anything until the morning," she said. "You must go back to your lodgings at once."
"That would be to lose time," I answered.
"You must think of yourself a little," she said. "Do as I say. I have heard that two cases of the yellow fever have broken out this afternoon. And you, who are not used to the climate, must not be out after dark."
"And you?" I said.
"I am used to it," she replied; "I have been here three months. Lest anything should happen, it might be well for you to give me your address."
"I am with Madame Gravois, in the Rue Bienville."
"Madame Gravois, in the Rue Bienville," she repeated. "I shall remember. A demain, Monsieur." She courtesied and went swiftly into Mrs. Temple's room. Seizing my hat, I opened the door and found myself in the dark street.
THE DISPOSAL OF THE SIEUR DE ST. GRE
I had met Helene de St. Gre at last. And what a fool she must think me! As I hurried along the dark banquettes this thought filled my brain for a time to the exclusion of all others, so strongly is vanity ingrained in us. After all, what did it matter what she thought,—Madame la Vicomtesse d'Ivry-le-Tour? I had never shone, and it was rather late to begin. But I possessed, at least, average common sense, and I had given no proof even of this.
I wandered on, not heeding the command which she had given me,—to go home. The scent of camellias and magnolias floated on the heavy air of the night from the court-yards, reminding me of her. Laughter and soft voices came from the galleries. Despite the Terror, despite the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, despite the Rights of Man and the wars and suffering arising therefrom, despite the scourge which might come to-morrow, life went gayly on. The cabarets echoed, and behind the tight blinds lines of light showed where the Creole gentry gamed at their tables, perchance in the very clubs Madame la Vicomtesse had mentioned.
The moon, in her first quarter, floated in a haze. Washed by her light, the quaintly wrought balconies and heavy-tiled roofs of the Spanish buildings, risen from the charred embers, took on a touch of romance. I paused once with a twinge of remembrance before the long line of the Ursuline convent, with its latticed belfry against the sky. There was the lodge, with its iron gates shut, and the wall which Nick had threatened to climb. As I passed the great square of the new barracks, a sereno (so the night watchmen were called) was crying the hour. I came to the rambling market-stalls, casting black shadows on the river road,—empty now, to be filled in the morning with shouting marchands. The promenade under the willows was deserted, the great river stretched away under the moon towards the forest line of the farther shore, filmy and indistinct. A black wisp of smoke rose from the gunwale of a flatboat, and I stopped to listen to the weird song of a negro, which I have heard many times since.
In, de, tois, Ca-ro-line, Qui ci ca ye, comme ca ma chere? In, de tois, Ca-ro-line, Quo fair t'-apes cri—e ma chere? Mo l'-aime toe con-ne ca, C'est to m'ou—le, c'est to mo prend, Mo l'-aime toe, to con-ne ca—a c'est to m'oule c'est to mo prend.
Gaining the promenade, I came presently to the new hotel which had been built for the Governor, with its balconied windows looking across the river—the mansion of Monsieur le Baron de Carondelet. Even as I sat on the bench in the shadow of the willows, watching the sentry who paced before the arched entrance, I caught sight of a man stealing along the banquette on the other side of the road. Twice he paused to look behind him, and when he reached the corner of the street he stopped for some time to survey the Governor's house opposite.
Suddenly I was on my feet, every sense alert, staring. In the moonlight, made milky by the haze, he was indistinct. And yet I could have taken oath that the square, diminutive figure, with the head set forward on the shoulders, was Gignoux's. If this man were not Gignoux, then the Lord had cast two in a strange mould.
And what was Gignoux doing in New Orleans? As if in answer to the question two men emerged from the dark archway of the Governor's house, passed the sentry, and stood for an instant on the edge of the shadow. One wore a long Spanish cloak, and the other a uniform that I could not make out. A word was spoken, and then my man was ambling across to meet them, and the three walked away up Toulouse Street.
I was in a fire of conjecture. I did not dare to pass the sentry and follow them, so I made round as fast as I could by the Rue St. Pierre, which borders the Place d'Armes, and then crossed to Toulouse again by Chartres. The three were nowhere to be seen. I paused on the corner for thought, and at length came to a reluctant but prudent conclusion that I had best go back to my lodging and seek Monsieur early in the morning.
Madame Gravois was awaiting me. Was Monsieur mad to remain out at night? Had Monsieur not heard of the yellow fever? Madame Gravois even had prepared some concoction which she poured out of a bottle, and which I took with the docility of a child. Monsieur Vigo had called, and there was a note. A note? It was a small note. I glanced stupidly at the seal, recognized the swan of the St. Gre crest, broke it, and read:—
"Mr. Ritchie will confer a favor upon la Vicomtesse d'Ivry-le-Tour if he will come to Monsieur de St. Gre's house at eight to-morrow morning."
I bade the reluctant Madame Gravois good night, gained my room, threw off my clothes, and covered myself with the mosquito bar. There was no question of sleep, for the events of the day and surmises for the morrow tortured me as I tossed in the heat. Had the man been Gignoux? If so, he was in league with Carondelet's police. I believed him fully capable of this. And if he knew Nick's whereabouts and St. Gre's, they would both be behind the iron gateway of the calabozo in the morning. Monsieur Vigo had pointed out to me that day the gloomy, heavy-walled prison in the rear of the Cabildo,—ay, and he had spoken of its instruments of torture.
What could the Vicomtesse want? Truly (I thought with remorse) she had been more industrious than I.
I fell at length into a fevered sleep, and awoke, athirst, with the light trickling through my lattices. Contrary to Madame Gravois's orders, I had opened the glass of my window. Glancing at my watch,—which I had bought in Philadelphia,—I saw that the hands pointed to half after seven. I had scarcely finished my toilet before there was a knock at the door, and Madame Gravois entered with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and her bottle of medicine in the other.
"I did not wake Monsieur," she said, "for he was tired."
She gave me another dose of the medicine, made me drink two cups of coffee, and then I started out with all despatch for the House of the Lions. As I turned into the Rue Chartres I saw ahead of me four horses, with their bridles bunched and held by a negro lad, waiting in the street. Yes, they were in front of the house. There it was, with its solid green gates between the lions, its yellow walls with the fringe of peeping magnolias and oranges, with its green-latticed gallery from which Monsieur Auguste had let himself down after stealing the miniature. I knocked at the wicket, the same gardienne answered the call, smiled, led me through the cool, paved archway which held in its frame the green of the court beyond, and up the stairs with the quaint balustrade which I had mounted five years before to meet Philippe de St. Gre. As I reached the gallery Madame la Vicomtesse, gowned in brown linen for riding, rose quickly from her chair and came forward to meet me.